I’ve been debating when I wanted to share my experience and thoughts on Whole30 for quite some time. I wanted to share it in detail mid-way through my first 30 days, then after my first 30 days.
I could have easily shared my thoughts after my first 30 days. But, knowing I was going to do at least another 30 days — I wanted to wait. If I was going to share my thoughts on Whole30 I felt it would be more beneficial to share them more from an experienced point of view then a beginners. It’d be like going to get running experience from someone who just barely ran their first race.
Now, with that said — I wouldn’t consider myself an expert at Whole30. Like at all. There others much more dedicated and knowledgeable than me. Experts you’ll find throughout the Whole30 community and even amongst my friends. So, I am really speaking from my own experience.
But, I wanted to share my thoughts on this journey, because a number of friends have asked me about Whole30. And, I guess more than anything this post is a resource for them that I can point them towards.
When I started my first round of Whole30 I weighed 281.2lbs. I had been stuck between 270-280(ish) for about a year and a half or less. I couldn’t get less than 270 and thankfully I never went heavier than 285lbs. I was depressing enough gaining that weight.
It’s been difficult, because having lost so much weight and consistently sitting around 225-235 for a number of years — you fear going back to “Fat Josh.” It’s a mentality I hear is fairly common for individuals who’ve lost gobs of weight. Some of my most depressing nightmares would confirm that.
A lot of the issues around my gain were due to my thyroid. I couldn’t get it balanced like I was able to for a number of years. Part of that is due to age. But, I hate that excuse. Just because I am in my mid-thirties doesn’t mean I should give up. So, it’s been a fight in the gym, road and even doctor’s office. Pretty much to no avail — or very little success.
I had to fight hard to just maintain and not gain. That’s the curse of dealing with thyroids. You can be trying everything and working out like a beast — but, all be damned if you don’t gain 10lbs. with little no effort. Hypothyroidism is no joke. I hate it.
Anyways — I don’t want to digress too far down that road. But, after going to about 3-4 different doctors — I just kinda decided to go about finding a solution myself. The medical side of things weren’t working in finding a solution. And, I felt like I just had to take back the responsibility for my health problems. I could no problem solely rely on pill bottles and stethoscopes.
After trying a number of diet plans with some success, the yo-yoing continue more than I liked. So, I just kept looking for a solution. And, that’s kinda how I stumbled upon Whole30.
A number of my friends online had done it — some once, some a number of times. And, a few posted their results. That caught my attention, because the more I looked into the more successful results I saw.
I think when you see these kind of results and cult follows you become somewhat skeptical. I’ve done enough diets to understand that not all diets are created equal. You might have lost 20lbs. this month, but in a couple a months you might find that 20lbs. again — but, it’s identical twin.
But, there was something different about Whole30 that I liked. Yes, it was extreme, but I saw the wisdom in it. And, I saw components that I liked that I could adopt long term. Plus, it relied heavily on gluten free foods and having issues with my thyroid, I knew I needed to go gluten free for a while to see if that would have an effect on my health and weight.
Which it did.
So after a couple of months of watching others on Whole30 and reading up on it, I decided to take a stab at it. I knew I could do at least a month and go from there. If it didn’t work or benefit me — after 30 days I could walk away from it. But, I was going to give my best for those 30 days.
And, after those 30 days — I lost nearly 18lbs. Something that hadn’t happen for quite a while. The one aspect of Whole30 that I really like is that you don’t weigh or measure yourself during those 30 days. So when I jumped on the scale I felt like I was weighing in on The Biggest Loser (sans the beeping and commerical break).
But, I knew I had lost a big number even before I jumped on the scale. I had been feeling the change throughout the previous month. Not to mention I could see the difference in the mirror. I was actually losing weight. I was actually not dragging throughout the day. I had energy! Something I longed for, for too long.
Then this past Saturday I finished my second round of Whole30 and weighed in. It was nowhere near my 18lbs. loss from the month before, but I was still down quite a bit and going in the right direction. Not to mention, I was starting to be able to fit back more comfortably in my XL shirts. When you have successes like that — numbers really don’t mean much in the scheme of things.
I am doing one more month of Whole30 that will take me to my birthday. It wasn’t really planned that way it’s just how it happened when I started in May. But, I love the symbolism behind it — what better birthday gift to give myself, huh?
I’ll get more into what’s after my third round of Whole30 in August later. I may do a fourth round, but odds are I will adapt it some. Probably bring in some whole grains and add some of my Isagenix shakes to the mix. But, we’ll see. Stay tuned into that later.
