In January, my wife and I both completed the Whole 30 - a diet challenge designed to change your life. It’s a simple concept to understand, but far from simple to implement. You just go 30 days without consuming any grains, added sugars, alcohol, dairy, legumes, MSG, carageenan, or sulfites. Easy, right?
Following it at home wasn’t hard. Any time I was hungry, I could just eat more meat, fruit or vegetables. It definitely changed our shopping habits, but as long as we we stocked up on whole foods, there were no major problems. Tea replaced the evening beer or wine, and nuts replaced chips as snacks.
Eating out was much, much harder. Very few restaurants have anything that’s fully compliant. Even the restaurants that claim to be organic, local, slow food joints are adding sugars and using dairy in most of their dishes. My go-to lunch was a mixed greens salad from Bloomingfoods with chicken and & vinegar dressing. It was pretty tolerable at first, but I actually began craving it after a few weeks. I’m still eating that about once a week a few months after the challenge ended. Unless you work within walking distance of a whole foods or local grocery co-op, plan on packing your lunch.
As for results, I’d say I was moderately impressed. I didn’t magically start feeling like I was floating on clouds every day, but I did feel moderately better. I have some medical issues, including heart disease and a persistent polyneuropathy that prevent me from ever feeling amazing, so you should take this with a grain of salt (yes, salt is allowed on the whole30). It’s not intended to be a weight loss system, but I did lose almost 15 lbs in 30 days. I was pretty impressed with that.
Perhaps the most impressive result was my skin. I also suffer from dishidrotic eczema which causes my hands to break out in painful, itchy blisters. I’ve never gone more than a couple weeks without a breakout in 20 years. Halfway through the month, my hands were clearer than ever, and I haven’t had a breakout since.
If you are expecting the Whole30 to change your eating habits forever, I wouldn’t hold my breath. I curbed my cravings for a while, and I’ve been able to make better decisions since, but ice cream and candy bars taste good. That’s a fact of nature that the no program will change. However, proving to yourself that you can live without sugars definitely helps you find joy in healthier choices and will make it easier to resist cravings in the future.
In short, I’d recommend that everyone do it once. It probably won’t cure all of your ills, but you might learn enough about your body that you won’t need to punish yourself in order to eat well in the future, and I think that’s kind of the point.