Some Thoughts on Whole 30


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.




  1. I would love to break the hold sugar has on my diet. I was vegetarian for years, but sugar is not meat. This sounds hard and actually good. I don’t know if I could go whole hog (sorry) into this, but I will sure try to adopt some of it.

  2. I agree with you and have recently read A year w/o sugar. Makes me realize how a much needed improvement of my family’s diet. We eat tons of veggies (local), belong to a CSA and eat fish although I must admit to the carbs. Horrible to cut back but it all makes sense. Reading labels have not only brought awareness but how our government controls our health system leading us to only fail in our health. So… our family will only eat sweets made by us from scratch having the opportunity to make replacements or cut back on the sugar.
    I know the time factor in preparation is at times hard but so worth the efforts. At times, I do need the rice and beans along with a salad so your diet would be difficult although I would like the challenge.
    Many moons ago I was macrobiotic, so talk about preparation…..
    Keep up the great work and influence people around you. Fast food sucks!

  3. My husband and I have eaten this way since January. Both feel much better and he is off of his blood pressure meds. We are both 65, have each lost over 30 pounds and in pretty great shape now!Have you tried Bragg Liquid Aminos – it is a great alternative to soy sauce.

  4. I should have said in the earlier post – my husband and I did not follow Shape 30. We did Shape Reclaimed which sounds very similar but is a longer program than 30 days.

  5. I did the Whole30 back in March, and have pretty much kept with it ever since. I did it mostly because I had a lot of digestive issues, and thought it might help. Since then, I’ve put away the Tums for good. I’ve also gone from a size 16 to a size 10, and I feel better than I have in years. People ask me what I’m doing, but once I tell them, they say “oh, wow, I couldn’t do that.” And yes, the first few days are hard, as you found out… but it’s so very worth it!

    I agree with you on prepping several days’ food at once. If you’re going to turn on the oven, it makes sense to roast all the sweet potatoes you need for the week, not just the ones you need for that night’s dinner. I also suggest cooking bigger (and cheaper) cuts of meat to save money and time. You get a lot more mileage out of a pork shoulder (humanely raised, of course) than a couple of pork tenderloins, for a lot less money. Ditto brisket vs. steak.

    As for eating out, I’ve found that bringing a small container of homemade salad dressing and a baggie of cashews in my purse is the best solution. You can get a plain grilled chicken salad at almost any restaurant. It’s tacky, I know, but its better than feeling like you can’t live in the real world.

    The only time I really struggled was in April, when I spent 5 days on a 70 mile hike through the southeast hills of England. I had to eat what I could get in the little pubs and inns along the way, which often meant potatoes and bread. Even then, I stuck with it as much as I could, and I’m glad I did.

    I would love to see a cultural shift away from sugar. It’s only when you cut it out that you realize how truly ubiquitous it is, and how rotten it makes you feel. I hope that as more and more of us start cutting out sugar, the marketplace will start to adjust to demand.

    • Great inspiration. Love that you have better energy and size has reduced. Good for you! I think to lead in the same direction. Just downloaded the list to eat which seems pretty fair.
      I’m giving it some serious thought and will organize my shopping list~

  6. Thanks for the follow up. I still have not been able to get back on track, I fell off because of the cooking. As amazing as I felt when I was sticking to the program – no joint pain, TONS of energy – I can’t seem to get it together and do, do the shopping, the planning, necessary to get it going again. I am going to take your motivation and RUN. Maybe next Tuesday this will be my ‘tell me something good’ story, ‘eh?

  7. I have always eaten a healthy plant based diet. I don’t know how my grocery bills compare to someone who eats more processed foods but I know it is very expensive. I just think it’s the most important thing you can do for yourself and your health down the line. Most low income people get food stamps around here so that shouldn’t be an excuse to go to the drive through fast food place. BTW, why can’t you have soy sauce? What harm is it? Just wondering

  8. I read your first post and thought I should really cut out the sugar in my life. I have sweet teeth!! I loaded my fridge with veggies and fruit and felt great for 2 days. Unfortunately day 3 delivered me a migraine. I tried to keep my usual remedy of Coke and advil unavailable but the next day found me in tears so off the wagon I went. I would really love to try again but am leery. I am not sure if the migraine was from the no sugar ( I also dropped carbs) or not.

    • how about removing the suspected offending items one at a time? Or reduce the sugar intake over several days vs cold turkey? I did that with caffeine one time, just reduced consumption till it was none. (Not that I stayed caffeine free, it wasn’t intended to be permanent, just prepping for some something that I can’t even recall!!)

      • Fran
        Thanks for the suggestion. Baby steps sometimes are easier and still are steps in the right direction.

  9. Have you heard that the American Heart Association has a recommended daily consumption amount for added sugar? I read that in February, and those numbers (24g for women, 36g for men) were what I needed to kick the sugar habit. At last I could judge what was “too much”. The first couple of weeks were super hard, but I kept reading articles about sugar being “as addictive as cocaine and as harmful as nicotine”, and my husband reminded me that “relapse is recovery”. If you fall off, just get back on. Now I can tell from a taste that this recipe is much too sweet, and will give me a headache, so it’s easy to refuse. For those who would like to reduce sugar but not eliminate dessert, the rule of thumb I use is 1 cup of granulated sugar divided by 8 servings = 24g. So if I want to blow a whole day’s allowance, I can have a serving of that recipe. (Obviously, recipes that use less than 1 cup of granulated sugar per 8 servings are preferred.) I did not try to drop simple carbs at the same time – sugar itself was hard enough.

    You are so right about the cooking – I have asked for an Instant Pot cooker for my birthday, and hope that will help fit the cooking time (prep time still an issue) into our busy lives.

  10. Last April I made the decision to take a hard look at my diet. My weight had stayed the same for over 20 years (too high, but I could live with that), but my blood pressure had gotten out of control. I didn’t eat badly for the most part (no candy or soda, dessert rarely, but plenty of bread). After a lot of research I decided to do a juice fast for a week to kick start my system. On day 2, my body informed me that I needed some protein NOW, so I modified (home-grown eggs). After only 10 days, my bp was back in the normal range, and that has provided all the incentive I needed. As a bonus, I slowly lost 20 pounds and kept it off during one of the toughest winters I’ve had in a long time (unemployed, and no running water in the house for over a month). I’m working on getting rid of the next 20 pounds now but not pressuring myself. I can eat whatever I want, as long as I’m willing to make it from scratch. I don’t feel deprived at all. Eating well on a limited budget is some work, but worth the effort for sure. It only takes a couple of hours to slice and prep all the veggies you could possible want for the week, and then cooking for the week is much easier. Any left at the end of the week can go into a stew or soup pot. Being poor isn’t an excuse to eat poorly (I was unemployed for 2 years before finally getting a job this April, and I ate better on a lot less money in the last year than I had in ages. Never hungry, lots of variety, very little added sugar and only a few carbs). I think it’s lack of education that keeps most people eating badly. We want to eat the things we grew up with, and if you came from a family that ate fast food chances are you will too. It’s sad, really.

  11. My husband and I did Paleo about nine months ago and felt great – went off for an extended vacation and really need to get back on the wagon. Paleo made me be a label reader – I spent most of my time in the grocery store picking up items, reading the labels and putting the items back due to the extreme number of preservatives. My husband is a cancer survivor and we are striving for a healthier lifestyle. Thanks for the story – inspires me to get us back to the cleaner eating approach.

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