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Editor Tried It: Whole 30

Aug 03, 2018 12:00AM ● Published by Brian Saucedo

By Kelsey Casselbury

This is a tale that began deliciously and decadently—with pasta, pizza, red wine, and gelato. Earlier this year, I took an eight-day trip to Italy with three girlfriends, where we ate and drank and enjoyed life, no holds barred. The significant amount of exercise we got while sightseeing in Rome, Naples, Pompeii, and Sorrento held back a significant weight gain. Upon our return, I knew it was time to change my habits. Because, truthfully, eating and drinking decadently wasn’t a practice I picked up in Italy. It was a habit that I had slowly slipped into over the past couple years, and both the scale and the way I felt reflected it. What I needed was a reset. 

Enter Whole30. It was not billed as a weight-loss program but as a way to shift your mindset in regards to food. This 30-day eating plan took the country by storm after its creators, Melissa and Dallas Hartwig, published the best-selling book, It Starts with Food. You might have heard some friends mention it back in January during resolution season, but this is a program you can hop on at any time to kickstart healthy living.

Why 30 days? Well, first of all—you can do practically anything for just 30 days. Secondly, a month allows all of the “no-no” foods to get out of your system. After those 30 days are up, you slowly reintroduce the eliminated foods and take a good, hard look at how those foods make you feel—you might find that eating dairy makes you feel bloated, legumes leave you gassy or gluten makes you sleepy. When reintroducing dairy by topping taco salad with sour cream, I found that it just didn’t agree with my stomach. 

Let’s talk results. Beyond learning that dairy isn’t my best friend, I lost 10 pounds over the 30-day period and pants that were getting uncomfortably tight fit properly once again. Generally speaking, I simply felt better—I no longer stuffed myself, and I thought more carefully about what I was putting on my plate. Perhaps even more importantly, I learned that I do have the mental fortitude to say no when friends and family offer me wine, chocolate or other sugar-filled treats—and for some people, that’s not an easy task. 

There are plenty of reports out there that people loved Whole30 so much that they went on to complete a Whole60, Whole90 or even aimed for a Whole365—well, that’s not me (mama needs her wine, folks!). However, I did love the way I felt so much that I plan to permanently modify my everyday diet to minimize grains and dairy and emphasize lean proteins, including eggs and seafood, vegetables, and fruit. As for those delicious and delectable foods I enjoyed in Italy, like the spaghetti and pizza—they’re now going to be occasional treats, just like they were always supposed to be. 


The Whole30 “Yes” List

4 Vegetables, including potatoes

4 Fruit

4 Meat (check for sugar in items like bacon and sausage)

4 Seafood

4 Eggs

4 Nuts and seeds

4 Olive and coconut oil

4 Ghee

4 Coffee


The Whole30 “No” List

8 Dairy (exception: ghee) 

8 Grains

8 Legumes, including soy

8 Alcohol

8 Added and artificial sugars

8 Carrageenan, MSG, Sulfites


Tips for Your First Whole30

Considering taking on a Whole30 in an effort to reset your own attitude toward food? Here are some pointers that I learned on my month-long journey. 

Invest a little cash. There’s a lot of specialty Whole30-approved food items out there, and they can drive your grocery bill way up. None of these are necessary, but some certainly make following the plan much easier. I found that I used Tessamaes’ approved ketchup (bonus: It’s an Annapolis-born company) all the time but wasn’t really into their Whole30-compliant Ranch dressing. Other products that can make life easier: Premade ghee (clarified butter, available at Trader Joe’s), coconut aminos (in lieu of soy sauce) and Primal Kitchen mayonnaise, one of the only compliant mayos out there. 

Boost your protein count. When you eliminate toast from your breakfast, don’t be surprised when two eggs and a link of chicken sausage doesn’t fill you up. I found that when I added protein and fat (usually in the form of an avocado) to my meals, they lasted me much longer. 

Keep meals simple. If you Google “Whole30 recipes,” you can get overwhelmed with the creativity and complexity of options out there. For the first week, at least, simply pair protein with a vegetable and an allowed carbohydrate, such as grilled chicken with a green vegetable and a sweet potato. At breakfast, it might be eggs with spinach, an avocado, and sliced watermelon. Once you have gotten the hang of it, branch out and flex your culinary muscles. 

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