What I Learned From Doing 21 days of the Whole 30 Program

So no, I did not finish the program, BUT, I learned a lot, and that counts for something, right?

First off, I tracked my first 12 days of #Whole30 over on this page if you’d like to check out some of the recipes I tried and see how my days went. I actually did great through the end of day 15, and this was a really eye opening time period for me. The sugar hangover is real, not turning to beer out of habit after a long day of work is good, I really love rice with my tacos, Primal Kitchen Avocado Oil Mayo is insanely delicious, and I really really really wish I didn’t like cheese as much as I do. Honestly, this program is awesome – and I totally mean that. I didn’t even finish the damn thing, and I would totally recommend it to anyone who wants to reset both their guts and their habits.

Quite honestly, at the end of day 15 I got a serious case of the fuck its, and I choose to go out for a few drinks with some friends for a buddy’s birthday instead of going to bed early after a long week. It was a ton of fun, I had a great time, and the next morning I woke up feeling tired and cranky and thought NOPE. I’m back at this game.

*Note, I’m a rule breaker and didn’t feel like starting over at day 1 (which is a Whole 30 rule – if you slip up AT ALL you are supposed to start over again at day 1)… so I just continued on with Day 16. Whole 30 purists are shuddering right now, but if Kale and Cigarettes can do it, so can I. 😉

Days 16 (Easter) – Day 21 went totally fine. No complaints there, and I was feeling good coasting into the final third of this challenge. My fridge was stocked, eating compliant foods was old habit, and the week went by just fine.

Then my parents got here on day 20 and thus began a crazy weekend (totally not their fault). My Mom just completed her Whole 30 (on my Day 15) with no cheats and she lost 11# in the process – can we say rock star? At any rate, she and my dad understood my eating rules, which was nice, and we basically ate eggs and salads and grilled a lot for the next couple of days. I also had Stella’s ballet tech rehearsal last Tuesday night, dress rehearsal last Thursday night, and then her shows on Friday night and Saturday midday. This meant eating at weird times, being on the run after work until bedtime, and just getting out of my routine in general.

Yep, that wasn’t so great for my artfully constructed balance.

Saturday afternoon (Day 22) I got back to my house at 4pm after Stella’s final ballet performance with a BBQ in full swing to celebrate my parents being in town.

I totally caved, y’all. A tequila soda was poured with extra ice… and I nursed it for 2.5 hours. That is so not my normal m.o. Progress, not perfection, right?

At any rate, I stayed 95% on track with food that night (I might have eaten a toothpick caprese skewer after a few tequila shots – no regrets), and I woke up Sunday feeling fine, but also feeling supremely un-motivated to keep up with this challenge since I had clearly now broken the rules twice. I didn’t drink yesterday (which is also normally routine in our house on sunny Sunday fun-days), but I wasn’t totally careful about making sure my food followed the guidelines either. We went out for lunch with my parents, and I’m pretty sure the salad dressing on my salad and the sauce on my wings were not compliant because they both probably had sugar in some form in them.

So yeah… I’m done.

That being said, here are some positives I took away from this program, and how I plan to move forward!

  • I lost about 7# in the 3 weeks I followed the program. Not a crazy stunning number, but definitely not bad considering the program isn’t at all focused on weight loss but more on your relationship with food. I’ll try to remember to take some “after” photos tomorrow morning & take measurements to see if there was any change that way as well.
  • I eat WAY too much cheese. Clearly this is something I already knew, but dang – when forced to cook 63 meals without that delicious item, it became abundantly clear to me that it’s something I add to recipes entirely too often. I used it as a main ingredient instead of a garnish or flavor add, and that needs to change.
  • Related: I actually do like a lot of meals WITHOUT cheese. I need to try this more often.
  • I snack on my kids’ food a lot. I’ve always known that I grab a bite here and there, but when you can’t do that at all, you realize how often your hand sneaks down to that bowl for a bite before you hand it over.
  • Work is a total landmine for me of sugary bombs of unhealthy choices. My coworkers supply us with lots of cookies & cheese sticks & chocolate, so I need to institute a personal rule of simply not mindlessly snacking at work. That will help me a ton.
  • There is freakin’ sugar in EVERYTHING. I actually tossed a lot of my combination spices (did you know that there is more SUGAR in lemon pepper spice than there is pepper?), and I’m totally a lover of the Whole30 compliant Tessamae’s dressings now. It was really good for me to read labels so closely for 3 weeks, because it’s truly eye opening to realize how often manufacturers slip sugar into our daily foods. Not cool, food marketers, not cool.
  • I actually eat pretty darn clean for the most part. There were certain grocery items on my list that got chucked out in exchange for “cleaner” options, but dang. I’m pretty happy with my food knowledge and choices and the fact that we eat so well the vast majority of the time already – whether or not I’m on the Whole 30 train.
  • As usual, empty alcohol calories are definitely an issue for me. On the upside, I’ve never liked soda water before this challenge, but being forced to turn to La Croix when I wanted a bubbly drink has actually gotten me used to it…and I could even say that I like it. Say what?! It’s nice to have a zero calorie, zero additives option to turn to when I want a glass of something in my hand but am tired of plain water.
  • Avocado is da bomb. I can eat it on dang near everything. This isn’t new knowledge to me, but I just felt like it was appropriate to put here, because avocado is a healthy fat that I totally love, and I was totally eating a full avocado every day of this program. Yum!


My new favorite breakfast! Sauteed kale & whatever veggies are in my fridge topped with eggs, avocado, bacon & salsa. Seriously SO delicious!

