In Defense of Eating, Thoughts on Whole 30 (Part 1)

Just over a month ago, I started a program called Whole30. This program is meant to reset your system, reset your “health, habits, and relationship with food”. It’s been a week since the program ended for me, and it left much to be desired but I can’t say that it was a disaster*.

First, I think it’s necessary to explain the Whole30 program.

The creators of the program are basically saying food groups such as sugar, grains, dairy, and legumes have a negative impact on your health. So their solution to fixing the negative impact is completely stripping your diet of the mentioned food groups for 30 days – hence Whole30. Other rules include not stepping on a scale during the 30 days, not creating treats out of compliant foods; for example, do not make cupcakes – even though you’re allowed to have almond flour, ghee, and other compliant ingredients that can make up a cupcake (I’m going to be honest, I was totally fine with this rule … because cupcakes are not supposed to be dairy and gluten free … I’m just saying…). You can find a whole list of rules here – Whole30 Rules, they probably do a better job at explaining it than I do.

Onto my Whole30 thoughts!

My initial response after the thirty days was up was “OH MY GOD, I NEED TO EAT AND INDULGE IN EVERYTHING, I want baguettes and croissants and my cortados!” … I didn’t actually end up eating any of those things. I was very hesitant to incorporate anything that I cut out back into my diet again, and so was my boyfriend who did it with me. For a couple of days after our Whole30 ended, we continued to eat food that was compliant with the program.

I think it was three days after it ended that I decided to have a much-craved chocolate chip cookie. It was SO DELICIOUS, in that moment it felt like that chocolate chip cookie could bring world peace. Then thirty minutes later, my stomach started to make unsettling noises and it all went downhill from there, goodbye world peace. After that cookie, I was so scared to eat anything else extremely sugary.

I’m also just going to come out and say it, I’m Asian, I’m Vietnamese – I need rice in my life and I need fish sauce and soy sauce in my life. I know, “But Angela, there are substitutes and complaint versions of all of those things like coconut aminos and cauliflower rice and the red boat fish sauce.”

And to that I say … “nooooooooooooo”.

It’s true, there is a substitute for soy sauce, and it’s coconut aminos. I’m just going to make myself very clear … THIS TASTES NOTHING LIKE SOY SAUCE. You could say that it’s similar in the way that coconut aminos is way too sweet and actually smells like coconuts when you cook with it? Which ultimately makes it not soy sauce like at all, it was a disappointment all around.

Don’t even get me started on how cauliflower rice IS NOT REMOTELY RICE LIKE. Anyone who tells me differently is wrong … cauliflower rice is chopped up cauliflower stems AND is a vegetable AND smells. Don’t get me wrong I have nothing against cauliflower; it’s just that when cauliflower lies about being rice, THAT is when I start having problems.

The compliant fish sauce was actually pretty good, extremely salty since it didn’t have any sugar added, but also it was super pricey compared to the fish sauce I’m most loyal to. I don’t really have any qualms about the taste. It was a solid investment for the sanity of my tastebuds.

Throughout the whole experience, I did crave sweets, even some sweets that I’ve never actually craved before like cheesecake and hard candy. However, the cravings for my mom and family’s cooking were the most extreme. So. Many. Ordeals. I couldn’t have pho (gasp), any family dinner plans were out of the question because I felt rude telling them I couldn’t eat their food, and every time my boyfriend and I told anyone in our family about what we were doing they responded in the exact same way, “why are you doing this, just eat less and exercise more if you want to lose weight, you can eat anything you want” and to this we responded, “we know it’s just a detoxing program for 30 days it’s not solely for the purposes of losing weight”.

Commence the eye rolls from both sides of the conversations. It was so frustrating.

Anyway … after all that complaining let’s get to the good stuff:

  1. Yes, we both did lose weight about 10ish pound each
  2. I learned to curb my cravings – not have sugar for 30 days does make not eating sugar a habit so that’s a plus. Even though I was craving sugar through the program after it ended, I truly didn’t feel the need to indulge (hooray?).
  3. I’m going to continue to eat bread. I cannot live without my baguettes and croissants; it’s just out of the question.
  4. I would do this again … not anytime soon, but I have a better knowledge of what to do, and what to expect.
  5. I do think that my relationship with food did get a little better – not that I was unfamiliar with food before I started. I would say that the awareness that I wasn’t hungry, just bored is what I gained out of this experience.

All in all, it was an ok experience. I’m going to continue to be a proponent of moderation instead of restriction. It’s definitely easier for me to know I have options since I have no semblance of self-control when it comes to food, restrictive dietary plans are not for me.

I do have a couple of tips for myself (and for anyone interested in the program) that might make a somewhat unlikely second attempt (or your first attempt) a little easier. Which could lead to better results for the next time I do decide to embark on this journey.

  1. Have people doing it with you. Having a support system really helps for the days you want to cheat. My boyfriend actually went through the program with me, and it was definitely helpful especially when it came to the last few days.
  2.  Don’t binge eat everything that isn’t compliant before you start.
  3. Try to do this when you don’t have plans, it’s not impossible but it is a struggle to find compliant foods when eating out.
  4. You will crave things terribly during this whole period of time it’s inevitable
  5. Your HANGER will be no joke, please control it.

Next week, I will have a post about a couple of life-saving recipes that got me through the experience and a little more detail about my week-to-week experience for those who are curious!

* I’m not a nutritionist or dietician, this is solely based on my personal reactions to how I believe the Whole30 program affected me.
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