I'm a Junk-Food Addict Who Tried Whole30. Here's What Happened.
I'm not the kind of guy who buys into diet fads, goes on diets, or enjoys writing about diets. In fact, I think people get infinitely more annoying when they suddenly decide that gluten and sugar make them anxious and mouthy.
However, at just under 6ft with a skinny frame, I knew that my gut would only grow infinitely larger with the amount of beer and Taco Bell I'd been eating.
So, when my girlfriend suggested going on the Whole30 program, I was intrigued and antsy all at once. A diet in which you cut out sugar, alcohol, gluten, grains, legumes, dairy, MSG, and snacks? Fuck me sideways! However, with some extreme lifestyle changes, I made it work and lost a significant amount of weight. This is what it's like.
Wait, what's the point of cutting out all that good stuff?!Seriously, this isn't a dinky little juice cleanse that’ll be discredited in a month. The Whole30 is a New York Times bestseller, a diet that makes no weight-loss promises, but which health coach Katie Corritori praises because it "eliminates major causes of inflammation in the body, such as sugar, dairy, gluten, and grains." Inflammation is bad, right?
The concept of elimination diets is nothing new -- typically they're used to root out the cause of any number of medical conditions, particularly those involving the gut -- but Whole30 takes the idea to the masses. Its website claims that in restricting the above food groups, you're ditching "psychologically unhealthy, hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, inflammatory food groups," in order to "let your body heal and recover from whatever effects those foods may be causing." Oh, and people Instagram the living shit out of it.
All sounds good to me. Whole30, let's do this.
I had to seriously purge my fridgeIn preparation for this monster of a diet, I committed some serious genocide on my refrigerator and cabinets. Unlike the entirety of Manhattan's upper crust, I didn't think I had any major food allergies. But those were the rules, and it couldn't hurt to try. I got rid of some expensive -- albeit processed -- food and nearly wept as I threw away my pricey peanut butter and string cheese. The hardest stuff to say goodbye to was Ben & Jerry's ice cream and some leftover pizza I had been eyeing.
I basically had to give up restaurants of all kindsEating out is extremely hard with the Whole30, which is why they dissuade you from hunting for Whole30-approved meals at restaurants like Chili's or *sigh* Taco Bell. Pro tip: don't go looking for dinner at Taco Bell.
The problem with restaurants is that you really can't be sure that anything you order out isn't covered in butter. Ultimately, it's not a huge deal to shop for groceries. I just ended up ordering from FreshDirect, and after splitting the expenses with my girlfriend, we each spent about $50 per week. Trader Joe's is also a wet dream for someone on the Whole30 diet -- more almond butter than the eye can see!
The cravings are killer in the first weekAnyone who's on this diet will tell you that your bloodlust for chips, sandwiches, and cake is all-encompassing and agonizing. You start craving foods that you didn't even know you liked: I had no idea how badly I wanted ice cream covered in BBQ sauce. The Whole30's rigidity in the "no-snacks" rule is the key to the diet, though; it promotes a healthy way of eating and "deprograms" you from constantly wanting to stuff food in your mouth. Three meals a day, no eating out, just healthy stuff.
I started to MacGyver the diet to make it workWhen it comes down to it, I really didn't eat that much differently on the Whole30. Aside from exercising some righteous 1920s-style temperance, my meals weren't the stuff of Nutrisystem nightmares. I’d have a small portion of meat with a side of vegetables. Totally easy.
There's a lot of craftiness that goes into this diet; you can use ghee -- which is just clarified butter -- to make Asian-style cracklin' chicken, and you can also put coconut milk in your coffee. One of my favorite meals consisted of almond butter, mashed-up bananas, and turmeric: I called it "Banana Mush." It tastes way better than it looks.
Thank God bacon is allowedI'm not kidding, you can actually eat bacon on this diet. I mean, it has to be nitrate-free, uncured bacon, but Applegate makes some and it tastes like heaven covered in unicorn jizz. Seriously, I would kiss the ground all pigs walked on if it weren't covered in dirt and feces. My breakfast typically consisted of scrambled eggs, bacon, and sauteed kale.
My cravings subsided, then came back with a vengeanceThey say that the first week and last week are the hardest. This is true. Eventually you get into the rhythm of going home early to make dinner, bringing your lunch to work, and drinking seltzer water instead of whiskey. OK, that last part is pretty milquetoast, but you gotta treat yourself.
When the cravings get rough, there are some Whole30-approved snacks. Now, I did say that snacking is punished swiftly and severely, but come on. As long as you don't go overboard, you can happily munch on stuff like Brooklyn Biltong, EPIC bars, SeaSnax, Caveman Bars, RXBARS, and plenty of others. Also, don't skip breakfast or you'll Hulk out during the long stretch of time before lunch.
No, I didn't cheatThis is how a lot of people get derailed: if you "cheat" on this diet, you have to start over again. Remember, the purpose of the Whole30 program is to find out if you have an allergy to a specific type of food, or if a food is bringing you down psychologically (remember that?!), which is why it's so strict.
I realized it's not exactly a crash dietJuice cleanses are garbage -- you don't have "toxins" in your body that can be magically excreted with a $9 juice from the lobby of Equinox. The Whole30 program is simply clean eating... only consuming healthy food that humans are supposed to consume. The most you'll miss are a few happy hours and parties, but I learned that you feel way less awkward at these outings if you have a glass of seltzer in your hand. It'll stop people from constantly commenting on how you don't have a drink in your hand. Pricks.
I slept, looked, and felt better!Yes, it's fucking worth it, and this is coming from a stubborn lover of everything cheesy and processed. Eating like this makes you feel amazing. Within the first week, I lost 5lb (you're not supposed to weigh yourself, but I did) and felt an incredible amount of energy. I slept better, looked better, and generally felt happier. At the end of the diet, I lost 10lb and all of my clothes were loose. Plus -- this is true -- all of my friends told me I looked great. My confidence skyrocketed and I found myself aroused by my own reflection.
It doesn't end after a monthThe most vital lesson from this diet comes about during your month of clean eating. When it's all finished, you don't really want to go back to eating the way you used to. I fully admit that I spent my first week off the diet gobbling up bread and beer, but that doesn't last. In the time since my Whole30 ended, I've been cooking every day, regularly turning down sweets, and thinking about every piece of food that goes into my body.
I transformed from a chalupa-loving philistine into a healthy, happy, kale-chewing philistine. And to think I hate writing about diets. Seriously, give it a try.
Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, and get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.