I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was starting out on a food challenge known as Whole30. A quick recap–it’s an elimination diet that excludes most inflammatory foods like grains, dairy, sugar and most starches. It’s very Paleo-like.
The whole point of this (for me) was to overcome some tummy upset I had developed after a necessary round of meds, lose that bloated feeling and hopefully improve a few areas like energy, PMS and skin health.
So how did it go?
Overall, I was really happy with the program and results for me. I had two major improvements. First, the tummy issues went away rather quickly. I had been dealing with the fallout of antibiotics and my belly was grumbling at everything. So taking out foods like gluten and sugar and uncultured dairy for a time, while enjoying my probiotic rich coconut milk kefir, did wonders for digestion.
Second, I had a ton more energy. Which was especially helpful since we were in that time of year when you’re trying to wrap up school, there are a thousand performances to attend, and there’s a ton to do outside.
But to give you the nitty gritty of my humble opinion, I thought I’d do a little pro and con list for you.
The Pros of Whole30
If I had to pick the biggest perk of this eating plan, it would have to be the veggies. If you’re doing it right (and not having bacon as the center piece of every meal) then the bulk of what you’re eating involves vegetables. I had veggie fritters and salads and slaw. I ate seared cauliflower and sauteed zucchini with pasta sauce and grilled peppers and onions. I made sweet potato hash and butternut squash fries.
I ate a LOAD more veggies than what might normally cross my plate. Lots of vegetables that deliver a ton of benefits. More vitamins and minerals from real food sources. More fiber. Less bloating bulk. And I begin to think that some of the results that I (and others) have on this diet aren’t so much from the things you don’t eat, but from all the new things you are eating.
I also believe that the uptake in energy had a lot to do with the increase in vegetables. Usually, if I go without my beloved multi vitamin for more than a few days, I feel a significant decrease in my energy. But while I was on this eating plan, I frequently forgot, with no loss at all.
Other positive things I noticed:
- The skin on my face cleared up
- I slept a good bit better
- My moods were more even, probably because the meals kept me fuller, longer and evened out my blood sugar.
- My sugar cravings went significantly down.
- I lost a few pounds (and I didn’t really have the time to exercise much)
- Some PMS symptoms were a little better (though I’m figuring you’d have to do a whole lot more than a month to see long term changes there)
- I was a lot more mindful about what I was eating. No mindless noshing on whatever is closest, whether I’m hungry or not.
But to be completely honest, there were a few drawbacks for me.
- Having to plan, plan and plan some more. It became a little mentally draining to have to think that hard about what I ate constantly. I suppose for folks who eat this way all the time, it become second nature.
- Making separate food for me. The entire family was not eating this way. And although I tried to plan dinners that were easy for me to adapt, I was still doing an extra step a lot of the time.
- The detox period. You have to weather the first few days when your body is crying out for sugar or wheat or whatever. I had a non-stop splitting headache for about four days. Now, I think a detox is good for all of us every now and then. None of us need to be addicted to certain foods. But you should just be aware that it can be rough at first.
- Not baking! I LOVE to bake, and the Whole30 program discourages you from baking even Paleo versions of your favorite baked goods. The idea is to have you stop associating a certain treat with the way you feel. So even if it’s a brownie sweetened with honey and made with almond flour, it’s still out for a time. Fortunately, I was still baking for customers who ordered bread and for my kiddos. Cause yes, I have a NEED to bake. (And no, I didn’t sample.)
- The price tag. I know there are people out there who say that healthy diets don’t have to cost more. But in reality, they usually do. Coconut milk costs more than regular dairy. Meat costs more than beans and rice. And a cart full of veggies (even in season ones) will usually run more than pasta or sacks of flour. I did a number on my grocery budget that month, and it was only one of us eating this way. Yes, your health and quality food is worth the investment. But the bottom line is the bottom line. And if you only have so much in the bank, then that’s what you’ve got to work with. (To that end, I’m putting together a little post of the biggest bang for your buck veggies.)
