I’m one of those people who can’t stop at just one bit of chocolate.
How I envy the discipline of those people that just take an elegant mouse-like nibble, a normal plate portion, go out and “just have one”.
But me? I’m an absolute in-or-out, all guns blazing, stuff my face, just come out of hibernation level ravenous and unstoppable kind of person.
Or, I’d just rather not.
It’s not the healthiest of relationships with food or alcohol, and certainly hasn’t done many favours for my waist line.
Although I HATE diet culture and think we should embrace and love ourselves as we are, I was also patently aware that, although I was really happy with how I looked, how I felt was another matter.
I was often feeling tired, heavy, “big”, and generally unfit.
So, it came to pass on a rainy day in early January I mentioned to a friend that I’d like to lose a few pounds in time for another friends wedding in June, and I’d pay her £50 if I didn’t.
She agreed (obviously, who doesn’t want a free £50!), offered to coach me through it, and a weightloss plan was born.
Now when I imagined weight loss, I just kind of thought that she’d send me a few recipes, a few fluffy coaching tips, and then it’d be job done.
I’ve known this friend over ten years. She’s radiant, witty, clever, and I don’t know why I momentarily forgot this important fact- but shes also MILITANT as fuck about food.
I think I told her because I needed a kick up the bum, so I said yes, not actually realising I’d just signed my soul and stomach away to the gruelling month long programme she recommended for me.
The coaching plan
It began when she sent me a list of questions about what I’d like to achieve from her supporting me. Lots of them were really intriguing…
- What had I tried before?
- What about that had worked/hadn’t worked?
- What was holding me back from eating more healthily?
- What was my goal?
It really got me thinking. I did Slimming World before but found that I was still able to eat treats, but just in little doses, and the sugar fix just made me want more and more. It hadn’t challenged my relationship with food, it just reigned me in until I came off it again.
And then I’d tried Joe Wicks and loved his recipes but couldn’t work out how Slimming World says avocado is the devil and syns it to high hell, but Wicks piles it on everything. And why slimming world uses loads less oil, but the Mediterranean diet (and the healthiest diet in the world supposedly) uses a shit ton of olive oil and it keeps them healthy.
So, while I *know* how to eat healthily- fruit, veg- we all know that, right? I confessed to not ACTUALLY knowing how to eat healthily. And I think what I meant by that is- dieting and healthy eating advice sometimes contradict each other, and how do I know who to believe?
So, said friend recommended her one true programme to me to complete. And she’d help and support me from the country she lives in via Whatsapp. And, her suggestion was The Whole 30.
What the heck is the whole 30?
The Whole30 is a 30 day stretch where the aim is to reset your gut and your relationship with food.
Here’s what it says on the tin:
—the next 30 days will change your life. It will change the way you think about food. It will change your tastes. It will change your habits and your cravings. It will restore a healthy emotional relationship with food, and with your body. It has the potential to change the way you eat for the rest of your life.
And you do said wonder plan by eliminating (basically everything, not gonna lie) from your diet.
The ONLY things you can eat for one whole month are:
- and healthy fats.
Not a lot right?
This means no sugar, no dairy, no gluten, even legumes (yep, the dreaded chickpea is even eliminated here).
The idea behind it is that many people have allergies or intolerances to some of these foods, as well as them being “ craving-inducing, blood sugar disrupting, gut-damaging, inflammatory food groups”.
So, when I read the plan I was terrified! What on earth would I eat? And I’d NEVER be able to do this. I buy myself a cake or a sandwich when I feel sad. I’d NEVER be able to last a month without comfort food.
Then, after the initial shock, I realised that getting through a month of this (with my friends support) would be the biggest boost to my self-esteem I could ever imagine. And maybe, just maybe, I’d come out of it feeling different.
I’d never done anything like this in my life, but perhaps a shake up was just what I needed. So, by choosing a month where my social calendar could be very limited, I agreed. And I began.
Here’s what I found (the difficult things)
It’s all about the prep.
Without prepping for this month, you will die. No word of a lie. It requires constant cooking and planning ahead, especially for breakfast where, unless you’re happy with a solely fruit breakfast, having a yummy one means cooking diligently the night before.
I survived through alternating fruit and nuts with egg breakfasts in as many styles as I could think of- eggs baked in a muffin tin with bacon and spinach, potato latkes, eggs on boffles (butternut squash waffles- they’re yum!), boiled eggs with asparagus soldiers. And eating as much avocado as humanly possible so I was full up!
I had a mild headache for the first week
I mean, it wasn’t mega, but I definitely didn’t feel great. I was crashing from the sugar and caffeine (you can have black tea and coffee but as I don’t like it I switched to herbal tea sans caffeine. It was a shock to the system). I basically slept my way through week one and cleared my diary for it. It went OK with all the sleep, and I finished feeling super proud of myself after week one!
