If you haven’t been following along on my Whole30 journey this month, you’ve never heard of Whole30 before, or you’re wondering, “What the heck is Whole30? Is it some weird fad diet?” I’ve got some answers for you.
First, let’s talk about the Whole30 rules, what’s allowed, what’s not allowed, and what are the exceptions to the rules — yes, there are exceptions.
The simple Whole30 rules:
- YES: Eat meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables,fruit, and natural fats.
- NO: Do not eat sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, or dairy. Do not eat baked goods or treats. Do not consume carrageenan, MSG, or added sulfites. Do not weigh or measure yourself.
Exceptions to the Whole30 rules:
- Clarified butter or ghee are the only sources of dairy allowed.
- Fruit juice as a sweetener is allowed.
- Green beans, snow peas, and sugar snap peas, while they are legumes, are more pod than bean, and are allowed.
- Most vinegars are allowed, including white, balsamic, apple cider, red wine, white wine, champagne, and rice vinegar. Flavored vinegars with added sugar and malt vinegar is not allowed.
When people first read or hear The Whole30 rules, they focus mostly on everything that is not allowed, think about deprivation, and wonder what the heck you can eat when doing The Whole30. I get it because I did the same thing. It’s why I put off starting The Whole30 for about six weeks. But in reality, it’s not about deprivation, it’s about simply making healthier choices, eating higher on the food chain, and using natural ingredients.
The Whole30 Timeline: What To Expect
A lot of people I have talked to who are considering starting Whole30 want to know what to expect and are curious about what Whole30 is like. Luckily the book, The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom, outlines the most common experiences and feelings associated with The Whole30 in the program timeline:
- Day 1: No big deal/what have I done? What your Day 1 experience is like is directly related to how well you prepared for your Whole30 and how much junk food you ate before beginning.
- Days 2-3: The hangover. You haven’t had any alcohol, but you feel like you got hit with a Mack truck. You may experience sugar withdrawals. These symptoms are directly related to the amount of junk food you ate before beginning the program.
- Days 4-5: Kill all the things. You may feel irritated, frustrated, and mad at everyone who can eat all the things you can’t, and you’re going to feel cranky as your body adjusts to your new diet.
- Days 6-7: I just want a nap. Your body was using sugar to create energy for you, but now that you’re not eating sugar, your body is having to figure out how to create energy a new way, and while it figures this out, you’re going to feel extra sleepy.
- Days 8-9: Pants feel tighter. Your gut is adjusting to the new foods you’re eating and the lack of sugar. It is healing, balancing out, and while it does, you may experience bloating.
- Days 10-11: The hardest days. The newness of the program has worn off, you’ve felt crappy, and you’re not yet seeing any good benefits from the program. You’re acutely aware of everything you can’t eat, you’re cranky, and you’re feeling like cheating. This is when most people who give up, quit.
- Days 12-15: I dream of junk food. Yes, you may start actually dreaming of junk food! Just don’t make it a reality because the worse symptoms of the Whole30 are behind you and things are starting to feel better. You may even notice your pants a looser!
- Days 16-27: Tiger blood. You’re more than halfway through, you feel amazing, your energy is through the roof, you feel powerful, and your cravings are fading away. You’re also feeling proud that you’ve made it this far and you know you can do the next two weeks no problem.
- Day 21: I am so over this. Food boredom is setting in. You’re tired of eating eggs. In fact, if you eat one more egg, you might lose it. You’re tired of your go-to recipes and meal ideas, you’re tired of eating the same things and the same flavors, and you feel lik you’re in a food rut.
- Days 22-25: The scale and mirror are calling. Your body is changing and looking good, you’re spending more time checking yourself out in the mirror, and you really, really want to step on the scale. After all, you’re almost there… But don’t do it!
- Day 28: 20 is as good as 30, right? You’re going to be tempted to cheat because you’re so close to being done, but resist! You’ll be proud of yourself and happy to held out for the full Whole30.
