Whole30 Reflection

My husband (Aaron) and I completed our first Whole30 in the month of October. If you haven’t heard of the Whole30 before, I encourage you to Google it or go to whole30.com to read more! In a nutshell, it is a thirty day challenge where you eliminate all sugar, dairy, grains, soy, legumes, and alcohol (basically any processed food/artificial ingredients) and focus on nourishing your body with a lot of meat, veggies, fruit, nuts, and healthy fats. There are certainly other principles to follow (such as how to build your meals, etc.), but total clean eating is the foundation of the program. Its desire is to not just make you a healthier individual on the outside but to really change your relationship with food.

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Aaron and I were successful with this challenge and stuck to a strict Whole30 plan throughout the month of October—no cheating. Coming from different backgrounds/perspectives on healthy eating (I have a passion for it, and he lovingly accepts it but doesn’t share the same passion), I thought it would be fun to “interview” him on his Whole30 experience. I also added my perspective from the experience I gained during the thirty days. You may notice that he is a man of few words and is pretty blunt, whereas I am…not 😉 Enjoy!

As a side note: We did not do this Whole30 challenge for pure weight loss purposes. I really wanted to focus on our relationship with food rather than pounds or inches, so we did not take measurements in the beginning. However, both of us lost inches (noticeable from clothing and belts). We did weigh in at the beginning of the Whole30 and at the end of the thirty days. Aaron lost 10 pounds and I lost 4.5 pounds.

  1. What made you decide you wanted to commit to the Whole30?

A (Aaron): My wife was doing it, so I decided to do it with her to support her. I knew it would be helpful to her to have the support at home.

M (Molly): I have always been intrigued by those who subscribe to ‘clean eating,’ but I have always been too nervous to take the plunge and try it. I figured that I ate healthy overall, so there was no point in committing to something like this. I enjoy moderation! Well, I definitely challenged myself physically through marathon training, and I was ready to challenge myself nutritionally after the marathon. The timing worked out perfectly. I carb loaded, ran my marathon and indulged afterwards, celebrated my birthday the day after the race (with many treats), and felt very ready to make these nutritional changes and detox my body. Though I would describe my diet as healthy beforehand, with marathon training, I had become a little too lax and nonchalant with what I ate/how much I ate. I was constantly hungry, so I knew doing the Whole30 would be the perfect opportunity for a nutritional cleanse/reset.

  1. Describe the changes that were made throughout the 30 days. How did your eating habits differ from normal?

A: I ate less crap. On a normal day before the Whole30, I would eat toast with peanut butter for breakfast, granola bars for snacks, pasta for lunch, and whatever dinner we ended up throwing together. The Whole30 forced us to plan out meals, have a better idea of what we needed from the grocery store before grocery shopping, and encouraged us to have intentional dinners together. We didn’t do any of that separate dinner junk we had been doing a few nights each week.

M: I’m a big snacker. Prior to the Whole30, I would have smaller meals but eat many snacks throughout the day. During the Whole30, I made sure I bulked up my meals with protein and healthy fats to hold me over to the next meal without snacking. The only exception was an afterschool snack. Due to the timing of my lunch (11:30) and how we didn’t eat dinner until well after 7pm most nights, I needed something to hold me over. However, I tried to ensure my snacks were mostly protein or healthy fats and not just filler foods. Another big change was eliminating after dinner snacking. This has always been my biggest downfall! My sweet tooth rages at night. I can do well the entire day and fall trap to needing something sweet at night. The Whole30 helped me fight this sugar dragon and eliminate the intense desire for some treat every night. I learned to build my meals with a solid protein source, veggies, healthy fat, and to use fruit as a small side—not the focus of the meal. Lastly, an obvious change is that I did not include processed food into my diet—even if it was “healthy,” “light,” or “non-fat.” I learned about the adverse effects of artificial ingredients and sweeteners that I had been relying on for too long.

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  1. What was the hardest aspect of the challenge?

A: The lunch cafeteria at work was the hardest because people recognized I was eating differently, so they were asking questions and repeatedly tried to tempt me with free food. The free pizza at work was the hard to deal with. But I said I was going to do the Whole30, so I stuck with it.

M: Saying no to mindless snacking was probably one of the most difficult parts of doing the Whole30. Also, not indulging in my “skinny latte” from Starbucks was embarrassingly difficult. I know—pathetic. But it had come to be such a comfort thing for me! Even though I have worked on making huge progress with not using food as a comfort or reward, I realized that I would still occasionally reward or comfort myself with food or beverage treats (like Starbucks). I had to adjust to drinking black coffee, and though it took a few times for me to not groan about it, I genuinely enjoy it now.

