Whole30 Thoughts & Observations

As some of you know, I did my first Whole30 recently. Not as a way to restrict and lose weight (nope, I'll have none of that) but more so as a tool for my overall nutrition education experience as well as a tool to further pinpoint the foods/food groups that cause unwanted symptoms and digestive problems because of my SIBO. 

I didn't do it 100% faithfully, which may defeat the purpose and not really work with the whole figuring out what foods cause indigestion yada yada yada. Travel and crazy new work schedules threw me off a handful of days, but so is life and it's okay. I don't want to stress it and put that much obsessive pressure on myself to be so strict with something that's so minor like this. I will probably do a legit Whole30 again in the near-ish future when there's not as much going on because I truly think it can be a helpful tool for the short-term, mainly for people figuring out serious unwanted digestive symptoms related to food, which was the case for me. Or it can be beneficial for those who mentally struggle with certain kinds of emotional eating or food addictions that blind them to the WHY behind constantly reaching for food even when they aren't hungry. This is a huge issue for so many people, and I've dealt with it before as well. You aren't alone!

So anyways, even though Whole30 can get a bad rep from some people (everyone has different opinions and that's OKAY), if used with the right intentions, I think it can be a great reset and HUGE educational tool. Here are nine of the things I learned about the process, myself, and my digestion through my {somewhat faux} Whole30 lol:

