Happy February, friends! It’s hard to believe the first month of the year has come to an end – and with it, the 2017 January Whole 30 challenge! To mark the milestone of finishing my first-ever Whole30, I wanted to do a recap post of what I’ve learned and the benefits I’ve experienced – and to come clean about of a couple accidental (and intentional) cheats along the way!
First, the benefits:
- Brighter complexion: Multiple people have literally told me my skin is “glowing” while I’ve been on Whole30. This has happened to me exactly one other time in my life, when I first discovered avocados and was eating like 2 a day.
- Clearer skin: I had pretty severe acne on my chest, shoulders and back when I started the Whole30. I currently have one small blemish near my collarbone and that’s it. These have always been problematic areas for me, so I was really surprised to see how completely my skin cleared up!
- Increased / consistent energy: This was the most noticeable and worthwhile benefit for me. I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older that I’m very sensitive to what I eat, and I’m used to my mood and energy fluctuating throughout the day depending on what I’ve eaten. But on Whole30, I stay awake and energized throughout the day (as long as I get enough calories and don’t try to subsist on Larabars!) It’s been amazing to not have an afternoon slump at work and to feel awake and productive at 8pm (which NEVER used to be the case for this early bird!)
- Fewer muscle aches: Prior to W30, I would frequently get soreness in my neck and shoulders, likely from spending a lot of time at work on the computer. I’ve noticed these aches have been virtually nonexistent during W30. This could also have something to do with the yoga I’ve been doing – stay tuned for a post on that later this week!
What I’ve learned:
- Tweaking recipes and making swaps to fit a healthier lifestyle is easier than I thought. I’ve been able to adapt several of our old favorite recipes to be W30 compliant with just a few ingredient swaps. Even outside of W30 rules, I feel like I’ve learned a lot about food in general just from reading and recipe searching, which has expanded my knowledge of healthy options to try.
- I can actually go 30 days without chocolate! This might sound silly, but this is a HUGE victory for me. I am one of the most chocolate-addicted people I know, and I think if I can do it, ANYONE could do it.
- My body is a lot happier without sugar. (Or maybe it’s the dairy. Or the grains. Or the legumes. We shall see…that’s what the reintroduction phase is all about!)
- I am incredibly privileged to have access to such a vast array of foods and so much information about nutrition and health. Doing Whole30 is a luxury, and I’m so thankful to have had the chance to do this experiment. I want to keep this awareness of how crazy blessed I am to have such abundant food resources any time I’m tempted to complain about having to cook or go to the store. What a gift!
Confession Time – The Cheats
- Eating two bags of (ingredient-compliant) Simple Truth sweet potato chips during the second week before reading that commercially prepared potato chips aren’t allowed. (Side note: They are SO good with salsa.)
- Accidentally tasting a couple Cheerios on Day 30 when my husband asked me if they had gone stale. Didn’t even think about it – I just reached my hand in the bag and popped them in my mouth. It only occurred to me later that that was technically “cheating,” at which point I had to laugh at myself.
- A couple bites of salsa chicken accidentally made with sugar-containing salsa. Once I realized the salsa switcheroo, I got something different. I felt silly, but it was day 27 and I had come so far with no added sugar!
- The pancakes. You know the ones – the amazing, incredible, I can’t-believe-these-are-only-made-with-eggs-bananas-and-almond-flour miracle paleo pancakes. They’re completely ingredient compliant, of course, but the Whole30 powers that be say that creating any kind of treat resembling bread or anything bread-like is strictly prohibited. I sort of get their reasons, and I’m sure that if I had taken the time to really delve into the program more and read It Starts with Food before jumping in, I would understand more fully and maybe even agree with them. But as it stands, I decided to do Whole30 for one reason: to see how my body would respond when certain ingredients and food groups were eliminated from my diet. I did not set out to eliminate the desire to eat sugar or bread from my life. In my world, if there is a way for me to eat delicious, fluffy blueberry pancakes for breakfast that contain exactly 0 grams of added sugar and nothing artificial or harmful for my body in them, that is AMAZING and you can sign me up. So I have been letting myself indulge in the no-no pancakes with fruit and bacon for breakfast on the regular and have been loving it. I use this recipe from Allyson at Reclaiming Yesterday (who also happens to be a UNC alum!) if you’re curious. If this technically makes my Whole30 a “modified” one, that’s fine by me. I don’t want to take anything away from the hardcore W30-ers who stick to the rules 100% by the book – I respect that and know that everyone does W30 (or any type of eating plan) for their own reasons and with their own goals and intentions for their health in mind.
- Date + maca “brownies:” Along those same lines, I also let myself indulge in a batch of amazing 5-Ingredient Raw Maca Brownies from Rachel Mansfield, who is hands down one of my new favorite food bloggers. (Sadly, all were eaten before a picture could be snapped. I’ll be sure to add one in the next time I make them.)
- My own “hot chocolate” creation. There is likely a recipe similar to this somewhere out there online, but I whipped this up all by myself one night in the kitchen and I was beyond excited about it! It’s thick, creamy, and just a little sweet- perfect for satisfying those Starbucks cravings (minus the 20+ grams of sugar!) I’ll put up a post detailing the full recipe next week (since this post has already gotten a little longer than I intended!)
So that’s it: My first-ever Whole30 is officially in the books. I’m curious to know what you think! After reading this, would you be interested in trying the Whole30 for yourself? If not the whole program, are there certain food groups you’d like to see how your body does without?
For other Whole30 alum, congrats to you! Be sure to leave me a recommendation for your favorite recipe or something you learned about yourself during the process. Thanks for reading, friends!