The Whole30 Challenge: We Tried the Of-the-Moment Diet

Three employees, one month, strictly real foods.

What happens when three members of our team decide to take on the Whole30 diet? Besides some initial hangry reactions (see: writing “send chocolate” on our conference room whiteboard), the determined gang feels less bloated, more energetic and healthier, overall.

Completing the diet, which prohibits added sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy and processed foods for 30 days, is no simple feat. With an emphasis on eating cleaner (ie: meats, seafood, eggs and vegetables), they experienced some unpleasant symptoms along the way. Here’s what they ate and how they survived the month, sugar-free.

Morgan Pekera, Licensing Coordinator

The motivation: To kick off the season, my friend challenged me to do Whole30 with her. Since I already eat paleo-ish, I thought: how hard could this be? I’m also too competitive to say no, even when a peanut butter restriction is involved. (Full disclosure, I already eat gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and a few other “fun-free” things. My only big changes for Whole30 were no alcohol, no gluten-free grains, no legumes and no sugar.)

Her experience on the diet: I bought more dried and fresh fruits to tame the sugar beast. I ended up eating a lot of fruit during my 30 days but wish I relied more on veggie snacks. I cooked a ton, but I usually do, and surprisingly went to restaurants a lot more than usual. Eating out is easier than you think since you can have salad or plain meat like a steak or bun-less burger. And potatoes. You can have all the potatoes. Which I did, and still do.

How she felt after: In the end, I learned that my sugar addiction is real but totally controllable. By day 31, my cravings were gone and my love for sweet potatoes had only grown. I still want something sweet after lunch and dinner, but fruit helps. I went back to eating chocolate but it has to be a really delicious dark chocolate to be worth it. All in all, it was a great learning experience and I highly recommend trying it—30 days will fly by after the initial shock and lack of sugar wears off.

Download Morgan's Meal Plan

Kelly Del Sordi,  Licensing Director

The motivation: Can you still call it baby weight if your kids are edging out of toddler-hood? It was time for me to make a change. I’ve never been a person who kept a regular workout routine and I definitely needed a healthier relationship with food. What drew me to Whole30 is its approach to nutrition and forming healthier habits. “Don’t treat the symptom, treat the cause” seemed like practical advice.

How she prepared: The weekend before day one, I signed up for Real Plans, a meal-planning site that gives you Whole30 recipes and grocery lists on a weekly basis. You can customize your plan and adjust to your individual tastes—it was a great investment. I carb-loaded right up until the start of my first day. I fully committed to the program, but I definitely went in kicking and screaming.

Her experience on the diet: In full transparency, I did elect to make a few modifications that made sense for me. I had heard that lactose tolerance might be a ‘use it or lose it’ phenomenon in the body so, a few times a week, I would put a dash of whole milk in my coffee or take a small bite of cheese. I love you Whole30, but I love brie more. I also chose not to make my own sweet potato chips—there’s only so many hours in a day! I found a brand that bakes theirs in an approved oil and let it go.

How she felt after: The best part about the experience (aside from dropping 8 lbs!!!) was completely losing track of what day of the program I was on. Somewhere mid-way, I stopped counting down to the end and settled into the lifestyle. I definitely plan to keep it going, especially during the week.

Download Kelly's Meal Plan

Rose Barrios, Project Manager and Producer

The motivation: Whole30 was not something I planned. I tagged along after hearing Morgan was doing it. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect as I had been wanting to reset my body after the holiday binge. Although I'm pescatarian and generally eat healthy, this was no walk in the park for me mainly because I'm a huge carb-eater and a wine enthusiast.

Her experience on the diet: The first week I felt my absolute best—physically, I wasn’t bloated and emotionally, I never felt hangry. By day 18, however, I was cranky, tired and all I wanted was Serafina’s spaghetti and a glass of Sangiovese. After reading through a lot of Whole30 forums, I learned that the emotional rollercoaster was normal since my body was still adjusting to the changes.

How she felt after: The day after I completed Whole30, I found myself at Whole Foods buying every vegetable and fruit in sight, rather than carb-binging at my favorite restaurant. The greatest benefit for me was getting a deeper and longer sleep. I was someone who slept past midnight and woke up at 5am, so a full night’s sleep was a blessing to me. I instantly noticed an improvement in my productivity and energy levels throughout the day—no sluggish morning and no afternoon slump.

Download Rose's Meal Plan

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