Part One | Before
By Elizabeth McClendon*
How I found the Whole30
I’m not much of a dieter (read: I don’t like being told what to do/eat), so when I first heard of the Whole30, I really didn’t think anything of it. My roommate, Grace (who is another guest writer for ATOB, see here and here), has been focusing more on her diet and identifying food sensitivities due to some health issues she’s been trying to address since we moved in together.
She’s been gluten-free for roughly a year and a half, and ipso facto—since we both love cooking together—generally so have I. Her family jokes about how supportive I’ve been, but—to be perfectly honest—it’s never been a big deal to me, and it was way easier than I ever expected. These days, I just get my gluten from out-of-the-house sources. I just inherited the pseudo-GF diet, so I’ll let her write the article about doing Richmond GF. Fortunately, the food scene in Richmond is extremely supportive of atypical diets (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, paleo, etc.)… more on that in Part Two [**hyperlink coming**].
After isolating gluten as an irritant, eliminating it, and experiencing positive results, Grace still experienced some lingering health issues, and—believing them them to be potentially still food-related—she’s explored some elimination diets that have broader scope than just gluten. Last July, while I was traveling around Europe with my sister for three weeks, Grace tried out the Whole30 for the first time. (Mad respect to her for doing this on her own.)
We returned to a euphoric Grace (“I feel SO good!”), who had just completed Week 3 of Whole30’ing, and then my mom and dad rolled into town and took the three of us to dinner Can Can. Completely wiped out three weeks of her hard work in one fell swoop. #ItsMyFault#Guilty#TotallyWorthIt
After hearing all about Grace’s Whole30 experience, her positive results, her desire to finish a complete 30-day reset, and then—most critically—complete the reintroduction phase, my initial reaction had been, “Eh, maybe one day.” And then I’d just left it at that, put it on the back burner to marinate, and we moved on.
Fast-forward to a few months later, November-ish 2016: “Grace, I’ve been thinking about this Whole30 thing. I feel like I’ve been eating like crap, and I’m only going to feel worse after the holidays. I can’t think of a better time to take the plunge than in January. Let’s do this.”
What is the Whole30?
Created in 2009 by sports nutritionists Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, the Whole30 is a dietary reset program (think elimination diet) that focuses on eating clean, real food for a consecutive 30-days and eliminating potentially problematic foods that could be negatively impacting your health. (Side note: weight-loss is not a prioritization, but is frequently an added bonus)
- The nuts-and-bolts rules:
- No added sugar of any kind, real or artificial
- No alcohol
- No grains
- No legumes (including soy)
- No dairy
- No carrageenan, MSG, or added sulfites
- No re-creating baked goods, “treats,” or junk foods with approved ingredients
- No stepping on the scale or taking measurements
For 30 days.
That’s it. More like: “That’s IT?!” [insert screaming emoji]. Like I said, I’d been marinating on this for a while.
Once you’ve completed the 30-day reset, there is a 10-day reintroduction phase during which you systematically reincorporate isolated food groups to evaluate how you react to them. The Whole30 is not what you’d think of as a conventional diet, and it’s not intended to be used 24/7/365. It’s all designed to give you detailed information about how foods impact your health, data that you can then take forward into your long-term (what Melissa has coined) “Food Freedom.” Anytime you get off track, health issues crop back up, or you start feeling out of control with food again, you can fall back to the reset.
Check this out. [The Whole 30 A-Z: Real Life Testimonials]
To learn more about the science behind the Whole30, check out the book that started it all from the Richmond Public Library.
Okay… so we’re actually doing this.
Fortunately, we had two months of “warning” to mentally prepare and really get set up for success. We focused on using up our non-compliant food so that it simply wouldn’t be in the house to provide temptation, which, in turn, actually got us in the habit of meal planning. We actually wrote everything down so that we could cross it off the list after we’d used it. Any non-compliant food that we weren’t willing to simply toss went into a cabinet that we literally zip-tied closed and labeled “Off Limits Until Feb. 1!”
Our “last supper” of leftovers was pretty hilarious though: Pad Thai and fried rice from Thai Diner Too, half of a burger and some fries from Burger Bach, Lentil Sweet Potato Coconut Curry, and the last of our Christmas cookies.
We created a few Google Docs: a spreadsheet so that we’d both have access to our bookmarked recipes and our meal plan (which we blocked out a week at a time) and reused a food journal Grace had created during her first Whole30 to keep track of everything we ate on a daily basis and note how we were feeling on that particular day.
At Cazey’s recommendation, we decided to start on Jan. 2nd, just in case we were hungover on New Year’s Day, which—funny story and not intentional—wound up not happening. Instead, we went out for a “last hurrah” brunch at Social 52.
And then we just… did it.
See the conclusion in Part Two.
*Elizabeth is a technical support specialist at a large financial institution, but, if she didn’t have to pay bills, she’d figure out some way to read books, bake, or work with horses for a living. She moved to Richmond, VA in 2014, plans on staying forever, and is in an abusive relationship with her cat.