Let me start by saying that I do not believe in “diets.” They may work some short-term magic for some people, but long-term health and happiness demands moderation in the food department and a boatload of exercise. Period.
Having said that, you may wonder why in the world I would try the Whole30 program. The answer is simple: I was desperate to get my body feeling good again.
After completing my first Ironman six months ago (my, how time flies), I got completely off track as I battled niggling injuries while preparing for a May marathon–all in the midst of dealing with an extremely stressful and exhausting family medical/life situation with my elderly in-laws.
I was fueling my body with all things “comfort” instead of all things “good nutrition,” and I paid the price, feeling like dog doo, running on fumes, and piling on five extra pounds.
My brother had mentioned this program to me about a year ago when he was training for ultra marathons, and he said he never felt better. I could never muster up the desire to do it back then while training for IMAZ, but I finally reached the point where I wanted to make a change.
So what is the Whole30 plan exactly? It’s essentially a nutrition plan that eliminates all the processed crap we often put in our bodies, making us think long and hard about what is “real food.” There isn’t any calorie counting, point systems or portion control. It’s simply being conscious, reading labels and eliminating items that often negatively impact our health and fitness.
The number one rule is to EAT REAL FOOD.
“Eat moderate portions of meat, seafood, and eggs; lots of vegetables; some fruit; plenty of natural fats; and herbs, spices, and seasonings. Eat foods with very few ingredients, all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they’re whole and unprocessed.”
Eliminate: added sugar in all forms (real and fake), alcohol, dairy, grains, processed or prepared foods, legumes, MSG. You can read the rest of the rules HERE.
Extreme? Hell yes.
Worth it? Totally.
Here’s what the Whole30 program did for me:
- I lost 5 pounds in 30 days.
- I slept better than I have in many years.
- My thinking was less foggy (probably due to better sleep).
- It broke my endless sugar and carb cravings (this was HUGE).
- I had energy to get me through another VERY tough, stressful month (the third in a row), which would have otherwise walloped me.
- I lost inches in my waist, arms, hips, and thighs.
- My fingernails grew long, strong, and healthy.
- My mood was brighter because I felt better and I was able to let stressful things roll off my back more easily.
- It was fantastic “mental toughness training” because it was definitely not always easy (sometimes you just want to enjoy a nice glass of red wine with your dinner after a long, challenging day).
- It made me conscious of the crappy food I’d often reach for in my pantry when I was running out the door, tired or lazy. Now instead of a cracker, I reach for an apple or snap peas. Instead of a cookie I have a sweet potato.
- It made me realize that a turkey burger is just as satisfying without a bun, poached eggs with spinach, bell peppers and carrots do not require toast or a bagel to be yummy. Sweet potatoes are just as delish without butter. Balsamic vinegar makes everything taste better.
- My family wasted much less food during the month of May. My rock star husband goes to Farmer’s Market twice a week, so our fridge is always full of fruits and veggies. Sometimes he gets a little too enthusiastic though, and food goes to waste, which drives me batty. While on the Whole30 plan, we ate every last strawberry, lettuce leaf, snap pea and peach.
- My family didn’t join me on this extreme cleansing odyssey, but they did support me 100%, and I did notice as a whole, our family ate much healthier. When I had after school fruits and veggies prepped for my daughter, she’d gladly reach for those before something less nutritious. And salads for every dinner set the tone.
- I felt more energized and looked forward to working out, rather than dragging myself out the door.
What did I miss the most? I realize this is going to sound ridiculous, but I REALLY missed the splash of sweetened vanilla almond milk I put in my coffee every morning. Black coffee just doesn’t cut the mustard for me. But I did it, and I’m glad.
This paragraph from the Whole30 website helped me most:
This is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You’ve done harder things than this, and you have no excuse not to complete the program as written. It’s only thirty days, and it’s for the most important health cause on earth—the only physical body you will ever have in this lifetime.
One of the reasons it worked for me is because it had a finish line: 30 days. Give me a goal with a definitive time frame, and I can put my head down and crank it out one day at a time. I would tell myself, “I can do anything for 30 days.” I’m sure you can too.
The other reason this worked for me was timing. After spending the past several months in hospitals, nursing rehabilitation centers and assisted living communities with my in-laws, I have been immersed in environments that smacked me upside the head with what I could look forward to if I didn’t treat my body like a temple. The plague of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer were front and center, and it was not pretty.
Drinking black coffee and not stuffing your gullet with bread is nothing compared to completely losing your independence and your ability to enjoy life at its fullest.
Perspective is a powerful thing, my friends.
So, here’s to hitting “reset” and getting back on track.
Happy trails, my friends…
Question: Have any of you tried the Whole30 plan? If so, how did it work for you?