Updated: Jun 21
If you are considering doing the Whole30, this post will share the top ten lessons I learned after completing the Whole30 not once but twice. We’ll also look at what is the Whole30, what you can eat on the Whole30, benefits to doing the Whole30, and even a few reasons why you shouldn’t do the Whole30. Let’s dig in.
What is the Whole30?
The Whole30 is an elimination diet created by Melissa Urban and Dallas Hartwig. For 30 days, you remove very specific food groups from your diet that are known to cause inflammation. During those 30 days, your body will detox and become accustomed to running on only high quality protein, fat, and a handful of complex carbohydrates. After the 30 days, you reintroduce the foods back one group at a time to pinpoint which foods are causing your body stress and inflammation. The Whole30 is the beginning of healing your relationship with food, and it sets you up to discover ultimate food freedom.
What foods do you cut out on the Whole30?
The specific food groups you cut out during the Whole30 experiment are added sugar, dairy, grains (gluten and non-gluten grains), alcohol, and legumes. These foods are most commonly known to cause inflammation in the body.
What can you eat on the Whole30?
All animal proteins, all vegetables, all fruits, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and nuts (minus peanuts)
During my time on the Whole30, I really embraced eating my favorite proteins, veggies, good fats, yummy fruits, and all the freaking potatoes I wanted! It did take some getting used to, but the simplicity of what I was eating was rather freeing.
If you’re curious why I did the Whole30, you can check out this blog post here. Essentially, I was tired of feeling like crap every single day and needing to nap at 4pm almost daily. The amount of inflammation in my body was so bad, I needed to sit on a heating pad to help my back pain. I was tired, lethargic, swollen, and addicted to sugar.
Before we dig in, a little quick intro from me
I'm Jessica! I'm a woman, a wife, a mom of two kids, and I'm an accountability coach for women. I love long walks through Target, blonde roast coffee from Starbucks, and being in the company of other amazing babes! I'm obsessed with helping women create and maintain healthy habits. I help women unlock the codes to feeling amazing, to getting stronger, and to rediscovering that confident AF vibe. If this sounds like we'd be real life besties, let's connect! Come say hey and follow along on IG for more. OR you can subscribe to my emails so you don't miss a thing!!
Okay, let's get into the ten lessons I learned after completing the Whole30 not once but twice.
Ten Lessons I Learned after Completing the Whole30
1. How to read food labels
I’d always known about food labels and how to loosely read them. My coach taught me how to look specifically for different types of additives and sugar substitutes in foods to ensure they were Whole30 compliant. Understanding all of the different words that basically meant ‘sugar’ has made it easy for me to flip the label around and quickly see if it’s a food I”m going to eat or not. This also really opened my eyes to the amount of additives that are in our pre-packaged foods. Yikes!
2. How to meal prep and meal plan like a boss
Wow. I thought I was meal planning before, but nothing like I was meal planning on the whole30. There is very little you can grab and eat last minute, so you better have breakfast/lunch/dinner/snacks planned out and READY for you, sister. I learned to be very intentional with my planning and grocery shopping. It was difficult at first, but after the first 2 weeks I felt that I’d found my groove.
3. That I was mindlessly reaching for snacks (all the wrong snacks)
My kids goldfish, the crust on their pb&j sandwiches, cheese crackers, a handful of chocolate chips…you name it I was mindlessly grabbing these snacks. None of these felt good to my body after eating them, either. The more I fine tuned what I was eating on the Whole30, the less and less I felt the need for a snack. When I did need a snack, it was a high fat/high protein snack to help bridge the gap until the next meal. A few of my favorite snacks were an apple and almond butter or a hard boiled egg and some carrots.
4. I was underestimating the amount of protein & fat that I was eating
When you are only able to eat protein, veggies, fruits, and healthy fat, you rely heavily on your proteins. Being an ex-vegan, I think this is where I was in a deficit before. I was definitely not eating enough protein and fat before. After doing the Whole30 and eating anywhere from 20-30g of protein in each meal, I learned that was a major key to help me stay full and happy until my next meal.
5. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day
Eggs are the freaking bomb, ya’ll. Eggs are, in my opinion, one of the most perfect proteins. A normal sized egg is usually 6-7g of protein. Two or three of those in a scramble or omelet is the most delicious (and satisfying) way to start my day. I’ve become such a creature of habit that I eat eggs just about every morning for breakfast. I don’t tend to get bored of foods that easily, but I’m happy to eat eggs for breakfast every day for now until forever.
