I lost 8 kilos in 30 days.
8 kilos. In 30 days. And I was never hungry nor did I increase my exercise.
I embarked upon the Whole30 diet for the first time 10 weeks ago and today I start my second round.
In this blog I will explain why I am doing this Whole30 diet again (apart from wanting to lose more weight) as well as give you some tips on getting through it if you decide to have a crack at it yourself. I will also explain the things that I believe you should know if you want to eat this way for 30 days or longer as well as give my opinion on who should and shouldn't do this diet. I have promised many of you to write about my experience on the whole30 and whether this is a diet that is healthy, sustainable and easy. My quick answers to that are yes, maybe and no.
Firstly, what is the Whole30?
It's a diet that Dallas and Melissa Hartwig (both nutritionists) founded in 2009. They released the program and science behind this way of eating in their book 'It starts with Food' (pictured above and available online and through paleo cafes/restaurants etc.) It is a stricter version of the Paleo diet where you are cutting out all grains, dairy, soy, peanuts, legumes, corn, alcohol and all sugar apart from whole pieces of fruit. So what are we left with? Meat, chicken, seafood, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, eggs. Whole foods straight from mother nature. This can be quite a daunting prospect and probably much easier to embark upon if you are already quite a 'clean eater' that sticks with wholefoods in the first place. I still think it can be tackled even if your current diet contains packaged and processed foods, it will just be a bit harder and more of a shock to the system.
You stay on this diet for a minimum of 30 days to rest the digestive system of all known inflammatory foods, this helps heal the gut lining and helps break the 'comfort eating' habits that have been born along with the industrialised food era. For example - snacking on rice crackers or corn chips here and there or some chocolate just because they are in your cupboard and you felt bored or emotional or just because....well, you can! This diet replaces that can with a big CAN'T.
Then after 30 days (or longer, depending on how you are feeling and how much gut repair you need) you can re-introduce foods to watch the affect they have on your 'clean slate' so to speak. Gut health is very important to me as I know firsthand and through my clients that if your gut is not right, nothing will be right. The health of your gut lining is really the foundation for ALL physical and mental health and to read more on this, you can read my gut health series HERE
What I (personally) had to cut out -
Wine, cheese, butter, cream, corn, peanuts, rice, quinoa, honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, smoothies.
I found no dairy the hardest part and as much as I love my wine, there was really only 2 nights where I really felt like a drink in the whole 30 days.
The real reason that this diet appealed to me is that it closely follows everything I knew that would help heal the gut lining and help you lose weight. I have been trying to shift the weight I have put on in the last couple of years and even set my own diet which you can read about HERE but I still ate dairy, small amounts of rice or quinoa and it allowed me to have a wine on 'special occasions'. Funny how special occasions kept popping up...(I think Offspring night on TV counted as a special occasion) 😉
I wasn't getting anywhere with that way of eating and knew that I had to do something a bit stricter if I wanted to start feeling better. I had no idea how much grains and dairy were affecting me until I did the whole30.
I reintroduced rice on the 4th day after completing the 30 days and my stomach felt so sore and heavy afterwards for the rest of the day. Dairy didn't affect me initially but the more I had, eventually my bowel movements told me that this was not agreeing with me at all (shattered!) and when I started eating sugar again (chocolate) or drinking wine again, my anxiety would flare up. I started to wake up in bed anywhere between 3am and 4am and not be able to go back to sleep (funnily enough this is the time when the liver is trying to repair itself!)
I usually follow a gluten free diet and have done for years so going off gluten is no big thing for me but I wanted to see how my body reacted to it after my gut had the best rest it had received in ages so I introduced a bit of gluten about 3 weeks after finishing the whole30. Well, that was no fun. Instant brain fog, sore tummy and aching muscles which was something I hadn't noticed before. I do like to be thorough when I'm testing things out, for research purposes you understand 😉
Benefits I Noticed
~So as well as the weight loss, I started to sleep better. It happened in the second week. I would go to bed and just go to sleep and sleep through (unless woken by a toddler!) and this felt great.
