Whole30: down and dirty

09 November 2016

Yesterday was day 30 of my Whole30 soooo today -- I'm finished. Yee to the haw. At the beginning I felt SO MUCH BETTER (I really kept thinking that - caps lock and all) that I couldn't see myself ever going OFF of Whole30 but the honeymoon phase slowly faded and I started dreaming about cheese and Taco Bell (which I haven't had in years so - why now, G?). And now I think that honeymoon Grace was nuts but I'm not going dairy or drive-thru crazy because I know how awful I would immediately feel and it's not worth it. At all. Will I attempt a healthier homemade version of a taco bell burrito with the tiniest sprinkle of cheese? Yes, I will. And, I still feel so good but I think I've just gotten used to it and take it for granted.

I could ramble forever and ever about Whole30 and my experiences and personal pros and cons but I predict that no one would make it to the end so let's break it down into digestible categories ...

Meal Planning:
I went into it thinking I would be a meal planning queen and be on top of it and prep on Sunday afternoons while listening to something appropriately relaxing and fun on Pandora but no, I am an old dog with no interest in learning new tricks, I guess. I prepped when I could and was never pawing around the fridge looking for food to make and eat but I didn't have my meals perfectly planned. I found that the first week it worked to have salmon cakes and meatballs on hand to eat with veggies and the occasional sweet potato. But then, I got kind of sick of that and moved onto making what my friend Jessica calls a hash. I mixed ground turkey with various veggies and had that ready to go in a big container and generally ate it with an over easy egg and ketchup or balsamic vinegar. Those were some GOOD meals. But then, I got bored. So, I moved onto salads with romaine lettuce, hard boiled eggs, chicken, tomatoes, and the most incredible salad dressing (Whole30 compliant or not - it's THE BEST). I still eat those a lot but this past week I ate a lot of turkey or chicken burgers wrapped in romaine with tomato, avocado, and yellow mustard - so good. I did vary my meals beyond these four staples but it worked well to have weekly themes for me.

salmon cake, spinach, brussels sprouts + onions + sweet potato + compliant chicken sausage

If you've done a Whole30, you know all about SWYPO (eating things like pancakes or smoothies made with compliant ingredients but go against the spirit of Whole30) and while I didn't make it a daily thing at all, I did partake on occasion. Sometimes I was making smoothies for the kids and made sure it was compliant before I poured myself a glass and Bosco happens to love protein pancakes and some mornings it was just easier not to make several different breakfasts. I don't think it set me back but I'm sure many would cross their arms in disagreement. C'est la life of a semi-cheater.

typical breakfast: scrambled eggs, tomato, and avocado

Condiments, Creamer, etc
I'm convinced that my positivity throughout the majority of the 30 days was semi-thanks to my decision to buy Whole30 compliant condiments (ketchup, aforementioned salad dressing, balsamic vinegar) because I hate to use the word "elevate" but that's exactly what they did to my meals. Interestingly enough, aside from the salad dressing, I found myself reaching for the Whole30 helpers less and less as the month went on and my taste buds adjusted so I guess I kind of saw them as legal training wheels that got me over the initial hump. The nut creamer was a pitiful substitute for the glorified ice cream I'm used to using but I don't drink coffee every day so it wasn't a HUGE deal to me. But, a couple weeks in I looked forward to an afternoon glass of iced coffee with the creamer because I could actually feel the effects of the caffeine as opposed to the sugar buzz of my former creamers. 

sweet potato chips, compliant ketchup, and a real hot getup

Noticeable changes 
The biggest difference I notice and feel almost immediately is how much more soundly I sleep. It's so incredible and appreciated that if it were the ONLY positive side effect of doing a Whole30 - I'd still do it. Sometimes I would wake up as early as 4:30 or 5 and feel rested enough to get up and start the day which was a great bonus because it's always nice not waking up to a small human breathing morning fire into your unsuspecting face. I also noticed my super stubborn Melasma (yes Bosco is almost 17 months old - it's really stubborn) faded more than it already had thanks to a new skin regimen (I'll save that for another post because this one is already too long). My skin feels so soft and has lost the puff and one of my friends pointed out that her cellulite goes away when she does Whole30 to which I have to say - SAME HERE. I know a lot of people do Whole30 to lose weight despite the program stressing that it is NOT a weight loss program but generally people tend to lose weight. It's never been the case for me and the same thing went for this round because I lost one pound (lol but it wasn't my objective at all) and just for the sake of curiosity I took my measurements before and after and lost nine inches which was surprising even though my clothes do fit a lot better.

Why I like it
In addition to all the changes mentioned I have to say that I like rules and guidelines. My friends and I have talked about needing babysitters when it comes to our eating habits. While I do a decent job most of the time - I know when I've let the convenience factor of unhealthy food creep into our life and sometimes it's easier just to do a hard reset like a Whole30. Not always! But, sometimes. It's good to see and feel how much my diet affects how I feel and sleep. It also feels good to finish it - while it's not the hardest thing I'll ever do in my lifetime, it does take self discipline (for me!!) to do in a house full of people that are NOT doing Whole30. There are more and more websites and blogs dedicated to Whole30 recipes and I love that you can do several rounds of a Whole30 and eat completely different recipes every time. And again, I feel SO much better. I think I take for granted how much better I feel and wish I'd kept some quick daily notes to monitor minor changes I noticed.

