Over the last few months I've made a series of choices and decisions - some small, some larger - all of which have pushed me to where I currently am health, training and lifestyle-wise. From leaving hospitality and taking a job at a Fitness First, to changes in training, diet and discipline... choosing to do the Whole 30 was one of the most pivotal.
It was back in November that I decided to challenge myself to do the Whole30. I'd seen it online and read a few reviews (seen the before and after pics of course), and it didn't strike me as a 'fad diet' or marketing scheme - particularly as all the information is available free and online!
Though do I highly recommend reading 'It Starts with Food' by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig as it goes into all the detail about WHY you do these 'insane' things to your diet! ...Friends I have the e-book and pdf if you want it :)
So what is it?
The Whole30 is a short term (30 day) full-body dietary cleanse plan very similar to the Paleo diet.
It is designed to cleanse your body, reset your gut and other body systems, to re-teach your body to burn fat as an energy source (this ability can become inhibited by eating the wrong foods) and to help diagnose the causes of constant ailments we suffer from as individuals (and often don't even realise).
For me this is chronic allergies/hay-fever/sinusitis, though for you it could be joint pain, acne, diabetes, poor quality sleep or the inability to lose weight etc.
For those who don't know, the Paleo diet is what humans ate in the Paleolithic era, pre-agriculture, and the use of it in the Whole30 is on a basis that our DNA and dietary needs haven't changed that much since then. The 'cave-man diet'. Agriculture brought grains into our diets, and enabled societies to be formed and remain in one place. Grain provided a reliable and convenient source of energy - but that doesn't make it an optimal source of nutrition!
In the Whole30 grains (all of them, not just the gluten-y ones) get cut out, along with sugar and sugar substitutes, legumes, dairy and alcohol... but ONLY for 30 days!
"What can you eat???" was the question I got asked most... basically nothing processed - fruit, veggies, meat, eggs and some nuts and seeds (though I didn't have much of these last two due to intolerances/allergies).
It seems pretty daunting at first, particularly if you're one to rely on grain-based carbs and have a cheese obsession, but I found that by telling myself it's only 30 days, and not a permanent change, it made the cleanse a whole lot easier.
The Whole30 made it hard to go out for meals, and made prepping meals pretty essential. I did sometimes feel like I was inconveniencing others... But the benefits FAR outweighed any negatives or challenges.
I learnt way more about nutrition, and discovered the sorts of foods (and macros) that my body thrives on.
I worked out how to feel full and satiated without being bloated and physically full of food - I was able to stop myself over-eating. My allergies/hay-fever vanished within the first week, my skin cleared up.
I felt better - positive, accomplished, stronger.
Weight loss wasn't a goal and while most people who do the Whole30 do lose weight, mine stayed nearly the same. However, I definitely lost fat, and probably gained muscle. I looked better in the mirror, and felt better in myself - and that is far more important than a number on the scale!
After the 30 days I slowly re-introduced the banned food groups into my diet - to see what triggered my allergies/perpetual runny nose - I dealt reasonably well with each food group, but noticed minor reactions to most: I got bloated after eating legumes, gluten caused my skin to break out (I only noticed this as my skin had cleared up so much), dairy blocked my nose up, though no way near as much as the combination of sugar and dairy which was even worse with gluten in the mix.
I took a couple of weeks before I drank alcohol again, and my reaction to it was probably the worst. My once pretty decent tolerance (thanks bar work) had completely evaporated, and I could feel the alcohol hit me halfway through a cocktail!
I was out with some girlfriends drinking cocktails and while I didn't get drunk, or messy in any way, I could feel the effects of the alcohol so much more strongly ...actually every group added back post-whole 30 I could physically feel my body reacting to in some way. A change in the system.
While I felt the alcohol sooner, the effects also wore off more quickly. I was completely sober by the time I got home, yet started to feel unwell. I was so nauseous I couldn't get to sleep for TWO HOURS.
The next morning there was no hangover, just an incredibly negative feeling and heaps of grogginess - not fun.
Every time I've had a night out since - none large or over-the-top, always home sober - I've had a similar reaction. And while it's something a lot of my friends/colleagues struggle to accept, and respect even, I really don't enjoy drinking anymore. I don't like the idea of going out bar-hopping, or spending a night at Wharfy or the Steyne, as everything at these places revolves around the consumption of alcohol. Even when I go out with people who respect my decision (while sober) to drink minimally, as soon as they drink there is suddenly this overwhelming pressure placed on me to keep up, have a glass in my hand and not be 'boring'.
The last few years of my life have been spent as a cocktail bartender, and working through a number of the best bars in Manly, so believe me I know how fun it can be. But after cutting it out I've realised how damaging alcohol can be, even in small doses.
I do love a good cocktail, but now I'd rather have one (okay maybe two) with a nice meal in good company, on a special occasion.
You do you and I'll do me, all I ask is that if someone doesn't want to drink, saying no should be enough. They shouldn't have to justify that decision to you.
While now I eat a bit of chocolate, love my avo on a piece of sourdough and a margarita is a serious treat, my diet and knowledge of food has vastly improved and I feel so much better for it.
The Whole30 is now something I recommend to everyone, at least to read a bit about it as the theory is so fascinating - you may have bad eating habits that you actually believe to be healthy, that are preventing you from losing weight and your body functioning at it's optimal level. Check out the overview here, and please feel free to message me with any questions about it!
I've included some pics of the food I ate (it was all delicious, I don't believe in food that isn't yummy), as well as my before, halfway, and after pictures - not a dramatic change, but noticeable to me, and the changes felt were far greater.
Hopefully a bit of inspiration... if not to do the Whole30, but to make some little change to your lifestyle for a long-term benefit.