The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom
By Stephen McClain, Reference Department
No one likes the word diet. I can honestly say that I have never been on one, but I have always been conscious of what I eat and want to know where my food comes from. One month before beginning the Whole30 Program, I had never even heard of it, nor was I considering a change in my lifestyle. I worked out regularly and felt pretty good; at least I thought I did. I had sent a friend an email about some new Jack Daniel’s product that I thought we should try and he replied that his wife had him on “this Whole30 thing” and he couldn’t have any booze. I wrote back, “What the heck is that?” Little did I know, this bit of serendipity would change my life.
After very little consideration, my wife and I decided to challenge ourselves and try the Whole30 program. It is important to remember that this is not a diet or a “cleanse”. It is a program that is designed to reset your metabolism and create habits of healthy choices. The program is intended to eliminate processed foods and added sugars from your diet. As the name implies, you eat whole foods (those with few or no ingredients) for 30 days. And there is no “cheating” or “slip ups.” If you deviate from the plan, you must start over from day 1. The great thing about the Whole30 program is that you can have as much as you want of the approved foods. There is no excuse to be hungry. I was apprehensive to begin because I enjoy my evening cocktail (or 3) and the Whole30 program does not allow alcohol. Nor does it permit dairy, legumes, bread, grains, peanuts or peanut butter, honey or anything with added sugar (visit www.whole30.com for a complete and exact list of restrictions and approved foods).
So we jumped in. It is important to note that you don’t just “do” the Whole30. You have to plan and prep your house. We separated and labeled foods in our kitchen that were not Whole30 approved. We moved the booze out of sight and planned the week’s meals in advance. (I take the liberty of using the word “we.” My wife did most of the planning and cooking.) In just the first 2 or 3 days, I noticed that I was sleeping better. I had more energy and my head was clearer. Then came day 4. I felt like I had a mild hangover all day. A hangover that I didn’t deserve. I think it was sugar detox. But that was the worst for me. I started out counting the days until we were finished and by week 3, I didn’t even care. Day by day, we were creating new habits in place of the old ones. Sometime during week 3, I got the tiger blood. I can’t explain it; you just have to experience it yourself. I think it can be compared to a runner’s high. Unfortunately, it is difficult to socialize with friends during the program because most socialization revolves around food and drink, but a true friend will understand. And we went to the grocery store about every other day to maintain stock of the necessary fresh foods. Some people fear the financial aspect of buying fresh, whole foods, but the cost is off-set by not spending money at restaurants or on other unhealthy foods. But we still ate a lot of delicious foods: salads with lean protein, fish, chicken breast, burgers (without the bun), baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, bacon and eggs and fresh fruits. One of the best meals I remember was seared pork tenderloin with mushrooms and broiled rosemary potatoes. We made French fries in the oven. We made our own mayonnaise and salad dressing. We made almond butter to eat on bananas.
Then something happened to me completely by accident. I have had an allergy to watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, kiwi… (stuff like that) for as long as I can remember. It makes my throat and soft palate itch and if I have too much, it becomes difficult to swallow. So I stay away from it. Every once in a while, I would have a couple bites of watermelon and deal with the consequences, but no more than that. We were at the grocery store one evening and I saw a display of fruit bowls with watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes, and strawberries. It looked good. I just wanted the grapes and strawberries. When we got home with it, I decided to have a piece of watermelon. It was really good so I had another. I usually feel the mild allergic affects quickly but nothing happened. I had another and another. Nothing. This had plagued me for most of my life and now it’s gone? It could be a coincidence but that’s a big coincidence. (Author’s note: As per the Seinfeld episode called “The Statue,” There are no small coincidences and big coincidences. There are only coincidences.)
Day 30 came and went. One of the rules of the Whole30 program is that you are not allowed to weigh or measure yourself during the 30 days. I got on the scale at the end of 30 days and I had lost close to 10 pounds. On day 35, which was the weekend, we decided to celebrate by opening one of our saved bottles of Canadian Cab Franc. It was…ok. I LOVE Cab Franc, especially from southern Ontario. That which I thought I would miss so much was just…ok.
To say that the Whole30 program changed my life is cliché, but I don’t know how else to put it. The website gives a plan on reintroduction of foods that were eliminated during the 30 days. It is not recommended to just go back to the way you were eating before because you will want to know how your body will react to individual food groups. I have not really missed any food enough to reintroduce it and we have basically been eating Whole30 for about 4 months. Of course, completely avoiding added sugar is nearly impossible, but following the Whole30 lifestyle, with an occasional indulgence has become a new way of living well. Overall, I sleep better and wake rested, have much more energy during the day, have a much clearer head and have lost a total of 12 pounds (my wife lost 26). Check out The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom or begin with It Starts with Food by Melissa Hartwig. Both titles are available at the Williamson County Public Library. It will change your life.
…and I’ve eaten about a dozen watermelons by now.
This program seems to spread mostly by word-of-mouth.
As always, the personal experiences that are revealed here are the sole province of the author and may not be reflective of the opinions of any other WCPL employees, their children, or their vegetable gardens.
If you want to learn more about the Whole 30 or find cookbooks to help you eat better:
- It Starts with Food (613.2 HAR)
- The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom (613.2 HAR)
- The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Food You Were Designed to Eat (613.2 COR)
- Primal Body, Primal Mind: Beyond the Paleo Diet for Total Health and a Longer Life (615.854 GED)
- Clean & Hungry: Easy All-Natural Recipes for Healthy Eating in the Real World (641.302 LIL)
- Your Personal Paleo Code: The 3-Step Plan to Lose Weight, Reverse Disease, and Stay Fit and Healthy for Life (613.2833 KRE)
- Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-Foods Lifestyle (641.56383 SAN)
- Clean Eats : Over 200 Delicious Recipes to Reset Your Body’s Natural Balance and Discover What It Means to Be Truly Healthy (641.563 JUN)