I’ve officially finished my Whole30 and I can comfortably say this one of the biggest learning experiences I’ve had in recent memory. It was difficult, especially the first week or so, but towards the end, it became much easier. Why? I formed new habits and kicked my sugar cravings. In the interest of consistency (and because I really like lists), let’s break it down like I have been the past 4 weeks: the good, the bad, and the lessons learned. OH, and the requisite bathroom before & after shot.
[before & after]
I kicked my sugar cravings: This was one of the main reasons I did the Whole30 – after the holidays my sweet tooth was out of control and it needed to be reigned in. After the first two weeks, I pretty much stopped craving sugar. Yes, I wanted wine and chocolate but more so because I just wanted something not necessarily because I wanted the sugar fix. After having some wine, chocolate, and a cookie or two on Day 31 – I can safely say that I’m over the sugar cravings. Those things were good (best part was the WINE) and I was satisfied with very little of the cookies and chocolate. This is a major win for me!
[grain free donuts with chocolate glaze will be a very occasional treat, not a craving]
I learned about my food habits: I thought I was pretty “in tune” with my body beforehand but WOW, this challenge really opened my eyes to how habitual some things were. For example, while baking for work I would go to take a “taste” or lick the spoon, out of habit. I didn’t necessarily “want” it, I just went to do it. I was also struggling with after-dinner cravings and those disappeared two weeks in – I wasn’t hungry, I just wanted something out of habit. I don’t think I would have fully realized these things without the Whole30 and honestly, it was a huge realization for me.
I lost weight: I lost 8lbs – I went into this not really expecting to lose anything. Afterall, I had been pretty much paleo for awhile and thought that it wouldn’t really affect me that much – but it did. I have SO much more to say about this but we will get to that. It just goes to show that being consistent really DOES matter.
[Jicama home fries - never tried them before but love them now!]
I refreshed my recipe & food repertoire: I made an effort to try new recipes and branch out because I was getting major food boredom and I ended up learning so much! I had forgotten how much I like things like kombucha and lamb and I don’t know if I would have “remembered” these items otherwise.
[I couldn't eat enough paleo chili]
I struggled with eating enough: I really, REALLY had to make a concerted effort to eat enough food – to the point where I had to track my macros/calories (yes, I’m aware you’re not supposed to do this but I have no issues with calorie restriction/ “dieting” and used this as information to make sure I was eating enough). Even though I felt like I was eating all.the.time., it wasn’t enough. Even my husband was surprised by this since I do eat a lot of food and often.
I lost weight: Yes, this goes in both categories. I didn’t eat enough – I lost 8lbs and all of that was muscle. Every.last.pound. Despite switching to doing more lifting and less WOD-ing, I lost a decent amount of muscle mass (I had my coach measure my body fat pre and post challenge, hence why I can say it was all muscle). I also did not PR any of my slow lifts (push press, deadlift, front squat, etc.) and was feeling very gassed during harder workouts. I have A LOT more to say on the muscle loss – but that’s a whole different post. Suffice it say, that wasn’t even close to the results I was going for BUT I learned from it.
[This was the best glass of wine I've had in a long time]
I felt too restricted at times: At times, I felt overly restricted. This feeling waned a bit towards the end but I still felt a little crazy. I just wanted something, anything that was different than what I had been eating to maintain some mental sanity.
The power of habit: This challenge really taught about how powerful habits are and how hard they are to change. It also taught me that it can be done. I had no idea how deeply engrained some of my habits were until I was forced to stare them in the face. It was definitely eye-opening. I think this is the BIGGEST benefit of the Whole30, by far.
[10# snatch PR - not really relevant, but there it is]
It helped me discover my priorities: Finding out I lost 8lbs of pure muscle pissed me off. I was NOT happy about it. Let’s look at this again – I was angry that I lost weight. Never, EVER in my life would I think that would happen. I was really shocked at my reaction, I couldn’t understand it and honestly, it took me a full day to come to grips with it. Then it hit me, being “lean” isn’t a huge priority for me – and I would have never, ever learned that without this challenge. I’m going to write up an entire post dedicated to this but suffice to say, I learned a lot about myself in this area.
[last whole30 dinner!]
I learned to take an analytical approach to food: Keeping a detailed food journal everyday really opened my eyes to some errors I was making and I don’t think I would have kept track of everything without this challenge. I didn’t over-analyze my food to death but approaching my diet in an analytical, data driven fashion was extremely helpful to my scientific brain. I could look back, see what I did, what the result was, and how I could change it to get a different result in the future. I really recommend that people journal during a challenge – it’s more beneficial than I ever thought it would be.
SO the big question is: Will I continue to eat this way?
The answer?: Yes but with some changes (and some wine). My body is very, very happy with no grains, sugar, legumes, and dairy – that’s why a paleo approach works for me. But, I obviously made some errors, and adjustments need to be made. I have to figure out how to eat enough while keeping my stomach happy and that’s going to take some work.
So, there you go! My Whole30 in a nutshell – it was an amazing, eye-opening learning experience and even though I didn’t get optimal results, I wouldn’t change a thing. This challenge has allowed me to take my nutrition to the next level and identify where I need to re-evaluate, what needs to change, and how to be better. Basically, I loved it.