Anyways, I wanted to share a few tips, thoughts and feelings on certain aspects about the Whole30 diet that would help you decide whether or not it’s something that is right for you. Again, I am not speaking from an authoritative role, just from experience. So please keep that in mind.
It’s not easy, but it’s simple
When describing my experience to others, I’ve kinda adopted this as my motto. The Whole30 isn’t easy. It’s not. It’s hard to give up bread, cheese and other delicious dairy products (I’m looking at you yogurt and ice cream). Then there’s the whole sugar thing. The first couple of days being off the added sugar nearly killed me. It wasn’t fun.
But, it can be done, because it’s simple. Very simple. If you follow the guidelines and rules — you’ll find success. Your own success I should say, because no one is going to have the same experience. The simplicity is what drew me to the diet. I like simplicity. I value simplicity. Especially when you can easily equate — this + this – this = this result.
Simple, simple, simple. But, it will take some initial willpower to begin and determination to continue it throughout the whole 30 days. Especially if you find yourself in a situation where you don’t have total control of the food offered.
Find support in others, don’t go about it alone
When I started my weight-loss journey, I started it alone, but I didn’t go it alone. One of the first things I did was build a support team around me. This included family members and close friends. Some were there as cheerleaders, others as examples and others to keep me accountable. It took a village to get me where I am now.
The Whole30 journey is no different. Build yourself a support system that can help you succeed. There are a number of Whole30 forums online and on Facebook that are great resources for accountability. But, look closer to home as well. If you can — find a family member or friend that will do the program with you. Your odds of success are much greater when you have a partner in crime alongside you.
That’s not to say it can’t be done going solo, but there’s really no reason to when you have amazing support systems all around you.
Do your homework before diving
I will be the first to admit that I didn’t understand the Whole30 completely when I dove into it in mid-May. I was drinking my black Postum for the first couple of days. Postum has barley — which is not Whole30 compliant. Oops.
That kind of speaks to the complexity of the diet, but also the need to do your homework about what the Whole30 is. It can be overwhelming for some (or all). But, if you do your homework and read up on it — it really simplifies the whole thing. At least for me.
You don’t need to buy the book to do the Whole30 (though I highly recommend it) or get two friends to get two friends so you can get free product. The Whole30 is very much a culture welcoming of anyone and everyone who wants to do it. It’s essentially “free” (I put free in quotation marks, because we all know nothing is absolutely free. I mean you have to buy or grow your food, right? That’s definitely not free) to join or do.
But, if you’re going to succeed you gotta know what you’re doing. Here are a few resources that I leaned on for help, especially during the first half of my first 30 days.
The Whole30: The 30-day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom (the book!)
Welcome to the Whole30 Program (always a good place to start, eh?)
Whole30 Program Rules (great resource — study and memorize these)
Whole30 Program Downloads (seriously a great resource — it’s all there!)
Nom Nom Paleo (they have some AWESOME recipe ideas)
The Nourishing Home (another site for great recipe ideas)
Good Cheap Eats (yet another great site for recipes — there are BUNCH of good sites FYI)
Of course there are LOTS of Whole30 Pinterest boards.
Blogger Testimonials — you can read some here, here, here and here. There are tons more all over the internet.
Don’t let the information overwhelm you. Just do it. And, continue to learn as you are doing it. The goal isn’t to just change your eating habits for 30 days — it’s a changing your eating habits for a lifetime.
Plan and prepare ahead — make it a routine
In the past most diets I’ve followed could be adapted on the go. It’s harder on Whole30 to do that, because you need more control than most diets to assure what’s going into your body is compliant to the diet. Like for instance, if I was road tripping with family and we stopped at McDonald’s for lunch, I knew what I could and couldn’t eat according to that diet. But, with Whole30 — I’m pretty sure the only thing I could eat is — ummm — ice water.
I did Ragnar when I was in the middle of doing Whole30 and I had to adapt and prepare. I brought along a lot of sweet potatoes, grapes, bananas, apples and oranges along with a good stash of Larabars. It was tough, because it would have been easier if I relied more on a Subway or gas station for food. But, I made it work by simply preparing ahead.
The same principle is true in the day to day aspects of Whole30. Planning and cooking ahead will save you from temptation. But, even beyond that — getting yourself into a routine is even better.
I am a creature of habit so eating basically the same thing every day doesn’t bore me like others. I’d boil some hardboiled eggs on Sunday for the week and pack a couple for a meal along with a few bananas, grapes and whatever other fruit and veggies I found in the fridge — usually an apple, orange or green peppers. Then I basically ate the same thing for lunch every day between a salad or steak and a sweet potato. The same thing went for breakfast and lunch — with the addition to the occasional omelet or scramble.
