Contemplating The Whole 30

I want to start off by saying Wow! Thanks to everyone for the response on my last blog post. I was pretty amazed to see so many Facebook shares over the first couple days, and now I’m featured as a “Freshly Pressed” blog on the front page of WordPress! So, I guess what I’m saying is, thanks for paying attention to something that I feel is very important in the fitness world. You guys are the best! Also, welcome to all of my new readers. So glad you all have decided to stick around for a little while, hopefully I can keep you entertained.

I also want to reiterate that the point of that last post was not to criticize or judge certain athletes/bloggers/models for being too lean, it was to criticize social media and the fitness industry for making us feel as though we all need to look that way.

Moving on…

Some of my friends are in the middle of a Whole 30 right now, and many of my friends have done them in the past. For those of you who don’t know, the Whole 30 is essentially a 30 day challenge of extremely strict Paleo eating (no grains, added sugar, dairy, alcohol, beans, legumes… did I miss anything?). I’ve said about 5 times that I’m going to do a Whole 30, and I always seem to find a reason not to do it. “But I have a wedding that month”. “But there’s a holiday that month”. “But it’s summer… enough said”. It seems like I’m just making excuses so that I don’t have to torture myself, but I’m not so sure that’s the case.

No, I do not want to give up my greek yogurt for breakfast. No, I do not want to give up my weekly bowl of oatmeal. No, I do not want to give up rice, or stinky cheeses, or (god forbid) peanut butter. Notice though, that everything I’m complaining about having to give up for a Whole 30 is, in my eyes, healthy. So why is it necessary to give it up for 30 days?

My hesitance to do a Whole 30 definitely is part fear, but it’s also part thinking that the whole plan just isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Do I think it’s worth it to give up added sugars and alcohol for 30 days? Absolutely, and I’m more than willing to take on that challenge. Do I think that it’s also necessary to give up all grains and dairy for 30 days? Of that I’m not so sure. When it comes to most things health and diet related, I’m a firm believer that there is no one-size-fits-all equation. Not everyone has to be dairy free. Not everyone has to be grain and gluten free. I’ve done 3 weeks completely dairy free before (as I was medically advised, due to GI issues in the past), and I realized that dairy doesn’t really make a difference in how I feel. When I avoided it, I felt exactly the same as when I added it back in, so why remove it from my diet again? Grains, as a whole, are not on my black list just yet. The jury’s still out on gluten, but having rice with dinner is more than just ok in my book, it’s encouraged.

So again, I ask, why remove these things from my diet? Just so that I can say I did a Whole 30?

Maybe it’s so that I can say that I completed the ultimate diet challenge? I don’t know. I’m not saying I’m not going to do one, I’m just undecided about whether it’s worth it or not. I feel very compelled to do a 30 day trial of no added sugar, alcohol, or gluten, which would be a challenge in itself. But I guess then I wouldn’t be in the Whole 30 club, and I might be shunned by the non-dairy eating Paleo elite.  Maybe I’ll just have to call it a 3/4 30, or a 70% 30, or something like that.

I truly believe that Paleo has an excellent base to it, and that the ideas supporting it are very sound. Eating whole foods, avoiding processed foods, avoiding excessive sugar, appreciating food and natural nutrients, these are all things I can get behind, and things that I do practice in my daily life.  But can’t there be a gray area? Do we all have to be “all Paleo all the time”, or can’t we just be healthy? (Jake touched on these questions over at JJ strength as well. Check out his thoughts here.)

How many of you out there have successfully completed a Whole 30? Can you encourage me to do one in 3 sentences or less? Do you think I’m just making excuses because I know it’s going to be hard? Go ahead, tell me what I probably don’t want to hear. 

Again, a big Thank You to WordPress for featuring my last post, and an even bigger Thank You and Welcome to my new readers! Happy Friday everyone! 

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28 thoughts on “Contemplating The Whole 30

  1. Most of your reasons why are mine as well. Why? I wish I could give you 3 sentences but extremes in diet to me have always caused me to go skittle. I will start out then crash hard. It’s better I stick with my Greek yogurt protein smoothie ( why the hate on dairy? I’m not lactose intolerant) I have a friend who does paleo and swears by it. I just can’t buy it. Clean, non processed for the most part yes.

