My Whole30 Story - Part II The Details

Monday, March 16, 2015

Today I wanted to share the details of how my Whole30 journey went - my timeline and all the good/bad features of the 30 days. If you haven't read Part I yet, you can do that HERE. In Part I, I shared my results and discussed the basics of the program. 

My Timeline
When I signed up, I noticed the Whole30 website published a timeline of what to expect during your typical challenge. You can find the whole timeline HERE.

My Whole30 didn't go exactly as described. I really didn't have any low-lows or high-highs. I didn't feel like terrible but I also didn't feel like I was a tiger in the rain forest. It went more like this:
  • Day 1-6 No problems
    • Life as usual. Everything was prepped and ready to go. I was excited to get started and see some changes. Aside from a little extra thought about what I could and couldn't have, life was very normal. I never really felt "deprived" during the whole program because it was truly a personal choice. I kept waiting to get really cranky or be really tempted to cheat. 
  • Day 7-10 Death
    • Just kidding. But I did get these very strange belly cramps. Kind of like hunger except it couldn't be satiated even with upon eating. At first I thought maybe it was an ulcer but after a few days the cramps went away and I felt much, much better. Side note: roasted potatoes were the only thing that really helped settle my stomach. Perhaps my body was adjusting to increased fat intake or just detoxing after removing all the junk. 
    • In addition to the belly cramps, I also had trouble falling and staying asleep during this time. I still don't know the mechanism behind all of this - metabolism changes, anxiety, something totally unrelated, etc. Not sure!
  • Day 11-26 Smooth Sailing
    • After belly issues, the rest of the Whole30 went along relatively well. For the most part, I felt comfortable declining foods that weren't Whole30 approved. Even as my husband ate tortilla chips in front of me and my classmates noshed on free pizza. 
    • My sleep improved and by this point I'm falling asleep quickly and sleeping HARD all night. I wake up BEFORE my alarm, which is how I always was before med school.
    • My food choices stayed pretty consistent during this period as I was prepping 90% of my own meals. I figured out a handful of recipes I really liked and just kept making them (much to the chagrin on my husband). Had the challenge lasted longer than 30 days, I'm sure I would've had to try even more recipes but #medschoolprobs. When something works, work it.

Veggie and sausage breakfast cassarole

Paleo chicken tender salad with homemade guac and carrot chips
  • Day 27-30 A little bored
    • The last few days I was just a bit bored. School was starting to get crazy again and I didn't have time to make anything new so I stuck with the recipes I had been using for the past few weeks. I felt great, was sleeping well, but I could easily see the end was near. I wasn't really anticipating any food in particular, I just wanted to have a little more wiggle room in my life and not have to worry about doing everything perfectly. 
Chicken topped with some type of compliant sauce, smashed potatoes, green beans

What I Loved About Whole30

  • My overall well-being and energy was good. Not OMG amazing but definitely an improvement from where I was. 
  • New recipes - I promise I will share these. I'm compiling my photos and a list of all the links so I can share very soon. Nothing too fancy, either. 

  • Decreased GI distress. I have been experiencing some reflux and IBS type symptoms on and off for a couple years now. My reflex virtually disappeared during Whole30 and my ummm..bowels found a more desirable equilibrium. (TMI..sorry!)
  • Meal structure. Whole30 generally suggests three squares a day which departs significantly from the common clean eating suggestion of 6 meals a day. They also recommend cutting out snacking or at least limiting your snacks to only when necessary. I tend to agree with this - why should I eat if I'm not hungry? And why should I force myself to eat 5 meals a day when it is highly inconvenient and just doesn't work for me. Yep, three meals a day it is for me! Maybe a snack here or there.
  • I felt satisfied. I didn't feel deprived or miserable because I was eating plenty of really GOOD food - tasty and healthy! AND I lost 11 lbs eating the same or more than I did before. I was easily eating 1800-2000 calories a day, working out 3-4 days a week (and not killing myself during it either because of my back).
  • Community. Whole30 has a tremendous community for support, education, and everything in between.
  • Perspective. I can either spend my time going through a drive-thru or waiting in line for Panera or I can take 3 minutes to pack breakfast and lunch. Essentially, it's the same amount of effort but the outcome of home prep is 10x better. I am NOT too busy to prep or pack meals but I have to prioritize it. 
What I Didn't Like About Whole30

