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Holy Cow! Whole30 (or, How To Lose 10lbs in 30 Days)

Reading over past blog entries, I hadn’t realized how much I’ve changed since I started this blog two years ago. I went from an aspiring vegetarian and marathon-hopeful with worsening digestive issues, mood and skin problems to an aspiring cavewoman and black-belt hopeful with ever-increasing energy, well-being and self esteem.

I intend on explaining this transition in more detail in subsequent posts, but I’d like to start today off with a huge success!

As of yesterday, I have successfully completed my first Whole30 program, which is basically a 30-day, strict introduction to the wide range of paleo, primal, or ancestral styles of eating. If you’ve never heard those terms before, let me summarize it by saying it feels like the opposite of being a vegetarian. I have to laugh sometimes reading Facebook, since it seems like half my friends are trying to eat fewer animals, where the other half are trying to eat more.

I’ve been flirting with this way of eating for about a year now, but this is the first time I really stuck with a strict program that cut out the last few “gray area” foods I was having trouble doing without. It is the beginning of a journey of health discovery for me as I finally resolve or control some lifelong issues I had considered to be normal (eczema, depression, asthma, indigestion, fatigue, bloating, to name a few).

That said… how about some numbers?! If all y’all are half as geeky as I remember you being, you’ll love this shizz.

Before and After

Height: 5’8″
Weight: 160lbs
Body Fat*:  30.5%
Bust: 35″
Waist: 29″
Hips: 37″
Thigh: 24″
Height: 5’8″ (same, duh)
Weight: 150lbs (-10lbs)
Body Fat*:  30% (-0.5%)
Bust: 35″ (same — hooray!)
Waist: 27.75″ (-2.25″)
Hips: 35″ (-2″)
Thigh: 22.5″ (-1.5″)

*measured via bioimpedance

As a point of reference, here are photos comparing what I looked like in 2011 (at a weight of only 155lbs), looking sad and distended, vs. my fourth week of Whole30, feeling awesome enough to track my progress in a bikini top. πŸ˜‰

Quite a difference, yeah?

So what exactly does this Whole30 “gig” (as Robb Wolf would say) look like? Did I cheat? Is it hard? Did it suck?

No, I did not have a “perfect” Whole30. Although I have never had a full-on eating disorder, I did spent many years with disordered eating habits, and I know that being too strict could trigger me to swing back 180 degrees out of the program. I had a few paleo treats and several alcoholic drinks during the program.

Did the food taste good? YES! Oh man, yes. I avoided “low fat” items like the plague, had all sorts of delicious dressings and sauces, enjoyed deviled eggs, and tried all sorts of new recipes that I totally loved. After making a couple meal planning tweaks halfway through the program (such as eating a real breakfast rather than subsisting on iced coffee), I got my appetite under control, and only was hungry a couple times a day before mealtime.

Was it hard? Yes, and no. The hardest part for me was the cooking portion, as I only ate three meals out during the entire program. Melissa from The Clothes Make The Girl summarizes my feelings about cooking pretty well:

I love Cooking and hate making dinner […]. Cooking is art and love and experimentation and relaxation and fun. Making dinner is β€œIf I don’t get that food from its ingredient state into dinner state and into my mouth soon, I’m going to murder someone.”

I navigated my Whole30 using the detailed kitchen management and meal planning section of her great cookbook, Well Fed. Since I’m still pretty new to cooking, this translated to around 10 hours per weekend putzing around the kitchen prepping veggies, pre-cooking several kinds of meat, mixing up homemade sauces, and basically getting everything ready for a week of hassle-free breakfasts, lunches and dinners. However, I’m starting to really get the hang of it, so I don’t think it will be this time consuming for long.

The other hard thing for me was battling the Sugar Monster. Sugar — even natural sugars like honey and maple syrup — is delicious, deceitful, and does not agree with me at all. It’s also very addicting and difficult to kick. It takes me about two weeks to stop getting sugar cravings if I haven’t been careful about avoiding added sugars.

However, it was not hard in that, from around Day 3 on, I realized I prefer eating this way. I feel better, I look better, I perform better, and I like the food much better than I ever liked vegan grilled cheese sandwiches. I’ll slave in the kitchen for a day or two a week to maintain that, no complaints.

