Have you ever wanted to try a Whole30? In this post, we sit down with our September Whole30 winner, Erin Gillespie to talk about her experience completing her first ever Whole30.
How many Whole30s have you done?
This was my first Whole30 round ever! As a newbie, it was a bit overwhelming at first, but Model Meals, doing my own research, reading “It Starts with Food”, and joining Danika’s September Whole30 group were imperative to my success on my first round.
What made you want to try Whole30 in the first place?
I was coming off of my wedding “diet” and was searching for a sustainable plan to help me transition back into a more realistic way of eating and fueling my body. I had previously been counting macros and calories but knew that wasn’t something I wanted to do long term. A good friend had done a Whole30 “round” and she used Model Meals on her first Whole30. She shared her positive experience with me and the approach to nutrition intrigued me.
It wasn’t necessarily the weight loss she experienced that was most appealing, but the way that Whole30 shifts the focus from food to an all around approach to. Whole30 can also help address the poor relationships that we can have with food, like attachments to sugar or alcohol, or our not-so-healthy food habits, like mindless snacking. I have struggled with digestive issues, skin issues, mood swings, and disordered eating in the past, so these areas were places I could improve. That being the case, I thought, “Hey, it’s only 30 days,” and I took the plunge and joined the September Whole30 with Model Meals!
What was the best thing about your Whole30 experience?
Well, besides the awesome food from Model Meals, I got connected to a group on Facebook with like-minded individuals through Model Meals and Danika Brysha. The feeling of support, camaraderie, and group purpose was so beneficial for me. I knew that I had some accountability with that group, but I also knew that I wasn’t alone on this new, 30-day journey. The group gave us the platform to ask questions, share our victories, and ask for help and support when we needed it. There were also amazing Whole30 coaches who came and did live talks and shared a wealth of information. We also got to have access to live cook-alongs with Danika and her boyfriend Billy, who is an incredible chef. I found the information and positive support something that I needed when my will power felt like it might fail me or when I had a question that I needed feedback on. Those bonds are something that enhanced my Whole30 experience tremendously. It wouldn’t have been the same without that.
What was the toughest part of your Whole30 journey?
If I had to identify something that I found particularly tough about Whole30, it would be the process of breaking free from the damaging food habits that this program showed me I had. I saw that I engaged in food behaviors that no longer served my health or wellbeing and Whole30 and our Facebook group challenged me to take a look at those. I mean, there was a reason that I reached for that sugary snack after each meal, or ate an entire bag of kettle corn in one sitting. It wasn’t because it was for the benefit of my health, but because there was something else going on underneath those impulses that needed to be examined. The mental hurdles that were connected to my not-so-healthy food habits were really challenging to overcome.
What advice do you have for others during Whole30?
First, identify your WHY. Why exactly did you make the choice to embark on your Whole30 journey? Identify a solid “Why” that means something to you and keep that in the forefront of your mind for the next 30 days. Having the connectedness to the core reason why we made the decision to explore this way of eating can motivate us in those moments when that piece of pizza or candy bar seems like it’s the solution to all our problems. That is something, my WHY, that I had to remember when things got tough. Melissa Hartwig, co-creator of Whole30, likes to remind us that Whole30 isn’t hard. In the grand scheme of life, taking 30 days away from certain types of food isn’t hard in the traditional sense of big life events. It’s not a death, loss of a job, or hardship. Whole30 was something that we chose to do for a reason, so remember that reason!
Second, research and educate yourself! There are so many resources out there on social media, in Whole30 books and cookbooks, on blogs and Pinterest, and on the Whole30 website. Pursue that information so you know what you can look forward to over the course of the next 30 days so you minimize uncomfortable surprises that have the potential to derail you.
Third, get connected with a group of friends, a coach, or someone you can be accountable and honest with on your Whole30. Sometimes reading labels and figuring out what is compliant during a round can be confusing. For me, I had feelings that were coming up and my body was doing some things I wasn’t used to. Reaching out to people and checking resources to know I wasn’t alone or unique when I was confused by what I was experiencing helped me have confidence that Whole30 was working. Hearing that I wasn’t alone when I would spontaneously cry was comforting to know. (Side note: it was because my hormones were normalizing!)
What changed throughout your Whole30 journey?