The first two weeks are the hardest
For me, I struggled the most here. It was finding a routine, working out what’s quick to cook, whats going to be simplest. I started off feeling super fancy schmancy thinking I’d cook up a storm so was basically chained to the kitchen for the first two weeks until I figured out easy dinners didn’t need to be fancy. I work full-time too, so this was a mean feat and I was feeling a little worn out by week two and the simple recipes saved me!
You’ll piss off most people you know if you go over for dinner
Basically, cancel your social plans for dinner out (unless it’s pub food or you check the menu beforehand), or invite them to yours to make them suffer your dinner too. It’s pretty miserable socially, but also- who cares? It’s only 30 days! If you can’t put up with it for the magic to work, you don’t want it bad enough.
Eating eggs for breakfast everyday is the most boring thing ever.
It’s SERIOUSLY boring. It’s the one thing I couldn’t face in the end. In the final few days I switched to almond milk and chia seed pudding which helped break the monotony enough to stumble over the finish line!
And here are the nicer things!
Drinking lime and soda in the pub isn’t the worst
It’s actually really refreshing, and you can imagine it’s a gin and tonic! I really enjoyed spending like £1 at the pub instead of £50 on a usual night out. Plus, the money you save you’ll need because the rest of the food you eat will cost you loads of money. So win win, on a very brutal level.
It’s useful to look at the stages you go through
The Whole30 has a little map of the stages you’ll go through. My friend text me when I was entering each stage, so I’d suggested diarising them in so you can have some reassurance at each stage. Here they are, in all their glory….
Tiger blood is the Whole 30s way of saying “the bit where you feel really good”. I don’t think I experienced this in terms of a super high, but it’s the most driven, dedicated and clear headed I think I’ve ever felt! I also noticed huge changes in my energy levels- I never realised how much my energy levels changed throughout the day before, but during the time (and still now!) I am only ever tired in the evening when I need to go to bed, which makes you feel like you can conquer the world!
I actually ate really nice food
I really did! Roasted salmon and veg with smashed avocado and nuts, chicken egg and chips (potato wedges), cauliflower rice, zoodles, boodles, boffles….. so many new foods! And I also completely changed my snacking habits- instead of scoffing a cake I’d have chicken, fruit, nuts, a nak’d bar if I was really desperate, dates. I’d walk into a supermarket and listen to myself and what I wanted, rather than getting the first thing I’d see. The more you eat this kind of food, it sort of feels like it’s nourishing something else inside of you than just making you full. I really enjoyed each meal!
I didn’t miss what I thought I’d miss
At the beginning I had no idea how I’d get through the day without my morning cuppa, cereal breakfast, sandwiches or a sweet treat every now and again. It seemed impossible. But weirdly, my cravings for chocolate, milk, cakes, crisps, ribena all went away! The less sugar I ate, the less I wanted. So by the end all I wanted to reintroduce were bizarre things like yoghurt, oats, rice, chickpeas and cheese.
I stopped feeling bloated
This was a crazy one for me- I had no idea how BLOATED I was. I’d pile on my plate bread, pasta- basically just as much beige as I could. And, although I’m still not sure what the cause is as I’m still on the reintroduction part (phasing in food groups), I realised how tied bloating is to feeling unsexy. And feeling unsexy to therefore not wanting sex. So, incredibly, it increased my sex drive! And my energy levels were so much better so I didn’t want to crash into bed at night.
My secret weapon
So, I must admit that (apart from my lovely friend) there was one other thing that kept me strong on the Whole30 and that was a book I’d (accidentally) ordered on Amazon.
It’s called The Goddess Revolution by Mel Wells.
Reading this firstly kept me sane and secondly taught me so much about food and intuitive eating!
The biggest thing I learned is the about the difference between cravings and hunger.
Cravings: come on quickly, want immediate feeding and originate in your head
Hunger: comes on slowly so you have time to know what you want to eat, starts in your tummy
Knowing this difference blew my mind, and I’ve been so much more able to identify the two and understand how cravings are linked to emotions.
My friend and Mel Wells also question why we often reward ourselves with food, and encourage using other things like baths, exercise, jacuzzi, massage to reward ourselves- or even the “reward” being an apple or something healthy and satisfying for your body. Something I’m trying to incorporate into my life going forwards.
So although there’s different strokes for different folks and this diet might not work for everyone, I loved it!
Despite my initial skepticism, I completed it and if I can anyone can. Cliche I know, but it’s true.
I did it for myself, my self-esteem, my willpower, my health.
Most importantly I now feel I’m in control of my eating habits, in touch with my body for the first time ever, I actually WANT to exercise (WTF?).
And, although I didn’t weigh myself before or after, I’ve definitely lost a lot of weight.
So, I’d recommend it to anyone. It’s hard work, true, but the feeling of completion was worth every sacrifice along the way.
It really has changed my life, my relationship with food, and how I feel about myself. Good times!
P.S. let me know if you have any more questions about what I ate or anything else 🙂