How Whole30 Changed Our Lives

Colours of Health
Creative Commons License photo credit: Alex E. Proimos

Don't veggies look delicious?

This weekend my wife and I finished our 30 days of strict Paleo. It’s true that we’re different than we were a month ago.

Not all of the changes are visible, but they’re mostly noticeable. Weight has changed, attitudes have changed, and – surprisingly – relationships with food have changed.

What you see is just the surface

Quite simply, we both lost weight.

I had been stalled for quite some time between 295 and 290. I honestly didn’t expect such dramatic results. Finally there was movement; I am now down to 282. It’s been about three years since I have been in the 280s. Next stop: 270!

I also lost 1.75 inches, and my bodyfat went from 33.9% to 32.4%.

For my entire adult life, everyone who has taken my blood pressure told me it was elevated and that losing weight would help. Even when I weighed less than I do now, it was always at least 135/90. The last time it was taken, about 3 days before ending our experiment, it was 117/71 with a resting pulse of 51. The nurse actually compared it to a runner. I remain astounded.

My wife lost about 5 pounds as well, but she didn’t have much to lose (she was 116 at 5’2″ when we started). She didn’t take any bodyfat measurements or inches at the beginning, but you can tell that her clothes fit better, and I think she looks leaner especially in the arms.

But our changes weren’t only physical.

We don’t think about food the same

One of my challenges my whole life has been my attachment to food. I’d spend a lot of time craving foods that when looking back mostly have grains. Donuts, pizza, pancakes, and cookies top the list.

After a week of strict paleo, I didn’t yearn for a cheat day. After two weeks, I still didn’t want one. In fact, I went the whole month without so much as thinking about cheating. It was the wildest thing. Above that, I can also eat a small amount of nuts and fruit. That is to say I am learning – and mastering – portion control. I also never really felt hungry and finally understand what people mean by eating until I’m satisfied.

My wife can’t necessarily say that, though. She reported feeling much hungrier eating this way than when she’d eat a lot of bread and rice. She always missed it, but she was strong with me and was able to mostly not cheat at all.

I will say, though, that we’re pretty excited about the cheesecake we’re going to eat tonight. 😉

We’ve realized things about our food

When you eliminate foods from your diet, you can start to tell the difference in how you feel. If you don’t think you have a problem with grains, dairy, or legumes, I challenge you to not eat them for a month and then reintroduce them.

For example, the reflux I used to get from pizza doesn’t come from the tomato sauce like I had thought. It comes from the gluten in the crust. Now if I eat even a couple cookies, I can feel the acid getting active. I learned that legumes were the reason for my frequent burping, even while eating a decent slow-carb diet. Some dairy even makes me stuffed up.

My wife says the same thing. Eating just one cookie one time with the girl she babysits was enough to make her stomach knot up a bit. We duplicated this effect when we ate a funnel cake at the fair this weekend.

You don’t know what affects you until you cut it out. I really recommend it.

What made this different than starting Slow-Carb

Even though I’ve talked about cheat days before, I have to say my opinion is changing. I believe cheating has kept me from breaking the emotional connections I had with food. While eating a pretty standard slow-carb diet, I always yearned for my cheat day. I truly believe that having the cheat day made it harder for me to avoid cheating during the week. The other explanation for that would be the legumes, which I’m introducing again this week.

A paleo diet can even be a much lower-carb diet than the slow-carb diet (or not, it depends on what you decide to eat), so I think that also affected my fat loss positively. I had hit a plateau, and now I know how I can break it.

The verdict: Should you try it

Resoundingly yes. I highly recommend trying at least Whole 30. Worst case scenario: you don’t eat some foods you like for a month. Especially if you’re having trouble following slow-carb and seeing results.

I don’t know if I’m going to move to a paleo diet, but both my wife and I like it and think it’s sustainable. We will see how eating legumes affects me in the next couple weeks. Maybe I’ll switch on and off depending on whether I want some lentils or an apple.

If you’re on a paleo diet, give me your best argument to stay on it. If you’re on a slow-carb diet, give me YOUR best argument!

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  1. Like you I realized that Paleo makes “dieting” easy is so many ways.

