Alisha and Leah are the two ladies working behind the scenes to bring you PICK + PALEO, and both are fans of the Whole30. Here’s an explanation of what the Whole30 is, in case you need to catch up.
Today Leah shares her story of how she found the Whole30 and why she loves it.
I first became interested in paleo after suffering from my own health crisis in 2011. I read The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain and it made a lot of sense, and I felt so much better when I started eating in a paleo way. I dabbled in and out of paleo meals, and through my internet browsing I came across Dallas and Melissa Hartwig from Whole 9 Life. I loved their entire ethos – it wasn’t just about food, it was also about sleep, stress, exercise and your natural environment.
Around that time, they had released the online version of the Whole30. I was interested, but it sounded SO scary and hard to do…that I put it off for nearly a year. I bought the first version of It Starts With Food in it’s pre-release, and reading it really gave me the motivation to give it a try. Finally I decided it was time to take the leap – 1 January 2013 I started my first ever Whole30.
Since then, I’ve never looked back. I’m a complete Whole30 fan, and like to complete at least two nutritional resets a year (December/January and July/August seem to be my go-to months). I even did a Whole60 while training for a marathon as I found it helped my energy and recovery. I’ve just finished my 6th and I feel great!
How were you feeling “before”?
I definitely have a complex relationship with food. If it’s in front of me/available – I will eat it with no thought. I thought I ate reasonably healthy, but my grocery shop was full of easy go-to meals full of pasta, rice, and bread. Before I started my first Whole30 I had quite a few health problems – I was overweight, constantly tired, suffered from regular insomnia, and low energy. After every meal my stomach would “talk” (rumble/grumble) while it digested my food, which I knew couldn’t really be normal!
How did you prepare for the Whole30?
If anything, I was over-prepared which really did set me up for success. It had taken me so long to finally make the leap, but the date was firmly in my diary! I had read It Starts With Food, I had signed up to the daily Whole30 emails, and I had planned out some meals and bought the ingredients I needed. I decided to blog about it on my blog Naturally Leah, to keep myself accountable and stick out the entire 30 days.
These days I don’t really need to do much prep – I just need to be even more conscious about what goes into my mouth.
What was the first week/ starting the Whole 30 like?
I felt like I had been hit with a brick after the first week! I was so grumpy, tired, and headachy that I even took days off work. I came down with a cold and all I wanted to do was give up – but a paragraph in It Starts With Food really resonated with me. When you are sick, all you want is comfort food. And comfort food is usually unhealthy food. Why would you want to add extra stress to your system when it’s already fighting an illness? And so I stuck with it.
I was petrified that I was going to be hungry ALL the time, so I made sure I carried an entire bag of snacks with me wherever I went. Eventually, my appetite regulated and I was surprised to find that smaller meals really filled me up, and I could LAST for much longer on them. I no longer needed the mid-morning or afternoon sweet treats to get me through the day – sometimes I would even forget to eat!
How did you feel at the end of the 30 days?
By day 10 I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was starting to sleep better, and my energy was much steadier. I’d fought my cold and won, and I even found that my taste buds changed and food became so much more delicious to me.I could taste natural sweets and salts without having to add anything extra to my salads and vegetables.
Most of my physical symptoms had disappeared, and I had lost weight. My clothes fit much better and I just felt like I was a ball of healthiness. My eyes glowed, my skin was bright and clear, and my hair and nails were strong and glossy.
I learnt so many new skills in the kitchen, and was inspired to try out new recipes or techniques. My grocery shopping changed completely – and I became adept at label reading.
I really felt like I had learnt so much – about cooking and the kitchen and ingredients. And about my body, what it likes and what it doesn’t, and how food makes me feel.
What was your favourite Whole30 meal?
I love anything with sweet potatoes (Kumura) and homemade burgers are always a favourite. My favourite recipes to make were moroccan meatballs (from Well Fed), Pina Colada Chicken on zoodles (zucchini noodles), and moroccan lamb with butternut squash.
What was the hardest part about the Whole30?
Navigating socializing is definitely the hardest part – at that stage, none of my friends really understood what I was doing or why, so I tended to hibernate for the entire length of my Whole30. There is always THAT person who tries to break you (even in the nicest way) by trying to encourage you to eat off-plan or have a drink – and knowing how to deal with that can be really hard.
Having done six Whole30s now, I’m really adept at how I can adapt things on the go, and eating out isn’t a huge problem for me anymore. My friends and family have learnt that it’s just a thing I do now. I also believe in myself more now that I know I have the willpower to stick to it and not be strayed.
What was the best part about the Whole30?
The best part was how amazing you really do feel, and the tasty new food you discover. A lot of people think that eating this way is really boring and bland – but it’s not. I absolutely love trying new vegetables and using them in tasty recipes – and I’ve had no complaints from any dish I have ever served up!
What’s your one piece of advice for anyone wanting to give the Whole30 a try?
JUST DO IT. Don’t wait for the right time (there never will be one), just commit to it, publicly declare you are doing it, and get a support system around you. 30 days is NOT a long time, and you will gain so much insight from it – even if it’s just “well, I’m never doing that again”!