The first few days I felt a little flu-like and fatigued, which I know is common. The first week was ok except for some bloating which was normal because our guts are changing and getting used to new foods. I do remember having trouble around day 11. I was feeling burnt out and my head told me having chocolate or sweets would make me feel better, which really wasn’t the case. It was that time that I had to journal and “indulge” in other ways, like doing some self-care instead of going to the unhealthy foods. I also reached out for support from our Facebook group and looked for resources to help me gauge if I what I was experiencing wasn’t out of the ordinary (it wasn’t). The end of the third week I was anticipating feeling a lot better. I heard about this thing called “Tiger Blood” that Whole30 participants talk about experiencing usually around day 15/16. It’s when you just start to notice higher levels of energy, better sleep, and elevated mood as a result of your body’s response to the cleaner and healthier fuel you are putting into it. I hadn’t felt any of that yet and I was anxious to see what that was like and then BAM! There it was and I felt amazing! Things did get easier as time went on. I was breaking away from poor food habits that didn’t serve me. I found that these bad habits were more tied to my emotional wellbeing, like eating late at night before bed or reaching for snacks when I was bored, than actually being hungry for nutrition. Knowing that I was making changes and identifying my NVS’s (non-scale victories) helped keep me on the right path as my Whole30 progressed.
How do you feel now that you’re done your first ever Whole30?
It’s interesting because now that I’m “done” with my Whole30, I feel like I am ready to stick with the healthy habits that I practiced during the month of September. I felt a huge shift start in my relationship with food, as well as myself. Whole30 gave me the opportunity to examine what I was putting in my body and what truly nourished and served me, as opposed to what didn’t anymore. I feel so much stronger in my resolve to concentrate on eating and buying foods that have minimal ingredients, are free from added and refined sugars, and items that are dairy free and gluten free. I want to feed myself nutritious foods that help me be the most energetic, clear headed, and highest performing version of myself that I can be! It really was the start of a number of lifestyle changes that I have chosen to practice as a result of Whole30, inside and outside of the foods that I eat.
What was your favorite meal during the month?
It’s so hard to choose just one! I really loved trying all the different dishes and was so excited for each new menu to come out every Tuesday! I think that one dish that really impressed me was the BBQ Pork Ribs and Garlic Mashed Potatoes. It was such a comfort food type meal and the sauce on the ribs was incredible! I loved all the celery root tacos and I ordered the Chorizo Scramble on multiple occasions. I do have to say that the sauces really impressed me. I love any type of sauce and was concerned that I would be bored with the food I was “allowed” to eat. That was exactly the opposite of what I experienced with Model Meals!
How did Model Meals help you during your first ever Whole30?
Wow. Model Meals helped me so much on this Whole30. It wasn’t just the fact that I got to try new and different foods with a variety of flavors profiles, but the experience helped me step out of my comfort zone in my meals and in my personal life. Having MM meals gave me the freedom to spend less time agonizing and worrying about labels and ingredients during Whole30. There are rules to follow about what is compliant and what isn’t during the program and MM took the stress and worry out of that. As a first time Whole30er, I would be lying if I said that the steep learning curve didn’t initially intimidate me. I watched a lot of other people prep for weeks ahead of time only to accidentally eat something non-compliant or break from the plan because they weren’t prepared and then have to start over. With Model Meals, I didn’t have to worry about reading confusing labels or spending hours in the grocery store because their meals are Whole30 Approved. I was also able to cut my meal prep time down to almost nothing. I did the math and on average I spent 21 minutes each day “cooking” my food, which averages out to just seven minutes each meal! That’s a huge savings of time from my regular meal prepping and cooking times each week. I didn’t have to take time to research and plan my meals, make my grocery list, take hours to shop for groceries, and then get home and try to prep and cook for the week only to feel exhausted and overwhelmed. I remember remarking to my friend that I felt so spoiled with Model Meals. Now I look back and see that that spoiled feeling wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I felt spoiled because before that, I wasn’t taking time to care for myself and invest in things that would simplify my life and schedule. The time I saved gave me more time to fill with family, friends, new self-care practices, healthy movement outside of the kitchen, and a chance to renegotiate a healthier and more balanced relationship with myself apart from food. Whole30 was about so much more than food for me and I cannot express how grateful I am to the Model Meals family for allowing be to experience the benefits and rewards, scale related and otherwise. I highly recommend exploring how Model Meals can enhance your nutrition experience, Whole30 round or not, and how it truly can be an investment in self-care. It was completely worth it to me and I am reaping the benefits far after the Whole30 program concluded. I will continue to share my Whole30 and Model Meals experience with anyone who wants to know because I have become a believer in what Model Meals and Whole30 stand for. I am on my way to identifying what Food Freedom looks like for me as a Whole30 alum.