  2. I did a Whole30 in September last year and it kicked off my journey into paleo. First up on the Whole30, I think it’s important to do it for the right reasons, I had a LOT of digestive issues when it came to food and doing a Whole30 gave me some answers, plus major sugar cravings which I got a handle on. If you feel like you’re fine then I don’t see a point in doing it just because everyone else is. Also just want to point out that it’s long been established in the paleo community that dairy is fine for those who can tolerate it. Sticking to grass-fed, full-fat and even raw dairy. Also grains like white rice have also been said to be a safe starch again for those who can tolerate it. Most of what is written about paleo in the media is centered around the original Paleo Diet book from Dr. Loren Cordain (which has been updated actually) which spoke of the lean meats, no grains, legumes, dairy etc but paleo has long since moved on from that. My point is if someone is telling you something like dairy isn’t paleo they are totally wrong!

    • Thanks so much for the info!! I was actually talking about the rice thing with a friend of mine who is paleo, and she also told me that white rice is in fact much more accepted in the paleo community than brown rice. I mean, I do love white rice, so I’m ok with that 🙂

  3. I could have written your first three paragraphs myself. I like the idea of the Whole 30 but just can’t commit. Grains, dairy, and peanut butter. Why would I quit those? They have been loyal to me for over 45 years, it just seems wrong to set them aside. And I just bought new crackers for my cheeses.

    Thanks for this. Now I don’t feel so alone in my procrastination.

  4. Wow, this is crazy as I am just in the middle of reading ‘It starts with food’- I’ve read the first half but up to the approved/disapproved foods list. I’m not sure if I’ll do it (Not until I finish exams at least) but I’d be interested to give it a go. I was reading how Tara (sweatlikeapig) had great success transitioning to a more paleo style of eating. But greek yogurt/cheese/peanut butter are daily staples in my house!

    Btw, you deserved all the recognition in the last post- it hit home with many people.

  5. The pros: I never would have cut grains from my diet if I hadn’t done one of these challenges, and in doing so, that persistent roll of belly fat I’d had for years disappeared. Score! The cons: I felt more guilty than usual if I “cheated”, even if it was a little sugar in a package of turkey bacon. No thanks.
    Bottom line: I did learn that grains weren’t my friend, but perhaps I could have learned that by doing my own targeted studies (where I varied one food group at a time, rather than cutting huge swathes across my dietary landscape.)

    Loved your last post, btw. Spot on.

  6. I couldn’t commit to a Whole 30 for the exact reasons you stated. I have fallen in love with whole milk from the local dairy and it is like heaven in a glass. Milk is such a great post workout refuel if you can handle it. I just try to stay away from processed food as much as possible. Whole 30 may be a good idea for some, but endurance runner I’m not so sure.

    • Ah yes, my fiance drinks whole milk from a local farm and he swears by it… I can’t quite get past the thickness of it, but I do love it in my coffee! I don’t ever drink milk by the glass though, but I agree, it is a great post workout fuel if you can handle it!

  7. I have thought about going paleo for a long, long time — and like you, I keep saying “maybe some other time.” I’ve gone through no dairy, no gluten, low carb, high fat phases, and nothing has made me feel any better than I felt when I was eating a little gluten, a little oats, a little peanut butter, etc. No added sugar is always part of my plan, so that doesn’t faze me. But instead of cutting more foods out, I’m focusing on adding a few things here and there — oats on the weekends, a little Ezekials cereal every day, etc. I am not convinced that all grains, even gluten, are entirely bad. They’ve served me well, and I’ve come to know which ones I can eat more of and which ones I should limit.

    Besides, the Whole 30 is very low starch, and while I do eat lower carb than most Americans, I don’t want to live on starchy veggies alone unless I have a reason to do so.

    • I think I’m with you 100% on this one. A little of this, a little of that, and I’m ok. I know that when I overload on gluten, I feel like shit, but not if I only have a little bit. I also know if I overload on sugar I want to die. So my solution is, just avoid those overloads, and everything should be good, right?

