The Benefits of the Whole30 “Diet”

Whole30 imageThis is not the kind of post I would typically write about, but as part of “The Journey”, it felt like something I needed to talk about.

Writers have a bad rap of being alcoholic-lazy-caffeine addled-bad eating habit having-delusionals.  I, personally, am only two of those things.  I’ll let you wonder which two.

I didn’t personally need to put myself in the challenge.  When I became vegetarian, it was easy for me to discover the foods that didn’t agree with me.  Example – I learned I was lactose intolerant.  But I did need to change my habits.

We gave this challenge a shot because The Sis had been suffering from stomach problems, and we wanted to determine for ourselves the culprit before heading to a doctor.

If you’re unfamiliar with Whole30, it’s not one of the fad diets making the rounds, it’s actually a way of eliminating the foods that have adverse effects on your system.  Not only with stomach aches, but fatigue, skin problems, body pains, and a number of other ailments.

So we started by buying the book about two weeks in advance.  It was fairly inexpensive on Amazon ($16).  You may be able to get it at the library, I’m not sure, but we wanted to be able to keep the recipes and continue to reference it.  Then came the purge.

Whole30Rules

Sugar is one of the biggest offenders, and you’ll soon discover that it is in everything, so the removal of it does have positive side effects.  One of them being weight loss.  Unlike some of the other plans floating around, you can still eat fruit.  It took some time to prep for this new way of eating, so removing things from sight and weening off of the non-compliant foods began about a week out.  I didn’t want a shock to the system when we could no longer enjoy sweetener in our tea or coffee, or had to give up bread and goodies.

Let me start by saying one thing.  This is a rather time consuming process.  Many of the recipes only make enough food for one meal for two.  So there is a great deal of cooking involved.  If you find a dish you enjoy, double it in the future to save time.  Make a few things in advance and freeze portions to save yourself some stress when you realize you don’t have time to cook, yet again.

I am by no means exaggerating.  There is a lot of cooking involved.

It is also a bit costly at the start, but when you consider that you’re making food at home, that you can stretch into multiple meals versus eating out many times a week, that really isn’t a drawback.

The book is great at explaining the phases of physical and emotional highs and lows you’ll endure over the thirty days.  It even describes the dreams you may have because of the fear you will eat sugar unknowingly and have to start all over.  The Sis had a few of these dreams.  For my fellow vegetarians, you will not experience the full benefits of the “diet” as seitan and soy are staples for us as a source of protein, but for meat eaters in the challenge, they are both non-compliant.

The positive side effects of this challenge are the variety of new recipes you’ll discover.  Pinterest is great at finding even more.  Shocker, I got in a Pinterest reference.  You won’t need to snack, not really, because you’re eating 3 complete meals a day.  If I was peckish, I’d eat some walnuts or pistachios.  It makes you look at food differently, and the improvements are quickly obvious.  Even more so if you work out.  We did not.  So without that added benefit, The Sis lost about 14 lbs. and I lost 10 lbs.

We’re now at the end of the reintroduction phase.  After thirty days, you slowly introduce the big offenders back into your diet to analyze how they effect you for the following 10 days.  One day you have grains, or dairy, or gluten then go back to the Whole30 for the following two days.  This gives you time to see how you react.  My reintroduction was shorter because I was already having both gluten and soy products.

I’m going to continue to limit my exposure to sugar, in particular.  One thing I realized was that after quitting my job, I no longer had the desire to drink alcohol.  I was only having a drink or two a night at most, but it had become a coping mechanism and that is a horrible discovery.  It was also one of the major contributors to my weight gain and hence the removal increased its loss.  I don’t need sugar in my morning tea anymore, and I’m not compelled to seek sweets out like I once did, although I am having a hankering for some junk food now that the 40+ days has come to an end.  Oh, pizza.  How I’ve missed you.

Side note, if you’re a Costco or similar warehouse member you can buy bulk spinach, fruit and veggies, avocado oil, coconut milk, almond butter, coconut aminos (a soy sauce alternative) and a few other items there, which will help offset some costs.  I even found ghee, a clarified butter which is Whole30 compliant at a better price.  I also discovered, as a lactose intolerant, that I’m okay with ghee.

If you’re interested in trying Whole30 for yourself, here are a handful of our favorite recipes beyond the cookbook to get you started.

  1. For breakfast, we enjoyed a Pumpkin Bake.  Easy to make and a delicious alternative to eggs every morning.  I’ve made it every week, and it hasn’t bored me.
  2. Egg Roll in a Bowl was another easy and delicious meal.  Mayo has sugar, so you will have to make your own for the topping, but it is worth it.  We used avocado oil for our mayo versus olive oil which has a much more distinct flavor.  Made it twice, and the second time doubled it.
  3. The Mexican Crispy Potato Bowl was a surprise hit late in the 30 days.  It sounded simple, but it was flavorful and I’ve since made it again.
  4. Chinese Pepper Steak was one of the first dishes we made and I’m planning on making it again.
  5. If you’re missing your end of the night treat, aka dessert, this 3 item sweet will help you stave off your sugar demon.  Coconut Cashew Bars are easy, last for some time in the fridge, and go well with fruit.

If you’re considering Whole30 and need support, tips, other recipe recommendations, or how to make it more vegetarian friendly, please let me know and good luck!  It seems a bit overwhelming initially but it’s really not difficult and you’ll reap the benefits.

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