If you want to read why I decided to do a WHOLE30® program, go to my blog post “My Whole30 journey: healing my relationship with food (PART 1)”
First things first: What is this Whole30® thing? According to the Whole30® Day by Day book, Whole30® is a program designed to help you figure out how the food that you are eating is affecting you. In this experiment, you pull commonly problematic foods for 30 days, then reintroduce them one at a time and compare your experience. It is an experiment designed to improve your metabolism, digestion and overall health. In fact, they call Whole30® a reset, not a diet since it’s not about weight loss; there’s no calorie counting or restriction. Its purpose is to learn how food affects you and to create new healthy habits (Hartwig, 2017).
For 30 days, in this program you can’t consume: added sugar (real, natural or artificial), alcohol in any form, grains, legumes, dairy, carrageenan, MSG or sulfites, and any baked goods, junk foods, or treats, even if they are made with approved ingredients. Also, you CAN’T weight yourself during the 30 days! Whole30® is much more than a weight loss program, the purpose is for you to experience and notice the “non-scale victories (NSV)” (improvements on your mood, emotions, behaviors, energy, lifestyle etc) you gain through this reset (Hartwig, 2017).
*If you are planning on doing this program at any point, I couldn’t recommend more for you to read the WHOLE30® guide to total health and food freedom book, and the WHOLE30® Day by Day, your daily guide to whole30 success. Information is power, and the advices, tips, hacks and inspiration, specially offered in the day by day book, together with journaling daily this process, gave me the accountability and the confidence I needed to conquer each day, one at a time, and stay whole for day for 30 days.
Here is a summary of how I felt week by week, and the NSVs I have gained during this process:
Week 1 Summary:
This week was EXTREMELY hard for me, which is something I did not expect. I experienced stress-related anxiety during the nights, and started the program with a nasty cold accompanied with allergies; my body ached and my energy felt extremely low! This first week was characterized by massive headaches that started religiously at 6 pm, due to the lack of caffeine, which I also quit, and of course, sugar. During the first seven days of this program, I realized I had approached this protocol with too much ambition (I tend to be an overachiever): I decided to start to wake up even earlier to meditate, I planned to practice yoga every single day, I quit caffeine (which is not mandatory in the program), and I also wanted to add long walks with my dog in the evenings. Realizing that I needed to introduce one change at a time, and really slow down, was a humbling experience for me.
Week 1 NSVs:
- I discovered during this week that I carry a lot of guilt, not only with food, but also with taking time for myself.
- Even with all of the struggles and difficulties of the first week, by focusing on creating healthy habits, I started gaining more clarity with regards to personal, non-food related projects. I started to feel empowered.
- I started breaking some old and engraved habits, such as having dessert even if I was full, or snacking in between meals, even if I was not hungry.
Week 2 Summary:
The headaches in the evening continued, however, my energy level began to increase. I also started to be much more productive and got more efficient with the meal preps (doing groceries, preparing the meals and cleaning the dishes). During this second week, I continued to face a lot of guilt; I felt like I was “eating too many calories” or “not starving myself enough”. I was enjoying my meals too much, so at the time, I thought that surely, I was doing something wrong. I realized I needed to break the traditional “diet mentality” of starvation, counting calories, or suffering to lose weight, and make a mental effort to truly enjoy the process; after all, this was not a weight loss program. Also during this week, I had to handle two major social events, and I’m proud to say I managed myself with grace and ease, and stayed compliant throughout the week without making a big deal about it.
Week 2 NSVs:
- I recovered from my cold and allergies, so I started to work out. My energy level started to improve.
- I was able to participate in social events and be surrounded by sweets, junk food and alcohol, and stay compliant and happy with my food choices.
- On Day 11, for the first time in months, I was able to sleep 7-8 hours straight. I began to experience less and less stress-related anxiety episodes in the evenings. From that day on, although there is still work to do in this area, my sleep quality has dramatically improved.
- By the end of week 2, I was feeling super energized and productive, being organized with my meal prep, work load, social outings, and workout routine.
- I introduced mindfulness when eating my meals, putting my phone down, chewing well my food, enjoying my meals, and being in the present moment.
- I went to the beach and felt great in a bikini. Started noticing a flatter stomach and clear and glowing skin!
Week 3 Summary:
Looking back at the notes in my journal, during this week I started to examine other patterns in my life that needed healing as well. I also identified that I tend to feel overwhelmed when I have big projects or goals: I worry too much that I won’t have the capacity or energy to complete it, or that I will get discourage and give up before finishing. The same was happening with Whole30® at this point in the program, I was certain that I would be able to complete that day, but what about the remaining 10 days? My strategy to overcome this fear was to bring my mind back to the present moment and focus on staying whole, just for one more day.