~I also had more energy.
~I felt lighter and lost a lot of puffiness and bloating
~The biggest thing for me though was how stable my moods were! I just felt so much more balanced and wasn't so reactive when things went wrong. I would usually be feeling strung out by the end of the day and at 6pm when I was feeding and bathing my toddlers, hubby arrived home to a much more in control and smiley wife instead of someone wanting to run away and hand the reins over to him completely until their bedtime. So that was a huge bonus as well.
~The first week! I felt miserable and toxic. I had low energy. Then days 10,11, 15 and 16 were the hardest for me and then somewhere after day 16 I felt amazing!
~You do get a little sick of eggs for breakfast but I tried to shake things up a bit as often as possible.
~I got a tummy bug from my son in the third week and all I wanted was some rice or a piece of gluten free toast but I didn't want to break it and I just rested my stomach instead by not eating until I really felt like protein rich foods again. It made me realise how this diet could be quite restrictive and difficult especially when your circumstances change.
~Having to be prepared and organised all the time. Without having enough whole foods on hand that are quick and easy to prepare when you are in a rush, this diet would be too hard to maintain.
Ok, so I've done a summary of all the questions I was asked while I was doing my first whole30 -
Is this diet for everyone?
No. I would not do this diet if you are vegetarian or vegan, there is simply no way you can healthily sustain your energy intake without meat, legumes and grains. I was asked if it was safe for pregnant and breastfeeding mums and I think yes. As long as you are not restricting your calories and eat the variety of veg, fats and protein allowed at each meal, you are getting all the nutrients you need.
Did my toddlers eat this way too?
No. Although it would be a very safe diet for children and the book advocates children doing it also and it has been known to help with all manner of childhood issues, I just don't think it's necessary. They are only 2 and 3 years of age and both are in perfect health. If my children had eczema, behavioural disorders, any autoimmune disease, then yes, I would confidently put them on this diet with me to see if it benefited them. My kids have been gluten free since birth, rarely have any processed sugar and only have yoghurt and cheese as their source of dairy. To take them off homemade bikkies with honey and maple syrup used as sweetener or their beloved rice crackers, seems futile to me. I don't see the point of taking them off these types of foods while they are healthy.
How to cater for your family if you are doing it alone?
I was lucky to have my husband be very enthusiastic about trying the whole30 and it did him the world of good. He lost some extra weight also (didn't really have much to lose!) but the biggest pay off for him was having more stabilised blood sugars. He is a type 1 diabetic so has to have insulin if he consumes any sugar (grains all break down to sugar eventually!) He didn't need insulin during the day at all to balance his blood sugars as he wasn't eating anything to spike his blood! He only needed his long acting insulin for overnight. He felt so much better that he asked if we could do our second whole 30 soon which is why we have both started again today. If your partner and kids do not do this diet with you then dinner is usually the only meal you need to worry about and one idea is to just cook what you would be having and then you can also cook some rice or pasta if your family want more than the protein and vegetables that you will be having. Ask them to keep their sweets and processed foods away from you as I imagine that would be tempting. I didn't have to deal with that as we didn't have any in the house so it would be easier to have them on board with you, but with willpower, you can do it alone if you have to.
What Nutrients will you be missing out on?
If done correctly, none! There are carbohydrates in vegetables and fruit. An one of the biggest misconceptions is that you will be missing out on calcium with no dairy but you don't absorb much calcium from dairy anyway! Even though dairy is high in calcium, that doesn't translate into you absorbing that calcium. You will absorb more calcium from your green vegetables and nuts and seeds than you would from dairy products. Just make sure that a variety of vegetables are in abundance on your menu. Cutting out dairy, grains, sugar and legumes does not harm your nutritional intake in my opinion.
Why aren't Peanuts and corn allowed?
