This article was originally published on The Paleo Penguin on May 14, 2019.
There are many reasons why I decided to do Whole30. But what I got out of the program surprised me.
Unlike most people, I have food allergies. A few years ago I paid a lot of money to get some IgE blood tests done. For those of you that don’t know, this tests your body’s immune response to certain foods. Just like a virus, when you are allergic to a food, your body views it as an invader and attacks. The test gives you a numerical reading for each food and the maximum reaction usually tops out at 250 to 400. When you have the maximum, that means you shouldn’t eat that food because it basically makes you really sick.
My tests were eye opening. My reaction to eggs was 1988, most nuts 1765 to 1866, beans 1511, mustard 1105, whey 987, dairy 438, gluten and wheat 740. When I eat anything with the beans, eggs or nuts in it, within about 5 minutes I pass out and sleep for about 3 hours. It’s not just a nap. I am comatose and can’t wake up. My body just shuts down and can’t deal with the invader. I avoid these foods at all costs. This can be embarrassing if you are out somewhere or dangerous if you are driving. I’ve fallen asleep at a table in a restaurant before. I also bloat up and gain about 6 lbs that takes up to a week to wear off.
I figured since dairy, wheat and gluten had lower reactions, they were okay for me to have occasionally. Or if we ordered pizza, I would stick to thin crust instead of regular. Enjoying things, with the minimal gluten or dairy options. I have always drank alternative dairy milks since my early twenties. Before that I always avoided milk, even as a kid. Usually the result was a stuffy nose, yucky phlegm or a sore tummy.
At Christmas, I took sore tummy to a whole new level. I made a cheesecake to bring for Christmas dinner. It was one of those non-bake ones made with melted chocolate, cream cheese and whipped cream surrounded by a rice crispy square crust. I ate like a tiny piece and a few hours later, I spent the night throwing up and felt like crap until New Years. I know it was the cheesecake, as I ate nothing else out of the normal. Also, no one else was sick.
I came across a posting on Facebook near the end of December that talked about Whole30. After my incident with a cheesecake, I figured it was worth looking into. I messaged a few friends that I remember had done it the year before. They all had positive things to say about it so I took the plunge. I did a bunch of research and on January 2, 2019 I revamped my diet.
We are all human and before you read this, no harsh judging. I think the goal of this is to heal your body and feel better about yourself. If in the end, you augment a little, I am okay with that as it is what I needed to do. I think everyone should do what they need to do and make progress at their own pace.
I Discovered Some Whole30 Support Groups on Facebook Are Crazy
People make mistakes, whether intentional or not. A few situations and posts I observed in some Whole30 support groups on Facebook, were anything but supportive and this really shocked me. One of the biggest Whole30 rules is if you make a mistake, you start over! There is zero flexibility on this one, according to their program.
I can see if say you were out and you caved to your sugar dragon and drank a glass of wine and ate some pizza. That is an intentional choice and sure, you should start over, but many people make mistakes on reading labels.
For instance, say you bought a pack of bacon and didn’t realize till after you ate it, there was added sugar in the bacon. You consumed 3 slices and that would have given you a total of 2 grams of sugar. You realize the mistake and got rid of the bacon. If you brought this up in the groups, everyone was harsh and said “restart!” It didn’t matter if you were on day 3 or day 29. I don’t agree with this. Instead of acknowledging they did a good job, people were very negative and judgmental, not supportive. It made me not want to comment or ask questions in the groups. I mostly stayed in the groups just to see what other people experienced or recipe suggestions. Never to ask advice. Did I cheat, no, but I can see how it would be easy to make a mistake.
My Weekly Grocery Bill Sky-rocketed
I considered myself pretty healthy before. When you buy a lot of veggies, gluten-free stuff, dairy free, egg-free, I spend more money than most people each week on groceries. Whole30 made my bill go up even more! I was basically eating veggies, meat, seafood, seeds and seed butter and minimal amounts of fruit. Fish is really expensive and so is meat. I am pretty picky when it comes to meat and basically eat chicken, turkey, or minced beef. Not much else as I have never really liked meat, even growing up. That’s how I was able to be a vegetarian for 3 years without any cravings.
Some key staples for Whole30 are expensive. A bottle of coconut aminos are $10, organic sugar free ketchup is $7, coconut milk is $5 a carton, cauliflower rice is $6 and one piece of salmon is like $9! Be prepared to fork over more money when you jump on the healthy train.
I Couldn’t Eat as Much Food as They Instructed
The standard on the Whole30 diet is 1 portion of meat, two portions of veggies and one portion of plated fat for every meal. This was way too much for me to do with every meal. I physically couldn’t eat that much. I compromised and did my own thing and made smaller meals and sometimes had no meat, just veggies. I know the Whole30 enthusiasts are reading this and cursing me right now, but that is okay.
For breakfast I really broke the rules. Having an egg allergy, everyone I saw would eat eggs and something for breakfast. I can’t do this and I couldn’t eat sausage daily or bacon. I opted to have coconut milk yogurt with a handful of strawberries and some chia seeds. I still eat this every day, unless it was the odd day where I didn’t eat breakfast at all.
I Felt Really Fatigued for the First Three Weeks
I didn’t realize how bad I would feel each day while my body detoxed, the first two weeks were the hardest. I didn’t have energy to go to the gym. It took everything in me to go to work each day and make it home. I wasn’t sleeping well, and I was dreaming about food! I had two very extreme dreams about cheesecake and carrot cake. I was also thinking about food all the time. It wasn’t until the third week that I started to actually feel good.
