My Whole30 Experience: Week 1

Making healthy choices can be difficult. What's hard for one person isn't hard for another.  We are created different and face our own unique dietary challenges.  Whether you struggle with food addiction, want to boost energy levels, sleep better, or conquer your cravings; Whole30 forces you to face these challenges and for some people, this can be very tough! But...nothing GREAT comes easy. Sometimes the things we want the most, we have to work the hardest for.

If writing three blog articles about this program weren’t already enough…now that I’m doing Melissa Hartwig’s program I can attest that experiencing the program is much different than merely writing about it! I think this video sums up my experience pretty well! It was an unstable ride, but I managed to get through it! I learned a lot about myself and a lot more about the Whole30 program this week…

One of the frustrating things about being a personal trainer is that often people assume that since this is what I do for a living, I have zero eating temptations or what I refer to as “dietary demons.” This is SO far from the truth. I know many people in my profession who struggle with food addiction, alcoholism, and drug abuse. Don’t let the ‘fitness’ label fool you.

I opened up on social media on Monday about my caffeine addiction. Sure there are worse things than sugar-free Monster Energy drinks, but I can assure you drinking 3-5 energy drinks daily, low-carb or not, is not healthy!

Knowing what to eat is one thing, doing it is another; I do pretty darn well, but I have my food and drink struggles too! Week 1 on my Whole30 was a ride! Here are 5 takeaways:

 1. Nothing Great Comes Easy.

The Whole30 is much more than a dietary reset. It’s different than anything you’ve done before because it forces you to create new habits and restore a healthy emotional relationship with food (for me Monster Energy drinks and caffeine). Yes, you can have black coffee, but I discovered coffee makes me irritable so for the sake of everyone around me I don’t drink it!

Making healthy choices can be difficult. What’s hard for one person isn’t hard for another.  We are created different and face our own unique dietary challenges.  Whether you struggle with food addiction, want to boost energy levels, sleep better, or conquer your cravings; Whole30 forces you to face these challenges and for some people, this can be very tough! But…nothing GREAT comes easy. Sometimes the things we want the most, we have to work the hardest for.

Having this mindset is important. Don’t expect your 30-day dietary reset to be ‘easy’ expect a challenge and prepare to face the challenge head-on. Was I tired the first few days? Absolutely. Moody? Yes. But I stayed the course and as the week progressed I noticed my energy levels increased! Every day I felt a little bit better, and today, day 7, I feel great!

2. The Power of Support

I wrote about this before I started the program. I faced the reality of it my first week! Ashley and I work as a team, and she has been 100% supportive throughout my first week on Whole30. We’ve been there for each other in the ups and the downs this week, for better and for worse.

If you’re going to do this program, I highly recommend you find a support system to go through it with you. You’re going to need someone to motivate you, cheer you on, and keep you accountable! Do the program with your spouse, a family member, co-worker, or friend. Ashley has been my accountability partner, chef, recipe resource, and I’ve been there for her!

3.  No Support? Have no fear…Melissa is here!

No support? Have no fear, Melissa Hartwig is here! Imagine for a moment you arise from a deep sleep early in the morning with Melissa sitting at the foot of your bed waiting for you to wake up so she can give you your Whole 30 pep talk for the day. Sounds kinda creepy, doesn’t it? It’s very creepy! But, by day 2 you’re going to embrace every bit of the creepiness and want her sitting at the foot of your bed to help! You’ll need it.

Day 2: Was A Struggle…How Melissa’s Motivation Helped Me

“WELCOME TO DAY 2. Here’s a virtual hug, because statistically, 94.3% of you are feeling headache-y, foggy, weak, slow, lightheaded, and lethargic. Welcome to The Hangover: no tequila required. This is where the ghosts of your high-carb past (cookies, chocolate, chips, ice cream, muffins, bread, wine) come back to kick you in the butt-or the head. The amount of suck you are feeling today is in direct proportion to the amount of junk you ate before your Whole30 began . . . anyone regretting their carb-a-palooza the night before Day 1? (In retrospect, “Let’s just eat it all now so we’re not tempted later” was not the best Whole30 preparatory strategy.)

The “hangover” is totally normal as your body starts to transition from running on sugar to being a fat-burning machine. The good news? It should only last a day or two and some people skip it altogether. So pound some water, take it easy at the gym, and dim the lights . . . this too shall pass.

This part of your Whole30 generally isn’t super fun. You’re tired, hungry, missing the stuff you used to eat, and thinking, “This is not what I signed up for.” Except it is. Even the hard parts. The sugar withdrawals, cravings, and challenges that come with learning how to relate to food in an entirely new way are evidence that something is changing. You are changing. And every time you yawn but keep going, crave and distract, feel hungry and feed yourself well, YOU WIN. And every tiny win adds up to HUGE changes.

