My Whole30 Diet Program Experiment

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I am not happy with my current state of health and weight.

I finally decided to do something about it. Again.

I have dieted in the past with the goal to lose weight. But I have found it difficult to stick to the plans. I have lost weight. Found it again. Plus some extra!

It will be different this time. I will blog about my experiment. This blog documents my commitment. Hopefully, this will be incentive to stay on the straight and narrow for 30 days. Please follow along as I chronicle the journey.

My aim this time is more than just lose weight. I want more than weight loss. I want fewer aches and pains and more flexibility.

I am convinced our diets have much to do with our health.

So I researched to find the best weight loss diet program. I read many weight loss diet program reviews. Plus I had a long discussion with my youngest daughter. She was starting the Whole 30 program with her family.

I found a U.S. News & World Report article, “U.S. News & World Report Reveals Best Diets Rankings for 2017” that ranks the best diets and programs. This is a good starting point for doing research on an appropriate diet plan. According to U.S. News, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) is the best overall plan. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), helped develop DASH. They publish free guides on the plan.

DASH Diet - Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension

U.S. News did not rank the Whole 30 program very highly. Whole30 was 38th overall out of 38 places. The Whole30 program is based on you giving up sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes and dairy for 30 days. This is a highly restrictive diet to reset your habits. And is difficult to follow considering the rules (outlined below).

Whole30 program ranking among best diet plans

 

So, I did more research on the Whole30 Program. I also read Melissa and Dallas Hartwig’s books, It Starts with Food and “The Whole 30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom.”

It Starts with Food by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig The Whole30 Program book

 

The Whole30 Program premise is simple—change your health (tastes, blood sugar regulation, hormonal balance, digestion, immune system), habits (how you reward, self-soothe, comfort, and show love to yourself), and emotional relationship with food (losing cravings, attachments to, and dysfunctional thoughts around food), and a healthy body composition has to follow. It HAS to. But it doesn’t work the other way around.

“The food you eat either makes you more healthy or less healthy. Those are your options.”
― Melissa Hartwig, It Starts with Food

“It Starts with Food” outlines the science behind the Hartwigs’ basic nutrition recommendations. They discuss their Good Food standards, which food groups fail those standards and why. They also include which foods you should be including on your plate on a daily basis.

 

Good food standardsThey talked about the Whole30 (outlining the rules and the basics). “It Starts With Food” is about their big-picture nutrition recommendations. And encourages you to use the Whole30 to figure out for yourself which foods made you more or less healthy.

But the book does not give you details about exactly how to complete the program. This is where “The Whole 30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom” excels.

The “Whole30” book answers the question how to make changes. The book:

  • walks you through the program rules,
  • prepares you for your 30-day journey,
  • explains a typical program day-by-day timeline, and
  • has an extensive FAQ, cooking tips, and more than 100 delicious Whole30 recipes.

Whole30 Program Benefits

Whole30 claims many benefits. In the book “Whole30” they are classified as “Non-Scale Victories” in that they are not measurable. The benefits are broken down into:

  • Physical (outside)
  • Physical (inside)
  • Mood, emotion, and psychology
  • Brain function
  • Sleep
  • Energy
  • Sport, exercise, and play
  • Food and behaviors
  • Lifestyle and social

The biggest benefit of the Whole30 program is the elimination of processed foods from your diet.

Americans are addicted to snack foods. Plain and simple. Because the food industry spends millions researching the best combination of tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami) to create the best sensation of eating food. Consider the effort spent testing crunchiness of chips to find the most satisfying crunch!

potato chipsFood researchers are constantly looking for the perfect combination of salt, sugar, and fat that excites your brain and gets you coming back for more. They condition your brain to look for the best food tasting sensation.
And let’s talk about “empty calories” for a moment. The reason ultra processed foods like snacks are considered empty is because they are engineered not to turn on the body’s “I am full” switch. Foods that “melt in your mouth” signal to your brain that you’re not eating as much as you actually are. That’s why people can eat entire bag of chips in one sitting. Unless they are physically full, the brain never gets the satiety signal to stop eating.

Whole30 Program Risks or Disadvantages

Discuss with your doctor first! The following are some of the risks or disadvantages of the Whole30 program.

