The Whole30 Effect {Guest Post}

Editor’s Note: This is Matt (no seriously, click that link. You will regret it if you don’t). You know how everyone has that one gym friend who just gets it? Well for me, that person is Matt. Matt has been practicing Martial Arts since a super young age, and began training Capoeira five years ago. He started CrossFit last August to compliment his training, and we became fast friends for a lot of reasons, not the least of which being that we both really hate running and wall balls. When I did the Whole30 this April, he decided to join me. As someone who had never eaten fully strict Paleo before, and still relied on processed carbs for a lot of his energy, I was excited for him to experiment with whole foods and starchy vegetables. Matt took an almost militant approach, even sending me a guilt-racked text after a date one night confessing he had accidentally eaten white potatoes without realizing they were “off” the Whole30. We decided to give him a pass on that one ;) Anyway, here is the rest of his Whole30 story!

//found at the ascent blog

30 days of VERY strict paleo eating that is meant to reset your system, regulate sleep, loosen the strangle hold your food vices have on you, discover the effects different foods have on your body, etc, etc, etc… Sure why not?!

I’ve always considered myself a fairly active/healthy person.  Between activities like martial arts, rock climbing, and most recently CrossFit, a healthy lifestyle has always been high on my priority list. In the last year, I’ve really made an effort to step up my fitness. I feel fitter than ever and have even developed a love for lifting weights (which is something I would have thought to be impossible. Going to typical gyms and going through the motions is a one way ticket to boredom for me).  Luckily CrossFit changed that, but I won’t get too far into that right now.

The one aspect to fitness I had yet to really dive into was my nutrition.  I always enjoyed eating well, which worked well for me, but I never took it to the next level.  A number of my friends had done a Whole30 and felt amazing results.  As I was browsing Facebook one day and noticed Claire was going to start one, so I jumped on the wagon. I knew I’d need some moral support to get through my sweet tooth cravings.

The first week was dynamic to say the least. Shopping changed drastically. My cart was full of vegetables, meat, fruit, and nuts. Pretty much looked like I just robbed a farmers market. Since I decided to quit coffee as well (not part of the whole30, but a vice I needed to kick all the same), I had a SPLITTING headache for the first 2 days. Between that and the change in diet, my energy levels were all over the place. All that said I was still excited to tackle the challenge.

After the initial shock, the Whole30 was a HUGE exercise in discipline. As I said before, I always considered myself a healthy eater, but I usually allow myself one or 2 small cheats a day. I didn’t realize how much taking those away would affect me. I found myself getting pretty irritable when cookies would find their way into the office and I’d have to force myself to say no. On top of that, my co-workers found it hilarious to tempt and tease me as often as possible. Do yourself a favor, tell NO ONE you are doing a Whole30. It will save you a ton of explanation and aggravation. I tried very hard not to be “that guy” but when people are asking you “why are you doing this?” it’s nearly impossible to avoid getting preachy.

Toward the end, all I was doing was looking to the end. I wanted cookies. LOTS of cookies. Every day seemed like an eternity. Did I feel better? Yes. Did my sleep, recovery, and energy levels improve? Yes. But I LOVE my treats, and since I wasn’t trying to lose weight, and didn’t feel “bad” before the Whole30, I was just psyched for it to be over. I’m proud to say that I made it without cheating (minus one mistake with white potatoes, but it was completely unintentional). Then it ended… The sun shined brighter, the birds sung sweeter… I had my coffee back and immediately started treating myself to cookies, grains, nachos, and whatever else I wanted.

Then something interesting happened. About a week after I finished, I started feeling crazy effects of bringing dairy, grains, and treats back.. Bloating, energy crashes, and stuffy noses everywhere. It was crazy. I couldn’t believe how extreme the effects were. I then took a couple days and went back to Whole30 meals. Viola!  My system cleared out, and I started to feel better very quickly. I really couldn’t believe it. I really didn’t feel the full effects of cleaning up my diet until I went back to my old ways. Now, I’m eating about 90% whole30 all the time but allowing myself treats as my body allows. I’ve always thought (and still do) that there is no 1 size fits all for nutrition. It takes experimentation, and a willingness to try different methods. It may seem obvious, but (for me) finding a level of moderation seems like the best way for me to maintain a healthy diet. I guess the trick is defining moderation.

  • Mom

    Matt – thanks for the post! Your experience of adding things back in and feeling crappy is the answer to why people don’t feel the affects of a lifetime of eating bad stuff. I love your comment about “defining moderation”. That’s a good thing to ponder.
    Also, great advice about keeping things like this to yourself. I suppose that, unless you value the idea, it’s a form of entertainment for humans to try to corrupt each other. Go figure.
    And by the way, very impressive “modified burpees!”

