The Whole 30 – What’s It All About?

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Jessica Humphrey

Jessica Humphrey began blogging at gorunjess.com in 2012 as a means of sharing her journey to running her first full marathon.Motivated by the loss of her father to complications from diabetes and heart disease, Jessica trained for and ran her first marathon in May of 2013.She now writes about her efforts to balance life as an avid runner, full-time special education teacher, mother of two and wife.
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Hello! This is Jess from racingtozen.com. I’m thrilled to be back, guest posting for The Runner Dad! I’m sharing my experiences with the Whole 30, a whole-food based diet. I hesitate to use the word “diet,” as Whole 30 is instead becoming a way of life for me! If you’re curious about the plan, read on.

The Whole 30 eating plan has been in the news recently. You may have seen creators Dallas & Melissa Hartwig on Good Morning America or Nightline or come across bloggers writing about their experiences. I heard about the plan while reading through my Twitter feed one morning. After years of suffering from migraines and seeking prescription help that never seemed to work, I was eager to discover if my migraines were at all connected to what I was eating. I was hesitant to take the leap of faith and join the Whole 30 movement, but a weekend in the hospital with my worst migraine attack in years gave me the push I needed to get going. I checked their book out from the library and was immediately hooked by the idea that my health issues could be connected to the “healthy” food I was eating. I was surprised to realize just how much sugar I was allowing in my diet and that some of my migraine issues could be connected to my eating choices.  On February 17th, I began my Whole 30 journey. Here are the most frequently asked questions I encountered while on this journey and my answers!

1. Why are you doing this? You’re already skinny.

First, if you’re a work in progress like me, there will always be part of you that can’t accept the word “skinny.” Your brain shouts “They must be talking about someone else. You’re fat, remember?” Then you shake that off and try to answer reasonably.

Your answer to this question, and to any question about a change in diet, is very personal. For me it came down to this tag line: “I suffer from migraines. This winter, I ended up in the hospital from a particularly painful one and had a negative reaction to medication I was given. I had tried a number of drugs over the past 8 years and my migraines were not responding well to any of them. I decided to change my diet in the hopes of getting some relief.” Done. If someone argues with you after that, leave the area. A person that doesn’t respect your right to live pain-free is not worth your time. In my humble opinion, of course.

2. What exactly ARE you eating? or What CAN’T you eat?

I’m eating WELL. The list of what I’m actually eating can be found on the Whole 30 website. The list of what I’m not eating goes a bit like this:

  • no beans or legumes (yes, no peanut butter & no soy)
  • no dairy
  • no sugar (including artificial sweeteners, honey, maple syrup, etc.)
  • no alcohol
  • no grains
  • no starch vegetables – for instance, white potatoes are out
  • no preservatives – i.e. nitrates, sulfates, etc.

Here’s a mini-menu of what my daily intake looks like. Keep in mind, I’m not counting calories, not food journaling and not stepping on the scale every day.

Breakfast: Sweet potato hash (shredded in my food processor) cooked in coconut oil, two eggs over easy & fruit of choice, coffee with coconut milk

Lunch: Spinach or greens topped with tomato, roasted red peppers, olives, random veggies from the fridge & tuna in olive oil. Fruit of choice & water.

Snack: If it’s a long work day or a heavy workout day, I will add a LaraBar or veggies with guacamole or salsa as a dip. Another treat is homemade Caesar dressing as a dip. Amazing!

Dinner:  I have a ton of dinner ideas on my Pinterest page and have used many of them. Here are photos of a recent favorite:

cauliflower+rice

Roasted Chicken Thighs with olives, artichokes, capers & sun-dried tomato

chicken+thighs

3.  How much does this diet cost?

As much as you would like it to cost.  Whole 30 and its founders do not demand money from you. Their program, food lists and recipes are all free on their website. You can pay for amenities like daily emails that give you additional information & encouragement, but those are entirely optional. I opted in and paid $15 for 31 days of incredibly valuable content. I borrowed their book from the library.

As far as food goes, we’ve found that our grocery bill remained fairly similar because we have removed so many items from our list and substituted with healthy proteins instead. Gone are the days of protein powder, protein bars, yogurt, cheese and gallons upon gallons of milk and OJ. Instead, our grocery cart is mostly vegetables, lots of eggs and healthy proteins like tuna fish, ground beef, pork and coconut products.

Here are some of my favorite inexpensive products that we eat:

  • Yams @ $0.89/pound – we eat about 5-6 pounds a week
  • Coconut milk @$1.89/can – we use about 2-3 cans a week for coffee & cooking
  • Applesauce @$2.99/jar – we use about 1 jar a week for lunches & breakfasts
  • Bananas @$0.49/pound – we eat about 4-5 pounds a week
  • Carrots @$2.00/bag – not organic, but we wash & peel them & eat about 4 pounds a week

Do we splurge? Yes, we do. Twice we have enjoyed a grass-fed pork tenderloin that was $15 for 2-3 pounds. But, that tenderloin feeds a family of 4, not just me and Phil. Our biggest splurge has been pre-cooked shrimp. At $25-ish a bag, it’s a doozy, but great for nights when you have 87 things to do and cooking a good meal can’t be one.

4. But what are your kids eating?

My children, 12 and 10 years of age, are relatively healthy eaters. I’m lucky that they are not overwhelmingly picky, do not have allergies and are generally happy to eat what is put in front of them. That said, they have kept fairly similar diets for breakfast and lunch. I still buy them cereal & milk, whole wheat bread and natural peanut butter. But, on about 6 days out of 7, they eat what Phil and I are eating. We have occasionally let them enjoy the treasure of macaroni & cheese while Phil and I ate something less kiddo friendly, but otherwise, we’re all in this together for dinner.  We eat as a family every night. Dinner is incredibly important to us and we take the time to light candles, sit together and eat and catch up on our days. The kids have enjoyed hearing about our diet changes and are inquisitive and curious about our choices.

I’m not an expert at cooking this way yet, but there are many, many bloggers that are. I merely borrow their recipes and try to pull it off myself. My favorite is Nom Nom Paleo. Her recipes and plenty of Pinterest research have given me a wealth of kid-friendly options to cook.

5. Will you ever go back? What do you miss?

This is my favorite question. It’s the one that has the answer that makes people give me the “what is wrong with you” look. As a marathoner, I’m very familiar with that look, so it doesn’t get to me.

Here’s the short answer: I don’t know. I’ve been migraine free since I began eating this way. That’s nearly 3 months of no medication, no pain. If I’ve had a headache, it’s responded to two ibuprofen and rest. At the height of my migraine issues, I could take in what a dear friend used to call a “lab-rat dose” of medication and get zero relief. I sleep like the dead. Deep, refreshing, restorative sleep. I’ve never had that – or if I did, I was too young to remember it. I recover quickly from workouts and I am wearing the smallest pants size I’ve worn in my life.

So, do I miss sesame bagels slathered in cream cheese? Grocery store chocolate cake with vanilla frosting & sprinkles? Starbucks sugary goodness? The answer is yes. I’m human. But I don’t miss how those foods made me feel after I ate them. So, for now, and maybe forever, I won’t eat them.

Have more Whole 30 Questions? Want to see where my journey leads? Visit me at racingtozen.com!

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