  • The social aspect of being on this plan is by far the HARDEST part for me. Going out to eat was nearly impossible. For one, it's a lot of work to find 100% compliant options and I'm not a big "special requests" person. I'll make the occasional substitution but that's about it - it makes me uncomfortable!
  • Going along with the first point, many people just don't "get" this crazy plan you're on. I started to get kind of salty about it (which I kept to myself, except on this blog obviously) because it KILLS me that eating real food is a foreign concept. It's NOT crazy to eliminate foods that make you feel bad or are doing damage to your body. I decided to keep my explanation simple: "I'm cleaning up what I eat to see how my body reacts without certain foods. After the 30 days I will reintroduce things and see how my body responds."  If they want more information, I was happy to discuss it further. If not, oh well. 
  • Lack of variety. This was simply my own doing - I just wanted to survive the 30 days so I found things that worked for me and ate the same variation of that. I think I also probably ate more fruit and nut butter than the Whole30 creators may have liked but that's just what I enjoyed. Roasted veggies and potatoes were and continue to be a daily staple. Nothing will change that :)
  • I was constantly worried about cheating - I wanted to do the plan perfectly. While I never intentionally "cheated," I did accidentally ingest some added sugar a handful of times. Mostly in my tea that I drink - apparently some bagged teas contain stevia! I also tried some braised cabbage that definitely had been cooked in sugar. I only had one bite but I was still mad!

Things I Learned

  • Self-efficacy. Something that has largely alluded me for nearly 25 years. It's one thing for others to believe in you, but it's quite another to complete a task based solely on your own motivations and belief in yourself. Now that I know I can stick to this plan, I know I can stick to a 80/20 version in my daily life. 
  • "Paleo" does not mean low-carb. I think this is a misperception about the real food/paleo/primal movement. There is nothing that says that you have to eat low carb. I would say I eat moderate carb 150-200 g a day typically with most of that being potatoes, fruit, or vegetables. I have no interest in eating ketogenic as I need those carbs for running and lifting. And, quite frankly, I love me some carbs!
  • Paleo does not mean eat all the meat. Actually, I didn't feel like I was eating more meat than I usually do and I'm not a huge meat eater anyway. I usually have 3-4 oz of protein at any given meal so I think that's pretty reasonable. You don't need to eat huge hamburgers and big ole steaks at every meal to be "Paleo" or feel full.
  • Fat is a beautiful thing. Healthy fats (like those that come from coconut oil, nuts, avocado, etc.) taste delicious, keep you full, and have so many health benefits! 
  • Food is fuel but you can still enjoy it! I think the key for me going forward is to remember that I need to strike a healthy medium in my attitude towards nutrition and food. Life doesn't have to be "all or none." You can enjoy what you eat while it still being healthy. Salads aren't punishment. They are nourishment, energy, fuel. 

Stay tuned for Part III tomorrow where I discuss life after Whole30 and what I have planned next for my nutrition and health goals! 


  1. LOVE!
    I agree that the social aspect is really hard. I think it's really hard to eat out with friends while eating differently period (any type of diet, etc), but it's really, really hard on Whole30. I used to meet my friends for our weekly trivia and have an unsweetened tea. Luckily they were actually really supportive, but wow that was hard. I went home right after trivia was over that month instead of staying and having a couple drinks with them.
    You're right that people just don't get it. I still have friends (friends who are healthy, active people) who tell me I need to be eating grains or diary bc of Reasons, and it annoys me so much. This is my body, and I think I know pretty well what it needs. (To add to your TMI, your friends aren't the ones taking 5 trips per afternoon to the bathroom with you... Trust me, I know what my gut isn't a fan of.) Over winter break, I asked my family to try to have paleo options at meals. I overheard my mom and aunt talking about how they had looked it up and "beans aren't allowed?!? But those are healthy!!"
    I did Whole30 about a year ago (back when white potatoes still weren't allowed....), and I failed the first week the first time because I thought I had the flu. Nope, when I stepped back and thought about it a couple days later, I was sugar detoxing! Majorly. The second attempt went much better, and I totally agree that it reset my brain as far as how I plan meals, think about eating, think about food, etc. It's funny that you say Paleo-ish, because I totally have a Pinterest board named that! :)

    I'm SO glad your Whole30 went so well! Every time you would mention it on twitter or insta, I would be cheering you on! I am so in love with the Whole30 movement and paleo in general. It has made my body SOOOO much happier.

    Sorry for the novel. :)

  2. Did you follow your macros when doing Whole30? Would it be okay to follow macros while doing Whole30 if you did not follow them? Also, are you doing macros again or are you just trying to eat within Whole30 guidelines with some flexibility now?

    Thanks for the input and I have enjoyed reading your blog! Keep up your awesome work!