[UPDATED 1/31/12: Hey! I just finished a brand new Whole30 in January 2012! So why don’t you head over here and read all about my latest and greatest month of super-clean eats?]
Is it possible to get through 30 straight days of strict Paleo eating? Can an obsessive foodie with a lifelong addiction to sugar, grains, dairy and legumes manage to completely ditch the stuff for a full month without breaking down and bingeing on pizza and cookies? And if so, will she look, feel and perform better as a result?
Yes, yes, and yes.
The Whole30, of course, is Whole9’s super-Paleo protocol. The objective of this monthlong nutritional “reset” is to strip all the Neolithic crap – “the inflammatory, insulin-spiking, calorie-dense but nutritionally sparse food groups” – from your diet, thereby allowing you to “heal and recover from whatever effects those foods may be provoking.”
Full disclosure: For a good half-year before starting the Whole30, I’d already been pretty good about staying on the Paleo straight-and-narrow. I’d stopped eating all the sugary delights that used to taunt me from bakery windows and supermarket shelves. I’d mournfully tossed all the dried beans I’d stockpiled from Rancho Gordo. I’d even given up pizza. Still, I indulged in a few things here and there that – while acceptable under certain Primal/Paleo guidelines – weren’t going to cut it under a strict regimen of ancestral eating. I’m talking about goodies like bacon, super-dark chocolate, ghee, grass-fed butter, Tanka Bars and homemade beef jerky marinated contaminated with soy sauce. In other words, some of my favorite stuff.
The promise of the Whole30, however, was compelling:
This will change your life.
We cannot possibly put enough emphasis on this simple fact – the next 30 days will change your life. It will change the way you think about food, it will change your tastes, it will change your habits and your cravings.
I was sold.
So what can a modern cavewoman eat while on the Whole30?
Real, natural, unprocessed food: Meat, fish, eggs, veggies, a little fruit, and lots of good fats.
And what can’t be eaten under the Whole30 plan? Here’s the skinny, straight from Melissa and Dallas:
- [No] added sugar of any kind, real or artificial. No maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, Splenda, Equal, Nutrasweet, xylitol, stevia, etc. Read your labels, because companies sneak sugar into products in all kinds of ways.
- Do not eat processed foods. This includes protein shakes, pre-packaged snacks/meals, protein bars, milk substitutes, etc.
- Do not drink alcohol, in any form.
- Do not eat grains. This includes (but is not limited to) wheat, rye, barley, millet, oats, corn, rice, sprouted grains and all of those gluten-free pseudo-grains like quinoa. (Yes, we said corn!) This also includes all the ways we add wheat, corn and rice into our foods in the form of bran, germ, starch and so on. Again, read your labels.
- Do not eat legumes. This includes beans (black, kidney, lima, etc.), peas, lentils, and peanuts or peanut butter. This also includes all forms of soy – soy sauce, miso, tofu, tempeh, edamame, and all the ways we sneak soy into foods (like lecithin).
- Do not eat dairy. This includes all cow, goat or sheep’s milk, cream, butter, cheese, yogurt, whey, ice cream, etc.
- Do not eat white potatoes. It’s arbitrary, but they are carbohydrate-dense and nutrient poor, and also a nightshade.
- Most importantly… do not try to shove your old, unhealthy diet into a shiny new Whole30 mold. This means no “Paleo-fying” less-than-healthy recipes – no “Paleo” pancakes, “Paleo” pizza, “Paleo” fudge or “Paleo” ice cream. Don’t mimic poor food choices during your Whole30 program!
Sounds downright cruel, doesn’t it? But here’s the thing: I survived – while still enjoying day after day of filling, delicious meals. And so can you!
Need proof? Then it’s a good thing I obsessively photographed and documented every single thing I ate for 30 days! Click each day below to check out what went into my belly:
1a / 1b / 1c / 2a / 2b / 2c / 2d / 3a / 3b / 3c / 3d / 4a / 4b / 4c / 4d / 4e / 5a / 5b / 5c / 6a / 6b / 7 / 8 / 9a / 9b / 9c / 10a / 10b / 11 / 12 / 13 / 14 / 15 / 16 / 17 / 18 / 19 / 20 / 21 / 22 / 23 / 24 / 25 / 26 / 27 / 28 / 29 / 30
So after 30 days of clean Paleo eats, how do I feel? Great. (Really!)
As a night shift worker, I used to walk around in a haze of mental fog – I was usually sleepy, sometimes cranky, always tired. My food choices didn’t help; I often found myself mindlessly chomping on snacks that tasted good going down, but stuffed my gut and made me feel less than great later on. But since starting the Whole30, I’m feeling stronger (with new PR’s in my deadlifts and front squats!) and energized like never before.
Even now that I’m done, I haven’t stepped on the scale to check out my weight, nor have I rushed to stuff bacon into my mouth. I haven’t felt like it (yet!). The food cravings? The urge to weigh myself? The bloated feeling I’d get after sampling one too many squares of dark chocolate? Weirdly enough, they all seem to be M.I.A.
To everyone else who’s finishing up a Whole30 or other 30-day Paleo reset, congratulations! And to those of you who haven’t started yet, what are you waiting for?
[UPDATED 1/31/12: Now that you’ve read about my first Whole30 experience, come check out my repeat performance in January 2012!]