Here’s the too long, didn’t read version: for 30 days, you cut out sugar and sweeteners (except fruit), grains (both gluten and non-gluten, like oats, rice and corn), dairy, legumes, alcohol, and a few other things, like certain preservatives. Also, there’s this thing where you can’t recreate non-compliant foods (like pancakes, for example) with compliant ingredients.
Why Would Anyone Want To Do This?
Let’s start with why I was inspired to do a Whole 30 in the first place because I know what you’re thinking: “30 days without [insert non-Whole 30 food here]?! Why on Earth?!” I learned about the program through Instagram (obviously…I mean, how else do we learn about anything now-a-days?). A few of my insta-friends had done it and blogged about it.
Full disclosure: I have Ulcerative Colitis. I only mention it now because it plays a large role in why I decided to do a Whole 30. For the past few years, I’ve been fairly stable but I can’t say I’ve been 100% in remission for more than a few months at a time. I never thought I had any food sensitivities that could be affecting my UC but seeing as how it’s an autoimmune/inflammatory disease, I was curious to see how my body would respond when I cut out (most*) inflammatory foods.
(*There’s an even more stringent version of Whole 30 where you follow an autoimmune protocol – you also cut eggs, nuts/seeds, and nightshades – but since I haven’t been extremely sick in a very long time, I didn’t see the necessity for something so intense.)
Research shows that a low-carb, low-glycemic diet (like Whole 30) could help control the symptoms, and my doctor agreed it would be a good thing to try. My “sugar dragon” was out of control and I needed a way to reel myself back in. I did my research, got myself organized.
My Whole 30
Everyone’s body is different. You’ve probably heard that a million times but that’s because it’s true. Days 2 – 4 are notoriously known as the “sugar hangover,” but that didn’t happen to me. For the entire first week, I felt great. I was eating food that I liked, and my body was responding well. Except for my morning oats and the occasional craving for something sweet (which truthfully, I gave into sometimes – thank God for dates with almond butter!), I didn’t really miss anything. Pizza commercials made me a little jealous and donuts seemed to be all over Instagram, but it was manageable.
Week 2 was not so easy. For some reason, my “hangover” didn’t start until around Day 9. I’m not sure how or why because I had definitely gone sugar-crazy over the holidays – my body should have gone into shock sooner – but again, the body does weird and inexplicable things sometimes. I won’t put it mildly: the entire second week was pretty hell-ish. I felt weak and tired all the time, I had headaches, my cravings were in full force and black coffee was really starting to suck. But for some reason, I never saw breaking my Whole 30 as an option. I didn’t want the past week to be a waste and I wasn’t about to start over. Thankfully, along came Day 15 and it was all downhill from there.
It’s crazy how powerful our minds are. There was nothing special about Day 15 except that it was the halfway point. I started feeling better by Day 12 – 13, but Day 15 is when I truly felt like I had it in the bag until Day 30. Granted, there were still days that were a little harder than others, but largely, I was feeling that “tiger blood” feeling that everyone talks about. I felt like my body had deflated, I was sleeping like a baby and I had sustained energy throughout the day. I had a few cravings here and there but they were much more manageable than they were in the beginning. Overall, I felt more in control of my body and my food choices than I had in a long time and that was exactly what I was looking to get out of my Whole 30. The second I realized that, I knew the process had worked and it had been 100% worth it.
*drum roll please*…The Reintroduction Phase
This was important for me. The way I saw it, I had literally done the past 30 days just so I could do a reintroduction phase. Here’s what I found:
Non-gluten grains: no noticeable effects. Thank God because oatmeal.
Legumes: no noticeable effects but I really only eat peanuts and chickpeas. I knew from previous experiences that my body isn’t really a fan of other legumes (i.e. beans, lentils) so I don’t eat them often anyways.
Dairy: no immediate effects with cheese or milk in my coffee. I had bloating/a huge stomachache from some frozen yogurt and that’s when I thought I’d have to cut dairy out for good. When my official reintro was over, I tried again – I had some ice cream and luckily, no stomachache, but I did have some bloating. I also noticed that a few days after eating dairy, my skin wasn’t too happy about it – no surprise there.
Gluten: some of the things gave me some mild stomach pains soon after and some didn’t. Gluten was weird. I didn’t feel any bloating at first but as the day progressed, I just felt more and more bloated and tired and just overall not as great. My skin also didn’t really like it. Ironically, the most negative effect that I noticed is that it made me want to eat all the gluten things. All. Of. Them. Not good.
Sugar: anytime I have a large amount of sugar at once, I simply don’t feel well and if I do it at night (i.e. too much sugar in a dessert), the feeling almost always carries over into the next morning. Again, it also just gives me more sugar cravings. A vicious, vicious cycle. Because of this, keeping control of my “sugar-dragon” is probably the most important thing I want to do post-Whole 30.