My 30 Day Diet Experience

I hate to use the word diet. It implies a lot. It implies a desire to starve yourself or sacrifice pleasure in an effort to lose something and is usually perceived as vain. I prefer to use the words nutrition or healthy eating. So let’s call this my experience with 30 days of REALLY healthy eating.

At the suggestion of a great and wise friend and my respected Osteopath I decided to do the Whole 30 Diet.  The website describes it as a short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system.  While some fat loss is bound to happen when you make positive changes to your diet the goal of this plan is not actually to lose weight. The goal is to make eating healthy easier for you and to make your tummy feel good.  For 30 days you are not allowed to eat …..

Do not consume added sugar of any kind, real or artificial. No maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, coconut sugar, Splenda, Equal, Nutrasweet, xylitol, stevia, etc. Do not consume alcohol in any form, not even for cooking. (And it should go without saying, but no tobacco products of any sort, either.) Do not eat grains. This includes (but is not limited to) wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, millet, bulgur, sorghum, amaranth, buckwheat, sprouted grains and all of those gluten-free pseudo-grains like quinoa. This also includes all the ways we add wheat, corn and rice into our foods in the form of bran, germ, starch and so on. Do not eat legumes. This includes beans of all kinds (black, red, pinto, navy, white, kidney, lima, fava, etc.), peas, chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts. No peanut butter, either. This also includes all forms of soy – soy sauce, miso, tofu, tempeh, edamame, and all the ways we sneak soy into foods (like lecithin). Do not eat dairy. This includes cow, goat or sheep’s milk products such as cream, cheese (hard or soft), kefir, yogurt (even Greek), and sour cream… with the exception of clarified butter or ghee. Do not consume carrageenan, MSG or sulfites. If these ingredients appear in any form on the label of your processed food or beverage, it’s out for the Whole30.

Because of this people have said “Enjoy your water.”, “So what’s left?”, “What can you eat?!” For 30 days you can have only meat, seafood, eggs, tons of vegetables, some fruit, and plenty of good fats from fruits, oils, nuts and seeds, foods with very few ingredients and only pronounceable ingredients.  My brother said “So a normal diet?”  Which is so right! You are supposed to eat the way our Grandparents did. The way humans did before the microwave, fast food, and restaurants on every corner.

When I told my boyfriend Alex I was thinking of doing this he immediately jumped on board. And I was beyond grateful. He would do it for moral support, to feel healthy, to fight cravings, and hopefully to lose some post vacation weight.  We decided to start July 1st and be done just in time for his brother to arrive on holiday, to finish before a planned trip to the land of cheese and chocolate, and before I take Alex to the United States for a holiday with the sole purpose of eating- Thanksgiving.  So for the month of July in the midst of BBQ’s and Gin & Tonic on the terrace we decided to skip all of that and eat super healthy.

Unfortunately, we didn’t appreciate how difficult it would be just to stock the fridge. We were not prepared and had not planned anything before July 1st. On July 1st we had Thai Food for dinner and then hit the grocery store with only two recipes in mind. It was surprising how many things we could not get like organic bottles of sauce or broth. Things that we thought would be easy were not. Bags of nuts had additional ingredients, beyond nuts.  Beverages or juices had added sugar and things we couldn’t identify or pronounce.

The first week was torture! My body craved nothing and I was not hungry. But my mind wanted everything I couldn’t have strictly for the reason I couldn’t have it. I hadn’t thought of Grilled Cheese Sandwiches or Donuts in a year. But on day two every TV show or movie I watched had some yummy food that I suddenly could not take my eyes off of.

By week 2 we were more skilled at knowing what we could eat and had started to step outside of our cooking comfort zone. We were not struggling with temptation except when it came to spending time with friends. We had to eat beforehand, mention ahead of time we weren’t drinking, check the website of the restaurant, or contemplate not going.  

With week 3 we were pros. We knew what our snacks would be for the work week and had plans for lunches. I would google looking for recipes using the ingredients in the fridge as a guide. Cherries + Chicken, Spinach + White Fish, Carrots + Parsnips. All of these recipes I never would have considered before and I now know how to make these and enjoy doing so! We even started to experiment with flavors and discovering how to put things together. Alex came up with adding roasted peppers and green olives to our white fish and spinach.

I am on day 26 right now. We have 4 days left and we continue to talk about what we want to eat for our first meal back. But mostly we have discussed how to stay on this ‘diet’ for the long haul. We are going to keep the refrigerator stocked with healthy things. We will continue to plan snacks and lunches.  When we are at home we will stick to the all-natural whole nutrition plan, for the most part. When going out to eat we will indulge only when we see something truly yummy on the menu. Otherwise it will be the healthiest thing we can find. Because we do enjoy the occasional wine or cocktail we will allow 3 days a week of alcohol but add 3 days a week of exercise to combat the sugar and inflammation that inevitably comes with it.

Whole 30 has not made my digestion feel any better. My immune system may be stronger but I’m not sure I would know that.  I have minimized a lot of cravings. I actually get excited about cooking now and trying new recipes. Alex has lost some weight, although we won’t know how much until he weighs himself at the end. 

In the interest of honesty, during week 2 Alex went to a bachelor party weekend and for 2 days we agreed to do our best but were not strict with the 30 day commitment. It says, very clearly, in the website to commit or not bother trying. But I am still glad we did this and I am grateful for the challenge. We are even thinking of doing another 30 days in October to fully commit with no cheating and see if we do notice a difference in digestion. 

When you know it’s only 30 days it feels way more manageable. But the mind is the hardest thing to control…as usual.