I wanted to write a blog post for the many people who will start out on the same 30 day journey my wife and I have ventured out on several times. Knowing what to expect on the Whole30 Diet will hopefully encourage those who are on the fence to jump in, and to offer support to those who have started. So hang on tight and get ready for me to confirm the fact that yes, the Whole30 Diet is hard, but not for the reasons that you would think.
Before you start out, understanding what to expect on the Whole30 diet will help you set the right expectations. Doing Whole30 is an experience and it is not an easy one. Not because of the lack of delicious food, but more the, “It’s late and I forgot to get the rest of the ingredients for dinner tonight” or “Oh no, I forgot to turn on the crockpot!”. The Whole30 experience is about understanding what food is and how you should use it to nourish your body, before the limitless needs of your brain. You will gain immense understanding of how food shapes our society and how it shapes your day when you have nothing to do, especially alcohol. I want to express to you my observations of what I experienced and how it has shaped my expectations of how we should all view food.
My wife and I have now completed two rounds of Whole30. Our reasoning to start both times was due to the fact that we eat and drink, like many Americans do, a lifetime of food and wine between Thanksgiving and New Years. In short, we are too Merry for the Holidays.
Due to that, for two consecutive years, we have limped into New Years feeling bloated, fatigued, and miserable. Starting the Whole30 diet originally started out as a cleanse, but has now shaped the entire way we approach food. One of the first things we realized back was that sugar, yes, it is in everything and you can’t eat it.
The first thing that jumps out to you is how sugar has percolated itself in the majority of food you see. The consumption of Sugar has become a huge issue in our society. To get more in depth just how much Sugar americans are eating, check out a great infographic created by Alice G Walton.
Both times my wife and I have set out on the Whole30 Diet, we have been equally baffled on just how much sugar is out there.
Within a very short period of time you see sugar in broths, marinara sauce, meats, all cereals, fruit drinks, dressings, nuts, and often hidden under the label “natural flavoring”. It is a complete shock and it gets frustrating very quickly. A food you thought you ate that was healthy ends up having sugar in it. We ended up shopping in the meats, fruits, and veggies section. After this diet, we feel as though we could actively shop in about 15% of the store. Everything else has either sugar in it or some type of “oil” we are not able to eat. Here is a great list directly from Whole30 describing what you can and can’t eat. We always referred to this list whenever in a bind and to double check ingredients of foods. To make it more convenient, download it to your phone for easy access.
Setting the right expectation with sugar with what to expect on the Whole30 Diet will be something to understand immediately. The great thing about Whole30 is it forces your to read the labels. You are no longer buying food because it looks good but because it is good for you. However, eliminating sugar and carbohydrates from your diet does have its side affects.
Yes, you are going to get withdrawals, which I must say was a complete surprise! Before I knew anything about Whole30, my only reference to withdrawals was from what I saw on TV about alcoholism and drug addiction. Surprisingly, your body does not just have withdrawals from alcohol and drugs, it extends to the foods you eat as well.
Headaches, lack of focus, fatigue, lack of patience will be the first week of your new diet. Due to the amount of carbs and sugars that exist in the average american diet, your body becomes reliant on them. Now that you have cut them out entirely, your body and mind will begin to feel the effects. From what I have read, this varies amongst everyone. For me, I had withdrawals for a few days, my wife a week, others have withdrawals well into the second week. Once you get past the withdrawals, you will then have to be cautious when eating out.
Yes, but it is hard and you are going to have to be a picky eater. Asking the waiter/waitress what type of oil the food was cooked in and if the salad dressing has sugar in it are very common questions you are going to ask. You will be surprised with just how little the cooks, waiters and restaurant actually know what is in the food they are serving. If you think about it, when you go out to eat, the primary focus of a lot of restaurants is to get you to come back. Although more and more restaurants today are focusing on taste and quality of ingredients, many are still heavily focused on taste and your return visits.
What does that mean for you?
Foods high in salt, sugar and vegetable oils will be common place. Im going to be honest, foods high in those ingredients are usually really good. Pizza is a prime example. In short, yes, you can eat out. But there are a broad range of opportunities for you to accidentally eat the foods you are trying to eat due to the lack of knowledge of the restaurant, as a whole, not knowing what ingredients are in the food.
Knowing what to expect on the Whole30 diet in regards to your stool is incredibly important.
Inspecting your own stool is something that is rarely, if ever, spoken about in our society. Yet it is an experience that we all commonly share. Inspecting your stool is something that you may have never even thought of but as you go into the 2nd and 3rd weeks of the diet, you will begin to see a noticeable change in your stool. Before you start, however, I think it is important to view the Bristol Stool Chart to see where the health of your stool is before and after the diet.
Overtime, you will begin to notice your stomach doesn’t hurt as much. Your stools are better and easier to pass. You don’t feel as bloated. Your Whole30 Diet will show you just how you stomach is supposed to feel.
For me, I felt as though I was always kind of hungry. Our society norm is to over eat. Anyone who has travelled abroad can quickly see how our meal sizes are portrayed in restaurants catering to Americans. The infamous “American Size” is a real term used abroad to refer to the size of meals. The over indulgence in foods to be stuffed because we eat so much. How you feel on the Whole30 Diet is how we are supposed to feel with food, always a little hungry.
Think back to humans during the hunter gatherer part of our history. If we were always full, would we go over another hill looking for food? Would we explore? Would we try to find a better place to live and stay? Being full is associated with being happy and content. Perhaps the optimal form of us it to be a little hungry, a little edgy, a little driven. To always have a slight side of urgency in all that we do. To push ourselves to be better, to improve, to climb the next hill.
Our minds are incredibly important for us to continue to survive as a species. However, our bodies are the framework that carries our minds around. For our bodies to be in optimal form, we should not be feeding ourselves so much sugars and processed foods. The Whole30 Diet teaches us just how great we can feel when we eat the right foods. The Whole30 Diet also teaches us just how unhappy our bodies were with our old diet.
Ultimately, you learn how to eat correctly. You are able to take a step back and view what you should and should not be eating. When you have completed your 30 days, listen to your body as you begin to eat sugar again. The whole 30 diet teaches you how to listen to your body like we were always meant to do.
The Whole30 Diet will make you cook more, read more labels, eat more vegetables and have more energy. In the past, I craved chocolate and candy. Now I crave apples and broccoli. Of course, I have a cupcake here and there but never in excess. After a day of indulgent eating, I can tell that I have eaten too much salt or too much sugar. You become more aware of how your body feels with the food you eat. Because as they say, “You are what you eat”. The Whole30 Diet drives that point home. So good luck, Godspeed, and stick to it. I assure you it will be one of the most rewarding and eye opening experiences you will have in your entire life.