Well I only flipping went and did it! 30 long days of no grains, gluten, added sugar (in any form), legumes, dairy or crappy additives, but LOTS of meat, fish, veg and fruit. I’m still in awe of myself for completing the program and I keep giving myself lots of high fives. So today I want to review the program and share my results (which is secretly what most people are wanting to know – true!?) and also note a few lessons that I had to learn along the way.
One thing is for sure though – I will definitely be doing this again. For Sure.
(I apologise now that I have learned and changed so much, that this would be a book if I could fully explain the details – so I’m going for a bullet point approach to keep it from getting unreadable)
This was HARD. Whole30 is NOT easy. It is not a quick fix, nor is it a sustainable life long plan – it’s kinda somewhere in the middle. If you are one who, like me, enjoys a thorough self-analysis of mind and body, then you will not be able to complete this program and remain unchanged as it challenges you in so many ways beyond just limiting certain food groups for a few weeks. And that is why it’s not a quick fix or a life long plan – it’s a time to allow your body 30 days to recover from the various abuse you’ve inflicted on it over the years, and at the same time, offer real insight into your foody habits – it challenges your mindsets. It’s the sort of stuff that will very likely change the relationship with your body and food forever.
For me I realised many things about my relationship with food. Here are some of them:
- I like to eat when I am tired, rather than have a nap and rest
- I like to eat when I am bored rather than find something to occupy my mind
- I like to eat when I am feeling low and I also like to throw myself a pity party instead of finding a useful way to process what I’m actually struggling with
- In the same way, I like to eat in order to comfort myself because there’s a nice comforting sugar high when I binge on chocolate and ice cream that makes the low mood temporarily disappear
- I like to feed others (I think Simon took the brunt of this) so that I can deny myself the food I’ve just fed them and feel virtuous and righteous at my ‘self-discipline’ (bad form Amy – an ugly character trait)
- Following on from that, I like to compare myself to others in order to feel better about myself (a really disgusting character trait… but I’m getting downright honest here with you)
- I like to have something in my hands – food mostly, but if not chocolate, then a drink of some description
- I like to ‘reward’ myself with wine at the weekends because it is the weekend. And I’m pretty sure that Thursday counts as part of the weekend.
- I like to follow up every main meal with something sugary and sweet
- I like to ‘start again tomorrow’ and then just ‘start again on Monday’
- I like to eat something whilst I’m watching TV – I have no idea why
- I like to eat something as soon as I get home from work each afternoon – again – no idea why as I’m rarely hungry at this point in the day
- I attach eating patterns to certain days of the week
There are more of these realisations, but these are the key revelations that I’ve had about my relationship with food. If you read between the lines, a lot of the root issues around these habits are actually about finding a way to comfort myself both physically (needing to have something in my hands to eat or drink at all times) and emotionally (relying on the soothing effect of chocolate on the brain).
This is why Whole30 is HARD.
If food is a crutch for you then removing the foody crutch can cause a big fat foody face-plant, or… it can actually give you freedom that you didn’t realise was yours for the taking.
Because I also learned that:
- 1. I really didn’t miss cheese. At all. It didn’t haunt me or call out to me. So I no longer need to plan my meals around cheese. (I am not kidding about this. When we first got married, Simon had to request some cheeseless meals as I was dishing out carbonara, lasagna, cheesy marmite pasta etc almost every meal). It turns out, I can actually survive without cheese. My world did not end. Who knew?! This was the one I was most worried about – if I hadn’t had to give it up then I never would have known that I could give it up. I am free from cheddar’s cheesy clutches!
- I am actually way much more mentally strong than I give myself credit for. Turns out, the words ‘no thank you’ are part of my dialogue when offered cake in the staff room. I also completed the challenge by myself – noone was doing it alongside me. So yuh, I have found a depth of self-discipline that I have always written off in the past before allowing myself to really test out that little quality of mine.
- I have a voice! I can also say “a coffee would be lovely thanks – but no milk” and “I’m really sorry, I can’t eat that lovely meal you’re putting loads of effort in to because it doesn’t comply” These conversations also opened up lots of other conversations about food. People wanting to understand more about the what, why and how of Whole30 and my self-love journey.
- I no longer have to eat food to satisfy my fear that people will be offended or upset with me – for instance if I don’t eat their cake. Thankfully I learned this one in the comfort of my parents home – you can read about it in the previous blog.
I really enjoy feeling slim and lean and strong both physically and mentally. Like really enjoy it! Putting on clothes that sit on my body as they should, not bunching up, or giving me a UTI with the pressure of the waistband. (I’m back in my Levi’s that I bought at Christmas by the way!!!!!)
