Back in August 2017, my husband and I decided to go on a Whole30 cleanse. If you’ve never heard of Whole30, I recommend you click here. It’s basically a very strict diet regimen that focuses on eating whole, clean, unprocessed foods.
I knew doing Whole 30 would be challenging: I’ve been pretty addicted to sugar since before I can remember. I mean, I started drinking “coffee” when I was three years old, but it was mostly milk and white sugar. The idea of drinking coffee just black was almost repulsive to me.
But my husband and I were both very concerned about our health. We’ve got dreams of being able to play on the floor with our grandchildren, and we want to be able to be active and healthy long into old age. In spite of these goals, we were slowly watching ourselves gain weight, and our clothes seemed to be getting tighter overnight. I was in denial-I had been strength training for over a year, and I assumed it was all muscle. But still, the thought kept nagging at me:
“This couldn’t hurt us. I need to break my sugar addiction anyway.” I said to myself.
My husband and I have always planned our meals out months in advance, so when we picked August 1 to start our Whole 30 adventure, we just chose to plan only meals that were Whole 30 compliant.
I’m not going to lie- it was difficult. Looking at every ingredient list, turning down delicious-smelling food and eating your grilled chicken salad instead, craving sugar constantly for the first 15 days…I nearly broke about 40 times. In 30 days.
A lot of people have asked me for my thoughts on Whole 30. So even though this is out of the scope of my normal blog posts, I thought I’d just share a few thoughts for anyone else who’s on the fence about trying this cleanse.
Here are a few things that I think helped us, and will make Whole 30 a lot easier for anyone else:
1. Pick a month with no special events
The people who created Whole 30 say that there are no cheat meals allowed on this cleanse. If you eat one thing with processed sugar in it, they tell you that you need to start all over from day 1.
For this reason, I recommend planning when you’ll do this cleanse in advance. Pick a month that there are no big celebrations or events going on. You don’t want to schedule your Whole 30 cleanse during the same month as your big weeklong vacation.
The only special event that we had going on during our Whole 30 cleanse was our dog’s 16th birthday. I know we’re ridiculous, but this was a big deal to us. We invited people over, my mom bought a huge cake for all of the guests, and we even got “pup-cakes” for the dogs in attendance. I don’t think I’ve ever had a food-related psychological struggle as difficult as the one I had when I was left home alone with that beautiful cake. Even the pup-cakes looked (and smelled!) so delicious that I had to force myself to hide them so I wouldn’t eat a bite.
2. Get used to cooking at home first
Ever since we got married, my husband and I have cooked about 70-80% of our meals ourselves. This is partially because we like having control over what we put into our bodies, but also because we’re cheap, and making food at home is almost always much cheaper than eating out.
This helped us because finding a Whole30 compliant meal at a restaurant is really challenging. I’m really not a fan of being the kind of person who makes her waiter’s life miserable by asking about every single ingredient in every single dish.
Because of this, we made almost all of our meals at home. Luckily, we were already used to this routine, so it wasn’t a huge shock or annoyance to keep doing so.
If you’re thinking about doing Whole 30, and you don’t cook at all, I highly recommend getting into the habit a few months before. Maybe plan to cook at least three meals a week at home for a few weeks. Then start plan to cook six meals at home for a few weeks, then add a few more, until most of your meals are home-cooked. I’d say by the time 15 of your 21 meals are cooked at home, then you’re ready! The transition to cooking all of your meals at home will be much easier.
3. Find a partner/support group
It’s no secret that you’re more likely to succeed at something challenging whenever you’re supported by those around you. I was lucky enough to have a strong-willed husband who was fighting through Whole 30 with me. And when I couldn’t talk to him, I could always count on my mom and best friend to remind me of why I was doing this.
I don’t know how many times my supporters had to remind me why I shouldn’t go to Culver’s and buy my favorite treat on the planet: A vanilla concrete with Oreo cookies pieces and peanut butter sauce. I even had to call my mom once to ask her to talk me through that craving once. I know, I’m weak.
4. Plan snacks and Whole 30 compliant treats
For every week that we were on Whole 30, I made sure to not only plan our breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but I also planned additional snacks that we could munch on if we got hungry. These snacks were often things like almonds, raisins, carrot sticks, kale chips, watermelon, or hot tea.
At the very start, these came in handy. My body took 10-15 days to start burning fat instead of sugar, and during that time I was almost constantly hungry. I was eating plenty of food, but my body was adjusting to feeling full on a diet with no sugar and wheat.
By the end of the cleanse, I didn’t really need the snacks. I felt full on much smaller portions of food, and I didn’t need to munch throughout the day to feel satisfied. I still drank hot tea almost every afternoon to get my mind off craving that afternoon sugar fix, but I didn’t feel hungry without it.
5. Read some blogs/material to prepare yourself
I highly recommend purchasing or borrowing the following books: It Starts with Food, The Whole 30, and The Whole 30 Cookbook, by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig, the creators of the Whole30 cleanse. We’re blessed to have friends who lent us these materials, and they helped a ton. They let us know why this cleanse is so beneficial, what to expect, and some great recipes to try out.
I also recommend searching the internet for honest reviews from people who have gone on this journey before you. I read so many blog posts from people who talked about their struggles and triumphs while eating super clean for 30 days.
I actually wrote a daily log to record my meals and how I felt every single day. I was planning on publishing it on the blog, but I thought you guys might get a little bored reading “I WANT FROZEN CUSTARD SO MUCH” over and over again. So instead, I recommend this blog to you. It’s entertaining, and, as the title says, brutally honest. I actually learned a lot of great tips from this blog, and referred to it frequently when I was struggling.
Day 31, and beyond
All in all, the results we achieved from Whole30 were definitely worth the sacrifices we made during the cleanse. My husband and I both lost an unbelievable amount of weight, and experienced a decrease in the frequency of our cravings for unhealthy food. If you’re on the fence about embarking on this journey, I highly recommend it.
We initially decided to eat a Paleo (plus dairy) diet after finishing Whole30, but we quickly learned that unless you give yourself strict “yes” and “no” guidelines, being disciplined is not easy.
About 6 months after finishing Whole30, I’m still reaping the benefits. I haven’t gained back the weight I lost during the cleanse, but I haven’t lost any more either. I’ve still got a few pounds to lose before I’m at my goal weight, but I’m glad that I’m back in a healthy range now. We’re planning on doing a 21 day cleanse in 2018, and we want to go through Whole30 again, too. Maybe this time it will stick?