I did a modified version of the Whole 30 diet plan last month, and want to share my thoughts. There are a lot of unhealthy diet plans out there, but I think this one is truly healthy and is focused on the right things. It’s not about eating less, but about eating healthier foods, which is something that we could all use more of.
For anyone who is unfamiliar with this diet plan, Whole 30 involves 30 days of:
- No dairy
- No processed/added sugar (i.e. no sugar unless it’s in fruit)
- No grains/legumes (i.e. no corn, rice, bread, quinoa, oatmeal, etc.)
I wanted to do the real, unmodified Whole 30, but I faced two challenges. One is that I live in a place with limited grocery access, so going grocery shopping isn’t always possible. Second is that I live in graduate student housing, so the kitchen I have access to is a shared kitchen. I never had any intention of cooking when starting school, so I didn’t mind the kitchen situation until I started doing Whole 30. Regardless, the shared kitchen is a little gross, so I wasn’t willing to spend too much time in there.
Because of that, I made two modifications during my 30 days:
- I allowed rice and corn for a few meals a week, but I would only eat small portions of those grains
- If some sauce/dressing had a tiny bit of dairy or added sugar in it, I would still eat it, provided I would only use less than 1 tbsp of the sauce
I eat out for at least 50% of my meals, so I had to be a little lenient with the rules.
My goals for the 30 days were the following:
- Lower body fat percentage by 1% (this doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s honestly really tough, especially because I already had a low body fat percentage to begin with)
- Reduce my sugar cravings by the end of the 30 days
- Observe for changes in skin, hair, and energy as a result of this new, healthier diet
Note that I did NOT want to lose weight. I am already underweight. I would be happy to actually gain a few pounds, as long as it’s muscle, not fat.
Like any diet plan, there were pros and cons. I really liked that I didn’t feel hungry all the time, because I wasn’t trying to limit calories. I could eat as much as I wanted- it’s just that I was only allowed to eat certain healthy foods. I honestly struggled so much with not being able to eat processed sugar, though. I LOVE sweets, and I had massive sugar cravings every single day. I don’t feel like it got any easier to not eat sweets. Because of that, I totally used fruit as a crutch to satisfy my sugar cravings. I began eating SO much fruit and also more acai bowls (which are allowed as long as there is no added sugar). On the whole, I was probably consuming more sugar during the Whole 30 than before- but now it was all fruit and nothing artificial. I feel like this was cheating, honestly, even though fruit was totally allowed. Another negative thing I noticed was that doing my workouts was harder that before, since I wasn’t eating many carbs.
Let’s start with the numbers. I lost .7% body fat, which is a LOT for me. This is a huge improvement, and if I continue with this eating plan, I would have my ideal body fat percentage in a couple months! My BMI decreased by .5 and my weight decreased by 3.5 lbs. I wasn’t trying to reduce my BMI or weight at all, but it happened. I felt like I was eating more than before, but I still shed a few pounds, somehow. Besides that, I do think I look more toned in the abs and whatnot, so that’s a plus.
Regarding the way I feel, I will say that I don’t feel SOO much better or anything drastic like that. I think I was eating pretty well before this diet, so I didn’t experience the boost in energy or alertness that others who have done the Whole 30 have spoken about. I honestly felt kind of the same as before.
Finally, now that my 30 days are up, I re-introduced processed sugar and dairy back into my diet, and they actually upset my stomach a lot. I heard this might happen from others who have done the Whole 30. I don’t really mind that, though. In fact…if my body can’t tolerate those things anymore that’s fine with me because it’ll force me not to eat that stuff. It’s kind of a win. Also..this is weird, but now that I’m allowed to eat processed sugar again, I have realized that I actually crave fruit and acai bowls way more than baked goods and ice cream. On day 29, I wanted processed sugar so badly, but now that I’m allowed to have it, I actually don’t want it. So I guess my sugar cravings didn’t go away, but they shifted from processed to natural sugars.
What I learned:
- I had to turn down sweets or food that wasn’t allowed so many times during this month. I think that just goes to show that there will always be some excuse for why you can’t start a diet today- “it’s so-and-so’s birthday dinner” or “there’s a party tomorrow, I’ll start right after that” etc. It never ends, though, so I’m glad I just started when I did. You could put things off forever if you are looking for an excuse.
- It’s not as expensive to eat healthy as I thought it would be (I recognize that I am saying this from a place of privilege, where I can afford to buy healthy groceries even on a student budget.)
- I do think strength training has a HUGE effect on body fat percentage. I didn’t notice a significant change in body fat percentage until the second two weeks of my Whole 30, where I started doing more strength training.
Ways to Make Whole 30 Easier and More Affordable:
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes are allowed on Whole 30, and they are super filling, super cheap, and probably the carbiest thing you can eat on this diet. Make them part of either your lunch or dinner every day.
- Try not to eat salad for every single meal, or else you might feel ‘burned out’ early on. I’d say limit salad to one meal per day. If you can find filling meals that aren’t salad, try for that. Even if it’s just grilled chicken and a potato with olive oil, that’s still pretty healthy and filling.
- If you are used to eating granola bars or similar snacks when you’re on-the-go, there are Whole 30 approved snacks like certain Lara Bars or Protein Bars you can buy.
- Sit down and think of at least 6 snacks that you can eat on this diet that you would actually enjoy. Do this before starting the diet. It can get annoying to eat the same couple snacks every day, so try to mix it up.
- If you have to make adjustments in order to do this diet, that’s fine. It’s better to do something 90% than to not do it at all just because you can’t do it perfectly. For example, if you hate vegetables and can only stomach them with Ranch dressing, try and commit to only allowing yourself 1 spoon of Ranch. Something is better than nothing.
- If you have access to a kitchen, try spending an hour at the beginning of the week to cut up some fruit or cook some vegetables. It really helps to have even one box of cut up fruit and one box of grilled vegetables for the week.
Please do not message me saying that I’m promoting unhealthy body image, etc. I am trying to gain muscle and eat less junk food, and that’s literally OBJECTIVELY healthy for someone of my weight and size.
This post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, and this site should not be relied upon as health advice. I am a student, and share my opinions and experiences through this platform, but am not qualified to give medical advice, nor am I seeking to do so.