Photo courtesy of nom nom paleo, written by contributing editor Kathryn Worsham

My “Why”

My initial decision to try out Whole30 was during the same time of year that everyone else makes a drastic diet change: January. After weeks of back to back holiday festivities and winter weddings, not to mention a three-month-long sinus infection, my body was craving a reset. One of my good friends – an avid Whole30 fan – encouraged me to try it, and a couple of my old coworkers were also on board. We decided to give it a shot and to keep one another accountable during the work week (I was working for a PR agency that specializes in restaurants, so needless to say it wasn’t an ideal setup for following a strict diet!).

The Dish on Whole30

You’re probably familiar with Whole30, but to summarize, it’s a thirty day cleanse (they avoid the word “diet”) that eliminates many foods that can cause digestive and other bodily issues, and focuses on avoiding processed foods at all costs. The “can’t have” list includes any added sugar or sweetener of any kind, all grains (including rice & quinoa), dairy, legumes, and alcohol. The approved list includes almost all fruits and veggies (including potatoes), unprocessed meats, seafood, nuts and nut butters (except for peanuts), eggs, most oils, and coffee (I don’t think I could have done it otherwise!).

The “no alcohol” rule seems to be the one that turns people away the most from trying Whole30. I don’t typically drink during the work week so I wasn’t too worried about this one. I will say though, that during my first Whole30 weekend I attended a friend’s engagement party and being the only person there not able to have a glass of wine almost did me in.  

My Personal Experience

I jumped into Whole30 without completing the prep work that the program suggests – reading the book, following a meal template, mentally preparing, etc. I also didn’t pay too much attention to exact serving sizes that the program recommends. I pretty much just scoped out the Whole30 website and printed their approved foods grocery list.

I learned very quickly that preparation is key for sticking to strict healthy eating. When you’re starving and don’t have a meal plan in place and you come home from work exhausted, that is when not reaching for all of the carbs in your pantry is the hardest. The first two weeks are definitely the most challenging; your body is adjusting to not having as much sugar or carbs, and it can make you super cranky. I would find myself snapping at my family and boyfriend and having to apologize. It was comforting to read that this is a common side effect and that it wasn’t just me being crazy. :/ Whole30 actually has a full timeline for what side effects to expect and when: bad mood (yep!), bloating (check), wanting to nap all the time (yep), and then eventually finding yourself feeling energetic, although somewhat bored of the routine (done and done).

After getting through the first couple of weeks, I didn’t really think about what I wasn’t getting to eat. I actually started enjoying all of the healthy options I had in front of me and trying out new recipes. I was cooking more than I ever had, and learning how to make new dishes which felt like a great accomplishment. I was also taking leftovers to work for lunch (also a first for me). I stopped craving sugar as much, and I began to feel full after eating veggies and meat without dense bread or grains. The “brain fog” that I had experienced so often in the afternoon at work lifted, and I felt clear headed. I didn’t feel like a totally different person, but I did feel better. My sinus infections went away and I felt leaner, more athletic.

One routine that kept me motivated throughout the month was my weekly Sunday trip to Whole Foods. After another week of Whole30 when I was feeling so over it, walking around Whole Foods and filling up my basket with nutritious and interesting items and planning recipes for the week was almost exciting. At one point, I looked down at my grocery basket filled with ghee, cauliflower rice and coconut milk and felt like I was a completely different person. Would I even be friends with me??

Whole30 made me seriously think about what I was putting in my body. Of course I knew that processed foods were bad for me, but I had never really paid attention to nutrition labels. Food companies sneak sugar into everything, not to mention tons of ingredients that you can’t even pronounce. I’m not saying that processed foods were solely responsible for my sinus infections and brain fog (I didn’t eat too many to begin with), but it makes a lot of sense that they would have contributed. It also made me realize how you don’t have any control over what restaurants put into your food (a lot of butter, I can tell you that), and it made me appreciate a home cooked meal.

Honestly, the toughest part is boredom. It’s really difficult to go out to eat – you have to be that person who gives the waiter a million modifications (which let’s be real, they probably just ignore). You can’t really go out to bars with your friends either – I mean, you can but it gets a bit old and makes it more difficult to keep on the Whole30 path. Even attending a dinner party is a hassle because you feel like an inconvenience with special dietary restrictions that start to seem silly – it’s not like I’m actually allergic to anything.

Results and Verdict

I walked away from Whole30 with a couple of surprising new habits that stuck. I drink my coffee black now (never thought the day would come), and I usually cook with ghee and olive oil instead of butter. I read labels when picking out packaged items like spaghetti sauce, salad dressing, and salsa (seriously, sugar is in everything). I try to stick to the basic rules of Whole30 during the week and allow myself to splurge every now and again. For me personally, it’s not realistic to live a Whole30 life — I mean, I need some cheese, bread, and vino every now and again. But it did make me aware of how different foods make me feel. I also cook a lot more now and enjoy planning out meals for the week.

So long story short – do I think Whole30 was worth trying? Yes. Would I do it again? Yes (probably in January 2018!).  If you’re curious, I would say give it a shot and see how you feel! You can do anything for 30 days. Bonus points: it’s a nice conversation starter (even though I know it’s boring to talk about diets, but here we are!).


Have you tried Whole30? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comment section below!