The Whole30 Post

by Khushboo on April 14, 2014

Thanks for the warm welcome back to blogging!   During my hiatus, I  made a list of topics to post about eventually so I’m going to get right to it.  First one up:

The Whole30 

It seems to be the rage right now, but for those of you not familiar with it, The Whole30 is a 30-day elimination diet based on the book It Starts From Food.  As taken from the site:

Cut out all the psychologically unhealthy, hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, inflammatory food groups for a full 30 days. Let your body heal and recover from whatever effects those foods may be causing. Push the “reset” button with your metabolism, systemic inflammation, and the downstream effects of the food choices you’ve been making. Learn once and for all how the foods you’ve been eating are actually affecting your day to day life, and your long term health. This will change your life!

The following foods & beverages are off-limits for 30 consecutive days:

  • Sugar of any kind, real or artificial
  • Alcohol
  • Grains, including pseudo grains like quinoa
  • Legumes (e.g. chickpeas, entils, mpeanuts, soy,  sauce, tofu, beans)
  • Dairy
  • White potatoes
  • Additives like carrageenan, MSG or sulfites
  • Paleofied baked goods, desserts or junk foods i.e.  desserts or junk food made with “approved” ingredients

In short, the Whole30 is clean eating on steroids.

Grilled chicken with tomato coulis, avocado & greens

Grilled chicken with tomato coulis, avocado & greens

I devoured It Starts With Food on my 5-hour flight journey back to Mumbai from Hong Kong and started the 30-day program the day after I landed.  Before I share my experience on the plan, I want to outline my reasons for doing it:

  1. The idea of being able to rebalance my hormones through food alone sounded like a dream.
  2. I was curious to see if my body reacted negatively to any of the off-limit foods.
  3. I wanted to minimize my sugar cravings i.e. reduce the urge to always end a meal on a sweet note.
  4. It’s almost taboo to admit that you want to lose a few kilos when you don’t necessarily need to, but I’m not going to lie: After 2 weeks of indulging on holiday and feeling bloated, I wasn’t opposed to the idea of knocking off a bit of weight.  However I will say that this was not my primary motive.
Lamb burger with roasted squash & greens

Lamb burger with roasted squash & greens

The 30 days

  • It busted my food rut, and I started eating foods I rarely/never did.
  • I started to get experimental in the kitchen again & my love for cooking came back in full force.  From having never cooked red meat or curry, lamb burgers & Thai green curry became a regular meal choice.
  • My sugar cravings completely died.  For the first time ever, I actually woke up cravings eggs and all things savory.  A few breakfasts  even included chicken.
  • I ate out about 5 times in total and managed to stick to the Whole30 guidelines.  However the plans’ rules definitely sucked the fun out of socialising.  Thank the lord for understanding friends who put up with my anal questioning & requests at restaurants.
  • The book outlines a timeline for the 30-day period i.e. how most people feel as they go along.  Although mental fogginess and fatigue are commonly felt during the first week, my energy levels rarely dipped.   
  •  I worked out 4-5 times a week, mostly in the form of brisk walks.
  •  The only thing I missed? WINE
Sesame & Citrus Kale Salad with Avocado

Sesame & Citrus Kale Salad with Avocado

My Results

  • I lost 2 kilos, which is probably due to eating an inevitably low-carb diet.  I also lost a couple of inches from my waist.
  • My cholesterol levels shot up, both LDL & HDL.  My LDL:HDL ratio after the 30 days was higher than the optimal range, as were my triglycerides.
  • According to my blood tests, it threw my hormones more out of whack
  • I felt great energy-wise…but not any greater than before pre-Whole30

After the 30 Days

  • I re-incorporated all the foods above and only noticed a negative reaction from dairy.  I now tend to only eat dairy in the form of dark chocolate or the occasional ice cream once every few weeks.  Despite my love for yogurt, I surprisingly don’t miss it at all.
  • I’ve added back in complex carbs like quinoa, brown rice, rye bread and of course oats. No, my weight hasn’t increased.
  • I ate a lot of red meat during the 30 days.  I’ve replaced much of that with leaner sources of protein
  • My workouts are more varied and not purely cardio-based
Sea bass with a Spicy Tomato-Orange Sauce & Pok Choy

Sea bass with a Spicy Tomato-Orange Sauce & Pok Choy – Vetro

My verdict:

I love that the plan emphasizes on eating a diet filled with real, unprocessed foods.  As much as I don’t want to knock the plan, I think many of the success stories they share are from people who were eating a SAD diet i.e. one filled with heavily processed, high-fat (not the good kind), sugary foods.  Those same individuals can experience similar benefits without eating so restrictively.  While some individuals have genuine intolerances/allergies, it’s unnecessary to eliminate certain food groups entirely when eating  for health and/or weight loss.  The authors also provide very few studies to back their claims.  Who knows whether or not they are valid.  However I do know one thing: I don’t want to be a guinea pig in this experiment.

