Yes, you read the blog title correctly. I am one of the millions (Maybe? I didn’t do any actual math) of people who started the Whole30 diet and came out the other end alive and, believe it or not, well.
Mentioning, writing, or even pondering about a “fad” diet tends to invite people to insert themselves and their opinions into your decision-making process. So, before you dump all of your preconceived, and possibly misinformed, opinions regarding restricted and elimination diets on me and the community of people who choose to live this lifestyle, let me explain.
Keep in mind that I am writing only about my experiences, which are unique to me. My experiences are similar to some and vastly different to others. If you are considering trying a Whole30 diet, for whatever reason, know that this isn’t a complete guide or user manual for the overarching experience.
What is Whole30?
To put it simply, Whole30 is a sugar, dairy, grain, legume and alcohol-free diet.
Whole30 was created in 2009 as a 30-day elimination diet to help people suffering from a myriad of health issues and discomforts. The goal is to eliminate foods commonly known for causing inflammation and irritation in the body for a full 30 days, then slowly reintroducing foods one at a time to see which foods or ingredients may be causing you discomfort or flare-ups.
It is important to remember Whole30 does not have to be a complete lifestyle change. It is a method for resetting your health, developing better eating habits, and, most importantly, learning what foods work for your body and which ones are actively working against it.
Why I Chose to Try Whole30
As someone who has tried going gluten and dairy free in the past to help with AD symptoms, I was always skeptical of elimination diets and the effect it would have on my autoimmune disorder. After writing my first blog on my AD, an old friend in PA school reached out with great information about a diet option for autoimmune disorder sufferers called the Wahls Protocol. This diet is a new take on a paleo diet. Terry Wahls, a doctor, and MS patient saw amazing results in her symptoms, even reversing some of them, with the diet plan she created with autoimmune conditions in mind.
This diet is extremely intimidating at first glance and, knowing myself, trying to jump in with no lead up to an extreme diet would be setting myself up for failure. After doing more research and talking to my aunt, a fellow AD sufferer, I landed on Whole30. An elimination diet with a deadline made it mentally more manageable. After years of taking medication in increasing doses and no end in sight, I decided to take matters into my own hands. If prescription medication isn’t helping, how could a change in diet possibly hurt, right?
Initial Impacts of Whole30 on My Body
Before I began the official 30 days, I decided to ease into the Whole30 lifestyle gradually the week before. I attempted to eat 2 out of 3 meals according to Whole30 guidelines. During this first “practice” week, I felt a little more fatigued and head one bad headache day, but nothing as jarring as the first week I went gluten-free.
The most noticeable, initial impact Whole30 had on my body was my digestion during the first 7 days. I was irregular, too regular, bloated, puffy, and bit sluggish. This is completely normal, and by the end of week 2, my digestion and bloating were better than it had been in years. While my bloating and gut discomfort don’t directly correlate to my AD, this was an added benefit for sure.
I was also among the people doing Whole30 who experience some acne and skin changes during the first few weeks of the diet. Yet, this is common for any major change to diet, whether you are eating healthy or eating poorly. I had some acne flare-ups and more oil production, but nothing ghastly. This also calmed down in the last two weeks.
Whole30 Impacts on My Autoimmune Disorder
My main objective going into Whole30 was seeing how it would impact my symptoms. I have had consistent flare-ups the entire time I have been on methotrexate. With little success attempting to fight the symptoms, I thought about trying to attack the source of symptoms: inflammation. I had a few small spots when I started Whole30 and was amazed to see no further growth and no new spots show up at all during those 30 days. I was still taking methotrexate during the Whole30, so this is not a direct comparison between symptoms when on just methotrexate and symptoms while doing just a Whole30 diet. Yet, it was extremely encouraging to see this progress and makes me hopeful that, over time, I may be able to reduce my medication dosage while eating a majority Whole30 diet.
Whole30 Impacts on Weight and Well-Being
My main goal for Whole30 was to see improvements in my AD symptoms, but I’d be lying if I said weight didn’t factor in at all. I think I was successful in completing my first Whole30 because my main goal wasn’t weight related. Whole30 even says not to count calories, step on the scale, or measure yourself during the process, which is refreshing. This diet isn’t about how you look, but how you feel.
That being said, I ended up losing 8 pounds during those 30 days, which falls into the healthy range of losing around 1-2 pounds a week. Having plateaued at the same weight for the past 5 years I was excited about seeing the number dip again!
But weight will always be just a number. I am much more impressed by the way I felt at the end. I felt more energetic, my skin cleared up, I was sleeping better, and I didn’t feel like I was going to die without sugar and dairy, which was the biggest surprise of all.
My Whole30 ended right as I went on vacation to Austria, where I spent 10 days eating and drinking whatever I wanted. I didn’t feel as terrible as I expected, but I also didn’t feel great. I was bloated, sluggish, and definitely irregular. What surprised me the most was that even though I was indulging in chocolate cakes and pastries every day, I didn’t miss them or the taste as much as I thought I would. Maybe my taste buds changed in the past month, or my body just didn’t crave sugar as much because I wasn’t feeding it sugar anymore. Either way, I learned that while I wanted to eat all of those things, I didn’t really need them.
Now that I am back from vacation, I’ve decided to commit to Whole30 again, at least 5-6 days a week. I felt better, looked better, and saw improvements in my condition. Yet, it’s okay to have a day or two to give into cravings if they should arise. I’ll see if this new plan works or if more tweaking needs to be done.
As long as you continue to listen to your body, success will surely follow.