how i survived whole30: 10 tips + what i learned.

how i survived the Whole30 Challenge.

If you read my last post, I [successfully, miraculously} completed the Whole30 Challenge.* It was grueling, and it was not so grueling. It was hard at times, easy at times, and I would totally do it again. Some of you wanted to know more about how I did it (probably because you can’t quite wrap your head around how I could live life sans grains, sugar, legumes, et cetera for an entire month), so I thought I’d make a little guidebook of sorts to doing it – should you be so inclined – and also what I learned from the process.

Whole 30 ultimately requires you to commit, plan, execute that plan, and be mindful at all times of what you are eating. Or not eating, as is often the case. It’s not about starvation or about “dieting”; rather, I gave exactly zero cares about calories during the program. I ate each meal until I was full, and then I waited – no almost no snacking – for the next meal. Rinse and repeat. It sounds like a “diet” at first, but it’s not really a diet as much as it’s just forcing you to be 100% clear on what you’re eating and when you’re eating it.

*I should note that in no way, shape or form did the Whole30 people sanction this. In fact, I would probably be on their list of the last people on earth they’d want to blog about it. Lest you were to think this is in any way sponsored, it is most certainly not. Just me subjecting my body to experiments.

Shannon’s Unofficial Guide to Whole30: Tips for Survival.

