Time to take control…
It was when I spent a weekend in Bristol did I realize I needed to give my body an intervention. I was getting sick with the flu for the second time this year and worst of all, it was the third time I was getting some sort of stomach reaction to medication. The paracetamol wasn’t helping my fever and the ibuprofen destroyed me. On the train back I started looking at ways of healing my body and came across Whole30. Back in December I had food poisoning and the impact of that lingered. From that reaction I had a laundry list of other issues that started to develop including lots of allergic reactions to foods I had when I was dealing with hormonal acne about 5 years ago. I’m officially done with Whole30 today and I’ve seen my body change so much. Not only has the composition completely changed, but also the way my body is reacting to food and exerting energy. So let’s dive into my Whole30 journey and everything in between!
Why I Did Whole30
- Stomach issues was the biggest factor for starting Whole30. I did a simple search and found that so many people got their acid reflux and IBS in control and I needed this considering I had only developed stomach issues in the last few months since having food poisoning in December. My stomach issues today are non-existent. My stomach used to blow acid bubbles and I would have stabbing pains on my side, but all of that subsided! I’ve always had a little acid reflux and I only noticed I did because my gut is pain free today and my body feels incredibly light!
- Energy was the second big factor for doing Whole30. I read a lot about people being able to do a full day’s work and still have the stamina to go to the gym. I wanted that! I was depleting in energy and wanted to get more of an understanding of how to get it back. Today, I’ve realized that the food I eat has been ‘re-routed’ in my body to gain more. I’m sleeping really well (about 94% according to my sleeping app) and I’m not feeling any afternoon slumps. Most people talk about getting “tiger blood” during the diet, but I didn’t feel that. Honestly, I felt consistent energy levels the entire time!
- Allergies were something I didn’t think will be greatly impacted, but I was curious to know where my allergies came from. I have been battling allergic reactions (hives and rashes) from berries and I’m anaphylactic to beetroot. I was planning on doing an allergy test at the end of Whole30 to see what specific produce spiked my symptoms because I wasn’t exactly sure what type of berries or if golden beetroots were okay. I was questioning the red color in the fruit and vegetable as something I was reacting to. Well, I’m happy to report that Whole30 completely cured my allergic reactions! I won’t say that Whole30 cures people of all allergies, but these were reactions I developed in my early-20s.
- Hunger was something that I read about when I started diving into Whole30. I was someone who was never satisfied with a meal. I thought it was my ‘fast metabolism,’ but it seemed to be that my body wasn’t processing my food how it is supposed to. Today I don’t ever feel “hanger” and I’m completely satisfied with the food I make and eat. Not only that, but this process has made me appreciate what I eat a bit more and thus my mood is unaffected when I am feeling a bit hungry. The feeling of being hungry is also non-existent now. I can go 7-8 hours without eating, but of course, I will nourish my body properly.
Favorite Items, Ingredients and Brands
This was my favorite fat to cook in. I started experimenting with lard and tallow near the end of Whole30, but used ghee consistently throughout the month. It makes the food velvety and doesn’t feel oily at all. Ghee is something I grew up with having, so it is quite easy to make! I would encourage you to cook with ghee or tallow and then keep olive oil for dressings!
I stayed away from these for most of Whole30 except for the reintroduction period. During the reintroductions, I would feel a bit more hungry on the subsequent Whole30 days, so I bought some bars. I enjoyed Nakd Orange and Cacao, Primal Pantry Hazelnut & Cocoa and 100% Natural Raw Brownie the most!
Though you’re allowed fruit juices, I stayed away from them mostly because there were additives in a lot of them and I didn’t want to compromise the impact of Whole30. I decided to allow myself to have Cawston Press if I really wanted a juice. It’s light and sprarking, so it’s the perfect addition when you have a compliant “indulge” meal!
Everything Bagel Seasoning
Seasonings are a game changer and can truly enhance your Whole30 experience! I got this seasoning from Trader Joe’s when I was in America last, but you can find the recipe here! I added it to eggs, avocado and Asian-inspired foods to add texture. One thing people think is that Whole30 food would be boring, but I actually ate like a king!
