Story by Torch adviser Chris Lenerz
How did I get roped into this?
Beginning in early December, my wife, Rachel, started telling us about this diet we were going to try: 30 something. That’s not the name of it, but that’s all I heard because I don’t really pay that close of attention to the stuff we eat. I’m fortunate enough to have a wife that cooks for the family, and I’m smart enough to have learned not to complain. She’s always trying the latest healthy eating fads, so I’ve gotten used to it.
At first, I’d overhear her telling other moms about it. I started to worry when I noticed a pattern in their responses: “Wow! You’re going to try that?! Are your husband and kids on board?” That didn’t sound good.
Around the start of Winter Break, she started explaining it to the kids. At this point I began to recognize that it was called The Whole30, but I still didn’t understand what it was. The best I could decipher, you imagine all the foods you enjoy eating, eliminate them, and you’re left with 30 things you can eat or drink.
It didn’t sound like much fun, but I don’t like to cook, so I was supportive and told the kids it wouldn’t be that bad.
What is the Whole30?
So, what is it really? Honestly, I never fully understood until I googled it when I sat down to write this story.
Here’s what I found on the official website, Whole30.com: “Since April 2009, millions of people have successfully completed our Whole30 program with stunning, life-changing results.” Spoiler alert: there were benefits, but I wouldn’t say my life has changed.
The site goes on to explain that “Certain food groups (like sugar, grains, dairy and legumes) could be having a negative impact on your health and fitness without you even realizing it.” It then lists a wide range of ailments they claim the diet will help with, listing everything from low energy to seasonal allergies and chronic pain.
Basically, you’re only supposed to eat “whole” foods for a month to cleanse your system. That means no added sugar, no alcohol, no grains, no legumes (beans, peas, peanuts, soy products, etc.), no dairy, no preservatives, and no junk food.
We’d already eliminated preservatives and most junk foods from our diet—no problem. Legumes—just the word sounds gross. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth—so far, so good. We’re already a gluten free household because of my son, and I can live without the “delicious” gluten free breads. That leaves alcohol and dairy. Did I mention I’m from Wisconsin? This might be a long month.
How’d it go?
It was decided (that’s the polite way of saying, “Rachel declared”) that we would start this experiment on the first Monday after Winter Break. The kids were nearly in tears before it even started: “No sandwiches? No cheese? No sugar? Mom, why do you hate us?!”
My main concern was simply “I’ll try anything for a month, but then we can go back to being reasonable, right?”
To which she kept saying, “Well, maybe you’ll feel so good after a month that you’ll want to continue!” Did I mention that she wears unicorn shirts and tutus five days a week.
The first week went fine. My two biggest complaints were black coffee and wraps that were wrapped in lettuce. Ironic as it may be, my sparkle addicted, glitter wearing wife likes her coffee black (like her soul), and the bald guy with the big, scary beard prefers his coffee sweet with a hint of vanilla flavoring (my students mock me for my raspberry flavored lattes). The problem with the wraps wasn’t so much the lettuce, as that there was nothing to absorb any of the juices, so they were super messy, and I hate messy foods—I rarely eat BBQ.
However, for the most part, I didn’t mind. My metabolism has slowed significantly over the last five years, and I’m really not enjoying my ever-expanding spare tire. Since we already ate pretty healthy, and I was working out three to five days a week, and, yet, continuing to slowly gain weight, I was ready to embrace something a little more extreme. That’s not to say I didn’t start cheating.
The first cheating I did was adding a little sugar to my coffee in the morning, but I made it a week before I started, and I was using half as much as I had been and no creamer. I also continued to partake in Donut Fridays with yearbook because “it’s team-building and I have to help build morale.”
Other than that, I stuck to the diet pretty close and the meals were good. It helps that my wife is a good cook; she’s taught herself how to make just about everything and she manages to make it all taste good.
My kids, however, seemed to have more trouble with the diet. I’ve never actually been around someone going through drug or alcohol withdrawal, but, based on what I’ve seen on TV and in the movies, I think that’s what they went through. I’m not even joking, I think it was the sugar. They became extremely irritable and moody after about five days.
As they were both having a meltdown one night halfway through the second week, Rachel and I debated what to do and decided it wasn’t worth making them so unhappy, so we started letting them cheat a little, too. I’ve never seen two people look so contented with a bag of corn chips.
How did it end?
Going into this, I really thought my wife had gone off the deep end and there was no way I’d want to continue this diet when the month was up, but I wasn’t so sure by the end.
I lost 13 pounds in the 30 days, and lost another two in the two weeks since, bringing me down to my target weight of 200 lbs. That might now sound like a big deal and at 6’ 3”, most people probably don’t think I needed to lose any weight, but for a guy who had a six-pack well into his 30s, I had started to feel really discouraged, and worse, resigned to the fact that I was just going to continue to gain weight and there wasn’t much I could do about it at my age.
However, more than the weight loss, what surprised me the most, is that my mood and energy had improved. With Goldie, our youngest, not yet two years old, sleep is always an issue and I had just assumed that was the reason I always felt so tired. But I must admit, I actually felt better by the end of the month. I noticed that I wasn’t feeling as much anxiety, and I was much more productive, which led to less stress—it was a complete reversal of the cycle I had been stuck in.
Where do I go from here?
As I said at the beginning, we weren’t having preservatives before and I didn’t have much of a sweet tooth, so why start now? I have, though, fully brought dairy back into my diet: milk with dinner, a yogurt with lunch, and plenty of cheese (I do own a cheese-head hat, after all). But I’m going to continue to try to limit the grains and alcohol. I like how I feel and I’m not gaining weight, so I think I’ll stick with it. But as my third-grade teacher told us, and I’ll never forget, “All things in moderation.”