- Days 29-30: WooHoo! It’s almost over… what am I going to eat now? You’ve been doing great, you feel great, your finally getting into the swing of things and aren’t experiencing the cravings you used to have, and you’re on the homestretch. But you’re also starting to panic a tiny bit and are wondering what now?
- Day 31: Reintroduction begins. Go slow. Now you can begin reintroducing foods. This isn’t your free pass to binge on french fries, dessert, and loads of sugar though. If you do, you’ll feel horrible! Instead follow one of The Whole30 official food reintroduction options.
When I first read through the sample Whole30 timeline, I didn’t take it too seriously. “Kill all the things.” Really? Some of the “what to expect during Whole30” information listed in the timeline felt a bit hyped up and a pretty extreme. But then we started Whole30, the days passed by, and my experience matched it pretty closely.
I had a slight food hangover, but it wasn’t bad, and I never went through the “Kill all the things” phase — and I think the reason is because we were already eating a mostly vegetarian diet with no dairy, no pork, and no red meat at all. We had also already cut out soda and sugary coffee drinks. I did however feel sleepy about a week into the program. I did wonder WTF in the middle of the second week because my pants felt tight and it was hard watching my kids eat some of my favorite foods on our spring break road trip. On Easter weekend, my days 15-16, I also really wanted junk food. I really, really wanted junk food.
This recap follows our Whole30 experience from Day 17 through Day 22 — and it starts with me getting sick, so clearly the mythical tigers blood is going to show up late for me, which stinks because work is busy and I could use the extra energy!
The Food: Passing The Whole30 Halfway Point
I can’t believe that we’re already more than halfway done with The Whole30! We’re now 3/4 of the way there. In one week, Brian and I will have completed our very first Whole30.
Whole30 Day 17
The first two weeks has flown by and hasn’t been nearly as hard as I thought it would be. Brian and I feel great, and the inconsistent, awful digestive issues I have been dealing with for years have basically disappeared.
- I haven’t had a single digestive problem since beginning The Whole30 Program and it’s not only been glorious for me, but for the rest of family as well.
- Also, our pants are loose and our clothes are fitting better! Brian’s pants are so loose that they’re falling down, so he’s shopping this week for new pants.
Unfortunately, I woke up today with a horrible head cold: a stuffy/runny nose, itchy/watery eyes, earaches, and I was feeling exhausted. So no Tiger Blood for me yet. I made my self a cup of tea, sat down at my desk and got started working my way through the tasks I needed to get done on my first day back in the office after spring break.
For breakfast, we ate the leftover Tomato Basil Breakfast Bake With Italian Turkey Sausage that I made for Easter, but today I added some healthy fat by topping it with avocado.
Mid-day, I was feeling even worse and didn’t want to eat anything, so I just had an RxBar and a small salad with spinach and fresh berries.
As soon as I finished everything with a deadline of today, I went to bed, only getting up for dinner — and even then I wasn’t hungry and didn’t feel like eating, but I made myself eat an RxBar. I still couldn’t breathe out of my nose and it was the only thing that sounded appetizing at all.
Whole30 Day 18
Today I woke up still feeling like crap and I slept terribly too… but I was starving, so I made Brian and I big breakfast scrambles. Today, we ate Kale And Balsamic Chicken Sausage Scrambled Eggs With Vegetables And Potatoes.
Even with medication on board, I felt horrible, so I just drank a ton of water and at lunch ate an RxBar again. At first I didn’t like these as much as Larabars, but things are shifting and I’m actually really enjoying the RxBars more than the Larabars, even if they do get stuck in your teeth. I think it’s because they’re not as sweet and they keep me feeling fuller longer.
For dinner, I sauteed some Adelle’s Chicken Apple Sausages in Matty’s Barbecue Sauce by Tessemae’s All Natural and had it with a giant side of fresh raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries. Not enough vegetables, but I just wasn’t feeling it and went to bed right after dinner.
You might think that Whole30 while you’re sick is easier than it is when you’re healthy because you don’t feel like eating and nothing sounds good. But The Whole30 is actually harder while sick because you know you need to eat vegetables and protein and fruit, you know you need to eat three full meals a day, and you know you need to drink lots of water… and you don’t feel like eating at all. Ugh.
