Reflections on Whole30

I made it, you guys! I completed my first Whole30 (actually a Whole31 since August has 31 days)…and…


No joke.

That “Change your life in 30 days” line from Whole9? Absolutely true. Whole30 did change my life in so many positive ways, I can’t thank Dallas and Melissa Hartwig enough for sharing this program, the science behind it, the truth about our foods and obesity, and all of their research, knowledge, resources.

Like thousands of others, what I experienced in 30 days of putting nothing inflammatory or artificial in my body was remarkable, uplifting, and totally game-changing. Here’s an overview of what Whole30 was like for me, and exactly what happened when I re-introduced some off-limit foods.

Physical Changes

8 pounds and two dress sizes lost.
Whole30 and a regular fitness program helped me drop 2.25 inches from my waist, and more than 6 pounds of body fat since March 2012! How do I know? Well, my trainer took measurements in March and again on September 1st. She was very pleased with the results, as am I. Since March, I’ve lost 16 pounds, but half of those pounds (and the dress sizes) were lost in the month I did Whole30.

At the gym, post-Whole30. Full of energy that’s not sugar-fueled!

Be sure to read Whole30: Halfway Through if you’re interested in losing weight. Whole30 helped me discover that not all calories are created equal.

Better sleep.
No tossing and turning, no alcohol-related heatwaves. Many days I woke up before my alarm went off.

No bloating or belly rumbles.
You know that uncomfortable bloated feeling you often get after eating? On Whole30, it’s practically non-existent because your body doesn’t have to deal with food that it considers to be toxic, so there’s no war brewing in your insides!

Pure, natural, consistent energy.
Energy in the morning that is not propelled by sugar and coffee. Energy to get through the day and a late afternoon workout without any liquid help (e.g., coffee, energy drinks).

Eczema that’s almost gone.
For the past three years, I’ve had recurring eczema on my hands that has not been permanently resolved by any of the powerful topical prescriptions I’ve tried. I took a scratch test and learned that I had no known food allergies, but my allergist couldn’t rule out chemicals, alcohol, or other factors without another test. After I got the four-figure bill for the first test, I decided that I’d have to figure this out on my own. Whole30 helped me do that by removing many of the dietary triggers I suspected were the cause, so I could really pay attention to my body’s response to certain things when reintroducing them.

What I learned, part 1: I have a latent childhood soap allergy that apparently kicked up again when I started using Dial soap about three years ago—about the same time I moved overseas, experienced some health issues, consumed a lot of wine and peanut butter, and had major stress. All together, I’m guessing it was way more than my very agitated immune system could handle. I moved back home and my life stabilized, but the eczema? Still there.

I had not made the connection until one day during Whole30, while in the shower I noticed that a raw, inflamed patch of eczema just above my inner wrist burned and itched mightily when it came in contact with the soap. A light bulb went off…I knew it couldn’t be alcohol because I wasn’t having any! Thinking it was a Triclosan allergy, I switched to Dove Gentle Exfoliating soap. Still no go; after some Google-ing, I discovered it’s also a very harsh soap. Then I switched to glycerine soap—hardcore chemicals and hardeners in regular soaps are definitely aggravating to eczema and dermatitis.

What I learned, part 2: I mentioned a few posts back how much the doco Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead impacted my understanding of the power of vegetable-and-fruit based nutrients for healing and overall health. I bought a juicer and started juicing during Whole30 and have kept it up. On the days I have fresh juice, my skin is markedly clearer, and my eczema retreats entirely. Juicing (rather than blending) fruits and veggies delivers nutrients to your bloodstream the fastest way possible. For any future photo shoot or event I may need to attend, you can bet I’m going to juice at least once daily in the days prior. It is amazing for the skin!

And why did I just tell you all this? Because if you suffer from skin allergies, you may learn something from my observations…there is a definite connection between what you eat and how your skin looks/behaves as a result.

Mental Changes

Whole30 as a way of life. 
That’s my first major mental change. I have experienced my body on clean food, and really, I have no desire to go back to the way I ate before. I’ve revisited some things this week as a litmus test, and my observations have been pretty staggering (see below).

A healthier relationship with food, free from daily guilt.
Yeah, I’m one of those people who used to have regular mental anguish over that __________ (fill in the blank) I ate. When you’re eating clean, it’s easy to stay within your prescribed calorie range, feel full, and not beat yourself up about it. So refreshing.

Total food consciousness.
I spent the month educating myself, by reading the Hartwigs’ book about Whole30, It Starts With Food, and watching documentaries. What I learned changed me FOREVER. I will no longer willfully support factory-farming if I can avoid it. I will only buy and eat organic at home. I read labels on everything now! You’d be shocked at how much crap is in even seemingly “healthy” foods.

