So I don't cook. Like at all. I have a crock pot and I make 2 hardboiled eggs every morning (with an egg cooker) and that's about the extent of it. Otherwise, I live on goldfish crackers, any form of Mexican food, diner breakfast food, and cans of Campbell's chunky soup.
(EDITED: TIME OUT Y'ALL...since writing this blog post I've started doing Blue Apron and their Whole30 meals! I'm OBSESSED with how delicious everything has been and super impressed with my cooking abilities, and it's super easy since they send it all to you pre-portioned out. Click here to save $30 on your first order with my referral code!)
Picture 2016: most of my body had shooting nerve pain due to a slipped disc in my neck. Everything hurt and I was killing myself with photography work every day. I was most definitely NOT working out or eating well. I had my neck surgery late 2016, and by early 2017 I had probably gained about 20 pounds (I had naturally lost about 20 pounds after graduating college in spring of 2014, so I was right back where I had been in college post-the freshman 30.)
I knew I needed to make a change, and I was still a bit fragile from having the neck surgery, so I wasn't ready to hit the gym hardcore or anything. I was still having nerve pain issues (and still am for the record) but I had read somewhere that certain foods can cause inflammation and doing Whole30 could potentially narrow down what those things are- while also losing weight at the same time. I figured this could *maybe* help with my back and neck pain while also kickstarting a healthier mindset for me.
My friend Paige was really the one who sold me on doing Whole30, and she writes about her first Whole30 experience here.
I knew I wanted to do Whole30 pretty much from January of 2017 on, but I wanted to be strategic about when I did it. Mardi Gras is in Feb in Louisiana and you'd be an idiot to try this during then LOL. I also knew festival season would be coming up in April (AKA beer every weekend) and then I was going to New York in May and wanted to be able to eat and try whatever I wanted. Basically, March was my window.
So in March 2017, I went for it. I had read a little bit about the rules and I'm not going to lie...it's super intimidating if you don't already lead a healthy lifestyle (like me.)
The Whole30 Program Rules
Yes: Eat real food.
"Eat moderate portions of meat, seafood, and eggs; lots of vegetables; some fruit; plenty of natural fats; and herbs, spices, and seasonings. Eat foods with very few ingredients, all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they’re whole and unprocessed."
No: Avoid for 30 days.
- Do not consume added sugar, real or artificial.
- Do not consume alcohol, in any form, not even for cooking.
- Do not eat grains.
- Do not eat legumes.
- Do not eat dairy.
- Do not consume carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites.
- Do not consume baked goods, junk foods, or treats with “approved” ingredients.
After the 30 days, you isolate these groups and re-introduce them into your diet one by one. So really you're doing more than 30 days, but it's like a controlled science experiment to see which things that you cut out before affect you negatively when you bring them back in... so in the future you can decide if those things are worth it to you or not to eat. For example, I realized feta cheese messes with my stomach (which is tragic because I love Greek food) so I have now realized yes it is worth it but I might have to be aware of my plans whenever I eat it lol... was that an overshare?
SO WTF DO YOU EAT EVERY DAY?
Like I said, I already eat 2 hardboiled eggs with Tony's on them every morning (TONY'S IS APPROVED, LOOK IT UP! NO ADDED SUGAR! If you're not from Louisiana and you don't know what Tony Chachere's is, you need to get up on that because I put it on every form of food possible.)
When you're doing Whole30 and you're not eating as many grains to fill you up, you kind of end up eating a lot more, but just of the approved healthier foods. So basically I carried my Scooby Doo lunchbox everywhere with fruits, veggies, and cold hamburger patties (lol) whenever I needed food on the go.
I know I'm probably not really selling you on this because I'm not cooking their beautiful recipes (there are some baller recipes that exist if you're into that) but I did want to prove that it's possible to do this for 30 days with little to no cooking effort. I did try and take colorful fun photos of what I WAS eating though throughout the process (does that count?!)
Mostly what I ate on a daily basis was avocado with Trader Joe's pico on top, TONS AND TONS OF LA CROIX, blackberries or strawberries with my eggs in the morning, LOTS AND LOTS OF SWEET POTATOES that I cut into strips and baked like fries, baked potato with Tony's and Ghee (this is just clarified butter, it legit tastes the same but doesn't have the dairy in it) baked chicken or grilled chicken with olive oil and green beans... see where I'm going here? This stuff all tastes good and it's not that hard if you're eating at home. Now eating out is a different story and virtually impossible, so I recommend doing that to a minimum during those 30 days.
