What to Expect When You're Doing a Whole30 Diet

Food for Thought: I Survived #Whole30—Twice!

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If you’re reading this, it means that I made it through my second round of Whole30 and just arrived in Europe—likely in a mildly alcohol-induced jetlag coma—without killing anyone. In life, and extreme eating plans, you count your wins, y’all.

I want to start out by stating this, though: Whole30 did not change my life.

I don’t know if I expected it to per se, but everything I read on the Internet was to the effect of: “Whole30 is awesome!” or “it changed my approach to food!” or “my skin was so dewy and I lost weight and my mind cleared and I’m basically Anna Kendrick!”

Well, maybe my mind didn’t need clearing or my skin dew-ing (we all know I could benefit from having a bit more Anna Kendrick in me) … because I didn’t feel any of those effects.

What to Expect When You're Doing a Whole30 Diet

But, I do feel great. I got rid of that bloating that had been haunting me since my work travel schedule went into crazy mode beginning in April. I feel accomplished by sticking to a goal for 27 straight days (the length of time I did it this round pre-Europe trip). And yes, I lost weight.

For me, ultimately, Whole30 was primarily a mental challenge the first round last August: I wanted to see if I could eliminate all of those toxins to my body for a month as I figured out what it was that was making me sick so frequently. Was gluten the culprit? Was I allergic to dairy? Were raw greens busting my gut?

I also wanted to lose weight—I’m a woman and only human; I figure this is just implied—and doing this leading up to my sister’s wedding last weekend was one extreme way to do so.

The hardest part by far, though, was the not drinking part. How do you pregnant women do it? I have even more respect for you than I already did!

By The Numbers

Round 1 (August 2015)

  • Weight lost: 9 pounds
  • Starting size: 6
  • Ending size: 4
  • Inches lost: 1 (in my hips, waist, and each arm and leg)
  • Body percent lost: 3 percent

What to Expect When You're Doing a Whole30 Diet

Me, 9 pounds down, the day after I ended Whole30 the first time.

Round 2 (August 2016)

  • Weight lost: 14 pounds
  • Starting size: 8
  • Ending size: 6
  • Inches/body fat lost: didn’t measure this time

Work It: My Fitness Plan

Me, 14 pounds down, on day 22 of Whole30 the second time.

Let’s be clear: The first round I had less to lose. I was already starting at a much lower weight following two years of being mostly Paleo. I work out a lot, so going from an already healthy weight to a strict plan that eliminates all carbs, sugars and alcohols didn’t have me drastically shedding

But this second time, I was undoing all the harm that five months of nonstop food and drink assignments—plus, a newfound affinity for beer—had helped me accumulate, so I had more to lose.

What to Expect

The first few days you’ll be on a high. Life is so great! Why did I ever think I needed carbs? I can keep this up forever!

And then … you crash.

The first time for me was a total bitchfest; I was cranky for 28 straight days (the amount of time I did it the first round, since day 29 was Kari’s wedding), and the second week was by far the hardest.

What are you looking at? I’m the only bitch allowed in this household, Mom.
What to Expect When You're Doing a Whole30 Diet

This go round, those feelings were delayed and all came to a head during the third week. Luckily, my W30 accountability buddies—Jade, my sister, and my friends Katie and Dolly—all seemed to be on the same page as on day 15, we were all exchanging texts. “I think I’m going to cheat.” “I’m so over this.” “I’m BORED of food.”

I thought I’d give in so many times, but I never did, and I’m glad I didn’t. I will say that on two occasions—at both the two-week and the three-week mark—I poured myself a bourbon with water. But to each her own: It rejuvenated me and gave me the motivation to continue.

If you feel the absolute need to cheat, then do it. Maybe your body really needs that food (unless it’s sugar, in which case that’s your mind trying to play tricks on you). But then hop right back on the bandwagon—don’t let yourself spiral downward from there. No judgment here!

