As most of you, who read my blog, know I went through my first round of whole30. I started on January 29 and ended up doing a whole65. I wanted to do the proper reintroduction and have blood work done after finishing my round so I went on a bit longer to make sure that things like my cycle wouldn't influence the results of the blood tests or of the food groups reintroduction.
I was interested in the concept of eating solely whole foods and observing how my body would react - logically it could only be good and I also wanted to find the trigger foods for my chronic migraines. Having to live with migraines on a weekly basis (2-3/week) was disruptive and life altering. The episodes would lead to feeling sick, mood swings, not having enough patience for my kids at the end of the day... it was an overall bad situation, not only for myself but also for my whole family.
What is the whole30?
If you have never hear of the whole30, the first and basic thing you need to know is that it is a food elimination process that is intended to let you know how different food groups affect you. After finishing a round you are supposed to do the reintroduction process, one food group at a time,
The program rules are simple: eat only real food and eliminate all processed food or additives. The first thing you'll need to do is clean your fridge and pantry in order to eliminate any non-compliant food. After that all you have to do is fill it up with whole natural foods and seasonings and eliminate the following for a 30 day period:
By now, if you weren't familiar with this process, you must be thinking:
"Wow! There are so many things that I can not eat!"
What about thinking about it the other way around:
"So, WHAT can I eat?"
The best thing to do is to look around and list all the produce you can eat, I assure you that you'll be able to find new favorites if you just leave your comfort zone for a while. There are a lot more vegetable options than broccoli and cauliflower! Nutrient dense green leaf greens, starchy veggies like sweet potato, peppers, lettuce, zucchini (great to make zoodles which go perfectly with home made marinara sauce!), butternut squash, green beans...there's a whole new world out there waiting for you to find it!
Before diving in, make sure you have all the information possible so that you feel comfortable enough to start the program and keep on track. The whole30 website is perfect and has all the information you need. Basic advice, recipes, testimonials, everything is there.
One last thing you need to make sure you have mastered is the notion of the "whole30 plate template" that is the ratio of each food group you should incorporate in each meal. During the day you are to have 3 meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) with no snacking at all. Exceptions for pregnant women or if you're breastfeeding and also if you workout intensively which will make you incorporate several mini-meals throughout the day. In order to be satiated until your next meal and to get a balanced daily diet on the whole30 you should recreate the following plate:
Do you spot the "fat" portion of the plate? Be sure to get that healthy fat at every single meal and don't be afraid of it! We need good fat and it does wonders for our bodies. Just give the system a try and you'll see the benefits for yourself! I now know that I always have to incorporate a healthy fat in my meals (avocado, olives, coconut, nut butters) to feel satiated and to prevent mindless snacking before my next meal.
I'll briefly describe my 4 weeks in order to try to explain what I felt and noticed different in my body (and mind) during this whole process.
Week 1 -
The first week was that thrill of starting something new and exciting!
I was preparing myself for a whole month before starting so I knew I had to meal prep in order to succeed - that was my first step. At the beginning of every week I knew I had compliant meals because I spent 2-3 hours on Sundays cooking and prepping all the meals I'd eat during the week. Having a beautifully stocked fridge on Sunday evening made me so happy!
I made sure that I always had washed and chopped fresh veggies and fruit, some cooked meals, roasted vegetables, greens for salads/cooking and the rest of my family's meals scheduled so I could be assured to have compliant meals and no-stress weekdays. It's so worth it the work on Sunday!
This first week I felt lots of energy, since day 1!
I think getting in the right mindset is key to a smooth whole30. If you enter this process thinking that it is an obligation you will not succeed - this is something that I did for my own good, to help my body find its balance and to make it cleaner and healthier. The advantages were all there for me and if to feel better I'd have to leave some foods behind I consider it a small price to pay for a happy and healthier life!
I had one day in particular when I was mad at my husband, don't ask my why, but the good thing that came out of it was that I did't cave in and I didn't go for comfort through food! That was my first NSV (non-scale victory), for sure!