    I hope other people from 4HB and SCD see this to understand the affects of cheat day, and how bad gluten is for everyone.

    • Right. I should have stressed that this was the easiest 12 pounds I ever lost. When I was hungry, I ate more (usually some kind of meat). I never felt like I was depriving myself, and I never missed the stuff I wasn’t eating. I actually surprised myself that I didn’t want to cheat once. 🙂 The only reason I did (twice) was at two different meals that I had no other option (well, I could have fasted but it would have been awkward). Even then we still were as careful as we could be given the situation.


  2. Paleo: I save heaps on toilet paper since I only have to wipe once!

  3. Jason,

    This is a great post! I recently (really through the comments of Justin) have started to read more about and learn more about the paleo diet. It complements the 4-Hour Body very well and I feel like in many ways should be required reading for anyone who is trying to find a balanced and sustainable approach to food. You are so right about eliminating foods and then reintroducing them. I see so many patients who struggle with conditions that are probably diet related, it is amazingly difficult in just 15 minutes to convince them that they should try an elimination diet and that food could possibly be a source of ones health problems… hence we reach for the prescription pad to “appease” our patients….I have yet to get “hard corp” strict with myself and I could identify with your wife (except I have some wheat belly to lose).

    I think you have inspired me… Thanks for being so honest in your post!!

    • Get rid of that wheat belly, Stephen! 🙂 I think that’s what she’s got too. It’ll come off soon enough. Mine will take a while longer…

      Can’t wait to see how you fare after a 30 day trial. 😉


  4. Unixmonkey says

    Thanks for sharing you and your wife’s experiences. It put into words a lot of the things I felt when I went paleo.

    I had none of the “carb flu” or cravings, and generally had no desire to cheat. I’m much more in tune with my body that now, whenever I eat something off-plan I can feel the negative effects.

    My taste-buds have changed and now I crave salads, peppers and veggies. I had chronic gerd heartburn, and I haven’t had to take any meds in months. I lost 50+ pounds in the past 5 months, and I had about 80 less pounds to lose than you do.

    I’m sure you’ll do great. Even if you quit (or ease off), it will give you a new way to look at food, medicine and health for the rest of your life, and that can’t be a bad thing.

    • Thanks for your note, Unix. I’ve noticed that foods are a lot more flavorful now too. I couldn’t finish an apple once because it was too sweet for me. That literally had never happened, ever. 🙂 I can walk past candy that used to taunt me because now when I see it, my mouth feels like I’ve already eaten too many. I had planned on eating some donuts this weekend (kind of a tradition, this particular weekend) but to be honest I’m not sure I will eat any.

      I’ve already jumped back on the wagon. I’m going to eat lentils in a while, but I may have unofficially gone paleo (don’t tell my 4HB friends!)


  5. I had a really similar experience when going Paleo. I also have/had a bit of a carb addicition and am a huge food lover (to the point where I know it’s an emotional eating thing.) Whole 30 made me realize it’s much easier for me to keep to plan if I don’t cheat, or if I at least don’t make a full day of it. Cheat day for me basically made food the focal point of my week whether it was because I was eating or thinking about what I would be eating.

    Now my cheat days are normally cheat meals 1-2x a week, centered around a social event, and I still try to avoid gluten when cheating. Often a cheat for me is homemade fried rice made with brown rice. Or Asian food out somewhere with rice. Never thought that rice could replace other old faves (like Doritos or pizza), but it’s oddly satisfying.

    One other thing that helped me to not focus on food was trying out Intermittent Fasting (IF). Back when I was still doing cheat days, I used IF to take off the cheat day weight. A pleasant side effect (if you’ll call it that) was that it was extremely freeing. I wouldn’t think about food the entire day. The few times my tummy started to rumble, I’d have some water or tea, and it would settle, and I’d go back to work or whatever. It really enabled me to take focus off food throughout the day.

    I was also a huge believer in the school of thought that I needed to eat every few hours throughout the day to keep my metabolism fueled. After reading “Eat Stop Eat”, I learned this may not actually be true – debunked a lot of myths I thought were fact.

    It sounds a little kooky, but I’d recommend reading the report before dismissing IF. It compliments Paleo quite well.

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