    • Matt

      Yeah. All the people tempting and teasing me ended up turning into motivation to finish. It got to a point where I knew I’d finish just so I didn’t give all the haters the satisfaction. It just so happens that I got to keep all the benefits of the diet while proving to them and myself that I could to it.

      Thanks! The burpees were something I wanted to try since starting CF. Just glad I didn’t land on my head… Because the thought definitely crossed my mind :)

  • AAR

    I found your blog about a month ago and when I read this post I thought “this is me” several times. I had a VERY similar experience to Matt’s. I started Whole30 in January as a way to figure out what was triggering my IBS. As a scientist, I’m all for doing a lot of research and found Whole30 to be a great place to start. I went through all of the same emotions Matt did. All I wanted were sweets and couldn’t wait for the 30 days to be over. When I went back to eating them, I felt like CRAP. All of my IBS symptoms came back within a day. Now I eat 80-90% Whole30 and give myself the one meal (sometimes a day) a week to eat what I want. But I now make smarter choices because I know the consequences I’ll be paying the next day.

    Thank you so much for this post. It totally hit home. Keep up the good work!

    • Matt

      I’m really glad to know my experience isn’t unique. I’m more of a data type of person, and thought the whole30 was a great way to have a “control” in my diet experiment. It was far more of an eye opening experience than I ever thought. Take care!

  • Laurie

    I can also relate to Matt’s experience! I started a paleo challenge at my crossfit gym a few weeks ago. Before the challenge I’d been zoning for several months and had found it to really work well for me. I figured it would be an interesting experiment to see how my body reacted to going paleo instead of just clean eating. Cutting out grains wasn’t hard for me since I already had been limiting them with zoning, but oh gosh did I miss dairy the first week! chocolate milk, cheese, yogurt! I also craved diet coke like a crazy person! I was used to having 1 soda/day so going to zero was drastic! I decided at the beginning of the challenge to try and be strict paleo during the week and relax a bit on weekends. That first weekend, “relax” happened to be defined by m&m’s, ice cream, cheese, and beer. Monday morning I went to 5am CF like usual, and I thought I was going to die. Not saying WOD’s are typically easy, but I usually don’t feel like complete death DURING them. Definitely a wake-up call to practice weekend moderation a bit more wisely :)

    • Matt

      The first week I came back to CF after eating “normal” again definitely got funky. Thrusters on a stomach bloated from grains and dairy are a terrible combination.

  • Kelsi

    Thanks for your post, Matt! I just finished Whole30 (I started it on April 15) after seeing Claire start it, and I was not as strict about it as you were! One week in I had a cheat meal, but even then my body reacted to reintroducing those items, because I had an allergic reaction! My mouth got sore, my tongue went numb, and everything tasted like metal. It was scary! Now that I’m off Whole30 and I’m back to enjoying bread and cheese, but I have cut back drastically on my refined sugar intake. I discovered that it made my gut feel like it was rotting away! I was so bloated and cramped after PART of a piece of pie or eating a TINY brownie… things I had no problem eating in the past. Though I eat relatively well, I do have a major sweet tooth, and it proved to be my downfall. I now try to satisfy my sweet tooth mostly with fruits and very dark chocolate. I discovered all of this even though I “cheated” on Whole30 about 20% of the time. It was eye opening! I was writing about the experience over at my blog:

    • Matt

      Definitely seems like the biggest effects from the whole30 com after re-introducing the the things you cut out. The effects, while kind of miserable, are fascinating to see. The only thing that still agrees with me post whole30 is coffee… Which was the hardest thing to give up. By far. Not sure I’ll ever give up coffee again. Not just for me, but the people around me :) I’ll definitely check out your blog!

  • NJ Paleo

    I have never completed a Whole30 because I don’t like the concept of “denying” myself, but I follow a 98% paleo plan just generally and have for over a year. I don’t really think about it that much while I’m at home, but when I’m out at a restaurant or at a party, it can be a challenge. The other day at work, someone brought in a whole selection of cakes. I decided that I would splurge and have a piece of chocolate cake with chocolate mousse in the middle since I love chocolate. It tasted too sweet, but I liked the chocolate part. After 30 minutes, I started feeling like garbage and that feeling lasted for about 3 hours. I felt groggy, bloated, tired, gross, off…..and I’m thinking that it really wasn’t worth it……

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