The Whole30 site has an excellent day-by-day timeline of what to expect to feel when.

So I’m done. Now what?

I think a big question when one finishes Whole30 is always: what next? Do I go back to eating all those poisonous things I was putting in my body before? For me, the answer is maybe…sometimes…in moderation.

What to Expect When You're Doing a Whole30 Diet

I’d still like to drop another 10 pounds and get back to a 4, which is a comfortable, healthy size for an athletic body type like mine, but I’m giving myself a break, consuming what I want to in Europe—within reason; I’m still going to go light(er) on carbs, sugar and beer—and then I might do a third round this fall. Or I might not need to if I can sustain an 80% Paleo diet, which has been SVV’s and my goal since we started eating clean back in early 2014.

SVV and I had been cooking Paleo for the better part of two years; sure, we’d cheat every now and then, throw in some pasta here or a flour tortilla there, but we rarely (if ever) do takeout and we don’t cook with preservatives. I’d say we’ll go back to this philosophy but be more cognizant of preservatives and other can’t-haves on Whole30. I’d like to stick to the plan for breakfast and lunch (the easy meals to follow in my mind), then maybe ease off the throttle for dinners—at least when I’m going out to eat.

I will not, however, eat bread simply because a server brings out a complimentary basket. Nor will I drink three beers a night just sitting at home binging on Stranger Things (side note: please tell me you’ve all watched it, and can we talk about that ending, please?). So maybe in a sense I have changed and just didn’t realize it?

Startling Revelations:

  • I don’t need sugar every night after dinner. Who knew?
  • I do crave alcohol more than I realized (more for the social aspect than anything, I think).
  • Fruit can actually be dessert (especially if you freeze a banana, blend it and drizzle peaches atop it).
  • More foods have preservatives than you think. Like bacon. And any meat really. So read those labels, folks.
  • Coffee actually tastes good without a teaspoon of coffee and double the dose of creamer. It made me appreciate higher quality beans and a good batch of cold brew.
  • You can feel your body producing its own energy.
  • You’ll sleep a lot better without the sugar, carbs and alcohol (common sense, I propose, but many of us need to be reminded of this).
  • Even though you want to punch the people who say “it’s not about the numbers,” it really isn’t about the numbers. Put that scale away from day 1 until day 30—it’s not healthy to gauge your progress by weighing daily (*speaks from experience*).
  • When you restart your system, you don’t regain that weight back plus more (unless you go on a six-month beer bender like me, heh; that said, I kept my weight stabilized for six months afterward).

My Go-To Dishes

If you’re a newbie, you’re going to want to refer to The Official “Can I Have…” Guide to Whole30 about a dozen times a day. Once you’ve got the main points drilled into your head (no soy, no legumes, no sugars or alcohol of any kinds), you’ll know what to look for when reading labels.

Breakfast:

What to Expect When You're Doing a Whole30 Diet

Lunch:

  • Sonoma Chicken Salad over a bed of lettuce
  • Baked sweet potato with ghee
  • Egg salad using W30 mayo
  • leftovers from the night before

What to Expect When You're Doing a Whole30 Diet

Snacks*:

  • Small bowl of cashews and red grapes
  • Orange, carrot and cardamom juice**
  • Larabars in extreme emergencies (i.e. when I’m out for the day and can’t find compliant food)
  • Banana “ice cream” (frozen banana, almost brown, popped in the food processor)

*Technically, Whole30 discourage snacking, but I work out for 90 minutes most days, so I need the added calories given that I’m eating so little at meals. I don’t snack out of boredom; I snack only when I’m absolutely ravenous from burning calories.

**Again, Whole30 isn’t a fan of juicing, but a) it’s easy for me to batch prepare with my hectic on-the-go schedule always and b) it’s one of the only ways I get all my vegetables in, so … do what you gotta do, I guess?