So there ya go. I technically failed, but I also liked the program a lot. I’ll probably attempt a full 30 days again in the fall sometime, but in the meantime, I’m definitely going to keep eating the way I have been and keep my eyes on those added sugars in the ingredient lists.

How about you? Have you ever attempted or completed the Whole 30 before? I’d love to hear from other people about their experiences with this program!



  1. I just did my first Whole30 in late February/March of this year, and I am getting set to do another one in May (once we move). I saw so many benefits of eating the Whole30 way, and I lost 14 lbs besides.

    I totally agree about several of your points. There is, indeed, sugar in some form in EVERYTHING. . . even foods that you wouldn’t think of. And I didn’t think I could get through 30 days without cheese and bread, but I did so easily, and felt great in the process.

    1. I found that not having bread was super easy for me – that was the toughest thing for my Mom. For me it was definitely cheese the week. By weeks 2 & 3 I didn’t feel cravings for cheese anymore (as long as I was home and not around it – ha!), but I did miss having some sort of rice/quinoa as a side dish at times.

      It was seriously crazy to me the random “healthy” foods that would have sugar added to them!

      1. My biggest surprise about added sugar was my husband’s preferred brand of TACO SEASONING! Why would that need sugar? Makes no sense.

        1. I bet it’s to “glue” the meat together and make it more scoopable. That’s the only reason I can think of.

        2. I guess. The seasoning includes other ingredients that I would think would effectively bind the meat together. But I’m no food expert

  2. I did it one time, but still drank alcohol on the regular. Ha. So I didn’t reeeeally do it. I did learn from it that my body does not like gluten or dairy, so that’s something.

    1. Haha…sounds like me. I definitely think my body prefers tequila to beer, so that’s good to know. 😉

  3. I tried a stricter version of W30 a while back (stricter because I don’t like half the things on the allowed list) and it did not last. It lasted… a few days? When I was reading your food entries, I thought that I could do it for probably a couple of weeks now that I’m open to more of the allowed foods. We’re like you – we really eat healthy and buy nothing processed, so it shouldn’t be that much of a leap for us. But it would be. The sugar isn’t our problem – it’s my lunches out with the kids (healthy tacos, salads, and pizzas but… tacos and pizzas nonetheless) and some of the things that come with the Plated meals. We’ve been choosier with our Plated meals and that’s been awesome!

    I do love cheese, but we don’t use it that much at home. Our downfall is wine. Brian loves to have a glass of wine with dinner and of course I don’t want him having to do that alone. 😉

    I’m super impressed you made it 3 weeks.

  4. Amanda Hunt · · Reply

    This sounds very restrictive. I had great success with Wildfit. Abundant energy, weight release and it’s easy. I now have a lifestyle not a diet. Last night I made an amazing Leek and Cauliflower soup from the WildFit cookbook I think you’d love. Check it out https://getwildfit.com/challenge/cookbook/#WildFit_A=aj52

    1. It really wasn’t restrictive, at least IMO. They in no way tell you to eat like this forever, and the science behind why they want you to take a 30 day break from certain foot groups makes total sense. I literally quit because of alcohol, not food, and I’d guess that most any healthy living ideal involves at least cutting back on alcohol. 😉

  5. I haven’t done the Whole30 but I have done the WildFit 90 day Challenge with phenomenal long-lasting results. I never thought I could ‘give up’ cheese….ever….but I don’t even want it any more. Or sugar. Or caffeine. The program really focuses on the psychology of our relationship with foods and that has been the biggest difference from all other programs I’ve tried (and failed at). About 90% of clients complete the program and continue to live the changes they’ve made. It works! 🙂

    1. That sounds very similar to Whole 30, honestly. Good for you on making those changes!

  6. Moonstone · · Reply

    Aw, don’t be so hard on yourself! You’re a working mother of 2 young children and that makes it insanely difficult to stick to something rigid. The ballet show weekend being the prime example.

    As you say, any progress is good progress and it’s a major plus that you didn’t fall off the wagon completely. When the timing is 100% right for you, you’ll stick with it throughout.

    Well done x

  7. I really like how whole30 forces you to get out of your habits and confront all forms of emotional eating – it’s really eye-opening experience on what and why you eat what you eat when you have to think about it so much. I’m glad you had a good experience and got some positives come out of the whole thing. It’s funny how after a while, you’re like, ya, okay, got this…now can i just have a beer please? I get like that every round! I used to really miss cheese, but have somehow kicked that habit for good really except for the occasional feta on my salad. I’m hoping to do another round in a bit after I kick the morning sickness yuck or at least refocus on clean eating for a couple of solid weeks after just…surviving for a while. Anyway! Nice work! looks like you had a great visit with your parents 🙂

    1. Yeah, that’s a HUGE one for me – kicking the habit of being so focused on freakin’ cheese. Hang in there – I’m hoping your nausea passes soon and you can get on with enjoying the pregnancy a little!

  8. I did one round with no cheats at all, a second round where I drank wine but otherwise followed the rules, and my third attempt totally fell apart. I learned a lot too, and have found that I am terrible at cutting sugar on a daily basis – I need to be doing a program like Whole30 or else I just make excuses :/

    1. Totally. I had 2 margaritas last night, and they’re made with fresh ingredients, but still have plenty of sugar in them I’m sure, and I feel like absolute ASS today. Ugh.

  9. I haven’t done Whole 30 and I don’t plan to. The one time I tried going yeast-free for health reasons I lasted about 3 weeks as well before I couldn’t take it anymore. Restrictive diets, unless it’s a life and death health issue (ie celiac or something like that) are so not for me.

    Congrats on making it that far and 7lbs is a nice whoosh!

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