So a lot of you guys have been asking me to blog a little bit about what it was like for me to do the whole 30 challenge. I’m currently on day 31 - and I am feeling GREAT! For those that don’t know what #whole30 is, it’s a 30 day detox where you cut all sugar, grains, legumes, alcohol, dairy- and basically anything “processed”. It’s like paleo but a little more hardcore and some more strict guidelines and rules. It’s so strict that if you mess up you HAVE to start back from day 1 (I personally unintentionally messed up an itty bitty small ingredient but I didn’t restart… so to each their own) This diet is supposed to kickstart your body and help you curb your unhealthy cravings and addictions to foods.
A few of my friends have done this diet before, so I was intrigued from their testimonies and how they felt after doing it. So I felt like giving myself a challenge this year and trying it out! I had just gotten back from Egypt (and eating terribly) so I was really ready to work on getting my eating habits in order. I also chose to do it in the Winter since it’s my quieter season (if you guys don’t know.. I’m a wedding photographer and I work heavily during Spring - Fall) and I knew this was going to be an all-encompassing diet that would require a lot of my attention and focus…..and it was true.
So let me give you a play by play of how everything went!
I knew I was going to begin the diet on Jan 30 (2 days before Feb starts so that it would end right on Feb 28) and give me the whole 30 days. Before the diet began, I purchased a 18 meal plan from KettleBell Kitchen- just so I would have some meals to start myself into this diet because I know myself; I was worried I would get too lazy/tired to cook every meal in the beginning of the diet. (This ended up being a GENIUS IDEA, because some of the meals really saved me since I was such a noob at cooking and deciding on what to eat)
The next thing I did was take a trip to Trader Joe’s to see what I could stock up on. I knew this diet was going to be VERY COOKING HEAVY- which was going to be so tough for me because…. I don’t cook. My husband and I eat out about twice a day.. or more…… and we cook maybe once a week…. if even. (x__x) So I knew this was going to be a huge challenge for me. At Trader Joe’s I picked up essentials first, compliant oils such as Avocado Oil and coconut oil (canola/vegetable oil is NOT allowed), meat - mostly chicken and beef (you’re allowed any meats as long as it’s not processed), frozen veggies, fresh veggies and a whole other things that were “compliant”. I spent a lot of time going through every aisle of Trader Joe’s and reading ALL THE LABELS. (I have never read labels before in my life LOL) It was a really long and overwhelming first trip- but it was definitely eye opening. I also picked up a whole bunch of “compliant snacks” (even though snacking isn’t really recommended…) but I wanted to have them JUST IN CASE (because yes, I know myself and my bad habits…)
So even before I started the diet, I began by telling all my friends and family that I was embarking on this challenge. I think it’s really important to let them know so that they could be supportive and also help you through the diet. I know people make fun of those “people that talk about their diet” too much- like hipsters or whatever - but I think talking about it is a way for the diet-goers to keep themselves encouraged and also accountable. THIS WAS SO IMPORTANT. It’s like, for me, I talked about it so much, it’s almost SHAMEFUL not to finish what you started. So that was empowering and kept me very accountable! I highly recommend you guys preface all your friends/family before beginning! Also join some facebook support groups- this really comes in handy when you have some questions about what is “compliant/normal/freaking out situations” - whatever you need - you can ask and feel support in those groups. Also if you have friends that did it before, you can ask, text or DM them for info/support. a HUGE shout out my friends Sheena, Christy and Mary Beth for inspiring me to do this diet and also supporting me through it! HUGE shoutout to my husband for not letting me cheat when I desperately wanted bubble tea.
Week 1: Day 1-7
The first week started. And everything was going really well. I was a bit gassy and went to the bathroom quite a bit…. but other then that everything was ok! And all of that subsided after the first week. The first few days I really only ate about 2 meals a day (with those compliant snacks coming in handy when I was out running errands/working and couldn’t get home to cook something) and I was feeling great. Most mornings I had huge breakfasts, it was eggs, compliant organic and uncured beef dogs and some avocado - and usually it held me over until dinnertime. I made a lot of soups as well, so I could just reheat it up anytime I was feeling hungry. I also discovered and made a lot of foods that I never ate before. Spicy sliced cucumbers with vinegar, roasted brussels sprouts with butternut squash potatoes (potatoes are whole 30 compliant AMEN!) - salmon, scallops (SCALLOPS! I MEAN I NEVER KNEW HOW EASY IT WAS TO MAKE SCALLOPS!!??) and lots of fruit. It was wild to see that my home actually had fruit in it. You may be laughing and thinking “oh wow, these are such EASY recipes to make!”- but again, if you know me…. I didn’t know how to cook ANYTHING. So this was all so new to me and eye opening! There was just SO many simple meals I could make by popping things into the oven! I had always used the oven as a storage place for pots and pans… but I emptied it all out now because I use the oven so often!! Going out was a little rough, I had to get through a few Chinese New Years dinners / Family Dinners / Birthday Dinners without eating - and usually I ended up eating before the social event or packing my own food to bring over. Honestly, it’s not so bad to go out and not eat while others eat, because then you can be the one talking while everyone is eating! No silences! haha!
