I DID IT. Well, I’m currently in the reintroduction phase (hallelujah, helloooooo peanut butter). BUT I survived the first thirty days! Why would I want to give up legumes, added sugar & artificial sweeteners, alcohol, grains, and dairy?! Well, I’ll tell ya.
Whole30 served as my postpartum ‘reset’. Aside from the time during which I was pregnant, I weighed more than I had in my entire life after having Stella. I only gained twenty pounds during my pregnancy (since I was already overweight, this was the maximum amount recommended by my doctors). About fifteen of those twenty pounds fell off pretty easily with breastfeeding. However, I still needed to get my weight down to a healthier number. I needed to regain some of my confidence, too. I hated seeing myself in pictures, even pictures of me holding my newborn daughter. I knew my diet was largely to blame for my weight gain, in addition to my lack of physical activity. I knew I needed to make some serious changes for the sake of my health. I want to be a good example for Stella as she grows up. I want her to see and follow healthy habits. I decided to tackle my diet first, in the hopes that making the switch to whole foods from processed foods would give me the energy to get more active.
Since I am breastfeeding, I allowed myself to snack between meals if I was hungry. I tried to make sure I wasn’t grazing all day – three hours between meals and/or snacks is the goal. If you are not pregnant or nursing, the official rule of thumb is to avoid snacking. If you’re hungry between meals, you need to be eating more at each meal.
What I Learned & Advice I Can Offer
First of all, I absolutely DESPISE cauliflower rice. No matter how I tried to disguise it, it always let me down. I don’t think I’ll be wasting my time or money on it again.
Washing all my produce the day I brought it home helped me so much during the week. If I was hungry, I could just grab an apple. If I was putting together a salad, I could toss in whatever veggies I wanted in no time. I also chopped some things ahead of time to make my daily meals that much easier to prepare – onions, bell peppers, melons, and celery to name a few.
Do you know how easy it is to make your own mayonnaise? Like, stupid easy. The Whole Smiths’ recipe has been my go-to. You can check it out here. I typically make a fresh batch every week. I mainly used it to make chicken salads and deviled eggs. I also made a few seasoning blend to have on hand at the beginning of my Whole30: ranch, Greek, fajita, and BBQ. Having these ready to go made mixing up marinades, seasoning ground meat, or making a salad dressing quick and easy.
You need a stick blender in your life. I have this one, on which I used one of my millions of 20% off coupons. You’ll be able to make mayo in under a minute, I swear. It comes in handy for sauces, too. It is well worth the $28 (I’m assuming you, too, have a stash of Bed, Bath, and Beyond 20% off coupons).
I would consider dates, coconut milk, almond flour, arrowroot powder, coconut aminos, nutritional yeast, ghee, and a decent variety of spices, vinegars, and oils to be absolutely crucial pantry must-haves. The dates you can use to sweeten things, like sauces or dressings. Date paste is incredibly easy to make and can be stored in the fridge for a while. Coconut milk is called for in many Whole30 recipes, or you can use it with some frozen fruit to make the occasional smoothie (and I mean occasional – don’t use smoothies as ‘dessert’ – it defeats the purpose of Whole30). Almond flour can be used as a kind of breading for chicken. Arrowroot powder is a great thickening agent – several Whole30 recipes that I came across called for this. Coconut aminos are a soy-free substitute for soy sauce. You can find them at Whole Foods or on Amazon. I found that one bottle does not go very far – I would have a couple ready to go just to be safe (Whole Foods is over an hour away from me and Amazon takes a couple days to ship). Nutritional yeast is tasty tossed with veggies you plan on roasting, or sprinkled in your morning eggs. No matter what anyone tells you, it will NOT fully replace cheese. It is, however, a nice flavor to add some variety to your dishes.
I would ensure that you have all the basic spices, such as garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, basil, oregano, parsley, chili powder, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, and crushed red pepper. Extra points if you have ground mustard, smoked paprika (my favorite), bay leaves, sesame seeds, and ginger. These are things every well-stocked kitchen should have, Whole30 aside. I like to make sure I have balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, and white vinegar on hand. During Whole30, the only one I didn’t use was the balsamic. These come in handy for salad dressings, marinades, and making your own mayo. As for oils, I primarily used olive oil, with some occasional coconut oil. Ghee was another fat that we cooked with from time to time (available at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods). You can make your own ghee; however, I haven’t given this a try just yet.
Other items that I consider nice to have on hand would be Aidell’s chicken and apple sausage, Applegate uncured beef or turkey hotdogs, and salad fixings. These things can be thrown together quickly if you don’t have time to make a big lunch or dinner, or if you’re just sick of leftovers. They will save you from ordering takeout and ruining your Whole30. Larabars are also a good emergency snack to have on hand for when you’re out and about. My favorite approved flavors were the lemon and cherry.
Speaking of being out and about, the only time I dined out during my Whole30 was when we stopped at a Chipotle. I opted for carnitas salad with every salsa option (not the corn one) and guac. It was delicious and 100% Whole30 compliant. Highly recommend it.