Okay, a very raw ingredient, but I can’t not mention it. Potatoes were a big part of my diet. Sweet potatoes were my savior though. Besides mash, I would make sweet potato toasts every 4-6 days and eat them with at least one meal a day. They act like bread with any meal and I loved that I could eat it with soup or add an egg on top for brunch!
These were a life changer! There were evenings that I wanted to have a cocktail with my friends who I hosted or when I went out. I found it difficult to get excited about juice or water, so I would order rosemary water or juniper water! These waters are made with pure extracts so you get a very subtle hint and they make great mocktails!
How to Prep
- I meal prepped every 4 days and making sure I meal prepped on a weekend at least once a week. On the weekends, I would make something that takes more time like my shepherd’s pie and on the weekday I would aim towards a one-pot meal like my Brazilian Fish Stew.
- Every meal prep I would: buy fresh produce, make sweet potato toasts, cook a meal, prep most of lunch, boil 4-6 eggs for snacks or quick breakfast, and stock up my handbag with some snacks
- Before Whole30: prep some salmon-sweet potato patties into meal size portions for easy last-minute meals and make an extra batch of 2 freezer-friendly compliant recipes for a rainy day. I got tired of meal planning at one point and these saved me!
- Finally, don’t go out buying all the sauces, condiments and snacks. You will literally break the bank, but also this is a change you need to ease into. A drastic, sudden change will mess with you mentally. Write down what you eat and use the most over the span of a week or two. Based on that, see what isn’t compliant and find replacements! Make sure you have substitutions for anything you use that isn’t Whole30 compliant. (Example: I eat lots of peanut butter, so I switched it to almond butter.)
I wasn’t going to do the reintroduction and then when I was knee deep into Whole30, I was curious to know what it was that caused me to either crave sugar, stay hungry, feel fatigue, and the list goes on. It’s not just a single meal that causes problems, but usually it’s individual ingredients that may cause your stomach to be upset or make you feel bloated. The reintroduction period is great if you’re trying to understand your body more. I always assumed gluten was something I was intolerant to since I would bloat up and have heart burn. What I realized since finishing up the reintroductions is that it is dairy that is triggering the inflammation in my body! So I’ve decided to avoid as much dairy as possible and look for alternatives even for “cheat meals.”
- I’m not sure how I would have handled doing Whole30 if I didn’t do it with someone. I was doing it with a few people online and one of my friends. I have read people who created an accountability group and many people even resort to private Facebook groups that you can join to keep each other accountable. The online community is extremely strong and a great resource.
- One that I was shocked by was the lack of support from my friends in the UK. My American friends would send me texts of encouragement, websites to recipes they love and even parcels of compliant foods! Even though I would try to meet with a friend for coffee, we would always end up at a burger place with me sipping tap water through a straw. So take the time to talk to your friends and family about your goals.
- Don’t eat out or have packaged foods first 2 weeks. This is not an official Whole30 rule, but I really urge you to try to follow it. You will be surprised by how fast your body will change and react to the diet. It will also help you understand the rules a bit more and take your culinary enthusiasm to a new level.
- Meal prep every 4 days! It will get annoying to meal prep, so make sure you have a few options in the freezer too. I chose every 4 days to meal prep because I realized I craved fresher produce!
- Keep snacks with you at all times! I kept a small container of raisins, nuts and cacao nibs with my wallet and keys. In case I got a bit peckish or needed a snack as a friend ate her cake at a cafe, then you have something to munch on too!
- Willpower. It’s hard to start and the first 4 days are difficult. Once you’re done with the 4 days, you will notice your mindset will change!
- Drinks lots of water.
Journey from here…
I’m really pleased where my body has come (lost two dress sizes) and how I’m feeling! I was so surprised by how my body has since reacted to the more inflammatory foods once I introduced it and it energizes me to stay on a more paleo diet. I plan on following a 70-30 rule, where I’ll try and stay paleo 70% of the time. Since finishing Whole30 and looking back at my journal, I noticed that my relationship with food has completely changed. I look forward to having berries for dessert and an egg white omelette for breakfast because I know how to appreciate how they will make me feel and I associate them with the junk food I considered “indulgent” food. I’m sleeping better, feeling lighter, enjoying the energy and really excited to embrace this lifestyle!