Biology or psychology, that is my dilemma when it comes to the Whole30 diet. I made it to day 24 and I’m actually pleased to say I’ve stopped. Some of you might say I’ve failed but, I know in my own mind, I got what I needed from the experiment - insight.
At no point throughout the 24 days did I feel the so-called 'tigers's blood', euphoric feeling or purity. In fact, I felt depressed, irritable, and emotional.
I'm not knocking the diet per se, but it didn't work for me at all. I got more negatives than positives and I want to make that perfectly clear. Whole30 made me extremely unhappy, and unable to apply the level of effort and dedication needed to pursue my immediate goals. I felt like a zombie for the best part. Unable to concentrate, a complete lack of energy, and I experienced such low moods that I felt as if I had a constant grey cloud hanging over my head.
I completely understand the theory behind it, and I imagine it would be hugely beneficial for some people. However, it just didn't work for me. I already follow a pretty healthy diet so I wasn't the biggest consumer of sugar or processed food. That said, even I was surprised by just how much artificial crap is in our food.
Some people fail to adhere to the diet due to the negative social aspect, for others, it was abstaining from alcohol that was the issue. I haven't drunk alcohol at all this year but, after a week or so of being on the Whole30 diet, I started to crave a drink. I also started to crave food in general. From the moment I woke up, to the moment I went to bed. I would wake up during the night and would be tempted to eat the energy balls I made (cashew nuts, dates, and raisins).
They became my go-to snack whenever I needed an energy boost (yes I know you shouldn't snack, but I never did until I started this fucking diet). I would wake up in the middle of the night absolutely starving and be tempted to pop downstairs and grab a snack. It took me back to when I was about seven years old and used to sneak downstairs and scoff a Penguin bar.
Whole30 was having the opposite effect on me
The aim of Whole30, if I'm correct, is to undo bad eating habits such as snacking on sugary foods during the day. I never had that issue, until I started the diet. And, while I wasn't snacking on processed snacks throughout the day, I was going through energy balls at a rate of knots. I think I had it in me to become the only person to complete the diet and put on weight in the process. Where is the fucking 'tiger's blood' everyone keeps on about?
I never intended to complete the Whole30 diet for weight loss. It was purely down to the health benefits and biological reset. At no point did I consider jacking it in. But on day 23 after feeling no positive benefits, and certainly no 'dragons blood' I thought to myself, why am I doing this? What is one more week going to show me? I was certainly more aware of how many additives and crap was in many of the foods we eat. Hello, Siracha sauce with your library of E-numbers. Even jarred jalapenos are pickled in a vinegar that has sugar in it - WTF.
I also know a thing or two about marketing and realised that Whole30 has a better ring to it then Whole23. The 30-day element, in my opinion, is more about breaking habits as opposed to ridding your body of sugars and additives. Your body would have been clear of such sugars by week three for sure. So for me, that wasn't the issue. In fact, coming off the diet on day 23 actually helped me break the bad habits I was forming by being on the diet. Energy balls and fresh orange were fast becoming my vices. I needed to go back to my normal way of eating and getting some control over my food cravings. To ensure it wasn't a moment of weakness I decided to hold out and see how I felt the following morning.
The morning after the night before
I woke up and felt even more committed to throwing the towel in. In fact, I woke up in a much better mood knowing I was coming off the diet. I felt as if the constant grey cloud had been lifted from over my head. Which left me thinking how much of a psychological impact the diet really has. I didn't opt straight away for a fry up or feel the urge to feast on everything I had cut out in the three weeks prior. I ate a normal breakfast of avocado, eggs and smoked salmon but opted to have a slice of rye bread as well. The strange thing was, that I didn't feel hungry an hour or so later as I would have done when I was following the Whole30 diet.