  1. Do it with someone -- or at least make sure the people you live with or frequently hang out with will 100% support you because it can take a little extra motivation some days apart from yourself. When you don't feel supported or if people around you don't know you're doing a Whole30, it is SO DANG EASY to just say "Oh what the heck, screw it" and quit way early. Maybe this is because you've been served a meal that's non-compliant and you don't want to be "rude" or you're getting negatively pressured by friends to drink alcohol or indulge in a decadent dessert with them or even if your family or roommate is always bashing you because of it for whatever reason. These are some potential tough obstacles to get over in the 30 days of whole, real food, but if you're aware and you either mentally pep-talk yourself regarding these possibilities, or simply get someone or a group of people to do it with you, it can seriously make ALLLL the difference in your execution of Whole30.
  2. Awareness -- hyperawareness is okay in this situation especially if you're trying to figure out digestive problems related to food. It's necessary to learn how to tune into your body before, during, and after you eat and make either mental notes or use a notebook to write down how you feel with the foods you're eating and any unwanted symptoms that you may experience. Once you get a rhythm of this awareness of symptoms and your body begins undergoing its super cool internal reset job, it will be easier to recognize reoccurring symptoms -- both positive and negative -- and pinpoint the foods that may be causing a particular pain or unwanted side effect.
  3. It's just 30 days -- You can do anything for 30 days. If you've ever watched Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, you may remember she said in an episode somewhere, "You can do anything for 10 seconds. Just count to 10, and once you get there, start over and count to 10 again!" Same kinda thing! haha. So just because you can't eat any whole grains or dairy or legumes for 4 weeks (which are all fantastic healthy food groups for our bodies, which produce good bacteria in the gut and can help you poop #fiber) doesn't mean you're going to screw yourself up long term without these few food components. 30 days really is not long whatsoever in the grand scheme of life. Anyone can do it. I promise. Your body can survive without these things for a month. No need to freak out.
  4. Low FODMAP is for me -- My biggest symptoms related to SIBO currently are abdominal distention (think tummy bloat on steroids - like legit looking pregnant sometimes!) and gas which is the reason behind the distention I believe. Foods high in FODMAPs ferment in my gut and produce gas which makes my stomach hurt and leaves me feeling uncomfortable and irritable for hours or days. It sucks, and I've been dealing with it for a loooong time. Even though Whole30 is all about real food, lots of veggies, low sugar, etc., I still dealt with some of the same kind of gas (less often but still very much present). This just goes to show me that it wasn't solely dairy or solely sugar or solely gluten or solely legumes that my body was struggling with. Although I don't know what foods exactly have been causing these issues for me on Whole30, I at least know that I need to go back to focusing on eating Low FODMAP food for the most minimal gas and other unwanted symptoms (for my body PERSONALLY! I was diagnosed with SIBO last summer by a GI doctor, so this doesn't necessarily surprise me).
  5. Sugar is a culprit -- Also not super surprising because of SIBO, sugar of any kind tends to give me gas and an upset bloated tummy (really not a big fan of the word tummy). I will still always eat a balanced, unrestricted diet with treats on the reg, but it was cool to recognize that I truly felt better overall with little sugar apart from fruit, dates, and sweet potatoes. Even when I decide to have ice cream or baked goods or cookies or whatever, I can now have a lil conversation with myself like, "Janie, you're going to have some not-so-fun symptoms that come back if you have ____, but is it worth it in this situation?" The answer can most certainly be YES a little uncomfortableness is totally worth it to me right now! As long as I'm making conscious decisions, yet still listening to my body, being wise, and honoring my health, I can choose to say yay or nay freely and confidently. 
  6. Fail to prepare, Prepare to fail! -- The only way to succeed with the most ease during Whole30 is to be SO prepared (or as much as you possibly can) with a fully stocked fridge of compliant meals and snacks that you can grab at any time if you're hungry. It's worth it to take a few hours one or two days during the week to meal prep a bunch of real-food snacks, pre-cut veggies, and dishes of any sort that you can quickly get onto a plate without having to think much of what to make in the moment when the munchies hit. Not being prepared with Whole30 meals and snacks is the time when people typically find themselves struggling to stick with it. Snacks can be anything from meatballs (so many fun different flavors and recipes out there), carrots dipped in almond butter, fruit and nuts, chicken and sweet potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes slathered with cashew butter (trust me it's amazing), roasted veggies, bacon (heck YAAAS), leftovers, etc. 
  7. Not for everyone -- Don't do it just bc you want to jump on the fad. I think I would only recommend it if you're trying to figure out health problems or struggle with some kind of emotional eating or if you really need to get off the processed foods train to jumpstart a more real food diet and make some new healthy habits. Some people thrive on doing a black and white switch in diet when trying to begin a healthy lifestyle, while others may need a more gradual approach. There's no right or wrong answer. Whole30 could be a useful tool for some but it's by no means the only way. Also women: just a HEADS UP...not having grains and dairy could potentially stop you from getting your period if your body is sensitive and you've struggled with amenorrhea in the past. This could be a big red flag that it's not for you. And that's OKAY. Seriously it's okay. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. Healthy diets look SO different for everyone. Some people thrive on high carb, low fat/protein, while others feel so much better with low carb, high fat diets. Whole grains and gluten can be SO healthy for some, while it causes serious painful symptoms for others. Dairy is tolerated smoothly by some, while it screws another person's digestive tract up, which means it would be important for him/her to  get calcium and protein from other food sources. Don't compare your body's needs to someone else's. I hate this phrase I'm about to say, but I'm going to say it here anyways bc this is the best context to say it in my opinion: YOU DO YOU HONEY!!! 
  8. Doesn't mean restriction -- Not everyone who goes on Whole30 has disordered eating. Check your "WHY" for doing Whole30 if you're contemplating doing it. If you're still in a place of dealing with a cycle of food restricting, don't do this. It should not be a tool to restrict calories. For me, I made a very conscious effort to get in enough calories and nutrients at each meal and snack EVERY DAY because I am 100% anti-restrictive diets. It leads to disordered eating and often times eating disorders, so I am very passionate about this and can't wait to keep educating and teaching people about healthy non-restrictive diets as an registered dietitian one day. Personally, I need a lot of calories because I work out 5-6 times a week, so I always made sure to pack my plates full of protein from lots of high quality meat and eggs, healthy fats from nuts/nut butter/eggs/avocado/oils, and enough carbs from fruit, veggies, and a hefty amount of potatoes of all kinds. I never felt deprived, which made the whole thing so doable. Don't be afraid to get full. Having a full and fed tummy is a healthy gift. Not everyone has the opportunity to fill their bellies with enough food. Don't take this for granted, and remind yourself that it's okay and frankly a good healthy thing to feel full. Filling yourself up with enough nutritious calories will prevent always scrounging around for more food every hour. Our bodies need food. So eat! 
  9. Empowered AF -- when you get to the end of the Whole30 month, and you were prepared with meals/snacks to get you through each day, I can promise you you'll feel like an empowered, accomplished bad ass. 'Nuff said.