A Day In The Life: Whole30 Version

Last but not least, here’s the day-by-day experience of my last 30 days. I hope it helps reassure the current crop of August Whole30-ers. I also hope that maybe it will convince the fence sitters to dig in and give it a try.

It’s only 30 days, what could you possibly lose?

Day 1
: OMG. So. TIRED. Brain doesn’t want to work. (“Carb flu”…) The fiance is still wondering what I was babbling about tonight before I went to bed and passed out. I made no sense at all.
Day 2: Decent energy for kardio kickboxing. For some reason my hands were shaking badly during my afternoon henna gig. Thankfully, henna is a very forgiving art form. Down 3.4 pounds in water weight, my dress pants finally fit comfortably in the waist again.
Day 3: I’ve slept like crap all week (keep having to get up to pee in the middle of the night, plus I was sore from kickboxing), but my energy levels and mood were fantastic in the afternoon. Did my weekly shopping list and literally spent all day in the kitchen. Will pay off in easy lunches and dinners all week.
Day 4: Still getting up several times a night to pee. My ring is really loose this morning, indicating that my fingers aren’t bloated anymore. Feeling marginally more mentally capable today, haha.
Day 5: Didn’t sleep well last night due to stress. Might take magnesium tonight and see if that helps. My Sunday Cook-a-Thon paid off; I’ve had plenty of homemade food to eat and take to work with me. Good thing, too, because I am HUNGRY today!
Day 6: Noticed today that my lips aren’t as chapped as usual (harsh desert climate makes it hard to avoid). I’m not drinking gallons of water, but I am drinking more than usual. All the veg must help too!
Day 7: I’d say my first week has been a success! My BodyShot iPhone app says I’m down 6lbs (!) and 2.75″ (!!!). Still figuring out the food volume thing. I’m hungry a lot, but not “hangry,” which I think is an important distinction. I was so relaxed today that it felt like it should be illegal, being a work day and all.
Day 8: Objectively, I can’t tell if I look any different, but my attitude towards my appearance has gotten a definite upgrade! I guess it helps when your tummy isn’t bloated and sore all the time. My fiance told me this morning that I’m lookin’ good. πŸ™‚
Day 9: Ran a 5K today. I don’t think I have my fueling down quite yet, because my legs (and arms?!) were incredibly fatigued by the end. Got a good deal on Fallon cantaloupe from Lattin Farms at the farmers market, so this week is going to be a little higher carb!
Day 10: Sleep is still interrupted as I apparently have to get up every two hours to pee. WTF? My fridge is BURSTING with food after today’s cook-a-thon, but I definitely need to get more efficient. It took all day. For the first time since I started the Whole 30, I felt pleasantly full** after a meal (roasted organic, local chicken — what a treat! — plus roasted carrots and mashed yams). Wondering if the extra carb helped.
Day 11: Had a couple meal flops, which increased my cravings for non-Whole 30 fare.
Day 12: Caved in and fed the sugar monster today with a package of Hail Merry macaroons. The ingredients are all paleo, but they still contain added sugars. πŸ™‚ Feeling good, though, and Eat Different tells me I’ve avoided grains, legumes, dairy and processed food for 12 days straight.
Day 13: My schedule dictated a rather late lunch today, but I felt pretty good on my usual coffee plus a snack of raw nuts and berries until mid-afternoon. My energy levels must be stabilizing.
Day 14: You’re not supposed to weigh yourself during the Whole 30, but I was really curious. I’m down another 1.2lbs this week, and another overall 1in.
Day 15: So tired. Went to bed super early and was exhausted by early evening again tonight.
Day 16: This may be TMI, but yesterday’s fatigue appears to be related to my cycle (light spotting today) — which is unusual, as I have used hormonal birth control for 10 years. On a partially related note, I’ve been reading at Paleo for Women that intermittent fasting (e.g., skipping breakfast) has the potential to be as unhealthy for women as it is healthy for men, so this week I’m going back to having protein with my iced coffee in the a.m.
Day 17: Cooking day! Had an easier time in the kitchen. Perhaps because I cooked more familiar dishes than brand-new ones. Over the last few days I’ve noticed my digestion has gotten a lot better, although I think there is still room for improvement.
Day 18: Adding in breakfast has helped exponentially! I had tuna salad to go this morning and have had steady energy all day long, with no hangriness as the afternoon wore on.
Day 19: Got kimchee and umeboshi (pickled plums) at the Asian market for a hit of flavor and probiotics. Meals will be fun this week!
Day 20: Lost another pound this week, plus my thighs magically shrunk by half an inch! Wonder if it’s related to estrogen regulation? My shorts all fit so much better now.
Day 21: I am on FIRE today!!! My self-esteem is super high. Attended Run Club for the first time in a few weeks. Surprisingly, I LOVE speed days and sprint workouts! Who knew! Plus, my MMA instructor who leads run club told me I’m getting definition in my thighs. To celebrate, I am wearing short shorts. πŸ™‚
Day 22: Loving life today. Enjoying work, my relationships, my pets, my garden, and very much looking forward to what the future will bring!
Day 23: Need to make sure and keep more protein snacks around, especially at the end of the week when supplies are getting low and I need to go grocery shopping. I went a little crazy with the nuts/seeds/dried fruit after working out because I was starving and didn’t have any quick, “real” food. Suffice to say it didn’t give me the energy I needed to make a healthier meal. πŸ™
Day 24: Starting to finally feel creative with cooking! This is HUGE. I’ve always had a hard time intuitively throwing dishes together.
Day 25: Sugary sweets do NOT agree with me. I had dairy and gluten free watermelon sorbet twice in the last few days, and I feel hungry and bloated today. Also, coffee with too much fat in it (whether cream or coconut milk) appears to be a bad idea for me first thing in the morning.
Day 26: Did I reset my carb burner?? Last night I was super tired, and this morning I was really groggy. However, I do feel better after a couple days without added sugar. And my tummy looks good again, too.
Day 27: Down another 1.8lbs and 2in! That makes for a total of 10lbs and 5.75in, with a few days left to go!
Day 28: I was super lazy last night and skipped making myself dinner, eating a plumb instead. That was a bad idea since Run Club was this morning! We did 400m sprints and I was having a really rough time, despite having a bit of tuna salad beforehand for breakfast. Lesson learned.
Day 29: Had a wonderful night out with friends! Cheated with alcohol, but kept the rest of my intake on-plan. I’m starting to dislike eating at restaurants. The paleo-friendly menu items always leave me hungry.
Day 30: Suffering from some Vitamin S deficiency today (SLEEP!), but overall feeling great!! Weekends are tough, and today I ended my Whole30 with a fizzle rather than a BANG! since I’m out of food and we attended a big picnic this afternoon. However, I’ve got my list ready to go for tomorrow. Looking forward to another Sunday cook-a-thon and another week of awesome paleo meals!
** Previously, I’d eat, and then I wouldn’t exactly be hungry, but I wouldn’t be full, either. My stomach just felt confused.

