Tuesday, March 25, 2014

whole30 - expectations vs. reality

Like any diet or health program, I came into Whole30 with a lot of expectations. Realistic and unrealistic, high and low, mental and physical, good and bad - but expectations all the same.

Since today is my final day of the program, I thought I’d share those expectations and how they’ve matched up to reality. Maybe those of you who are interested in getting started can then get a better understanding of what the program is like and develop more realistic and manageable goals than I did.

I expected to have a new view on food... If you read why I started Whole30 in the first place, you know that I've had an unhealthy relationship with food. It was my comfort, my go-to on a bad day, and I wanted to change that. I wanted to depend on God more and chocolate less.

In reality... I definitely had to depend on God to get me through week 1. And, there's really no such thing as "comfort food" on the Whole30 diet. Though I did have some favorites, there wasn't really anything I craved or felt like I needed (that I could have) when I was having a rough day - and I definitely had some rough days.

I expected to lose weight… I wanted to finally kick those extra 10 lbs I’d gained since the wedding that weren’t giving way to any amount of exercise, dieting or portion control. And, if I’m really honest with myself, I was hoping to tone up all those trouble spots that haven’t gone away since high school. Six pack, come to mama!

In reality… About week two, the clothes started to feel looser, I wasn't experiencing any bloating or upset stomachs and I was ecstatic to fit into some pre-wedding skinny jeans. My friends and coworkers noticed that I'd shed some inches and I definitely noticed more tone in my arms. And when I stepped on the scale today, I had lost weight - 1.2 lbs to be exact! I blame Insanity for taking my nutritious fuel and turning my fat into heavier muscle. Proof that what's on the scale really is "just a number."

I expected to kill my sweet tooth… I’m the type of girl that needs a piece of chocolate after every meal, and I wanted Whole30 to cure me of that. At the end of Whole30, my goal was to lower my sweet treats to less than three times a week.

In reality… If the cravings were not unbearable the first week, then I definitely was. “I just want chocolate,” I told my husband on numerous occasions. As I progressed, the cravings became less intense but definitely still existed. And being around other people who were enjoying sweets put a new meaning on self control. Let’s just say that tomorrow freedom will taste like chocolate cake.

I expected to develop a taste for healthier foods… Salads. Brussel sprouts. Cauliflower. I thought I could replace my craving for chocolate and bread for healthier options. When dinner time came around, I would be just as excited about a steak salad as a cheesy pasta.

In reality… I have developed a taste for healthier foods. At the beginning of the program, every meal was a chore. Nothing tasted good. As the days progressed, every meal became more delicious than the last. Eggplant lasagna. Curried broccoli soup. Avocado chicken salad. I am literally excited to try new vegetable - meat - healthy fat combinations.

I expected to be energetic… I wanted to jump out of bed at 5 a.m. ready to start my day. And, when I got home from work, I wanted the energy to cook dinner, clean house, manage the blog and spend time with the husband like it was no big deal. 

In reality… I did see an increase in energy, but I still had problems waking up at 5 a.m. One week I was able to get up every single day, and that was definitely a good week! But there were still some days I would rather hit the snooze button. And, all the prep work for every meal was really getting to me. Some nights I just wanted to come home and have an easy - put in the microwave - dinner, but that’s not really an option with Whole30. In the program’s defense, work life was especially stressful the final two weeks and definitely contributed to my tiredness.

I expected to sleep better… Everyone I know who has gone through this program talked about how well they slept through the night - no trouble falling asleep, no waking up in the middle of the night, no restlessness. I’ve never really had problems sleeping (Daniel can tell you that it literally takes me seconds to fall asleep), but I was excited by the idea that it would be even better!

In reality… I haven’t slept through a single night (and I was before). Exactly two hours after I go to sleep, I wake up because I have to use the bathroom. Every. Single. Night. I haven’t noticed that I’m drinking more water, but I guess the foods I’m consuming have a higher water percentage, so it makes a little sense. I’ve also had really weird, vivid dreams every night. What’s that about?

I expected to have clearer skin… I’ve had problems with eczema since high school. If I wear a certain eye shadow or just wear eye shadow too much, my eyelids start breaking out. I also get it on my chest and wrists. Then, there are the usual acne breakouts I’ve been fighting since senior year of high school. 

In reality… Not much has changed. I’m breaking out worse than ever on my chest. And, Mother Nature decided to visit me two weeks early, so my face wasn’t much better, either. Now, that I’m at the end, though, my face is pretty clear. And I did notice that when I did get a zit, it flushed itself out pretty quick and only lasted a day.