Week 2: Day 8-14
Started the week off strong and was meal prepping chicken breasts with broccoli and finally tried some cauliflower rice. Which BTW is AMAZING. However weird thing, in Trader Joe’s, I only like the frozen kind, not the fresh ones. I think it’s because I really hate how cauliflower tastes- so the frozen one has less of that taste… and it really works as a rice substitute!!!!! I was delightfully surprised. Also discovered almond butter with banana- UGH so good. Because at that point, I still needed some hits of sugar after a meal. So the almond butter/banana combo helped me curb that desire. I think in between week 1 and 2, it was going well, but at around day 13 I started to hit a pretty huge wall. I was getting a little sick of the food I was eating, I was running low on ideas for recipes, I was still a little lazy and unwilling to try new recipes, and I was struggling with really bad insomnia and I was so, so, soooo tired. I believe it was withdrawal from all the sugar that I used to have. Sugar withdrawal is SO real and SO scary. [ Read this article to find out more about it and how sugar addiction is almost as bad as any drug addition…. ] I used to also drink a lot of coffee before the diet, so when I started whole30, maybe it was caffeine withdrawal as well. Basically my body was beginning to feel the affects of cutting these foods out of my life.
When I started hitting this wall, I really wanted to give up. I started to think that possibly this was RUINING my health instead of ENHANCING it… and I started to freak out. That’s when I started messaging my support group friends and asking how their experience was… and if I should quit… or if I should continue… or if I should modify. Everyone was really amazing and told me to find my pace and if it’s really scaring me, then I should modify. I almost modified. I thought maybe I really needed rice or sugar to “be healthy” - so I considered it for a few hours. Then as I was thinking about possibly getting an iced coffee with milk and sugar - my brain just reminded me that, “YOU’VE ALREADY COME SO FAR” - I was like… I should really just continue. Also, I was lowkey a little scared to see how my body would react again to dairy or sugar.. since I was already not feeling so great, I didn’t want to feel worse. I ended up not modifying and pushing through. Another really great tip my friend Sheena gave me was to go and “eat out”. I think when I was doing whole30, I got so stuck on this idea that you have to COOK EVERY MEAL- but then I realized there are some outside foods that are whole30 compliant and eating out takes off a bit of the stress from figuring out what to cook and eat next. Living in New York City - we’re pretty lucky to have access to restaurants that are willing to modify their oils and make things compliant for picky eaters too! Eating out really helped me pull through. My husband and I went out to eat korean bbq - and it made me feel SOOO rejuvenated and re-energized to keep going! I know this sounds so dumb, but honestly it REALLY worked. We ended up eating Korean bbq twice that week. It was Valentines Day!! Best present ever!! :D
Some places that I ate out at during my Whole30 Challenge:
KOREAN BBQ (THIS WAS A HUGE GAME CHANGER!!!!) - You can eat the meat but it cannot be MARINATED MEAT (because they use sugar in it) - but you can eat the meat with salt and pepper! Also you can have the steam eggs and veggies/turnip! It actually made me appreciate and eat Korean bbq in a whole different way, not just meat and rice (like I used to) - but using all the other ingredients to wrap the meat! I recommend going to Jongro BBQ - they have an un-marinated beef special. I tried to go to Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong - but they don’t have any specials that are just all un-marinated. It’s usually marinated with un-marinated together.
Chipotle - I read online that only meat compliant is the PORK. So you can have that with lettuce, guac, tomatoes!
Dig Inn - Most of their raw salads, oven roasted chicken and sweet potatoes are compliant
Just Salad - Any of their salads - just make sure you know what the dressings are before using them- because a lot of them contain sugar. So if you can eat it without any dressing - that would work! Or bring your own pre-made dressing!
Week 3: Day 15-21
This was a turning point for me. After I started eating out here and there, it refreshed my mind to want to try new recipes. So it was a whole new week for me! I was starting to sleep normally again and my body started to function like it used to once again. My sleeps were deeper and I didn’t wake up as much as I used to throughout the night. I started feeling more energy, feeling more upbeat and excited to try new recipes again! I think part of it was that I felt empowered that I pulled through that slump and was a bit proud of myself! So during this week, one thing that I started to really miss was asian food. My husband and I (if we ever cooked) would mostly make curry chicken or soy sauce chicken; so I wanted to try making some of these types of food with compliant ingredients. My friend, Sheena, recommended I check out I Heart Umami She has tons of recipes on whole 30 compliant asian food!!!! I spent about 2-3 days just looking through recipes to see what ingredients I needed for most of these dishes. That’s how I began to discover Coconut Aminos, Thai Red Curry Sauce, pre-made ginger sauce, Red Fish Boat Sauce and more!!!
