Whole 30: My Experience and Suggestions

I’ve received a lot of questions lately about Whole 30 so I wanted to share my experience and advice in a post. A lot of information can be found on their website (whole30.com) but I’ll summarize it really quickly. The idea behind Whole 30 is that you only eat whole foods for 30 days in order to detox your body from all the garbage we eat on a regular basis. At the end of the 30 days you are supposed to slowly reintroduce the foods you cut out to find out what foods you are intolerant to or that is making you feel gross. What they mean by whole foods is only high quality meat, fruits, and veggies. This means no legumes, grains, sugar, alcohol, or dairy. They have more detail on their website but this is the general gist of the rules. They also have other rules like no stepping on the scale during this process. I did not follow this rule but I did follow the food regimine.

The reason behind me doing this was my health and fitness buddy, Michelle, wanted me to do it with her. Since I was in the process of losing weight, I thought why not. Now I have someone to hold me accountable for eating right and I have a set of rules. Plus I liked the idea of reintroducing food at the end. So I thought the worst that could happen was that I lose weight because there is no way I wouldn’t with how you have to eat on this diet. Not a bad worst case scenario. So on June 1st, we started Whole 30 together.

The first couple days were not too bad. The hardest part was planning ahead. I didn’t really know how to eat out in the beginning. I was also taking summer classes and working all at the same time. Trying to figure out what to bring and how much was difficult so I wouldn’t be stranded and hungry. The only other symptoms I had in the beginning were headaches due to the sugar withdrawal. I suspect for people eating really unhealthy to going to this diet would experience more detox symptoms but this was not the case for me.

About a week or so in I had gotten the hang of being able to eat out as well as understanding how to read nutrition labels. Out of everything that came from me doing Whole 30, this skill was by far the most valuable. My family especially can vouch for me. Whenever I go to the grocery store, it is now habit to read the ingredients in everything I buy. I feel like I now have the power to know exactly what I am putting into my body. However, around this time I started experiencing some negative symptoms. I would feel really light headed and nauseous. I felt like I couldn’t drink enough water. I would feel so sick I would just have to lay down. Anytime this happened, it would last for hours and sometimes until I went to bed. At the time, I didn’t know what was wrong. I now know that I wasn’t getting enough sugar and I was experiencing symptoms of low blood sugar. When I say this, I don’t mean processed sugar. I mean natural sugars like from fruit. You by no means need to eat processed sugar to prevent this from happening. I either just wasn’t eating enough calories or not eating enough fruit or a combo of both. Regardless, I kept getting sick and I didn’t know how to get better. I even went to concert with one of my friends and fainted. I tried going to the doctor. They couldn’t tell me either. But after reflection and logging these instances for months, I finally figured out it was just low blood sugar.

Nearing the end of the month, I had gotten used to eating that way. I was just bored of it and ready for the month to be over. I missed having the freedom of having a dessert or being able to go out to eat with friends. I felt as if I was waiting out a prison sentence. I just wanted it to be over.

On July 1st I was super excited. If you know me at all, you know sushi is my favorite food. On Whole 30 you can’t eat rice so I was missing my favorite meal. So some friends and I went out to a sushi restaurant to celebrate. I cannot tell you the kind of stomach pain I was in. When I got home, I had to go lay down for about an hour. In the days that followed, I went back to exactly how I was eating before Whole 30. I wasn’t eating bad before, but I definitely wasn’t eating great. The only thing that changed was that I felt free to eat more junk so I did. Even though I still continued to lose weight, I developed the habit of eating junk food more frequently. I was making better choices in the junk food I did decide to eat though because I understood how to read nutrition labels.

During that month, I lost ~12 lbs. This was consistent with the rate at which I was losing weight before. So I didn’t necessarily lose anymore weight than I would have lost had I continued what I was doing. Other than learning how to read nutrition labels, the only other significant benefit was that I learned that I was lactose intolerant.

The photo on the left was taken June 1st and the photo on the right was taken July 1st.

The photo on the left was taken June 1st and the photo on the right was taken July 1st.

Based on my experience, I would not recommend doing Whole 30 unless you are extremely committed and want to learn what foods you are intolerant to. It is so easy to mess up the reintroduction phase after the 30 days (I did) because by the end you may be over the whole thing. As a weight loss tool, this is not the one. It is not a maintainable diet plan and therefore is the reason why I wouldn’t suggest doing it. It is so easy to relapse and go back to eating junk food. My friend Michelle relapsed pretty hard after the 30 days. On top of that, the detoxification process can be really hard on your body as well. If you are looking to eat better, I’d recommend gradual, maintainable changes rather than jumping in to as extreme of a diet as this one.

How I Lost 60 lbs in 1 Year

I’ve said this 100 times and I will say it 100 more: it all starts with a mindset.

This photo was taken before my weight loss. I remember feeling like a new era was coming and wanted to have my picture taken.

This photo was taken before my weight loss. I remember feeling like a new era was coming and wanted to have my picture taken.

In March of 2017 is when I officially decided to take responsibility for not only my health, but my life. I had been overweight almost my entire life and had attempted to lose weight before. These attempts mostly consisted of just restricting my calorie intake. Of course, this just lead me to being extremely hungry and end in binge eating. More often than not, I ended up gaining more weight than I started with. One of my more serious attempts led to me eating a strictly paleo diet. This worked well because I ate larger portions of meat and more veggies. The meat kept me satisfied for lengths of time so I wasn’t tempted to eat as much. I was able to lose about 30 lbs, however my mindset was not in the right place. I was too restrictive of myself and didn’t allow any treats which was not maintainable. The second I slipped up, I had this “to hell with it attitude” and binge ate again and abandoning the diet completely. Again, I ended up gaining it all back and then some. This time around I was determined for my weight loss to go differently.