Every diet is going to come with some promise and will be packaged so that it sounds like a dream.  I am kinda ashamed of myself for going against my principles and trying out something so restrictive.  Heart in heart, I know that the best kind of diet is based on real, wholesome foods that suit your health, preferences and lifestyle.  Aside from not doing me any favors on the health front, this kind of eating style is not conducive to my lifestyle at all.  I like eating out regularly without having to worry about whether I’ll find a meal that fits my dietary requirements.  I like ending my night with a square or 3 of Lindt.  On that note, I’m going to go heat up some quinoa for lunch…and top it with some legume-filled hummus 😉 .

What are your thoughts on Whole30?  Have you ever done it/would you like to eventually?

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Shashi @ RunninSrilankan April 14, 2014 at 2:24 pm

I followed Dixya during her journey thru Whole30, and was impressed by the recipes/dishes she came up with during it, but I don’t think Whole30 is for me. I don’t do well with restrictive diets – like you, I too, cherish my after dinner sweet treat like my spoon or 2 of chocolate chips and nutbutter; I couldn’t agree more with “the best kind of diet is based on real, wholesome foods that suit your health, preferences and lifestyle” – and I am impressed you stuck it out and proved your food mantra correct, Khushboo!

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Khushboo April 15, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Thanks Shashi! I love your perspective i.e. proving my food mantra correct 🙂

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Arman @ thebigmansworld April 14, 2014 at 3:06 pm

You know my thoughts on this and thank you for the advice before hand- It definitely was an interesting challenge and one which I’m glad I tried- mainly because it taught me my standard style of eating was pretty damn good- add in some extra fats though 😉

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Khushboo April 15, 2014 at 12:32 pm

I enjoyed reading about your experience too- I guess we are more clued up about our bodies & diet than we take credit for 😉

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Jess April 14, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Love your summary and attitude to this! I totally agree with you! Life is nicer with some carbs!

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Khushboo April 15, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Thanks Jess 🙂

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Hana April 14, 2014 at 5:12 pm

I agree that it is way too restrictive! Plus red meat isn’t that great for you in the grand scheme of things anyway. I, too have a bit of a vendetta against Dairy and eggs for their high fat/ mucus/ cholesterol levels and all that (I’ve been reading a lot about it recently) and would like to do the same as you and cut it out but I still do love greek yoghurt and feta cheese aaaand chocolate.. can’t seem to stop!! But otherwise, a balanced diet is the best diet, no sense in cutting out great things from your diet like quinoa and oats 🙂

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Khushboo April 15, 2014 at 12:34 pm

While I definitely can see the arguments against dairy & eggs, I guess it comes down to picking your battles. While I’m okay to nix dairy from my day-to-day diet, I can’t say the same about eggs..at least not for now!

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Parita @ myinnershakti April 14, 2014 at 6:26 pm

I could never do something like this – even for 30 days – so kudos to you for trying it! I like you honesty here and agree that a good diet is based on real foods in all forms AND one that fits your lifestyle needs. How are your sugar cravings now that you are eating some dark chocolate and the occasional treat? Did you see them go up a little again?

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Khushboo April 15, 2014 at 12:37 pm

Thank you, P! Overall I think my sugar cravings are much more in control. While I’m eating chocolate daily now, it’s in the form of 85%- some brands/versions I used to eat are too sweet for me to actualy enjoy. Certain foods are also too sweet for me now. I used to love Skippy Natural but I’ve switched to brands containing just nuts & salt out of personal preference.

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Lucie@FitSwissChick April 14, 2014 at 7:15 pm

I did a Whole30 and only lasted 21 days – and even in these 21 days I cheated 2-3 times, which might be the reason that I did not get any surprising results. I loved the food I was able to eat, but I definitely missed a greater variety of carbs and, yes, wine!! I didn’t go out at all during this time and, man, it sucked 🙂
I definitely prefer my me-diet that is not so restrictive. Thank you for the recap!

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Khushboo April 15, 2014 at 12:38 pm

Agreed- the food ‘allowed’ is tasty but it’s not enough to keep me satisfied in the long-term!

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Dixya @ Food, Pleasure, and Health April 14, 2014 at 7:36 pm

i had a very similar experience with whole 30..i dont think its quite my lifestyle and didnt see a huge benefit like they claimed on the website.

