I’ve become infatuated lately with the ingredients in our foods. Food manufacturers (because let’s face it, that’s what they are and what they do. They manufacture a product), put so many chemicals and additives into our food, and so much SUGAR, that it’s actually quite ridiculous what passes through the FDA.
I decided to follow a whole foods diet for 30 days (I use 30 loosely) for a number of reasons. When I say whole foods, I mean it. Whole, natural fruits and vegetables, organic spices, grass-fed and antibiotic free protein sources, no MSG, no soy, no additives or chemicals, no alcohol or sugar, no legumes or grains, and no dairy. My goals I hoped to accomplish included regaining a sense of control, finding new motivation, and getting back into healthy habits. I also hoped to boost my confidence and jump-start my weight loss (I still have those holiday ten; little bitches won’t leave). I was hoping to boost energy, improve my complexion and hair health, improve my sleep quality, and overall I wanted to start the process of developing a normal relationship with food. I seemed to have lost that along the way and I desperately wanted to get it back.
You may remember that I attempted the Whole30 once before, and actually wrote a bad review on it. I was a little out of control last time. I salted everything; just because I could. I ate grilled chicken. Every. Single. Meal. I didn’t experiment with any compliant sauces or spices. I was bored out of my mind. Last time I was looking for any excuse to quit, and I found a bunch. Mostly, ice cream.
I decided this time around in order for me to be successful, I was going to need to plan in advance and never let myself get bored. I kept a weekly plan that outlined which meals I would be preparing and on what days I would need to revisit the grocery store, start meal prepping, etc. I had a plan for turning any and all leftovers into a breakfast meal, and I made myself prepare these “fancy” meals instead of my go-to grilled chicken and steamed veggies. I wanted to try something new and I didn’t want to burn out after only a few days.
I even kept a journal in which I reflected on the day. I recorded my meals, which ones I loved and which I could do without. I highlighted and spent time reviewing any stressors and how I handled those situations when they arose, and I reminded myself daily what my goals were and how I planned to find my way to the finish line.
What I found during this time is how incredibly difficult this project was, although probably not in the way you’re thinking. Sticking to this way of life turned out to be surprisingly easy. For the first time in probably years, if ever, I learned to listen to my body’s hunger cues and stopped eating out of pure boredom or entitlement (hey! I had a hard day! I deserve this cupcake). I became quite the chef. I even prepared chicken legs. Chicken on the bone! In a sauce! Over cauliflower rice. And I minced my own garlic. Do you know how accomplished this made me feel? I didn’t even care that I couldn’t get the smell of garlic off my hands for days. I was legitimately cooking for not only myself, but my family. They often abandoned their meals and wanted to eat what I had prepared. I was nourishing not only myself, but my guys. Huge wife and mommy points. Huge.
The difficulties came at the grocery store. I didn’t realize how much sugar is in our foods. How many chemicals. It baffled me one day trying to find beef broth. Broth, for crying out loud. I looked at every single brand of beef broth, both in the organic and in the regular aisles at my local grocery store, and EVERY SINGLE one had some form of added sugar. It goes to show that once again, so many brands and companies try to trick you into thinking you’re buying something healthy, when in reality, you’re just adding more unnecessary things into your body, ultimately tricking your metabolism and your hormones and throwing off your entire game (I’m not going to get science-y. Just trust me).
Following a whole foods diet forced me to really pay attention to what I was eating and how those foods made me feel.
I didn’t last the full 30 days. I actually only lasted half. Last night I decided to stray from my Whole30 because I no longer felt like it was serving me the way I had intended. Granted, I will admit that I felt pretty good, and was proud of the strides I had made with old habits of snacking and cravings. But that’s it. My energy was slightly up, and I was sleeping a little better, but my weight loss had stalled and I wasn’t seeing the results I thought I would in the time that had passed.
In addition, last night was a dear friend’s wedding, and I decided that a special occasion called for a glass of wine and a slice of wedding cake. I also knew that having a normal relationship with food meant that I should be able to indulge, guilt-free, in these types of things, without going overboard and without beating myself up about it the next day. So I did. And I’m not sorry. I didn’t go back for more pieces of cake (although I could have – that cake was delicious!) I didn’t drink myself into a stupor. I didn’t eat the leftover pizza when we got home last night just because it looked good and I had “already messed up so why not?” I didn’t continue that pattern today with the thought of “I’ll start again tomorrow.” Quite the opposite. I enjoyed last night to the point of satisfaction and no further, and I stayed on a healthy path all day today. That healthy path included oatmeal. And bread. And rice. And I still feel good.
I learned a lot these past few weeks. I learned that not all victories are scale-based. I learned that you can make nutritious meals that are not only nourishing but delicious, if you take the time and make the effort. I also learned that it’s probably not a good idea to jump ship and reintroduce every single excluded food category all in one night. This really doesn’t teach you anything about your body or about possible intolerance, and you end up feeling like absolute crap for a brief period of time.
So would I recommend the Whole30? This time around I have to say yes. Will I take a lot of the principles I learned and apply them to my daily life? Absolutely. Am I going to start over and do it again? Negative.
*Some of my favorite Whole30 compliant products that I have found:
- Tessamae’s Buffalo sauce – I’m addicted. Absolutely in love. AND it helps clear nasal passages if you accidentally get some up your nose.
- Primal Kitchen Avocado Oil Mayo – quite possibly the most delicious mayo I have ever tasted in my entire life. I mean that.
- RX Bar Chocolate Sea Salt – Yes, yes, and yes.
- Artisana Cashew Butter – it’s a little gooey but definitely worth it.
*Some of my favorite Whole30 meals (you can find the recipes in the Whole30 book):
- Perfect Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- Green Cabbage Slaw
- Slow Cooker Beef Brisket with Butternut Squash, Onions, and Sweet Potatoes
- No-Fuss Salmon Cakes
- Cauliflower Rice
- Stuffed Peppers
- Chicken Cacciatore
- Classic Chili (I added yellow and red baby potatoes)
Natasha Funderburk is a wife, #boymom, NASM-Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Nutrition Consultant, and ACE-Behavior Change Specialist. When not watching her son play baseball, she can be found on various writing platforms, coaching her clients to live their best lives, drinking all the coffee, and conducting living-room dance parties.