As simple as it sounds, once I took that pressure off of my shoulders, of not having to worry about the entire project and knowing that I only needed to focus on conquering that single day, has been paramount for me. I am now applying the same tactic to other personal projects, by first making a plan and having a clear vision of my goal, and then focusing on completing individual, more manageable activities with intention and discipline. This is helping me to stay focused, with clarity, engaged, and more productive throughout the whole process.
Week 3 Summary:
- Jeans started to fit better and noticed a leaner appearance.
- Feeling more in control with my emotions and cravings.
- More nutrition in my diet than ever before.
- Feeling happier and excited about life.
- Feeling more productive: in this week, I finished writing the copy for my personal website.
- Having amazing energy.
- Improved bowel regularity.
- The migraines stopped.
- Feeling more at peace.
- I started to dream more when sleeping (I don’t know if this is a NSV, but I like dreaming and remembering my dreams).
Week 4 Summary
During this week, I noticed the energy level was at a constant high every day, and the rest of the NSVs I had been experiencing, have been sustained so far. The changes feel pretty solid and here to stay, provided I keep a healthy lifestyle. However, I also noticed lack of self-confidence in myself and fear regarding “life after Whole30®”… How can I make this program a sustainable lifestyle? I still miss my wine, grains, sushi rolls, cheese and dark chocolate… What if I go crazy and screw all of the progress I have made once I try these foods for the first time after restricting them for 30 days?
Thankfully the Whole30® day by day book walks you through this process by offering a carefully structured reintroduction period. It also offers a complete “Life-After” guidance in their “Food Freedom Forever” book. I still haven’t read this book so I can’t comment on it, however, with the reintroduction structure and tips offered in Whole30® Day by Day, I have been able to make a plan for the upcoming days that alleviated enormously the stress I was associating with the reintroduction part. Basically, I will do the entire 10-day re-intro plan as explained in the book, go on a short vacation that I had programed, and when I get back will do another round of the Whole30® program; this time to support a healing protocol I have designed, after much research and talking with my doctors, to heal and reduce benign uterine fibroids, and try to avoid surgery. I’ll let you guys know how that goes in the future.
In the meantime, here is the rest of the NSVs I gained during these 30 days. I wish I could tell you about every single one of my friend’s stories, since those are extremely inspirational and educational. I really enjoyed this process and I can confidently say that through food I was able to get back to myself and heal in the process.
Week 4 NSVs:
- Focus more on how I feel, rather than how much I weight.
- I discovered that caffeine really affects me. My sleep quality has dramatically improved.
- Added to my arsenal, a bunch of delicious and nutritious recipes and cooking skills.
- Learned a lot about nutrition and my body.
- The program gave me purpose every day, and helped me avoid overthinking about some other stressful situations I am currently going through.
- Able to manage stress better since I feel more positive, at peace and with better energy.
- Healthier relationship with food; also, released this huge guilt I associated with food.
- Established a healthy baseline with my food patterns that feels sustainable and manageable.
- My skin though!!! I can’t say it enough, my skin looks amazing!
Collective NSVs (Comments from my other friends that also did the Whole30® program):
- “I healed my food addiction”.
- “When I changed what I put in my body, it started showing in every aspect of my life, hair, mood, skin… and people noticed it!”.
- “I healed my hemorroides!”
- “I think this is the first time in forever that I’m on schedule for my period.”
- “Huge NSV: I’m sleeping!”
- “Huge NVS for us this morning, we woke up early and went to the gym at 5 am!”
- “NSV! I ordered from the restaurant and the waitress didn’t kill me!”
- “NSV so far today, I’m in a better mood in the evenings!”
- “I’m feeling happier… All of a sudden today, I started seeing the bright side of things.”
- “My day 2 NSV: I drank 67.6 fl. Oz. of water and didn’t fall into temptation (pastelitos or pizza).”
- “My stomach is starting to feel flatter!”
- “Day 1 NSV for me: not snacking between meals”
- “I’m convinced this community of strong woman was the “IT’ factor in me completing this food reset. I celebrate you. I celebrate your strength, your wisdom, your fight, your desire, your intelligence your beauty, YOU. I celebrate YOU!”
Whole30 Day by Day [Book] / auth. Hartwig Melissa. – NYC : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017.