What to Expect When You're Doing a Whole30 Diet

Dinner:

  • Burger bowls (a well-seasoned burger patty over a bed of greens, sweet potato, avocado and seasonal tomatoes)
  • Peach Pan Jam (we froze enough peaches this summer to be able to make this through the spring)
  • Corned beef, cabbage and carrots cooked in a crockpot (be sure the beef is compliant)
  • Flank steak with capers and potato salad (with W30 mayo, Annie’s Dijon, hard-boiled eggs, dill from our garden, green onions, salt and pepper)
  • Thai Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes (use coconut aminos instead of soy and omit the honey)
  • Pesto chicken (basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and salt) with roasted broccoli and cauliflower
  • Cardamom-and-coriander salmon with asparagus tossed in Ghee and garlic
  • Vegetable hash (Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, onions) with nitrate/nitrite-free sausage

What to Expect When You're Doing a Whole30 Diet

Your Shopping List

Whole30 is food stripped down to its simplicity. You’re eating all things that are fresh and so clean (clean), nothing preserved, so get used to going to the store every couple days as it’s a lot of food. A lot of clean-up. A lot of dishes. It’s worth it.

Here’s a list of go-to ingredients that are super helpful to have on hand going into this whole process, some of which you may need to order online:

  • Unsweetened coconut flakes
  • Cashews and almonds (no flavoring or additives)
  • Ginger and turmeric root
  • A variety of spices
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Avocados
  • Coconut aminos
  • Tessemae’s ketchup
  • Grass-fed beef
  • Bacon without preservatives
  • A colorful selection of produce
  • Bananas
  • Unsalted butter (to make Ghee)
  • La Croix sparkling water (my favorite is blueberry-cucumber or lemon; the coconut is awful)

What to Expect When You're Doing a Whole30 Diet

Where Do I Find Recipes?

Pinterest is your best friend. You can follow my Paleo and Whole30 Pinterest board here for more specific recipes and favorites, but I also love these healthy living resources—many of which are Paleo-specific but can be adapted ever so slightly to make them W30-compliant—for inspiration:

I also found what works best is to set aside a prep afternoon each weekend to do batch cooking for the week. For me, this would include making my juices, ghee, condiments like Whole30 mayo and coconut milk. My sister also turned me onto Tessemae’s this second round, and it has been a GAME. CHANGER. They have everything from W30-approved ketchup to BBQ sauce, so you don’t have to be totally miserable for 30 days. Do yourself a favor and go ahead and order the entire Whole30 pack, particularly if you are doing W30 or Paleo cold turkey for the first time.

Now, your turn. Have you ever—or would you ever—do(ne) Whole30? Let me know your experience (or questions) in the comments below!

Note: Obviously, I’m no licensed dietitian or nutritionist. These are simply my personal experiences, and you should consult your own doctor before making any huge life changes like Whole30.

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COMMENTS
  • August 18, 2016

    I did Whole30 last September and failed after 2 weeks. I don’t eat beef or pork which drastically reduces what I can eat on this plan. My main issue wasn’t sticking to the food when I was on my own. It was the weekly family meals. How do you say no to your mother in law who’s cooked an entire meal for you but cannot grasp your extremely strict diet regiment? You can’t. Too much pressure and expectation so I couldn’t stick to it without offending her. Oops.

    • September 12, 2016

      I can’t imagine how vegetarians/vegans do it as I eat SO much ground beef and bacon while on W30! And yes, I have to completely turn down all dinners and social functions when I’m on this plan, lol.

  • August 19, 2016

    I have never done the Whole30 but stick to a very strict diet. I am gluten free and dairy free so I am basically forced to eat healthy. I always find that when I travel to Europe I lose weight. Between the walking and the far less processed food, it is a much healthier lifestyle over there. I say eat what you want and enjoy the food! I would much rather be a little heavier and happy than rail thin and miserable. Life is too short to not eat cake! 😉

    • September 19, 2016

      That’s normally the case for me, too, only I just got back from Europe and a week in Bavaria meant a whole lot of beer, potato and sausages so I definitely put on a handful of pounds!

      and agreed: Life is too short not to eat cake (and ice cream)(and cookies)(and booze)…

  • August 19, 2016

    I think it’s very commendable that you are able to abide by the diet and exercise. Like the dishes you’ve shown here. It got me thinking that I should start eating healthy.