And now its time to start… Day 31!

Have you ever done a Whole30, or are you doing one now?
What is your experience with paleo?
Leave your comments and questions below! 

21 thoughts on “Holy Cow! Whole30 (or, How To Lose 10lbs in 30 Days)

  1. This is super inspiring… going to show it to the other half tonight and see if I can persuade him to try this out. Congratulations on a solid success!! You look fantastic πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you! And I don’t know what I would have done without the kitchen planning part of your cookbook. Steam sauteed veg and brined, grilled chicken have to happen every week or I’m screwed, lol. Plus, about 20 people on Instagram asked me, “What the heck is sunshine sauce?” …the best thing EVER, that’s what. πŸ˜‰

    1. Thanks! Incidentally, it’s also helping my pushups. I just haven’t been logging them in Fitocracy because I’m usually doing them as part of a class πŸ˜‰

  2. CONGRATULATIONS Elaine! You discovered many things during the 30 days and are looking great! Keep up the good work staying healthy. I’ve been on the Paleo plan 6 months, am 30lbs lighter and now 20 BMI. This is definitely a discovery in health. Each month it gets easier to give up the sugar.

    1. Mom, you’re the reason I had the courage to give it an honest to goodness try, one more time, but by the book! Every time I wonder about how hard it might be to keep this up for another week I think of your glowing, happy face and I know I can do it.

  3. Just stumbled onto your blog while trying to figure out why I’m suddenly spotting — on day 7 of whole30. I’m so happy to see that I’m not the only one who has to get up a million times a night to pee! I didn’t even realize that was associated with the diet but now I’m betting it is. Thanks for posting the day by day breakdown. I’m a runner/athlete too so this is right up my alley πŸ™‚

    1. I’m so glad it helped! And also that I wasn’t alone in the effects it had on my hormones. It was eye-opening enough that since my Whole30 I’ve switched to a non-hormonal birth control method.

