Reflections on my Whole30 experience

I’m breaking away from my usual recipe posting to bring you a few reflections on my Whole30 experience.  Today is day 31… I did it! 

What is Whole30?

You can read all about it at their official website here.  If I were to sum it up in a very small nutshell, I would say that it’s basically eating Paleo with absolutely NO cheating (not even “paleo-approved” cheats) for 30 days.  You eat meat and veggies and a little fruit.

Why did you decide to do Whole30?

Well, my reasons honestly had nothing to do with weight loss, though I know many people embark on the Whole30 journey with that goal in mind.  As you may have read on my What is Kokopaleo page, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2000.  I’ve found remarkable improvement with each dietary change I’ve made over the years – “going organic” (2004), “going gluten free” (April 2011), “going paleo” (end of July, 2011), and now Whole30 (December 2011/January 2012).

In the process of eliminating gluten and switching to a paleo diet, I had already lost 40 pounds.  I also went from a size 16 to a size 6 clothing, so I had no real expectations of weight loss from the month of cheat-free paleo eating.  I’ve also been working out with the Wii EA Sports Active2 Personal Trainer for about 30 weeks, and I have more muscle strength and general fitness than I’ve ever had in my life.  So because I am building muscle, I’m not really concerned about the number on the scale anymore.  (One of my friends recently guessed that I weigh 30 pounds less than I actually do.  It’s good to be STRONG!)

I could elaborate with all the details of my experience, but instead I’d like to mention the two most important things I learned in the past month.

I learned to curb my psychological dependence on sweets.

The cravings have subsided and REAL food has a completely new flavor to me.  It was difficult to let go of my desire to force my old way of eating into a paleo mold.  Too many people want to know: How can I still eat chocolate cake and ice cream and muffins and cookies and still technically be paleo?  Don’t get me wrong – I love treats as much or more than anyone.  In fact, in my former lifestyle I seriously could have downed an entire carton of ice cream or an entire package of cookies in one sitting.  So now I’m REALLY learning (after months of being grain-free) what it is to be healthy, not just in food choices, but in how I view food.  The other day I was dipping carrot sticks and celery sticks in almond butter for a snack.  The whole time I kept thinking, “It’s ridiculous how delicious this is!” not because I was trying to convince myself of the notion, but because everything TRULY tastes better when you give up grains and sugar.  Sweet potatoes taste so sweet, you wonder why you ever considered adding brown sugar.  Strawberries are so bright and vibrant that you ask yourself how anyone would think a McD’s strawberry shake tastes anything like the real thing.  Even lettuce tastes sweet to me.  Weird, right?  Food has flavor like never before.

And the second, less fortunate thing I learned this month?

I can’t do coconut.  Boo.  :(

I seem to do fine with small amounts of coconut oil or coconut aminos.  But coconut milk, shredded coconut, and (I’m assuming) coconut flour are not an option for me.  They make my tummy do bad things.

While this is a BUMMER because I love coconut, it’s a blessing to learn this because it helps my digestive health tremendously.  An incredible benefit of a minimalist diet – you get to really know your body and how it reacts to certain foods.  Now I know about coconut.  And I can move on to better health because of this.

So what do “the numbers” say” ?  Did you lose weight?  And how are your digestive symptoms?

First of all, I decided I needed this after a Thanksgiving colitis flare-up.  (Not surprisingly, I now realize I was eating lots of coconut flour paleo “treats” at the time.)  This necessitated a trip to the doctor, prescription meds, and all kinds of unpleasantness that generally takes months for me to recover from.  This time (on the Whole30 plan) I was able to eliminate all symptoms and all medication in about 3 weeks.  (It probably would have been faster had I caught on to the coconut issue earlier.)  Better health and no drugs?  Totally WORTH IT!

As far as weight loss goes… I stepped on the scale this morning and found I had lost 6 pounds in the last month.  Pretty cool!  I wasn’t really trying to lose weight, but I don’t mind.  And I ate ridiculous amounts of food all month long.  I just didn’t eat any junk!

One final tidbit – When I first started my paleo/exercise lifestyle changes back in July, I could do ZERO push-ups.  During much of my youth, I wasn’t really allowed to do push-ups because I had 2 open-heart surgeries.  When I had healed enough from the surgeries to do push-ups, I had a psychological block that prevented me from having any success with them because feeling any kind of strain across my chest (where I had been split open and wired back together) totally freaked me out.

By the time I started Whole30 I had worked up to doing 12 in a row!  It took me 5 months to get there, but I was pretty darn proud of myself.

