How I (Barely) Survived the First 10 Days of the Whole30
Miss you, ice cream.
It’s Day 11 on the Whole30, and I am still waiting for co-creator Melissa Hartwig to walk through the Real Simple office and present me with some sort of award for my bravery. In the meantime, I’ll share what it’s like to go without major (not to mention, beloved) food groups like sugar, grains, dairy, and legumes for nearly two weeks.
Days 10 and 11 are when most Whole30ers call it quits. We will call these individuals Whole10ers (or perhaps One-Third30ers?). As a Whole11er myself, I can honestly say it hasn’t been easy.
Here’s what Hartwig has to say about it: “It will change the way you think about food. It will change your tastes. It will change your habits and your cravings. It will restore a healthy emotional relationship with food, and with your body. It has the potential to change the way you eat for the rest of your life.”
Oof. That’s a lot to promise a person who co-created a six-stop ice cream crawl across Manhattan just a few months ago. But for the sake of health, challenging myself, and now journalism, I thought I’d see what all the fuss is about. And last Tuesday, my coworker pals and I decided to go on this reportedly “life-changing” journey together.
The key? Meal prep and cooking. My weaknesses? Meal prep and cooking. Combined with a canceled and then rescheduled flight, my first day on the Whole30 required taking a few too many laps around our office cafeteria. Finding something that has no added sugar (not even honey!), dairy, or prohibited oils (EVOO is my new best friend) adds a few minutes to every menu scan or grocery store trip.
Here’s a breakdown of this life-changing journey—pre-life change:
I swapped my daily oatmeal with two hard-boiled eggs and fruit for breakfast, and managed to craft my own Whole30-compliant salad. With salads (my go-to lunch, pre-program), it’s important to consider the dressing. I was hesitant to use our cafeteria’s unlabeled balsamic vinegar, especially after visiting the grocery store and only finding one (!) that was sugar- and sulfite-free. And thank goodness for a mini-chain of restaurants in New York City called Westville, one of my favorite restaurants. This eatery offers a plate of roasted veggies, and you can order it without cheese or butter and with olive oil only. This was my small, incredible victory.
I woke up from a nightmare... about eating rice. I genuinely considered starting the program over again because I was convinced I had eaten a morsel of grain. Hartwig had officially entered my REM cycle.
I followed a similar breakfast and lunch plan as the day before and enjoyed a banana with almond butter, which is just about the closest thing to dessert a Whole30er can get.
My friend Julia, who is documenting her entire Whole30 experience over at Health, and I ended the day with a class at Rumble boxing studio. She was worried I was going to collapse mid-class, and while I was definitely more lethargic than usual, I felt pretty strong throwing those one-two punches. (Shoutout to our instructor Rob Sulaver, whose motivation certainly factored into my survival).
Julia celebrated her last non-Whole30 day with McDonald’s while I enjoyed bone broth with chicken and zoodles from a lovely little place called Springbone.
No night terrors about inanimate foods on this day, but the “Bomb Cyclone” storm in New York City caused some problems. I trekked to the local grocery store and grabbed eggs, frozen turkey burger patties, spinach, kale and bananas. Maybe it was staying inside and working from home all day, or maybe it was the fact that I cooked twice (a feat for this culinary-challenged human!), but I was ready to sleep at 7 p.m. Adjusting to this program definitely wore me down.
By day four, I was so over eggs. I’m shocked I haven’t dreamed about those protein-packed little guys. They’re functional and tasty and compliant, but you know what they say about too much of a good thing. And while I had every intention to take my Friday yoga class, I didn’t feel energetic enough to flow.
Up until this point, I avoided the restricted foods with relative ease. I had the support of my coworkers during the day, and though my roommate is Food Network-obsessed, I didn’t have the urge to hurl my veggies at the TV as Cupcake Wars served as background noise. But then, my dear friend invited me to a dinner party.
That means wine. And cheese. And most petrifying of all, a bread basket.
If any of you readers ever try this, I highly recommend having wonderful friends who will make a dish specifically for you and your high-maintenance food challenge. While they chowed down on chicken parmesan, I had a beautifully prepared grilled chicken with veggies. Dessert was quite a scene, too. As they dived into a giant tiramisu cake, I sipped on seltzer. The oddest part of the whole thing? The seltzer actually felt like some sort of treat. Hartwig’s “It will change your tastes,” assertion popped into my head.
But being the not-so-perfect Whole30er that I am, I needed something dessert-y when I got home. My solution was shoving a few blueberries and cashews in my mouth to satisfy my sweet tooth.
The weekend was especially trying because I didn’t have the physical presence of my coworkers and wanted to hang out with friends. My dear friend (and sometimes co-writer) Hannah was amenable to swapping our favorite pancake house (Oh, how I miss you, Clinton St. Baking Company) for paleo-friendly Hu Kitchen. I had a root vegetable mash topped with the restaurant’s version of a sloppy joe. It was pretty tasty and felt surprisingly indulgent.
I also found myself in a quandary... in church. This program makes you think so much about nutritional labels that I actually thought to myself, Is eating the host at mass compliant? (FYI, it is. Hartwig says, “God > Whole30.”) Amen.
Honestly, nothing too significant, remarkable, or life-changing happened on these days. It was gratifying to reach the one week mark, but my main objective for week two was to get back into my regular exercise routine.
The low energy feeling was slowly drifting and it was time to get back in the gym. I started slow with a barre class on day seven, then ran three and four miles on day eight and nine, respectively. Shockingly, I felt great during all of the above. By the end day nine, however, I needed something creamy. Forager Project’s dairy-free “cashewgurt” to the rescue (Seriously, it wasn’t bad!).
I decided to visit Rumble once again, this time in the morning. Most of my workouts had been in the afternoon, so I wanted to see if timing would help or hinder my performance. And while the adjustment period has featured some, er, difficult digestive situations, the morning was a success.
At night, my friends were hosting a charity happy hour event. It was a slight bummer to sip on seltzer while they shared a bottle of wine, but that didn’t stop me from dancing to every Jackson 5 throwback.
Though I’m still technically chilling in the Whole30 slump stage, I am making it through. Both “You got this!” and “What is wrong with you?!” texts have been motivating and entertaining. But this would not have been possible without my coworkers. I also must note that it is a privilege to have the accessibility and the means to buy compliant foods. This program certainly tests your willpower and budgeting skills.
Jokes, complaints and dreams about rice aside, I am eager to see what days 12-30 have in store. I am certain La Croix will never replace an ice cream cone, but I now know that—contrary to popular belief—I can survive without it.