  1. Read the guidelines. If that messes with your head, try reading the shopping list: I felt much better when I saw what I could eat as opposed to what I could not eat, and I think as a food/recipe person, the shopping list made it easier to begin formulating what recipes I could make. It also helps to read the timeline, because you should know what you’re about to embark on and because it’s a pretty spot-on depiction of what you may experience week-to-week on the plan.
  2. Plan your attack…and it can’t just be “I’m going to do this.” Don’t kid yourself: starting anything that’s potentially difficult never works if you just say “okay, so I’ll just do this and I’m sure I’ll learn as I go, whatever, it’ll be fine” because you’ll get frustrated and it’ll seem harder than it really is and you’ll quit. Do yourself a favor: clean out pantry and fridge, do a big grocery shop, give yourself options. Other mouths to feed in your house? Find a way to work around that, either by inclusion or by just sucking it up and making two sets of meals. Think about the foods you like within the boundaries of the plan and make a list of potential meal ideas. Use the power of the internet for good and find some Whole30 recipes: Nom  Nom Paleo has a ton of them, as do other sites. Everyone has their own set of strengths and weaknesses, so think about yourself and do what you need to do ahead of time to make it easier on yourself, or it could get ugly.
  3. Have recipes…and backup recipes. and backups to those backups. It’s really incredible how easily the vegetables and fruits you think you could eat all day, every day can turn into the very things you most despise. Take cauliflower, for instance: I love cauliflower. It makes me feel good just buying it. After two weeks of churning out cauliflower-heavy meals during my Whole30, I couldn’t even look cauliflower in the face, much less purchase it. Moral of my story? you never know what you’ll love and you’ll never know what you’ll get sick of, but eating will become a chore if you don’t have variety. It’s smart to go with things which can be prepared in minutes or made in batches ahead of time; you’re not supposed to snack – like at all - and I guarantee you when meal time finally does come, you will not want it to take an hour.
  4. Make those recipes interesting to your taste buds. If you’re used to a wide range of foods and lots of exciting flavors, making one thing for 30 days will just not cut it; you will not be satisfied, you will want to snack, and you will find yourself in what I call The Perpetual State of Hangry. You don’t want to live in Hangry – it is a cold and desolate place – so plan recipes that differ from one another in flavor and in texture. Cauliflower soup day in and day out? Lame. That same cauliflower soup with different crispy vegetable sides each time? Totally satisfying. Think about your comfort foods and flavors and try to translate them into Whole 30-compliant recipes. It’s not as impossible as you think. For instance, both of Natalie’s recipes for quinoa tabbouleh can be made with “cauliflower rice” instead of the quinoa and it’s great alongside chicken. My personal favorite recipe of the Whole30 was her red lentil daal re-imagined with oven-roasted sweet potato home fries instead of the lentils and a few other minor adjustments. It’s heaven: the end result is like a Thai minestrone, and I’ll be posting that recipe in a few weeks because Whole30 or no Whole30, it’s fabulous.
  5. Prep yourself silly. You may want to put off prepping food for future meals and emergency snacks (due to reduced energy levels), but talk yourself out of that: prepping food is probably the biggest key to success with this. You have to have food ready or you will grab other things, or you’ll suddenly be so hungry that if you don’t get food in your mouth within 38 seconds you may pass out. That’s just how it feels, but often it comes down to you having food at the ready or you suffering and maybe curling up into the hunger-fetal on your way to the kitchen.
  6. Begin…and feel all the feels. I wish there was a way to mise en place your feelings prior to starting the plan, but there is not. You’ll have up days and down days, and days with lots of ups and downs. You’ll be skipping through your day just fine until BAM HUNGER WANT ALL THE BREAD time. You’ll get angry that you can’t have bread, try to walk it off, then realize that you don’t have the energy to accomplish it. I have no suggestions for this other than go with it. Just go with it – try to ignore the bad feels, relish the good ones, but just get through the day. It’s only 30 days. Keep repeating that.
  7. Know that food will never leave your mind for long. Everything will be about food. I spent at least an hour a day (cumulative) remembering the foods that I couldn’t eat and wishing I could eat them. Natalie had dreams about foods she couldn’t eat. It’s ridiculous, but try not to focus on what you can’t have, but rather how creative you can get with what you can have. Even better, plan some projects or something which will busy up your day and take your mind off things. I work from home, so I planned some organization projects and the Wee’s little summer camp to keep me occupied. If you’re at work during the day, maybe this is the month you catch up on a bunch of things you’ve been putting off. Maybe you redecorate your desk or office. Maybe you get up once an hour and just take a quick walk or something. Anything helps when it comes to not thinking about food, but there will be times it’s excruciating. I went to bed early some nights because I simply was so distracted by not being able to late-night snack that I couldn’t even watch TV; just creating physical space between myself and the kitchen helped.
  8. Forget about going anywhere: either to restaurants or people’s houses. Seriously. Because vegetarian and vegan restaurants are going to rely heavily on legumes and seeds, and carnivore-friendly ones are going to have sugar in sauces and marinades and grains to round out your plate. It’s almost impossible to order even something as innocent a salad without navigating through the no-cheese-and-no-sugar-of-any-kind forest; frankly, it’s frustrating and you’ll go hungry. People’s houses are another beast entirely, because either you get to be the person who emails ahead of time to discuss the menu (which I did in one situation), the person who attends and doesn’t eat anything, or the person who thinks they’re eating something perfectly compliant only to find out someone “threw some Splenda on the fruit…after you have eaten two servings because it was one of the only things you could have. I found it best to just stick around the house at meal times, because it kept me sane. And it’s only 30 days, so it’s not like you’ve given up eating at restaurants forever (although it will seem like it.) As for family and friend gatherings and the like? Host those yourself, if you can. I had to do that with two birthdays during my Whole30, so I invited people for brunch and made a few things which I could have, and a few things I couldn’t. It was nice; I got to cook things I hadn’t been making (because I couldn’t eat them) for others, I didn’t feel like a weirdo, and it almost automatically gave a balance to the menu so it wasn’t an onslaught of indulgent food.
  9. Choose your month wisely. December? Not a good month to do whole 30. January? Better. Stay away from months which have food-centric holidays in them. Avoid months with birthdays, vacations, and so on. Think also of the season in which you’ll be doing it: June, for instance, is a pretty awesome month for it, because you’re eating predominately fresh vegetables and fruits, and you couldn’t ask for better during the summer. Obviously any month will work, but it’s not a bad idea to factor in which months will provide you with good inspiration and variety.
  10. Best tip ever? Have a WholeBuddy. because no one will be able to empathize with you and what you’re going through unless they are doing the same thing as well. More specifically, no one wants to hear about how you thought about chocolate chips for roughly 6 hours that day. Or how you woke up so dehydrated you actually thought all the water had left your body. No one gets it except someone who is going through the same things at the same time. When I thought I had been poisoned by Splenda? She was there. when she walked in on free Momofuku cookies (who even does that?!?) in the break room at her job? We came up with a solution and got through it together. no one can effectively feel all the feels of the Whole30 with you unless they are doing it, because they are also feeling all the feels. So find a friend you know will be committed as much as you are; someone who will not let you fail, even if that means they just guilt you into not failing. if that friend comes with delicious Whole30 recipes and random GIFs to cheer you up? all the better. Seriously, this may be the biggest key to success for this; I would have found a way to justify quitting this halfway through, but thanks to Natalie, I didn’t.

