Have you heard of the Whole30? Basically, it’s a healthy eating challenge in which you do not consume any grains (gluten-free or otherwise), dairy, legumes, alcohol, seed oils, or added sugar for 30 days. As a co-worker said to me, “So what DO you eat?” Fruits, veggies, healthy fats (except peanuts or peanut butter), and protein. He then said, “And WHY are you doing this?”
When I was first diagnosed with celiac disease, I started scouring the Internet for gluten-free recipes. While Pinning away, I noticed a lot of the GF recipes I was saving were from paleo blogs. If you have no idea what I am talking about, Paleo is a way of eating that follows the same rules as Whole30, though some people who follow a Paleo diet will eat certain dairy products (unpasteurized) or include honey in their meals, etc. When I clicked through to these blogs to explore even more paleo and therefore also gluten-free recipes, I read each blogger’s about page (my favorite thing to do when finding a new blog!). I started noticing a pattern: A LOT of Paleo bloggers follow a Paleo lifestyle due to digestive or autoimmune diseases (like this one, and this one, and this one, and this one, and this one…you get the idea).
I then started to read more and more about the Paleo diet and the people who use it to manage various health issues, which lead me to discovering both SCD and Whole30. Reading about both of those diets lead me to the conclusion that just cutting out gluten may not solve my issues, at least not at first. Since my intestines are damaged (particularly the villi which absorb nutrients and help with the digestion of food groups like dairy), more than just gluten could potentially cause me inflammation, pain, and the host of celiac symptoms I’ve been dealing with. Once my body has healed more, I could potentially reintroduce different food items or groups without negative effects (though never gluten again, gluten is forever a no!).
So, paired with my own research (at lot of which I pinned to my “Living With Celiac” board) and the reading of this book, I decided to complete a Whole30. Many people complete a Whole30 for the same reason as me – to see if changing their diet will change the way they physically feel. A lot of people also lose weight on this diet, since the only carbs you are really eating are fruits and veggies, but that’s honestly not my motivation (though it will be a welcome side effect, let’s be real!). I wanted to give my body a chance to heal to the best of its abilities. And though I did not specifically discuss completing a Whole30 challenge with a registered dietician or a nutritionist, when I saw a R.D. I did ask her about consuming dairy (because of that whole damaged villi thing). She replied to the effect of, “I would just see how you feel when you eat it. If you eat ice cream and your stomach is hurting after, then it could be the dairy and all the sugar. If it doesn’t hurt when you have cheese or yogurt, then you know you can tolerate that. Just see how you feel.”
That’s my aim with Whole30: see how I feel. Eliminate some potentially “harmful” foods for 30 days, then reintroduce each group of them one by one and see if my body experiences any negative effects. If it does, then I may choose to continue to avoid those food items for awhile and possibly reintroduce them again at a later time. If it doesn’t bother me, then I know I don’t need to worry about that consuming that food in addition to avoiding gluten.
I’m currently 11 days into my Whole30, and I am feeling pretty darn good! I haven’t had a headache since I started it, and I can’t remember the last time I went over a week without a headache, I really can’t. My stomach has only hurt once or twice. I’m not sure why that is – it could be just IBS acting up, triggered by stress or a poor night’s sleep, or it could be that due to celiac damage, even with a very limited diet my stomach can be irritated while trying to digest food. I have definitely had more energy, even though I am drinking less coffee and haven’t had any sugar. I have lost weight (I weighed myself, even though you’re “not supposed to” during Whole30) and my clothes are fitting differently.
And honestly, eating in a Whole30-compliant manner is NOT as difficult as I thought. I wouldn’t describe it as easy, per se, but it’s not as challenging as I thought it would be. Maybe it’s because my reason for doing it is very important to me. Or, maybe it’s because my body is feeling good so I’m not missing stuff. Or, it’s because it’s only been less than two weeks, haha. In any case, it’s been easier willpower-wise and prep-wise than I thought it would be. “Meal prep” is easy – go to grocery store, buy lots of fresh, unprocessed food. When you make a meal, just combine a serving of each fruit, veggie, protein, and healthy fat. Boom, meal planning done. I’ve made sure our kitchen is well-stocked and to pack compliant snacks anytime I go out (work, baseball game, bridal shower, road trip, whatever). I also planned to start my Whole30 before major events that I knew I would not be able to stay compliant for or really hate trying to – annual family get together Memorial Day weekend, a wedding, my birthday, chaperoning a school trip to Washington, D.C., and family vacation (all occurring within a three week window! The end of May/beginning of June is going to be nuts!). I definitely think choosing the right 30 days is important and has helped, as well.
Have you ever completed a Whole30 or a paleo challenge? Would you ever consider it? I’m documenting my journey daily on my fitness Instagram, @kcd_fit, if you are interested in following along!