Recently, I decided to join the rest of the nutrition-conscious world and do the Whole 30, as I’d grown tired of feeling inferior whenever I was amongst a group of friends, who’d all seemed to have completed at least one round. Also, it just sounded like a good idea, given as how I’d just finished the grueling Bowl Full of Jelly 30, which is a program that takes place between Thanksgiving and Christmas, during which time the healthiest thing you eat is green frosting.
But What Is The Whole 30?
Since the official definition of the program contains the facepalm-inducing term “nutritional reset,” I'll instead break it down into layman’s terms: The Whole 30 is when you eat healthy foods for 30 days and then act incredibly surprised afterwards when you look and feel better.
Wait, you might say, that’s it? That’s what all of the fuss is about?
Yup, that’s it. You eat good foods for a month to improve your overall health, after which time you go online and blog excitedly about your experience, sometimes in ALL CAPS:
- “The Whole 30 changed my body! I now fit into clothes I haven’t worn since high school, which is weird because I donated all of my clothes from high school years ago!”
- “The Whole 30 changed my life! I now have an endless supply of energy, and it’s been weeks since I’ve fallen asleep in the shower! Who would have guessed that eating vegetables would actually be good for you?”
- “The Whole 30 saved my marriage, got me a new job, and taught me how to do a proper pushup!”
- “Once the Whole 30 was finished transforming me into a virtual supermodel, it rescued several small children from a burning building downtown! I think the mayor may even be giving it the key to the city!”
- “The Whole 30 for president 2020! HOORAY FOR NUTRITIONAL RESETS!!!
To get into a bit more detail, when you do the Whole 30 you eliminate from your diet all of the foods that most everybody on the planet agrees makes you fat and sick – think anything Hostess or Mountain Dew related here – along with the foods that most people agree really aren’t that good for you. Then, once your cupboards are basically empty, you throw out even more stuff, simply because the Whole 30 is sort of a jerk who doesn’t want you to be happy. Once the dust has settled and you’ve wiped the tears from your eyes, you’re basically left with vegetables, meat, seafood, eggs, nuts and seeds, and fruit. However, the news isn’t all bad, because in addition to being allowed to drink coffee, in some weird twist of fate, bacon somehow makes the cut!
In short, during the Whole 30 you rid yourself of all the nasty stuff you know isn’t doing your body any favors (except for bacon) and replace it with real – I.E. whole – foods. Simple, huh? Then, once you’ve fought through the 30 days, you slowly start to reintegrate the foods you cut out back into your diet, in order to see how they affect your body. In theory, this allows you to get a good feel for what foods works for you and what don’t. However, if you’re like most people, your reintegration is really just a headfirst dive into a mountain of Oreos and pizza, because they’re delicious and you missed them more than you ever thought possible.
So What’s Doing The Whole 30 Like?
When you do the Whole 30, you quickly notice a few things. The first is that no matter what 30 day-window you pick, you constantly find yourself in situations where you’re offered free food expressly forbidden by the program. For example, if you work in an office environment, you’re guaranteed to stumble upon birthday and retirement celebrations boasting free cake almost every day, including some for co-workers you didn’t even know existed. (“Michael from accounting? Since when do we have an accounting department?”) On the home front, you’ll be routinely invited by friends and family to go out to eat, attend parties, or even consume chocolate chip cookie dough straight from the container, just for the sheer joy of it. In addition, every time you enter a grocery store you’ll most likely be offered a multitude of free samples – and it’ll never be kale-based – and there’s also a very good chance that at some point a vending machine will malfunction and expel its entire payload at your feet without warning.
I have no doubt that
was on the Whole 30. Garfield
However, these constant temptations can’t be avoided, and so it’s up to you to be strong and decline all of these free treats, even if it makes everybody around you feel bad for indulging. You may think that a polite, “No thank you,” might defuse the situation, but you’ll quickly realize that, in the end, it’s roughly the same as saying, “Go ahead and enjoy eating that junk food that’ll probably kill you. I’ll be over here munching on a carrot stick, looking smug and self-satisfied.” (That’s another thing. Never look smug or self-satisfied when declining treats, as your co-workers, friends, or family members might get annoyed at you to the point of holding you down and force-feeding you Doritos.)
In the end, however, it boils down to one simple thing: The Whole 30 is about you and your health, and nothing else. Who cares if you ruin multiple celebrations and activities during your 30-day window because people think you're a pretentious junk food snob? You simply have to do your best not to worry about it, mainly because you’re going to need all of your worrying capacity to try and figure out what you’re actually going to eat during those long 30 days!
Yes, planning meals on the Whole 30 can be tricky, and you’ll quickly find that you fall into one of three camps:
- Camp 1: You do it by the book. (Literally, there is a book.) You follow the rules explicitly and never deviate. You spend hours on the internet looking for delicious Whole 30 compliant recipes. (This is, of course, impossible, since you can’t eat processed sugar or cheese.) Still, you’ve made up your mind to do it the right way, and that’s what’s going to happen! In short, you’ve immersed yourself in the program 100% and you WILL NOT cheat yourself.