I’m super irritated that I’m sick. I’ve got a refrigerator full of delicious veggies waiting to be cooked and I don’t want to cook any of them right now.
Whole30 Day 19
I slept in and woke up still feeling icky, but not horrible. I still needed medicine on board, but my head cold seemed to be getting better. I still didn’t feel like eating much of anything. I ate a late breakfast/early lunch and just made the Kale And Balsamic Chicken Sausage Breakfast Scramble again.
I drank tons of water all day, and while out picking up supplies for Carter’s birthday party, I pit stopped at In-N-Out Burger for a protein style double meat hamburger, with only onions, tomato, and mustard. To be honest, it wasn’t very good. It didn’t taste like In-N-Out at all and it didn’t provide that burger fix I wanted. I’m going to have to make my own burgers at home.
By dinner time, I was exhausted. I didn’t really feel like eating and I definitely didn’t feel like cooking, so Brian and I scrounged up stuff from the fridge. He ate a couple hard boiled eggs, some leftover barbecue chicken with guacamole, and some fresh fruit salad, and I made myself a breakfast scramble for dinner.
Whole30 Day 20
I felt human again this morning, hooray! I could breathe out of my nose and I actually wanted to eat. This is both good and bad. Today was also my son’s birthday, and while I was happy to be feeling better for him, we have this birthday tradition of “anything goes” on your special day. So he got to pick anything he wanted for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert.
I made Carter chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, brought him hot Little Caesar’s Crazy Bread and marinara sauce for lunch, and took him to Blaze Pizza for dinner, where both kids devoured pizzas and s’mores pies. Thankfully, he wasn’t interested in any other sweet treats or desserts.
- Making his breakfast was no big deal, as I make him pancakes or muffins almost every morning. For Brian and I, I used up the leftover taco meat from our Ground Turkey Taco Salad to make a Ground Turkey taco Breakfast Scramble.
- Bringing Crazy Bread to school for lunch was no big deal because I can’t eat it anyway (dairy). I was also on my way up to my parents’ house anyway to make the giant LCR game for his birthday party, so I just munched on apple slices, baby carrots, a hard boiled egg, and some macadamia nuts in the car on the way.
- Dinner, on the other hand was a tough one. There is NOTHING at Blaze Pizza that is Whole30 compliant. That meant I sat at the table with an unsweetend iced tea and an RxBar, chatting with my kids as they ate their pizzas. Brian chose to skip this dinner (with Carter’s approval), in favor of running errands to prep for Carter’s upcoming party.
Whole30 Day 21
This morning I once again made Carter chocolate chip pancakes, and for Brian and I, I made a Spicy Ranchero Chicken Breakfast Scramble. We were down to the just the last few pieces of Garlic Barbecue Chicken and I found Whole30 compliant Ranchero sauce at the grocery store, so it was meant to be… It was so, so delicious — almost like having Huevos Rancheros, minus the tortillas and beans obviously.
For lunch, we pantry scrounged, again trying to eat up the last few things leftover from all the Whole30 road trip meal prep I did. We had celery with almond butter and raisins, baby carrots, apple slices, and cashews and almonds. The rest of the day, I was in full birthday party prep mode, running the last few errands for Carter’s party and didn’t feel like cooking, so we went out to eat at Chipotle. Lazy win.
Whole30 Day 22
Party Day! Today was Carter’s family birthday party, an annual party in the park with all sorts of games. Everyone from the youngest cousins to the grandmas and grandpas competed in lawn darts, ring toss, archery, bowling, a water balloon toss, and giant LCR. At Carter’s request, we had snacks like White Cheddar Popcorn, Cheese Balls, and Chex Mix with M&Ms available for munching during the games, and Little Caesar’s Pizza and Crazy Bread for lunch. I also picked up some gorgeous cupcakes from Icing On The Cupcake.
Resisting snacking and being around everyone eating pizza was doable because I planned ahead:
- Basically everyone in our family stopped drinking soda years ago, so an ice chest full of unsweetened iced tea, a few Vitamin Waters, and a whole bunch of bottled water was perfect.