I had some delicious meals and did not feel the need for snacking, at all. Maybe because my portions at breakfast were large I felt satiated longer and pretty confident about what I was feeding my body. I cooked this amazing fish and seafood soup with coconut cream and had it throughout the week. It is amazing and my 9 year old son loved it so much that I had to cook up a second batch! It freezes really well so you can double the recipe and freeze in individual portions to have a compliant meal on those busy days when you really don't have time to cook or strength to go into the kitchen! For lunch I had a small bowl and a salad and when I had it for dinner I added 1/2 avocado as the plated fat.
On those first 2-3 days it was hard adjusting to this new meal template. We're used to the concept of "breakfast food"and abandoning that concept takes a while. After day 3 I was already good with it and it started feeling awesome to have such nutritious food for breakfast!
Isn't that a beautiful plate of food to start the day?
I began practicing the concept of "eating the rainbow" - fill your plate with different colored foods to get an array of different vitamins and nutrients and to enrich your daily diet. Besides feeling great it looks so pretty on the plate!
For some inspiration you can look into my week 1 food journal and check out every meal I had during this week!
Major findings during this first week of whole30:
Stressful situation - the only thing that was hard on me during this week was making toasted bread for my kids in the morning and spreading butter on it! I'm Portuguese and we LOVE bread...having to smell that scent in the morning or afternoon (after school) and not being able to eat it was really hard during these 7 days!
However, I persisted, stayed strong and carried on!
Week 2 -
Another awesome week and I could only think that I was feeling happy all the time. Isn't that weird? I mean, I wasn't unhappy or miserable before but now everything just felt absolutely right! As soon as I'd wake up I'd feel great, super energized and ready to take on another whole30 day!
Every morning was crowned by a gorgeous breakfast and I realized that fueling our body right from the first hours after waking up is essential to keep the energy levels going throughout the day! My family kept find it a bit weird because they really weren't used to seeing breakfast food like this but I felt amazing and just wanted to keep on going!
I remembered about smoked salmon and used it as my protein for breakfast and it was SO good! One of the major issues I see people battling with is "food boredom" - choosing a vast array of different foods (protein, fat and vegetables) allows you to fight this and to maybe, even, get to try new foods that you haven't even thought off, before!
I also made sure that I spent quality time with my breakfast, not shoving food down my throat! Thinking about what you're eating and taking time to properly enjoy breakfast became a priority and, even if that meant waking up 30 minutes earlier every morning, I did it because it made me feel good!
I love food so it does make a lot of sense to enjoy it properly!
I made a delicious "Pan seared cod with homemade tomato sauce" and added some more olives as the plated fat. This was a meal for the whole family...cooking different meals wasn't on my plan so whatever I cooked for me they also ate - what I did was cook the occasional rice or pasta for them instead of having just the vegetables.
For lunch this week I had a lot of salads and tried to incorporate as many different veggies as I could. I maintained the fruit portions on 2 pieces a day and ALWAYS followed the meal template. On day 10 and 11 I felt a bit tired because I was on my cycle; I also felt a bit more hungry than usual but didn't cave in and opted for almond butter as plated fat at breakfast which I think helped a lot!
On my week 2 food journal I have pictures and description of every meal I had, so feel free to check that out and try to recreate some of the dishes by yourself.
You won't be disappointed!
Major findings during the second week of whole30:
Week 3 -
The first day of this week was my last one with the period and that was when I got my first migraine - worst day ever! One of the reasons I started this program was to find trigger foods for migraines and the good news is that this was my first episode during the program - before, I used to have 2 or 3 each week and these two whole weeks with none were surprising, to say the least!
So, with that being said, the first day of this week was the worst so far, with no energy at all and a full blown migraine banging on my head! After that everything returned to normal and by the following day I already had more energy and a clearer head!
This week I had bacon for breakfast in a couple of days and it tasted so good!
I started to think of this way of eating as a probable future lifestyle: it makes me feel great, my body is looking slender and amazing and, above all things, my mind is so clear that I can properly focus on what I'm doing all day long. If you had asked me before the whole30 I wouldn't tell you I had issues focusing but now that I'm realizing that I really did! Detoxing your body from fake stuff and fake food really has a great impact on our mind, that is clearer to me than ever before.
I also stopped stressing so much about whether the program was working on not because I was feeling amazing and that was all that mattered. No scale can make you feel like that, only good, natural and nutritious food, so I decided to just enjoy it!