Me, post-Whole30. My once slightly uncomfortable leather dress now fits perfectly and comfortably!

What happened when I had…

It’s been nine days since I finished Whole30, and I’ve done some experimenting to see exactly what would happen when I consumed anything that wasn’t Whole30-approved. Here are the results…

The day after Whole30, I decided to try a dirty martini, my cocktail of choice prior to Whole30. I had one  martini and discovered it wasn’t all that anymore. And it made my eczema flare, like immediately. Fast-forward to the weekend, when I had two more on date night out with Hubby. Not only did they hit me like a ton of bricks (total mind erasers), I slept horribly, and by morning my eczema returned with a vengeance and brought a puffy face with it. Me and martinis, my signature drink? I think we’ll be spending a LOT less time together, if any.

Red wine.
A few days after my first martini, thinking I’ll probably be paleo/Whole30 for life, I decided to try an organic, no sulfites-added red wine. I stopped drinking red wine a couple years ago because I’d have horrible reactions to it—blotchy face, itchy skin, even some stuffiness in my nose. Beer would send me over the edge with itchies too. So this was a big test. I had two glasses, and there was no itch, no eczema flare-up for the next 24 hours. THIS IS HUGE! After also testing plain old red wine and feeling the itch, I have come to the conclusion that I may very well have developed sulfite sensitivity. I never would have figured that out without the “pure state” Whole30 creates as a baseline.

I’m convinced that sugar is the most dangerous substance to ever be introduced to the human diet. My mother had some almond bark (aka milk chocolate with almonds) that I successfully turned my nose up at for a week. On day seven off Whole30, I caved and had some. As soon as I ate one piece, I wanted more. So I had another piece. And I wanted more. And therein lies the problem with sugar, whether it’s obvious that you are eating it or not: YOU. ALWAYS. WANT. MORE.   And then you feel guilty and crappy once the last bit has been swallowed. When I see cookies, cakes, and all that disgusting manufactured food, this is what I now see in my head:

mark of the beast (the sugar dragon)

Will I never have sugar again? Probably not. Will I only have it on extra special occasions? Perhaps. Letting the sugar dragon back out of its cage is just not worth it!

I have not resumed drinking coffee daily (yes!) or having any cow milk at home. But I did have a skinny vanilla latte at Starbucks, and within 20 minutes, had a total bloated, gurgling belly reaction. I also had about two ounces of feta cheese on a salad one day, and it didn’t seem to bother me. I will still avoid cheese for the most part—perhaps just having a small amount of goat cheese or feta here and there. Milk is something I’m definitely planning to avoid forever. I make coconut milk smoothies at home now and they are just as good if not better. Goodbye dairy bloating. I don’t need that!

I’m wrapping this post up at the end of a weekend of that included nearly all of the above, and you know what I feel like? Chunky and bloated and blech. Like I used to feel before Whole30. Again, I don’t need that!

Whole30 for October 2012

That’s my other news! I’m doing Whole30 again in October to support my mother, who will also be doing Whole30 (I finally convinced her!). If you’ve been contemplating it, why not join in next month and see how Whole30 will change your life too!

Considering doing Whole30? These are all my posts about it in case you want to read more:

  1. Smarter. Better. Stronger. The Whole30.
  2. Whole30: The First Three Days
  3. Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead
  4. Whole30: Days 4-7
  5. Whole30: Halfway Through
  6. Get Started on Getting Healthy


  1. Congrats Vani, you look great. It’s amazing how bringing certain foods or beverages brought back into the mix changes how a body feels. What a wealth of knowledge you have to know what works for your body and what doesn’t and how to have certain foods in moderation or not at all. Funny thing is that fruit and vegetables can make me feel bloated so I have to watch how much fruit I eat. Also, it is so interesting how certain soaps react to our skin. I can’t tolerate dial soap because it also makes me itch and the smell gets to me too.

    1. Hi JT, thanks! Yes, there are some veggies that will bloat you, and I tend to avoid them (broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms). Well, I never deny myself mushrooms, but I’ve found broccoli to be absolutely brutal and have quit eating it.

      Dial soap, it turns out, is highly irritating to a LOT of people because of the strong fragrance and Triclosan. We should all avoid using it!

      1. I totally missed this comment when I read this the first time. Broccoli and mushrooms make you bloated? Man I have those all the time. What about sweet potatoes for you? I love them but I get bloated from roasted SP. I knew members of the “nightshade” family were supposed to be inflammatory (tomatoes, eggplant, etc.) but missed broccoli and mushrooms. I feel a ton better if I cut out gluten but cutting out beans and quinoa entirely is rough.