6. Meals can be simple. I don’t need an overcomplicated recipe.
In the first two weeks of the Whole30, I was cooking recipes that were super delicious but super complicated. They either had tons of ingredients I didn’t own, or it just took FOREVER to make the meal. When it’s 6:00 on a Monday evening, I need easy and quick meals. This helped me remember to keep it simple! Start with a protein I love - salmon for example. Cook said protein in a tried and true way. For me, that’s in my air fryer. Add a veggie of your choice and a sweet potato. Boom. Dinner is ready. No complicated recipe or fancy new way of cooking the salmon. Now sure, it’s fun to do that every now and then, but not on a weekday when my kids are whining and I’m exhausted.
7. Sugar is really addicting. Like really.
Melissa Urban did not coin the term ‘sugar dragon’ for no reason. WOW. Coming off sugar was extremely difficult for me. The first several days my body was detoxing from it all. It was really eye opening to see how dependent my body had become on sugar and carbs. Headaches, lethargy, moodiness, and an overall feeling of blah were all big signs that my body was missing the lovely hit it would get multiple times a day of the highly coveted drug…sugar. The brain actually lights up after having sugar the same way your brain lights up when you do heroin. Check out this study here for more on that. Side note - I highly recommend watching this food documentary, titled That Sugar Film, on sugar addiction if you want more details on that. After the first 7-10 days of detoxing, however, I felt really amazing! The afternoon cravings for sugar and carbs were completely gone! My energy was much higher, and I just felt overall happier. I can tell you after reintroducing sugar into my diet that HOLY CRAP is addictive. Even just one or two days of a few bites of sweets here and there can cause your sugar dragon to go wild.
8. In the end, I really didn’t miss the foods that I thought I’d been missing
Aside from wine and chocolate (because yeah I did miss those!) I was really looking forward to reintroducing hummus to my diet. Hummus is made from chickpeas (which are legumes) so those were off limits for the Whole30. Wouldn’t you know the first few bites of my favorite hummus were so…MEH. My taste buds had changed so much after eliminating so much processed and sugary foods, that I didn’t even like the way the hummus tasted. Talk about eye opening. So, I don’t eat it for the most part now. I’d rather have something else or just plain veggies. It’s so interesting what you do and don’t miss after doing an experiment like this.
9. When I’m REALLY motivated, I can do anything I put my mind to.
The sense of pride and accomplishment after completing the Whole30 AND the 10 day reintroduction (which not many of us talk about!) was such a high. I was so dang proud of myself. I often tell my clients or my children how proud I am of them, but very rarely do I feel that same sense of pride and accomplishment myself. I felt like I’d just climbed a massive mountain! I just slayed the dragon. I FREAKING DID IT!!! When I am really REALLY motivated to do something, I see it through. My inflammation was so bad and my energy levels were so low, I was truly motivated to change. It was refreshing to see that when I truly wanted something, I’d find a way to get it done.
10. Inflammation is REAL, but I can reverse it.
Inflammation can be defined as ,”a localized physical condition in which part of the body becomes reddened, swollen, hot, and often painful, especially as a reaction to injury or infection.” Inflammation can show up in many different forms, and for me it looked like headaches, chronic fatigue, back pain/muscular pain, uneven skin tone, bloating, and digestive problems. I knew that my eating patterns were the biggest contributing factor to the inflammation in my body. The miracle was that I was able to reverse the inflammation all as a result of what I did (and did not) eat. So many of the ailments our bodies experience are a direct result of what we are eating and drinking on a daily basis. As the age old quote goes, “let thy food be thy medicine.”
Should You do the Whole30?
I have some pretty strong feelings on who should and should not do the Whole30. Basically, it all boils down to your why. If you are in this only to lose a quick few pounds - nope. Not for you. If you are trying to fit into your skinny jeans or lose the baby weight - nope. Not for you. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, nope. Not for you. You should always consult with your doctor before starting a new diet no matter what.
If your true why behind wanting to do the Whole30 is to find out which foods trigger inflammation in your body - yes. If you want to remedy bloating, digestive issues, and fatigue - yes. If you want to detox the body and rid yourself of sugar cravings - yes. If you are on a quest to find ultimate food freedom and balance with your nutrition - 100%. Absolutely for you.
The Whole30 is not easy. The why and the motivation behind your decision need to be strong to be able to complete successfully.
So What Happens Next?
After officially completing the Whole30 then 10 days of reintroduction, I am now in a place where I am finding true balance again. I now understand that gluten, *some* dairy products, black beans, and dates (these are just my triggers) cause a ton of problems for my body, I am trying to stay away from these for the most part. Does that mean I’ll NEVER gluten again…nope. Does that mean that I’ll NEVER have a brownie again…nope. It means that I am going to eat foods that bless my body. I am going to eat the foods that make me FEEL GOOD and avoid (for the most part) the ones that do not. I am going to choose wisely when I do deviate WITH ZERO GUILT, too! I am seeking ultimate Food Freedom, as Melissa Urban so beautifully calls it.
Tell me in the comments below if you’ve ever tried the Whole30 and what you learned from it if so. I would love to hear from you!