The predictability helps a lot. I can cook my meats ahead of time or cook double for lunch the next day. And preparing enough meals throughout the day protects me from temptation of snacking or getting a Slurpee.
Fueling for workouts and runs is fairly easy
One of the biggest worries I had going into Whole30 was fueling for races. Especially for during races, since Clif Shots and GUs are non-complaint to the diet. And, after running seven races over 13.1 miles and numerous 3-5 miles since beginning my journey I can say affirmatively — it was a non-issue.
First off — pre-race carbs loading for most runners is kinda a sham. If you’re eating a balanced diet of good whole foods you don’t have a need to carb load. Sure that’s not fun, especially looking forward to pasta night at the Olive Garden before the big race. But, it’s just not needed.
One thing I have done though is to make sure I am fueled properly before a race. My pre-race meal usually consists of a sweet potato and some steak. And, then in the morning I’ll eat my usual banana and maybe a half sweet potato if needed. Of course alongside my usual water.
During the race, I’ll carry some raisins and almonds in my pocket in case I need some quick energy mid-run. I’ll also carry a banana if I know the race won’t have them at aid stations. I’ll usually eat this about halfway through my run (6.5 miles during the half). I found that I really don’t need much while I’m running, but I do need energy perks at certain points of my run to keep from bonking.
After my race or long run is complete I then usually eat another banana and the other half of my sweet potato that I stash in my drop bag or car. Then, just drink lots of water. I do find that I still can mindless wander around the kitchen after a run looking for food — so I make sure to be around plenty of bananas, grapes, watermelon and apples (all favorites for me after a summer run).
Really though — the key is fueling is more in the timing than it is in what you’re fueling with. Well, that is important too, but my point is that you don’t need energy drinks, sports drinks and other gels to fuel properly — it can be done simply. Just make with a bit more effort on the when and how.
Sugar is in pretty much everything we eat
One of the biggest things about Whole30 is the elimination of added sugar. That’s why you’re eating whole foods and not processed foods that sit on the store shelves for months. Because those processed foods are (more than likely) full of sugar — whether it’s white sugar or “natural” sugar like honey. Whatever the source — sugar is sugar.
Now, I could write 8-10 paragraphs about sugar and how it’s the leading cause of the obesity epidemic in our country. But, I’ll pass on that here. If you really want to know the stranglehold the sugar industry has on this country all you have to do is turn on Netflix and watch documentaries like — Fed Up, Sugar Coated or That Sugar Film — to name a few.
I will refrain from further comment, because I could seriously go on a whole 8-10 paragraph spiel about sugar.
Read your labels religiously
I’ve had a few people ask me for tips to the Whole30 diet. And, my response is usually — “read your labels.” Seriously, that will save you more than anything. If you can’t pronounce what’s in your food — don’t eat it. And, odds are it’s just a substitute for sugar anyways.
But, I found that the more I read labels the more I didn’t eat boxed or labeled foods. I started leaning towards more fresh food — fruits, veggies and meats. Not only was it easier for me to keep thing simple, but I knew exactly what I was eating — because I was eating exactly what I was looking at.
The more I read labels I also knew which processed foods I could eat — there were plenty of times that Larabars saved my life. Especially during long runs. Most Larabars are Whole30 compliant — so I knew right away what I could and could eat.
Reading your labels should be a practice we ALL do. Not just because we’re doing Whole30, but it really is eye opening to discover what is going on with our food. You’d be surprised what food companies are throwing in seemingly healthy foods. Whether it’s hidden sugar or substituted chemicals and additives — why do our bodies need crap like that?
Read your labels.
It’s okay to have a sweet tooth
Okay, that header is a BIT misleading, but not really. Of course you’re not going to be downing Cinnabons and chocolate cake while following the Whole30 plan. But, if you’re like me and have a wicked sweet tooth — it can be cured.
When I am craving something sweet I indulge myself — like a banana (naturally), a cup of strawberries, maybe some watermelon or my ultimate favorite the past couple of months — grapes. I can’t tell you how much I love grapes. I eat them like I’m pregnant with twins.
But, the body craves certain nutrition for many reasons. And, it’s important to listen to that. And, usually when we’re craving something sweet, it’s usually because our blood sugar has dropped and we need a pick me up — or simply habit.
You don’t have to answer that craving with cookies and milkshakes — when all it needs is a little boost via some nutritious whole food.
