If you follow me on social media, you may have noticed that I’ve been referring to this Whole30 quite a lot lately. It’s something that I started my 2018 with, and now that it’s done, I thought I’d let you know what it is and how it went.
Deciding for my health…and my wedding
I’m not an unusual prospective bride in that I initially wanted to do the Whole30 in order to prep. But it wasn’t so much a fit-into-my-dress thing (I chose a dress that fits perfectly and is comfortable and looks amazing on me tee hee) as it was a wanting to tone up those jelly arms and chin of mine, which will be on full display in photos.
But after years of trying to make a vegetarian or vegan diet work all the while watching my weight slowly creep up and my digestion get worse (even with daily probiotics and beano at every meal), I decided to do some research in my body type.
And what I found out was really interesting.
It All Begins with Body Type
It’s no secret that I’ve struggled with maintained a weight that I’m comfortable with for a long time. As time goes on, it steadily creeps up and although I exercise on a regular basis, it never seems to go down. The other day I was remembering back a decade ago, when I was at my thinnest ever in the course of my adult life. And I was literally a starving student. As in, I had no money to eat.
Anyways, I don’t really want to go back there again. Ever. But motivated to get my health and weight under control, I started to do a bit of research into body composition and body types. The science behind body type, I found out, is linked to some truly bizarre psychological theories. But all that aside, there is some truth to categorizing the whole of the human race into three different body types: ectomorph, endomorph, and mesomorph.
It helped me to understand the very real difference between myself and my fiancee, for instance. He is the quintessential ectomorph: tall, thin, and has a hard time gaining weight whether that be from muscle or fat mass. Researching his perfect diet and exercise helped me to understand that he actually does need to eat tons of carbs in the form of grains since his super fast metabolism burns through calories like whoa. It’s also when he has a hangover, they seem to last all of 3 seconds.
I, on the other hand, am an endomorph. If I were male I would have the best body type for bodybuilding, and as a female it means that I have all the curves. Gaining muscle and fat is equally as easy for me, which seems so obvious now that I think about it. Most of my adult life I’ve had firm abs, but they tend to hide from the world under some padding.
It also means that I am carb and insulin sensitive. As soon I read this, everything in my life made sense. My hangriness and my failure at begin vegan made sense. And so did the fact that my ideal diet is heavy on protein and healthy fats, and low on sugar and carbs: the Paleo diet.
My January Whole30
So with this information in mind, I decided to try the ‘paleo but more strict’ diet I’d heard of from a girlfriend, the Whole30. I downloaded a Kindle version of the Whole30 book and started reading it over the Christmas holidays. My aim was to begin the 30 day reset on January 2nd.
My Whole30 prep day on January 1st was…hectic. The problem with my start date was that it coincided with my first day in the office of a new job. Not the smartest move I’ve ever made. And I was scared. I was terrified that I would break this diet on my first day. So I did a butt load of prep. I made mini frittatas for breakfast on the run, I made a whole chicken, I prepped slow cooker meals, I packed my lunches for the week…I did anything and everything I could to guarantee my success. I knew from the past that if I didn’t have healthy meals at hand, I would eat whatever.
I spent that entire day getting ready for this super tough month ahead of me. The next day I packed up my super healthy Whole30 lunch for my first day at work. And then I went to work and found out that at my startup, we get groceries bought for us.
Natura Market Saved Me
However, I did do some prep that was super helpful, and it had to do with Googling.
The Whole30 online community is huge and very supportive, with resources such as recipes and forums to help you through this life-changing time (and yes, it is life changing. More on that later). The program and community also has access to “Whole30 approved” foods: brands and items that comply to the program’s very strict rules that you can buy off grocery store shelves. Unsurprisingly, most them can be found at a local Whole Foods.
Also unsurprisingly, I can’t find most of them in my town of 10,000 people or even in nearby Winnipeg. My local Whole Foods location is 700 km away in Minneapolis.
So I was so happy to find a Canadian site that specifically sells food items for specialty diets such as Whole30, Paleo, Keto and more: Natura Market. Seriosuly, if you live in Canada and are thinking of starting a Whole30, you need to check this shop out. I ordered the Whole30 Prep kit and while I didn’t love every single item in it, I found that most of them helped me get through January so much! (I might do a video review of this kit at some point)
The First Week
One of the best things about the Whole30 is that, unlike other diet books, it’s practically. It lays out how you may generally be feeling on every day of the diet. And while my experience didn’t exactly match every day, it was super helpful to go back and re-read that section any time I was feeling like I needed motivation to keep going.
But instead of doing that, I wanted to let you know about my general experiences week to week.
The first week was…rocky, as the book explains it will be. I continued to bring my packed lunches to work, unsure I’d be able to find anything to make for lunch in the work fridge (it’s something I still struggle with). I also found it difficult to deal with the issue of food and working out. I’m a morning person, so my workouts are most efficient at the crack of dawn, on an empty stomach. But the Whole30 insists that you eat a pre-workout meal.
Let me tell you, when you’re dealing with a body angry at you for taking away its steady supply of sugars and its’ 5 AM in January, the last thing you want to do is figure out the best ratio of carbs, proteins, and healthy fats to fuel a workout, sit and force it down your throat, and then spend an hour trying not to hurl as you do sit up after sit up.
