How Whole 30 Changed My Life
When people comment on my great skin or healthy habits, I have to give much credit to my experience with Whole30. Whole30 changed my life in so many unexpected ways.
What is Whole30?
Whole30 is a way to eat that rewires your brain to eat read food. My first Whole 30 ended after one month, but the unexpected benefits of Whole30 have stuck for years (still going strong in 2020)!
December 2020 Update: I continue to experience the long-term benefits of Whole30 more than six years after learning about the program!
The benefits of completing a Whole30 include:
- Changing your unhealthy relationship to food,
- Eliminating cravings for sugar,
- Losing weight
- Sleeping better
- More energy
My own Whole30 did all of that. I didn’t lose much weight but weight loss is not the real purpose of a Whole30.
These 6+ years since my Whole 30 have not always been easy. The stressful events included: my divorce, the sickness and eventual death of my father, both my daughters getting married, and several moves.
A rock-solid food foundation with food really helped me stay grounded (as much as possible!) and come through everything feeling and looking better.
Because I have continued to eat real food no matter what is going on, I don’t find myself turning to food to numb myself during tough times.
And because I have been eating real food for so many years, I look great and feel great. I’m 58 now (Dec. 2020) and I am excited about life.
What is Whole30?
Whole30 is a way of eating that was created by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig back in 2009. It is designed to end harmful cravings and habits, repair your metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system.
Whole 30 is NOT a diet or weight-loss program. Sometimes people do lose weight; sometimes they do not. While, I lost a couple of pounds during my 30 days, it was not anything significant.
However I felt better, I looked better, and I slept better. Finishing my Whole 30 felt wonderful but I had no idea at that time how Whole 30 changed my life.
Completing a Whole 30 is not easy. This way of eating is so different from the Standard American Diet (SAD) that I had to think about my food constantly.
This change in eating is challenging but so worth it! I’m not just thin, I have a youthful vitality that I believe comes from eating actual food.
One helpful thing was keeping a journal of what I ate and how I felt. This was the basis of another blog post I wrote about Whole 30.
If you are considering doing a Whole30, here are my 10 Strategies to help you through your first Whole 30.
The Whole 30 Rules
Whole30 rules are clear and at first it seemed like I wasn’t allowed to eat anything!
Eliminated during the month were all grains, beans, sweets, breads, dairy, and alcohol. Allowed are all meats, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and approved fats.
The idea is that every bite you put in your mouth has a nutritional purpose and the foods that I would be eating would be as densely nutritional as possible.
Over the course of the month, my view of a meal truly changed forever. Growing up and even through my own adulthood, I defined a meal as a protein, a starchy carb such as bread or pasta, and a token vegetable or two.
On W30, a meal is a protein, lots of vegetables, and a significant amount of fat. Nuts and fruit can be added in moderation or for a little extra flavor.
W30 is not a weight loss program.
I lost a couple of pounds but nothing significant. However, in the years since I have lost and maintained a 25-pound weight loss eating this way.
I eat this way about 80% of the time. Some weeks, it’s closer to 100%. Some weeks it is less.
What Can You Eat on a Whole30?
Once you get over what you can’t eat, you will be amazed at all the GREAT food you CAN eat. There are portion guidelines but your appetite and unique body needs are what you learn to follow.
On Whole30, you can eat:
PROTEINS: all meats and eggs. Portion size is generous.
HEALTHY FATS: olive oil, ghee (clarified butter), coconut oil, avocados, nuts, and certain other oils. While not unlimited, most people have to learn to add MORE fat to their meals.
VEGETABLES: Almost everything goes here. as your taste buds change, you will eat so many more vegetables than you ever imagined!
FRUIT: In moderation and at meal times, not as snacks.
Benefits to doing a W30
These changes allow me to consistently eat in a way that is healthy without having to depend on will power. Here are the ways Whole 30 changed my life forever.
My gut issues were totally eliminated
For years I had problems with IBS, gas, diarrhea, and bloating. I felt bad most of the time and had to take a lot of medication to get through the day.
