By: Jessica Hale, Single Mom of Two
The Whole30 Program, a plan to change your eating habit and your health, is featured in It Starts with Food, a book written by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. The program began as a personal experiment by Melissa in which she shared her experience via blog. That was nine-years-ago. Since then, it has become a well-known program, with thousands of followers. The Whole30 program is not for the faint of heart. Nor does it promise immediate and fast weight loss.
The Whole30 plan challenges you, frustrates, and even angers you. No sugar. No dairy. No grains. No processed foods. No apologies. Thirty days of strict clean-eating designed to detox your system and promote healing from within. I know, it sounds like boot camp in some alternate universe. But what I can say is, if you are serious about eliminating sugar and processed foods from your life and you are serious about feeling better, undertaking this program is truly worth the effort and commitment.
The program has a few rules to follow. In addition to cutting out a lot of foods we regularly eat like sugar, smoking is prohibited. It is recommended that you quit smoking before starting this program. Another very difficult rule, no stepping on the scale or taking measurements for 30 days. Wait, what? How do I track my progress? How do I know I am losing weight? I know, the scale has become that friend we hate but always seem to invite to the party. We are so addicted to what it says, we can’t imagine a bathroom without one. Which is exactly the point. While you can record your weight on day one, the intention is to focus on food and healthy habits without worrying about what the scale says. I’m not going to lie, this was a hard one for me during the program. Did I cheat? Yes, I stepped in the scale. I’m human.
So, what foods do you have to give up? Many, like the entire grocery store … kidding. First, anything with sugar in it goes, including natural and alternative sweeteners like stevia, agave nectar, coconut sugar, and chemical sweeteners found in diet sodas and foods. Reading food labels is necessary to avoid hidden sugars. Next come dairy, grains (including corn), legumes (soy and peanuts included), beans, alcohol, or any processed foods.
The reasoning behind eliminating all of these foods is their likelihood of causing all sorts of health issues from inflammation and chronic pain to a myriad of digestive issues. Removing all of these foods at once gives your body an opportunity to cleanse and restart. And there are no exceptions. If you cheat, the rules state you must start and go back to day 1.
That leaves us with a clear of a list of what we can eat. Whole, natural, one-ingredient foods, like fruits, vegetables, nuts (except peanuts) and seeds, eggs, seafood, and natural fats (olive oil and nut butters). Clarified butter, or ghee, is also allowed since the whey products have been removed. Vinegars, green beans, snow peas, coconut aminos (in lieu of soy sauce), fruit juice (used as a natural sweetener in some recipes), and salt are also okay. Really, a lot of food is left to eat, but let me tell you, planning and meal prep time are paramount.
Trust me, the last thing you want on this program is to be hungry and not have anything planned to eat. While on this program, I have resorted to opening a can of tuna and eating it straight from the can. Oh, and if you want mayo for that tuna, you better have made it yourself. It’s easier than you think and is worth the extra effort to stay Whole30 compliant. My personal favorite homemade mayonnaise is from a book called Well Fed, by Melissa Joulwan.
Even so, I was game. I mean, it’s only 30 days, right? Well, it was no vacation. I went through a few withdrawal phases during this program. I experienced headaches, fatigue, body aches, crankiness, and was in an overall bad mood for the first 10 days. I craved sugar and bread like my life depended on it. I was not fun to be around. By the third week, my eating choices were almost on autopilot. I knew what I could eat and what was important to have available in the house. And by the end of it all, I had lost 6 pounds and felt fantastic. I felt empowered, I had survived, and I had succeeded. Even today, I don’t crave or need sugar. In fact, sugary foods and sweets are way too rich and make me feel awful, so I simply avoid them. I am a more creative cook, and I avoid processed and fast food. And, all things considered, I would do it again.