But, boy oh boy — I’m craving some grapes right now just writing about them.
Little changes, make big differences
This is true with pretty much any diet — but, there are certain aspects of the Whole30 that I found successful. And, really, it was because of small simple changes. Changes both physically and mentally.
For one, I love that you don’t weigh or measure your progress during the 30 days. You go off of your success during the diet by feel and look. You can tell how you’re feeling. You can see it in the mirror and feel it as a whole. For being someone who’s lost 150+lbs. — I needed this reprieve from the scale. It’s too easy to be held captive by it while losing weight.
Not only does it enslave you. But, it can also stress you out. Which — well — for most of us means we’d end up eating our stress. I mean, I would. Nothing tastes better than a stack of stress pancakes … well except for how skinny tastes. I really love that Whole30 focuses to eliminate as much stress as possible so that you can focus on you. And, that’s the whole reason you’re doing all this, right?
Secondly, making small changes to your eating habits will bring about big differences. Again — this is true for any diet. But, learning to obsessively read your labels will help you make good food choices. Simply resolving to cook your own meals, will keep you from the pitfalls of eating out. And, eating small meals throughout the day will keep your energy levels up and away from non-compliant foods.
Small and simple changes, small and simple changes — that’s all it takes.
Make up your mind that you’ll succeed
There are a lot of rules to the Whole30 diet. So much so that it can be somewhat daunting for some people. And, I get that. I was one of them. It took me a while to finally commit to doing it, because I was somewhat overwhelmed with everything I’d have to do.
But, I made up my mind that I’d do it. I saw my other friends’ success and I felt if I gave it my all, I’d reach that kind of success. Besides, I had nothing to lose. Nothing else had worked for to that point in trying to regulate my thyroid. So why not?
I didn’t go into the Whole30 blindly, I read everything online and understood this isn’t the diet for everyone. There were some people who didn’t seen a lot (or any) success during their 30 days. And, I get that. Totally get that. Because, that’s been me with my thyroid the past couple of years.
So, I knew there was a chance I wouldn’t see those results. But, I was still going to give the diet at least 30 days to see what happens. Even if I “failed” (I hate using that term) I knew I could still come away from the experience with something. Whether that’s a new perspective, direction or insight. You really have to learn how to accept failure and how to use it for your benefit in order to truly succeed.
Geez, I feel like Tony Robbins right now.
But, seriously, decide now that you’ll see success — in whatever shape or form. And, you will.
Just do it
There’s power in doing, right? So, just do it. Learn as much as you can about the diet and practice what you learn. One thing I found worked for me, especially during the first couple weeks of the diet was to constantly read Whole30 blogs, forums and articles — so I could immerse myself in the mentality and culture. And, it helped.
It might be hard for the first few weeks, but just keep doing it. Keep following it and by the time you realize it — you’ve created a habit. The lifestyle has become who you are and it’s easier to resists temptations, because (at least for me) sugar cravings aren’t as intense. And, can easily be satisfied with a banana or a cup of grapes.
As I said before — there’s a power in doing. It’s really that simple.
There is probably a lot more that I could add about my experience with Whole30. I have nothing to complain about. Well, maybe except my lack of nacho consumption the past couple of months. But, really — it’s not been that bad. I will say this though — I used to eat a lot of cheese. Being lactose intolerant that was kinda stupid. But, that’s a post for another day.
I’ve mentioned this above, throughout this post and throughout my experience. The goal of Whole30 isn’t to just crash diet and change your eating habits for JUST 30 days. It’s about resetting your health. It’s about creating new healthy habits. It’s about weaning yourself off sugar. And, helping you recognize what you’re putting into your body.
Your health is your responsibility. Nobody else’s. Nobody forces you to eat anything — besides yourself. What goes into your body is really up to you. And, I think this concept really resonated with me, because I’ve had so many issues the past couple of years with my thyroid.
I looking to doctors for a solution, when really I just needed to take back that responsibility and change how I was fueling myself. My thyroid has responded positively. A lot of that I believe is because my body reacts negatively to gluten (typical thyroid reaction). So, when I finished with my third round of Whole30 — I’ll continue that aspect in my diet.
But, don’t be afraid to do it. Especially if you are seriously about changing your health or righting a ship that’s gone wayward. It will make a difference. It might not be THE difference, but it will make a difference.
Feel free to contact me with any questions about my experience. I also Instagram some of workouts and meals on @fight4phat — and sometimes on @josherwalla. So feel free to check them out if you wish.