- I made my own trail mix/nut snack mix and brought it along so Brian and I could much during the party too. It had roasted and lightly salted almonds, cashews, pistachios, and macadamia nuts, as well as freeze-dried strawberries and blueberries — and was super yummy!
- For lunch we both had RxBars. Because we didn’t sit down with a plate full of pizza, we both stayed standing, wandering around chatting with everyone. This turned out to be awesome, because we really didn’t get to catch up with all of our guests during the games.
After Carter’s party, we all kicked back and rested for a while. Then Carter went to a friend’s house for a sleepover and Natalie’s friends arrived at our house for a sleepover and a concert by one of our favorite local bands Saints of Circumstance at Blue Note Brewing Company in Woodland. Yes, we went out on a date night to a brewing company that only sells brews (no food) while doing Whole30. Hmmmm…
This was tough. Really tough. I can’t even begin to tell you how badly we wanted to grab a tasty beverage. Brian and I almost never drink at home. We just have a few beers or ciders or some wine when it’s date night and we’re going to dinner and a concert. But we refrained, enjoying some tasty waters instead. So lame.
Now while the brewery doesn’t serve food, there was a food truck serving up barbecue pulled pork, tri-tip, chicken, and lamb on sandwiches, nachos, and tacos. Natalie and her friends were in heaven. When there wasn’t a line, I was able to catch one of the owners. I let him know that we couldn’t have any sugar, grains, mayo, etc. and quickly explained the basic Whole30 rules, and he was awesome. He let me know that any of the meats would be compliant, and that we should just order the meat plain, with no barbecue sauce, no slaw or potato salad, and no bread, chips, or tortillas. So, when Brian and I were hungry, I ordered him a bowl of chicken and me a bowl of pulled pork. Both came on a bead of fresh spinach and it all tasted AMAZING.
Whole30 While Sick
I could say that eating Whole30 while sick is hard. But really, eating any type of food while sick is hard because when you can hardly breathe and you stomach is upset, almost nothing sounds good. The problem is that when nothing sounds good, and we’re feeling ill, we usually skip meals — and that is terrible for your body! You need to eat. Your body needs healthy fuel to do its job.
The only meal that sounded good to me while sick was breakfast, so I ate a ton of eggs and made huge breakfast scrambles that would keep me full for a long time every day I was sick. One day I even made a breakfast scramble for dinner too!
For the rest of the meals, I literally had to force myself to eat, even though I didn’t feel like it. And because I didn’t feel like cooking either, it was absolutely critical that we have several quick food options on hand ready to go, like barbecue chicken, baby carrots, fruit/vegetable squeeze pouches, hard boiled eggs, guacamole packs, fresh fruit, apples, almond butter, mix nuts, raisins, and RxBars. Keeping the pantry and fridge stocked with these foods, along with unsweetened iced tea, made it easy to stay on track with Whole30 while sick and tired.
The one bummer was that I was sick and run down right when the so-called “tiger blood” is supposed to kick in, and believe me, I wasn’t feeling that at all. By Carter’s party on Day 22, I was feeling pretty dang good, but we’ll just wait and see…
Follow Along With Our Whole30 Experience
Is Whole30 right for you? Maybe. I wasn’t sure if it was right for me, and I definitely wasn’t excited to get started, but I gave it a try anyway and so far, I’m blown away by the results. To help keep myself accountable and on track, I decided to share my entire Whole30 experience, day by day, the good and the bad, on the Inspired Imperfection blog. I hope you’ll read through the posts and hopefully find encouragement, motivation, and some delicious Whole30 recipes to try!
- Getting Started With Whole30 In The Real World: Day 1
- Getting Used To The Whole30 Rules: Day 2-5
- Whole30 (Spring Break) Road Trip Food: Day 6-10
- Staying On Track With Whole30 On A Holiday: Day 11-16
- Whole30 While You’re Sick, Parties, And Date Night at A Brewery: Day 17-22
- Date Nights And Eating Out During Whole30: Day 23-28