- And on that note: I really enjoy fitting into clothes that were cast off with disdain years ago. I was so upset when I bought my 2 pairs of Levis and then after about a month realised that I just couldn’t be comfortable in them (a whole previous blog). I was gutted as I let a few days of comfort eating spiral way way outta control (ending only as I began Whole30)
- I definitely don’t/won’t die of dissatisfaction if I don’t eat something sweet after each savoury meal. In fact, what’s really quite nice is having the sweet stuff in the main meal – berries make a good addition to most things!
- My skin and hair and nails really enjoyed the lack of sugar and cheese in my diet
- Cashew milk (or nut juice as my friend Steph and I like to call it) is actually a really good substitute if you don’t like black coffee
- Protein and good fats really keep me feeling full and satisfied throughout the day
- I really enjoy feeling lighter on my feet and having more energy to do stronger workouts. In fact I’ve had some of my best workouts during Whole30.
- I didn’t miss rice or pasta and I really didn’t miss quinoa and there are a million satisfying ways to eat potatoes of all varieties.
My body LOVES greenery and vegetables! I mean LOVES the good green stuff! This was proven in the last week when I went far off piste camping with the youth from church. Whilst I got my protein in, (and a lot of sugar and wheat) I was really lacking in veg. The lack of veg and the increase of non-compliant Whole30 food groups meant my digestive system totally seized up. I am just gonna take this moment to talk about poo. Yes. Poo. On W30, I was regular, it was easy (no straining or mopping up either way) and often there was very little wiping required (true!). Just FOUR DAYS of going off plan and eating what was cooked for me with very little veg and many unhelpful additions, meant I just could not go poop with ease. And I was well aware of the backlog in my body (excuse the pun). I got home Friday morning, bought Coop out of broccoli and ate a big bowl of it for lunch. Just under 12 hours later at midnight (I was still up thankfully) I finally managed to go for the satisfying number 2 that I needed. This may all sound rather gross, but when your digestive system is up the creek, it affects so much of how you’re feeling! Regular pooping with ease is a blessing!!!
- I also learned that my body loves to eat big full meals that are packed with veg and protein. I don’t need to graze or snack all day. Although I am still learning this one – when I prepared filling, green laden goodness with substantial protein and fats, I generally felt fuller and sustained for longer.
- My body gorges on water and for the most part, really enjoys it. My skin particularly loves this.
- I can ‘treat’ myself in ways that don’t involve food e.g. facials, hair cuts, getting my nails done (I might need to work on ways to treat myself that don’t involve spending so much)
- Not feeling bloated and puffed up has such a positive affect on my mental state.
- The more I leaned into the program, the more clarity of mind I had and the more consistent my mood levels were (in correlation to sugar highs and lows). It was nice to feel mentally stable for a month.
- I have an amazing group of family friends who supported me wholeheartedly throughout this. No one tried to sabotage me or trip me up. We went round our friends house and they bought Simon cider, and me strawberries. We went round the Commune, and Kate got out ice cream bars but told me “I’m not even offering this to you because I know you can’t have it”. I love that! My parents went to lengths to accommodate the rules; even cooking me up my own batch of clams in sauce without wine!
- I don’t need the scale to tell me my value. This is KEY. As you are not allowed to weigh yourself during the program, I felt so released to just eat well, and trust the immediate benefits that I could feel taking place in my body. I could see that my body was changing shape before my eyes, and I absorbed the feeling of leanness and strength. At one point in the final 10 days, I really wanted to get on the scales to measure the numerical change that was taking place. But I knew that if the scales had shown a number that was disappointing, then it would have totally screwed up my chances of successfully completing the program. I was feeling so good – so the number on the scales was irrelevant.
Again, this list is not conclusive and the Non Scale Victories have been been apparent from Day 2. This list far outweighs the cravings and negative patterns and habits in the first list.
- Timing is key. You can’t do this on a whim and you can’t do this when you’ve got your cousins wedding, a mini break to Paris and drinks with the girls planned. Choose a 30 day timeframe where you have the social life of an introverted polar bear. I just didn’t go out to do anything social that revolved around food or drink. I’m sure you could do it – but as there is no leniency for slipping up AT ALL – it seemed safer to stay at home in the confines of my kitchen. So this is definitely also why it’s not a sustainable life long approach. Unless you like being a hermit. You also need to allow time to factor in the 10 day reintroduction process. This was where I failed. Miserably. The first 5 days were fine, but then I went camping with the youth from church and food was largely out of my control. And then I just enjoyed the sugar ride that goes along with camping with young people, such as 3 stack pancakes with an extensive choice of sugary toppings. So next time, I will be choosing an equally anti-social 30 days PLUS allowing myself a full 10 days to reintroduce food slowly and properly.
