Over the last month, I went on my first ever “diet”, and it wasn't easy. It wasn't as hard as going through cancer, but for a guy who has always been able to eat whatever I want, it was. My wife challenged me to join her on this journey to help reduce her inflammation, and I thought, sure…why not? With an arrogant attitude in hand, I thought this would be a cake walk!
What is the Whole 30 Diet?
The Whole30 plan focuses on eating unprocessed food and helps you rid your gut of the complex carbs and sugars that you are feeding your body. It is built on getting your mind and body to get used to not being dependent on sugars and food that has been processed. A big emphasis is focused on eating natural fruits and vegetables. Sounds pleasant and easy, doesn't it? Ha! Here is my experience, which was anything but.
During the first week, it quickly got old not being able to have any refined carbs and sugar. Right off the bat, I was immediately craving cookie dough, pizza, flour tortillas with my eggs, and oh yeah….CHEESE! It made it hard to go to events/get-togethers and not be able to eat 80% of what was being served. I felt like I was being an arrogant prick, and not eating food that was being provided. Am I the only one that feels this way when going through a diet?
That first week I thought was one of the easier weeks—in terms of meal preparation—because my wife and I were all gung-ho about what we were going to eat each day. Isn't that the way it always starts out? :) We had seven solid days of meals planned, and things weren't tasting that bad. I was really enjoying eating whole fruits (strawberries, apples, pineapple) to get my sugars, and oddly enough I could tell that they tasted sweet and not “plasticky” like I had previously felt. By day 5 or 6, I could already tell that my pants were fitting different, and I felt more alert and didn't have a clouded feeling in my head.
At the end of the first week, I remember turning to my wife and telling her, “I couldn't imagine going through this experience without you doing it with me.” It was that point when I first realized that diets definitely need to be done in “spouse tango.” It is almost impossible to accomplish a goal one person has without the other person joining you on the journey!
Bar-none this was the hardest week! Our meal preparation was starting to wane, and I felt like I was a squirrel foraging through my fridge for what ingredients I could put together to make a meal. Small snack items became more appealing. We weren't putting in the time to plan out meals and go to the grocery store to buy all of our Whole30 compliant ingredients. By day 10 or so, we made another trip to the store, and plopped down another $150 for groceries and kept trudging on.
During this week I felt very tired, and weak because I didn't feel like I was getting very many carbs. Being a runner, I wasn't getting the necessary carbs I needed to refuel my body, so I adjusted my running a little and lowered my pace and expectations. Also, I was constantly feeling hungry and kept eating to get rid of that feeling. Oddly enough, I could tell that I was losing weight, and my waist line was shrinking. Also, my wife's body shape was changing, and both of our faces looked clearer and had a better tone to them.
Towards day 13 and 14 I started to get some severe headaches at night. I was continuing to have my regular coffee (which didn't include any sugar or milk), but I was finding that I was craving more coffee to make up for the sugar I wasn't getting. I think it was at this point that my body was demanding sugar, and it was taking it out on my brain. I can understand how people say that sugar is more addicting than cocaine.
By week three I was through my headaches and was starting feel like He-man! From reading the Whole30 book other people had the same feeling. I felt like I could accomplish anything! I wasn't craving sugar as much, and the fruit sugar taste was becoming even more intense.
However, the craving I did have this week was to go out to eat, and not make as much of an effort in meal planning. I think this is often why we as a culture of convenience want to not prepare meals and just go out to eat. We did treat ourselves a couple of times to Chipotle, but when we did, we made sure that it was compliant with the diet. Chipotle seemed to be our only restaurant that we could go out to eat at without breaking the diet.
Ugh!! Are we done yet? That is the feeling I had by day 23 or 24. I was liking the effects the diet was having on our bodies (less pain), budget and that we were spending little to no money on going out to eat. However, I felt like we were eating a lot of the same meals and it was hard to get a variety. In addition, I told my wife, “I can understand why people wouldn't want to do this diet. It feels like you never get any rewards or cheat days. I typically have some small sugary treat after dinner, but I feel like this diet doesn't allow me to have that. I know that means I need to change my definition of a treat.”
As I approached the final days I felt like my wife and I had collectively accomplished something worthwhile that we had set our minds to. It reminds me of the importance to be equally yoked with your spouse. It was good to be an encouragement to each other when we knew the other wanted to just have a cheeseburger or go get a concrete mixer from Culvers. I know how easy it would have been to just give up on my own if I was the only one doing it.
By the end of the 30 days I hadn't weighed myself at all and clocked in at the end having lost 8.4 pounds, and my wife beat me and lost 12 pounds! Woohoo!
Final thoughts & money saving aspect of Whole30
Overall, I highly recommend going through the Whole30 diet. It really makes you be resilient in pushing towards a goal that isn't easy and tests you. After getting through day 14, I felt the plan really helped me think clearer, and experienced more mental clarity. It was odd, but I think it was because I wasn't being clouded by the sugars I was previously feeding my body.
Financially, I found that our costs at the supermarket went up significantly, but our budget for going out to eat dropped. We were able to save about $200 over the month by not going out to eat (except for an occasional Chipotle visit). I was really surprised with how much of our variable expenses are leaked out through going out to eat, which the plan really helped me see.
Finally, I would really encourage you to look at doing the Whole30 plan if you are,
- looking to lose weight,
- have better mental clarity,
- want to feel less bloated and inflamed,
- want to run better, and
- if you want to save some money on your food budget
So this is my experience of going through the Whole30 plan. I'd be interested in hearing what diet or plan you have done.