Because corn is classed as a grain and peanuts are actually classed as a legume, not a nut! Grains and legumes have lectins that can inflame the gut wall. To read more on lectins, go HERE
Isn't this diet a bit extreme?
I think it is only viewed as extreme because it is so far away from what a lot of people's diets are based on these days. Grains and sugar. The two most nutritionally void food groups. They are cheap to manufacture, store well and market well with high profit so unfortunately, modern diet has grown steadily in this direction. We also know that a diet high in sugar and grains (which break down into sugar!) are the leading causes for obesity, inflammation, heart disease, autoimmune disease, mental illness and pretty much all of the preventable and 'lifestyle diseases' out there. So coming off these foods to help heal my inflammation and gut does not seem extreme to me.
Yes, the 'you can't have a single bit of the banned foods or you have to start again' is very black and white and does not fit with my 80/20 balance approach to health but this is not a diet that you stay on forever. It is just 30 days to change the health of your gut and change the relationship you have with your food as well as break some bad habits that you may not even be aware of. I think I needed something like this as I obviously need strict parameters to be successful. I'm the type of gal where one wine can turn into 2 and then 3....one square of chocolate never cuts it for me and often if we had a block of dark chocolate at home, my husband and I would share the lot in one sitting. We aren't the type of people to let biscuits sit in the jar for long if you know what I mean. But take them away and we do pretty well as we are both stubborn and once we set our minds to something, we do it. I guess it will depend on what type of personality you are. I know that from now on gluten free grains, dairy and sugar will always be a limited part of my diet but I will have them again here and there once I have achieved my health goals. Any Whole30 rounds I do are just 30 day blocks of time where the 'strictness' works for me. I am overweight and while I have no disease or illness along with this, I know it's only a matter of time unless I get myself healthier. If this is the measure that I have to temporarily take then I think that is a good example of going 'extreme' now and then.
Did you snack between meals?
No. I always made sure that my meals were filling as well as had protein and fats in them. The protein is essential for keeping your blood sugars balanced and the fat helps you feel fuller for longer. I never got hungry between meals and the diet does not encourage snacking between meals. We really shouldn't have to if we are eating properly at each meal which allows our gut to rest between meals. we were not designed to constantly graze all day. the only reason we would need to do this is if we were just snacking on grains and sugar which does not sustain us and constantly fluctuates our blood sugar levels meaning we need to keep re-fueling.
Was it expensive?
No. we actually saved quite a bit of money as we didn't eat out as much (I ate out twice in the 30 days) and we weren't buying take away meals or alcohol. We already bought our organic fruit and veg from the farmers markets and our meat from an organic butcher so we just had to increase the volume a bit. This is where we choose to spend the bulk of our budget as good food and good health has always been important to us.
Isn't eating that much meat bad for you and acid forming?
No! Contrary to popular belief, eating meat is not acid forming. It is an acidic food because protein is made up of amino acids but it does not form acid in the body. Protein repairs your cells. Just like lemon which is an acidic food as it contains citric acid but it's actually alkalising for the body as it helps bile flow from the gall bladder which helps digestion and improves your pH level. So foods are very different on the inside of our body. The acid formers are grains, legumes, sugar, most dairy etc. Anything that causes inflammation in the body is acid forming so the paleo diet is quite alkalising as it's high in vegetables and protein and low in sugar and carbohydrates.
My favourite Whole30 approved healthy fats - get them into you!
My tips for doing the Whole30
~Be prepared! There is no way you will last if you don't mentally prepare as well as stock your fridge and pantry with the staples you need. You should also get rid of anything not allowed during your 30 days that will tempt you (if possible). When cooking meals, always cook double the amount so you always have leftovers in the fridge. Leftovers saved me so many times.
~Eat your good fat! With every meal! Fat is so important for satiety, healthy hormone manufacture and for absorbing the nutrients from the food. It's also the flavour! I ate or cooked with either coconut oil, ghee, olive oil, tallow or lard and avocado with every meal.