  1. What was your favorite facet of the Whole30?

A: My favorite part was that my wife was proud of me for having done it! It was also good for our marriage—having meals together is important.

M: FEELING GREAT was definitely the best part (though I agree with Aaron about how wonderful it was for our relationship)! After getting over the initial hump of fatigue, I felt wonderful. My skin was clearer, I felt in control of my cravings, I had more energy, my body felt healthier and muscles stronger. I knew that after everything I ate, I would still feel great and not a bloated, grumpy, emotional mess (sugar can do that to me). Knowing that everything I was consuming would be of nourishment to my body made me feel good about the choices I was making.

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  1. Did you ever have any intense cravings or temptations, and if so, what were they and when?

A: A couple times I fixated on pizza (which was an odd thing for me to do, honestly), but the cravings were never anything too intense. I might have looked at a food and thought “I want that,” but that thought would be followed with “but I can’t have that right now, bummer. Oh well.”

(He also texted me a few “I miss bread” messages in the beginning…don’t let him fool you J).

M: Yes. Starbucks. Surprisingly not chocolate like I anticipated. The first two weeks I went through some serious withdrawal! By the middle of the Whole30, though, I didn’t even care that I only drank my coffee beverages plain.

  1. Did you miss any specific food item the most?

A: Pizza. I don’t even eat it often, but I fixated on it for some odd reason.

M: This is repetitive, but I missed by skinny lattes the most. However, by the end I wasn’t missing them nearly as much. I have found that Americanos are actually great! I was afraid of black coffee, but now I can embrace it.

  1. What did you learn during these thirty days?

A: I learned how to make new healthy recipes. I also learned that the Whole30 wasn’t nearly as intimidating as I thought it would be—it was quite simple and did not suck anywhere near as much as I thought it would. Lastly, I learned that I can actually make a salad I truthfully enjoy.

M: Oh goodness. I learned SO many valuable lessons over the course of just thirty days. Mainly, there is no substitute for how whole foods make your body feel. Thirty days can transform your life and your relationship with food if you’re willing to try. I never tried clean eating before this because I didn’t think it was realistic and/or desirable…I was wrong! Of course, I don’t believe I could 100% eat clean the rest of my life (uh, no thanks), but I have learned how it’s a lot more doable than I thought. When you treat your body well, it will treat you well! Sure, eating well takes commitment and maybe a bit more effort, but the benefits are beyond worth it. That one thing you couldn’t possibly imagine giving up? YOU CAN live without it for thirty days. Things won’t go perfectly the first time around (or ever, actually), but experimentation often results in GOOD things. Lastly…this was EYE-OPENING. SUGAR IS EVERYWHERE!!!! In lemon pepper seasoning! Even “natural” or “organic” items are often packed with added sugar. Seriously. Once you start looking, you will be amazed.

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  1. What was your favorite new food item?

A: Healthy crusted chicken tenders or sweet potato chili with spaghetti squash

M: I can’t pick a favorite! I loved nearly everything I ate this month. And if you’re curious about what all that entailed, my fitness Instagram is basically a food diary. I have fallen in love with my breakfasts, though…I almost always had a breakfast consisting of eggs, avocado, sautéed veggies, and a piece of fruit. Great fuel for the day!

  1. What do you plan on doing now that you completed the Whole30?

A: Eating pizza and then going back to a semi-Paleo lifestyle. I won’t be doing a second strict Whole30 round like my wife, but I will still maintain some of the habits, particularly with our dinner choices.

M: Well, I can answer that now that I’m living it! I am on day 2 of my second round of Whole 30. I went 33 days straight the first round then broke my streak to indulge in a Starbucks beverage. The next day, I started back again and plan to complete a strict Whole30 (though I might cut it short for Thanksgiving). Afterwards, I want to maintain a mostly Paleo lifestyle because this feels natural and right. However, I do enjoy some treats in moderation, which makes Weight Watchers also a wonderful option. So basically, I am taking it day by day and figuring it out as time passes 😉

    10.  What advice would you give to others who are considering doing the Whole30?

A: It’s only 30 days…suck it up. {Oh my man of many sweet words ;)}

M: Start out simple. There is no need to overcomplicate it in the beginning…you don’t want to overwhelm yourself more than you might already be overwhelmed. We almost didn’t start the Whole30 when we initially planned to because we didn’t feel prepared. With all the marathon hoopla and focusing on training, I didn’t research the program a ton before diving in. The first week was very basic, and we kind of learned as we went along. Don’t be afraid to take chances! What do you have to lose?

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Thanks for allowing us to share our experience with you. If you have any further questions, feel free to ask away!

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