Ultimately, the Whole30 forces you to change your perspective on food and allows you to view your personal eating habits through newly-objective eyes. It’s like that whole thing about not being able to see the forest through the trees: most of us simply have zero idea what we’re putting into our bodies every day. I’m a food writer, for heaven’s sake, so you think I’d pay attention, right? I do, but evidently I don’t pay attention enough. Much like Yoda, Whole30 brings to light things you should already know but have either been ignoring or have just over time become less mindful of. At least for me it did: I’m assuming everyone’s results will vary considering everyone has different “food weaknesses” to deal with. Here’s what I learned:

  • I don’t eat as well as I thought I did. most of the time I go through life saying to myself and others “I eat pretty healthily,” because I do. sometimes. and then I don’t. because cookies. and snacks. and processed foods on the go. All that junk adds up. At some point it dawned on me that the food I ate a) on the run, b) in front of the fridge/pantry, c) when taste-testing for the blog, or d) after the Wee One went to bed? I wasn’t factoring that in to my “I eat healthy” overview of myself. Bad idea. So many empty calories. Every one of us probably has an Achilles Heel in terms of food: mine is incessant snacking. I love a snack, but i didn’t realize how many snacks I had per day until Whole30. and it is dang embarrassing.
  • Packaged foods are sneaky – more sneaky than I realized. So Natalie and I are food people, right? We both created recipes, typically modified from healthy cookbooks – to make them Whole30-compliant. Some of these recipes involved buying things like olives, diced tomatoes, and chicken stock. Sounds innocent, right? Wrong. I had to look at the ingredients list of 4 brands of Manzanilla olives before landing on one which had no weirdo additives. The diced tomatoes? Same deal. The chicken stock? Natalie found out in her search (and warned me) that our beloved Kitchen Basics chicken stock has honey in it (illegal in the Whole30 universe). Now, the workarounds for this (which typically was an organic product or – with Kitchen Basics – a simple switch from chicken to their vegetable broth, although Natalie really loved her Imagine chicken broth which I have yet to try) are simple, but the problem still remains: those brands I had to nix were the brands I used regularly. Which brings me to the following point.
  • Sugar is a big problem, but not because it’s in birthday cake. Coming out of this little Whole30 experiment, I have zero issues with sugar in a general sense. In fact, I may have even less of a negative view of sugar than I did before. Why? Because I don’t believe there’s anything inherently wrong with a little dessert, that’s why. Because my grandparents are 90 years old, and have spent the vast majority of those years having “a little ice cream / a small piece, oh honey! Just a small piece!” of pie or cake. They eat simply, mostly whole foods, and don’t waste a lot of time on the packaged things, because that’s not how they were raised. People whose formative years were in the 1930′s and 1940′s? Smarter. But most of us grew up immersed in a world of convenience foods, which I don’t regret in the slightest, but somewhere along the line, the novelty of those things turned into de rigueur for all meals. Add in chemical advancements, an increasing demand for affordable, fast goods, and a country’s (possibly unknowing) dependence on more and more sugar, and you get potassium polysorbate mononitrate BHA fructose syrup in your olives and honey in your chicken stock. Kinda gross, if you ask me. Do I sound like a crazy person? I’m not: I’m making ice cream today, and I will lovingly take that light corn syrup out of the pantry, combine it with cornstarch, sugar, and several kinds of dairy, and eat it with gusto when it’s ready. Because when I sit down to demolish it, I’ll know exactly what’s in it, right down to the ingredients in that corn syrup. So I don’t think the sugar we eat knowingly in from-scrach cookies or ice cream is the issue. I think the sugar that finds its way into my chicken stock is the problem. Or the sugar in those gluten-free breakfast bars I sometimes like. Or the sugar in that pre-marinated meat I grabbed for dinner. That sugar…that sugar haunts my dreams. And that sugar is almost impossible to get away from unless you’re paying attention. I’m paying more attention now. It’s taking longer at the grocery store when I go, but I’m coming home with better stuff, and it’s getting easier.
  • I have a new appreciation for those of you with food allergies. Wow, you guys: I can’t say I completely get it now, because that would be slightly disrespectful to what all of you have to go through on a minute-to-minute basis, but having to constantly dream up work-arounds for “illegal” foods on Whole30 made me super aware of some of the huge challenges there must be with eating when your body can’t process something and/or has a life-threatening reaction to something. I feel like it must be so frustrating at times that you would just give up on leaving the safety of your own home. I never – when ordering or eating food in a public setting – would tell anyone I was “allergic” to something because I’m not and that’s not fair to anyone, but my substitutions and special order requests? Largely ignored or halfheartedly followed. If I had been allergic to something, I would have been sick and possibly in pain at least 4 times this month. I feel super blessed to not have any big food allergies, because it was difficult for me to really think strategically about meals for a month, and you have to do it all the time with no breaks. I applaud you. I do not know how you do it, but you do.
  • I still love grains with gluten, gluten-free grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, dairy, and of course, sugar. No changes there, but I have become more aware of how those things affect me individually. We all have different tolerance levels for things, and it’s nice to understand my own personal limits with some of these foods and how to incorporate them into everyday life. I love food, and that’s never going to change, but I was totally guilty of working with it so much that I stopped realizing exactly what I was eating throughout the course of a day. I wasn’t paying attention to balance, and now I am.
  • I’d do it again. This was actually a really good 30-day eating plan for me, and a refreshing alternative to a “diet,” because I’ve spent half my life at this point on a diet and I’m ultra over it by now. I feel lighter, better, more in shape, and my skin is glowy. My nails? Amazing. And I lost about 10 pounds this month. Anything that provides me with both tangible and intangible benefits is a plan I can get behind, period. Probably I’ll be doing it again in September but definitely in January, because those are my “free from cake/celebratory food” months, but I can even see doing smaller “Whole2Weeks” or “Whole1Week” sessions just for a wee feel-good boost.

