I finished the Whole30 challenge right before Christmas and wanted to share my experience in case some of you are looking to switch things up in the New Year. I started Whole30 to feel less 'blah' and see if I could increase my energy levels. Truthfully, I'm not a fan of any detox, cleanse or fad diet because I enjoy eating everything (I mean everything, from dim sum to green smoothies) in moderation. I also think it is important to focus on good lifestyle choices instead of quick wins and yo-yo dieting.
I stumbled upon Whole30 because it met my criteria of a diet (short term and lets you drink coffee) and I heard lots of great reviews about it. Whole30 is basically a diet that eliminates dairy, grains, alcohol, sugars, legumes, MSG or "healthy" versions of unhealthy foods. Sounds terrible, right? It's actually not THAT bad to get used to fresh fruits and vegetables and delicious protein rich recipes. For more information check out the Whole30 website or the Whole30 book available here.
I started Whole30 on a whim and was surprised to find that eliminating things from my diet was not the challenging part. I found the hardest times were those when I needed a quick snack or didn't feel like cooking on a Friday evening. On a typical Friday night, I crave Pizza Libretto and lots of red wine (who doesn't?!). However, if I carefully planned, I found it much easier to overcome these potential moments of weakness. Instead of pondering what type of pizza I wanted to consume on Friday, I planned ahead and made something in advance like slow cooker chicken carnita lettuce wraps. Sure, it's not ooey, gooey comfort food, but it did the trick.
This learning in meal prep and planning ahead was essential. Cam and I made weekly menus (this also helps with grocery budgeting) and I tried to prep food in advance as much as possible. Another important piece was becoming familiar with 'emergency' strategies for when I was starving, but wasn't at home. I knew what I could eat near my office for those times when I didn't pack enough for lunch. A quick run to Longo's for a Whole30 compliant Larabar saved me on more than one occasion.
Some people thought I was crazy for starting Whole30 around the holidays, but it was actually a blessing. I said 'no' to all the Starbucks runs and holiday sweets floating around the office knowing I could dive into the treats once I completed the 30 days.
The results were fantastic. Before Whole30, I was eating relatively healthy, including salads for lunch everyday, drinking coconut/almond milk with my coffee and not drinking alcohol excessively. I thought it would be difficult to see major changes, but after about 5 days I felt leaner and had an extra bounce in my step. Overall, I lost 11 pounds in 30 days. Most of this weight has probably come back after my two week holiday binge, however, I'm now giving Whole30 another go with a longer time horizon. I'm going to try 60 days to take what I learned from the first 30 and better integrate the behaviours.
If you're thinking about trying Whole30, you probably have a few questions. I heard a few over and over again so have included my answers to encourage you to take the challenge:
1) What happens if someone invites you to a super cool partay?
The worst part about not drinking alcohol is everyone asking why you're not drinking alcohol. It turns out there is a very simple solution - make a drink with at least two of the following: ice, lemon/lime and bubbles. No more questions. I brought sparkling water with lemon to friend's places. Another favourite of mine is any of the La Croix sparkling waters. They make delicious natural flavours like peach or grapefruit. Trust me, your body will thank you (yay, no hangovers!). I may try and squeeze in the occasional glass of wine for my Whole60 plan as we have so much wine at home to drink (tough problem to have!).
2) How do you stick to the diet without cheating? (especially during the holidays)
The simple answer is to create a meal plan. Try simplifying your diet and automating decision making to make things easier. This way you're adding variety when you can, but reducing the potential for cheating.
Breakfast: I rotated between 2 eggs and a smoothie every day. Some days I put smoked salmon with my eggs, different spices or compliant salsas. For smoothies, I made them with frozen organic fruit from Costco, nuts, hemp hearts, coconut or almond milk and green veggies.
Lunch: I kept things simple here too by bringing mixed greens with veggies and either diced chicken breast or wild tuna/salmon. For snacks, I packed baby carrots and celery sticks and then I occasionally added seaweed snacks, clementines, organic chestnuts or cucumber slices. Another Whole30 compliant treat I would mix in every once and awhile are Terra vegetable chips. They're addicting!
Dinner: This is where I had the time to mix up meal options. I tried a bit of everything including bean-free chili, spaghetti squash bolognese, chicken carnita lettuce wraps, salmon with sauteed veggies, sweet potato crust quiche, roast chicken, meatloaf, compliant soup, cabbage rolls, stir fry, etc...endless possibilities!
Best Takeout Options: Dairy free, bean free, rice free fajitas or burrito bowl from Wilbur (or your favourite Mexican restaurant - make sure you ask for extra veggies!), sashimi from Sushi 930, fajitas lettuce wraps without cheese, steak, veggies and potatoes (yes, you can have potatoes on whole30!). A lot of the time, my take out meal looked better than my friend's who ordered something I couldn't eat. I felt much better afterwards too!
Overall, I would definitely recommend Whole30 to any one looking to feel lean and mean again. It's not a great plan for anyone that is a vegetarian or can't stand the thought of eating lots of protein. I'm proud of myself for being mentally stronger than I initially thought I would be throughout this process. I never thought I'd see the day where I would not buy popcorn at a movie theater. However, I survived by taking it one day at a time.
Let me know your thoughts on Whole30 in the comment section below or if you have any questions!
Happy 2016 friends!