I first learned about this thing called the Whole 30 in a magical place called Instagram. Following some of its ardent followers long before committing to it myself, it seemed like the kind of ‘not-a-diet-but-a-lifestyle’ food program I could potentially get behind (it’s also incredibly similar to the Paleo Diet, which I’ve been curious about for a while). The basic principle is that of eating only real, whole foods, where you can pronounce and recognize all of the ingredients for 30 days in order to help you break free from the food-chains and addictions that bind us; so, lot’s of vegetables, proteins, and fruit in moderation. Sounds great, right? It’s essentially an elimination diet, which is where you remove possible food allergens for a specific period of time from your diet in order to see what works and what doesn’t for your own body. I’d been wanting to try an elimination diet for quite some time, especially since studying for / becoming a Health Coach, and this seemed like the perfect, most realistic way of doing it without having to only drink juice for a week, or eat only raw foods for even longer. Mama likes her food WAY too much to ever take on something that’ll make me feel deprived (*side-note – I am not an actual mama).
I’ve been eating a mostly very healthy diet for quite a while now. I try to be as conscious as possible of the provenance and ingredients of what I eat, and have subsequently been about a 90% vegetarian / often vegan for nearly the last year, so I didn’t think this would be that much of a challenge. On the Whole 30 you eat tons of amazing whole foods, but what you don’t eat goes like this: Just say ‘NO!’ to all grains (including quinoa and buckwheat, although not actually grains), gluten, dairy, sugar (including honey, agave, and maple syrup), all rice products, soy, alcohol, legumes (beans, peas, lentils, etc..), and nasty chemicals MSG/Sulphites/Nitrates. You are also not allowed to make any ‘healthy recreations’ of desserts (no ‘Banana Nice Cream’ or ‘Paleo Pancakes’ for you!).
For some, this sounds like an absolute nightmare. For me, it didn’t sound too bad; I already eat lots of vegetables, rarely drink, don’t eat too much gluten or soy, and already avoid added chemicals. The hardest part, I thought, would be giving up the sweet stuff (I don’t eat terribly much refined sugar anymore, but I do have an incredible sweet tooth that just won’t quit, which has adapted to the ‘healthier treats’ way of life). Then, however, I realized how much quinoa, rice, and legumes I eat. On the Whole 30 you have to be incredibly prepared, and once I started meal planning for Week 1, I saw that I was definitely going to have to push my cooking boundaries to stick with this. I also quickly realized that in order to do this as a vegetarian, you’d have extremely little protein in your diet if you stuck to the rules, so I made the decision to start experimenting with bringing more high quality animal protein back into my diet since I still do eat it on an occasional basis anyway (please note that you can do this as a vegetarian and eat legumes, etc.. but you won’t get the same results. It’s really all a personal choice, and I chose to try the original version). To see how my first week went down, as well as everything I ate, keep on scrolling!
Breakfast: 3 scrambled eggs cooked in coconut oil, with spinach, spices, avocado and olives
Lunch: “Mexican Tuna Salad” (p238 of The Whole 30 book) over salad with cherry tomatoes, radishes, cucumber, sunflower seeds, and a squeeze of lemon. Side of mixed nuts, sliced bell peppers, and a clementine
Snack: Strawberries, and a herbal tea
Snack 2: Cashew Cookie Nakd Bar (miraculously compliant!)
