Reflections on Whole 30 (and why I’d recommend you try it, too)

I just finished doing a month doing Whole 30, a food plan that is based on eating whole foods. I know the internet is inundated with people posting photos of their #whole30 meals, and I made a commitment that I would refrain from doing the same, because I know pictures of food can get tiresome. However, I do want to talk a bit about the experience, and why I would recommend it.

First, I should mention that I’m not one of those people who lost a ton of weight on Whole 30. I have several friends who did it at the same time, and they dropped some serious pounds. That was not my experience.

However, I’m still glad I did it, because I feel like the experience really changed my relationship with food.

It helped me understand the psychology of craving crappy food. Before I started, I read the recommended book companion to Whole 30, called It Starts With Food. This paragraph was a lightbulb for me:

“Supernormal stimulus” is the science-y term for something so exaggerated that we prefer it to reality—even when we know it’s fake. A supernormal food stimulus arouses our taste receptors more intensely than anything found in nature. Candy is far sweeter than fruit. Onion rings are fattier and saltier than onions. Sweet-and-sour pork is sweeter, fattier, and saltier than actual pork. And Franken-foods like Twinkies and Oreos outcompete any taste found in nature, which is, of course, exactly why we prefer them. These supernormal stimuli are like the Las Vegas Strip of foods. Dazzling! Exotic! Extreme! But entirely contrived. Not at all realistic. Totally overwhelming. (And if you take a good, hard look in the light of day—i.e., read your ingredients—you’ll see that they’re actually cheap, dirty, and kind of gross.) But the over-the-top flavors found in these foods (and the extra-strong connections they forge in your brain) make it hard to stop eating them—and make natural, whole foods look bland and boring by comparison.

I learned how to plan ahead. This has always been my downfall in eating well. I tend to think about what to eat once I’m already hungry . . . and then I scramble and make bad choices. You can’t rely on packaged or drive-thru food with Whole 30. You simply HAVE to plan your meals out and make food ahead. And getting into this habit was a game-changer for me. I’m now regularly cooking up food on Sundays to eat lunch throughout the week, which is causing me to make much better choices.

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I learned some easy recipes for whole eating. In addition to It Starts With Food, I also read the Whole 30 book. which is full of great recipes. I enjoyed trying new things, and feel like I added several healthy staples to my repertoire.

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I said goodbye to packaged or convenience foods. I learned how to shop from the perimeter of the grocery store, and to plan a meal around fresh veggies and meats. I didn’t eat anything out of a package for 30 days. This forced me to get creative, but it also changed my habits. Now, when I’m thinking about what to cook, I’m pulling from the big bowl of veggies I keep on the counter instead of peering into the pantry at boxes or packaged food.

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Doing 30 days of whole eating definitely changed my cravings and my habits. I find it much easier to stay on this type of an eating plan because a) I’ve learned the habits required, and b) I detoxed from the foods that create negative cravings. I’m no longer doing Whole 30, but I’m eating in very much the same way.

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If you are thinking about doing Whole 30, I would definitely recommend It Starts With Food and the Whole 30 book. Also, this set of dressings from TessaMae’s that are Whole 30 compliant were a lifesaver for me, as was the PrimeNow grocery delivery app.

Have you tried Whole 30? What was your experience?

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