I expected it to be hard… It’s such a strict program. No dairy. No grains. No sugar. No legumes. When I told people what I was doing, most couldn’t believe it or didn’t understand why I would want to. And, I knew the 10 days Daniel planned on joining me were going to be ridiculous.

In reality… The first week was hard. I wanted to quit multiple times on days two and three. But each day it got a little better and a little better. And to be honest, the past two weeks have flown by. I hope I’ve developed some habits that will last a lifetime.

So, what’s next?

Everyone asks this question. It’s a question I’ve been asking myself over and over for the past week. So, okay, you know how great it feels to eat right and treat yourself well - what are you going to do with it? 

Well, tomorrow’s my birthday - so for the rest of the weekend I’m definitely relaxing the rules in celebration. This girl’s gotta have her sugar-filled, flour-ful cake AND eat it, too.

After that, I kind of like the idea of maintaining a mostly-paleo lifestyle, at least at home. I plan to implement a few conveniences - like quinoa, oatmeal, honey, hummus - and other “not as bad for you, but not necessarily good for you” foods. And, like I said before, I want to limit my sweet treats to less than three a week.

However, I don’t plan on forcing this paleo-decision on friends and family. If we go to a friend’s house or out to eat with family, I don’t want my food choices to affect their food choices. I still LOVE eating all those other foods, so it will even make time together that more special. And I’m DEFINITELY not forcing this lifestyle on my husband - 10 days of hearing him complain about healthy food was enough for me!

So what do you think? Is Whole30 in your future?


  1. this is great!! i love reading all about your journey & i love the format you put it in with expectations and reality! funny thing about weight is that it is truly just a number! i've read a lot recently about people eating whole & losing inches but not necessarily a ton of weight. mind blown!
    so awesome that you developed a taste for healthier foods! that happened for me too & i was surprised! i love your take on "what's next" - such a balanced way to look at it! i think eating whole as much as you can will definitely be so great! even if it's not necessarily the strict whole 30 rules!

  2. Love this recap..and happy birthday! xo

  3. I love this recap!! It gives a much more realistic picture of what the program would actually look like :-) And happy (almost) birthday!! I'm sure the cake will be even more delicious after eating only healthy food for so long!

  4. Woohoo! congratulations on making it through!

  5. When I've cut out all refined sugars and grains in the past, I've actually had a harder time having enough energy, I think because I was struggling to actually eat enough food/calories to meet my energy needs. Because when faced with the problem of not knowing what I could eat I would just not eat. Perhaps not best response...

  6. I weighed myself a day early so I could include it in my post - but I measured myself today and I've lost several inches off my waist and hips since January, so that's success no matter what the scale says! I've actually really enjoyed eating Whole30 the past couple weeks, but I think I will enjoy it a lot more when there aren't any "rules" and "restrictions." I've definitely learned there are foods I can live without. But at the same time, if I know I can have a piece of chocolate anytime I want, I might not overcompensate with 1/3 jar of almond butter and lots of fruit, you know?

  7. I'm hoping it will be delicious and not too rich or sweet - I've been told my taste buds are a little off and the things I consider good or sweet are actually not so! And thank you very much, Jayda!

  8. Thanks, Amanda! I'm still a little shocked it went by so fast! I thought it was never going to end on Day 2!

  9. That's definitely one thing I had to get used to - I eat a TON of food now, especially for breakfast (check out my Instagram for today). But, this program has really taught me how to know the difference between hungry and bored and to be sure to get the fuel I need when I'm really hungry. The hardest part was eating enough vegetables - that's where you get most of your carbs/energy when you can't eat grains - but I've learned how to sneak more veggies into my meals (yay soup!).

  10. Jenny, that's exactly the approach Chad and I took. We love eating Paleo, but we aren't going to bring our own organic spaghetti squash and hormone free grilled chicken to Olive Garden when sharing a meal with friends, if you know what I mean. ;) America revolves around food, and so do social outings. We don't want to make others feel uncomfortable for our decisions. The plus side is, we aren't allergic to grains, dairy, or delicious legumes, so we can afford to eat "normal" food if needed, and it won't kill us (but we DO feel so much better when we stay consistent with Paleo). Good luck with the healthy eating!! :)

  11. Thank you for this honest review. I try not too look too much at numbers but how I feel in clothes and workouts but it is hard not to check it out once in a while!

