In the later part of last year I learned that I had had some food intolerances by way of a couple different tests my doctor had ordered. This proved to be the little bit of a push I needed towards making some food changes in our lives. I wasn’t happy with our current diet as since I had gone back to work (perhaps I should read this meal planning post here). We were rapidly becoming a family of convenience and quick, over planned out and nourishing. My current food mentality could have been described as: A black bear readying itself for hibernation. We were eating whatever, whenever. After the doctor gave me this diagnosis it really got me thinking. While I wasn’t feeling ill when I ate certain things, I began to wonder if there were actually symptoms that had just become normal and I didn’t recognize them as symptoms (things like fatigue and bad skin).

So it was decided: Come January I’d pull some of the inflammatory foods out of my diet for 30 days and see what happened. I knew for myself personally, I work best with guidelines and therefore I set out to find a program that would give me some guidance, structure and support. Enter Whole30. It was lot more focused on nutrition, feeling good and eating well, over weight loss and physical changes. Essentially, it cuts out dairy, sugar (like, literally ALL sugar – no honey, maple syrup, agave, or the sweat of forest pixies either) and grain (even corn and quinoa).

I purposely picked a date after my birthday and began to prepare. I logged on to Pinterest and searched up Whole30 meal plans. I took the majority of my shopping lists and weekly meal prep from there (Hey, why reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to?). The beginning felt slightly daunting. I didn’t actually manage to start the day I intended to because I hadn’t had a chance to get out shopping. I postponed it for two days till I could make it to the grocery store because this was less about starting on a specific date and feeling stressed and more about making sure I was doing this well and feeling good about it.

Truthfully, I didn’t have a lot of crazy withdrawal that some people go through (I almost kind of hoped for it so I could feel like I was doing something SO HEROIC for my body..but alas, barely a headache). I looked forward to the meals I was eating and was suddenly SO aware of not only how much sugar is in E V E R Y T H I N G (Like, deli meat even has sugar. What?!) but also how quickly I would just grab something out of convenience that was really not all that nutritious. After being done just over two weeks, the craziest thing is – how terrible I feel!! I felt “pretty good” while on it, but now, I’m like “MAN DID I ALWAYS FEEL LIKE THIS?!” My body hasn’t been used to eating crap for thirty days and suddenly putting it back in, it’s forced me to make some pretty big changes if I want to feel good!

Probably the thing that I have walked away with at the very end that I am actually a little bit embarrassed is the realization that actually, you can say no if there are delicious desserts in front of you. I’m not kidding. It’s possible. The handy part about 30 days is it is literally – THIRTY DAYS. You can do thirty days. But ya gotta plan and COMMIT. Did I accidentally eat something and realize it was a no-no? Yes. But I didn’t feel terrible and throw the whole thing away. I felt great knowing 99.5% of what went into my body during those 30 days was very good for me and at the end of the day, I wasn’t winning a prize on my healthy eating and not screwing up once, I was challenging myself and doing something healthy for my body.

The takeaway:

I realllly enjoyed it. I remembered I actually did have self control. I will survive if I don’t take advantage of the cookies in the office. I even ate at the Spirit Buffet on BC Ferries and managed to avoid the whole dessert row (HELLO) – and felt LIKE A CHAMP after walking away! I wouldn’t say it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever done in my life. I wished I was a little more like I FELT THE MOST FANTASTIC EVER while on it, that would have been excellent motivation. That just simply wasn’t the case. I felt super great because I was putting good things in my body, so psychologically I knew I was feeling good but I didn’t have crazy more energy like I had hoped. The one physical thing I did notice was I finally got back to my regular workouts during that time and my muscle definition came back faster than it had ever done before and I felt I recovered much quicker. I think if it was longer than thirty days, I would have seen pretty amazing results with weight training.

A couple of comments were made to me that people felt like they could never do it because they couldn’t live on salad for that long. Girrrrrlfren’ I ate salad maybe three times (twice was at a restaurant with a grilled chicken breast on top so I could still have a social life). I LOVED my meals. Everything from pot roast and veggies, to cauliflower crust prosciutto pizza and delicious creamy sauces made with avocados and cashews AND COCONUT CURRIED CHICKEN. Seriously delicious.

My three tips if you’d like to challenge your health for 30 days:

  1. Plan plan plan! – You’ve gotta have a meal plan, grocery list, snacks to grab on the go (mixed nuts and Lara Bars were my go to!) but also, I went away for a night and packed a lunch, snacks, hardboiled eggs, apples and almond butter. Bonus it’s much easier on the bank account! (PS Just discovered online grocery shopping – MY NEW FAVE!!! And makes planning so easy!)
  2. Make sure your household is aware – I gave Jordan a month’s notice, hoping he’d do it with me. Once he realized his morning pastry and sugar for his tea were out the window – he was also out the window and running full tilt down the street away from me and my “crazy fad”.  (To his credit, he was still on board supporting me and accommodating my food needs)
  3. Get in the game! Make sure you pick a date that you can realistically stick to. Don’t pick starting the same week as your birthday or your trip to Mexico) You’ve gotta get your head in the game and buckle down for 30 days. Don’t cheat yourself, don’t just “just for this one meal” excuse yourself. It’s 30 days. you can do it. But in the same breath, be nice to yourself if you screw up! Don’t throw the whole thing away! Health not perfection is the goal.

I hope this was encouraging to you if you’re planning on making some lifestyle changes, even if it’s just thirty days! It will feel good knowing you’ve accomplished something and fuelled your body well.

Anyone else have an experience with Whole30? Loved it? Hated it?

Photos: Brooke Lark