WE DID IT! *insert high fiving and happy dance* January Whole30 is in the books and man, are we stoked! If you were wondering why we did it in the first place, check out this post (+all of our favorite Whole 30 recipes). We promised a full recap of the experience, and we have delivered. We decided to throw a little curveball and write mostly from my (Kelsey’s) perspective since it was my first challenge. Kelley’s a seasoned vet, but had a unique experience that she will share at the end. So let’s dive right in!
How did I feel?
The first few days were tough because I had a really hard time sleeping. I’m attributing it to some kind of withdrawal. HA! After about day 5, I started to feel really good. I could tell when I didn’t eat enough carbs because my workouts would feel a lot more tough, so I just learned to plan a little better. Date and almond rolls were a great carb boost right before a workout when I realized I hadn’t timed meals well.
Also, mentally, I felt so empowered! After getting knocked down with some injuries in 2018, I felt like I needed a “win.” Completing a Whole30 challenge did that for me. It’s a great way to start the year, and I could see myself doing this annually.
What you really want know… did I lose weight?
The short answer is yes, even though it wasn’t my primary goal. I fractured by foot last year, then had a weird hip pain that wouldn’t go away. Combined they look about 8 months to work through. My activity level decreased while the “whoa is me” wine and chocolate nights definitely increased. Whole30 did help me lose about 5 lbs that I had gained towards the end of 2018. I feel much more like myself now.
What I Missed Most
I tend to crave both sweet AND salty/crunchy things (ugh. the struggle!), so I did miss a lot. One weird craving was chocolate chip cookies (which never happens!). And not just any chocolate chip cookies; I wanted the gooey, softball sized, out of this world cookies from Levain’s bakery in NYC. They will change your life. Copycat Levain’s cookies are in my very near future.
Also, Simple Truth’s organic sea salt and black pepper popcorn is my weakness. After work and dinner, I tend to crave salty, crunchy snacks. Admittedly, it’s probably a habit of boredom or anxiety. Although this craving hasn’t gone away, I do feel like I can identify when it is out of true hunger versus boredom. It’s something that I want to continue to work through.
How I Dealt with the Cravings
Most of the time, I tried to make sure I was really well hydrated. Thirst is often confused as hunger. Drinking a big glass of water really took the edge off. I sometimes wanted a carbonated beverage, and Simple Truth’s organic mango grapefruit seltzer became my jam. Also, GT’s Kombucha was clutch for knocking out wine cravings. I would even put it in a wine glass for effect.
I also drank a lot of hot tea. This strategy helped SO much during the times of day that normally trigger cravings. For instance, I used to kept small pieces of chocolate at my work desk to satisfy my sweet tooth after lunch. I thought I was being smart by giving my body what I wanted so that I wouldn’t feel restricted, but I felt like I was relying on it too much. Often I would reached for it automatically without much thought (or enjoyment, for that matter). Warm tea really helps soothe the sweet tooth. I’m happy to say that I have kicked that habit and won’t be having chocolate at my desk anymore. Also, sipping on tea was incredibly soothing after dinner. I would unwind with a cup of hot tea and a book or Friends reruns. If you are looking for a recommendation, Throat Coat by Traditional Medicinals is SO good.
What Surprised Me
Whole30 breakfasts can be challenging, and eggs quickly become the norm. What surprised me was that, I didn’t hate eggs at the end! Before the challenge, I was so picky about them. The slightest “off” texture would ruin it, and even the smell of eggs cooking would turn me off. Because eggs can get redundant, I experimented with them a lot during Whole30. By the end of it, I felt Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride; I tried every egg style there is. The verdict? I love poached eggs. Love, love, love. Two close seconds are a good soft boiled egg and sunnyside up with EBB seasoning and crushed red pepper (this is very specific, but a girl likes what she likes). I used to think scrambled with cheese was my favorite, but I think I got too comfortable. Anyways, eggs and I are better than ever. Now that I have rambled on about eggs for an entire paragraph, let’s move on….
Another thing that surprised me with the *ahem* disregularity. Yep, I’m talking about going to the bathroom. I was pretty regular before starting the challenge, but would have bouts of constipation and/or bloating. The bloating went away, but things really slowed down. Never discount the amount of fiber in beans and whole grains! I think that the overall decrease in fiber, and increase in fats plus animal protein threw my GI tract for a loop. I tried drinking senna tea, but I am weirdly immune to it. I channeled my inner grandma and tried prunes which worked magically. PRAISES.
Did I cheat?