Why I don't
This is personal opinion (and I loved hearing Julie's thoughts too!) but it's tough for me to go from eating small meals throughout the day to fewer big meals. I felt bloated and looked 20 weeks pregnant (which - I am not) for the first week or so which felt gross and counterintuitive to eating well. I know it happens to a lot of people and I (unscientifically) just saw it as all the gross stuff bubbling to the surface and it did eventually go away and I felt great other than that but - I could do without that initiation. Most of the time I would make the kids lunch and dinner before I ate which was my own fault and stupid but by the time I sat down to eat I was the hangriest bird in all of the land and .... the kids knew it which I hated. Again, my own fault but this is why I like grazing/small meals.

Now what?
I'm going to slowly (very slowly!) reintroduce food groups back into my diet to see if I can target what exactly my body reacts poorly to. I've been really looking forward to having some hummus and bell peppers so I'll start there. Surprisingly enough, my Diet Dr. Pepper cravings subsided almost immediately so I'm just going to pretend they are poison (which I know they prettttty much are) and not go back down that slippery slope. I'm always trying to incorporate more protein and veggies into everyone's meals and the kids have liked a lot of the vegetables I've made so we'll keep that up and continue to try new ones prepared a variety of ways.

I've mentioned it a few times but my favorite new blog I discovered (thanks to a comment!) was Well Fed and I highly, highly recommend it. I loved the following products as well and will keep using the majority of them transitioning out of Whole30.

1. Nutpods Dairy-Free Creamer

2. Tessemae's Organic Ketchup - initially I was kind of meh but then grew to love it

3. Date Lady Balsamic Vinegar - I was pleasantly surprised by this

4. Chia Seeds - I use these to make chia seed pudding overnight (and add fruit and maybe some sunflower seed butter in the morning) and just wished I'd made it a long time ago

5. RxBar - I love these because they have added protein and aren't nearly as sweet as Larabars. My kids love them too - for better or worse. I didn't eat these or Larabars daily or treat them like dessert or a treat but they are good to have in my bag for times we were out longer than I'd anticipated etc.

6. Dasani Black Cherry Sparkling Water - (whispers) I prefer this to La Croix. It's so good.

7. Tessemae's Lemon Garlic Dressing - best of all the rest

8. Gingerbread - my favorite Larabar flavor (thanks to Jolie for sending me a box!) to date

9. Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides - read all about the benefits here. It's truly flavorless so you can add it to coffee, your chia seed pudding, anything. Easy.

I know I'm missing a lot and will come back and tweak and add as I think of things but let me know if you have questions - but I'm the furthest thing from an expert. Have you done one? Did you love/hate/meh?

I'd love to know!


  1. WHOA WHOA WHOA hold up Lara bars has a GINGERBREAD that is a game changer right there! I LOVE the apple pie but I may just have a new fave!

    1. haha someone told me they aren't completely compliant - OOPS

    2. Only because they have a tiny bit of vanilla extract in them and thus a minuscule amount of alcohol. Even the creators of the Whole30 admitted this was a gray area so NBD unless you suspect you might be extremely sensitive to alcohol.

  2. Congratulations on a strong finish! I was hoping you'd do an update when the time came! I found out about the W30 through your blog a few years back, and started on my own journey with it for the first time after Christmas last year. Without sounding painfully like a late-night infomercial... it changed my life. Legitimately and completely. I've since completed 3 Whole 30's, radically altered my "in between" eating habits, eliminated nearly all of my chronic back pain, taken control of what had been life-long blood sugar issues, and managed to lose 35 pounds in the process. I now eat modified Paleo most of the time, and look forward to seasonal W30 rounds to keep me on track.

    Unsolicited reintroduction advice: take notes as you bring new foods in, and try not to lose the habit of checking labels for at least a few weeks. Additional unsolicited advice: the Gingerbread flavor of Larabars is technically not W30 compliant. The vanilla flavoring is no longer supported on the program since it is in an alcohol suspension. However, it used to be allowed, and I know a lot of people are very comfortable using it despite the updated guidelines.

    1. wow - I'm so glad you've had so much success with Whole30 - I love reading stories like yours! I think modified paleo is definitely the way to go! And yikes - ha. of course the gingerbread is too good to be true - thank you!!

  3. You know I am all about whole30, for every reason you pointed out! I just feel good. Now since we eat that way on the regular, it's a little easier, but I still get very bored! But after doing it for so long I know what my triggers are, like dairy, and gluten. I really loved how you laid everything out, and I will be picking up the sparkling water today (can't believe I have never tried it)!!

  4. This is something I'd like to do in my lifetime but not sure if I have the determination to go the entire 30 days... my goal is to do one within the next year. We shall see!