Feel free to look up my week 3 food journal to get some ideas and try something different for next week's meal prep!
This was the week when I knew I would be having my gum surgery and that was kind of a bummer...however I decided to schedule it for my day 31 of the whole30 so I could do the whole full round. I started to think about soft food diet and I decided to really savor every meal I would have until then!
What I felt during the third week of my whole30:
Week 4 -
With the finish line in sight the week went by too fast! The difference I felt from the other weeks was that I felt more tired but I was getting to my period week again and I attribute that to the hormonal changes - I usually start to have symptoms a week and a half before getting my period. Although I was more tired I can say that, as someone who usually has a lot of pain during this week, I felt like during the whole30 the symptoms were much more lighter and also my flow was lighter too. I know that a lot of ladies ask about this and these were my findings, regarding the period week: less pain, less bloating and less flow.
As for the food things were delicious, as usual!
One of my favorite meals was the one I've pictured below - spaghetti squash with minced meat in home made marinara sauce, roasted asparagus, kalamata olives and plain blueberries. So good and so pretty!
When they say 'we eat with our eyes' I couldn't agree more. Just look at that gorgeous meal, doesn't it look absolutely amazing?!
I was so happy to be able to eat proper food because I got the news that after having my gum surgery I would have to be on a soft food diet for 6-8 weeks! That's a pretty long time...
I also knew that I wanted to do the proper reintroduction so that would mean that I would have to carry on doing the whole30 until after my post-op soft food diet so I could reintroduce foods properly and identify the ones that wouldn't agree with me.
I was in for a treat!
I tend to overthink things like procedures like this one and that was what happened - the result was a week of restless sleep, feeling tired almost all the time and, at the same time, feeling very apprehensive about it all.
In the meantime I kept cooking my meals and doing meal prep on Sunday, which I kept pointing out as one of my biggest tips for a successful program. On my week 4 food journal you can see my meals with pictures and description of everything I ate.
As for my findings I'll leave these ones for the main conclusion because it really reflects all of my whole30 and it should be read as a whole conclusion of the total period doing the whole30.
Laser gum surgery
As I've already explained I had to have laser gum surgery done in two different procedures. On the first one I had my whole left side done and one the second one (10 weeks later) I had the upper right side done. All I can say is that it is not pleasant...it's not worth drawing flowers around the situation, it's uncomfortable and, if you do it while on the whole30, it is even more complicated in terms of foods you can eat.
I'm working on a specific blog post on soft food diet during the whole30 so I won't be going into much detail here. What I can say is that I looked at what I could eat/drink and made it compliant - for example, smoothies are not allowed on the whole30 but in this case I had no choice given that on the third day eating liquid soup for breakfast I was already gagging and getting it all out! So, I had to brace myself and go for it! I used what I knew was good for me, like bone broth and high quality protein that the doctor recommended as a post-op recovering aid.
It really was hard and by the second week I was discouraged and didn't feel like eating at all. I lost even more weight than I already had until then (more on that on the post conclusions) but I really couldn't make myself eat more food. It was hard!
Blood tests after the whole30
Since I had started the program I had the idea of doing a check-up at the end and have some blood work done.
I confess that one if the things that I was fearing the most was cholesterol - due to eating so many eggs. I had already read that it has already been proven that the cholesterol from eggs does NOT influence our cholesterol, which is mainly driven by genetic factors and other food interactions. Also, I had always bought organic eggs precisely due to the fact of eating more of them lately. Even so the doubt was there.
Now, after having read tons of information and watching some documentaries with lots of scientific background studies I see that when we are "fed" the same recurrent message or information over decades it is hard to accept that those ideas were wrong and that the reality is different. It takes a strong person to change but when you have scientific evidence before you, I mean, I don't need anything else to believe the facts.
I won't publish my values because I consider them personal information and I really don't have a base to compare them with because I didn't have previous blood work to compare. Let me tell you - my doctor was so surprised with the results that she even asked my what I was doing, even being a young and healthy woman!
