I guess this is the mandatory blog post at the end of my (first) Whole30 Program. When I started the program, exactly one month ago, I was looking forward to write about it: if anything, it would have meant for me the end of the challenge and with it a reasonable amount of that subtle pleasure you get when you accomplish something relatively important.
The Program (which is not really a diet) is all about re-conditioning your body to be fed with a much simpler, straighter (“whole” vs “processed”), safer and healthier set of macro nutrient. You can of course read everything about it in its website — of even in the book which explain in details all the theory behind it (I did not read it), but the gist of it is that for 30 days you must not eat:
- Grains (translated: no pizza, bread, pasta, soy, rice…)
- Dairy product (no milk, cheese, yogurt…)
- No alcohol (sorry)
- No added sugar (“added” is important here, because fruit and juices –read: fructose– are allowed). It’s not paleo
- No legumes (because of lectins)
(Very important: the original version also removed the potato. Now it’s back!)
Wait, but why?
The idea behind the Program (the book is more about the lifestyle in general) is to use a short, easily affordable period of time where you can sacrifice a lot of things (and nutrients) from your daily food intake, so that you can:
- “free” yourself from the need of the comfort, random and unhealthy food
- stabilize and normalize your relationship with the food and eat only what and when you really need it
- remove (almost) any kind of food known to give more or less serious problems to your body
- become more aware and conscious about what you put into your mouth. You’ll become an avid label reader (trust me, avoiding sugar/dextrose is really a challenge already)
Does it work?
The results are slow to come, though. The first couple of weeks have been really not that interesting, since I was not observing or appreciating any major improvements. For three days I also suffered for headaches, general weakness and I was feeling like sweating constantly. It’s normal, apparently.
I have always been very vulnerable to muscle and tendon inflammations. Every now and then, a knee, a shoulder, a hand, a foot starts hurting with no apparent reason. And it would stay like that for months or even never leave me unless I’d undergo some medical therapy.
I have been suffering for months for a similar problem to the left shoulder which hurted badly, so badly that I was not able–for example–to sleep on my belly with my hands under the pillow: the torsion of the shoulder was just too painful for me.
Then, two weeks ago, I woke up on my belly, the hands under the pillow. I swear that once I realised my (impossible, until few days ago) position I was really like “What the hell?!”. The pain at the shoulder was basically gone, not definitely but reduced at a bare 10% of how much it was just some days earlier.
Almost the same happened to my knees: constantly in pain, some days more, some days less and now constantly “OK”. I can stand up from the sofa right away, without suffering of the usual “ouch”-ful 5 seconds to the knees.
Not everything has improved like this: another small problem to the hand is still there and the feet are still problematic. But I’ve got great improvement nonetheless!
I have no desire whatsoever for sugary stuff (never been a huge fan, though) and I am not craving for milk or other “white” things. Alcohol is another story and, well, I guess that is going to be reintroduced as soon as possible (tomorrow).
After the first two weeks, you realise that you’re basically eating always the same stuff. You lose interest in food, in general, and you find yourself not thinking anymore to what to have for breakfast or lunch or dinner. Your part of the brain dedicated to the preparation of meals in now in a kind of auto-pilot state. The things that you cannot eat are so many, that you find yourself not selecting “this, than maybe a bit of those and on top of that I could have this too”. It’s just too boring, too much effort. Today, chicken with salad. Period.
You can now go through your whole day with much less than before (not sure why, but I eat much less than a month ago — in quantity, at least). Even if you now have a “free pass” for fatty sausages, meat, bacon and eggs you, well, yawn… let’s have that chicken and salad.
I lost some weight, but I don’t know how much since the Program forbid to weight or measure yourself during the month (it’s not a diet, remember?). Trousers fit better and my hands and feet are never swollen anymore, but your focus must stay on the general well being not on the centimeters or the kilograms.
I am not sure if I am more alert or if I have more energy or if I am less sleepy or if the memory and attention span have improved. These are also improvements that a lot people reckon as effects of the Program but I really can’t tell much about them on my experience.
An now what?
To be honest, I am not comfortable with the idea of abandoning the Program altogether. I feel kind of attached to it. It’s my friend, who keeps me far away from the dangers of unhealthy eating habits. It helps me, for sure, but it’s not sustainable on the long term. This is also why, by the way, there is no danger on doing since one month is so short that it cannot hurt, basically. On a longer period, you need to seriously monitor your health to see how this lifestyle (not a “Program” anymore) is potentially affecting and maybe hurting your organism.
After one month, the theory dictates that you’ll reintroduce something (like for example dairy products) and monitor yourself to see if you can keep eating that something or you were feeling better without it. And so on and so forth.
I am not very good with “partial reintroducing” or “partially abandoning/quitting” of things, and I am pretty sure that the very moment I will drink a cup of milk, the Program itself will be for me dead for good.
So, yeah, not sure what next.
There is a new book (with a nice “Forever” word in the title) from the same people of the Program which in theory should help with this struggle. Let’s see.
Thanks for reading :)
Written on September 29, 2016 by Claudio Cicali.
Originally published on Medium