  • Eliminates entire food groups. Whole grains, dairy, and legumes are on the banned food list. The theory behind eliminating these groups is that people do not know which foods cause their health issues. After the end of the 30-day period, people can start adding food back to their diet one by one. This will help identify the “bad actors.”
  • Impacts medications. Diet changes may impact how prescribed medications react. Switching to a low carb, high fat diet like the Whole30 program may change the requirements for cholesterol medications, for example.  Definitely discuss with your doctor before starting!
  • Promotes meat consumption. This seems to fly in the face of nutritional recommendations from doctors and dietitians. Even if the meat is pastured, free range, or growth hormone free. According to Melissa Hartwig, the Whole30 program meat recommendations are within government guidelines.
  • Requires extra time for meal preparation. If you are not used to cooking your own meals, Whole30 will require more time for food preparation including meal planning. this is one of the reasons I bought an Instant Pot.
  • Difficult to maintain for 30 days. Being an elimination diet, the Whole30 program is difficult to maintain for 30 days.

My Whole30 Program Steps to Getting Started

Getting started with the Whole30 program is a 5 step process.

Step 1. Choose your start date. This sounds easy. But before starting any diet or exercise program, it is important to discuss with your doctor. As seniors, our metabolism has slowed and it is common to have health issues. Your doctor will know if a change in your diet will have an impact on any medication you may be taking. Also, your start date may impact your vacation plans or important dates in your life.

Step 2. Build your support team. Because Whole30 can be a radical lifestyle change. Involve your family and friends with your experiment. Let them know you are committed to making changes. In addition to my family, I have involved you! I have publicly committed to this program by blogging about my Whole30 program experiences.

Step 3. Get your house ready. Get rid of the junk food. Organize your pantry and refrigerator. I set aside one shelf in my pantry for my food items. This way I do not have to look at other family members’ food. Same thing for the refrigerator. Also, plan some meals. Start with a 7-day meal plan. Prepare a shopping list. And then go shopping.

Step 4. Plan for success. This sounds obvious stated Captain Obvious! But there will be obstacles in your way. Unplanned invitations to dinners and parties, for example. Sudden cravings for junk food. So be prepared with healthy snacks. I had a craving for something crunchy the other day. I could have eaten several cookies. But I made the healthy choice of an apple instead.

Step 5. Toss that scale! The Whole30 program is not about measuring weights, waists, or counting calories. Measuring just adds stress to the process of healthy change. The only thing that helps is a before and after picture. At the end of 30 days, you can let the results speak for themselves. Besides, if you are feeling better, have more pep, sleeping better, and other changes, there are really no ways to measure these. Also, you can’t measure satisfaction of your clothes fitting better after 30 days.

Whole30 Program Rules

What is a diet program without rules?

It helps me to consider Whole30 a lifestyle change and not a diet. Diets sound like something must be given up. Whole30 is no different.

Foods you can eat.

  • Meat
  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Natural fats
  • Grain-free flour such as coconut or almond flour
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Cooking fats such as coconut oil, ghee, duck fat, and extra-virgin olive oil

Foods you cannot eat with the Whole30 program:

  • Grains, such as breads, cereals and rice including the pseudo-grains like quinoa
  • Legumes, such as beans, peas, chickpeas and peanuts
  • Dairy – no milk, yogurt or cheese
  • Alcohol
  • MSG, sulfides or carrageenan
  • Food and food items with sugar
  • Sugar, real or artificial
  • Vegetable oils

 

Whole30 7-Day Meal Plan

Part of the planning process and being prepared is meal planning. Start with a 7-day meal plan. By planning your meals, you will save money shopping. Here is a sample meal plan.

 

Sample Whole30 7-day meal plan

(Source: reusegrowenjoy.com)

I find Pinterest a great source for finding recipes and meal planning tips for healthful eating.

Why I am Doing the Whole30 Program

Considering the benefits and risks, I am starting the Whole30 diet program on March 20, 2017. My primary purpose is to find the foods that are giving me health issues, if any. The other main reason is to lose weight. This is my eating healthy reset.

I will create a separate blog post that will record my progress over the next thirty days.

 If you have comments, any questions or wish to share your experience intuitive eating, please share by leaving a comment below.