- Prepping is key. I didn’t really do this well at all. I kinda just bought a load of food each week and then hashed something together and hoped for the best. This method has several pitfalls. Firstly, you spend far more money than you need to. Secondly, you leave yourself vulnerable to snack attacks and feeling hangry. Next time I will plan EVERY SINGLE one of my meals for the week, and aim to make at least 3 evening meals in bulk so that they can be frozen and pulled out for convenience at a later date. Prepping also saves you from getting food boredom. There are only so many ways to eat eggs.
- Buy the book and know the rules. I spent a lot of time googling stuff like “is tahini Whole30 compliant?” as well as other various food and additive items. The more I went along with it, the more I grew to understand, but I would have saved myself a lot of time had I thoroughly read and understood the program.
- Make yourself accountable. I did this via instagram which is the public space I use for my food and exercise journey. I took photos of pretty much every meal, posted it and hash tagged away. Those who are on the journey or who are interested will comment, and like and encourage, and those who don’t give a shit will either ignore or unfollow you. Either way, this kept me on point and helped me dig in on days when it got hard.
There were more lessons learned than this, but these are the key principles that I will put in place for when I wade into Round Two of Whole30.
I decided to save this until the end. Firstly because I feel like the other stuff has actually been way more important than the final results. Secondly, because I love to see the evidence of the results in people’s blogs and it feels like its the big unveiling that deserves a bit of build up.
A side note: I have ummed and ahhed about whether to post photos of my semi-naked hot bod online. Part of me feels like that’s just a big no no. But the other part of me feels like these photos show a journey and actually just measure change and progress of my body over the 30 days. They are not flattering and the light is not good. Whilst I believe that I am one sexy lady, it’s clear that these pics are not designed to titillate you, the reader!
I am also going to unabashedly reveal my weight to you – because – I could be double, triple or half my current weight and still be awesome. Truth. My weight is irrelevant.
I weighed in on my personal trainer (and friend) Nicky’s fancy pants scales which calculate fat, muscle and visceral percentage. This stopped me jumping on my own scales mid point but also actually gives a more accurate understanding of what’s going on in my body.
Sooo drum roll pleeaaaseee……. yes those tan marks on the chest have lasted a whole year…
The pictures on the left were on the 24th June 2017 and I weighed 67kg (147lb or 10 and a half stone). 36.9% (of 67kg) of my body composition was fat, with 6% of this being the really bad visceral fat around my internal organs. This fat is hard to shift but vital to shift. I was 27.1% muscle. My thighs were 20.5″ in circumference, my arms were 11.5″, my narrowest part in the middle was 34″ with 38″ on my hip circumference. My bust was 40″. I was bloated and puffy, and lumpy and I felt really quite disgusted with myself. My eating habits felt really shameful at times.
The pictures on the right were on the 26th July and I weighed 63.9kg (140lb or 10 stone). Of my new weight, (so not really in comparison to the previous fat%) I dropped to 35.1% body fat and down to 5% of this for my visceral fat! Yay! Of my new weight, my muscle increased to 27.6%.My thighs were 20″, my arms 11″, my middle was 32″ and my hips 37″ and my bust also 37″. I feel lean, sexy, empowered, in control, content, strong and so so happy with myself!
This meant I reduced each limb by half an inch (so 2″ altogether). I went down 2″ on my narrowest part, and lost 1″ from my hips. I lost a whopping 3″ from my bust! YAY! So that’s 8″ lost from various body parts over the 30 days and I dropped 7lb or half a stone in weight.
As you have probably guessed, I am thrilled with the Whole30 plan and how I have felt being on the program. I’m even more ecstatic with the results and will be rocking a bikini on holiday next week for the first time in a few years! I’m currently in the process of working out which aspects of the approach I want to continue with and how to make some of it sustainable for the long haul. Again it goes back to the balancing act of not living under a rock but being confident that any indulgences won’t create a landslide back to square one again. This last week was a challenge mentally and physically as a lot of my eating was out of my control, and I felt really crappy for it. Some of it was absolutely self-induced (pancakes anyone?!?) but I’ve tried to stick to the Whole30 approach for the meals that I can. I found myself getting aggy with myself for feeling so gross, but then I remembered to be kind and to love myself like in the way that I know I’m worth it. And eat more broccoli.
I really REALLY would recommend doing this program is you are stuck in a food rut, or sugar is your bestie, or you just don’t feel comfortable or happy in your own skin. This program teaches you that your value has nothing to do with a number on a scale, and that loving yourself and looking after yourself sometimes begins with what we’re putting into ourselves.
I plan to do this again some time in the next 6 months – perhaps in mid January after the Christmas break – and I’ll be running an accountability group for anyone who feels that they wanna tackle Whole30 too alongside friends who will cheer them on! Let me know if you’re interested!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my break down of Whole30 (and the partial nudity too!) I’m off to put a chicken in the oven for our standard Sunday Roast and to have a bit of chill time to finish off this fab weekend!