For the month of January, my husband and I followed the Whole30 program. This is a big deal. It's just about changing the food you eat for 30 days, but you don't realize how much that affects your lifestyle, brain, mood, etc. until you've done this. If you're not familiar with the Whole30, here's how the husband-and-wife founders sum it up:
"The Whole30® is our original nutritional program designed to change your life in 30 days. Think of it as a short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system." Read more here.
The premise behind the program (and my biggest takeaway) is this:
"The food you eat either makes you more healthy or less healthy. Those are your options. There is no food neutral."
You cut out three big food groups during these 30 days: grains, dairy and legumes. Also knocking out most of the options in your typical supermarket, added sugar of any kind is restricted. And there's more: no alcohol, white potatoes, carrageenan, MSG, sulfites or paleo-fied foods. Read the full list of rules here.
Why in the world do something this restrictive? There are lots of reasons people choose to do it. I did it mostly for the potential psychological changes.
"The physical benefits of the Whole30 are profound. More than 95% of participants lose weight and improve their body composition, without counting or restricting calories. Also commonly reported: consistently high energy levels, improved athletic performance, better sleep, improved focus and mental clarity, and a sunnier disposition. (Yes, more than a few Whole30 graduates said they felt “strangely happy” during and after their program.)
The psychological benefits of the Whole30 may be even more dramatic. Through the program, participants report effectively changing long-standing, unhealthy habits related to food, developing a healthier body image, and a dramatic reduction or elimination of cravings, particularly for sugar and carbohydrates. The words so many Whole30 participants use to describe this place? “Food freedom.”
Physically, my husband and I didn't see huge changes, but we saw some. He lost eight pounds. It took some time, but we felt higher energy levels. I knew this by the fact that I didn't feel an afternoon energy crash/need for coffee, wasn't exhausted by dinnertime and actually considered phasing out my morning cup of coffee even though it's allowed on the program! (That didn't happen.) Our skin was completely clear for those 30 days.
Psychologically, though, is where most of the difference happened for me. I learned SO much from reading the book that goes with the program, It Starts With Food. Please don't even think about doing this program if your'e not going to read the book...or have a spouse/roommate reading it and telling you everything important. (Yeah, my husband didn't really read it!) Learning what different foods do inside our bodies is what really changed my thinking. It's why I think it's worth it to buy the organic, cage/range free eggs or chicken or beef even though those options are more expensive. It's why I no longer think that eating a protein, vegetable and grain at dinner is the best way to get a nutritionally-well-rounded meal.
I don't know how much it reduced my cravings, but it definitely showed me the ridiculous amount of power and control food has over me. Sometimes I found myself in a bad mood because I knew I wouldn't be able to have the dessert I was craving after dinner or the cereal I wanted in the morning. I realized how enslaved to the habits of eating certain things I had become. What the program showed me I'm capable of doing instead was huge, too. It's possible for a meal to keep me full until the next mealtime - not always, but I definitely snacked a lot less without being hungry. It showed me I'm capable of resisting the urge for dessert every evening...and a lot more.
I plan to follow up with some posts about the biggest things I learned in regard to each food group I cut out, but in the meantime, what do you think about the sound of this program? Want to try it? Yes, it's expensive and takes effort (you have to cook for yourself!) but it's totally worth it.