All of that cleared up when I gave up wheat prior to my Whole30. Yet, during the Whole30, I finally experienced zero gut issues. It felt so weird at first to just feel nothing in my gut.
If you have suffered with any type of gut or bowel issues, in addition to working with your doctor, try giving up wheat first. This is often a miracle for people.
Then do a Whole30. After your Whole30, follow the instructions to add food back in. You can discovered what food culprits are making you sick.
Whole30 taught me to love my vegetables
As mentioned above, I would add token vegetables to my plate. But I didn’t love them and often needed cheese or some kind of sauce to eat them. I rarely got in the recommended number of vegetables a day.
On W30, without sugar or dairy, I began to really taste my vegetables.
I discovered that vegetables could be cooked in a variety of ways and with different seasonings; soon I was eating veggies morning, noon, and evening until it became second nature.
Whole30 broke my snacking habit
I was constant snacker. In the morning before work, I would pack a lunch and some snacks. Usually those would be gone by 10 AM. I was always hungry. In the afternoons, I would buy a bag of chips or a candy bar to keep me going.
It seems bad looking back but at the time, I really did think I was eating mostly healthy.
On Whole 30 since you are eating plenty of real food and sufficient fat to fill you up, your body learns to go from one meal to the next.
I never believed I could go more than a couple of hours without getting hungry. Yet, a week or so into the program and I could easily go five or six hours between meals.
I made peace with fat in my diet
Here’s something I didn’t know before W30. Fat makes food taste good! All food.
Once you are not only allowed to eat fat but encouraged to add it to every meal, you discover how great your meat and vegetables can be because of fat.
Fat has been condemned as a villain in the American diet. Yet, the right kinds of fats are healthy and necessary. There are fats that are bad, very bad.
You learn what they are and how to avoid them. However, adding coconut or olive oil to your protein and vegetables not only makes them taste good, it fills you up, keeps you from getting hungry, and is really good for you.
Non-food food has never looked like food again
Foods such as cereal, bread, crackers, and other processed foods are eliminated. At first it felt weird to not have those kinds of food in my diet.
Then I stopped seeing them as foods—they might as well have been cardboard. On their own, without added nutrients, they offer no nutritional value. They are just filler. They fill you up without giving you anything of value in return.
The sad thing is that in addition to not being nutritional, they wreak havoc on our bodies. They are high on the glycemic scale, raise blood sugar, and are not good for us in any amounts.
Dairy was no longer a food category for me
I don’t hate dairy and I seem to be able to eat it without distress. However, after W30, I never felt the same about it. Before W30, I’d buy several cheeses every week.
I felt like I needed cheese. I needed it to feel satisfied. I needed it to make vegetables taste good. I needed it for snacks. It’s an understatement to say that cheese was important to me. It was.
Well, cheese is a no-no on W30. You don’t eat any at all. Because, guess what?
Cheese can cause problems and it doesn’t play a helpful part in your food intake. It provides calories but not a whole lot else. The protein and calcium are better derived from more nutritional food sources.
This was a tough one. I wasn’t a milk drinker except for coffee. And boy, did I love my half and half in my morning coffee.
Coconut milk never quite did it for me in the same way—even after a month. I couldn’t wait to get back to that one dairy item.
I missed cheese though. I used it a lot and couldn’t imagine some foods without it. A gooey cheesy dip or casserole was able as good as it got.
However, my taste and visual preferences around dairy and especially cheese changed. I don’t even like to see pictures that have massive amounts of cheese and I can’t imagine ever making foods like that again.
Loving vegetable carbs instead of grains and beans
Grains and beans go bye-bye on W30 as well. I had given up wheat long before I started my W30 so I didn’t have that withdrawal to go through.
However, I had always thought that beans and other grains were a nutritionally sound choice.
Years before, I had tried low-carb diets and had not enjoyed them so much. W30 is NOT low-carb. You can eat traditionally high-carb fruits and vegetables.