    • August 19, 2016

      Thanks, Dave! Definitely not easy but I think the former athlete in me thrives on discipline =)

  • August 19, 2016

    Would love to be an accountability partner if you do another round in the fall! PS homemade Scotch eggs for breakfast were my saving grace.

    • August 19, 2016

      Duly noted, Sarah! I will add you to the list when it happens =) You’ll have to teach me how to make Scotch eggs!

  • August 19, 2016
    JM

    Hi! I did whole30 last fall and loved it (well…I loved the results and learning how to cook healthy food, not the crankiness that ensued when I couldn’t eat/drink whatever I wanted!). I’ve been doing a modified version in August — more like a 90% paleo diet — and really enjoying it!

    • August 19, 2016

      Way to go! I plan to go back to 90% Paleo (with occasional booze) when we’re back from Europe, but for now, all is fair game =)

  • August 19, 2016

    So so inspiring Kristin! I may join you on your next Whole30 go around this fall. I totally want to do it. I have already started back on the long journey towards finally losing the baby weight and getting toned again.

    • August 20, 2016

      You look so gorgeous, though, baby weight or no! I’m not blessed with those kind of genes =) W30 is so insanely hard (and yet necessary at times) in the line of work we’re in!

  • August 19, 2016

    I just read this and feel totally inspired. Graham and I are going to do Whole30 in September! So glad I read this!

    • August 19, 2016

      Oh, you’ll totally rock it with as much as you like cooking! People who don’t spend much time in the kitchen usually don’t do well at W30 as you get SO bored with food, but if you can cook, you can survive—and actually enjoy—it for 30 days =)

      • August 19, 2016

        That is so encouraging! I just ordered the book via Amazon. I’m ready!

  • August 19, 2016

    Well done Kristin!

    It sounds like a wonderful way to think about what and how you eat.

    I don’t eat much bread (not easy when you live in Germany…), and I’m quite fussy already. Not liking coffee, chocolate or bananas lol! Having said that, I wouldn’t mind doing a part of the Whole30 and inculcating it into the normal everyday.

    Again, you’ve done marvellously. Well done!

    • August 19, 2016

      Did I tell you we’re actually going to be in Europe in two weeks? Only in Munich, not Berlin =(

      I’ve always found that I lose weight without trying while traveling through Europe as you guys eat so much healthier over here. Hoping this holds through this trip, as well!

  • August 19, 2016

    Well done that you managed it twice! I wouldn’t try diets because for me they wouldn’t last, I feel that I need a lifestyle change. The Mediterranean “diet” is something I’d like to try, but when I come home from work and I have to eat something quick I resort to quick foods. Not fast food, just quick out of the freezer food.

    Hmm.. You’re the second person who’s talking about Stranger Things, maybe it’s about time I watch it as well 🙂

    • August 20, 2016

      You should! Can you guys access it in Europe? Not sure how Netflix works overseas (for instance, we can’t watch our American accounts while traveling in Europe).

  • August 19, 2016

    I’ve tried doing Whole30/Paleo before but always found it so hard to pick and choose my meal when I go out and be social with friends. I also found meal prep to be such a nightmare because I never found the time to do it. I think I’m going to give it a try again and follow your advice of setting aside a Sunday afternoon to prep for the week. Advanced planning may just be the key to success! Thanks Kristin! Enjoy your European vacation! 🙂

    • August 20, 2016

      I hear ya, Pauline! That’s why I have to plan so many months in advance to do it when a) I’m home for a stretch and b) can avoid restaurant openings, media events and all socializing until I’m done, ha. I tried going to events while doing it last year, and not being able to have a glass of wine (or beer)(or cocktail) was too painful and not worth it!

