We have made it to the end of Whole 30! After many changes and eye-opening lessons, the bloggers and I have conquered the challenge. Read on to find out how it all went, what we learned, and how we'll move forward.
That’s a wrap folks. 30 days are in the bag and I am proud to say I made it through this challenge. I not only made it through, I ENJOYED it. Crazy, I know, but I really believe that getting cravings under control by removing the sugar and other processed foods has made a huge difference in how I feel towards food. I definitely started eating more for fuel, instead of because I was having an uncontrollable craving.
I find it very interesting how big of an effect certain types of foods have on an individual, not only physically but mentally as well. Speaking of which, I have to say that I feel much more clear-headed and focused. This is a great perk for anyone, but even more so for a college student like myself. I used to rely on coffee to get me over the hump, but that would result in a vicious cycle of energy highs followed by energy lows, and then the inability to sleep at night. My body did not need a stimulant to fix things; all I really needed was real food and no crap. Who would have thought, right? ;)
One big reason why I wanted to participate in the Whole 30 challenge was to continue my own healing process. I have been dealing with several digestive issues relating to my stomach, intestines, and gallbladder and have seen great improvement with turning to a paleo diet and getting rid of the foods I was sensitive to like gluten and dairy. After many years of slowing damaging my insides by consuming these foods, I had a long way to go in terms of building my system back up. I wanted to do something that would keep me accountable and motivated to stay the course with my way of eating. And if could accelerate my healing at the same time, then that would be a huge bonus. I do think Whole 30 did just what it was meant to do; provide a complete body and mind reset. I feel like I am digesting better now than when I first started the challenge and I contribute that to eating real food that my body can recognize and use. God gave us the perfect supply of food to fuel our bodies with…and these foods came from a farm, not out of a package.
I also took this challenge as an opportunity to get creative with simple meals and simple ingredients. I really wanted to show people that clean eating does not have to mean eating the same boring thing over and over again. I know when I first started eating paleo for health reasons, I felt very restricted in what I could eat. At the time I did not know there was so much out there for me to make! Here is one last peak at what I ate, during the last week of my Whole 30 experience:
local pastured eggs, mushrooms, and plantains cooked in ghee
beef and spinach meatballs, stir fry veggies, and roasted acorn squash
local pastured steak with coconut oil roasted broccoli
meal prepping! Meatballs and sweet potato wedges, roasted
creamy pumpkin, chicken, and spaghetti squash casserole with stir fry veggies
sockeye salmon, arugula, and sweet potato wedges
I am so happy that I decided to take on this challenge. It was definitely worth giving up my treats and convenience foods because what I ended up with instead was something so much better…my health. You can’t just get that anywhere. So one last BIG shout out to Swanson for making this experience possible and helping me along each step of the way. This will be a month I will never forget.
I’m not sure where those 30 days went, but it certainly seemed that the time flew!
So let’s start with the beginning…why did I agree to eliminate dairy, soy, grains, and refined sugars? Well, I took this challenge on for precisely that reason: it was a challenge. It was a way to evaluate what foods my body handles well, and what foods may be intolerable. But, what I ended up getting out of this challenge… was so much more than that.
I view food completely differently. Rather than seeing “calories” to replenish, I see nutrition. I see the beauty of variety, a colorful plate, and the gift that food truly is to us. My energy, digestion, and skin have drastically improved…and my running and strength even improved! If you fuel your body properly, than your body will thank you!
The last week of the challenge was definitely the easiest for me, especially when it came to meal prepping and cooking. It became a routine to just grab a few good protein sources, vegetables, carbohydrate, and a healthy fat. I think one of the scariest parts of the challenge was the cost. Purchasing organic, all-natural and health food items can certainly put a dent in the wallet. I learned that ordering health products from Swanson Vitamins, such as coconut butter, coconut oil, nuts, almond flour, you could really afford these specialty items! Costco and The Fresh Market offer reasonably priced organic, grass-fed meat; bulk vegetable items, and eggs! The first week of the challenge my grocery bill was probably higher than what it should be, but I learned as the process continued.
I believe this way of eating will continue for me, with a few exceptions. I do miss my legumes - hello, big spoonful of peanut butter! I am not the biggest meat eater (although that certainly changed these past 30 days!) so I do love incorporating beans and soy for alternative protein sources. I also know my body can only handle these in small quantities, so I will respect that. As for my typical morning bowl of oats? I actually don’t see myself having these everyday like before the challenge. My body thrives so much more with a variety of nutritious foods in the morning! A plate of eggs, fruit, vegetables, and a sweet potato has now become a staple! And my nightly snack? I will only grab something additional to eat if I feel hungry…I definitely was able to break that habit!
I’m honestly scared to introduce things back into my diet now that the challenge is over. I have been feeling my best during these past few weeks and certainly do not want to hinder that! There are tips about this in the book “It Starts With Food” so I will definitely be relying on these to continue learning about how foods affect me.
I recommend to anyone interested in learning more about their bodies and how food can empower your life to read this book, take on the 30 days, and truly evaluate your own body. It’s very empowering to know how foods affect you! The Whole 30 challenge, for me, ended up being a mind, body, and soul cleanse. I feel more in tune with my body, my hunger cues, what foods make my body feel at its best.
And finally, let’s wrap up on a few tasty notes!
Two egg omelet with spinach and butternut squash, dippy egg baked butternut squash, steamed Brussels sprouts
Shredded chicken with salsa stuffed sweet potato, peppers, avocado
Tilapia with salsa and avocado, coconut oil roasted Brussels sprouts and plantain
Well, here we are again. We've crossed the finish line. Thirty days of Whole 30 later, I feel awesome, and I'd do it all over again. In fact, I think I will. Here are some final changes and thoughts.
Sleep and Energy: I've written a lot about this, but my sleep schedule and energy levels have both dramatically changed for the better. I used to take an hour or more to fall asleep, and now most nights I'm out in under twenty minutes. I also feel like coffee isn't as necessary as before, and the tragic wish for a nap rarely occurs.
Hair, Skin and Nails: My hair is easier to work with. My skin continues to clear up and feel more moisturized. My nails are stronger. All good things. Enough said.
Weight Loss: Whole 30 isn't designed with weight loss in mind, but it's rare for someone not to lose weight during this challenge. I personally lost 14 lbs, and I've noticed by how my clothes fit now compared to before. The exercise is helping as well, of course, so I'll be sure to continue with that. While the weight loss is a great number, this challenge has taught me not to focus so much on the number but rather on how I feel. I still have a long way to go, but letting go of scale dependence has been very helpful.
Eating Mindfulness: It has simply amazed me how different I feel, and all because of food. This will encourage me to think more before I eat. My goal is to move into a mostly Paleo lifestyle (I say mostly because I'm not perfect). I know the foods I eliminated during Whole 30 used to have a negative effect on me, so why make them a regular part of my diet? I've learned that I don't need these foods, so I simply won't eat them now that Whole 30 has taught me how to stay away. There will be tasty treat moments (again, I'm not perfect), but those foods will no longer be a staple in my diet.
Final food images:
Tuna, egg and avocado lettuce wraps with sweet peppers.