Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Eating Whole for 30 Days

Andrew and I are approaching the end of a Whole30 eating experiment. I had been thinking about trying a Whole30 for a couple of years, but honestly, I was scared. It involves giving up dairy, sugar, grains, legumes and alcohol for a month.

For me it wasn't as much about doing a Whole30 as it was about trying a different way of eating for a month. Starting with a plan and some rules worked well for me. It helped me start, which was the hardest part. Like I said, I have been thinking about doing this for a long time.

We spent a week mentally and logistically preparing our lives. We ate up all of our non-compliant foods and went out for pizza and hamburgers and drank the rest of the wine and beer. I researched what other people are eating on the plan, bought a ton of groceries and spent an afternoon prepping things like roasted vegetables, marinara sauce, and paleo mayo.

We started cooking all of our meals at home. Before the experiment, we went out to eat or picked up takeout a handful of times each week. For breakfast, we often grabbed granola and yogurt. After the experiment started, we cooked three meals a day, every day. This was a lot of work, and I've felt busy all month. Between cooking and cleaning up after cooking, we spent a lot of time in the kitchen. The kitchen is my favorite room in the house, but it felt more like a chore than a joy this month. There were exceptions to this feeling, of course, but sometimes you just want to eat something easy that doesn't require the stove or dirty dishes. Yogurt and english muffins with peanut butter were sorely missed at our house this month.

At first, I was focused on what we were cutting out of our diets and how we could find suitable substitutes. My focus quickly shifted from what we can't eat to what we can eat. And there's a lot that we can eat. Although I have to say that a really good steak just isn't the same without red wine, creamy mashed potatoes, baguette and blue cheese. However, I really don't need to be eating that way on a Tuesday night, thank you very much. Cutting these things out of my diet has helped me appreciate and savor them all the more as a special treat.

For breakfast we ate eggs, roasted sweet potatoes, sautéed spinach, and some kind of meat like smoked salmon, steak or a compliant breakfast sausage. For dessert we ate bananas with almond butter, coconut flakes and cashews. For lunches, we ate leftovers from dinner with a big green salad and more fruit and almond butter. For dinner, I made things like turkey meatballs with homemade marinara and roasted spaghetti squash, salmon cakes with roasted asparagus, lamb burger patties with sautéed mushrooms and caramelized onions, and stuffed peppers with ground beef and roasted vegetables. We drank a lot of sparkling water.

After two weeks, we were feeling terribly bored, and despite saying we wouldn't eat any processed food during the month when we started, we trolled the aisles of the grocery store looking for compliant convenience foods. We bought larabars, a variety of sausages and some deli roast beef. I squealed with joy and jumped up and down in the grocery store when Andrew exclaimed that he had found compliant proscuitto. As hard as this experiment was at times, at least there was proscuitto.

The results that I've noticed for myself are improved sleep, weight loss, less bloating and generally feeling better with more sustained and even energy to get me through a normal day. This way of eating does not work for me when I want to exercise strenuously at high elevation. The rules of the Whole30 helped me get started, but I also want to live my life, which I've learned means that I need to eat some complex carbohydrates before I can bike several hours up a mountain. No amount of protein and healthy fats can power me up Taos Canyon. I've learned that the hard way...

One thing that this experiment has really made me appreciate is that the choices we make about food are incredibly personal. These choices involve many different aspects of our lives and priorities and personal situations. The experiment has helped me be more reflective about my relationship with food and my daily choices.


  1. I've seen a lot people trying the Whole30 and I think that one of the most appealing things to me is that fact that it really encourages you to think about what you eat and to cook....I rely on processed foods too often out of laziness and it's a habit I'd love to break.

    1. It's a good way to break habits and rethink patterns of eating, that's for sure!

  2. Glad to hear you enjoyed the experience and felt better! I've thought about trying one of these challenges before but never taken the plunge. Cleaning up afterwards is what prevents me from cooking more often. I HATE washing dishes! So I make big batches of 2 things most Sundays and call it good.

  3. kind of a grand experiment!

    i am on diet # 4,000,000 (lol -- probably not an exaggeration). i have done this one many a time. basically fruits and veggies and protein. it doesn't take long to start craving the bread (not to mention chips -- i love chips! -- and dessert). but it is doable for a while.

    i have also been on some kind of weird kick where i obsess on how many fruits and veggies i eat per day. trying to replace some of the bad with the good. but the bad tastes so good. 'tis a lifelong struggle for me! but whatever. it is good to enjoy life and to try and eat healty (at least much of the time).


Hey, thank you!

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