  • August 19, 2016

    The coconut is awful…ly delicious! I know. It tastes like sunscreen. But in the BEST way 🙂 . Impressed with your efforts and hope you’re eating tons of yummy food in Europe!

    • August 19, 2016
      Laura

      I ADORE the coconut La Croix! That, and the Cherry Lime 🙂 I’m working toward Whole30 — I’ve given up caffeine, dairy, meat and any processed grains so far this year, and working on how to keep a Whole30 diet pescetarian-ish 🙂

      • August 20, 2016

        Yeah! You can totally do it pescetarian, style. I wish I liked salmon more, as that would have made it loads easier! P.S. We’ll agree to disagree on the coconut lol, but I’m still trying to get my hands on cherry-lime!

    • August 20, 2016

      I mean, if you like the taste of tanning oil, then sure! 😉

  • August 19, 2016

    I haven’t tried Paleo or Whole30, I think my problems would be resolved if I would get some exercise! We have cut down on our carbs a lot mainly because we are bread snobs and can’t find the good stuff on the road!

    • August 20, 2016

      I didn’t need W30 or Paleo living in the Bay Area, but in the rest of the country where the ingredient quality isn’t so high (and I’m not nearly as active as I was during my running days), then indeed I do need it! I can’t imagine sticking to it on the road, though, with so many delicious new things to try.

  • August 20, 2016

    I must commend you on your success twice. I have never tried the whole 30 diet, but you make it sound healthy and delicious. I doubt I will be successful, though. I am a food lover, and it is hard for me to say no to people, especially family, who love cooking. I try to cut carbs whenever possible, but this is one diet I think I will try. Thank you for all the details. This is very informative.

    • September 13, 2016

      I get it, Deb. I live to eat, not eat to live 😉 I also like myself a good goal, so that’s the ONLY thing that gets me through!

  • August 20, 2016

    This is just what I needed to read today! I’m fatter than ever after sliding into menopause and spending the last couple of months in Europe. It’s starting to depress me. Maybe I should try this, it does all look totally delicious. I told my husband I was upset about my weight a few days ago, he said ” Well you go back to Everest, do some trekking, then we go to Asia and stay there.” He’s very practical like that! Well done.

    • September 12, 2016

      Getting older is hard, huh? I look at pictures of me 10 years ago when I was NOT working out and thought I was “fat” and am still about 20 pounds heavier than I am now when I watch what I eat and work out daily. *sigh*

  • August 22, 2016

    I did it in January and was doing really well on it…until we had a round of layoffs at work (was doing it with a bunch of my coworkers and we all said screw it and drank our faces off) and then immediately went on vacay after. I do want to try it again! I originally lost all my weight doing something close to paleo and know that’s how I feel best…but it’s hard.

    • September 12, 2016

      Let’s do an onling support group and do it again this winter! We try to keep to Paleo, too, but when I’ve been traveling to a meat-and-potatoes region like I have these past three weeks, it’s hard to get back on the wagon when home.

  • September 10, 2016

    I am about a week into my first Whole30, and it is no joke. I live in Austria, land of pork and potatoes, so I didn’t think it would be that hard. Ha! I think the hardest part is not being able to eat anything packaged, because I can’t read the ingredients well enough to know if everything is approved. And the advice they give in the book, about the approved salad dressings, etc, don’t work when you are outside of the US. You were smart to time it to be done before you left for Europe! I hope I can make it through the next 3 weeks with my sanity intact.

    • September 12, 2016

      As someone who just got home from Austria four days ago, I can relate, Kaley! I’m going to have to do another W30 just to detox from the past three weeks in Eastern Europe and Bavaria! You’ll survive it, I promise =)

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