Whole30: A Registered Dietitian’s Thoughts – the Good, the Bad, the Ugly (…and the RESULTS!)

Whole30: It’s a stricter form of Paleo in that NO sugar (real, artificial, natural, etc.) is included in the plan. The premise: eat whole foods – protein, vegetables, fruit, healthy fats (emphasis on omega 3’s, less omega 6’s). No grains, no dairy, no alcohol (even extracts!), no soy. It’s not “low carb” but it is certainly low-er carb. Snacks are generally discouraged and three square meals a day are recommended.

Why did I give it a shot? A few reasons…

  1. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law love Whole30, stating they feel better when following a Whole30 diet.
  2. Hubby challenged me because he was wanting to take off a few pounds after the holidays
  3. I wanted to focus on my health and losing some weight after the holidays…and after spending 27 of the past 28 months pregnant and/or breastfeeding (!)
  4. Something Mark and I could do together – looking for recipes, grocery shopping, $400 trips to Whole Foods… πŸ˜‰

The Good: Lots of stuff.

  • Cooking. I hear it a LOT in my line of work, but when people complain about cooking, it gets old. Cooking is so important and I don’t say that because I personally love it. I say it because if you don’t cook, you’re more than likely eating a far more processed diet. Cooking doesn’t have to be difficult or hard, it just takes a bit of time and planning.
  • Not hungry. Is there anything worse than being hungry when trying to lose weight? Food is all you can think about. Not only that, but there’s no measuring “required” with Whole30 – the focus is on eating until satisfied. I’m not fundamentally against measuring food, but meal time with a 2-year-old, newborn, and husband who works really long hours…is chaotic enough as is. I enjoyed focusing more on filling foods that are high in protein and healthy fats, while also incorporating healthy carbohydrates, like fruit. Because I’ll be honest, I would love nothing more than to always grab a tasty carb of some sort – crackers, candy, cereal, chips, etc.
  • Nutritionally sound. While there are no grains or dairy included in Whole30, it was certainly not low in vitamin D, calcium, fiber, etc. I did continue to take my prenatal vitamin and would recommend a multivitamin to those on Whole30.

The Bad: Some stuff.

  • Eating out. I know Whole30 “gods” say there’s no such thing as a “perfect” Whole30, but there’s pretty much no way to be 100% Whole30 complaint in your run of the mill restaurant. You can specify your order all you want, but sugar, non-compliant oils, and additives are in EVERYTHING. We simply chose not to eat out while on Whole30, and honestly, that was probably the #1 hardest part of Whole30 for us.
  • Limiting. By the end, I felt like I was eating the same foods in different preparations. I definitely missed dairy and grains. I ate a lot of eggs, avocados, nuts, sweet potatoes, lettuce, meat, and seafood. While I enjoy all of these foods, it can be hard to differentiate one recipe from the next with limited use of condiments, toppings, etc.

The Ugly: A few things.

  • Availability. I live in small town Michigan and it was nearly impossible to find some things that were Whole30 complaint – bacon, sausage, etc. We did find one broth and one almond milk option, but availability was definitely a challenge in keeping Whole30 compliant.
  • Cost. I think I mentioned our $400 trip to Whole Foods. We normally do not eat a lot of meat and meat is DEFINITELY expensive. We also bought almost all organic for the month and while I love it, it comes at a cost. Again, I realize this isn’t 100% necessary, but we went all out.
  • Time. Convenience foods and eating out being non-options, it meant more time spent meal planning and cooking. Dinners took substantially longer to prepare due to the large volume of meat (trimming, cutting, etc) and vegetables (wash, chop, prepare). There was also more dishes to be done with the increased amount of cooking. Not complaining, but I don’t always have time and while we were doing Whole30, Mark was working 7am to 8pm most of the month – gah!

So, what were our results?

  • Mark: -16 pounds.
  • Me: -12 pounds.

I did eat fruit at most every snack – I had no interest in low-carb because 1. it’s not maintainable, 2. the initial weight loss that accompanies low-carb comes back on the instant carbs are reintroduced, and most importantly, 3. I was not willing to jeopardize my milk supply (I’m happy to say my supply stayed consistent the whole time).

We did NOT make it the WHOLE 30 days. We caved on the night of Day 26 after realizing that we desperately needed a little 1:1 time and had my in-laws in town to be with our girls. We went out and had a nice dinner and beer! Definitely worth not getting my invisible Whole30 Gold Star for completion. πŸ˜‰ Could I/we have made the WHOLE 30 days? Of course. But I think we both felt like we had “accomplished” what we’d set out to do – eat healthfully and “whole” and lose some weight.