Alongside the blood work I also did a sensitivity test. I found a company online that uses strands of hair and I decided to try this out, after all, what harm could it do? I wanted to have this information in my power AFTER my reintroduction period so I could compare the results I had gotten with the results from the sensitivity tests and find out if they matched.
Reintroduction period -
I decided to do the reintroduction of the different food groups on the final period of my post-op soft food diet. Because of that, I had to change the order of some food groups to be able to try them according to the sensitivity I had on my healing gum - I didn't want to get anything ruined but I also wanted to be sure of the effects that food had on me!
I decided to follow the 10 day reintroduction schedule but, as said, changing the order of some of the food groups.
I'll list the food groups I reintroduced and what were my symptoms after doing it, or for the next couple of days so you can have a feeling of what you might also feel if you try these elimination program. This is something very personal, we are all different and our bodies react differently to the same foods. It's just a matter of doing the experiment and seeing what foods make you feel good or bad!
At the end of the day I was feeling good and thinking that, maybe, the only thing I would be would be some bloating...was I wrong or what?! When I woke up on the next day I felt like I had been run over by a train!
I had pain all over my body, getting up was a hurdle and every movement I had to make was painful...for real, if I hadn't experienced this myself I wouldn't believe it. I had back pain like I used to have before getting my spine surgery...it was really intense and that just goes to show me that, at least for me, dairy is out of the question due to its high inflammatory effects.
Truth be told, the only dairy I used to have was butter and ice cream once in a while. From now on I'm perfectly comfortable with other options like ghee and vegan ice cream, if I ever decide to try it out. Nowadays there are so many options out there that you'll always have options regarding the different food groups or diets you follow.
I didn't reintroduce alcohol because I don't drink alcohol. The exception will be the occasional cooked dish with a small amount of cooking wine but that is so sporadic that it doesn't even bother me. Other than that I don't drink, at all.
It was really interesting to get my sensitivity tests results after doing the reintroduction and noticing that there were things that really did match. Others were a surprise for me and I'll keep having those foods since the effects of consuming them are not serious or almost noticeable. I tested for high intolerance (at least 85%) to the following foods:
There were also other foods like a specific variety of apple but these were the ones that I think are most interesting and the ones that I should focus on more. As for dairy and wheat I had already noticed from the reintroduction phase that I didn't react well to them and that my body had a negative response - either pain (inflammatory response for dairy) or by inducing a migraine (in the case of gluten grains). I had already decided to eliminate these two groups from my daily diet but it was somewhat reassuring to know that this can be supported by this testing. Although it is not a 100% certain result test method I think it helps us to get some more information.
As for the salmon I was really shocked!
I've always loved salmon and during my whole30 I had it several times and never felt anything weird or wrong after eating it. What I've read about the symptoms of eating salmon when having a high intolerance to it was that it can manifest itself through scaling of the skin, like eczema. I noticed that my right hand, specifically, had been getting worse during these last few weeks and it could be because of that. Even so, I don't consider it so bad or harmful that will make me eat less salmon and the same goes for the olives. I love them and will continue to use them a source of good fat on my daily diet.
Findings and conclusion
This really was a journey of self discovery!
I got to try a new way of eating, I began a new eating routine but doing this whole30 showed me that it is way much more than just something about food. It's a deep process of re-setting your mindset towards food and life in general. As I've mentioned before, along the way, I noticed the impact that the changes I made to complete this program had on my behavior, general mood and overall wellness indicators.
As I started to go on a whole foods diet I started thinking clearly and feeling more positive and energetic. I had a sense of calmness that reassured me something that is pretty obvious but that you'll only perceive if you try something like this - real food heals, real food is good for you, real food is what your body needs to keep your mind healthy and thriving through good and bad times.
Whenever I would be faced with a challenge or a situation with which I wasn't comfortable with I was able to turn the situation in my favor and resolve it in a calm and orderly manner. I learned that I start to be more patient with my kids, I wasn't yelling at them as I would before and that everything needed to be more calm and peaceful in my household. My husband also noticed it and mentioned that to me, which was pretty reassuring and satisfying for me.
Physically, the changes are huge!
