I can’t believe it, but we did it!
We did the Whole30!
I went into a full explanation in this post here, but in case you’re new to this, the Whole30 is a 30 day elimination of the most common inflammatory foods from your diet and then slowly adding them back in one at a time to see how your body reacts. (The five categories are dairy, grains, sugar, alcohol, and legumes. This is all encompassing, meaning no gluten-free grains are permitted, neither are sweeteners of any kind including honey, sugar, maple syrup etc.) Find all of the rules here.
The point of this is not to lose weight (though I definitely did), but to find out what real foods your body feels best with. Some people have no issue with gluten, others are suffering after a bite. If a food causes inflammation in your body there will be consequences, but you can’t easily know which ones cause it unless you get rid of everything and let inflammation heal in the first place.
This experience was intense, difficult, eye-opening, and rewarding beyond imagining. First I want to talk about our results, and then afterwards I’m going to explain how we tackled it, challenges we faced, and my final thoughts.
So firstly, Philomena’s eczema. We were bummed that we did not see as significant an improvement in her eczema as we hoped. It has definitely improved some though and she is less itchy than beforehand, which I’m grateful for. I’m curious as we reintroduce if we can find which categories make things worse so we can help her continue to heal.
Our Non-Scale AND Scale Victories
So here are the exciting victories… Ethan and I both have a ton of improvements that we are so excited for. To start, let me just say, I FEEL LIKE IM 15 AGAIN. My energy is through the roof. Its the start of a long list of improvements I’ve seen on the Whole30:
- Markedly increased energy and mental clarity. I don’t wake up feeling exhausted and coffee dependent to make it through the day
- My once constantly sore knees are completely fine, without any inflammation. I can squat, lunge, genuflect, and bend them with ease
- More strength and a more toned body
- Far reduced seasonal allergy symptoms (yes! food can impact this!)
- Reduced cravings
- No cramping or bloating during my period
- I don’t rely on food for something fun on nights and weekends
- More stable mood
- Changed taste buds – I *love* eating salads now which I always historically despised. In the past I only ever ate cooked veggies or raw greens in smoothies, so a true enjoyment of salads is a legitimate testament to a change
- I can never imagine breakfast without veggies again
- Finally, I lost 11.5 pounds. Even though weight loss isn’t the point of this, obviously my body really responded to a nourishing diet of protein, produce, and healthy fats along with my daily MuTu workouts and walking!
How We Prepared Ourselves and Our Toddler
In order to make this change I not only immersed myself in reading and following all things Whole30. I also slowly changed our meals during the month of July to become more and more compliant. Philomena was slowly weaned of her morning cereal, we stopped using buns for our burgers, and I lessened and lessened our maple syrup in our coffee.
I stocked up on compliant pantry goods like Primal Kitchens and The New Primal sauces, mayo, salad dressings, ketchup etc. that didn’t have any sugar or soybean oils. Aldi and Trader Joes both had plenty of compliant mustards, marinara sauces, and salsas to enjoy.
I wrote menu plans so we always knew what we were having at any given time. You have to prepare for this to work!
I also made a point of packing up all of our non-compliant foods. Perishables went to our friends, and pantry goods and alcohol were all gathered up and put in the basement. I did this not only to eliminate temptation, but so that I didn’t accidentally use a non-compliant ingredient out of habit while cooking.
Finally, we talked a lot about the changes with Philomena, as we shopped or cooked. Reminding her we were going to change our food for a month. She handled it really well, and we found things for her like coconut rolled dates and almond butter so she would have compliant ingredient treats to look forward to.
Philomena is used to having to eat a little different due to her allergies anyway, but she still did so much better than I thought she would. I think clear communication with her that this wasn’t forever really helped. I made sure to get her out of the house a lot to the park too which helped keep her busy and engaged every day. This can be done with kids!
The Whole30 is hard. I won’t lie to you – it’s really difficult at first, and at times in the middle and even the end. (I felt so done on like day 25 I think it was). My eyes were opened within the first few days how incredibly dependent I was on food for comfort and entertainment. Seriously, the first weekend it was ridiculous how frustrated and sad I was that we couldn’t get a sweet coffee for our stroll at the street fair, to plan an indulgent picnic after a long day, or to enjoy a treat on Sunday night to make a long new week ahead feel less daunting.
For the first few days I also had a terrible headache from the sugar withdrawals. I’ve never been hung over before, but I imagine this was similar!
I thought I would miss sugar and treats the most, but in the end it was cheese and bread-y carbs that I was longing for.
More than once I told Ethan I just wanted to be done. If it weren’t for his encouragement and my own pride having announced it to the world or we wouldn’t have made it!
Slowly though each day I felt better. Soon I noticed more energy, mental clarity, and oh blessed relief in my always aching knees. I started ploughing through my MuTu workouts and feeling so much stronger.
Though the weekends were always the hardest, I also noticed as the month wore on that I don’t need food to make me feel better. I can turn to my Lord, to my spouse, and to other forms of self-care to help me cope with the frustrations and sadnesses of life.
I also found that I just felt so much more in control of life because cravings ceased to rule me and such a drastic energy increase let’s me get done what I want to!
My Final Thoughts
I’m so grateful for this experience, even though it was beyond hard. After reintroduction I’ll evaluate which foods make me feel the best, and I’ll be able to form a diet that’s best for me, and help Ethan and Philomena do the same.
I’m burned out from cooking so hard for the last month, so its hard to imagine doing a full Whole30 again, however I absolutely will do smaller rounds, like a Whole10 after any really indulgent foods periods like after Christmas, or any time I feel like I need a reset with food.
I will forever eat differently because of the Whole30. Not only will I avoid in general whatever foods don’t make me feel good during introduction, I also will incorporate far more veggies in my diet.
I’m so glad I made it through the Whole30. It continued to show me that real food is healing, that real food impacts so much of our lives, and that I’m going to continue to passionately pursue health for myself and my family.