I thought we’d never get here: Day 31. The other side. It’s intimidating, a relief, and a tease all at the same time.
It doesn’t help that Week 4 still held a lot of challenges for us, including a near-quitting day for me and a work conference filled with the most beautiful vegetarian and vegan options I’ve ever seen in my life. Week 4 also had major breakthroughs for us both and we feel like we really did need a full 30 days to “see the light.”(Tiger Blood still feels like a myth, but that’s ok). My awareness about how food interacts with my body is at an all-time high, and I won’t be able to forget the things I learned on this journey.
- I feel too touchy-feely saying Whole30 was “life changing,” but the truth is that I will never be the same. My life is different now, and I can’t view food the same way: even the foods I really, really love and truly cherished before I started this. Do I still want to eat muffins and pizza and cheap Mexican food? Well….I do, but I also kind of don’t. I know too much now, and I know what it feels like to fuel my body with real food sources. It feels good. It feels so good that it may counteract the temptation of foods I know taste delicious for a few minutes but make me feel crappy later. Time will tell.
- We’re doing a slow-roll reintroduction plan. This means we’ll reintroduce certain food groups for one day, then two days of W30 so we can evaluate how the reintroduced foods made us feel. After investing this much time into cleansing our bodies, it seems like a waste to skip this step. We’re excited but a little nervous about this part, since it’s going to teach us what foods work well with our bodies and which don’t. What if I discover some of my favorite foods (hummus, quinoa, oats) actually make me feel like crap? There could be hard decisions to make. Anyway, for the next 10 days, our food schedule looks like this:
- Day 1: Non-gluten grains (rice, quinoa, corn, etc.) followed by two W30-compliant days
- Day 4: Legumes (soy, chickpeas, peanuts, etc.) followed by two W30-compliant days
- Day 7: Gluten-containing grains (bread, pizza crust, waffles, oats, cereal, etc.) followed by two W30-compliant days
- Day 10: Dairy (yogurt, milk, cheese, etc.). I’m already pretty sure that dairy screws up my system, so I asked Sam if we could do this one last.
- Some things were easier, but some things were still hard this week. I had an awesome work-related conference at the Google Chicago office this past weekend and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced from a food perspective. Yes, there was a table of different European chocolates, free (unlimited) whiskey tasting, and chef-catered meals the whole weekend. It was hard to convince myself it was worth passing on all those things on Day 28. I was able to make some good salads at their diverse salad bar, and I had a little W30-compliant salmon and shrimp. Honestly, the items I struggled passing up were delicious vegan and vegetarian dishes. I often hit vegetarian meal inspiration lulls and I longed to try some new, inspired recipes from trained chefs at Google. On the other hand, it’s easier to resist a lot of temptations that aren’t appealing to me right now because I know the truth about how much sugar or unhealthy fats are in those foods. Donuts? Candy? Potato chips? I’m not missing them, and I can pass them up easily without regret. That’s a big mental shift for me.
- I almost quit this week. On Day 25. I came home, already a little hungry, and made the same dish I’d made for three nights in a row. It was satisfying on those days, so why not on Day 25? In an effort to spice it up a little more, I went overboard on the spices and it was AWFUL. I almost started crying as I tried choking it down, and in the end, I just threw it out instead of eating it. Sam wasn’t there to talk me off an emotional tantrum but he was texting me supportive messages. The worst part was how little food we had in the house because of our anxiety about spending money on more food. Desperate, I heated up the small leftovers I’d reserved for lunch the next day and topped it off with an apple and Larabar. It sufficed but I wasn’t thrilled. This experience reminded me that food causes very emotional reactions.
- Zoodlers are worth the investment. We bought a spiralizer (also known as a zoodler, as it’s commonly known for making zucchini noodles) on Day 29. On Day 30, we made a zoodle dish with some homemade sauce, sausage, and broccoli. It was so, so satisfying. I’m looking forward to using this bad boy for years to come.
- Have I mentioned that Whole30 is the most expensive experiment of all time? By the end of 30 days, we’d spent almost the same amount of money on groceries (not including eating out) that we pay in rent. It was almost $1,000 in groceries or over 3x our standard grocery budget. What’s more is that, because we’re doing slow-roll food introductions, we’ll be eating W30-style for another 10 days. I love the way my pants fit and how good I feel throughout the day, but to me, the cost does not justify feeling this way.
- My cravings are different. Food tastes different. When I bite into an apple or grape, my first thought is almost always, “Holy crap, this is the SWEETEST thing I’ve ever consumed!!” We made a fantastic dish with roasted root veggies with a curry sauce this week, and I already can’t wait to eat it for lunch because it’s one of the best things we’ve ever cooked—even before starting W30. Chia seed pudding isn’t all that bad anymore, but it’s only because I’ve stopped viewing it as a cereal substitute and as its own entity. Tastes really do change!
- The verdict is out on if W30 helped or hurt my running. Some days, it’s hard to get up and convince myself to run because I feel sluggish, hungry, or zapped of energy. These days are hard, and if I do decide to exercise, it’s far from my best performance and I don’t feel the same euphoria when I’m done. For the most part, though, feel like I can go on forever once I start running. This is likely a result of cutting so many carbs out of my diet and tricking my body to use fat as a fuel source (a genius body hack for endurance athletes because everyone has fat on their body ready to burn!). If there’s one thing I’m going to take away from W30, it’s that I want to start fueling my body with more fats and fewer carbs so I can keep this kind of steady energy when I’m exercising. Of course, all these things I’m struggling with could also be the result of the rigorous training schedule we’re on. We’ve signed up for a half marathon and the Ragnar Relay in Cape Cod, so training is really intense right now. I wouldn’t recommend doing this level of exercise on the W30. If you’re an athlete, definitely try it in an off-season.
- I haven’t weighed myself, so I can’t say if I lost weight or not. This seems to be the number one thing people want to know when they hear people have done Whole 30, as it’s the main motivation driving a lot of people to try the program (the creators specifically ask that this NOT be the motivation). I can tell you that my body has changed. There are no doubts about this. My shoulders, neck, face, and arms are decidedly more defined than ever before. The little poochy-belly I’ve had my entire life is significantly reduced and my stomach is flatter than I can recall in the past few years. I don’t know how these observations relate to weight gain or loss, because I likely gained some muscle while losing fat, but I’m thrilled with these bonus changes. As a fair warning, these results may also be my diligent running schedule and bi-weekly HIIT classes finally paying off after a few months. Personally, I credit both Whole30 and more weight training to these changes because I’ve never seen results this quickly in my body on similar routines. In the past, my weight has fluctuated a little bit when I start exercising more rigorously, but I hardly ever make tweaks to my diet and stay carb-heavy for fuel. Whole30 helped me break these small physical plateaus I’ve struggled to get over in the past.
I’m hoping to do a full recap of the pros and cons of Whole30 soon. This post will likely come after our reintroduction period, since I’ll have more answers and thoughts at that point. In summary, I’m glad we stuck with Whole30 even when we hated it, and I’ll feel better prepared for what to expect if we did it again. (We’re not planning on doing it again. Ever. Unless someone foots the grocery bill). If you’re thinking about giving it a try, please feel free to reach out! I’m happy to answer any questions!