That’s it! Hopefully that covers it for those of you who had questions or were curious about how I managed to do something so utterly unlike me. If you have question, feel free (as always) to email or message me…whatever! I’m here for you.

We now return to our regularly scheduled programing. Because, food is fantastic and I can’t wait to make you all the food again.

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24 Comments on "how i survived whole30: 10 tips + what i learned."

  1. Jenny says:

    YAY! Thank you for posting this! My husband and I are on Day 2 and I’ve been anxiously waiting for your post on this. I actually hadn’t heard of Whole30 until your last post, and then that very same day my husband came home and said he wanted to try it. (Maybe he reads this too?) So we listened to a podcast about it, read the rules, cleaned out the pantry, went shopping and jumped in yesterday. A little hasty if you ask me (I would have liked to print out and try 30-40 recipes first, you know, to see if actually like to eat healthy before committing to a month of it), but here we are. Only 28.75 days to go! Wish us luck. I will refer back to this often for inspiration, and I’m so glad to “know” someone who survived. Kudos to you!

    • shannon says:

      YAY, Jenny, congratulations on starting the Whole30! I feel bad for posting this later than i thought i would, but i wanted to get it right: cheers to you both for just going with it! Honestly, you don’t have to talk about it for months like Natalie and I did: we enjoy overthinking like it’s a hobby. :) you did all the things you needed to do: you looked it over, did the shopping (the hardest part if you ask me), and now you’re in it! And you have a built-in partner, which is the best kind to have.

      I wish you the absolute best of luck: i hope you don’t start to hate me during the first week and a half or so…I promise you that’s the worst part. Let me know how you two do! keep me updated; i’d love to hear about what you both experience during the process.

