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A Whole30 experience: An interview with myself

Once I realized I wanted to recap my Whole30 experience for you guys, I figured the best way to do it was to interview myself with some of the most common questions I’ve been asked. Warning: it’s a lot of words. There’s a TL;DR summary at the bottom. 

Let me know if you have any questions I didn’t answer!whole30

Why did you choose to do a Whole30?

For me, it was more of a mental challenge than anything else. I’d been feeling off, like I couldn’t successfully complete any goal I set, and I figured if I could get through one of these, especially through Thanksgiving, anything else would seem easy. Or, at the very least, less insurmountable. The weight loss and health benefits were a bonus but more incidental side effects. 

Okay, that all makes sense. But what the hell is a Whole30?

You can visit the website for an actual, technical definition and explanation but in Jana’s words, it’s a 30 day restrictive, paleo, elimination eating plan. Basically, you avoid grains, dairy, legumes, and sugars and any sweeteners (including honey and maple syrup). It leaves meats, eggs, potatoes (a new addition this year), fruits, vegetables, and various substitutes/changes like almond and coconut flour, coconut milk, spaghetti squash, etc. 

With all those limitations, what did you eat? 

Eggs. A lot of fucking eggs. In fact, I am so damn sick of eggs I can’t even look at them right now. But for lunches and dinners, we ate bunless burgers with baked sweet potatoes, vegetable soup using broth made from the stock created when you cook a chicken, coconut chicken patties, spaghetti squash and meat sauce (made with my frozen garden tomatoes), stuffed peppers using ground turkey and cauliflower rice, fried “rice” (also using cauliflower rice)…things like that. We got pretty creative and there are a ton of resources on Pinterest and Instagram and the interwebs to help. We found ourselves eating some surprisingly delicious recipes despite not being able to use normal, typical ingredients. 

It was easier to make substitutions than I thought it would be. For instance, cranberry sauce is a family favorite at Thanksgiving but the recipe I ordinarily use requires a lot (A LOT) of sugar so obviously that was out this year. I found a recipe that used only cranberries, frozen cherries, and apple juice (fruit juices are okay as sweeteners). Let me just say that this recipe kicked the ever loving shit out of my normal recipe and going forward, it’s the one we’re going to use at all the holidays. Same with guacamole. I dipped carrots and peppers in the guac instead of chips. Same avocado deliciousness, less bloat, more fiber. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that, for the most part, I was never hungry. There were days I didn’t snack so by the time dinner rolled round, I was willing to gnaw on anything that wasn’t nailed down but if I remembered to have a snack, I never got those horrible hunger pangs you hear from people when they’re on a diet. It has to do with the real, whole, unprocessed qualities of the foods you’re eating. There is such a difference between this way of eating and what the Whole30 founders call the “Standard American Diet” (SAD)

Was it hard? 

In a word? YES. Oddly, though, it was harder during the second half of the month than it was in the beginning. In the beginning, there was momentum and hey, I’m really doing this! But then it just started to drag. I grew tired of planning everything. I wanted to eat something that wasn’t chicken or a vegetable. Or an egg. I wanted peanut butter or cheese with my afternoon apple. I wanted to stop going to the grocery store every few days. I wanted to bring in dinner when I didn’t feel like cooking. I wanted to stop being conscious of every single label and just eat. But then I remembered why I was doing it and how different I felt and it made it easy to power through. 

Thanksgiving was way easier than I’d anticipated, though, so that was nice. 

There seems to be so many perks to this. Are there any downfalls?

Absolutely! While you can’t deny the health benefits of moving away from the SAD, this is not an easy way to eat. Many of the foods are more expensive, it requires extensive meal planning and there’s none of that “hey, we’re out and about, let’s just grab something quick” (or, if you choose to do it, there are very few options), you will spend an obscene amount of time in the kitchen either every day or once a week to prep for the whole week, and it gets boring. Especially breakfast. As I mentioned earlier, I am ridiculously sick of eggs. I know that a lot of people who’ve done this use their leftovers for breakfast but that’s what the husband takes for lunch so it really left eggs. I would have loved to make muffins or a bread using an acceptable flour substitute but almost every recipe called for syrup or honey which is verboten during the 30 days. 

After 30 days of drastically altering how you eat, you must have learned a thing or two. What are some of the lessons you took away from it?

First, I learned which foods trigger my stomach issues. I’ve had stomach problems for as long as I can remember (remember how I had to have a colonoscopy?) and working through a Whole30 helped pinpoint which ones really bother me. Second, I learned that sugar is in basically everything. EVERYTHING. Even places where you don’t think it should be, it’s there and now, I check labels like a fiend. Third, I learned that I do really well achieving goals when I have strict parameters and deadlines. And fourth, I learned that I do even better when I have an accountability partner (thanks, husband!).