~Do some extra gut healing while you are bringing down the inflammation of your gut lining. Do this especially if you know your gut health is not that great. I take 4 dessert spoons of aloe vera juice in a glass of water every morning on an empty stomach and I also take a daily probiotic and glutamine for gut repair. Really get into your broth while doing this diet as it fills you up and is a quick and handy base to make many meals with. If you have broth on hand, you can heat up and throw in your meat and vegetables to cook for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Broth has amazing gut healing properties due to the collagen content. Find my Bone Broth Recipe HERE
~If your gut is dodgy then chances are your digestive juices aren't flowing that well. Increase your stomach acidity and digestive enzymes which will also help with the digestion of the extra meat and protein you are eating. Do this by taking a couple of capfuls of apple cider vinegar in water before your meals and add to your salad and vegetable dressings. If you are having problems with digestion, you could even take digestive enzyme capsules with each meal - ask your instore naturopath for a good brand.
~Ask for support from your family and friends and explain what you are doing and why. Choose your 30 days at a time when you know you don't have big social engagements or occasions that will have you around alcohol and all the foods you can't eat! Remember, it's only 30 days.
~Move daily. It doesn't have to be much but at least a 20 minute walk to keep things moving is important. You will be detoxing on this diet so keeping your lymph moving and your bowels moving are greatly helped by physical activity. Include other activities to help your detox process so you don't feel so blah. I like massages, yoga, acupuncture and infrared sauna.
~If you are missing fruit as that is something that you usually snack on - incorporate it into your meals! I often will have apple, papaya, strawberries etc. on my plate with whatever protein and veg I am having afterwards. I also love using fruit in my recipes like apple sauce on my pork or grated apple in rissoles and salads etc. Be creative!
~If doing the whole30 to lose weight, remember that you have gained the weight in the first place to protect yourself from toxins and inflammation. Weight gain is a protective mechanism as the body is ALWAYS trying to protects its cells. So as the weight is lost, toxins will be leaving your body as well. Support this by increasing toxin removing foods like lots of fresh coriander and keeping alkalised by sipping on lemon juice in a glass of water as often as you think of it during the day. My other detox tips can be read HERE
~Do your own research and enlist extra support. Buy the 'It starts with Food' book if knowing the science behind what you are doing will help you. It also has many practical and helpful tips as well as many whole30 recipes. Follow as many paleo and whole30 friendly pages and blogs you can find. I love instagram for quick inspiration which is why I take pics of all my meals - you can follow my meals HERE and find them by searching with the tag #nnmwhole30 on instagram.
some of my first whole30 meal pics
If you are an avid facebook user, join the Australian whole30 face book group (just search for it on facebook by typing whole30 Australia and request to join.)
These are facebook pages/blogs that I found helpful for inspiration -
Chef Pete Evans
Gluten Free Grain Free Co
Nom Nom Paleo
The Paleo Mom
Against All Grain
Jens Paleo Kitchen
Brisbane Paleo Family
Feeding Two Growing Boys
So that should give you a bit to go on, if you have more questions, I'm happy to answer them in the comments section of this blog. I also recommend my Cravings Control Drops if you think you have a strong emotional connection to your comfort foods. This is a blend of Australian Bush Flower Essences that deal with cravings, breaking habits, letting go, despair and pining. I found these handy especially after dinner when I would usually be sipping on a wine or having a sneaky bit of dark chocolate. Just 7 drops in the mouth and it helps support the emotions attached to these food related behaviours and can be taken as often as needed. Read more about them HERE
I have gained back another 3 kilos in the 6 weeks since being off the whole30 and I know why that is. I went back to dairy, rice, wine and sugar more often than I should. I am hoping the second whole30 will help me further with my comfort foods and crutches and I am so looking forward to feeling better again. I must admit, I feel a little sluggish.
So here's to day 1 and here's to anyone wanting to join me! (I'm doing a cheers with a coconut water!)
But take all the time you need to prepare as it will be ready when you are.
Yours in health,