Greetings from Day 30 + 2!
Mike and I spent the last month following the Whole 30 plan. Basically, on Whole 30, you eat all the vegetables, proteins and fruits that you want, but cut out all grains, sugar, alcohol, white potatoes and legumes.
Strange as it sounds, Whole 30 was both way easier and much more difficult than I had anticipated. The first few days were rough! I didn’t realize quiet how addicted to sugar and grains we were. Giving up bread was also pretty rough. I can’t tell you how often I wanted to reach for toast or a peanut butter sandwich over the last month.
For the first week or so of Whole 30, I was exhausted and cranky. My body was so used to getting some kind of sweet treat to get me through the afternoon, not to mention two or three Coke Zeros throughout the day. But at about Day 10, my energy level normalized and, I can honestly, say, I’ve never felt better in my life.
The hardest part by far, though, was the cooking. I’m a pretty good cook and cooking is something I really enjoy, but Whole 30 required a whole lot more time than I am used to spending in the kitchen. We usually eat out two or three nights a week, but on Whole 30, eating out is nearly impossible.
Besides the fact that nearly everything we ate had to be cooked by me, when you eliminate grains from your diet, you eat a lot of vegetables. Like, a staggering amount of vegetables. One book I read said you should plan on 6 cups of vegetables per person per day. We didn’t always eat that much, but there were definitely some days that we did. Truly, I have never eaten so many vegetables in my whole life.
I found that it was much easier to prep a bunch of meals at one time. For example, if we were having steak for dinner, I would grill tomorrow nights chicken at the same time. Chopping vegetables for two or three meals similarly seemed to save time and kept me from washing a mountain of dishes every night. (You will need a lot more food storage containers than you think!)
Another lesson I learned was that, when you’re cutting out the sugar and grain, you have to find ways to amp up the flavor in your meals. I used a lot more spices and rubs in my cooking than I normally do. Since soy sauce and store bought condiments and salad dressings are out, you really have to think out your marinades and sauces, too.
I think that the main thing I learned was that, while eating a whole, clean diet, you can’t just wing it. Having a fridge full of pre-chopped vegetables at least gives you options of throwing together a salad or a stir fry at the last minute.
I do have to admit here that I was wrong about something. I few weeks ago, I did a blog post about the documentary Fed Up. In the comments, reader Susan S. posited that eating a whole food diet was something that only rich people can afford and I disagreed with her. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this issue and I have to concede that Susan S. has a point. While buying fresh, whole vegetables and, say, a whole chicken, might be cheaper than even a fast food meal out for a family of four, it takes a whole lot more time and effort to turn that fresh food into dinner. And for people living at or below the poverty line, that may be time that they just don’t have to devote to food prep.
Of course, you can spend more money to buy pre-cut veggies and boneless skinless chicken breast, but then you do get into a situation where dinner from the drive through probably does cost the same or even less, without all the work.
(Susan S., I apologize for dismissing what you said about this without giving it some serious thought. I generally hold myself to a higher standard than that, and I am sorry. While I may disagree with on the science, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have been open to hearing you out. I hope you can accept my sincere apology.)
The big question is, will be be adopting Whole 30 full time? Probably not in it’s hardcore form. Our eating habits have definitely changed dramatically over the last 30 days, and we will absolutely be keeping a lot of these changes. I don’t see us going back to regularly eating bread or pasta at home– it will be something for special occasions or dinners out. I also plan to continue replacing starches with vegetables, vegetable and more vegetables.
And we will not be going back to eating sugar the way we did before. Mike and I have both started reading labels and astonishing each other with the amount of sugar in food (almost 10 teaspoons in a can of Coke!). For the past month, we’ve finished meals with fruit and I expect that to continue. Mike and I each lost about 10 pounds in the last month, and I think that is nearly all due to cutting out the sugar.
Going forward, we will be shooting for an 80/20 balance, eating mostly clean, whole foods. And I’m planning to repeat the hardcore Whole 30 three or four times a year to make sure we stay on track.
Sorry for the super wordy post! I would love to hear your experiences with this kind of diet.