I completed my Whole 30 earlier this month, so here is a little review of my experience. I wanted to give myself a little time before writing this so I would be able to reflect and also to see how I did when I got back into the "real world."
For some background, I have been eating Paleo for a year now (my first official Paleo-versary was July 18), and have had some great results. In that time but before Whole 30, I had lost 23 lbs and several inches from various parts of my body. I also just began to wear some of my "skinny clothes" I kept in my closet. Keeping those old clothes was a good way to determine my progress. As far as my approach to Paleo, I mainly ate/eat vegetables, meat, and oils like coconut and olive, some fruit, nuts, and seeds, a little dairy (cheese and yogurt), and sensible indulges of wine and dark chocolate. I already felt quite disciplined, however social gatherings still caused stress. Sometimes I would give in an have a taste of non-Paleo foods when pressured to, and though I was eating 80/20 (80% adherence, 20% modern concessions) I felt like the 20% was keeping me from performing my best. So, my goal for Whole 30 was to build up some willpower in these social situations and be more assertive at saying "no."
I had wanted to try a Whole 30 several times all year, but I kept having excuses like "I don't want to add the stress of watching what I eat so closely during finals" or "I'm going to a conference soon and I won't have as much control over what I eat." Finally, when I didn't have any more excuses, I knew I was ready. It was summer so I wasn't on campus because I wasn't taking any classes. Because I wouldn't be in my office much there would be less temptation with any desserts being brought into the office. Also, there would be little chance that I would be stuck on campus only to resort to pre-packaged salads and nuts that could have questionable ingredients.
During the first four days, I felt a little more tired than normal. I remarked that it was also cloudy during those days, which may make me tired, but it also could have been minor changes in my diet. After that, I perked up a lot and by day 10 I remember feeling like I had ingested rocket fuel because I had such great energy! Eating meals on my own was not a struggle for me; it was not too big of a change after nearly a year of eating Paleo. Social occasions were another story. I knew they would be a challenge, yet thankfully some folks didn't even remark when I said I was doing a diet challenge. Others tried the "everything in moderation" line that I think it total bunk...even a moderate amount of wheat would set me up for nasty bloat! I had to reinforce in myself the idea that it was about the people I was around, not what I was eating. As a busy grad student, having the relief of eating out every once and a while is nice, too. I made concessions such as choosing a salad bar or eating at Freebirds, a Texas-based restaurant that serves grass-fed beef and hormone-free meat. I thought it was a good choice, so I ate there several times.
I didn't feel deprived at all because I had a lot of seasonal fruits and vegetables to keep my meals interesting. Therefore I think summer is the best time to do Whole 30 because in winter you wouldn't have so much variety or would be buying off-season vegetables and fruits, which never have that much flavor. Overall, it is not hard to do a Whole 30 if you are truly dedicated to your health. It's not like cancer treatment or like someone asked you to chop off a leg...it's 30 days of no sugar, industrial oils, grains, legumes, and alcohol...no big deal, right?
While I wanted to keep my workouts about that same to not introduce a confounding variable into my little experiment, I was performing so much better at the gym by around day 15 that I started pushing myself. I was lifting maybe 5 or 8 lbs when I started, but by the end I was up to 15, 20, and 25 lbs! I also improved on the Lifecycle recumbent bike from level 5 to level 7.
Here are my results:
Pounds lost: 1
Upper arm, right: 0.5" left: 0.5"
Thighs: right: 0.25" left: 0.25"
I first weighed myself, and was disappointed to see only a pound drop. But to lose over 4 inches in a month but only 1 lb indicated to me that I probably gained some muscle, which is fine by me! I am really glad I took pictures of before and after, because they were my favorite part. I took the pics in a sports bra for my own benefit , but I didn't feel comfortable posting them on the internet so I threw a tight-fitting (well, it was tight-fitting) t-shirt on top. Hopefully I'm not deluding myself in seeing the differences, because to me there were a lot of little changes between the before and after. Another thing that felt awesome was that my usual work shorts were practically hanging on me by the end; I got new shorts with a waist measurement 3 inches smaller!