MY TIPS FOR SURVIVING WHOLE30
1. Be openminded
If you want this 30 day experiment to be a success, you're going to need to try some new things. I thought a lot of the rules were crazy, but being openminded lead me to some new life changing discoveries! Like realizing I liked tomatoes! Which is craziness because I grew up refusing to eat tomatoes. But during Whole30 and really ever since then I can sit down and eat a tomato straight with some salt and pepper on it. I also stopped putting sugar in my coffee and tea during these 30 days and that's a habit I've carried on to this day. I've switched from dairy to cashew milk and it really tastes the same to me.
ALSO LA CROIX. HOLY MOLY. I tried La Croix about 2 years ago and thought it was the nastiest beverage on the planet. I did not realize why people liked it. When I found out that it was compliant with Whole30 because it didn't have sugar, I tried it again and GOT HOOKED. I am like a crack addict with La Croix. Big big fan. I go through a case about every 3 days, it's insane. I barely drink anything but La Croix, tea, and coffee now and those 3 things are much healthier for you than soda (espeically now that I'm not adding sugar to any of it.)
2. PLAN AHEAD
This is going to be real hard for those of you who aren't planners: It's about the only way you're going to survive without cheating. I wasn't intensely meal prepping like a psycho with pre-portioned out containers or anything, BUT when I baked chicken I'd bake enough for the week. If I did my George Foreman grill with hamburger patties, I'd make enough to put in the fridge for emergencies (cold hamburger patties on the go in your car isn't as bad as it sounds and will work in a pinch when you're out in the world and can't drive through fast food somewhere.) If I knew we were going out to eat for some reason, I'd bring along a Lara bar or an RX bar (those are both pretty much the only approved bars out there because they're not made with granola or added sugar.)
Be strategic about when you are going to do this too! I would not recommend doing this during the holidays, if you have a big trip planned, or if you have a big event planned like a wedding or festival. Make sure you have at least a 10 day buffer between ending and doing something you know you'll eat non-compliant things at. When you eat this healthy for 30 days and then randomly eat something like cheese or grains you might make yourself really sick and that's no fun. When I reintroduced beer back into my diet right afterwards, it was so sweet I couldn't even finish it. Can you imagine if I had tried to go to a bar or something? Honestly the saddest part about the 30 days was going out to eat for my boyfriend's birthday and standing in the corner while they cut the cake. But hey everyone will love you because you can be the DD!
3. REFRAIN FROM EATING OUT
This was hands down the hardest part about Whole30. I eat out for almost every meal since I don't cook, but during these 30 days it's literally a pain in the butt to find anything to eat anywhere that's compliant. You can't just get salad at a restaurant, because the dressing might have sugar in it or cheese. You can't just get grilled chicken at a restaurant, because it was probably marinated in something that had sugar. You can't just get a baked potato at a restaurant, because it probably has butter on it. You have to ask a million questions and then the waiter hates you and then you look like a celebrity diva and then you end up just going to eat the cold hamburger patty in your car anyways. Really just keep the eating out to a minimum, you'll thank me later.
4. VISUALIZE THE OUTCOME
This is not an easy 30 days, but you can't give up! I have never felt prouder of myself than when I finished these 30 days without caving. I didn't cheat and I lost 11 pounds. I felt amazing. Visualizing the outcome is what kept me going all month. The first week was the hardest- I had migraines, I was groggy and sleepy (from cutting out sugar mostly) but after that I really started to feel like a million bucks. You have to remember this is not meant for you to do forever. This is not an entire lifestyle eating plan. This is just 30 days to reset your body and find out what negatively affects you in the future. You'll get to eat cake and bread and alcohol again! But you'll learn how to do it in moderation. Doing Whole30 changed my life. Although I eventually fell off the wagon, I always had this experience in the back of my mind, and now I know I can always do it again if I'm feeling icky. Knowing that it was just going to get easier kept my head held high about the whole situation. And I wouldn't be writing this longass blog post about it if I didn't think it was worth it!
5. BE PUBLIC ABOUT IT
I knew that I would give up if I didn't tell everyone and their mother that I was doing this. I posted on Facebook, I did multiple posts on Instagram, I told random strangers at the grocery store... I made sure EVERYONE KNEW that I was committed. I encourage y'all to do the same, otherwise there will be no accountability and it'll be easier for you to cheat. I found most people were interested and supportive (except for waiters at restaurants who were just annoyed. See #3.)
IF I CAN DO IT, I KNOW YOU CAN TOO
I strongly encourage you to go for it if you are already thinking about it! There is a huge community out there with tips, recipes, and motivation if you're nervous. I always tell people it was a crash course in self discipline, and I ended up losing 11 pounds (this was just with food, no exercise!) As I'm writing this blog post, I'm also on day 1 of my second round doing this- so wish me luck. If you have any other questions or tips to add, feel free to comment them below!