Honesty time. I did “cheat” once, but it was for work. I work with children with feeding disorders, and part of the treatment involves actually serving the kiddos meals from our pantry. I had to do a very small taste test to check for product consistency, so I think that I had some dairy and maybe some sugar. But considering it was for my job, I’m not sweating it 😉
What Saved Me
Two words: MEAL PREP. I am someone who loves variety in what I eat, so at first I didn’t think I would enjoy not having different things every day. However, when you need to cook essentially all of your meals, it can get tough. My husband and I worked out a schedule to maximize our time in the kitchen. On Sundays, we would prep both our breakfasts and lunches for Monday through Thursday. Friday breakfast and lunches were leftovers/clean out the fridge days. On Monday, we would cook enough to have leftovers on Tuesday. On Wednesday, we would cook enough to have leftovers on Thursday. It worked so well that my husband and I will continue use this system.
I created my own spreadsheet on Google Drive to keep us organized. Here is a sample menu of one of our weeks. There were tabs for each week, so I could schedule meals a couple weeks in advance if I wanted. I made a grocery store list tab as well, so I could pull up the spreadsheet on my phone and mark things off as I shopped. We used the daily notes section as a meal prep checklist, or to keep track of days we wouldn’t need dinner together. If this is something you would be interested in having, send us an email and I can forward the template.
Eating Out Is HARD
The hardest part of trying to eat out was not knowing the ingredient list of condiments or how they prepared the foods. I would do a ton of research and find very little information. Some restaurant employees are not as helpful as you would think. Because of that, I only ate out 4-5 times. Places I liked were Chipotle, Zoe’s, Flowerchild, and CHOPT. The glow bowl at Flowerchild rocked my world. I’ll go back for it any day of the week. Other people recommended Upbeet, Gusto, Souper Jenny, Sama and Yeah Burger, but we just didn’t make it there during the challenge.
A Word about Condiments…
I know this is small, but I feel like it needs to be said. While I’m so thankful that there are brands who offer unsweetened ketchup and compliant mayo, I’m going to keep it real with you: must of them SUCK. And they are expensive. My recommendation is don’t waste your money on the special compliant condiments that you need for one recipe during the 30 days. Get the one that you can’t live without. For me, that was ketchup. Primal Kitchen actually does a decent job with theirs, but I won’t buy it unless I do another challenge. I will never use the mayo again, the plain or the chile lime. If you like it, more power to you. In fact, I have two jars you can take off my hands.
Things I would Do Over
At the end of Whole30, if you can wait to reintroduce food slowly, do it. I was so over it at that point that I didn’t care. I wish I had eaten one indulgent meal to get it out of my system and then reintroduced foods slowly. My body was cursing me after a weekend of pizza, tacos, queso, buffalo chicken dip, and sublime doughnuts. And of course the cocktails to pair with it. Guys, don’t be like me. At least I learned that restriction does not work well for me long term. I lost my mind for about 72 hours, but have *mostly* gained it back 😉
Also, I would have journaled more during the challenge. Whole30 was as much of a mental journey as a physical one for me, so I do wish that I had spent a little more time on introspection. What we eat is a pattern of behaviors, and behaviors originate with a thought. If you can reflect on how you are feeling and what you are thinking in a moment, it might help you change your behaviors.
Additionally, I want to continue exploring mindful eating. Yes, I’m a dietitian. I have two degrees (including a Master’s) in nutrition science and one in psychology. I have helped hundreds of people live healthier lives. But I’m a person on a food journey as well. I think that the next chapter for me includes more of a focus on intuitive eating and coping with stress or anxiety in non-food centered ways.
Kelley’s Take on Her Second Whole30
If you follow our Instagram stories, you might have noticed that I got the stomach flu the day we were supposed to start Whole 30 together. BUMMER. Honestly, I should have taken it as a sign that a solid Whole 30 challenge wasn’t in the cards for me. I tried really, really hard, but recovering from the stomach bug while restricting foods wasn’t the smartest move. If I had to do it over again, I would wait several weeks to fully recoup and get my mind right!
I also had a full week’s worth of work and personal travel pop up in the middle of my challenge. Traveling can be super tricky for me because I love to still eat healthy, but I also like to try new experiences and foods, especially ones that are local to where I’m staying (i.e. crab cakes in Maryland). I mean, you only get to travel so much and restricting specific foods was a buzz kill. Plus, it’s super awkward to be “that person” that asks for no butter, sauce on the side, etc. in front of the client. So, I say all that to say that I tried my best, but I also let myself not obsess over every detail or let myself feel guilty for enjoying my time.
While this round of Whole 30 wasn’t a “win” from a challenge completion perspective for me, I still feel like I won because I was able to readjust my mindset after the holidays and am feeling so GREAT. Isn’t that the point of this all, right??
Would we do it again?
Absolutely! It will be at least 6 months or more though. It can get really tricky trying to be social and stick to Whole30. In the future, we would probably invite a larger group of people into it for additional support. A Whole30 dinner party actually sounds like a great idea. Add that to the list of things we would do differently next time 😉
If you have any more questions about our Whole30 journey, just leave a comment or shoot us an email. We’d love to hear your story as well! There is something really connecting about going through a Whole30 challenge together 🙂
Kell & Kels