March of 2017 I felt different. I KNEW I was going to reach my goal, so I was in no rush to get there. I wanted to take my time and find a way of eating that I felt like I could eat the rest of my life. My current eating habits consisted eating a lot of hibachi, alfredo pasta, and ice cream. Not to mention, I had HUGE portion sizes. I would eat entire tubs of ice cream in one sitting after I just ate a whole box of pasta. If I had to estimate, my average daily caloric intake was around 3500 calories. I knew I had a long way to go so I figured if I made small changes here and there, overtime it would add up. Simple enough, right?

This is my actual before photo, taken March 26th.

This is my actual before photo, taken March 26th.

I’ll admit, it was pretty simple once I had the right mindset. I first started by eating a healthy breakfast and allowing myself to eat whatever I wanted for lunch and dinner. After I got used to that, I would make a healthy lunch too. Before I knew it, I was eating a healthy breakfast, lunch, AND dinner. When looking back at where I started to where I made it to it seems like a monstrous task. However, when I broke it up into smaller and more manageable steps it was far easier than I thought.

Throughout the beginning of my process, I allowed myself to eat as many fruits and veggies as I wanted. I wanted to teach myself to be satisfied off of health foods, not that I needed to be deprived. I will say when I got the hang of eating fruits and veggies in all of my meals, I did start to limit my calories. But throughout this whole process I was strategic about what I ate. I chose nutrient rich, low calorie foods (aka veggies) over things that were more calorically dense (such as pastas). By making these choices, I was able to satisfy my hunger. The comments I always seem to receive is that “Oh I could never do that, I hate vegetables!” Uh hello!!! Me too!! I told you what I used to eat! BUT, when you make these small changes over time, your taste buds will change too! Throughout this whole process if I really really wanted a treat, I’d allow myself to have it. But it’s important to learn the balance between treating yourself and having the determination to achieve your goals. It was trial and error for me. There were times I was super restrictive and other times I was treating myself too much. I really just had to learn that balance.

So, as you may or may not know, I now eat a plant based diet. This was only a recent change though. Throughout the majority of my weight loss journey, I ate paleo based. When I started out, I had no idea I would end up eating plant based. Like I said before, I just wanted to make gradual changes that were easy to make and added up in the end. Switching to a paleo based diet wasn’t too drastic of a change for me to make. I wasn’t really a picky eater so eating veggies was a little easier for me than it is for others. Over time, I did grow to enjoy them more and more.

This is what I look like currently.

This is what I look like currently.

In June, my best friend encouraged me to do Whole 30 with her. Whole 30 is essentially the idea to eliminate common foods that people have intolerances to (gluten, dairy, sugar, etc.) for a full 30 days. After the 30 days are up, you can slowly reintroduce these foods back in to see what foods your body reacts negatively to (for more info go to whole30.com). I will say during this month I did see results. I lost a significant amount of weight. However, I would never do or recommend this type of eating ever again. It was so restrictive it started to restrict my mindset. I wasn’t eating enough calories. I had these periods of feeling really lightheaded and nauseous. I would be extremely thirsty. I once even fainted my blood sugar was so low. This mindset carried with me throughout the rest of the summer as well as the sickness. At the time, I didn’t understand what was going on. I went to the doctor and they said that everything looked normal to them. It wasn’t until months later I understood that it was my mindset that was really limiting and causing me to have issues.

Around September was when I started to bring balance back into my life. I didn’t allow food to control me anymore. I was able to allow myself treats. Admittedly, I would eat too much occasionally, but I was able to forgive myself and continue eating how I should. I can attribute this to September being my birthday month. Regardless, I was able to enjoy myself while still keeping my mindset in check.

Another after photo. I'm so much more confident and healthier now both mentally and physically.

Another after photo. I'm so much more confident and healthier now both mentally and physically.

Over time, I began to eat more and more veggies as the bulk of my meal. By January, I rarely ever ate meat. In the 2018, I can count on one hand the number of times I ate animal products. To be honest, my tastes just changed. Before, meat had been a major part of my meals and sometimes the saving grace that allowed me to eat the veggies with it. Now, I didn’t look forward to eating meat so I stopped buying it and eventually just stopped eating it all together. I already didn’t eat dairy as I was eating predominantly paleo based. Switching to a plant based diet just made sense for me. After I did my research and learning about all the benefits, I knew it was the right thing for me to do especially since I was already eating that way regardless.

One year later I was eating almost completely plant based and was 60 lbs down. If I look back to that March of 2017, I would have laughed if you told me I’d be where I am today. Losing weight is a monsterous task, specifically when you have a lot to lose. It would have been easy to get overwhelmed. However, I have found the key is taking small, maintainable steps. Don’t set out to start on X date and eat healthy from that point forward. That is extremely hard. Instead start right here, right now where you are. If you drink nothing but soda, start by limiting to maybe 2 a day. Soon you’ll get down to 1 a day, then 1 a week, 1 a month, then almost never! The same thing can be said with almost any habit. Start slow and take your time. The saying is true, slow and steady wins the race. I took 1 step every day for 365 days and I was able to come as far as to lose 60 lbs. I still have a way to go but I’ll make it there by taking one step at a time.