  12. yes! that is what we do now - modified :) I am proud you made it the whole time!

  13. Thanks, Sarah! You actually influenced my decision with what you said on Instagram. Thanks so much for your help. Question! Do you find it's more expensive to eat strictly Paleo? Do you have any tips for making it cheaper?

  14. That it does! Yet, I still have my moments when that number is incredibly disappointing - getting better, though!

  15. I know what you mean! I like to look at the scale as another way to monitor where I'm at, and it was hard not to look at it for an entire month, but I think it was healthy, too. I knew that I felt better and my clothes fit better and that had nothing to do with my weight.

  16. Do you find that it's more expensive to eat this way - or do I just like to try way too many new recipes each week?

  17. Very interesting! I like how you set up this post with expectations vs. reality. I won't be doing this, but I liked reading about it!

  18. Surprisingly, Paleo isn't more expensive for us (but I've had to be smart about it). Our grocery bill is escalating now only because we're taking the plunge to all organic and hormone free food. Here's a good link to save some cash if you're going that route. http://blog.paleohacks.com/is-it-paleo-if-its-not-organic/

    1) I checked with our local grocery store to see when they mark down meat, and I buy it in bulk when they do. It goes right in the freezer, so I'm not concerned with it expiring the next day. I also bop into nearby stores to just look at the meat sales.
    2) Instead of trying all new recipes, I would go through your favorites and adjust to make them paleo. That saves money and chances are you have most of those ingredients in your pantry already.
    3) SPAGHETTI SQUASH (it's that necessary)
    4) Here's my favorite cheating tip too. Some delicious veggies aren't paleo, which I think is silly. So when faced with one of these delicious "NOs" we ask ourselves, "Which is smarter, pasta or peas?" Peas win! Every time. And so do hummus, peanut butter, sweet potatoes, etc...
    5) I find allll my recipes on pinterest (or elsewhere online and pin them), so everything is organized and inspiring.

    Sorry, that was long! Hope this helps!

  19. This is a brilliant post - I am going on a plan called 90daySSSplan tomorrow which will be a massive struggle but like you I would love to achieve certain goals. The way you've done expectation and reality is really helpful. I was interested to see that although your body changed and you saw difference in inches it wasn't so much in lbs on the scale. Well done on sticking to it and getting through. Hope you enjoyed that entire birthday cake I definitely would :)

  20. actually! I spend less (because I am more aware of what I am buying and chips, soda, cookies, and fruit snacks add up fast! lol) I shop once a week and shoot for 100 each week (including all our toiletries and paper products) I go throw the veggies/ fruit first and get small amounts of what we need/ like (because I hate when it goes bad! waste of money) and then I pick up meat and throw it in the freezer when I get home! I look to see which ones are on sale (of my favorite healthier brands) and grab those when they are marked down so i always have some meat in the freezer (sometimes it is salmon, Colorado raisied cow,lamb, brats., organic chicken) then I hit the isles really quick for baking ingredients and apple sauce. i don't get the same thing every week - I get the things that are on King Soopers special.

  21. Also, recipes wise, I have a couple go to's and I just rotate them. I grab a meat and figure out what I want to season it will (pasta sauce, dressing, lemon and garblic, and throw it in the oven - cook up a veggie, and bake up some red potatoes/ sweet potatoes OR quinua. I look up recipes for ideas but then I just make things up in the kitchen! It is less stressful for me and it also makes me look for what we have to make (also only going to the store once a week means that I just need to find something at home to make until I go again!) it helps us eat all our food.

  22. What does the 90daySSSplan consist of? I've never heard of that before!

    This program definitely educated me on how different foods affect my body. I did enjoy a lot of birthday cake - and I suffered from it. Once I returned to eating so many carbs I felt sluggish and bloated. Today i'm getting back on track and giving my body the foods I know treat it well! Best of luck on the plan!

  23. Thank you, Amanda. It's definitely not for everyone - and I don't even know if I'll ever be this strict about my diet again. But I'm glad I made it interesting!

  24. Thanks for the suggestions! I just love to try new things too much when I need to stick to my classic (cheaper) recipes. I only go to the grocery store once a week (any more and I would go crazy - I don't like that place), and this week I was able to get our bill under $100 - including extra fruit for a fruit salad to take to a brunch, so I was pretty happy with myself. I just need to pay more attention to prices and what is and is not a good price for meat and produce.