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22 thoughts on “My Whole30 Diet Program Experiment

  1. The one thing that many people do not understand is that first and foremost Whole 30 is an elimination diet. By efficiently excluding the foods that most often cause inflammation in joints as well as gastrointestinal inflammation it was discovered that weight loss was incurred. When a person “comes off” Whole 30, there is a period where the things that were eliminated are introduced one by one and the person notes the reaction, if there is one. So, Whole 30 isn’t even really a diet. I did it with the blessing of my general practitioner, gastroenterologist, cardiologist and endocrinologist. I’ve also discovered that some of the foods I have eliminated were “no brakes” foods for me. I have lost more than 20 lbs. But, it’s not about loosing a certain amount of weight in 30 days. It’s about creating healthier eating habits and eating more “whole food” and less processed food. It’s about looking for the “hidden sugars” that lurk in salad dressings and almost anything that is pre-prepared. Whole 30 has made me a more mindful eater without having to measure, count points or calories. It’s not meant to be a way of life but a means of discovering your relationship with food.

    1. I agree, Kiki. I found that by switching to more whole foods and less processed foods, I spent more time preparing and cooking. Fortunately, my Instant Pot was a big help in saving time.

  2. Hi I am 69 and have issues with weight and high cholesterol. My BSL are normal at present thank goodness. Blood pressure is a little high. I have been reading up on the Keto diet and I am concerned about the no dairy and lack of calcium . Can you clarify this for me. I can understand that eating healthy will assist with my health in general. I am in the contemplative stage at present.

    1. Kath, great question. While dairy is a major source of vitamin D and calcium, there are other sources. Egg yolks and fish are good sources of vitamin D. Plus a little bit of sunshine! One reason to give up or at least significantly reduce dairy products is the inflammatory effects dairy has on the body. Inflammation may result in arthritis or joint swelling.

      Vegetables like collards, spinach, bok choy, turnip greens, and broccoli are good sources of calcium. For example, collards have 356 milligrams of calcium per cup while fat free milk has 306 mg per cup. Salmon and sardines are also good sources of calcium. I also took calcium-magnesium supplements while doing the whole 30 diet. At our age (I am 68), we need 1200 mg of calcium a day (recommended daily allowance).

      Hope this helps.

      Glen

  3. A few years back, I made the life turning decision to stop eating/drinking sugars, rice, grains etc. I’ve began to only eat more meats, chickens, fish, fruits and vegetables. As a result, I’m definitely in a much better shape than before. I’m not really strict on the diet, falling into some cheat days once in a while, but my diet today is pretty much like this whole30 diet program.

    That being said, this diet it’s so radical and might have big impact to a senior. I hope it will do well for you Glen!

    1. Thanks, Isaac. So far the Whole30 program is working for me. The first 10 days were rough. But now I find myself feeling better with more energy. I will be following up with my doctor. So I will be able to compare numbers before and after.

  4. This sure sounds like a diet plan worthy of consideration.

    I know I’m guilty myself of being a junk food lover, not all junk though – only certain types of it. Looking at the sample menu plan I realize that only particular veggies, fruits and meats can pass the test of these diets.

    I’m only 26 but I know for certain that in order to keep my belly from expanding, something like Whole30 is definitely a reasonable option. Do you think it’s good for weight maintenance?

    1. Hi Simon, thanks for reading and commenting. Yes, I think Whole30 is good for weight maintenance because it teaches us to make good food choices. I am now on Day 8 of the 30-day Whole30 program. I am posting daily to my Whole30 journal describing my experiences with the Whole30. After the 30 days, I will add back foods into my diet to see which ones have been impacting my health. The Whole30 eliminates grains, dairy, and legumes, sugar in all its forms, and other items for 30 days.

      Per the Whole30 book, Melissa Hartwig says the program improves energy, sleep, digestive issues (gas, bloating, pain, constipation, or diarrhea), skin, joint pain/swelling, asthma, migraines, and biomarkers like blood pressure, cholesterol, and fasting blood sugar. She also says 96 percent of participants lose weight on the program, without counting calories, or weighing or measuring their food.

      The other half of the health equation is getting enough exercise. Dieting won’t work if our bodies aren’t working.

  5. I’ve been experimenting with foods to improve my health and particularly my dental health for almost a year now. I’m particularly interested in adding more quality meat, fish, lots of vegetables and dairy products but not milk since unpasteurized milk is just impossible to find. Is Whole30 a derived diet from Paleo? Do you think it’s a good one for someone looking to prevent and tooth decay and enamel problems? Thanks

    1. Hi Carolyn. The Whole30 was originally based on a Paleo framework. But is not concerned with how our ancestors ate. Whole30 is focused on how food impacts our health and habits in the modern world. Whole30 is more than just a diet. It helps us understand how our bodies react to the food we eat. And to make healthy food choices.