Someone asked if we were going to dive face first into pizza or do the reintroduction phase of Whole30…and it’s a great question. We’re actually moving forward with mostly Whole30 meals and snacks (love Rx Bars!) Sunday through Thursday and giving ourselves some more flexibility on Fridays and Saturdays to enjoy alcohol and some dinners out. So, we’re doing a Whole30 hybrid! I anticipate things will loosen up as time goes on but I think we’d both entertain another round of Whole30 (or maybe like a Whole21 πŸ˜‰ ).

Please feel free to ask questions and I’d be happy to answer. Please follow along on Instagram and look for my posts with #whole30 tags for meal ideas (or, #whole30ish). I’ve been trying to post lots because I know how much I appreciate meal ideas to keep things different and delicious!

Be well,

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11 Comments

  1. Kat
    February 6, 2017 / 10:17 pm

    We also ended up with a Whole26! Not that we couldn’t have made it another four days, but it was starting to mess with us emotionally. With the no going out to restaurants, we basically went almost a month with no date night and it was rough! It’s definitely something I’d watch out for if there’s a next Whole30. We’d need to focus on getting in some non-food oriented dates!

    As always, thanks for your thoughts!

    • Nicole Morrissey
      Author
      February 8, 2017 / 8:55 pm

      Hi Kat! LOL to Whole26 πŸ˜‰ We’re right there with you on date nights. It really is what we do to reconnect and just found that it’s important to us! I don’t think it’s a bad thing πŸ™‚

  2. February 7, 2017 / 9:35 am

    I found myself looking at the Whole30 cookbook recently but my Lord the amount of ingredients in some of these recipes was a big turn off (and I LOVE to cook!)

    I guess you kind of answered my question to a degree about does the weight come back on because I’m a quinoa and fruit girl and I know those would be the first things that I jumped on when it was over. If you’re up for it, I’d love a 30 day follow up on how much both of you kept off weight wise doing the “hybrid” version!

    • Nicole Morrissey
      Author
      February 8, 2017 / 8:54 pm

      Anele, love that suggestion! Thank you! I like my hybrid version that now includes quinoa πŸ˜‰

  3. February 8, 2017 / 8:52 am

    I loved your recap and couldn’t agree more – it takes a lot of planning and I am proud you did as well as you did with your schedule! I bet that beer tasted good! I have really reduced my alcohol- it was becoming an every day event ??. I’ve only had alcohol four times since Christmas ?

    • Nicole Morrissey
      Author
      February 8, 2017 / 8:53 pm

      That was me, too! Love my “mommy juice” but it was becoming a regular thing and the calories add up soooo quickly!!

  4. Shelley
    February 8, 2017 / 7:56 pm

    Really appreciate the post! I was wondering if it was really nutritionally sound, I was trying to get a straight answer online but there was a lot of conflicting info. But anyway my bf and I decided to do it last month, and it was more of a Whole30ish (I wasn’t going to throw out my olive oil mayonnaise and kept the soy sauce around – really hate food waste!).

    I also got the Whole30 cookbook but found the recipes really easy and yummy, some of them also had base recipes that you could spin off into other recipes in the book (like a roast chicken, that can be used in a salad recipe or a soup recipe a few pages over). While I don’t buy into the cult of it, I think it really changed my eating habits that I don’t want to go back to way I used to eat (I actually don’t crave bread lol).

    But I can relate to your experience, meat and stocking up on compliant pantry items is SOOO expensive (but I found out I like cooking with ghee) and both my bf and I had similar weight loss results! This has been the only way we both had success weight management wise (he was better at calorie counting and I was not – I feel like with W30 I didn’t feel as deprived, and we both felt less stressed making food choices) But we’ll probably stay mostly W30 too – like 80/20. Love the blog!

    • Nicole Morrissey
      Author
      February 8, 2017 / 8:52 pm

      Hi Shelley! That’s funny about ghee – that’s probably the one W30 “staple” that I haaaated. DH too. I wish we liked it! Regarding the nutritional content of the diet, I would say it’s nutritionally sound so long as fruit is not “limited” as the plan recommends and potatoes and plantains are plentiful (daily, at least 1 meal). It would be very difficult to meet DRI minimums for carbs without ~3 servings of fruit and 1ish servings of potatoes/plantains a day. Hope that helps πŸ™‚ Thanks for your comment!

  5. Karen
    October 7, 2018 / 4:03 pm

    Wow. Loved your recap. I did what i like to call non-radical W30. I like your comment on not joining the cult. I seriously thought the whole nonsense of one grain of sugar or drop of the wrong oil means you have failed. It accomplished what i wanted in that it helped me eat healthier, and eat meals and not so much snacking so i’m glad i did it. But that’s all i needed it to do. I don’t buy intoo the whole guilt trip. NOW I’m trying to identify symptom triggers, keep eating healthier and improve my numbers. Thanks for a great article!

    • Nicole Morrissey
      Author
      October 8, 2018 / 7:21 pm

      Thanks, Karen! πŸ™‚ We all have to find what works!

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