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Khushboo April 15, 2014 at 12:39 pm

I am glad I was able to read about your experience 🙂

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Sam @ Better With Sprinkles April 14, 2014 at 8:04 pm

So interesting to read about your experience! Of course, the book/website displays it as a the be-all/end-all of health, but more often than not I hear about people who felt ‘meh’ about the experience. The more I read into it, the more I came to the conclusion that it just was not for me!

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Khushboo April 15, 2014 at 12:39 pm

From one friend to another, please don’t try it out…especially for the sake of your hormones 🙂

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Tara @ Sweat like a Pig April 15, 2014 at 1:42 am

I already knew your experience on the Whole30, but it was so interesting to hear about it again. I know that not everyone will experience amazing results from it! Last week I tried re-introducing oatmeal and it has seriously messed my body up :S I’m going to give it one more week but if this horrible 24/7 bloating doesn’t go away soon, I’m going back to my breakfast of eggs and bacon!

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Khushboo April 15, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Any reason you added back in the oats? While my stomach felt a bit too full for the first few days when I re-introduced oats, fortunately that passed. As much as I love eggs, there’s something about oats in the morning that just hits the spot!

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Tara @ Sweat like a Pig April 15, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Just because I missed them! I think I need to decrease my portion size slightly haha!

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Khushboo April 15, 2014 at 10:13 pm

Give ’em a few more shots…they’re too delish not to 😉

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Nikhita April 15, 2014 at 1:46 am

I’m so proud of you for sticking to it! And I agree, life is better with some carbs. A healthy diet with a few indulgences sometimes is the best way to go, and your mantra is something that can be adopted for life. These quick fixes seem just that – and not healthy either!

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Khushboo April 15, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Thanks, Nikhita…glad we’re on the same page 🙂

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Amanda @ .running with spoons. April 15, 2014 at 5:52 am

Loved reading your thoughts on this, lady! To be honest, I’ve always given Whole30 the side eye… I don’t like the idea of a diet that’s that restrictive and that extreme… and I can’t help but wonder if some of the results that people experience aren’t more psychological than anything else. Either way, I know it’s something I could never do — I like a balanced diet that’s full of whole foods.

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Khushboo April 15, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Thanks so much, Amanda! More than the side eye, give the Whole30 a full-on glare…haha! Jokes aside, I’m pretty sure that some of the benefits cited are also a Placebo effect!

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Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets April 16, 2014 at 3:43 am

I’m pretty sure you know my stance on this stuff: eat lots of good quality nutrient dense food, and less of the lower quality but delicious food. Avoid chemicals and weird additives as much as possible.
I’m glad you actually explained the whole30 because while I’ve heard all about it, I didn’t actually know what it entails. I find it fascinsting white potatoes and beans are out, but bacon and beef are in. Seems counterintuitive, especially when you think about all the crap in our meat these days.
At least you gave it a shot right. That’s something.

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Khushboo April 16, 2014 at 2:58 pm

Thanks Meghan! I love your approach to food and agree that those should be the only food-related rules to exist! I still find the whole ‘no white potatoes’ rule a bit dumb…no wait, I mean very dumb ha!

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Anita Menon April 16, 2014 at 1:47 pm

It is always good to indulge in some experiement to keep life interesting. FUll marks to you for completing this difficult diet. When you started the post, I thought you would end up recommending this diet to your blog readers and in a way it surprised me cause I have been following your blog for some time and I can confidently say its not your style. Reading the end of the post confirmed that I wasn’t wrong after all.

I couldn’t give this diet a try because I don’t eat red meat. I did try a 5 day juice detox diet to get my metabolism up and running after an indulgent holiday. It worked wonders for me. Earlier I had this constant craving to keep eating something, somehow that has gone away. I plan to do this detox once in six months. I lost 2 kgs and and inches as well because I was working out 4-5 days a week during the diet as well. Not once was I tired except on the first day of the diet because it was constantly playing on my head that I hadn’t eaten.
Thanks so much for sharing your honest insights. I plan to check out your ebook except that in the middle east we don’t have access to paypal.

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Khushboo April 16, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Thank you so much for your kind words & input, Anita- much appreciated :). I am glad that the detox worked for YOU because at the end of the day, that’s all that matters. Regardless of what people say about a certain diet, who cares so long as you see results!

Hope you enjoy reading my e-book. If PayPal is not an option, you can pay through credit card- let me know if that works?

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Liz @ I heart vegetables April 20, 2014 at 7:55 pm

I’ve been really curious about Whole 30, since I’ve had a few friends try it, but I’m not sure I could do it as a vegetarian. I like the emphasis on clean eating though!

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Khushboo April 21, 2014 at 9:18 am

The book outlines a vegetarian approach to the Whole30 but follow it up stating that it won’t be as effective. So long as your focusing on whole foods, I think you are on the right track 🙂

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