I am six days into a big experiment.
Last Wednesday, on January 1, I started the Whole30 Program.
For those of you who have never heard of it, Whole30 is a nutritional challenge, outlined by husband-and-wife nutritionists Dallas and Melissa Hartwig in their book It Starts With Food, which involves cutting out all sugar, alcohol, dairy, grains, legumes, and processed foods from one's diet for 30 days.
The Whole30 Program is NOT a weight-loss diet (although plenty of people lose weight on it--no big surprise, since you're cutting out all sugar and processed junk). It's full of lots of good, natural, wholesome foods (meat, fish, poultry, vegetables, fruits, nuts, healthy fats like olives and avocados....) and it is NOT calorie-restrictive. It's also not meant to last forever. After 30 days, there is a method for adding back in food categories you miss, to see if they are problematic for you or not.
I'm not going to go into a bunch of detail explaining the background and rationale for this kind of eating, because a.) it's long; b.) others have summed it up quite nicely; and c.) you can always order and read the book yourself, like I did. If you're interested in a quick but comprehensive explanation, this blog post is a great summary.
The challenge's appeal is that it's supposed to result in dramatic improvement in or complete resolution of a slew of health problems, such as acne, eczema, GI issues (stomachaches, gas pains, bloating, Crohn's, ulcerative colitis, etc.), seasonal allergies, chronic pain, frequent colds, high blood pressure, low energy, overweight/obesity, mood issues, arthritis, and general joint pain---through the elimination of the foods that are the least nutritious, least natural, and/or most inflammatory and dysregulating to the body.
(There are scads of testimonials and success stories out there, check out this one, this one, and this one to be truly blown away. These are what really convinced me.)
For example, sugar is well-established in the medical community as a major inflammation-promoter. For those of us with joint pain (or other health problems related to inflammation), cutting sugar out completely can likely mean relief---if we only try it and see.
I'd read about the challenge here and there on the Internet for the past few years. It was one of those things that I'd see now and then popping up on blogs or Facebook or what have you, but that I always dismissed as extreme and impossible.
Well, well, well. How things change.
Personally, I'm doing the Whole30 Program in the hopes that it will cure my joint pain. Arthritic syndromes run in my family on my mom's side, and I have had arthritis in my feet/toes since age 28. More recently, I've been plagued with annoying hip pain that is triggered by exercise but never goes away completely for any length of time despite medical treatment, running hiatuses, etc. If cutting out sugar, flour, and other potential troublemakers cures my joint pain, it would truly be life-changing for me--and very worth it. Which is something I never thought I would say, not that long ago. (Hello, sugar and Diet Coke addict, right here...)
So how has it been going so far? I will tell you this (and I am shocked to be saying this): It has been far easier than I anticipated. Yes, I've had cravings for Diet Coke and cookies, but it doesn't feel even remotely impossible--as I'd feared it would be. By and large there are so many filling, healthy foods I'm eating each day that I'm satisfied and generally just fine. (Going to bed early at night helps, too. Less time to poke around the kitchen looking for snacks.)
I've realized that if you stay full from protein, fiber, and healthy fats, it's not actually all that hard to resist snacking on crackers, cookies, and chips. I've also learned that natural foods like raw cashews and unsweetened coconut chips are amazingly sweet when you haven't eaten sugar for four or five days. Imagine! Your taste buds really DO change---just like the experts always say. (However: there is no getting around the truth that raw cashews are far more expensive than a bag of M&Ms. Fact.)
I'd love to tell you more as the days go by (I plan to make it all 30 days--no cheats!), answer any questions you might have, and/or give updates along the way and at the end---if you're interested. Let me know if you have any questions; either comment here or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), and I'll answer you in a future post.
I'm pretty intrigued myself--I can't wait to see what changes I notice in my physical well-being by day 30. I've already noticed less joint soreness after workouts--and that's from only five days off sugar etc.! It makes total sense, when you think about it, that the foods you put into your body would affect how your body feels and functions, but in American society that idea is largely ignored. It's kind of crazy, really. We try all sorts of medicines and doctor visits and surgeries and whatnot and rarely think to examine whether something processed and "junky" we eat every day might be actually causing or contributing to our ailments.
So I'm on to Day 6--which really means there are a whole lot of days left in this endeavor. Wish me luck! (Thank God I'll be done before my birthday in early February! Because: cake!)