I did it.
To kick off the New Year I completed the Whole 30 dietary challenge. If you have no idea what “Whole 30” is, here is a snippet regarding the Paleo-style plan from their website about the program rules:
The “yes” foods:
Eat meat, seafood, eggs, tons of vegetables, some fruit, and plenty of good fats from fruits, oils, nuts and seeds. Eat foods with very few ingredients, all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they’re totally natural and unprocessed.
At first glance this seems totally reasonable, right? How hard could it be to just eat real food for 30 measly days? Well girls, let me introduce you to my little friends, also known as the “no” foods (also according to the Whole 30 website, but I’ve abbreviated some of the descriptions):
- Do not consume added sugar of any kind, real or artificial. No maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, coconut sugar, Splenda, Equal, Nutrasweet, xylitol, stevia, etc.
- Do not consume alcohol in any form, not even for cooking.
- Do not eat grains. This includes (but is not limited to) wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, millet, bulgur, sorghum, amaranth, buckwheat, sprouted grains and all of those gluten-free pseudo-grains like quinoa.
- Do not eat legumes. This includes beans of all kinds (black, red, pinto, navy, white, kidney, lima, fava, etc.), peas, chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts.
- Do not eat dairy.
- Do not eat white potatoes.
- Do not consume carrageenan, MSG or sulfites.
The “no” list is the killer part of this diet and what makes it so difficult.
So why do Whole 30 in the first place?
Toward the beginning of 2013, while pregnant with our third daughter, I discovered that eating a Paleo-based diet gave me some reprieve from the GI issues I was having during my pregnancy. At the same time, my husband also determined that limiting his dairy intake helped with his seasonal allergies.
Then while researching “Paleo” on the web I stumbled upon the details of the Whole 30 plan. (I had friends touting its benefits as well.) I appreciated that the entire plan was on their website for free. No need to purchase any e-book (although two weeks into my Whole 30 I did purchase their book It Starts With Food). No pushing you to purchase any special meals or shakes. The whole plan really revolved around eating real food.
How challenging was it?
Sigh…It’s hard my friends.
I should add that I was (and am) still breastfeeding my five month old. Which meant I needed to make sure I was ingesting enough calories. (Another reason I was attracted to this particular dietary re-set, if you will, is because you can eat as much as you determine necessary.) Initially, it was hard to make sure I had enough prepared food.
It’s also really challenging to eat out. We actually celebrated our 10-year wedding anniversary during the challenge and gave our server at Tarbell’s a run for his money with our special requests.
I also suffered from incredible food boredom at the end. Even with all the new recipes we were trying, sometimes you just want a slice of pizza…a glass of wine at the end of a long day.
Was it worth it?
I know this is going to sound incredibly dogmatic, but it really is life changing.
It makes you rethink your relationship with food. It opens your eyes to how much junk really is hidden in our food. I already knew any food coming out of a box was suspect because of how it is processed. But I didn’t expect to find added sugar in say, my organic mustard, or that there were breadcrumbs inside my garlic salt.
It’s amazing how even your mood and energy levels can be affected when you don’t have any sugar. The self discipline required to complete this diet permeated other areas of my life for the better — I really do feel more confident, organized and lucid.