Have you heard of the Whole30?
It's 30 days (or more, if you choose) of eating a very specific, clean way.
(In this case, specific means essentially "Paleo," if you will.) The very basic idea: you eat meats, eggs, healthy fats, veggies, fruit, nuts and seeds for 30 days...and no grains, dairy, legumes, added sugars or nasty preservatives/additives.
Anyways, I started my second Whole30 a few weeks before finding out I was pregnant...I fully intended to finish. I was eating super-healthy! That's good for growing a baby!
My body, however, had other plans...and the intense morning sickness I usually experience (as well as SERIOUS food aversions) started creeping in, hot and heavy, at the beginning of the last week. Once I started gagging at the thought of eating meat or anything green...I knew it was time to end my Whole30 and do what I could to eat something while trying to survive the rest of the first trimester.
However, I still wanted to reflect on the "Whole21" I had instead, especially because it was my second time around; I'd like to think it gives me an extra layer of experience to share. Or an extra layer of crazy. You decide.
I am a big fan of the Whole30 and what it did for me, and what it can do for others. So I'll totally tell you everything awesome about it and give you all kinds of support if you're wanting to try it.
HOWEVER! I don't necessarily believe it's a great lifestyle...or the best way to eat forever-and-ever-amen. In other words, by praising the Whole30 I am not necessarily praising a paleo way of life from here on out. Just wanted to make that distinction.
That said, what I do think is this: it's a great "nutritional bootcamp." It is 30 days of eliminating things that could possibly be issues, and stockpiling your body with the densest sources of nutrition available. It's also a great way to wean a reliance on refined sources of carbohydrates, an opportunity to appreciate your vegetables, and a way to force yourself to learn better habits and skills in consuming whole foods in general! The book It Starts With Food (the book that birthed the Whole30...I got the Kindle version for 10ish dollars) calls it hitting the "reset" button on your metabolism. I like to think of it like that. It's a 30 day "reset" for your body.
-The beginning of the Whole30 always starts out really exciting for me. I'm gung-ho for the first 5 days (minus whatever "withdrawal" symptoms I'm toughing through...usually some mild headaches and shakiness), then on days 5-7 I'm over the honeymoon period and seriously itching to fall back on old habits (I just want a freaking grilled cheese sandwich for lunch!). Luckily, that's also when the physical benefits start making themselves apparent, so thank goodness for that. It motivates me to keep sticking it out when, suddenly, I notice my pants are feeling loose-ish...and my sleep has been sooo deep and restful.
-The middle is where I get start to search out new recipes and inspiration, re-read motivating sections of the book, remind myself of the science of what's happening to my body, and get real with my demons that make me want to eat when I'm stressed or nervous or bored.
-There are SO many great recipes out there. Some are also not-so-great. I found the best resources to be recipes from other bloggers doing the actual Whole30 (versus just Paleo-lifestyle recipes) because they usually give honest feedback as far as how it turned out (based on the tastebuds of someone who hasn't been eating that way for months/years) and almost always had ingredients I didn't have to "edit" myself because they were all Whole30-approved. I posted four DELICIOUS recipes here, and have a Pinterest board with ideas here. I also took a bunch of pictures of my food on my Instagram account (username @essaieblog) so you can check there, too.
-Tip: read the book It Starts With Food. You can totally do the Whole30 without it, and it seems like the writers of the book are just trying to get you to buy their book with all this Whole30 stuff, which is probably true...BUT! I found it SO helpful in the difficult moments to imagine what this good food was doing for my body, and to think about the biology of it all. The book breaks it down simply, so it was good info to fall back on when I was asking myself WHYYYY the heck I was doing this again... haha.
-Prepare. I actually just jumped into doing it both times with no warning (when the inspiration and motivation are strong, BEGIN!) but aside from the just-starting part, you've got to plan your meals ahead of time. Maybe it means having a big cooking day every week, maybe it means just cooking a bunch at a time to use the next day, too. However you do it, prepare and plan. For the 30 days you feel like you are constantly in the kitchen, and every dish you own gets used. But it's totally worth it, and it's only for a month. My favourite thing I did to prep this last time was to buy a bunch of ground meat and make a GIANT batch of cooked meatballs to keep in a big bag in the freezer. SO HANDY, sooo tasty.
-I like that the writers give you tough love and say that it's NOT HARD...not like fighting cancer or dealing with the death of a loved one. Because that part is true. However, it's definitely not easy-peasy either. It will force you to face your bad habits with food and emotional attachments to it...which can be a pretty rocky road of getting to know yourself. But also? You can totally do it. You really can. And when you do, it will be this (dare-I-say-it) life-changing thing where you realize that you did it. And you have all these great skills to build on now.
-I can't speak for this time around, but the first time I did it, I finished feeling so much better: sleeping well, staying satisfied between meals, getting into a groove with meal prep, and so on. I did, however, also notice that as the 30 day mark drew closer, my body was "ready" to be done and start "diversifying" again; I started just wanting a meal without animal protein, feeling like I wanted a few more fruits, and was excited to add legumes back in (of all the things...beans! haha!).
-Don't weigh yourself the entire 30 days. Seriously, don't! It's a "rule" of the Whole30, but it's totally worth it to be surprised at the end, and to not risk discouraging yourself in the middle. It's not supposed to be about weight loss, it's about getting healthy on the inside...but it's probably going to happen regardless, so just enjoy the surprise, mkay? Mkay.
-Take advantage of the post-Whole30 to add things back in slowly! Once the 30 days are up, it will be SOOO tempting to just dive straight into that thing (or all the things) you've been dyyyying to have; but this is a rare opportunity to really see what foods affect your body. It's a lesson in patience, but add each food group back in one day at a time and test the waters. I highly recommend it, especially since there probably won't be another time (at least very soon) where you have eliminated certain foods from your diet for 30 entire days. Golden opportunity.
-I didn't do the Whole30 with my kids or husband; so I would prep a Whole30 meal, then add a thing or two that was non-Whole30 compliant (like garlic bread, yogurt, or cheese to sprinkle on their spaghetti, for example) for our big meals together. I usually prepared my breakfast (and sometimes lunch) separately...but planned that their meals were quick and simple so that I wasn't ACTUALLY spending every waking minute in the kitchen, even if it felt like it. ;)
-If you're also doing it alone, follow a bunch of other Whole30-ers and even Paleo-eaters on your social media sites! It seriously helps SO much for support and motivation when you're scrolling through your Instagram feed and there is idea after idea for your next meal plan. Yum. One to make sure is on your IG feed for sure: @whole30recipes (Thanks, Erin!)
So there you have it. I think that's all I can dump out of my brain on that topic for now. Ha!
(Also: The post where I announced starting the Whole30 here.)
Any other questions? Thoughts? Share in the comments! I'd love to answer any questions I can!