I’m not quite sure when I decided, but at some point I did, decide to complete the Whole 30 challenge! I’ve followed Leah’s blog during the times she has completed it, and read all the stories she has shared. This year, I totally cleaned up my diet but it just doesn’t seem to quite give me the results I want. I’m heading closer and closer to my 30th birthday this year so no better time to reset…
…and no better person to fill us in before we (see what I did there!) get started…
Hi! I’m Leah – a Kiwi girl living in London and blogging over at www.naturallyleah.com. I’m a runner, a yogi – and a total Whole 30 convert.
Elle: Do you remember life before Whole 30?
Leah: Do I ever! My whole health was, and had been for a while, a bit of a mess. I’d been trying to clean things up nutritionally and exercise wise for a while, and was making some good progress – but I still wasn’t getting the results I wanted. I regularly suffered from migraines, eczema, irritable bowel syndrome, insomnia and general blah-ness.
Elle: How did you come across Whole 30?
Leah: Through trying to change my diet in different ways, I eventually stumbled across the paleo diet and I started reading. So many of the blogs mentioned a website called Whole 9 Life, and I started reading about Dallas and Melissa Hartwig’s concept “the whole 30”.
I was convinced it was for me – but I wasn’t ready to take the plunge. Various reasons held me back – unemployment and lack of money, focusing on other things, travel. I shelved the whole idea for nearly two years, but it was always at the back of my head.
When I heard that Dallas & Melissa were releasing a book, I was on the pre-order list straight away. A few months later, I read It Starts With Food cover to cover in a day. I picked up my diary, circled 1 January 2013, and that was that. My first Whole 30 was coming up!
Elle: And what made you think it was for you?
Leah: Everything that was written on the website and in the book resonated with me. The way your health really does start with food, with what you put IN to your body.
I’d seen doctors for my symptoms and they had advised creams for this and pills for that – but to me, that wasn’t fixing the CAUSE, it wasn’t telling me WHY I was having these symptoms in the first place. I didn’t want a bandaid to cover it until next time, I just didn’t want my body feeling like that full stop!
There were case studies and testimonials galore from people who had changed their life by resetting their nutrition this way. People who had fixed ailments and diseases WAY more serious than mine. People that were healthy and glowing and loving life. I wanted to be like those people – so I gave it a try. After all, it was JUST 30 days!
Elle: What’s involved in getting ready for a Whole 30?
Leah: I’d like to say “nothing, just start!” but the reality is, the more prepared you are, the easier it will be. Yes it’s only 30 days – but it can still be tough going. There are a lot of habits you will need to retrain yourself in!
Clear out your cupboards or remove non-compliant foods, and stock them with good compliant ingredients. Sit down and make a week 1 meal plan. It takes all the guessing and questioning out of it.
I’ve got a full list of tips for starting a Whole 30 here!
Elle: What was your first Whole 30 like?
Leah: Eye opening. I never knew how much food could affect my body – and I’m not just talking body composition or weight. It affected my moods and emotions, my sleep, my hair, skin and nails, my eyes!
There’s a bit of a cycle that you go through on a Whole 30 – and for sure, the first week is always rough. I had to take 2 days off work with severe migraines….and yet I had thought that “I didn’t eat that bad”! But gradually as the days ticked over I felt better and better and better and suddenly it clicked and I felt AMAZING! I wondered why I had waited so long to get started!
Elle: How does that compare to your most recent Whole 30?
Leah: I’ve just finished my fourth Whole 30. My body went through the same cycle – I felt awful for a week, and then it was all uphill from there! It’s slightly easier because I know what to expect, I’m familiar with the food I can eat, I know what my go-to recipes are, and I know how awesome I will feel (and look) at the end.
Elle: What have been your biggest learnings?
Leah: Definitely I learnt so much about how certain foods affect my body. I never realised that it was grains that left me bloated, sugar that stopped me from sleeping, and dairy that had me running for the bathroom!
Elle: Do you still exercise whilst on a Whole 30?
Leah: Absolutely! During the first week you feel awful (be kind to yourself), and the second week the extreme tiredness sets in – but I continued marathon training with no problems while doing a Whole 30. In fact, I believe my body is better fuelled, performs better and recovers faster on a Whole 30 diet.
Elle: Could you sum up the 30 days in a verbal (para)graph?!
Leah: I can’t say it any better than the Whole 30 timeline – here: http://whole30.com/2013/08/revised-timeline/
Elle: What changes / results did you get from the 30 days?
Leah: So I know I have preached how awesome and amazing I felt, but you guys want to know the real guts of it don’t you? How much weight do you lose?
This is not a weight loss plan. If you are doing it for those reasons, go find something else. This is about body, mind and soul – NOT the scales. But, yes, the weight loss is a nice side effect – every Whole 30 I have averaged a 3-6kg weight loss.
- WAY less bloating – you know how some days you get up and put on your trousers, and then by night time they are so tight? Yeah, none of that!
- Waking up before the alarm, naturally, refreshed and ready to face the day
- Falling asleep easily and sleeping right through, deeply and soundly. No more 2am insomnia episodes
- Clearer skin, shinier hair, longer and stronger nails, and clearer brighter eyes – I get comments that I am “glowing” or “looking healthy” frequently
- No 3.30pm sugar cravings or energy crashes – my energy levels stay steady throughout the day
- I’m just HAPPY. My emotions are stable and I can handle stressors easily
- No IBS symptoms, no migraines, no eczema
- Better performance in training, faster recovery
- My body just feels like it’s humming along like it should
Elle: What is / are your favourite Whole 30 compliant recipe(s)?
Leah: Anything from the cookbooks Well Fed and Well Fed 2 by Melissa Joulwan. I am constantly cooking recipes out of these books and haven’t found one I didn’t drool over yet! My absolute favourite is Moroccan Meatballs.
Elle: Do you keep any of the ‘guidelines’ incorporated into your life post Whole30? Which ones?
Leah: Yes – I stay completely dairy free (lactose is NOT my friend) and I realised that I quite like black coffee! I don’t need soy/rice/almond milk in it at all. We also no longer buy or cook bread, pasta or rice. We just don’t need it with our meals now.
Outside of the Whole 30 I relax – life is for living, and of course I enjoy cake as much as the next person – but we try and keep our general weekly meals as compliant as possible. That way, when we do indulge in other foods it’s generally because we are out or socialising or it’s a special occasion – so we savour and really enjoy the food!
I also rarely drink alcohol and don’t keep it in the house – again, only for special occasions!
Elle: What’s next for you and Whole 30?
Leah: I plan to continue with them two or three times a year. I also know that I have the Whole 30 in my toolkit to revisit when I am feeling those blah body feelings creep back in (often after long periods of travelling, or high stress at work).
I am a big fan of the January Whole 30 – it really sets you up for a good year ahead, and last year I did one at the end of summer (to reset after the excesses of the summer months!).
Feel free to contact me should you have any questions on the Whole 30 – or to share your own experience! I share a lot of my meals on Instagram (@naturallyleah), and on my blog www.naturallyleah.com. Connect with me on twitter @leahnaturally or facebook https://www.facebook.com/NaturallyLeah
….Erm, so who’s seriously considering joining me now?!