(If you want to see a grocery list of all my favorite Trader Joe’s items, look at the end of this blog post!)
Using these newfound ingredients, I was able to get more experimental and try new recipes! I snacked a lot less this week and I was gaining so much more confidence in my cooking. I was prepping things in advance, making things quickly and easily- and actually remember to DEFROST meat the night before- HOORAY! I always felt a little held back from cooking because I hated “following recipes”- I guess in my mind I always thought I had to be extremely PRECISE in everything I put into the dish.. and follow the recipe 100%. From this diet, I learned that this is not true!! Which led me to so much more food freedom because I was literally so hungry, I would try ANYTHING to make it work- and the things I tried…. it ended up tasting good! So it really opened a whole new set of doors for me!! But this week did have it’s downs too, I definitely had some weak moments where I was tempted to just give it all up for a bubble tea. Like if I had a long, tiring, bad day, the only thing I thought that would make me happy is to have a bubble tea… but I have to give a huge shoutout to my husband again for reigning that temptation in. He was like, “You already got so far… just finish!” LOL - I literally begged him to get a bubble tea for me… but he stood his ground. Thank you.
Week 4: Day 22-30
This week went by EASY. I think it’s because I knew I was at the end game and in a few days I’ll be back to fried chicken! LOL. At this point, I’m so pro that I’m meal prepping two things at once (WOW GO ME!) to stock my fridge so I can eat it at anytime. I’d cook a whole bunch of chicken breasts, store them, cook a huge pot of soup, store that, and then just cook fresh cauliflower rice whenever I wanted to pair anything. Basically, I think I learned how to stock my refrigerator with meats, veggies and items that I would actually eat regularly! I felt so much less pressure cooking things and making things tasty. I never knew food could go so far with just a bit of salt and pepper and seasonings! There was a HUGE improvement to our refrigerator life because before it used to literally be like a bachelor pad’s refrigerator; stocked with leftover containers, random cans of soda and half eaten random things. Now I’ve got pre-chopped onions, garlic for days, meal prepped items, frozen meats, veggies, tons of frozen things I can just whip out and put together. It’s a Christmas miracle, really. Since I’ve gained so much more confidence, I’m much more willing to venture out and try even MORE recipes and try my hand at things!
Week 5: Day 30 and beyond!
So did I just dive right back into eating how I normally eat? Before I get into that, let me tell you about all the positives that I’ve gotten out of this diet.
ZERO FOOD COMA. Remember that feeling when you go out to eat and you stuff yourself, you go home and you feel like 10000 lbs and the food just isn’t sitting well in your belly and you feel sluggish and tired but you really cant even fall asleep because the food is still there… like a rock? I NEVER felt like that throughout this entire 4 weeks!!! There were some days where I was tired ( during withdrawal week and some days where I wasn’t eating enough calories because I was too lazy to cook) but I never felt that gross feeling that I mentioned earlier.
I felt very awake and aware of my surroundings
I never felt bloated / nauseous after eating
My skin was glowing!!!
I lost a lot of weight on this diet. On whole 30- the rule is that you can’t weigh yourself until after 30 days. This is because they don’t want you to keep sticking to the idea that it “wasn’t working” - and for me, it wasn’t about losing weight, but it was SUCH A HUGE PERK!
My reasoning for doing this diet was to try to be healthier, challenging myself and discipline. But there were SO many POSITIVE side effects that I really can’t stop raving about it! Some of these hardcore #whole30 participants are extremely strict and the rule is if you mess up once, you have to restart. I would say go at your own pace. Try to follow the rules as MUCH as you can and be true to yourself. If you lie to yourself then you won’t see any results!
Now that the 30 days has gone, I’m keeping a bunch of the habits I’ve picked up from the diet to follow through for the rest of my days. I’ll be cutting most rice and dairy (def no more milk!) out of my diets. Another really good plus I got out of this diet was learning to appreciate and like almond milk. I HATED IT BEFORE. Like so so much. It always left this weird icky aftertaste in my mouth- but now I kinda love it and will be drinking it from this day forward!! My goal is to try to eat whole 30 diet every other day. And at any social events, I will make a bigger effort to make better food choices and weigh my options to see if this is something I REALLY have to put into my body.
Overall, I am so glad I did this challenge and (me being skeptical me) really proved to me that what you eat is SO FREAKING IMPORTANT and DIRECTLY affects many aspects of my life! I hope I can encourage you guys to try this diet and hopefully see some amazing results for yourself!
Below is a gallery of all the #whole30 instagram stories that I posted throughout the challenge. This actually helped me a lot because people were also keeping me accountable on IG. Thanks to all you guys! ALSO, I’m planning to post a whole Trader Joe’s Grocery List with Photos sometime soon to show some of you guys some of my favorite and complaint things there! SO stay tuned!!!