How Real People Lost Weight on the Whole30 Diet
If you've ever heard of the Whole30 diet, you've probably heard about how limiting it is. But some people have completed one (or more!) rounds of this program. Here, they share their stories of losing weight.
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What is the Whole30 plan?
The brainchild of two sports nutritionists, Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom was published in 2009 and became a best-seller. The plan is set up as a challenge to eliminate inflammation-promoting foods from your diet for a full 30 days to see how your body feels. At the top of the list of Whole30 rules: No alcohol, added or artificial sweeteners, dairy, grains of any kind, soy, legumes, food additives, or processed junk food for 30 days.
The plan’s claim—for which most nutritionists say there is little scientific evidence—is that a diet heavy on these foods contributes to out-of-whack hormones and harmful inflammation that impact general health as well as blood sugar, cravings, and body weight. (Most registered dietitians recommend avoiding diets that restrict entire food groups and instead opt for lifestyle changes and patterns of eating that include a healthy mix of food and can be maintained over time.)
Converts say the diet helped them sleep better, get rid of cravings, heal myriad gut-health problems, control autoimmune flares, and ultimately make beneficial long-term changes.
There is a Whole30 community
When Judith Forman says her life changed because of Whole30, she isn’t joking. The first time she tackled this tall order, she was inspired to push past her post-pregnancy weight gain and collect control on her body and health again. “What I discovered during that first round was that when on Whole30, I felt the best I had ever felt in my life. My thinking was clear, my energy was sky-high, my sleep was deep and rewarding, and my fitness levels exploded. I could run faster, jump higher, squat lower, and lift heavier when I was on Whole30,” she shares. And she says she couldn’t have done it without the good vibes from the Whole30 Facebook support group, of which she’s now an administrator. Racking in more than 38,000 members (and growing), she now eats, lives, and breathes Whole30 (she’s completed five 30-day rounds of Whole30, and one 60-day round), and serves as a guide and cheerleader for newbies. “It is one of the first things I talk about when I meet someone and I am always recruiting people and coaching them along when they decide to jump in,” she shared. “I am teaching my four-year-old daughter about the importance of eating healthy and that, to me, is priceless. It’s given me my strongest, leanest, and happiest body yet—at age 41!”
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Celebrate the non-scale victories
As life-changing and inspiring as traveling the world is, Laura Gonzalez knows what an impact it has on your body. Six months into her trip around the world via the digital nomad program, Remote Year, she realized what a toll being constantly on the go was taking on her overall health and wellness. Her energy levels were dropping, she was always hankering for sweets, and her psoriasis was acting up. That’s when a fellow traveler on her trek suggested she try Whole30 as a way to recenter, balance, and prioritize her health. She ended up pulling off an impressive feat: completing Whole30 not once, but twice—first in Spain and then in Colombia. She’s now trying it for the third time and coaching others who are first-timers.
Shedding weight was motivation, but she’s also learned how to celebrate victories that don’t translate to the scale. “When someone changes their eating style for the better, a main driver might be weight loss, but there are multiple victories that should be acknowledged throughout the process. These smaller victories keep you focused on overall health and happiness versus losing a few pounds,” she says. (For Gonzalez, it was the added benefit of watching her skin clear up and having more energy.) “I now focus on consuming foods that contribute more energy to my body than they require to digest, which helps me maintain extraordinary levels of energy all day long.”
You can follow a ‘loose’ Whole30
Susan and Thomas Palladino used their youngest son’s departure as the opportunity to do something for themselves. Realizing they weren’t exactly leading a healthy life that would allow them to live well into their golden years, they decided to give Whole30 a chance. It was a move that turned everything upside down and around—in a great way. During their first month, they both dropped 20 pounds and felt so rejuvenated, they’ve continued to adopt a “loose Whole30” mentality. This means they’ll complete strict 30-day sessions every once a while, but mostly keep to the rules of the program the rest of the time. It’s also an experience that’s brought them closer together since it’s a shared hobby where they motivate one another and keep each other accountable. “Whole30 has been nothing but a success. At the time I was seriously considering gastric bypass but decided to give this new diet a try. I am now down more than 40 pounds and I truly feel like a different person,” Susan says. “I have noticed how much energy I have and how when I do cheat, I feel sluggish after having a cookie or cheese. It has changed my lifestyle for the better, I have more energy, my cholesterol is 52 points for the better, my skin is cleared, and I have fewer aches and pains.”
Think about long-term health, not short-term wins
When Alisha Owner was pregnant, her first trimester was miserable, prompting her to bury her feelings and anxiety with processed carbs, bread, and sugar. Even though she knew it wasn’t the smartest idea, she felt like she couldn’t stop herself from overeating and managed to pack on 60 pounds by the time she gave birth. Though she did lose 25 pounds once her baby arrived, the extra 35 proved nearly impossible to rid of. She decided to try Whole30. In those first 30 days, she dropped 19 pounds. But the big benefit was in realizing how much of a difference it made for her overall mood and happiness.
“I think about diet as a means of improving my health and not solely as a way to lose weight just to look better. I have a more patient approach with myself now and try to navigate my long-term eating habits,” she shared. “I know that making a lasting lifestyle change is a journey and will take time and lots of adjustments along the way, but now that I have so much more knowledge about nutrition—and have been actively pursuing more and more understanding of the topic—I know that I will be able to refine my diet so that I am eating with my best possible health and longevity in mind.”
Make time for meal prep
Bonnie St. Pierre grew up in a time where she was served large plates of food and lots of sugary and salty snacks, resulting in extra pounds. Though she tried fad diet after fad diet that severely limited her calorie intake, she never could shake off the pounds once and for all.
At 208 pounds and size 18 at the age of 54, she read about Whole30. Determined to get into shape, she convinced her husband to join her, bought and read the books, and found herself dropping the weight and to a size 12 in a month. “The most important thing we learned is how to avoid processed foods, and enjoy healthy and satisfying meals,” she shares.
To keep up with the Whole30, meal prep is essential. To make it easier to stay the course, St. Pierre uses RealPlans, an online subscription meal planner. “The food guidelines of Whole30 are the way we should be taught to eat when we are young before we build those horrible, unhealthy habits that plague us as adults,” she shares.
Strike a balance
Writer and editor Danielle Page found herself not only extremely overweight but overworked, stressed out, and taking out her anxiety via boxed macaroni and cheese, ice cream, Beefaroni, and other comfort foods. That’s when she noticed a pal post on Facebook about doing another round of Whole30 after completing a successful cycle the year before. Given this friend was also a writer and knew the work grind, she decided it was worth a shot. These days, Page has completed three rounds with another underway and has lost more than 30 pounds in total.
“My go-to post-workout weekend bagel used to be a bacon-egg-and-cheese or one slathered in bacon scallion cream cheese. Now it’s a mini whole-wheat everything bagel with two eggs and tomatoes,” she explains. She makes the occasional exception to eating “Whole30ish” for brunches or happy hours. “It might seem strange that such a ‘restrictive’ diet taught me balance, but I was never able to strike the right mix of eating healthy and making exceptions until I realized how good my body felt when I was doing the right thing for an extended period of time.”
Read on for 42 proven tips for fast weight-loss.
- Hartwig, M. and D. The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom, Houghton-Mifflin, 2015.