      • Jenny says:

        So we finished the Whole30 yesterday! HOORAY! Here are my reflections:
        1.) We cheated. Just need to get that out right up front. My husband’s birthday was at the end of July, and we couldn’t resist having a beer to celebrate. After that we continued to imbibe during the last week of the Whole30, and with the exception of my husband eating half a hamburger bun, and me having possibly consumed some molasses as part of a restaurant dish, I think we did pretty well!
        2.) I lost 10 lbs. Whoa. I now weigh LESS than what my drivers license says. I weigh less than when I got married. All my clothes are too big. Crazy how “easy” it was, considering I actually stopped running about a week into the 30 days (I was running 3x a week. Gotta get back on that wagon again.) We didn’t do it for weight loss, but that seems to be the most noticeable side effect. I also have more energy, which is good since I have an almost 2 year old.
        3.) I actually ENJOYED eating whole foods. We plan to continue with this, and just have bread and sweets here and there for special occasions.
        4.) I saved a bajillion dollars by not eating out. (We went out with family a few times, but we normally eat out a few times a week, and I’m certainly no stranger to the Jimmy Johns delivery guy at home or work.)
        5.) The things I missed most: ice cream/frozen custard, bread, beer. All of which I have already consumed. Drank a beer on a walk to Ted Drewes last night, and just had a sandwich on a wheat bun for lunch. Those are my indulgences for completing the program. (I know, I know….don’t reward yourself with food. Whatevs. At least we walked.)
        6.) I’m totally going to do it again. In addition to sticking to it for the most part on a daily basis, I plan to do the strict 30 days again. Especially if my new pants start getting tight.
        7.) My husband feels better than he has in a long time, and that was why we did it. He’s also on board with sticking to this as much as possible as part of our regular diet. Doing this with him was awesome, and I would venture to say, possibly life-changing.

        • shannon says:

          JENNY! this comment is going to look long since it’s a reply/reply/reply. :) First and most importantly, congratulations on your Whole30! And you know what, cheating, schmeeting: sometimes i think that small allowances here and there with things like this keep you from quitting completely, so i say do what works for you. :) I’m excited to hear you liked it, and enough to do it again, which is great. As i’m reading over all the things you got out of it (10 lbs! loving whole foods!), i find myself shaking my head: i felt (and still feel) the same way about it that you do. it’s nice to come out of something like this knowing it was a change for the better and not something you couldn’t wait to get done with. I still eat some of the dishes i ate during whole30, just because i like them so much, and because they make me feel like i’m doing it right. Congrats to you and your husband! It’s so good to hear such positive feedback.

  2. *HIGH 5*
    WE DID IT!!! Somehow…. and I have no idea how, but I know that I definitely couldn’t have done it without you… WE ARE AMAZING!

    Awesome tips, too! Let’s come back to this on our next round… I miss my beautiful, clear, sugar-free baby-soft skin … do you? LOL

    Speaking of, Aaron has officially hit the 20 LB weight loss mark (don’t you HATE boys?) and we are both way more conscious of what we put inside our bodies :) I mean, I’ll eat a cookie because it’s a cookie but I’m taking a harder look at those pasta sauces and granola bars, ya know?

    • shannon says:

      *HIGH 5 BACK* I KNOW! we totally DID do it, and i’m still a little blown away that we did, given our adoration for…well, food. all the food. We rocked it; that much is clear. :)

      Thank you! i sort of compiled what we talked about throughout in terms of what we felt worked and didn’t work, and then how we felt, so basically you half-wrote those tips. I wonder if we’ll feel the same things the next time we do this? My skin totally misses my plant-based clean diet, yes. seems as though nothing makes your skin glow like non-stop sweet potatoes and broccoli lol.

      HATE him. tell him that. HOW DO THEY DO THAT?!? That’s definitely how i’ve been too, even on vacation. Ice cream? small amounts and i made it myself. Cookies? haven’t had ‘em b/c i haven’t made them. all our meals down here? made by my own hands with whole foods and no additives or weirdness. Are you sort of doing it without even thinking now? I feel like i’m not “trying” as hard to eat well as much as i am just doing it.

