If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen I started following the Whole30 diet last week. I’ve been getting a few questions about it so I wanted to write a post telling you all about the Whole30, from what it is to why I’ve chosen to do it this January.
Firstly, I want to stress that this isn’t some ‘New Year, New Me’ crash diet or detox. Whilst I do believe in using the motivation of a new year to boost your healthy eating and focus on making better choices, I don’t agree with thinking you have to do anything drastic to ‘fix’ yourself. Having said that, the Whole30 is probably one of the more ‘drastic’ things I’ve done. Confused? Let me explain…
What is the Whole30?
The Whole30 is essentially an elimination diet designed to heal issues that may be caused by food and help you figure out what foods may be causing those issues. These could be things like low energy, digestive issues, skin troubles, allergies, difficulty losing weight and more.
All of these symptoms could be caused by the foods you eat and the Whole30 was created to give your body a break from all of the foods that are known to cause issues for people – think hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting and inflammatory foods – to allow your body to heal for a full 30 days.
After the 30 days you will introduce food groups one at a time and pay attention to how your body reacts. This will teach you which foods are fine for you and which foods affect you negatively. After the reintroduction phase, which lasts 10 days, you’ll have all the knowledge you need to create the perfect way of eating specifically for your body.
So what’s off the menu?
- No dairy – milk, cheese, yoghurt, butter, cream, kefir or sour cream, including sheep and goat’s milk.
- No sugar or added sugar – including honey, agave nectar, stevia, maple syrup, coconut sugar etc.
- No alcohol – not even in cooking and no tobacco products either.
- No grains – rice, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, wheat, barley, rye, oats, bulgar, corn, amaranth.
- No legumes – peas, chickpeas, lentils, all beans (red, kidney, black, pinto, fava, navy, white etc) and peanuts. As well as soy, miso, tofu and tempeh and edamame.
- No processed foods – and no recreating baked or junk foods like doughnuts, pancakes etc even with the allowed foods.
So what can I eat?
Basically whole, unprocessed foods, one-ingredient foods. Meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruit and good fats from oil, nuts and seeds. You can see all of the allowed foods on the Whole30 shopping list.
Why am I doing the Whole30?
I first discovered the Whole30 about 2 or 3 years ago and was instantly intrigued, but as soon as I realised I couldn’t eat oats I dismissed it as being too difficult. At that time porridge was the only thing I ate for breakfast, I loved it and was not ready to part with it. That and the idea of having to wake up earlier to cook breakfast made me put the Whole30 in the ‘some day’ pile and forget about it. So what made me decide to do the Whole30 now? Well there’s one main reason…
I could tell something wasn’t right with my body and I’d been going back and forth to the doctors, getting tested for multiple things. First insulin resistance, then hypothyroidism and eventually my doctor told me my blood tests and symptoms suggest I have PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). PCOS is very common and is estimated to affect one in five women in the UK. PCOS affects fertility and whilst there is no cure, losing weight can help ease the symptoms.
At this point in time I haven’t ‘officially’ been diagnosed as I’m waiting to have a scan of my ovaries and see a gynaecologist. I will do a full post on PCOS or whatever it is I may have once I’ve had all my tests and have got a diagnosis.
I started researching PCOS and I found a lot of women with it said the Paleo diet really helped them. This was when I remembered the Whole30 which is pretty similar to the Paleo diet and suddenly it became a no brainer for me to commit to doing it. Giving up my beloved porridge for 30 days seemed a lot easier now that I knew my future fertility might depend on it. My weight loss goals were no longer for vanity reasons, I now had real motivation to heal my body and improve my chances of having children if my fertility is affected by PCOS.
So why the Whole30?
I love the idea of crafting a diet that is personal to me. Instead of being told to Eat Clean, or Alkaline or Vegan, the Whole30 will show me exactly what foods to avoid and how they affect me. Does chocolate give me spots? Does dairy mess with my digestion? Do grains sap my energy or bloat me? I will learn all of this during the reintroduction phase and it will give me a clear blueprint for how to eat specifically for my body.
My goal is to use the Whole30 to help me transition to a Paleo diet as that is said to help with women with PCOS. I can’t imagine myself ever eating 100% Paleo but I would definitely like to transition to eating 80% Paleo to see if it will help with my symptoms. The other 20% will be made up with foods that I found are fine for me during the reintroduction phase plus the occasional completely off-plan food like chocolate and pizza.
Women with PCOS have hormone imbalances and I want to see if the Whole30 will help to balance my hormones or at least get me on the right track to balancing them. I also struggle with my energy levels and feeling down at times for no reason at all so I want to see if the Whole30 can balance my energy levels and moods as well as my digestion and bloating. Weight loss wouldn’t be a bad result either!
I’ve found I do better at cutting out groups of food like Whole30 does, rather than specific foods. For example if you told me I had to cut out chocolate then all I would think about is chocolate. However if you told me I had to cut out dairy and sugar then I would find it so much easier to not eat chocolate as I’m focused on the dairy and sugar rather than chocolate itself. I’m not sure if that will make sense to anyone else but for some reason it works for me. Plus 30 days really isn’t that long at all and being able to know foods cause my bloating other symptoms will make it all worth it.
So that’s it. That’s why I’m putting myself through a month of no grains, no alcohol, no sugar, no dairy, no legumes and no processed foods for a whole month. Thankfully January is a fairly quiet month as we’re all recuperating from the cost of Christmas and lots of people are doing Dry January so there haven’t been as many social outings, although I am going to Dublin later this month so that should be interesting.
I fully intend to stick to the Whole30 100% for the full 30 days with no cheats or slip ups. My motivation is higher than ever since I’m doing this for my health first and foremost. As I’m writing this I’m currently in the start of week two. I’ll be sure post a recap of weeks one and two on my blog soon as I want to take you guys on this Whole30 journey with me.