  8. I’m a bit behind with my blog reading but I’m glad I’m catching up now. I’m on the fence about “food” challenges for many of the reasons you mentioned but namely because we are all different. I am so with ya on greek yogurt and oatmeal! I do like the idea of challenging yourself and the sugar/alcohol one seems rational and great. So it can be the “I Train Therefore I Eat” challenge.. I’m all for that one 🙂

  9. Yeah, I agree. And am in the middle of my second Whole30 (this time with wine after 2 weeks). And the real reason to do it, is to not have all those things in your system after 30 days. THEN and only then re introduce them slowly one at a time to see how you feel. Start with dairy, feeling okay, good to go with dairy if you like/want it. Introduce rice, feeling okay, then good to go. But maybe your reintroduce gluten and you don’t feel so good. Then you know maybe not so much gluten. It’s not because they aren’t healthy in general, it’s because they CAN be unhealthy for lots of people and everyone’s different. You need a baseline to start with. Just like a control in a science experiment.

    Also after the 30 days they basically recommend an 80/20 stance where you try to continue doing Whole30 eating 80% of the time but have 20% where you can enjoy. AKA weekends!! WHOOT WHOOT!

    Lastly, and I think this might be the biggest benefit of a Whole30, is 30 days is long enough to change your emotional and metal process when it comes to food. Try not eating any grains/rice for 2 weeks. It’s going to suck and you’ll want to dive back in after it’s over. Do 30 days and you’ll feel calm and skeptical about re introducing them. You’re mental cravings/desires seem to diminish after such a long period.

    I’d love to read the blog post AFTER you’ve tried it. Including no yogurt and rice. 🙂

    • I agree with a lot of what you’ve said here. It’s true that the purpose is to sort of give yourself a “clean” baseline to work with, and also to reset your mental attachments to these foods, which I think is helpful if you’ve never tried any type of elimination before. But, as I noted in the post, I have removed dairy completely from my diet before, and noted no changes with it. I have also completely removed gluten, and have found that I feel crappy when I eat a lot of it, but that I’m fine with a little bit every now and then (I had a ton of testing done a few years ago due to GI issues). Grains aren’t a huge staple in my diet, but you’re right I would miss rice, because I love it but also because of the convenience factor! I think the biggest factor with the mental aspect of it (for me) would be the sugar, and trust me, I know that eliminating added sugar will be a HUGE challenge for me, even though I don’t really eat that much of it to begin with. That is definitely something I want to do (eliminating sugar and alcohol), but I’m still undecided about the Whole 30 for me. We’ll see 🙂

  10. I’ve done the Whole 30 twice, and it really is excellent both physically and mentally. I think it just does us good to deny ourselves sometimes – the world won’t stop turning if we turn down that muffin. Word to the wise, post Whole 30 I’ve found myself going crazy (too crazy!) over junk foods. I find it hard to moderate myself afterwards. But YMMV. You can do it, enjoy your thirty days!

  11. I am going through this exact dilemma at the moment.

    I have completed two 100% Whole30’s and I half assed one and only did it about 75%. I truly think everyone should do it 100% at least once – especially if you are starting to eat clean. I don’t think I could have “gradually” dropped foods, but having to do it for 30 days really made me see how much better I could feel and the extreme nature of it kept me pretty on track.

    However, my first Whole30 really sparked a weight/body composition change and I lost 12 lbs and 10% body fat and have continued to lose a total of 17% body fat and 25 lbs since doing my first – pretty easy to do when you go from eating multiple pizzas a week to only veggies, fruit and meats.

    Now, in order to keep up in Crossfit and lift heavier, I am having the dilemma of putting back on some muscle weight and 100% paleo just isn’t going to cut it. I’ve added back in grains and a little dairy, but I am still having tinges of “Paleo guilt.” But why? It’s not that these things are “bad” for me – they just don’t follow the program and guidelines. It’s a vicious cycle that I’m slowly trying to make peace with.

  12. Pingback: 30-Day Health Reboot | I Train Therefore I Eat.

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