I Slayed My Sugar Dragon
I didn’t realize how much sugar was affecting me until I went without it for so long. Over the years, I have tried different cleanses and the longest I went without having any food item with more than 4 grams of sugar was 6 months. I don’t consider myself a sugar fiend, but it does get overwhelming some days, especially at that time of the month.
I’ve always said ditching sugar is like smoking, if you can make it past three days, you are usually good. I get cranky and crave it for those three days like it’s going out of style. Don’t get me wrong, I would never binge out and eat an entire box of cookies or anything, but say if it was after dinner and I had a couple of cookies, I would crash like an hour later and come back and grab another cookie.
My worst time of day, was every night after 9 pm I would crave something sweet. It could be cookies, chocolate, hot chocolate, cake etc. I would just want something, like a ritual. I would have a stash box for emergencies like chocolates as this is something that everyone does in our house. Being after Christmas, I had a bunch of things stashed away. Keep in mind, chocolate is dairy and something I shouldn’t be eating anyway. Same with cookies and cakes. When I did Whole30, I donated my stash to other people that gladly took the treats.
My Stomach Problems Went Away
I’ve always had a very sensitive stomach and over the last couple of years, I started getting heartburn on a daily basis. It was usually in the evening and I was blaming my multiple iron supplements I have to take for my anemia. My normal schedule is to take them before bed.
Also when I eat too much gluten I get a stomach ache or eat too much dairy and I can throw up. When I get upset, I get too much tummy acid and throw up too. After about the third week on Whole30, my stomach problems just cleared up. I hadn’t even noticed it until I read a comment in a Facebook group where others had bragged their heartburn had cleared up. In fact, I don’t think it was my iron, as I still take them daily at the same time and same amount. I think it was the small amounts of dairy and gluten aggravating my stomach and over time, it just got worse.
My Sinus Issues Cleared Up
Soy sauce was a big one, and if you didn’t know, it is made from wheat. I even switched to a gluten-free one and still got stuffy. Sometimes breads would do it or cheeses. It took almost a month of being off the dairy and gluten for them to clear up. Also it didn’t help that I got a really bad cold on my third week. I was just feeling the relief of cleared sinuses and then bam, I got sick! I had to start my medication when allergy season hit about 2 weeks ago. On the plus side, it is the first winter in like four years that I have been able to stop taking it.
I Lost Weight and Inches
I have tried for years and always had a hard time losing weight. Back in 2017 and 2018, I actually lost 27 lbs, but that was with strict calorie counting and it was constantly hurting my brain and stressful. I was exercising too and it took about 6 months to lose that much weight. Unfortunately I gained back 20 lbs of it starting last summer when my best friend died of cancer and my grandma got sick and was hospitalized for 98 days.
I managed to lose 10 lbs and 8 inches in 30 days on Whole30. A lot of blogs covered how you lose a lot of bloating from lack of dairy and or gluten. I think I was more bloated than I realized. I also have to add, I have never lost 10 lbs in 30 days in my life!
Once I finished the program, I switched over the a Paleo diet. I have been waiting for my sugar dragon to come out of hibernation and want to eat a whole cheesecake, but in fact, the second month I lost another 6 lbs and felt even better.
I bought the Whole30 book Food Freedom Forever: Letting Go of Bad Habits, Guilt, and Anxiety Around Foodby Melissa Hartwig for additional support and ideas to help with my journey. My food allergies dictate my diet and after going 96 days now, I probably feel the best I have felt in years. Why not continue? I never understood people who eat things that make them feel sick. I know I don’t think it is worth it to do this.
Overall, I have more energy, my clothes fit better and I am well on my way to buying smaller sizes. No bloating, no stomach problems, no nose problems, and weight-loss with toning. Due to more energy, I have been going to the gym almost daily. If I can’t make it, I squeeze in a 5 km walk. My incentive for trying Whole30 was partially to see how much dairy, wheat and gluten were affecting me. I know what happens when I eat eggs, beans and nuts as it is instant. Losing weight was a bonus.
I also battled with high blood pressure for years. I took medication daily for seven years. Part of it was due to stress and the other was being over weight. I am pleased to announce in total, I have lost 19 lbs since January and my blood pressure is 116/69. If I keep it this way, I shouldn’t have to ever go back on medication. High blood pressure is hereditary in my family and when I got off my meds years ago, we figured out it was only high because of my weight. This has never changed for anyone else and the pills are normally for life.
Whole30 also helped me realize how crappy I was feeling by eating sugar daily. I would totally recommend this to anyone, but be warned it takes effort. Cutting carbs and sugar at the same time is probably the hardest thing I have done concerning my diet changes over the years. You feel crazy and emotional and during “that time of the month,” I wanted to punch everyone in the face. I refrained from this of course and made my way through to the end. Why did I keep going? Because I felt inspired and want to keep improving.
Eating paleo has been quite easy. The only foods I am choosing to have on a rare occasion are corn or rice. On my birthday last Sunday, I actually ate rice with my Indian food for the first time since January. I miss rice, but I am sticking to only having it as a treat. I plan on staying paleo as long as I can since it supports what foods I can actually eat.
My grandma was hospitalized on Friday after having her second stroke. Friday was a very emotional day for me and it’s funny how your brain refers back to old habits. All I wanted to do the entire day, was devour a couple of chocolate bars. Yes, obviously I have emotional eating triggers like most people. I refrained and settled on a roasted chicken breast and fries from Nandos and called it a day.
Will I break and eventually have something I’m not supposed to? Sure and that is okay if I do. The world won’t end. I have more will power than most people and know I am a strong and dedicated person. A big take away from this, no matter what health program you follow, be it Whole30 or something else, believe in yourself and persevere. Slow and steady wins the race!