But the big lesson I learned is that people are willing to support me. Asking for help and being public with my goals is something I struggle with big time. I live in a weird world in my head where people will judge me and ridicule me and wonder what the fuck I’m doing telling them all this crap. Which is weird because I love when people share their goals because I find it inspiring and I enjoy watching their progress (and supporting them along the way) yet I can’t do it for myself. When I mentioned I was doing a Whole30 and shared some pictures of my food, I received mostly supportive comments. It floored me. I now need to take that lesson and run away with it. 

Now the big question. How much weight did you lose?

I lost 10 pounds during the challenge, along with a few inches. It’s more than some people lose, less than others. The founders of the challenge encourage you not to check the scale or worry about losing weight but for me, I need to see that progress to keep going (some times nonscale victories just aren’t enough) so I weighed in once a week. 

Please keep in mind that the 10 pounds are merely a drop in the bucket of what I need/want to lose but I’m extremely pleased with the start. 

Speaking of nonscale victories, did you have any of those?

So many. I sleep better, I broke my dependency on sugar, I stopped checking the scale every day, I’m much more conscious of what I (and my family) eat and how we shop, and my bras fit a whole lot better. Most importantly, I feel stronger mentally. Making it through this accomplished exactly what I wanted it to: to prove to myself that I can achieve a goal no matter how difficult or unrealistic it might seem. 

Now what are you going to do?

Well, after a 5 day binge of eating everything I couldn’t during the 30 days and feeling like absolute shit, I’m committing to 100 days of paleo eating. I’m tracking it with the don’t break the chain method and after that 100 days, I’ll revisit and see what I want to do next.

Would you recommend doing the Whole30?

It depends on the person. There are some people I say yes, absolutely do it. There are others who I’d say nope, don’t even try. Most people I know fall in the middle and really, it depends on your mindset. If you think you can commit the time and effort and discipline, then go for it. If you think even for a minute that you’d quit halfway through, don’t. Or maybe just commit to 15 days because the health and nonscale benefits alone are worth it.

TL;DR:  I did a Whole30. I didn’t starve despite not being able to eat a lot of foods, I had scale and nonscale victories, I learned a ton about my body, my support system, and my ability to achieve goals, and I recommend that people give it at least a two week try.

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26 Comments

  1. Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders

    I honestly don’t know if I could do a whole 30 days without cheese! We’re cheese fiends in our house. I think it’s so awesome that you had the will power to commit to the challenge and it sounds like you really learned a lot about yourself and eating habits during the process. It really is amazing how absolutely terrible the American diet is for you and all of the extra crap that’s in there.
    Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders recently posted…The One With All Of The Christmas PartiesMy Profile

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    1. Jana (Post author)

      I didn’t think I could go 30 days without cheese because cheese but you know what? It wasn’t as hard as I thought. Towards the end, I wanted it more for the simple fact that I COULDN’T have it. I wanted the choice to eat it or not. Now, in the week that I’ve been off of it, I’ve had it exactly once, in a Greek salad. I didn’t feel the need to binge on it like I thought I would.

      Reply
  2. Nadine

    Congrats to you for accomplishing this!!! You should be proud. I am proud of you. Whole 30 is no easy challenge. Even when I went grain, processed and dairy free I had cheats on the weekends. I feel like my eating is like my running, if I get out of my head I can accomplish a lot more. Two bloggers I know are starting a Whole 30 challenge on January 4th and I think I am going to do it. You have inspired me!
    Nadine recently posted…The Longevity KitchenMy Profile

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    1. Jana (Post author)

      I’m definitely going to do it again, most likely around March. It’ll be nice next time, knowing what to expect. And I’m proud of you for choosing to do it! It’ll be a lot easier to do since you’ll have people to complain and commiserate with! Having a support structure is essential for going through a Whole30.

      Reply
  3. Kati Rose

    I’ve gone back and forth with trying a Whole 30 diet just for the challenge and out of curiosity for a while. I haven’t been able to due to time/planning constraints currently. However your comment about knowing what foods trigger stomach issues makes me think I definitely will try it in the future. I’ve had issues for years and it would be nice to avoid things instead of having no idea. Way to go on successfully completing Whole 30 Jana!
    Kati Rose recently posted…#JAMpackedholiday Day Fifteen 2015My Profile

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    1. Jana (Post author)

      It really does make eating a lot easier knowing which foods are going to give you problems. That way, if you choose to eat them, you know what to expect!

      Reply
  4. Kristin

    It always impresses me when people finish one of these challenges and commit to more. Scott loves this method of eating and prefers it. I generally don’t like eggs that much and I tend to go the vegetarian route often. I always kind of assumed this method of eating wouldn’t be for me because of that.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      There are definitely vegetarian ways to do it. I just didn’t bother to look for them, although I’m seeking them out now since I’m just about on meat overload.

      Reply
  5. Tonya@Budget and the Beach

    Awesome job Jana!! I love the idea behind the process, but I’m not sure I could commit to it myself, however, it’s a great reminder that EVERYONE can cut back processed foods and sugar. Sugar is pure evil!!
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…15 Traits of a Strong WomanMy Profile

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    1. Jana (Post author)

      I don’t think you’d benefit as much, diet wise, since you’re already super healthy but it’s a good mental exercise.