  5. Jump on the Trim Healthy Mama train and let us know what you think! Its what all the cool moms are doing. Plenty of grazing and cheese allowed!

  6. Your posts make things like Whole30 seem attainable. I worry about food going bad/too many non-overlapping ingredients in the various recipes, and then there goes my grocery budget! Every time you write about it, I get a little closer to trying it. :)

  7. Love this post. I tried Whole30 about a year ago and wasn't able to complete it, but I learned so much from the book and from attempting a lot of the recipes. It made a huge difference in how I eat in general and I'm so much more conscious of what I'm putting in my body. Thanks for sharing!

  8. I have attempted the Whole30 probably 5 times & almost everytime I have I got sick to the point that I couldn't continue. I can't tell if it's my body telling me it can't handle eliminating so much at one time or what? So for now I've adapted & learned how to make any meal whole30 approved, so basically paleo. & I've gotten used to eating Whole30 approved snacks. I like the salmon epic bars & black olives(from Costco!) I eat whole30 probably 80-90 % of the time. It's just a bummer I've never actually been able to complete a full 30 days.

  9. My husband and I just started our third Whole30. My only problem with it is how I can get stuck in a rut of eating the same things, so thanks for some ideas! I'll definitely be checking out Well Fed for some recipes, and getting some Tessemae's.

  10. The post about your melasma regimen can't come soon enough!!! Please share :)

  11. Um yeah hi. I just found your blog and upon seeing you had like 9 million followers on insta I realize I'm late to the party but oh well! Just stopping by to say I love this space, your posts make me laugh, your outfits are on point, your kids are adorable, AND you're Catholic? WHOA. That's so amazing. I'll be following along and possibly buying all the clothes you've recommended (1 in my cart already!) and I'm hoping you find this flattering and not at all stalker-esque.

    Also, I've done two Whole30s and like so many others, it totally changed my life. I highly recommend MH's new book Food Freedom Forever to help with strategies for after. I always feel so good when I'm doing it but that post-reintroduction phase is such a slippery slope.

    Great to meet you! You rock!

  12. Can you have coffee and wine if you're doing whole 30??

    1. No wine but black coffee with approved nut milks or creamer (no dairy)

  13. I did a Whole30 in September as part of the big book release and I loved it!!! I am probably one of those rare people who didn't have any weird side effects from detoxing. No headaches, no discomfort at all really. My friends who were doing it with me weren't so lucky.

    In the end, my take away was MUCH better sleep, no more cravings and less gassy belly. I lost 12 pounds and can fit in my clothes again which is a tremendous relief. I reintroduced things very slowly as I wanted them. I've learned I'm sensitive to corn and dairy. Thank God for Lactaid!

    I am continuing to eat Whole30-ish and still feel great!

  14. Tell me this gets easier! I'm on day 5 of my first Whole30 and right now 30 days seems like an ETERNITY.
    I am so bored of eating eggs already!

  15. I've started and restarted Whole30 a gazillion times. Thank you for your thoughts. I think I'll give myself a BIT of a leeway from now on.
    - Charmaine

  16. I've been doing Trim Healthy Mama for 5 weeks and I love it. Thanks to Dwija! The Nutpods were okay, but very small for the $$.

  17. I tried to do whole30 back in April of this year. I was 4 months post partum (and breastfeeding) with our second daughter and battling thrush. I figured if I cut out all food items that made yeast thrive, maybe that would help. Well I was struggling with what to eat (whole30 suggestions) because usually my diet consists of sandwiches, pasta, etc., so I went on the whole30 website for help. Well let me say those women were brutal! I was asked what I ate in a day while on whole30. First I was berated for my chia pudding breakfast because it "wasn't in the spirit of whole30". Then I was told that I wasn't eating enough to sustain a regular person, not to mention one that was nourishing the life of another! I became very discouraged after that and just decided on a no sugar, no wheat, low dairy diet and tried my best to stick to it. I was able to stick with that diet for about 6 weeks. My biggest downfall was that I had gallbladder issues (I finally got it removed at 6 months pp- verrrrry difficult when breastfeeding!) and couldn't eat hardly any fat. But maybe when I'm done breastfeeding (goal is a year) I will try whole30 again especially now that my gallbladder is gone!

  18. Awesome! I did it back in February and was really strict. I think it's part of the reason we were able to get pregnant as I conceived the next cycle. :P Also--the energy was the biggest NSV I had. I crave it! Three meals were a tough transition for me at first, but once I figured how much I had to actually eat at each meal (a LOT for a nursing mama who wasn't trying to lose weight--sometimes more than my husband) it was much better and I didn't feel the need to snack as much. I had done it a couple years back too, although with some cheats ( like compliant smoothies/pancakes) and still experiences good results like loosing all baby weight at 3 months PP!

    1. Did you notice any change in your milk supply? I'm toying with the idea of doing another one but I am 3 months PP and nursing and I don't want to drastically drop
      weight/milk supply (last time I lost just under 10 lbs)

  19. Do you husband and kids also eat the whole 30 food? I want to do this, but don't want to cook double the meals...



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