Ahhhh, breakfast. My true weakness. I used to dream of eggs Benedict, chocolate chip pancakes, buttered toast, waffles, cheese on my eggs, cream and sugar in my coffee…until Whole30 crushed those dreams. Let me just tell you, eggs for breakfast gets really old really fast. I know they weren’t technically approved, but I did make banana pancakes a couple times. The way I look at it, it’s better than cheating and having REAL pancakes or waffles or any other magical breakfast treat. I just blended together one egg and one banana with some cinnamon, then cooked the batter like a pancake. They were tricky to flip, since the batter was a little on the runny side. The addition of some arrowroot powder in hindsight may have helped. I’d put a little almond butter on them and have some fresh fruit on the side. I did this maybe twice, so I don’t think I hurt my personal Whole30. You will get used to black coffee, I promise. Try putting some cinnamon in with the grounds when you brew it – it adds a nice flavor.
My go-to lunches were either some version of chicken salad (made ahead of time) or crispy prosciutto over a spring mix with cucumber, carrots, olives, bell pepper, and red onion, tossed with some olive oil and red wine vinegar. I’m pretty sure I could eat that crispy prosciutto salad every day, but we all know prosciutto isn’t the best thing for you. In moderation, it’s fine – I would only put one or two slices on this salad. When buying prosciutto, double check that there is no sugar in the ingredients list. As far as chicken salads go, I made three different versions over the course of my Whole30: ranch chicken salad, buffalo chicken salad, and Asian chicken chopped salad. Of the three, my absolute favorite was the Asian chicken chopped salad. It does call for a lot of ingredients; however, if you like Asian-inspired dishes, having these ingredients in your pantry will come in handy. If I wasn’t having any of the above, I most likely chowed down on some dinner leftovers for lunch.
Dinners were either hit or miss. I really liked some of the recipes, while others were a total bust. For a quick, easy meal I liked to use Aidell’s chicken and apple sausage and a butternut squash. I would peel the squash, cut it up into roughly one inch cubes, toss it in some olive oil with salt and pepper, roast it at 400 degrees for fifteen minutes on a sheet pan. At the fifteen minute mark, I would take it out and toss it around, then add the sausage to the center of the pan (I butterflied the links so they would lay flat). Just cook the squash and sausage another fifteen minutes and dinner is done. Minimal prep and only one dirty pan. I did the same thing with some compliant Italian sausage that I found at Whole Foods, along with sliced bell peppers and onions. My other favorite meals included chicken saltimbocca (sub ghee for butter); sweet potato noodles with chorizo, baby spinach, and roasted red peppers (for the chorizo, I used a combination of ground pork and ground turkey with spices and red wine vinegar, recipe for that can be found here); beef and broccoli; chicken souvlaki & veggie skewers on the grill (we skipped the tzatziki sauce and used red onion, green bell pepper, and cherry tomatoes on the skewers along with the chicken); bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin; and chicken piccata. Most of these meals I served with some kind of roasted veggie – we like brussel sprouts, broccoli, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and bell peppers among others. I like my roasted veggies pretty crispy, so I usually do them tossed in olive oil, salt, and pepper, spread out on a sheet pan, in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, out to flip ’em around, and back in for another 15 minutes.
I’ve noticed a few changes since the start of my Whole30. I have more energy than I did before, even though Stella still keeps me up through the night. I’m able to keep up with laundry, clean my house, run errands, and more without needing a nap in the middle of the day. My skin seems a little clearer to me, although I still have the occasional breakout (always have, always will). I also haven’t had a single day where my stomach has hurt because of something I’ve eaten. Before Whole30, I definitely noticed some meals triggered cramping and just a general discomfort – particularly those with a lot of dairy. I’m a little nervous about reintroducing dairy; however, I’m also curious to see if my suspicions will be confirmed. My cravings for sweets have decreased drastically – I made roughly ten dozen chocolate chip cookies over the course of my Whole30 for friends and family without eating a single cookie. That being said, of course I would love some chocolate. However, the results that I’m seeing because of my dedication to these dietary changes are motivating me to stick with a paleo-inspired diet. Kyle and I talked about it, and we are going to try to stay paleo Monday through Friday. Weekends will be when we let ourselves have a glass of wine, some cheese on our morning eggs, or a little dessert from time to time.
Overall I lost about twenty two pounds. I see the biggest difference in my face, arms, and waistline. My clothes fit so much better – even some that I couldn’t wear before getting pregnant. I even recently purchased a bathing suit that I don’t totally hate. It feels amazing to have options when I get dressed in the morning. I am happier because I am healthier, thanks to Whole30.
During my entire Whole30, I worked out ONCE. Bad, I know. The three days I spent recovering from said workout may or may not have killed my desire to exercise completely. I know I need to get active and that’s the next thing I’ll focus on now that I have improved my diet. After seeing how violently my thighs reacted to squats, I do think I’ll start with something more mild. I think walks in the evenings with Stella are more my speed.
Whole30 is something I truly believe everyone should try at least once. It forces you to reevaluate your habits in the kitchen. You’ll find yourself cooking new things, and maybe even liking them *gasp*. During the reintroduction phase, you may find that you have some dietary intolerance that you didn’t know about. Maybe it’s gluten, dairy, or even legumes (yes, that includes peanut butter). I am so grateful that my cousin Christina introduced me to this ‘reset’ – it was so needed. I hope I’ve convinced some of you to give it a try. It’s only thirty days. That’s it. One month to reboot your gut and kick start a healthier lifestyle.
Please reach out if you have any questions or you want some help getting started!