  3. Glad this worked out for you! I’ve read a bit about it, and it certainly seems to help a lot of people. Just eyeballing the list of foods that are allowed, it looks like its essentially a low carb diet that restricts/eliminates gluten and dairy. Not being able to snack probably helps with the calorie restriction (I know you’re not counting calories, but no need — this regime automatically does it for you). I’m not tempted, but I certainly admire your willingness to experiment with it. Really informative post — thanks.

    • shannon says:

      Thank you, John! I am happy i had as good a time as i did on this (and maybe a relatively easier time than some with it, given how i normally eat). You’re right: it’s low carb without saying it, but doesn’t allow you to rely on dairy as a protein source, and instead of the small meals 6 times per day, it requires you eat 3 hearty meals per day and then allow your body to get back to hunger prior to that next meal time. I equate that part to how you’re not supposed to charge your phone battery until it gets low: something about triggering “hunger” versus snacking between meals is supposed to be very good for you. All i know is that part was one of the hardest parts for me. And yes, so true: you don’t have to count calories because without realizing it, you’re eating way less. At one point (since i’m lazy about preparing meat most days), i just decided to go 100% veg for the week and realized about halfway through that my calories had gone down SO much, simply by not having all the “filler” on my plate.

      Hey, i get it! It’s not for everyone, for sure: i still say everyone is different and frankly, not everyone needs to do this; to each their own! Besides, you and Mrs. KR eat like kings and queens if your blog is any indication, so i see no need to ruin a good thing. ;)

  4. Great post, Shannon! and 10 pounds is certainly a BIG deal. doesn’t matter how you do that! I’ve always believed in moderation though am not necessarily good at following that! However, when i do go on a really strict diet, it is in some ways easier, because there are fewer choices to make. It is hard to grasp but once I wrap my mind around it, i am good. OK. I’ll think more seriously about this and maybe in January you can start a club!

    • shannon says:

      Thank you so much, Abbe! I feel really good about the weight loss, for sure: a few pounds can do wonders for how you feel in your own skin, and i’m grateful for that because it makes bathing suit season SOOOOO much easier. ;) I agree: moderation is much easier to truly abide by when given limited options, because you’re removing some of that temptation – there is no “i can have a moderate amount of that cake with sprinkles” choice, so it takes the hard stuff completely out of the equation, which for me is what i struggle with.

      You know, if enough of you want to do it, i may start a club. ;) the buddy system really is the way to go with this: i have said it so many times to her directly, but i would have found a way a week or two in to justify quitting, but when you see someone else is pulling for you and able to do it themselves, it makes you want to keep going with it, too. definitely a group effort (and a group win.)

  5. So much information! Yes! I love how thorough you are, Shannon. This post is fantastic. I’m really intrigued by the Whole30 (of all the diet related challenges and things out there, nothing makes more sense to me than eating whole foods without additives). And I was nodding my head the whole time as I read the part about the sugar being added to the olives and the chicken stock. I am so with you — sugar in my cakes, cookies, and other from-scratch things? Absolutely! Sugar hiding in every single thing on the grocery store shelf? Blech! Not to mention the other unnecessary additives lurking in even the most innocent of boxes and cans.

    On a side note, this totally reminds me of some of those shows on TV that show how processed foods are made (ie, “unwrapped”), where they go to the factory and put a happy, excited, “how-cool-is-this!” spin on how popular snack foods get produced. I was watching one of those shows the other day and almost every product they showed was like “and now to give it that extra pop of flavor/color/crunch/whatever that everyone loves, we pour in twelve gallons of sulfur dioxide!” … um… yum? (I’m exaggerating a little, but… only just.) Even better is watching those types of shows as a food writer and knowing that many of those “special” ingredients have either no safety regulations at all, or are suspected or proven to cause cancer or other disease. Mm, yes, add more cancer causing compounds to my breakfast cereal, please!

    So, um, yeah. Have I mentioned that I really like the idea of the Whole30? I absolutely want to give it a try. I already try to set similar challenges for myself to raise my awareness of what I eat (I’m in the same boat as you, where I say I have a healthy diet, but really I only have a healthy diet some of the time), but I’ve never done something as intensive and thorough as this. (I once did 30 days of raw and vegan, which eliminates many of the same foods, but I didn’t have to think about cooking much because, well… raw). I love all the tips you gave, too. I’m not very good at planning ahead, but I’m going to have a long and hard look at the upcoming months and see if I think I can do this. If not during the summer, than maybe I can jump on board in January and join you. Goodness knows I’ll need something like this after those major food holidays!