The other night I decided to see if I could break my latest record.  I did 17 push ups in a row!  I felt so triumphant!

So, in short, if you want to get control of your health…  PLEASE… Stop waiting.  DO IT.  Right now.  Don’t wait until next month.  Don’t wait until next week.  Don’t wait until tomorrow.  Don’t wait until dinner.

This is the time.

You must start NOW, and you must decide NOW that you are the only person in charge of making that change.

It is NOT limiting.  It is LIBERATING.

You have only one body in this life on earth.  Why would you roll the dice with “genetics” or medications… or simply “I’m too busy” or “I hate to cook” and find yourself suffering for years and damaging your quality of LIFE?

Life is too beautiful for that.  I truly believe with all my heart that this is our God-intended way to be living –  eating the food HE created and treating the bodies HE created with the best possible care and love.

It’s my way of telling Him “Thank you.”

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13 responses to “Reflections on my Whole30 experience

  1. Great post! It really is true that we start to view food differently after giving paleo a try for a decent amount of time. That’s the part that can change our lives – one where we are not in a constant struggle with weight and eating because we simply view food differently. And I love how you bring it all back to God and what He does for us.

    With regard to your issue with coconut I wanted to let you know something I have heard from a couple of different sources. Sometimes people think they have an allergy or intolerance to coconut when, in fact, they are having a reaction to guar gum. I was shopping for coconut milk yesterday and every single brand had guar gum. Evidently that is a legume derivative and can be the source of the problem for some people. Just thought I would mention that in case it might be what is affecting you.

    • Wow! Thanks for the guar gum tip. I just checked, and the coconut milk I use does have guar gum in it. But would that explain the reaction to shredded coconut? Now that I’m through my 30 days, I may do one last experiment with some coconut flour carrot cake I made for Christmas (but didn’t eat). I haven’t had coconut flour in 30 days, so I was just assuming. At any rate, I had no idea about guar gum, so thank you so much for educating me!

  2. Great post. Congrats on everything and wow, you could totally be an english professor!

  3. Good for you Jocelyn! What a great journey.

  4. Just stumbled across this…what a great post! I did a local “Eat Real” paleo challenge (similar to Whole30) a few months ago and it completely changed the way I view food. After it was over, I let the old foods creep back in and now I am resolved to go back to Paleo. I have to tell myself repeatedly that the sugary goodness of sweets and grains is not worth it. I feel so much better without!

    • Agreed – it’s way too easy to “fall off the wagon”. After finishing my Whole30, I had a few “technically paleo” treats this week that have been sitting in my freezer since Christmas. But now that I’ve finally sampled them, I’m ready to go back to my own version of a paleo challenge that I’ve learned is best for me. I’ll be cooking with butter again, occasionally having nitrite-free turkey bacon that (according to the ingredients list) has the tiniest bit of maple sugar in it, and maybe once in a blue moon sprinkling a little parmesan cheese as a seasoning on a dish. These are things that (in moderation, of course) seem to work fine with my digestive system. But, had I not done Whole30, I would not have discovered several triggers that I now know I need to avoid.

  5. I’m new to your site. I was just wondering if you have looked into the book “Breaking the Vicious Cycle” by Elaine Gottschall. It can really help you heal your gut and figure out the guar gum/coconut questions. There is a frozen coconut milk I haven’t tried but it doesn’t have anything else in it.

    • I haven’t read the book but I am aware of it. I read up a bit on SCD before going with paleo… and my decision was partially because paleo seemed a little less complicated. I’ll track down that book and check it out for real. Thanks for the recommendation!

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  7. Thank You so much for sharing your story with all of us! I’m doing the Whole30 diet too and I’m in my 5th day hehe I started this diet because I kept on having pain in my stomach after almost every meal and I knew I wasn’t eating good. I know I’m just in the beginning but I already found myself trying to find other choices to my cravings… In this 5 days I realized how addicting sugar can be… So I started researching for “approved cheats” and that’s when I found coconut flour (That’s how I ended up here). I made some sort of “coconut bread” and literally while I was cooking it I found out it’s not allowed in the Whole30… (I tried a little bit and I threw the rest away… I started feeling guilty and what’s worse, my stomach felt so bloated) Well, actually no “approved cheats” are allowed lol. But I keep telling myself I can do it! That’s why I really appreciate when people share their experiences with the Whole30! It’s great to know people who commit to do it and finally complete it! So inspirational! Thanks

  8. Pingback: Inspiration (Whole30, week 3) | Researching San Diego

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