I started the Whole30 diet at the beginning of October, filled with good intentions and visions of fitting into outfits I haven’t worn since I was 21. But life got in the way and I’m ashamed to admit that I failed – hard – in the third week. But it wasn’t a complete waste of time. I did lose a few pounds, and I definitely learned a few things along the way.
Why I failed my first Whole30
If you’re thinking about doing your own Whole30 I highly recommend not choosing a month which includes a holiday to celebrate a family member’s 90th birthday in the third week.
We had been doing so well up until this point. Meal planning had become routine, we’d been on a night out until 3am without succumbing to the allure of alcohol, and we had even found a way to create tasty breakfasts that didn’t require setting the alarm half an hour earlier than usual. My clothes fit better, I had more energy, my skin was clearing up, and we were heading for the final week.
Then we arrived in Portmeirion for Roger’s Grandma’s 90th Birthday celebrations. There was temptation. So much temptation.
Before we started Whole30 we’d moved all the non-compliant food out of sight onto the top shelf of the cupboard or into the bottom recesses of the fridge. We had avoided going out to eat because there was no guarantee that the food wouldn’t contain traces of non-compliant ingredients.
Now there was an ice cream parlour, a bar, the prospect of birthday cake, and complimentary sherry in our bedroom. We faced four days ahead without a kitchen to prepare Whole30 compliant meals.
That night we sat down to dinner and scrutinised the menu. Everything sounded delicious. Nothing sounded compliant. I caught Roger’s eye from across the table, and saw my tortured expression reflected back at me. He was cracking, and so was I. As our eyes communicated deep, unspoken desire for blackberry jus, goat’s cheese profiteroles and toasted ciabatta, the waiter poured me a sparkling glass of Champagne. It smelled of peaches and Spring mornings full of promise. The cracks deepened. Then there was a toast.
There is a truth universally acknowledged that a young woman in possession of a flute of Champagne and a tempting menu must be in want of an excuse to end her diet. A toast to Beryl Williams’ 90 years of life is a suitable reason, don’t you?
We had a fantastic weekend filled with cheese boards, Malbec, gluten-free Birthday cake, venison, ice cream and unfettered joy.
What I learned on my first Whole30
As Oprah Winfrey said “A Queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another steppingstone to greatness”. I might’ve failed Whole30 the first time around, but I learnt a few things along the way.
You don’t need alcohol to have a good time
We’d got into a pretty bad habit of drinking most week nights, and a lot on weekends. Having a break from alcohol meant we could spend our weekends having fun without the usual foggy head and ravenous hunger for salty and sugary foods.
Sugar is pretty overrated
Once the initial cravings for percy pigs, jam on toast and chocolate orange had worn off, I realised just how much most of us rely on sugar to get us through the day. It’s in our breakfast cereals and our morning coffee, our eleven o’clock snacks and our lunchtime juice. It’s sneakily hidden in pasta sauces and curry pastes, dressings and pickles.
When you cut all these sources of sugar out you don’t feel hungry as often, and you aren’t forcing yourself to stay awake by mid-afternoon. Even now, three weeks after I failed, I still haven’t gone back to having sugar in my tea or coffee. We don’t buy regular milk anymore but soya or almond alternatives. We haven’t had bread or pasta in the house since. If there are treats circulating in the office, I might help myself to one but I won’t experience the insatiable urge to eat more.
There’s a lot of crap added to a lot of foods
We all know ready meals and takeaways are full of rubbish, but until I tried Whole30 I didn’t realise that seemingly innocent things like olives, gherkins, cooked meats, nut butters and oils often contain mysterious additives that definitely aren’t food.
The not-so-glamorous side of Whole30
On most Whole30 blogs you hear all about the great benefits and how amazing you’ll feel. You probably won’t hear much about the down-sides, which include:
Get back in the kitchen
You’ll spend hours in the kitchen unless you get savvy meal prepping. And even then be prepared to spend a lot longer cooking than you’re used to. There’s no short cuts or easy options in Whole30, even a simple jacket potato with tuna mayo means you have to make your own mayonnaise from scratch.
So. Much. Washing. Up.
Seriously. Every single pan, bowl, dish, plate and chopping board will be dirty after preparing just a day’s worth of meals. Washing up becomes exhausting.
Bowel movements become mysteriously unpredictable
You might not poo for a few days, or you might suddenly need to poo in the middle of the night. It’s very strange.
Your food waste bin will need emptying every day
Potato peelings, egg shells, onion skins and plantain fill your bin up really fast.
People don’t get it
It’s not that difficult to get your head around Whole30, but your friends and family will still ask questions like “are you allowed pork?”, and “can you have wine? Because that’s just fruit juice really.” They will also say things like, “you’re not allowed mashed potato because that’s not whole,” and “well if you’re allowed potatoes then I don’t see why you’re not allowed honey. They’re basically the same.”
Get used to answering a lot of questions. Most of them will simply be curious, and a lot of people we know have expressed an interest in trying the diet themselves, so be prepared to be their fount of knowledge and to share your Whole30 books with them.
Will I be trying Whole30 again?
Absolutely. Maybe in the New Year I’ll try again. I’ll be better prepared with a variety of recipes, and more mentally prepared for the challenge now that I’ve failed the first time around.
Want to know what meals got us through Whole30? I made a Pinterest board.