Ever since high school, I steadily started gaining weight with terrible eating habits I’d developed along with difficult college hours, exams, assignments, and what not. Although, fortunately, I never struggled with obesity or any health issues, I realized that a lot of junk food had made their way into my everyday routine. And for years I tried to tame this to do some damage control. Yoga helped me quite a lot with keeping my stress levels low and as a result my stress eating too. But getting back to healthy eating and finding out what really is healthy for your body is quite challenging.
Being a vegetarian, following diets can be really hard and this has been the only key factor for me in avoiding diet plans in the past.
I gave diets like Paleo and Keto a good consideration before I decided to go into Whole30. I don’t particularly have a reason why I went into Whole30 but it may have been because I’d heard a couple of friends saying Keto and Paleo were quite difficult to follow. I’d never heard of Whole30 before my research about diet plans.
For any diet plan to work, you must be absolutely ready to do whatever it takes. For me, I was sick and tired of dealing with my overweight and constant body shaming. Also, the idea of giving up sugar, grains, legumes, and alcohol (I’m lactose intolerant, so dairy is already ruled out) sounded pretty exciting to me! I also convinced my husband to join me on this journey.
A bit of background
I’m someone who’s used to eating some kind of grain-based carb at least one meal a day, if not two. My breakfast was usually a banana and some nuts, with my lunch and dinner being some legumes or grains or a combination of both (like rice/quinoa and chickpeas). There has always been very little consumption of veggies in my lifestyle and it reflected in my everyday food intake. I’d also recently started noticing a bit of swelling in my face, ankles and an uneasiness in my stomach with more rice or other carb intake.
I also realized that if weight loss was my only goal, I’d always only be looking at the scales and getting disappointed. So, with this beginning I also decided to put my energy only on clean eating and nothing else.
Working with my body
We hauled a whole lot of vegetables and fruits from Trader Joe’s before the start of the diet. There wasn’t much changing in the first week which was pretty sad but I willed myself to push through and make it work. My body craved for the (grain-based) carbs it’s used to and I filled all those gaps with nuts.
Now, I’m half-way through this 30-day diet plan and I see a lot of difference in my appetite, skin, and how my body has come to accept this change. My body does not crave carbs and it wholly accepts the fruits and vegetables I eat through the day. I’m, however, afraid I might end up hating eggs and try to mix it up as much as possible.
With regards to nutrition, it felt really good to focus more on nutrition labels, looking for hiding sugars and fueling my body with natural healthy foods, swapping out anything processed.
One of my biggest concerns being energy, I was surprised to notice that this dietary change did not affect my energy levels in any way. No more post-lunch sleepiness and the quality of my night’s sleep has greatly improved. I’m also able to do my runs without any tiredness and have quicker recovery.
Finding your love for food
This one’s quite a challenge. I did make one small exception in adding just one type of dal in my cooking, and tried to use as little of it, as rarely as possible. No other exceptions, and I made this only because I’m a vegetarian.
The options are unlimited when you just stand and take a look around your grocery store. You’ll never find much restricted in the fresh fruits and vegetables section. Try out any vegetable you never gave a thought to try before. I never tried squoodles or zoodles (squash and zucchini noodles) before and those are wonderful swaps for the regular pasta. A few green grapes can be dessert and nuts can be an amazing snack.
I realized I’d been looking at food the only way I’ve always looked at it, avoiding anything I hadn’t tried to be something I wouldn’t want to try. This diet has entirely changed the way I’ve been looking at food and now I try all vegetables (except eggplant, still hate ’em).
I’d be lying to you if I said Whole30 was easy. It’s not. It’s like any other diet, or any other change you’d like to do in life. It takes a lot of effort. It also takes a lot of planning to do it well and do it right.
I found myself planning meals well ahead, setting aside the time to prep them, and cooking them the way I liked them. Groceries will become quite expensive. I did not step out of Trader Joe’s without spending a good $80-$100. It’s because every single meal you eat is prepared at home.
Traveling or having meals outside can be hard. I can’t stress the importance of packing your own food wherever you go, or asking your restaurant complete details of all the veggies, fruits, and dressing that go into your salads. From what I found, nothing other than olive oil and red wine vinaigrette are really sugar-free.
This brings me to the sugars. EVERYTHING contains sugar! I started reading labels more and more carefully for any sugars hiding anywhere in some form. There’s sugar in so many products that you wouldn’t even imagine sugars in.
The misconception that carbs are being completely ignored in this diet. I’m eating a lot of carb-dense veggies like potatoes, squash, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, okra, etc. The idea that carbs come only from grains is just so ingrained in us that we don’t seek other available options.
My two pennies worth
Read the entire diet plan and internalize it. Understand what you need to give for the plan to work the best way possible for you. Also equally important is for you to find out what you want to get out of this or any diet plan for that matter. Do you want to control your cravings? Are you looking to resolve a health issue? Do you want to lose weight? Are you trying to be healthier version of yourself? Do you want to change your lifestyle?
Once you’ve set your priorities straight, figure out what works best for you and your body. Not everything works best for everyone, and not everyone will see the same results. Each diet works different for different people based on their body’s needs.
Try to get at least one person to do it with you. I got my husband to try it with me and it has been a really wonderful experience so far for the both of us. I can’t imagine doing this without his company! If you can do it with your family or friends, create a group where you can exchange recipes, talk through challenges, and support each other.
Everyone thinks that being on a diet is just eating raw veggies. DON’T eat the same thing every single day. You’ll get bored of it and start hating it. Mix it up, and just ensure you’re within the Whole30 guides. Save the do’s and don’ts, grocery list and other important guidelines on your phone for quick reference.
The only way I see Whole30 not working for someone is if they don’t know or don’t like cooking.
Do I love Whole30? Yes, absolutely. After 30 days, I might continue this life changing diet, with a few more exceptions, to be a part of my lifestyle forever. Once you start eating clean, there really is no going back.
EDIT (post 30 days): I stand by this diet plan. As for the losing weight part, I lost 8 pounds during the course of the diet and continued to lose another 7 after the 30 days. I resumed my previous normal diet after this course and did not enjoy it. I completely stopped consuming rice, sugar, and the rare milk products I used to consume before. My body has accepted the new clean eating habit and is even happy about it. Now although I don’t follow the diet to the t, I still eat clean and even when I do go out, I consume everything in moderation.
I’m really happy that I decided to do this diet and have my husband do it with me. I made him give up his everyday latte and we have no regrets! This is not a strict imposition to make yourself feel miserable and hate your life, but an incredible opportunity to introspect and really see what you put into your body.
I’d be happy to answer any questions about Whole30 and would love to hear your experiences with this or any other diet.
I will also share some of my Indian and vegetarian Whole30 recipes very soon!