A Whole30 reset is a jump-start to a lifetime of food freedom. Did you think that was gonna be easy? For most people, things get worse before they get better, and I want to be upfront about that. But it does get better, easier, and more fun with practice. So be patient, be kind to yourself, and trust the process.”   Whole30 Day by Day, Melissa Hartwig

I’m going to be a salesman for a second. Whole30 Day By Day is a must-have if you’re going to try this program. For just over $9.99, this book is a STEAL. The advice and motivation in this book are worth $99.99. This resource is your ticket to Whole30 success. Buy it, read it, and fill it out! 

Whole30 Day By Day: By Melissa Hartwig

If you can’t find someone to do the program with you or you’re lacking a support system for accountability and encouragement, Whole30 has you covered. Check out the Whole30 website, the free forum, and follow their social media accounts. Take advantage of the online support system they offer. Whole30 offers an entire community and team on social media and in their free Whole30 Forumyou’ll find Whole30ers willing to listen, help, and offer advice day and night.” 

4.  Don’t Be A Whole30 Drama Queen.

Don’t be a drama queen. Whole30 isn’t that strict. I’m not new to this, I’ve experienced, recommended, and researched a lot of different dietary programs. This program is an elimination diet; so there are necessary rules, but it’s not hard in the sense that you lack food options. It’s hard in the sense that you have to learn how to read food labels (something I’ll talk about next week) and you have to work to prepare. I’ve eaten a low carb diet for five years. I’ve been able to enjoy more fruits and carbs this week than I’ve had in a year. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t go crazy on the fruit, but for me having an apple and half of a grapefruit was a special treat! Whole30 has more resources than any dietary program I’ve researched. Don’t be a drama queen. Research elimination diets so that you understand the science behind the program. If you feel like your struggling to find food options, take advantage of the plethora of resources offered by Whole30, many of which are free!

5.  Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail.

My planning in week 1 was pretty close to perfect. So, let me share what I did. On Sunday, Ashley and I cleaned out all the things in our pantry that weren’t Whole30 approved (highly recommend.) Then, we planned our meals, went shopping and bought the necessary ingredients, and prepared each night for the following day. Every night, I had all of my meals and snacks prepared for the next day. For me, it was a big change not consuming any protein supplements.

Ashley and I purchased a 30-day subscription to Real Plans, a service promoted by Whole30. This online Whole30 meal-planning service with more than 1,000 compliant recipes will help you plan 30 days of meals in under 10 minutes, and generate automatic shopping lists and meal prep instructions. Plus it’s fully customizable, so you’ll only plan for the meals you want, and can eliminate any ingredients to which you are allergic or just don’t like.

I’m a relatively good-sized guy, I’m around 5’9, 6’3 with my shoes on (wink, wink) and weigh around 200 lbs. I can eat a lot of food! In the first week on the Whole30, Melissa doesn’t encourage you to graze mindlessly, but she does encourage you to snack and add fat to your diet to curb cravings and minimize the likelihood of temptation.

I prepared for the extra snacking. I brought to work more snacks than usual, and replaced all protein shakes with chicken, salmon, macadamia nuts, cashews, slices of apple, grapefruit, and tuna. This was like heaven for me. I never felt deprived, or like I was starving, I loved it! But, I was ready.

DNX Bars

DNX Bars are an excellent Whole30 snack option. Discount code “steelefit” for 15% off and free shipping.

Week 1 On My Whole 30

What could have gone better: I was tired and sluggish at times. I didn’t sleep well and had a few bad workouts. Lethargy could be associated with the diet, but I don’t believe so. I’m actually eating more carbs than I was before I started the program, and would describe this diet as being very balanced. I enjoyed my first week, and loved eating REAL FOOD without supplementation! The fatigue I experienced this week, combined with a few bad workouts, I blame on cutting the caffeine, in particular, my pre-workout. It’s hard to know why I didn’t sleep well. Many variables can impact this. Could it partly be the dietary changes? Maybe so, probably not. But, I’m busier than usual and have had a lot on my mind. I’ll see how this week goes and report back next week!

What went well: Support is crucial. I had plenty of help and support, and Ashley and I took advantage of the vast amount of Whole30 resources available. I knew what to expect going into this, I planned and prepared. I was ready to face the challenges of being hungry more often and had extra snacks available when I needed them.  I figured I would be cranky at times, and I thought I would experience some fatigue. From day one to now on day seven, I feel like a different person! Follow my Instagram @haydensteelefit if you would like to see updates throughout the upcoming week! I’ll make several posts and provide Instagram story updates. Check back next week to learn about week two on my Whole30!