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 fridge
In 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 kinds
Eating 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 week
Anyone 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 work
When 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.