There's a new low carb diet that's trending called Whole30. The concept, essentially, is this: cut out dairy, alcohol, grains, legumes, processed sugars and sugar substitutes, carrageenan, MSG and sulfites for 30 days. The goal: create healthy eating habits, break cravings and cut food addictions. "In comparison to other diet plans, Whole30 is better in the sense that it focuses on consuming whole foods and not highly processed 'diet' foods," says Allison Riederer MS, RD, associate instructor in the College of Health, Division of Nutrition at the University of Utah. "Additionally, it could help people to diversify their intake. By omitting so many basic ingredients, people are likely to experiment with new-to-them foods and recipes."
However, she also warns that such a diet has a down side. "While many people are able to get through Whole30 successfully, it is highly restrictive and can result in the pendulum effect of going overboard once the 30 days are over," Riederer said. "Additionally, it can be difficult for the average person to consume all vitamins and minerals when they're omitting so many foods (grains & dairy in particular). This diet plan puts too much emphasis on protein (something Americans already consume plenty of) and not enough on consuming healthy carbs."
Now it was time to put the diet into action. We asked our office intern, Hillary, to give it a go and record her observations.
Whole30 Time Log
Following the Whole30 diet plan, I also took a multi-vitamin, a calcium tablet and drank at least 70 oz of water every day throughout my 30 days. These were my results:
I'm always hungry. I want toast with my eggs and I want to try the new Cotton Candy Oreos. I'm getting headaches every day and I stay within 20 feet of a bathroom at all times (I've never eaten this much fiber in my life), but I'm dedicated.
I've now survived the worst part, right? This is getting easier. I'm forming habits, planning menus and I know what to shop for (who knew bacon had sugar in it?). Why is there sugar/sweetener in everything?
This is death. A pan of brownies showed up on my kitchen counter and I (quite literally) broke down into tears. I then proceeded to run downstairs and yell at whoever's brilliant idea it was to make brownies. I feel hormonal and I can't think of any other ways to cook eggs.
My body feels good. I have more energy. I'm waking up without my alarm clock. My appetite has decreased and I get full faster. I'm getting more creative with my recipes. I don't think about sweets or breads unless they are in front of me. Maybe I'll go longer than 30 days.
Someone in the office brought in pizza for everyone, and (while it still makes me sad) I did resist telling him off. I ate grapes today and it almost reminded me of eating an Otter-pop, a comparison I never thought I would make. My skin is clearing up.
I'm not going to pretend like there are no more hard days, or moments where I have a heated debate with myself about whether or not to throw in the towel and order my sandwich with bread. But, those days and moments are fewer and farther in-between. When other people eat food not Whole30 approved, I'm not fazed. I can stop eating mid-meal when I'm full (a newly developed talent), and—I'll admit it—I ordered the Whole30 recipe book and I'm ready for round two, (incorporating dietician recommendations*) because, gosh dang it, I feel good. But first I'm going to eat a dang donut.
My takeaway from Whole30 is this: sugar addictions are real. We don't pay close enough attention to the ingredients we are putting into our bodies. Our bodies don't need nearly as much food in general, sugar or even breads as our taste buds demand, and when you limit the intake of these things your body will thank you for it.
*If you're going to try a low-carb diet similar to Whole30, this is what Riederer recommends:
"I wouldn't encourage someone to have a 'carb re-feeding' day, particularly because of the pendulum effect. Having a 'cheat day' or 'carb re-feeding day' doesn't help to establish healthy habits, it just reinforces six days of restriction and one day of 'all bets are off' over consumption," Riederer said. "Instead, I would recommend that someone incorporate a moderate amount of whole grains every day, whether it's something gluten-free like brown rice or quinoa or simply 100% whole wheat bread. It's best to strive for overall balance and moderation."
Well, there you have it. Happy dieting.