    • shannon says:

      I like it when you all are like “you’re so thorough this is great!” and i’m all “omg i can’t stop talking so embarrassing!” about my posts. ;) Definitely i agree: of all the diets out there, i feel pretty good about this one: it seems alot about elimination, and it is, but it’s so much about introducing (or reintroducing) people to whole foods sans additives. So mind-blowing when you realize that you thought you ate sugar with dessert but as it turns out, you just eat it all the time. gross.

      UGH: i can’t watch shows like Unwrapped because of that: it makes me feel retroactively horrible about what i ate as a kid. I have zero regrets, mind you, but it sort of casts a crappy shadow over my Hostess fruit pie (i know, i know) and cupcakes. I wasn’t on the earth in the 60′s, was a baby in the 70′s, and was too small to purchase groceries in the 80′s, but back then all this stuff was portrayed as “exciting!” and as new and improved advancements in food technology, so it was a weird time for food. I think for those of us who sort of grew up in that era or were adults/parents in that era, we have our sentimental/nostalgia foods, but it sucks a little that it’s tainted now. I always wonder how that period in american food will be looked at in years to come; like the period with cigarettes before everyone knew they killed people, i suppose.

      It’s intense, for sure. Both natalie and i thought maybe it would be easier than it was because like you, we eat “pretty healthy” and i still say we were decent eaters: better than anyone who lives off fast food and frozen dinners, for sure. Girl, if you’ve done 30 days of raw and vegan?!? you can do this. I always think raw sounds harder to stick with, at least for me, because even though it doesn’t involve the cooking aspect, it’s raw. Which for me on a diet, means i can’t even fool myself into feeling like i ate something hearty, you know? I found that with the Whole30 my best days were the days i ate “hot” meals…like fully-formed soups and dinners and whatever that “felt” like normal meals, if that makes sense. You let me know if you want to do it: i’m up for it again. September is still a maybe but January, i’m all over it. :)

  6. elizabeth says:

    Congrats on getting through Whole 30–it sounds like it was a really valuable experience for you, which seems to be the point of the challenge but I feel like I hear so many stories of people doing it and then on day 31 immediately reverting back to old habits.

    To be honest, this very thorough post has been particularly thought-provoking, so I hope you don’t mind if I reply at length via email so as to not publish a novel in your comments section. Look for it in the next few days!

    • shannon says:

      Looking forward to your email, Elizabeth! I always enjoy hearing from you, and i know how comment threads can get when you actually want to have a conversation about something. :) Like talking really loud in public.

      And thank you! Neither Natalie nor I at various points in the 30 days thought we’d make it, but we did, and i still can’t believe it. I’ve heard the same about people reverting right back to old habits, and i honestly don’t know how or why that would happen, given all the things you learn about and how good you feel during the 30 days. Have i had ice cream? I have. But it took me more than a week to let myself have it, i made it myself, and i wasn’t eating it out of the container, you know? I feel like if someone reverts back to their old habits and nothing nags at them not to? Maybe they just went through the motions of the diet and didn’t take the time to really think about they “whys” behind it. I don’t know. :(

  7. Ashley says:

    Shannon, you are amazing! You too, Natalie! I cannot even fathom how much willpower and preparation you both used to succeed at Whole30! I’m trying to adjust some of my eating habits to actually see and feel a physical change….and it’s not easy, quick, or fun all (most?) of the time.

    And I agree with so many points you made here – about sugar (be aware, be smart, and keep eating it!), about having to work to eat healthy but it does get easier over time (I’m still waiting for it to get easier, ha), about getting tired of the same preparation or ingredient when consumed too frequently (done that too many times), about forethought and food prep being your best allies in resisting snacking or quick meals (this is where I fail all the time, oof), and about feeling different in a better way when eating whole foods (dude, it’s unreal how true that is and how awful I can now feel after eating a whole meal of fried foods). Spot on, as always!!!! And you have my amazement, as always!!!

    ps – tried halloumi last week, off the grill. mind blowing! Eric loved it too, until it started to cool down. I still ate it though!