Of course I've lost weight and that was also favored by my post-op period from my gum surgeries in which I had to have 13 weeks of soft foo diet. Even so, after resuming my regular whole foods diet I've maintained my weight which has never happened before! Since starting in January I've lost 22 lbs and I'm now at my fittest as an adult as I've ever been.
I've been struggling with weight issues for a LONG time and to know that I can be at my fittest without making any sacrifices and eating the foods that I want and crave makes this experience so much more rewarding than I ever thought possible.
For decades I would hear those voices that we all hear, through TV commercials, magazines or on social media:
"Stay away from fat! Eat only fat-free food!"
"If you want to loose weight count calories - if you burn more than you eat you will loose weight, for sure!"
"Eat small portions of food throughout the day, no big meals!"
Those messages that we are fed for so many decades really do us harm and don't help us at all. What I've learned is exactly the opposite of that and I'll keep sharing it with my readers, family and friends so that all of you can, too, try to get to a point where you don't feel like food is the enemy. Food is your friend and food can heal, just choose the most natural way of eating and it can only do you so much good!
Eat real food
Do not base your grocery shopping on boxed items, they are full of chemicals and fake stuff!
Eat generous but balanced meals made up from excellent protein, colorful veggies and fat!
Good fat, eat it and enjoy it because it makes you so much good that you're blood work will get A+
Avocado, olives, nuts, nut butters, olive and avocado oil are amazing good fat choices, use them!
Eat the rainbow at every meal and you'll beat any multivitamin that comes off from a bottle!
Eat loads of different dark leafy greens to get vitamins and calcium in highly absorbable levels!
With all that being said I feel great about my natural daily diet and I'm currently looking into Paleo diet as a lifestyle. Keeping things and meals the simplest possible really makes me feel really good, healthy and energetic, so why would I want to change that?!
The only thing that keeps holding me back from being 100% Paleo, at the moment, is the fact that I love hummus! I usually have it a couple of times a week and I do get it why legumes are out of the Paleo lifestyle but I'll have to contemplate the options and decide what to do. Maintaining a good gut health and avoiding foods that cause leaky gut are a priority for me, now that I've learned so much about nutrition and about the impact that food can have on our lives.
I've also tried to incorporate, at least two days a week, a plant-based day. Eating just plants has proven to be an excellent way to feel even more in touch with myself and to have clearer thoughts and I'm loving all this things that I'm learning through food. Experimentation really is an amazing tool and I couldn't be happier with this experiment that has gone through almost 6 months.
So, eating grass-fed and grass-finished meat, sustainable wild caught fish, organic eggs, lots of veggies and fruit, tree nuts and raw unfiltered honey have been my guidelines after finishing my round. I just have the issue with legumes to look into but if I don't even miss oats anymore I believe I can do that with legumes too, as long as it is for the sake of a better life and healthier future.
I'm also taking the time to teach my kids about food and the importance of making good choices for their present and future health. I don't impose them any specific diet but they do have veggies with every meal and they love fruit. I also know that I'm passing on to them the right concepts and I trust them to carry them on through their lives and practice what I teach them.
Should you do a whole30 round?
I would recommend everyone to do a whole30 round!
As we all know it is not a weight loss diet.
It isn't a diet at all.
It is a reset program built to let your body detoxify itself from all the junk and fake stuff that we usually have through processed foods. Keeping a natural diet will help you achieve so many things beyond weight loss: no more inflammation, no more migraines, no more metabolic issues due to an imbalanced nutrient intake.
With the reintroduction program you will be able to determine which foods don't do you any good and remove them from your diet. It will always be an option and a single round may not be enough, specially if your previous daily diet was loaded with sugar and carbs.
No matter how many rounds you need, the most important thing is to START!
Put yourself first, put your health first because all you feel it's wrong with you can be changed by changing what you eat. We really are what we eat - I see that now, more clearly than ever! Give this program a try and see for yourself how amazing it can be, how good you can feel about yourself and share it with other so they can also have a glimpse of what they can achieve, without medication, fake vitamins or more chemicals pumped in our system.
Go natural, go back to our basic diet and feel like a million bucks!
I really hope that this posts inspires you to start or to continue your journey and I would love to know about your personal experience with going on a natural diet.
Feel free to comment or to reach out through my email, either way I'll love to know your personal experience!