WHOLE30 Follow-up Part I – Hooray for us! Hubs and I have completed our first WHOLE30! I’ve had a few days now to reflect on the experience and wanted to write a couple of posts discussing our experiences for anyone contemplating WHOLE30. Both Hubs and I had some great results. There were some rough times, most of which I was prepared for (reference the trusty official WHOLE30 timeline); though some of the painful stuff caught me by surprise. I’m going share it all with you now. I want you to be fully aware of our experiences in order to make an educated decision if you’re contemplating a WHOLE30 for yourself or your family.
So without further adieu here’s my list of the good, the bad and the painful from our first WHOLE30:
• I lost inches. As I mentioned in the WHOLE30 Day #25 post, I didn’t take measurements prior to starting WHOLE30 so I can’t give you exact stats on this. But I can tell you this (which is by far more important to me): By the last week of WHOLE30, I was able to comfortably fit into 2 pair of my pre-pregnancy jeans that I’d previously not been able to get past my hips. I was also able to fit into several other pairs of pants and a couple of skirts I could not fit into previously despite pretty brutal dieting and exercise. N.B. My “dieting” prior to WHOLE30 was entirely dairy-free vegetarian and consisted primarily of low-fat salads, vegetable omelets, rice cakes and the like.
• I lost excess water weight. I was able to wear all my rings and shoes that had previously been either uncomfortable or completely unwearable prior to doing the WHOLE30.
• I gained muscle (arms, back, thighs) and lost cellulite in places that are notoriously hard for me to get lean (e.g. my thighs). This is a big deal in light of pregnancy because I seemed to gain extra lumpies and bumpies in my legs during pregnancy (can I get a witness from other Mommies out there?) that – to my horror and constant frustration – did not go away even after months of strict postpartum dieting and exercise.
• I didn’t really have to exercise. I continued my daily MUTU Core routines and practiced yoga every day except one. But I didn’t do anything strenuous and really didn’t do any type of cardiovascular exercise, except of course the up and down, constant movement of taking care of a 6-month old.
• I suffered far less bloating and gas. As I’ll explain further below, I’ve struggled with GI “issues” all my life and have been diagnosed with IBD and GERD. At various points during labor, I was given no fewer than 3 different IV antibiotics prior to my emergency Cesarean. Following that surgery, my digestive issues were worse than ever! I blame the antibiotics, but I digress. Despite some pretty heroic measures (including twice daily probiotics and careful consumption of fermented foods like authentic sauerkraut, coconut yogurt, etc.), both my daughter and I battled fungal infections in the early postpartum days, and I really struggled with bloating and gas after eating. That almost totally resolved with WHOLE30 foods. I have to say this was probably the most amazing part to me. I did not expect such drastic results but attribute the improvement to significant reduction of artificial sweeteners from my diet.
• I broke my addiction to chewing gum. I didn’t think this one was even possible. I was always the girl with gum. I chewed gum all day, everyday, and I chewed a ton of it often 3 pieces at a time. It was a nervous habit, like I had to have it in my mouth. Because gum is loaded with sweeteners and artificial crap, I knew I’d have to give it up during the WHOLE30. It wasn’t as difficult as I’d feared. Drinking more fluids helped and I allowed myself a few Altoid Minis per day which provide a comparatively smaller hit of artificial sweeteners than all that gum I was chewing (as I discussed here, I intentionally chose to break protocol in a select few instances in order to improve my chances of completing the “whole” WHOLE30).
• I should also briefly mention some of the great results Hubs had. He lost an inch off his waist and saw dramatic improvements in his skin (specifically almost complete elimination of dandruff and athlete’s foot issues that have plagued him for years. I’m sure he’s thrilled I’m mentioning that). Read more about his experience and WHOLE30 successes here.
• I became more creative. I enjoyed the challenge of creating new and enjoyable meals for our family using only approved ingredients. As a result, we found some new favorite recipes like the Turkey Cabbage Skillet and Thanksgiving Meatballs and rediscovered an old favorite in the Paleo Cheez-ish Sauce.
• I was rarely hungry. All the protein and fat kept me pretty satisfied. So even when I experienced cravings for unhealthy foods (see below), the fact that I wasn’t physically hungry made it easier to resist the temptation to cheat.
• I was tired, like a lot. The fatigue continued to wax and wane for me through the 30 days. I never did experience a sustained surge in energy. Instead, for me at least, I had periods throughout the day when my energy was good but those periods seemed short-lived and I fatigued fairly quickly.
• I often had an unpleasant taste in my mouth. This may be attributable to quitting gum or due to dramatic decrease in carbs, increase in protein, etc.; though I doubt I ever entered ketosis because I continued to eat things like my Paleo Popsicles, potatoes and dried fruit treats throughout. As I mentioned, I was often thirsty too. I’m not sure what caused this side effect, but it’s worth mentioning.
• The cravings are no joke, at least for a couple of days. I literally did lie in bed at night and fantasize about pizza, doughnuts, biscuits and gravy, Thanksgiving dinner, and on and on. It helped that I was prepared for them, and they do pass after a few days. And as above, the meals were so satisfying that I was always able to resist any fantasies I conjured up.
• I had headaches and some hypoglycemic reactions (nausea, lightheadedness, feeling faint, etc.) – full disclosure I have a tendency toward hypoglycemia but the symptoms were severe enough to warrant mentioning
• My heartburn was worse, especially in the beginning. Again full disclosure here – I have GERD. I’ve had it all my life and was diagnosed as a young child, and I’ve been on heartburn medication since that diagnosis. As a result of the meds, I have a harder time digesting meat and fats. I take digestive enzymes (which I’ll discuss further in the 2nd WHOLE30 follow-up post) which are helpful. But there were several nights when I had to take additional medication to sleep, and that’s not good.
As you can see, the good things definitely outnumber the bad and the painful. We’re 5 days removed from the WHOLE30, and I haven’t really gone back to our previous way of eating. We definitely plan on repeating the program again in the future but haven’t set a specific date yet. On balance it was a tremendous experience. With respect to the painful side effects I describe, I want to add the following. I have long believed there is no one diet that fits everyone (if there were we would not be overwhelmed with an obesity epidemic). Different people need different proportions of macronutrients (ratios of carbs/fats/proteins). I suspect that during the times when I had the worst heartburn and hypoglycemic reactions, I was overeating protein and fats and not eating enough carbohydrates for my daily activity level. On days when my diet was more balanced, I felt better and suffered fewer of those symptoms. As with almost everything diet-related, it pays to listen to your own body and make adjustments accordingly.
I encourage anyone considering WHOLE30 to check out their website (see Resources of the Day below) where you’ll find a wealth of free info and also consider reading the book It Starts with Food prior to starting. And be sure to stay tuned to Daily Beauty Wisdom for my list of recommended products for “doing the WHOLE30.” These will be various foods (primarily) and some other items we found along the way that made the experience easier, tastier and generally more tolerable.
Verse of the Day:
I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.
~Philippians 4:11-13 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
Read more here.
Resources of the Day:
1. WHOLE30 Meal Planning Template
2. WHOLE30 Program Rules