About a week before I had surgery on my ankle, I learned I have Hashimoto’s, which is autoimmune hypothyroidism. I had hints of autoimmune disorders like psoriasis, but never really thought much about it. In addition to removing my IUD to stabilize hormones and adding thyroid medication to my daily routine, I decided to do Whole30, which would eliminate gluten, sugar, dairy, and legumes for a 30 day period. In my long yo-yo dieting history, I know that when I remove gluten and sugar I feel so much better. I hoped Whole30 could get me back to that feeling. I was tired of being completely exhausted all the time. Wednesday was my Day 30, so I thought I’d share my results as many people have asked.
I started Whole30 on July 20th, and stopped around August 3rd when my stomach was just not feeling great on my 8 pain pills a day post-surgery. Once I was off my pain pills, I started Whole30 again on August 12th. Here’s my update from Day 15, which includes a list of foods I ate pretty much throughout the entire duration with much satisfaction.
I didn’t weight or measure throughout Whole30 as I didn’t want those things to dictate whether or not I thought I was doing a good job or not. Instead, I worked hard to focus on how I felt. Unfortunately this was difficult since I was recovering from surgery with very limited mobility, limited social interaction, and rarely leaving the house.
- Energy Levels: After about 2 weeks, I did notice that I had more consistent energy all day. There were no mid-day lulls or moments of drowsiness that peppered my days before.
- Sleep Quality: I’m a chronic insomniac, so I wasn’t really expecting anything to happen here. I still had my troubles falling asleep, but I have noticed the past week or so that I’ve slept much more deeply and have had more vivid dreams.
- Attention Span: Again, hard to judge here very much due to the other stuff going on. It didn’t get worse and may have gotten better, although I am still easily distracted. This is probably more personality trait than anything else.
- Food Cravings: The first week and a half were rough as I expected. My history with sugar and gluten removal always leads to a super energy dip, lethargy, headaches, moodiness and super strong cravings for things I wouldn’t even consider eating before (like frosting. I really dislike it but I swore one day I would eat the top of a Gigi’s cupcake if I could get my hands on one). After week 2, it’s joked that “tiger blood” kicks in where you can easily rebuff any slight notion of a craving. This is probably one of the most powerful effects of Whole30 (or any paleo/low-carb plan) for me. I passed on pizza, ice cream, cake, and chips & queso with no fuss. This clarity helps me distinguish between emotional hunger and true physical hunger. If the thought of fish and broccoli doesn’t sound remotely appealing, I’m not really hungry – I just want that pizza to soothe something else. As a former binge eater, this is such an important distinction.
- Physical Composition: I hesitate saying this because I don’t want people to think this is all about losing weight or inches. It is truly about health and calming down my autoimmune system. The result of doing so would be improved body composition through increased strength and decreased fat. That being said, I weighed and measured on July 20th when I started my first Whole30 attempt, and then weighed and measured on Thursday, September 12. So roughly 7 weeks. I lost 16 pounds and 11.9 inches combined from my upper arm, waist, hips, bust, and neck. The biggest and most surprising jump was 4.75″ lost in my waist. I triple-measured because I couldn’t believe it. And 1.15″ in my neck? I think it’s just a big wake up call as far as how inflamed I really was. Lots of bloat. I don’t feel smaller, but I feel less puffy, if that makes any sense. The weight doesn’t mean much to me because I know I lost a lot of muscle during the surgery recovery. My surgery calf is about 5cm smaller than my non-surgery calf – major muscle atrophy.
The negatives of Whole30: For me, the positives of Whole30 greatly outweighed any negatives but I thought I should still address them. Social situations are hard on Whole30. I didn’t go out much at all, and when I did it was to family things where I could bring my own food without being self-conscious. Pre-planning is extremely important on Whole30. My husband was awesome and made the twice weekly trips to the grocery store and Trader Joe’s, and once a week to the farmer’s market. This forced me to be organized and have a list ready-to-go at any time with an idea of what meals I would prepare. No matter how you eat, this is always a good idea anyway. I just suck at it. But now that 30 days have passed, it’s a breeze. Also, it’s no secret that local hormone- and antibiotic-free meats and organic fruits and vegetables are more expensive than their conventional counterparts. Shopping in-season and making compromises when needed can help with this. If I couldn’t get local chicken, I’d get organic drumsticks from Trader Joe’s for less than $6 that could last 2 meals.
So what’s next? Many people start to re-introduce foods after day 30. Some continue on Whole30 as it’s written. The only thing I really missed during Whole30 was dairy: specifically half & half in my coffee and a slice of cheese on chicken or a bunless burger. Dairy is actually step 1 of the re-introduction phase, so I drank half & half in my coffee yesterday and today, and had a bunless cheeseburger. So far, there haven’t been any ill effects. I don’t plan on re-introducing any other foods at this time. Some autoimmune issues like my psoriasis haven’t gotten better, and I want to continue to keep my food as clean as possible to calm things down, especially as I’m starting to become active again. I think the energy and focus benefits will be much easier to notice as I return to “normal” life.