      Enjoy the rest of your Whole30! If your experience is anything like mine, you’re about to hit the sweet spot, and you’re going to feel like a million bucks. πŸ˜€

  4. You did not do a whole 30 if you cheated. The whole point is no cheats.
    If you had alcoholic drinks and non-compliant foods, you failed. You should stop claiming you did a whole 30

  5. Hi! Just wondering if you ever stopped getting up at night to pee? I am on my second (non-consecutive) whole30 and I have to get up every night to pee. When I am not eating so well, I almost never have to get up to pee. I eat several servings of fruit a day and probably at least one serving of sweet potatoes a day. I don’t like it because I don’t sleep well after getting up to pee.

    1. Hi Kim! Yeah, I think that has to do with water retention. I’m not sure if it’s because my particular “unhealthy” foods cause inflammation for me, or if those foods are simply higher in carbs or salt or something. But the effect is definitely more pronounced if I go from feeling pretty bloated to eating moderately low-carb (which the Whole30 tends to be for most people) for a few days. When I get in the swing of paleo-ish maintenance eating, I usually don’t have to get up in the middle of the night. This could be because my happy spot has more carbs throughout the day? However, I think I also naturally fall into a habit of not drinking much of anything leading up to bedtime. If I bring a glass of water to bed with me I definitely have to get up in the middle of the night. It’s reliable enough that I will sometimes drink water right before going to bed if I have to get up early the next morning and I’m worried I might sleep through my alarm. πŸ˜‰

  6. Those pictures rock! So awesome!

    THANK YOU for being real and open in this post. I’m so happy I stumbled upon it. I read tons of articles/blogs/etc. before starting the whole 30, but you mentioned two things I hadn’t seen anywhere else…waking up at night to use the bathroom, and spotting. I experienced both, but since I had read them from you I wasn’t caught totally off-guard. (From your comments, we’re not the only ones…they really ought to mention this stuff somewhere!)

    I gave up on Day 10. I wasn’t prepared for how the restrictions would mentally affect me, and I had migraine nausea through most of those days – all my proteins and veggies repulsed me. I couldn’t hack it anymore. On Day 10 I also booked a vacation for Day 33; without being able to complete the reintroduction testing period, I lost the motivation to keep going with the 30. I’m debating whether I want to give it another shot after the vacation, or just get my diet as close as possible without striving for perfection. The 10 days were enough to show me that it is a supremely healthy way of eating with tons of benefits.

    1. I’m so happy to hear my log helped! I’m kind of surprised that I haven’t seen more about spotting anywhere either. Considering the number of comments I’ve gotten about it now in relation to the number of views this post has, I’m sure it’s a fairly common side-effect for women.

      I’m really sorry to hear that you felt so crummy. Migraines and nausea are the woooorst!!! Enjoy your vacation. And, if you do decide to try another Whole30, you could try easing in by adding more “yes” foods prior to cutting out the “no” foods. I’m on Day 12 of my second Whole30 (…well, third, but I quit my second one on like Day 6 or something haha) and that helped a lot, by reminding me that I was gaining more yummy food than I would be losing for the upcoming 30 days.

      But yeah, if the whole uber-strict thing triggers unhealthy behaviors for you, there is no shame in cleaning up your diet imperfectly! You could eliminate just gluten, just dairy, just sugar or even just soda for 30 days. Or make a point of having bone broth, grass fed beef, or oily fish once or twice a week for 30 days. Or heck, you could just pick your favorite recipes from your 10 days and add those to your usual rotation. πŸ™‚ Thanks for commenting!

      1. Thank you for your reply and suggestions! No matter what, I will definitely be doing like you said – adding more “yes” foods. The hardest part for me was not so much the big categories of food eliminated, but the strict detail standards…I made a dressing recipe using bottled lemon juice and planned to use it throughout my whole 30 before realizing it had a tiny amount of sulfite. My boyfriend couldn’t use lemon juice in a marinade for the same reason. Bought ground turkey for dinner one day but it was taco seasoned and had dextrose – froze it for later (now, haha). All natural chicken sausages that have 2 grams of sugar. It’s eye-opening. I should probably “suck it up, buttercup”…it’s only 30 days.

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