- Camp 2: You haven’t read the book (as you hate taking direction from anybody) but you do know, vaguely, the Whole 30 guidelines. Also, you detest following recipes, mainly because when you attempt to cook anything that consists of more than one or two ingredients, you always end up with something far less edible than what you began with. So, instead of immersing yourself 100% into the program, you keep it simple (hello eggs for breakfast every day!) and you may even - gasp - cut a few corners, just as long as it doesn’t compromise the integrity of the program.
- Camp 3: You miss Oatmeal Creme Pies too much and give up on about Day 4. (Camp 3 is by far the most delicious of all of the camps.)
Personally, I fell squarely into Camp 2, as evidenced by the fact that one time during my thirty days I broke down, had a piece of gum, and didn’t even restart the program! In addition, being the terrible person that I am, I cut a corner and got the majority of my veggies via green smoothies.
Wait, you might ask, green smoothies are bad?
Well, sort of. You see, blending food leaves it in a rather un-whole state, and the Whole 30 would really, really, really like it if you ate foods that are, well, whole. So, while technically not violating the rules, blending does infringe upon the spirit of the Whole 30. My thought process on the matter, however, was this: Since I clearly wasn’t going to be dedicated enough to eat a truckload of whole vegetables each and every day, I had to find a workaround, or risk turning to the dark side. (I.E. the side that has Chips Ahoy)
It’s been a while since I got a Darth Vader reference in.
So, without any feelings of shame, I compromised and made smoothies.
Not that smoothies are some sort of magic food, mind you. They just make eating vegetables a bit easier for those of us with vegetable-challenged taste buds. In theory, the reason to drink them is you get to mask the taste of vegetables with fruit, but the problem is that to actually accomplish this, you need about a 4-to-1 ratio of fruits to vegetables, which really isn’t all that healthy due to the sugar in the fruit. So, you instead have to find the sweet spot consisting of just enough fruit – sent on what amounts to a kamikaze mission – to cancel out just enough of the vegetable taste to allow you to choke it all down and claim a moral victory. (“Well that was sort of terrible, but on the bright side, I ate spinach and I'm still alive!”)
My Personal Smoothie Recipe:
1 apple: “Sorry brave little apple,” I usually say as I put it into the blender, “I wish I was going to be able to taste you, but your job of canceling out vegetables is still a very important one.”
3-4 small sticks of celery: Included because, unlike most other vegetables, celery doesn’t really taste like anything.
4-5 cucumber slices: These make the cut mainly because they’re easy for me to find at the grocery store.
4-5 broccoli trees: Included because of the large nutritional punch they provide, along with the – ah, who am I kidding? I only use them because they look like little trees, and I find that to be hilarious.
3-4 glugs of almond milk: Only included because the act of pouring almond milk out of one of those flimsy containers is both nerve-wracking and fun. However, each time you manage to do so without incident, your self-confidence soars, and having high moral is one thing that’s desperately needed on the Whole 30. (“If I can pour almond milk without making a mess, surely I can accomplish anything!”)
1 avocado: Note that no matter how hard you try, whatever avocado you pick will always end up being either overripe or not-quite-ripe enough. This is, however, not your fault, as avocados have roughly a ten-minute window where they’re actually good to eat. (Note: If the avocado breaks your blender, it probably wasn’t ripe enough.) Still, they’re worth putting in, as they give your smoothie a creamy texture that will allow you to almost convince yourself you’re not eating a ground up pile of vegetables and almond milk.
2-3 hacks off a cabbage: I know what you’re thinking: “Cabbage? Who in the world besides Peter Rabbit actually eats cabbage?” Now, while that's a valid point, let me explain myself. I only use cabbage because one day I looked into my refrigerator and saw one just sitting there. Considering that I’d never even considered purchasing one before, this was quiet peculiar, and I half-suspected that it felt lonely and jumped into my grocery bag when I was on my way out of the store. Feeling sorry for it, I decided to give it a shot, and I’ve since grown used to it to the point where it’s become a smoothie staple.
1 pound of bacon: Ha-ha! Just kidding! Although, now that I think about it…
1 handful of spinach: Included because I’m still influenced by all of those Popeye cartoons I saw years ago.
½ lime, squeezed: Since I don’t use love, I needed a different secret ingredient, and lime juice provides the smoothie with a much-needed tang.
But What Were Your Results?
Overall, my Whole 30 experience went pretty well, as I made it the entire 30 days without cheating. (Assuming, of course, that you ignore the whole gum incident.) In general, when I make up my mind to do something, I can be pretty stubborn about it, and committing to the program brought that out in full force. Honestly, I think the best part of the Whole 30 might be the challenge of it all. While not some nutritional magic bullet that’ll cure all your ills, framing it as a 30-day challenge gives you not only something to strive for, but also something to celebrate if you should succeed.
This is because there were no jokes in the previous paragraph.
But did it work? Of course! I ate healthy food for 30 days! How could that not be beneficial? But did I look like Sylvester Stallone in Rocky III when I was done? Of course not! That’s preposterous! The Whole 30 is a nutritional reset, not a weight loss program! Also, Rocky had hair! But, just in case you were wondering, here’s one of those before and after pictures you tend to find all over the internet when researching various health programs and initiatives:
The difference is like night and day!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I really should get to figuring out how to approach my reintegration. Although, since we’ve become such good friend, I might just stick with the bacon.