Notes: Was pleased overall with the day, although I know I need to adjust the snacking levels. Was full from breakfast to lunch, but more difficult from lunch to dinner. Felt terrible acid-reflux after eating the Bolognese; not used to eating much meat anymore
Breakfast: 2 fried eggs in coconut oil over wilted spinach, with cherry tomatoes and avocado
Dinner: My own concoction of diced sweet potato, chorizo, and carmelized red onion hash; side of roasted garlic broccoli
Notes: Same issue with not being full enough after lunch to last till dinner. Not feeling bloated at all. Lots of chocolates near my desk at work, but I’m barely noticing them! Bad headache at night before bed
Breakfast: Smoothie with spinach, frozen cherries, raspberries,hemp hearts, almond butter, homemade W30 compliant cashew milk
Lunch: Salad with leftover roasted broccoli, 2 hard-boiled eggs, prosciutto, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, avocado, black pepper, and extra virgin olive oil
Dinner: ‘No Fuss Salmon Cakes’ (p346 of W30 book), with grilled asparagus (OMG I’m in love with these)
Notes: Had breakfast a bit later, and then lunch later which helped me stay full more easily till dinner (no more Nakd bars today!). Mild headache all day. Starting to get sick of eggs. Also feeling overwhelmed by how much time you have to spend in the kitchen
Breakfast: Smoothie with spinach, blueberries, hemp hearts, homemade cashew milk
Dinner: Leftover sweet potato and chorizo hash, with frozen/boiled broccoli
Notes: Starting to feel much less hungry in the day. Having solid amount of protein and fat at each meal definitely helps. Ridiculously tired today, which is surprising considering how well I am eating. Find myself observing cravings (sweet or otherwise), and stopping to ask myself if I’m actually hungry (I’m usually not). Less need for snacking. Feeling better about the prepping today
Notes Part 2: Full disclosure, I had a bit of a traumatic event today. While doing some post-lunch Whole 30 Forum browsing, I stumbled across a comment noting that the Trader Joe’s Coconut Oil Spray I had used to very lightly grease the baking tray for the Salmon Cakes (my mom brings it over when she visits me in London), HAS SOY IN IT! I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought to check that! I felt hurt and betrayed (I trusted you Joe! But turns out you’re just a Traitor!…slow clap…). As it was such a minuscule amount used, and as I know I would struggle mentally to start over again for such a minor and honest mistake, I decided to keep going. Some may say I’ve cheated, but I say I’ve learned my lesson and moved on
Breakfast: Frittata with cherry tomatoes, spring onions, and dill (so simple; so nice!)
Dinner: Baked halibut with a lemon and caper sauce. Garlic roasted potatoes, and steamed greens on the side
Breakfast: Leftover frittata and roasted potatoes
Snack: 3 fresh Devon oysters from farmers’ market
Snack 2: Cashew Cookie Nakd Bar
Dinner: Pan-fried fresh Devon scallops with a homemade savory spiced blueberry and ginger sauce, over arugula/rocket, with walnuts and pumpkin seeds (that sauce, tho..!)
Notes: I volunteer at a local farmers’ market, and today was our annual Best of British Bake-Off-Challenge, so I was surrounded by amazing confections for half of the day. My willpower was certainly tested, but I came out of it a winner (and super proud of myself, if I may say so!). I may not have won (or entered) the contest, but I think I deserve a trophy, no?
Breakfast: Leftover frittata, and a gala apple with almond butter
Pre-Lunch: Potato and Leek Soup from the RHS Wisley Cafeteria (only compliant item I could find there)
Notes: Today was an exceptionally hard ending to week 1. Realized how hard it is to be out all day without pre-prepped food, and still stick to the W30 way of eating. Wound up having lots of little meals and snacks as a result (took what I could get!). Husband fell horribly ill before I could start prepping dinner / food for the week ahead, so wound up eating just the sweet potato, and not having any time to prepare. The next few days may be a bit tough
So that’s a wrap on Week 1! Not as bad as I thought it would be, but definitely way more prepping and time spent in the kitchen than I ever imagined (and I’m someone who loves to cook). Also thinking I might struggle more than I thought with eating meat again. The biggest changes I’ve seen so far are: a) Absolutely zero bloating all week. I swear, it’s a bloody miracle! and B) Sorting out the difference between a craving and genuine hunger, and stopping myself when I’m not truly hungry. Another miracle!
As you could probably tell from the notes on Day 7, however, things started going rapidly downhill. Can I stick with it, despite zero preparations the night before the start of Week 2? Find out next week!
PS: I’d love to hear about your Whole 30 experience if you’re doing it – or already have done – it as well! How do you cope with all the prep, especially when unexpected events sneak up on you? What is your favorite thing you’ve eaten while doing it, and what has been the most challenging aspect? Let me know in the comments!