        I like What I Gather as a recipe resource – most of her stuff is good.

  2. This is great, V! I’m so happy for you. For the past few years I’ve tried to make healthy food choices, e.g. as little sugar as possible, lots of fruits & veg, more water, etc. (and of course no alcohol as I never drank anyway!) and it really does make a marked difference in the way I look and feel.

    One question : what’s the difference between juicing and blending? I make smoothies several times a week but I’m now concerned that I’m blending rather than juicing! :/

    1. Hi Leia, thank you so much!

      Blending obviously includes fruit or veggie fiber and pulp, while juicing extracts JUST the juice. A good rule of thumb: blend berries, bananas, and spinach. Juice things like kale, apples, carrots, ginger, cucumber, celery, and citrus fruits. It takes quite a lot of produce to create about 12 ounces of juice. When Hubby and I create juice, we use about 4-6 large carrots, 2 apples, 1-2 oranges, a celery stick or cucumber, and a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger.

      And, if you’re using a blender, you are blending, not juicing. Blending isn’t bad…I do both. But for real nutrient absorption from veggies, you need to juice.

      1. Ohh, I had no idea! I guess I’ve been blending all this time. But hubby & I have been talking about getting a juicer, so maybe I’ll put that on our weekend to-do list! 🙂

  3. Wow, V you look increbible in that leather dress! I am really impressed by what you’ve learnt from this experience and sharing it with us – esp. part 1, wonder what would happen if I cut out peanut butter (which I love btw) and red wine or any wine… Interesting to learn what you experience after the whole30 too. It’s incredible what our bodies can and can’t tolerate.
    re: eczema, I suffered from it as a child, but found that Pear glycerine soap was pretty good and also now – Korres soaps. Also laundry detergents can have the same effect on eczema too…

    1. Hi koukla, thank you! Will keep the pear glycerine soap in mind next time I run out. I seriously ate about one jar of peanut butter a week for years, prior to this year. My whole system seriously runs much better without it, even though I love it and miss it. You might try skipping it and wine for a week and see how you feel. I bet you’ll definitely notice a difference.

    1. Yes, lipstick AND FULL MAKEUP in the gym, always! I am totally not kidding! I’m that vain. I never go anywhere without lashes and lippie. Not even the pool.

      Thanks, lovely. Hope you made it back home to you hubby safe and sound. BIG LOVE to you too! xo

  4. Hi V:

    Because of your earlier posts, you inspired me to give the Whole30 a try. I first became familiar with paleo eating back in January this year, but viewed it as some hocus pocus next fad diet. LOL But after reading your first post and then going to the Whole9 website and reading and researching (I ordered the book “It Starts with Food”–what an education!) and after reading your 15 day post, I thought I would give Whole30 a try…I started August 20th and still have 9 days to go and have already lost 8 pounds and am feeling remarkably in control of my eating! People just don’t understand! EVERYONE must do this! I am free from cravings, no longer a slave to all the processed junk! And I’ve already decided to make Whole30 my way of life after my 30 days end on the 19th…I have no desire to return to all the junk I was eating; I simply do not want to eat those foods and what’s even more awesome is that I DON’T MISS ‘EM! LOL I never thought I could be free in this way! I ordered Melissa’s book “Well Fed”–it’s filled with wonderfully DELICIOUS paleo recipes–you gotta check it out! So I want to sincerely thank you for sharing your journey and helping me become a believer!

    1. Hi Shante, that’s super! Thanks for your comment!

      Yes, I have a copy of Well Fed too. I’ve actually done the brining and the best chicken recipe, and it was excellent! And I agree, I wish everyone would do Whole30 at least once. It is really eye-opening, as you are discovering. Keep it up and let me know how you feel after you’re done.

  5. First off, you look amazing. I mean seriously, seriously, seriously amazing. Well done!

    I absolutely plan to give this a try once baby is out… and I am seriously looking forward to it.

    The part about the red wine really intrigued me. I haven’t had red wine in years because it always results in me breaking out in hives (& yes I have tried the organic/ sulfite free stuff). Will be interesting to see how it impacts me.

    Congrats again!!!

    1. Hi sweetie! I think I have a sulfite sensitivity. Some people have a full-blown major and potentially deadly allergy and get the major hives. Also, the tannins can be quite aggravating. I actually quit drinking red for a couple years and switched to white, but it has sulfites too. Dang near everything seems to. Maybe see after the baby see if a really pure organic, no-sulfites added wine works for you.