In fact, Melissa Hartwig wrote a blog post about eating carrots, The Carrot Train to Crazy Town. You don’t get fat eating carrots! I enjoyed bananas, winter squash, and most especially sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes became an everyday necessity to me during W30. I usually would add about a fourth of a sweet potato to every meal. That particular vegetable gave me a sense of satiety that I didn’t get from anything else.
To this day, I include sweet potato, regular potato, fruit, or winter squash with almost every meal. These higher carb foods are also packed with good nutrition.
I don’t go overboard because I don’t want to spike my blood sugar too much but I find that I feel better with the addition of some higher carb foods.
My sweet tooth was eliminated
Once I was on a first date with a guy and we were just chatting. We were discussing the local Whole Foods store where we both shopped. He asked how I resisted the cookies. In surprise I asked him, “What cookies?”
I had never noticed in the year plus I’ve been shopping at this store, any cookies. Cookies are something I don’t even see in the store anymore.
That kind of stuff just doesn’t pull me in whatsoever.
And not even noticing sweet treats is WAY better than having to deal with willpower!
I’ve never used artificial sweeteners since
This was a huge issue for me and the hardest thing for me to give up. I loved my artificial sweeteners. Making artificially sweetened desserts was an every day thing for me as well as using them to sweeten my tea and coffee.
Truly I missed them. But after my Whole 30, when I tried them again; I couldn’t stand the taste and I’ve NEVER used them again.
This is probably one of the more important changes since artificial sweeteners are not benign. They confuse the body and have harmful effects on our health.
Whole30 Changed My Life
I went into W30 wanting to lose weight and feel better. Though I didn’t lose weight that month, I discovered that’s very common. In addition to the big changes above, I slept great and my skin has never looked better.
My gut felt amazing. I remember walking one day and I realized that I didn’t feel my gut. There was no gas or bloating. My gut was just there, part of my body, no more noticeable than say my thigh or elbow. It wasn’t making any kind of fuss.
That 30-day commitment literally changed the way I ate to this day, almost seven years later. It changed my relationship with food and that in turn allowed me to make changes that helped me lose and most importantly keep the weight off.
I don’t diet nor do I deprive myself. Eating this way helped me change my metabolism for the better and keeps me from being hungry and having cravings.
Selecting food based on its nutritional impact is a new way of seeing food. That’s probably the most important impact from W30. I eat food not only because it tastes good but because it will nourish me.
When I did Weight Watchers years ago, I lost quite a bit of weight. However, at the end, when my weight had me down to 20 points a day, I was eating so many food substitutes that I wasn’t even eating real food any more! It’s not an exaggeration to say that I was hungry—a lot of the time.
The whole experience was disturbing—not life changing, except that I vowed that I would never count points again! (or diet)
After WW, I gained all the weight back fast and a few extra pounds for good measure.
I feel strongly now that it’s important to ground yourself in eating to nourish your body and then and only then, will you be successfully change your metabolism and regain a healthy weight.
Sure you can lose weight by just cutting down the amount of food you eat. But if you do it by removing real food and real fat, you compromise your overall health.
Some people think it sounds extreme to eat the Whole 30 way. But that’s not because this is an extreme diet.
It’s because of the way we’ve been conditioned to think of pasta, bread, cereal, junk food, and other processed foods as normal that is truly extreme.
Even though we’ve been told that it’s all fine in moderation—it’s not. It’s wrecking our bodies and our health.
Whole 30 gave me the tools to make lasting change in my body and health. Melissa and Dallas have written a couple of excellent books that explain the process much better than I ever could.
I’m just an enthusiastic supporter. They also host one of the most useful and supportive online forums I’ve been a part of.
Here’s to wishing everyone a great relationship with food!
Hi, I'm Sara and I'm so happy you're here! My Think Big Life began shortly after I turned 50. Big changes can happen with a small start, an adjustment of thought, or a simple process. Over time, you transform your life into the one you always dreamed of having. As a coach, I can help you create a life you love. Click here to schedule a free 30-minute coaching session.