Eating Reset: A Drive-Thru Eater Tries the Trending Whole30 Diet
Let me get right to it: I love it. Do it. The bottom line is, during your Whole30 you wake up every day knowing you’re going to feel better in your clothes than yesterday. It’s hard, but there are some really delicious foods involved, and no calorie-counting if you’re truly following it right. This is a modern, scientifically-informed program with celebrity devotees, like the glowing Emmy Rossum. It’s a Paleo-esque lifestyle initiative to remove some of the less-healthy items we may eat for thirty consecutive days. It seems I’m always halfway looking for a fix to feel good: I’ve done the keto diet, ridiculous calorie restriction, and some forgetable and embarrassing fads. When I heard of this program from my always well-researched brother, I was feeling the way we usually feel when deciding to make a dietary change: overindulged, debauched and bogged down. The Whole30 aims to reset your mind and body’s relationship with food by giving it a break from a list of items that, especially when eaten in excess, are proven to be inflammatory bad news: natural or fake added sweeteners, dairy, legumes, booze, grains, and red-flag additives like carrageenan, MSG and sulfites. Boo! For thirty days, Whole30 followers pause from these items, menu-plan like crazy, eat whole, grocery-shop store quite differently, and avoid the scale. Despite these changes and omissions, you have fun. I promise.
The Whole30 architects Melissa and Dallas Hartwig (a nutritional therapy/sports medicine power couple) have written a few beautiful books, built a website, and attracted a bubbling Instagram community of long-term devotees. The Hartwigs tell us one slip-up and it’s time to re-start the entire 30 days – yikes! At times their writing is entertainingly, enjoyably strict and no-BS:
“Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Fighting cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You’ve done harder things than this, and you have no excuse not to complete the program as written. It’s only thirty days…”
Dietary Joys and Pains of my Program
Good quality pickles and olives are life-long loves of mine. You can make mind-blowing curry dishes, and you will fall in love all over again with multitasking superfoods like sweet potatoes/yams. Almond milks missing carrageenan and other junk are allowed, as is organic canned coconut milk (please get it with a BPA-free can).
For me, I loved starting my day with a black coffee, a banana, and a tablespoon of coconut oil and almond butter together. Or, a veggie omelette doused in cayenne and hot sauce. I’d never had Ghee (clarified butter) before the W30, but it’s versatile and delicious. The program’s zucchini zoodles or spaghetti squash with homemade marinara sauce are heaven-sent dinners. And if you can manage not to eat ten a day, certain RX Bars and certain LÄRABARS are permitted!
On the flipside, here are the things I grumblingly missed. I felt personally offended not having my stevia drops in coffee, but boy do you enjoy tasting the actual coffee brew more distinctly without any sweetness. All store-bought mayo is verboten, so I tried making their homemade compliant mayonnaise recipe a couple times and mine was inedible. Missed salad dressing and croutons. I’ll save you the $9: sugar-free all natural bacon is tastes weird and DISGUSTING. I missed my bombs of heavy cream in cold brew coffee, and I certainly missed a good Camembert or Humboldt Fog cheese plate on a Friday night. I missed the mall food I work around, but the missing and yearning was energizing in its own strange way.
A Beauty Boost
A couple of days in, I noticed a difference in my actual face. I’m not exaggerating. I’m not a morning person, and when I wake up early sometimes my face is little puffy. Much less-so on this program! Maybe a week in, two of my coworkers remarked that I looked a little different and refreshed, and not in a backhanded-compliment kinda way! I felt like I needed less concealer and blush to look alive after too few hours of sleep, and my eyes looked clearer and whiter. I bought a couple of new clothing items, as my mood and sense of self soared a bit; no lies! And from the Hartwigs:
“The physical benefits of the Whole30 are profound. More than 95% of participants lose weight and improve their body composition, without counting or restricting calories. Also commonly reported: consistently high energy levels, improved athletic performance, better sleep, improved focus and mental clarity, and a sunnier disposition. (Yes, more than a few Whole30 graduates said they felt “strangely happy” during and after their program.)”
As for weight loss, in the three weeks I did my W30, I lost six pounds. Users report losing more or less, depending on how you do it* and your starting body. *When I say how you do it, I mean there’s a way to keep weight-loss in mind. Dried fruits, nuts and nut butters are allowed, but woe is the user who wants to chow on these every day by the fistful and still lose a bunch of weight!
Falling Down the Mountainside
I didn’t make it the thirty days, and yet I’m still here singing the program’s praises from a soapbox. I still feel like I benefited from the mental-toughness exercise of saying ‘no thanks’ to temptations that I fundamentally did not really want or need. But, I didn’t feel an ounce of guilt the weekend of my actual topple off the strict three weeks I did the W30. It involved an impromptu social occasion and I wasn’t going to tell my dear company no to the drinks and dinner. According to the program’s true dogma, I guess I’m not tough enough, but that’s just fine with me! I did another more successful run in December, and from there I weaved it into a lifestyle vibe.
What I’ve Added Back In: Modified Post-W30 Livin’
At my baseline, I am a drive-thru eating, greasy, carby food hedonist. Someone like me benefits, in untold ways, from a general guideline of health and enjoyment like the Whole30’s maintenance plan! I really do guide my day-to-day eating around it, and it takes a lot of guilt and worry out of life, since I do not want to be enormous nor unhealthy. A few of my items added back in: cold delicious Zevia soda, dark chocolate and of course wine, a little cheese, yogurt, oatmeal, yummy Ezekiel breads. As Paleo does allow, I have a little honey also. I feel so much less badly after overdoing it going out and socializing, because I know I have delicious clean food to return to. It’s so different for everybody, but I highly recommend giving this unusual program a shot. You will learn about yourself and feel great.