So, was it worth it? I’d say, yes. Yes it was. It was very good to break the sugar cycle, remind myself to eat mindfully and to increase my veggie intake. And everyone loves it when their jeans are a little roomier.
What I’ll keep in my back pocket are lots more meals of grilled veggies (after all, grilling season is in full swing!), salads from the garden and saving the sweets for special occasions. (Unfortunately, getting the kids in bed does NOT constitute a special occasion.)
What about you?
Ever done an elimination diet? What was your verdict on the experience?
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*I’m not associated with the Whole30 program, nor am I a health profession. Just someone sharing my story. Please consult a doctor/use care when starting any eating program.
Last week, I started an eating program/elimination diet called Whole30®. You may have heard of it. Loads of folks took up the challenge after the New Year, in hopes of hitting the dietary “reset” button after a season of holiday treats.
So why am I doing it now? Several reasons, actually. I’ve got a serious (I mean SERIOUS) sweet tooth problem right now. You might have seen me, in one of my weaker moments, grabbing several bags of Easter candy in the Aldi check out lane. Then, you would have seen me (in several other weak moments) polishing off nearly two bags in a week’s time. (My husband, in an effort to be helpful, reminded me that he helped with the candy eating. But let’s be honest. It was mostly me.)
As for other reasons, my system is a mess after my recent fight with laryngitis/bronchitis and the antibiotic and prednisone that followed. Milk was bugging me (antibiotics are a major culprit in lactose intolerance). Nearly every time I ate I had stomach pain and bloating. And all the yogurt and probiotics weren’t touching it.
And there are a few other pesky problems I’ve been dealing with over the last few months. Skin stuff and hormone stuff (sorry fellas) and energy slumps.
Whole30® is one of those elimination programs (like GAPS or SCD) that’s designed to *hopefully* help with some of that. You remove inflammatory foods from your diet for 30 days to allow your body to do some healing, break the sugar or bread addiction and (when you reintroduce things) pinpoint foods that may be triggering your symptoms.
It’s not nearly as restrictive as GAPS or SCD, nor is it for as long. As far as my limited knowledge takes me, those programs are better suited to folks who have some MAJOR issues that require a much longer period of healing. (Like Crohns, ulcerative colitis, celiac or other serious autoimmune issues.)
What I’ll be eating
I’m still working through the material (you can find a quick guide pdf here), but the basic gist of this diet is Paleo based. (I’m not a subscriber to the philosophy behind Paleo…but that’s for another post.) The creators of Whole30® don’t push the caveman thing anyway–but focus on studies and client results.
(I do find all the science really interesting and plan on finishing the rest of their book, It Starts With Food.)
(Amazon affiliate link)
What that all means is that I’ll be eating plenty of unprocessed, real protein (hot dogs and most cold cuts are out), loads of veggies, some fruits and lots of real, nourishing fat.
What’s off limits? Grains, white potatoes (sweet potatoes and winter squashes are okay), starches, legumes, dairy (OUCH–I do love my cheese), and sweetener of any kind, natural or otherwise. These are actually the foods that most often make my tummy grumble, so I can’t argue with the list.
(Oh, and I do realize the great irony of me giving up bread for 30 days after I announced to my local Facebook friends that I’ll be selling loaves of sourdough. But at least I still get to bake!)
I’ve done enough research and experimenting (on myself) to know that these types of clean, easy to digest diets really do go a long way to reducing inflammation and restoring balance to the body. You’re doing more than putting a ban on certain foods. By taking them out of the equation, you’re also removing any processed, fake foods from your diet. Veggie (and therefore nutrient) intake goes up by default.
In the short term, I expect some impressive headaches (and perhaps some crankiness) as my body cries out for its daily sugar fix. Sad, when you think of it.
I seriously debated sharing my plan with anyone…cause then I’m accountable. Keep me on track, will ya? And over the next month I’ll give you updates here and there on how it’s going and what I’m eating, if you’re into that.
And now I’m curious?
Ever done an elimination diet? Was it helpful for you?