      As I discussed with my doctor, I am doing Whole30 for 30 days to see if the elimination of food groups identifies the foods that may be causing my tendinitis and back issues. After 30 days, I will start slowly reintroducing some dairy, whole grains, and legumes back into my diet. This will help me identify the foods that may trigger health issues.

      I think any diet that eliminates sugar and processed foods or food groups that cause inflammation would be beneficial and eliminate or help reduce peridontal disease. The addition of nutrient dense foods would also benefit our teeth and gums. Still, regular, daily cleaning is still required to minimize impact of bacteria in our mouths.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

      Glen

  6. Hi Glen I really do like your website, it was really interesting. I have also tried many diets myself. I really commend you for doing this. Love your recipes. Was reading up on what you can and cant eat, is this more of a paleo diet? Are you taking supplements with this diet as well? Best of luck with your journey, all the best Joanne

    1. Hi Joanne. Thanks for the comments. I appreciate you taking time to read and comment. Whole30 is Paleo without the cheating. Whole30 does not allow cheat days or any alcohol. In other words, Whole30 is more restrictive.

      Currently, I do not take any supplements. However, I may in the future. I eat enough good veggies, spinach and the Chinese variety of bitter melon, for example, and nutrient dense foods.

      1. My husband and I are in our late 60’s. We both have health issues and after reading IT STARTS WITH FOOD I’m pretty sure my husband will really profit. He has gained a lot of weight and has allergy and asthma which his allergist says is from dairy products. We both feel very lethargic and just plain blah.
        I have been doing Weight Watchers for 6 years and have lost about 60 pounds but I am addicted to the little snack foods that are allowed…artificial sweetners have made them low points value but I really think they cause cravings.
        Congratulations on your beginning this journey and I wish you every success. Please let us know how you are doing.

        1. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Marcia. Today marks the half way point in my 30 day experiment. I have been blogging daily about the experience. In the past, I would have “rewarded” myself with a snack. Yesterday afternoon, I had the blahs and started looking for something crunchy. I decided to have an apple instead of cookies. I also have cut carrots in the refrigerator. But I still have the rabbit food mentality. But I am getting better.

          One thing I like about the Whole30 being so restrictive for 30 days is the reset in my thinking about food. They teach using food as reward (or as punishment) can undermine the healthy eating habits that I am trying to achieve. I have read both the IT STARTS WITH FOOD and THE WHOLE30: The 30-DAY GUIDE TO TOTAL HEALTH AND FOOD FREEDOM. THE WHOLE30 is not technically oriented the way IT STARTS WITH FOOD is. It is a user guide to the program.

  7. My old acupuncturist recommended the Whole 30 program. It’s nice to read more information about it, and to see an sample diet. The article confirms what I’d heard, that it’s a very restrictive diet plan in the sense of “treats” and alcohol and processed food, but who wouldn’t agree that dumping these things is a good idea, especially for anyone looking to lose weight? Thanks for the info, and good luck!

    1. Penelope, thanks for commenting. I’ve started the Whole30 plan and am on Day 2. I am also blogging about my experience. The Whole30 plan also eliminates, dairy, grains, and legumes. So, yes, it is restrictive.

      Thanks so much.

      Glen

  8. This is a very restrictive diet indeed. I know you mentioned that removing entire food groups was in an effort to locate which foods are causing health issues but removing whole grain and other grains, legumes,dairy……I wouldn’t have anything to eat. (I don’t eat meat). I don’t think I would survive on the Whole 30 program but I commend you for taking on the challenge and for trying to get your weight under control. Don’t be overwhelmed. Just take it one day at a time. I wish you success.

  9. Being 60 years old I can relate to the belly fat problem. Although I do not have a serious belly fat problem. And yes I did give up sugar about 3 years ago being borderline diabetic. I automatically lost around 15 lbs. but not overnite. I lost this weight gradually over time. I mention this because I seen in your article about giving up sugars. Does one usually see results within 30 days?

    1. Thanks, Mike. I appreciate you taking time to comment. From my research, the weight loss with the Whole30 program appears to be very common.I will find out in 30 days! I lost 25 pounds in 90 days in 2015 when I gave processed foods and significantly reduced grain consumption.

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