Lessons From My First Whole30 Challenge
April 25, 2019
This past February, I came to the realization that I wanted to take a big step this year to improve my health. I teach my clients to take baby steps, and I am a firm believer in them. And, I knew I was ready for a bigger step. When one of my coaching clients asked me to join her on her first Whole30 Challenge, I knew the opportunity had landed in my lap.
hen I attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in 2012, I learned about over 150 dietary practices including Whole30, so I had the facts. I’ve also had clients who gave it a try. But there is nothing, and I mean nothing, like having the experience for yourself.
I began my research in February with the start date planned for March 1st. Fortunately, I share my life with the most amazing man who is always willing to be a guinea pig for my nutrition and wellness adventures. He read the rules and agreed to give it a try.
We used the last two weeks of February to finish any fresh or frozen groceries that weren’t Whole30 compliant. Wasting food is the worst! I always recommend, when making healthy swaps, to use what you have and replace it with something better. In this case, we bought some ketchup, mustard, salad dressing and BBQ sauce that were compliant because the condiments that were normally in our refrigerator had soy, preservatives, natural flavors or sugar.
We also bought plenty of protein, fresh and frozen vegetables and emergency Lara Bars for the car. We bought raw nuts and seeds. We bought fresh fruit and frozen berries. I stocked up on herbal tea to keep water interesting and fun.
The bottom shelf of the pantry became the noncompliant shelf. Gluten-free pasta, beans, fortune cookies, more beans, strawberry jam from Westmoreland Berry Farm–and did I mention beans—filled that shelf.
Our challenge began on a Friday, I’ll just be honest here and tell you that we had ‘fun food’ earlier in the week. Isn’t funny how just the idea of a diet can cause you to make less-than-healthy choices? We spent some time Wednesday and Thursday evening prepping proteins, and chopping vegetables. I made sure we had Breakfast Bread and plenty of eggs for breakfast.
And we began.
At first, we both felt confident. We truly believed that we ate well anyway, so this wouldn’t be a big deal. Boy, were we wrong! By Day three, we were both convinced this was the worst idea we’d ever agreed to try! We were constantly hungry and felt irritable all the time.
Days four, five and six were much better. We started to figure out what we needed to do to feel full (protein AND bulky vegetable with some fat), and I stopped snacking so that I could finish my meals.
Days seven to fourteen were pretty smooth. We were in a groove! We had mastered this, no big deal.
Once again, the regret and sense of irritation set in for me around day fifteen. What was I thinking? I’m a health coach, I shouldn’t ever be on a diet…I am already healthy, I don’t need to do this…I need to eat those things so my metabolism doesn’t slow down…I just want to have dinner out with friends…my brain was so creative! Not only did it try every angle and excuse, but every emotion too! One minute I would be happy with how much energy I was feeling the next I would be angry that I couldn’t have just a little bit of yogurt.
I’m happy to say that it all passed. By the 30thday, I felt good about the food I was eating. My sleep was less restless, my brain was clear, my occasional headaches were gone and my digestive system was very happy with me.
On Day 31 we had a slice of pizza and decided to hit reset on April 1st. I’m 25 days in to the second Whole30 and the lessons I’ve learned are even greater this time. Here are just a few of the things I learned about myself and my relationship to food and nutrition in the last two months:
- Food doesn’t need to be complicated.
- Eating snacks between meals doesn’t work for me.
- I feel good when I eat chicken. (I was a vegetarian for most of my life.)
- I do have some issues with recovery as a CrossFit Athlete, and have decided to continue using my protein shake after workouts.
- I need a wider variety of vegetables and fruit in my life. And I need to schedule them on a weekly menu/meal plan.
- Food doesn’t need to consume so much of my time and mental space. Prior to this experience, I lived to eat instead of eating to live.
- In month two, I have allowed myself to have a small bit a cheese on salads when we were at friends’ houses. Even though it isn’t compliant, I’m not mad at myself. Instead, I am thankful for the time and energy each of my friends put into the food they lovingly made to share with me.
- Portion control is important but should be about listening to your body, not the size of the plate.
- Just like every other diet ever created, this isn’t perfect. And that’s okay.
- I love the idea of Whole30ish…staying compliant at home but also understanding that perfection is impossible.
- It’s easy to stay 100% compliant at home once you have a system.
One of the many benefits has also been how my body composition has shifted. My shirts and pants fit better. I can even see the changes in the mirror which is fun and encouraging. My sleep continues to improve. It feels wonderful to open my refrigerator and see whole foods. It boosts my confidence and energizes me to continue.
I plan to continue through May and June. I want to find more recipes and add some variety to our current meals. It’ll be fun to see how the improved variety increases my energy! Overall, this was a great experiment and I encourage you to give it a try!
It's Your Turn!
Join me in the FREE GGT Healthy Challenge Group! We begin on May 1st!