      Reply
  6. SMD @ Life According to Steph

    You go girl! It’s absolutely a harder way to eat and requires more thought and planning and more $$. But it’s worth it. Remind me of this when I’m eating more along those lines in January and less along the cookie lines of December. More along, because I don’t believe in giving up a food group, but am more of an everything in moderation lady.
    SMD @ Life According to Steph recently posted…nakd, but suitable for work. trust me. You can click.My Profile

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    1. Jana (Post author)

      Moderation is definitely fine for some people. Not for me. I need an all or nothing approach, especially when it comes to food.

      Reply
  7. Mackenzie

    Congrats Jana! I’m glad that you feel better having completed the Whole30. You mentioned that you now know what foods cause you to have tummy troubles. I am curious as to what those foods are?
    Mackenzie recently posted…The Crafty GeneMy Profile

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    1. Jana (Post author)

      Definitely dairy, which I knew beforehand, but nuts, flour in large quantities (as in, every day, three times a day), and sugar. Anything else, I’m fine but when I had these, my stomach felt horrible. I felt great when I wasn’t eating them and then once I reintroduced them, it was back to the same problems.

      Reply
  8. Tanya @ A Mindful Migration

    Thanks for sharing your experiences, Jana. I have been on a never-ending quest (or at least it seems that way) to lose weight and get healthy. I’ve tried lots of things, seen some success, but always fell off the wagon, so to speak. But I turned 40 in July and I feel it. I need to get serious about my health and make some changes to what I eat. And to be fair, tackle some of emotions around my eating because that’s an issue too.
    Tanya @ A Mindful Migration recently posted…It’s a Wonderful Life: Celebrating Acts of KindnessMy Profile

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  9. Amber

    This sounds interesting but I don’t think I could do it. I could see myself being really pissy towards the end.

    Congrats on losing 10 pounds!
    Amber recently posted…Hey, It’s Okay Tuesday!My Profile

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    1. Jana (Post author)

      I was not happy. The husband was miserable.

      Reply
  10. kathy @ more coffee, less talky

    hell yes, i’m so glad that you saw amazing benefits. isn’t it crazy how much the food we eat affects our whole lives?

    i swear by clean eating – it has totally changed my life!
    kathy @ more coffee, less talky recently posted…weekending and shizz [12-7]My Profile

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  11. Christina

    Great job!!! My sister’s son has Celiac disease, so she schooled us on Whole30 and got us all involved about two years ago, but I only made it 16 days. It wasn’t as hard to follow after the first week sugar withdrawals (sugar is my biggest problem) but like you said, it’s really time consuming! It was hard on me because I had to cook separate meals. Digestive issues made me quit half way through. But I did find out I’m allergic to nightshades! I want to try it again next year.
    Christina recently posted…Twenty Years AgoMy Profile

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    1. Jana (Post author)

      I’m doing another one in March if you’d like to join me!

      Reply
  12. Erin @ TexErin-in-SydneyLand

    I’ve a big bag of up-down, hot-cold, good-bad right now when it comes to eating habits. And, I read something that I know I should be inspired by, but I start picking it apart. Like, I read that you ate a lot of eggs. I hate eggs. So, I tell myself I can’t do it. Ugh. I want to lose 10 pounds. I want my bras to fit better. I want to be healthier. Nice work, you.
    Erin @ TexErin-in-SydneyLand recently posted…F Word HumpdayMy Profile

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  13. Kerry

    Awesome job for sticking to it. I am trying to eat more Paleo but I could never do the Whole30. An awesome Insta account for Paleo is StupidEasyPaleo, I made her recipe of onion, zucchini, ground chicken (beef or pork) and paleo tomato sauce. It was really good and could totally made in batches.
    Kerry recently posted…Holiday CheerMy Profile

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  14. Kristi @ Femme Frugality

    My husband and I have been talking about doing this challenge. Great job sticking with it!
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  15. Karen

    Congrats on doing this! I have a hard time sticking to something like this. It was easier to eat low carb, etc., when I was younger but now will willpower is awful. I would probably struggle with breakfast the most. While I like eggs, I think I would definitely get sick of eating them. I’m pretty bad at planning out meals and shopping lists. I should really try this though because my sugar problem is so much worse now. I don’t think I ate this bad in my 20’s or early 30’s!
    Karen recently posted…Winter Reading Challenge // My Book PicksMy Profile

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  16. Linda sheridan

    Brava! Amazing! Maybe if it were life or death, I could do it. Very good job to you and your husband !
    Love, Steph’s Momma

    Reply
  17. kristen

    wow Jana, congrats and great job! 10lbs is amazing, and so are those non scale victories. i am intrigued by the whole 30, but not interested in giving up beans / legumes or eating so much meat. however, i would love to do it just for cutting out sugar because you are right.. holy crap it is in everything.
    good luck for your next 100 days!
    kristen recently posted…Bah Humbug ConfessionsMy Profile

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