Going out in style
I hadn't drunk in 2018 at all. But the rugby was on and I fancied a beer, shit I was going all out after jacking in the diet. Yet I knew part of the process was about bringing certain foods back into my diet and monitoring how it affects your body and digestive system. Well, I jumped headfirst into the diet so I thought fuck it and jumped head first out of the diet. I had a few beers followed by a burger and chips from my favorite burger joint, Honest Burgers. Actually, I forgot to mention the chicken wings I had on the side as well. But, I had an enjoyable evening and was in a great mood, which was surprising as England lost to Scotland in the 6 Nations.
The morning after the night before part 2
So, I had gone from not eating, gluten, legumes, sugar, dairy and any additives whatsoever to consuming a fairly substantial amount of sugar from the alcohol alone. Then there was the burger itself, which consisted of a bread roll, burger, special sauce, cheese, and my side of deep-fried chicken wings. And, let's not forget the chips. Oh and one last thing - washed down with another beer!
So how did I feel?
Surprisingly well. I woke up in a better mood than I had since starting the diet. No bloating, no stomach ache and no adverse effects.
On day 3 and 4 after finishing the diet, I went back to normal eating. In fact, all bar a piece of rye bread my diet was for the best part Whole30 compliant. But my mood had improved significantly. I felt happier, had more energy and my concentration levels were slowly getting back to normal. And yet, the strange thing is that I have no urge to snack during the day. I have gone back to intermittent fasting and eating two meals a day without suffering the side effects the Whole30 diet had on me
What did I lean on the Whole30 diet
There is sugar in nearly everything from a supermarket
I am pretty tolerant of most things - gluten, sugar, dairy etc
Plant Organic makes even Wholefoods seem cheap in comparison
Intermittent fasting is NOT your friend when completing the Whole30 diet
Firstly, my decision to quit the diet came about pretty quickly. I didn’t ponder the idea for days on end. I was committed to completing the full 30 days and then I asked myself a question - what am I doing this for?
Total body reset and cleanse
Better understanding of my biology
Overal health benefits
Understanding of how certain foods affect me
If you follow a diet full of processed foods high in sugar and additives, then I imagine the diet would be hard but, also beneficial. For those who drink regularly, it will be even harder as you will not only be decreasing your sugar intake significantly but, also breaking routine and habits.
I was eating some great wholesome food, full of spice and flavor thanks to the guys at The Spicery, which I have to say helped me last the 24 days. Without them, I doubt I would have made it that far. This was the thing I found, and still find, baffling. It wasn't that I was missing foods, far from it. I was eating great food. I just couldn't go another week with feeling like shit.
How the Whole30 Diet Nearly Killed Me
Yes, you heard it right, the diet nearly killed me. I was standing at the traffic lights waiting to cross the road. I was in such a foul mood, feeling lightheaded, and bloody confused as to why I was constantly in this hazy brain fog. I was having a full on conversation with myself. I then proceeded to cross the road without looking. I can only assume that I thought the lights had turned red. The reality was, they hadn't and a car came screeching to a stop about three feet in front of me. I didn't even attempt to dart out the way. I just stood there like a rabbit caught in the headlights. That was about 15 days into the diet. I look back now and feel extremely grateful that I made it out alive to write this blog post.
I Can Report I'm Alive and Well
But I don't want my experience to put you off. I still learnt a lot from the 24 days I followed it. I learnt that for me, life is about balance and moderation. Adhere to the 80/20 principle and you won't go far wrong.
I still consider the experiment to be a huge success. It isn't intended to be a diet you follow indefinitely. It is a reset program designed for you to spot problematic foods that don't agree with you. For some, it's adverse effects of sugar, for others, it's gluten and possibly legumes. Fortunately for me, it would appear that I am pretty tolerant of most foods. However, I am also aware that depriving myself of the foods I love makes me unhappy, irritable and a general pain in the arse to be around.
My advice is to give it a go and see for yourself. You will learn a lot about yourself when you have completed it, I can assure you. It will also give you a much better understanding of what crap is in the foods we eat, regardless of how healthy you think your diet is.