      I know for me, any kind of alcohol seems to exacerbate my eczema. Since March, I’ve basically dialed it down to a few drinks on the weekend. Now it’s going to be even more sporadic. Next month when I do Whole30 again, my husband is also going alcohol-free with me. He’s not a big fan of it anymore either, and I imagine after another month dry, we’ll really nip the feeling that we need to drink to entertain ourselves in the bud.

  6. OK…you look AMAZING…and if you are feeling great, healing ailments…sounds like a win win!
    I could never do it…me and sugar are besties, lol. All things in moderation, I suppose.
    You in that metallic dress is just NOT FAIR…I am 2 weeks post baby and need to get my ass to the GYM! Exercise is something I can totally get behind!
    Kudos to you for sticking to it girl.

    1. Thanks, Carly! You’ll be back to your usual size in no time, I’m sure. Yeah, everything in moderation is a great philosophy…unfortunately I have an all-or-nothing personality, so that rarely works for me!

  7. Wow, I’ve been enthusiastically following your progress V. I have to say you look stunning in your leather dress and I’m glad you totally smashed your goals. My friend swears by a ‘green’ drink once a week, he grabs as much organic green produce and whacks it in a blender (I think) then drinks it. He says after one of these drinks he feels like he can take on the world.

    I totally agree sugar is evil, I try and stick to dark chocolate as my only source of ‘artificial sugar’ however I’ve moved up from 85% cocoa content to 90% and compared to eating milk chocolate I’m satisfied after just one square.

    I also find after ‘cheating’ that I get uncomfortably ‘full’ and bloated something that I never get when eating whole foods.

    1. Hey Arash, thank you! I’m sure you know exactly how I feel given that you’ve been exploring paleo for quite some time now. I still need to try some recipes from Nom Nom Paleo!

  8. V – This post is phenom! Kudos to you and finishing off your first month.. I unfortunately had to take a little detour from mine thanks to NYFW but will be back at it this week and sticking to it for the next month.
    It’s amazing what Food can do TO you or FOR you. So happy for you that you’ve discovered and resolved so many of your health mysteries. Cheers (with a glass full of fresh juice, that is.)


  9. What to go Vahni, you look absolutely incredible! I’ve been slowly doing it week by week, and starting next week without starches so far so good as far as energy, etc. Well done … it seems to have been worth it with simply providing a new perspective and awareness of what goes in our bodies as a bonus you’re inspiring others! Thank you! /Madison

  10. V, I’m incredibly proud of you and completely blown away that you’re going to do it again! You look great, I’m so happy that you feel amazing, as you deserve to! Thanks for keeping us updated every step of the way, it’s been very inspiring!

  11. V, I’m thrilled to hear your journey was one filled with positivity and healing. Question for you…now that you are eating close to earth have you noticed a change in your intuition? Being more attune with your *gut* feelings?
    For me the longer I stayed on the program and detoxed more levels of junk I became very atune and aware. Curious if you had such an experience.
    Hugs XO Mish

    1. Hey foxy lady! How are you?!

      I do feel clearer-headed, I have to admit. I don’t know if my intuition is more sharp, but I can tell you I believe more strongly in internal, mental power than ever before. for everyone who wines about what they can’t give up, I say YOU CAN, cause, damn it, IT’S ONLY 30 DAYS! Course, I’m preaching to the choir here. But yeah, mentally, without the toxins and regular imbibing, I feel better than ever, inside and out. I’m actually looking forward to doing this again in October to really cement these changes in my life.

      Big hug to you.

  12. Wow vahni! I’m so impressed. It sounds amazing, but it also sounds very hard, especially the alcohol. I really do like my one beer at dinner. Sigh. Still, I’m thinking about it for sure.

    1. Thank you, Cyrillynn! Hope you are well. Why don’t you join the group of us doing Whole30 starting October 1st?! It’s perfect timing for a pre-holiday detox and slim-down.

  13. I have been reading up on Whole30 and have wanted to start as well. I would love to join in your October challenge! I am actually starting tomorrow with cutting out dairy and red wine…I too suffer from eczema (on my neck) and I’m pretty sure one of those, if not both, is the culprit because nothing works. Thanks for all of your info on this, I am excited for the challenge!

  14. WOW! Congrats on the transformation so far! You look great! Totally jealous!! I am glad I stopped by. I am coming up on my 34th soon and am thinking of ways to change my poor eating habits before I turn into a mess lol. I really need to snap out of my lazy-poor-eating-ways, get motivated (thank you) and make some changes – even if it’s just baby steps. This is inspiring!

    BTW have you ever heard of “He and She Eat Clean”? – I know Whitney and OMG her transformation is incredible. Just curious! Check out the site if you haven’t heard. 😉

    Keep going! Best of luck,

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