I wrote this post a while ago, but delayed hitting ‘publish’ because I thought one week after Whole 30 wasn’t long enough to really assess the benefits to it. Now that a month has passed, I have a better idea of what Whole 30 did for me. Spoiler – A LOT!
Here’s the original post about WHAT the Vegetarian Whole 30 entailed (it’s way different than regular Whole 30).
To recap, here’s WHY I did Vegetarian Whole 30:
I was eating way more junk food than I used to. I was mindlessly eating, especially when I was tired or stressed. And I craved sugar ALL THE TIME. A large part of these new habits, I think, was having children… I kept trying to change my habits with an ‘everything in moderation’ approach, which had worked for me in the past. But I wasn’t finding that technique successful in the slightest. When I realized there was a vegetarian version of Whole 30, I thought – “Hmmm, this could be the food reset that I’ve been looking for!” That’s kind of how I see it – a food reset. Get back to the basics, eliminate processed stuff, and focus on real food.
Okay – so my big goal was an emotional and actual food reset.
Verdict #1 – Whole 30 is AMAZING for the way it changes the way you think about food. You eat a lot of wholesome, nutritious, high-quality food that makes you feel great, which reinforces the habit. Truly – this is probably the biggest benefit to trying the Whole 30, and I’ve heard this statement from so many people. For 30 days, I really had to thoughtfully grocery shop, cook, and eat all of my meals. The “thoughtful” aspect of it was tremendously beneficial because, as mentioned, my eating had kind of devolved into “shoving in whatever is available” after Claire’s birth.
I still find myself falling into this trap occasionally – actually, as I write this, it’s 3:45 PM and my “lunch” was a bunch of crackers and slices of cheese and a peach that I mindlessly ate as I worked. Vegetarian Whole 30 reinforced how important food prep is (more on that below).
Verdict #2 – I felt like I had higher and more stable energy levels on Vegetarian Whole 30. This was mainly due to not eating a ton of added sugar, as I had before. By the way – withdrawing from added sugar was really, really hard, but I quickly adjusted. As a result, I slept better. When I returned to eating added sugar after the challenge was over, I found I didn’t need or want as much as I would’ve before. Cutting added sugar out completely helped my taste buds adjust. <— A month later, this is still true. Some things still feel way too sweet. I don’t feel like overdosing on dessert or CRAVE it all the time as I did before. Basically, I got off the Sugar Train.
One month later, my new eating style has stuck around… for most meals (which I think is pretty awesome!). I have Vegetarian Whole 30 meals at least twice a day (usually breakfast and dinner). I also reach for a different type of snacks now. I ate a lot of potato chips and granola bars for snacks after Claire was born. Now I aim for protein-based snacks that have way more fat and protein than my old snacks did. I have gone back to eating grains, especially in the form of rice, quinoa, and gluten-free goodies like crackers or pizza, but not as much as before. Please note that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with grains, but I have observed bigger energy spikes and drops when I eat meals where carbs are the focus.
Verdict #3 – I “discovered” a whole new way to eat. Most mornings, I would wake up and roast two huge cookie sheets of vegetables and potatoes so we could snack on them throughout the day. I ate a lot – a LOT – of eggs. Good thing I love eggs! All of this food prep made it easier to stick to the plan when the day got hectic. Here are some of my Vegetarian Whole 30 favorites:
Coconut milk, as a base for sauces or mixed into coffee
Full-fat PLAIN Greek Yogurt <—totally discovered a new appreciation for this
Yogurt messes with unsweetened coconut, nuts, and cocoa powder
Roasted Yukon potatoes with tons of spicy brown mustard
Spices! Cocoa powder (in savory dishes – yum), cinnamon, turmeric
Sunshine sauce <— the jam
Baby bell peppers, raw or cooked <—also a new obsession
Stir-fries with cashews mixed in <—warm cashews are the bomb
The only foods that I really missed on Vegetarian Whole 30 were cheese and yummy grab-and-go snacks. I’m glad to have cheese back! And I didn’t miss rice as much as I thought I would.
Verdict #4 – Sticking with Whole 30 is really, really hard. Whole 30 demands perfection, which is not something I am used to doing with my diet. I’m sure some people will argue that I didn’t really “do” Whole 30 because I “slipped” a few times (pizza one night when I had nothing to eat and was starving, pizza again in Chicago, electrolyte powder and crackers the day after I spent an entire night puking my brains out). I totally get WHY Whole 30 demands perfection, but that just wasn’t for me… I made an effort, I stuck with it 95% of the time, and I’m happy with the approach I took with Whole 30.
Verdict #5 – My skin looked amazing on Whole 30. Seriously – amazing. I credit a TON of plants – I ate soooo many veggies and fruits in the past month! – and better sleeping while on the plan. The Husband even randomly said to me one night, “Your skin looks like it’s glowing!” And I didn’t lose weight on Vegetarian Whole 30 (I didn’t want to), but my body shape changed and I felt/looked stronger than I did before having kids! Crazy what protein + plants and strength training will do! Here’s a pre-Whole 30 v. end of Whole 30 photo comparison:
(And yes, I photoshopped a more modest top onto myself! Hah.)
Verdict #6 – All this yummy vegetarian food reminded me that real food is really delicious! I loved spending so much time cooking and eating such wonderful, nutritious foods. It was nice to take a month to focus on healthy eating.
Verdict #7 – On that note, this challenge made me realize that, at this point in my life, I make healthier choices when I have structure – kind of like a training plan for workouts. I’m so busy and it’s nice to have guidelines to cook and eat under that make me feel so good. This challenge also made me think about what “everything in moderation” means. Moderation may be once or twice a week – it’s probably not every single day.
And the big upshot of all of this… Vegetarian Whole 30 gave me a huge food reset that lasted well over a month since I stopped the challenge. Taking time to cook balanced, healthy meals is hard for everyone with a busy life, but it is especially hard when you’re adjusting to life after your second baby. Vegetarian Whole 30 taught me that when my plate is full of protein + plants, I feel really good physically, and that means the effort is worth it. This eating style isn’t something I would want to maintain 100% forever and ever, but definitely influenced many of my meals and snacks as I continue to live post-Whole 30 life. Grains certainly have a place in my life, as do processed foods and treats, but this allowed me to really figured out how to include these foods in a more balanced way.
This challenge really helped me understand how the food that I eat influences my energy levels and mood, and that is a truly priceless lesson, especially when I need *so much* energy in my day-to-day life. The bottom line is that food is SO POWERFUL. It has the power to make us feel strong, fit, alert, and patient. It has the power to make us feel sluggish and sleepy. I know how I’d rather feel! Food is also fuel and medicine. It can be pleasure, too, so it’s worth saying that Vegetarian Whole 30 was tasty, too. Real food is pretty delicious!
Have you done a Whole 30 challenge? What did you learn from it?