    • shannon says:

      You know, Natalie was actually more amazing because she got the Fiance to do it with her, AND she had to plan meals he’d like too while on it: i didn’t have that sort of pressure. :) It’s never easy to adjust habits, because hi, they’re habits, and they’re called that for a reason, unfortunately. The only habit i’ve ever had an easy time breaking was my gym habit, which is something i continually fight to MAKE a habit. ugh. :( hard.

      HALLOUMI FOREVER! i’m so happy you tried it: when it starts to cool too much, it can be a little bit of a bummer, but it reheats pretty well (obviously if nothing else is on it).

  8. Oh, man! This post was epic! Love it.

    When you’re a ballet teacher, a few things happen. First, people are disappointed when you aren’t anorexic. It’s true. They feel ripped off. Second, people like to ask you stuff about losing weight. Third, they are very disappointed when you say you don’t believe in dieting.

    In my mind, it all gets down to eating real food in moderation. I don’t feel bad about eating the brownies I made in my kitchen, because I don’t throw weird preservatives in there. I try not to feel guilty about eating ANYTHING, or the fact that my body isn’t a dancer’s body anymore. (It’s more floofy now.) The Whole30 (or any program like it) is a great way for people to assess what they are eating, what they’d like to be eating, and what makes them feel good. And it’s all about feelin’ good!

    Also, I ate a bag of Goldfish crackers last night.

    • shannon says:

      i believe that people automatically assume that ballerinas should be 7 feet tall and anorexic; too many movies have led me to believe the same, but i know YOU know, so i know that’s just a stereotype, and an inaccurate one at that. It’s like supermodels when you find out they eat cheeseburgers and don’t work out at all; regular people want all the answers from supermodels and ballerinas, basically. :)

      TRUTH. all real food and always in moderation is always a good thing, no matter if it’s brownies or a peach. I don’t feel guilty about the a cookie or a cheeseburger from an unnamed fast food restaurant; the guilt only starts if i feel like i’m eating that ALL THE TIME, which i am careful not to do. Definitely Whole30 is a decent way to objectively assess your own “trouble spots” with eating, because it’s totally about feeling good.

      goldfish crackers make me sometimes feel good too.

  9. Deb says:

    Bravo for your tenacity and ten pounds! I’ve been hesitant to join the discussion as I’ve just finished a similar diet. No fruit or grains tho. In sixteen weeks I lost the 35 pounds it took three and a half years to gain. I agree that we take our food abundance for granted and a change in the routine does wonders for realigning our eating habits. Now if I can only live the concept of moderation!

    • shannon says:

      Thanks, Deb, and bravo to you for finishing your own diet: that’s quite an accomplishment, my goodness! We definitely take our abundance of options for granted: i think it’s so easy to lose sight of maybe how best to eat with so many things within arm’s reach, you know? Moderation is definitely the key to so much: hard to do all the time, for sure…me too. I love a snack. And then i love more snacks. I think those of us who just love food for the love of food have a difficult time with that, for sure.

  10. Wendy says:

    Congrats, Shannon! Any major change to eating can be a struggle. I am a big believer in low carb eating (despite being a baking blogger) and have experienced the weight loss/energizing effects for many years. Each person is different and it is wonderful when you find a nutritional life style that works for you!

    • shannon says:

      Thank you, Wendy! I’m actually quite a big fan of low carb (or carefully carbed) eating; i think i automatically stay away from pasta and rice and the like as a habit from low-carb diets in the past, and for me it works well to avoid some of those things completely. Everyone is so different, and i think everyone has their own set of strengths and weaknesses to sort of work around with food, definitely. It’s nice to find a personal balance, i think.

  11. I’m still not sure what possessed you and Natalie to do this Whole 30 challenge…but I commend you for making it to the end! 10 lbs…wow!!

    • shannon says:

      We’re pretty dumb: the problem is we’re really good at talking each other into things, but this is the sort of thing we talk each other into. not kidding. But bottom line, we’re pretty dumb. :)

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