Starting off 2017 I had one singular goal. My singular focus for the month of January was to complete, with some friends, the Whole 30 challenge. And I quit it.
If you’re unfamiliar with this, it is a meal plan with rigorous rules that say you can’t eat anything processed, or with added sugar, or certain preservatives. No grains or breads. No cheese or dairy. No fun. Basically just meats, eggs, veggies, and fruits. And you do this every day for 30 days.
The goal of Whole 30 is not necessarily weight loss but it’s to cleanse your body of the toxins and foods that cause inflammation in your body. It’s like a reset button. And you might lose some weight.
Even though I can say that my body was feeling better and that I had lost some weight, I quit Whole 30 and it was a great decision for me and my family.
Why I Quit Whole 30
Meal Prep for Whole 30
I knew that we’d have to be organized with our food choices going in to this. I had no clue how much time we’d be spending in the kitchen and doing dishes though. Prepping for a week of Whole 30 meals takes hours!
You have to create a meal plan for the week and go purchase the right ingredients for those meals. And you’d think that if a recipe calls for chicken sausage that you could just go to the store and buy chicken sausage. But not every grocery store carries chicken sausage and the ones that do carry it likely put corn syrup in as the third ingredient so that is no longer compliant and you have to look again or change the meal plan. Ugh!
Our kitchen was a disaster with all the dishes from prepped breakfasts and lunches. We’d finish a load of dishes just to start a new load. Our dinners weren’t complicated. We kept it to just a grilled meat and some veggies and still we were doing tons of dishes.
The meal prep involved with trying to figure out and make on Sunday afternoon what we were going to have for breakfast on Friday morning (that would still taste okay after sitting in the fridge all week) was probably the roughest part of the Whole 30 for us.
Schedule for Whole 30
If you look at your calendar for the next 30 days, you really need to have a fantastically scheduled meal plan or you’ll never make it through a Whole 30. My most stressful and emotional day was day 7 after playing in the band at church for 5 hours only to have 30 minutes for lunch before another appointment and not having any food prepped at home.
Tuesday nights my daughter has dance. Thursday’s we volunteer at a food pantry. Wednesday’s I have church band practice. I meet with clients 1 or 2 nights a week. And this doesn’t even touch the random events the kids have throughout a week.
On top of that, day 31 of our Whole 30 was going to have us in Disney World letting our first non-compliant Whole 30 meals be in the Magic Kingdom. I really don’t need an upset stomach from re-introducing cheese and bread to my diet while I’m standing in line for Space Mountain.
Life can get hectic and stressful and messy. Sometimes you need to have a convenient meal of hotdogs, broccoli, and mac n cheese that takes 5 minutes to prepare at home. Sometimes you’ve been running all day and the only time you have to eat means you swing through the drive thru at Chick Fil A. Whole 30 doesn’t really allow much margin of error there, even if you order a grilled chicken salad.
Emotions of Whole 30
This is where Whole 30 does exactly what it claims it will do. It will break you. If you’ve followed me on Instagram or Facebook for any length of time you know I have a deep love for cheese.
On Whole 30 you just quit everything at once. No cheese. No bread. No added sugars. No fried foods. No fun. Ever.
And this causes your body to literally go through withdrawals and detox. Sugar lights up brain receptors in a similar way that cocaine does, so we know it is highly addictive. This was my experience. By day 4 I felt like I had the flu and I had some crazy strong cravings.
I’m glad that I went through 9 full days of this. I got through the detox to the other side where I legitimately didn’t have cravings for bread or cheese or ice cream. I actually got to where I didn’t have much of an appetite at all and while I thought it’d be great to have a chip and some queso, it wasn’t a craving anymore.
The meal prep and the schedule problems coupled with the detox my body was going through broke me though. There were moments I cried for no real reason. There were moments I got angry or frustrated with my kids for doing absolutely nothing wrong. I was short and snappy with my wife.
If my ultimate goal was to be more healthy all around by doing a Whole 30, then I failed. My mental and emotional state went the opposite direction and I was definitely un-healthy emotionally for a few days. In the end I quit because Whole 30 didn’t help me achieve my ultimate goal of a healthy sustainable lifestyle.
Calories and Price on Whole 30
People don’t lose weight on Whole 30 because they aren’t eating junk food any more and only eating healthy, whole foods. You lose weight on Whole 30 just like you lose weight on any other meal plan. You eat fewer calories.
You’re not really supposed to track your caloric intake on Whole 30, but I did anyway. What I found is that even eating a good sized breakfast, lunch, and dinner along with several Whole 30 compliant snacks throughout the day, I was getting at best 1,500 calories per day. Most days were around 1,200 calories.
According to almost every nutrition app and consultant I checked with, this wasn’t going to be enough calories to establish healthy weight loss. And that is what I experienced. I lost 15 pounds in 9 days doing Whole 30 because I wasn’t eating enough calories.
The solution should be easy, right? Eat more food.
I didn’t feel very hungry. Likely because I had more veggies in those 9 days than I had eaten in the previous 6 months. But also, the cost of meat that is Whole 30 compliant is quite expensive. Meat is where the majority of your protein and calories come from on Whole 30 because broccoli isn’t going to do much for you and you can only eat so many avocados in a day. To eat enough meat to make up the calorie shortage I was experiencing, I’d need to spend almost double on our grocery budget. And then that would take us back to the meal prep nightmare of cooking and dishes.
What I learned from the 9 days of my Whole 30 experience.
There are probably a dozen more reasons I quit Whole 30 and I do feel like a quitter because of it. But I did learn a few great things:
- Read the labels on the food you buy. I don’t know why sugar and corn syrup are added to everything, but there are typically alternatives you can buy. When you can choose food without added sugar and corn syrup, do it.
- You can make healthy choices at restaurants. Ask for no seasoning or to put the salad dressing on the side. Look for grilled items. Tell the waiter that you don’t want any chips or any bread. Drink water or unsweet iced tea.
- Sugar is freaking addicting and while it’s crazy hard to avoid all the time you can make conscious choices to limit how much of it you have in your diet.
- If God didn’t want us to eat cheese and bread he wouldn’t have created us with taste buds and would have just given us pellets to chew on for food.
- If your body feels a little sluggish, or if your mental state seems off, change your diet for a few days to more grilled meats and veggies and fewer carbs and sugar and see if you notice a change.
- Having a meal plan and tracking what you eat is important, but so is being flexible and allowing yourself some grace.
Why would a business and money website write about Whole 30?
There are a ton of similarities to getting better with your health and getting better with money. Sacrifice. Discipline. Planning. Make more money, spend less money. Eat healthier foods, work out more.
I teach people how to change their behavior with money and offer a sustainable lifestyle for managing money and building wealth.
In my opinion, Whole 30 is not sustainable. It could be a good jump start if you need that type of thing. But it doesn’t teach a sustainable healthy lifestyle. It teaches you deprivation. And when there is deprivation there is no hope.
I may tell you to sell your car and drive a junky cash car and to work 4 jobs for a short time period so that you can get out of debt and start to build some wealth. But the hope is that you WILL be able to build wealth.
Since Whole 30 is an unsustainable lifestyle, the only hope in the challenge is to get to Day 31 where you can finally eat a grain of rice or lick a potato chip or smell a chicken nugget.
I quit Whole 30 on day 10. But I didn’t quit chasing a healthy lifestyle. And I’m going to eat a little bit of cheese and some spinach. But never kale.