My pre-workout meal was abandoned after like, 2 days. I perform so much better with a post-workout meal and then an on-the-run breakfast during my commute.
The Second Week
My second week was not much better than my first, if I’m being honest. I was nauseous on and off, and my digestion was really unpredictable. Workouts felt hard and I was constantly tired. I think the only thing that saved me was the one vice that you are allowed on the Whole30: caffeine. I picked up a coffee habit and I haven’t looked back. It didn’t hurt that those Nutpods and Vital Proteins coffee creamers are so delicious.
One thing I actually didn’t struggle with during my first 2 weeks of the January Whole30 was the lack of booze. Maybe it was this time of year, when all of our friends were reeling from overspending and over-partying during December, but there actually wasn’t much happening socially. Getting used to my new schedule and recovering from an abundance of money spent on travel and gifts ourselves, my fiancee and I lay low and didn’t really go out for meals.
The Third Week
By the third week in, I was finally feeling comfortable with making my lunches and grabbing snacks at work. Not going to lie, there was a lot of salads with tuna or turkey on the side, and grabbing apples and nut butters for snacks. If anything, I relied a little bit too much on fruit during my Whole30. It’s something that’s advised against as you’re not meant to replace candies with their sometimes equally as sweet natural inspirations.
Lately I’ve been research better ways to snack such as grabbing a handful of cashews and a pepperoni stick, but to be honest the fruit didn’t worry me too much. The point of avoiding not only sugar but all forms of sweetener during the Whole30 is to rebuild your relationship with food. And with fruit and me, sweet no longer means reward. As the book says, it’s really a judgement call: are you going to overeat this food? Are you going to abuse it? With me and fruit, the answer is always no.
The third week also brings with it the fabled Whole30 Tiger Blood (the language around the program relies heavily on that one Charlie Sheen interview. It’s weird). It’s this surge of extra energy that fuels your workouts and makes you feel like a million bucks. At least, it can.
I was one of those people for whom Tiger Blood was a slow burn. I didn’t feel it come on right away and it was more a feeling of my digestion actually acting like a normal human being’s might rather than constantly feeling like a knife stabbing me from the inside.
But there was also a bad side to this whole Tiger Blood thing that I was not warned about. Extra energy and being without a single former vice (i.e. chocolate, sugar, wine, bread, cheese, etc) means that all parts of yourself of energized. Even the negative parts.
And when you’re barreling down the highway trying to shine your high beams into some other drivers’ eyes in retribution for the same action, you’ve got to wonder whether this newfound energy isn’t turning you into a rage monster – and maybe wine has its place in your life to blurred the edges, so to speak.
The Fourth Week
After taming my inner demon with a once-a-week bath habit, the fourth week went by pretty well. However, I did break my Whole30 once or twice without restarting it (as they insist in the book). After work bonding sessions with team members, parties and office birthday cakes were hard to navigate, but I attempted to keep it all to a minimum. Honestly, I loved the gingerade kombucha I found in Costco as a ginger beer tastealike booze replacement for parties – and I actually other teetotalers ask me to share! Yay!
The Home Stretch
The last few days of my Whole30 were fine, but I did succumb to that feeling of wanting to constantly look into mirrors all the time. And I desperately wanted to know how I did – numbers wise. But the eating and meal prep got easier, nearly second nature. I think that was the best part of the Whole30, and the part that sticks with me the most. Cooking with whole, clean ingredients, I got to try out recipes and stretch my meal repertoire, and I became one of those people who tootles around the grocery looking for a specific fresh herb to go with kohlrabi. I’ve always wanted to be one of those people!
In the end, I lost 4 pounds and my constant state of bloat. It’s not a quick diet for sure, but I feel like I’ve finally found what’s right for my body. And I’ll definitely be doing a Whole30 again!
After following the Whole30 strictly and successfully, my reintroduction phase has been unstructured, chaotic, and mostly ruled by nausea. I’ve been alternating wildly between going back to Whole30 eating and trying anything and everything to see its effects on me.
This is not what the program recommends, and my body has been really unhappy.
For the most part, I’ve spent my February avoiding legumes, dairy, and added sugar. The latter two categories have crept back into my diet here and there, but I haven’t sought them out. And I don’t think I’ve had a single legume since some time in December.
But grains and wine have been a different story. I’ve tried rice in a couple different forms. I’ve had a few glasses of wine. Meat has come breaded. I’m not about to munch on granola or bread like I used to, but there’s a lot that I haven’t bothered to avoid. And my body has responded in unpleasant ways.
So even though I’ve done the reintroduction phase all wrong, I’m still learning things about what my body needs. It’s like having an owners’ manual for my body, and knowing for the first time in my life how to read it.
So now I know that:
-sugar and high GI foods such as refined flour make me hangry. I get a very short term high and then crash, hard.
-rice makes me bloated. So do whole grains. I haven’t even touched legumes since January 2nd and my life is better for it.
-I can’t eat before working out. It just does not work for me.
-As much as I love wine, there are better ways to wind down. A hot bath, evening yoga, reading with a cup of herbal, and meditation are some of my new favourites.
It was quite a journey, friends! And now that I’ve laid it out, would you try a Whole30? If you do, let me know if you have any questions – there is so much more that I experienced that I didn’t cover here! Also, get the cookbooks and thank me later!