Whole 30 – Day 16-21


The food’s still good. The menu planning is still working. My pants continue to get baggier, and by Day 21 I was shouting to anyone who would listen, “The Whole 30 FREAKING RULES.” It hasn’t been easy every single step — both Garrett and I have each had an anxiety dream about accidentally eating something “off limits” (mine was an Iced Mocha with whipped cream, his was Chicken Wings and Beer) which is sort of hilarious and very demonstrative of our level of commitment to this project — but overall it has been really eye opening.

One of the things that the Whole 9 folks are famous for — their tag line, if you will — is “Let us change your life.” Listen, that sounds lovely and all, but since I went into this little experiment already understanding the nuts and bolts of Paleo, feeling pretty confident in my choices, and not really needing to be convinced of anything, I wasn’t really expecting my life to be changed. I mean WOO WOO — if it changes someone else’s life, great. Prooooooobably isn’t going to change mine much.

You see where this is going don’t you?

God I’m such a smug, stubborn ass sometimes.

Twenty One days has changed my life. And there are still 9 days to go! And I’m actually excited about it. What a nut job, I am. I’m trying to figure out how to succinctly sum things up but it’s hard. It’s an entire experience and it’s not black and white. I’m not having one specific light bulb moment that I can share in a soundbite, but if I had to force myself to say one it would be this:

Managing Little Things Has Made Such A Big Difference.

It’s very easy to ignore the little things. To say, “Oh a few cocktails with friends, a handful of chocolate chips every night — those things are just small, they don’t matter in the long run.” But it’s also very easy to get SO caught up in the little things. “How many carbs are in these carrots? Maybe I should be eating less fruit. Maybe I should fast. Maybe I should eat 5 meals. Maybe I should try…” But doing an overwhelming amount of either of those things can really get you off course over time. It didn’t happen to me over night, but the combination of not thinking/overthinking allowed me to meander a bit while still feeling productive instead of moving directly and progressively towards my goal.

The goal for me has always been to get healthy, lose body fat, prime my body physically and hormonally so I can have a cute little baby with my very adorable partner in crime. It’s been amazing how freeing this experience has been from both of those thinking connundrums, and it is remarkable the amount of progress that I’ve made towards all of my goals. The commitment to go for 30 days without consuming booze, dairy or any sort of added sugar (in addition to the regular Paleo parameters) is tough. No honey, no molasses, no maple syrup. No glass of wine on Saturday night. No making technically Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies. It’s a little bit Draconian at first. But along the way, there was a tipping point where it became freeing. No need to manage the moderation.

And in the meantime, because I was already adhering to the Whole 30 guidelines, I allowed myself to spend a month on just “Eating food that makes me healthier” with no focus on macronutrient ratios or specific timing or combinations. That meant sweet potatoes if I felt like it, without wondering if I had worked out hard enough. Fruit if I wanted a little touch of something sweet, or to feel like I’m having a treat. More chicken at lunch if I wanted it. A little slab of ghee on my broccoli. Just consuming food that does good work. Not overthinking it.

I gave myself a 30 day window for my brain to be off the hook. The only requirement was to listen to what my body wanted. And what do you know, without giving your body little hits of disruptive things like sugar and booze and cheese here and there that confuse its innate signals — your body tells you pretty clearly what it wants. It is really freaking smart, actually, and works with an alarming amount of efficiency that can totally be trusted. I’m humbled by it, and have really felt in awe of how the body works when you give it good, real food and don’t try to outsmart it. It is recalibration in it’s truest form, with no need to only drink liquids, feel hungry, or eat during specific windows. It’s been 21 days of eating with my heart and not my head.


Now…is this feasible in the long run forever? No, frankly. Not for me, at least. Because life happens, and no matter how flowery and happy I feel about this whole experience right now, I don’t plan to live the rest of my life without sugar or booze or the occasional nose dive into a bowl of corn chips (WITH SALSA!). I plan to see friends and socialize freely and make the best decisions I can in the moment.

In September I plan to BBQ with my family, pick up my wine shipment with Garrett and enjoy some tasting. I plan to make a Paleo Apple Crumble when the air starts to get crisper and the tree branches in the foothills get heavy. All of that is going to happen, and that is okay. But now I have the muscle memory of what consistent, good food decisions feel like. And when you’ve got that, it’s hard to let it go.

What I’m sure of, is that for a while, something is reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally going to have to be worth it to derail me from all this goodness. I imagined myself penciling in Mexican food and feeling relief at being able to drink again, but honestly I don’t feel like any of that right now. EVEN MY GLASS OF WINE…I’M NOT EVEN COUNTING THE MINUTES. I swear. I would not lie to you about wine. I love wine.

I’m sure that I will get to a point again where I will feel the need for my body to reset. Life is long, I don’t have any desire to get through it perfectly and without deviation. I will not always make the best decisions all of the time. But now I know that I am only 30 days away from inspiration. 21 days, even at the most. From feeling like my best self. And I can do all that without to much grumbling really. And knowing that, has given me confidence and a security blanket that I didn’t even know I needed.

And it has definitely changed the game.

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38 Responses to Whole 30 – Day 16-21

  1. Kristabella says:

    I love these posts! I just started Paleo-ish a few weeks ago. And I’m loving it so far. I’m debating the Whole 30, but I want to do Paleo for a few months first to get myself used to it before jumping in whole hog. (Also, football season is upon us and I don’t know if I can sit in a bar for 6 hours with no alcohol.)

    But I love how real your posts are. I mean, it has to be hard at times and I appreciate that you tell us that. Because come on, no booze for 30 days???

    You’re kicking ass and taking names and I love it!

    Keep it up!

    • Holly says:

      Paleo-ish is an awesome step! I actually moved forward pretty slowly for a while before I actually took the plunge and while I definitely think at some point it is worth being strict for 14-30 days, I think it’s smart in the beginning to make small changes. It helps things feel less drastic, and makes you feel confident in your food choices. Best of luck to you! And if you need advice or encouragement, let me know.

  2. Bree says:

    “the combination of not thinking/overthinking allowed me to meander a bit while still feeling productive instead of moving directly and progressively towards my goal. ”

    Wow, that is totally me! And it was good to hear it, and realize it for what it is, to FEEL productive, but not really BE productive. Thanks for the enlightenment on that one! I’ve really enjoyed reading about your progress with this, and I look forward to one day either crossing over to paleo at the least or even trying the Whole 30. Right now I know I’m not mentally ready for it, but I do know that I will be soon. So what I’m trying to say is that I enjoy these posts and they are motivating!

    • Holly says:

      So glad you’re liking them Bree. If it makes you feel any better I read about and investigated Paleo for a good year or two before ever taking the plunge. Mostly because I felt like someone would have to pry the sourdough from my cold, dead hands. Take your time. It makes it easier, I think, if you do end up taking the plunge because you’ve given it some thought, made some plans, thought of a few strategies. If you’re going to make a big change, may as well set yourself up for success, right? πŸ™‚

  3. Leah says:

    I have been doing a paleo challenge this month so I am right there with you. It has been amazing but some nights I dream about eating an entire box of girl scout Samoa cookies. Today is day 22 for me. Stay strong!!

  4. Kristin says:

    I am on day 22 and you took the words RIGHT out of my mouth. I feel awesome and want to scream it from some rooftop somewhere. I will admit I was hoping to drop a few pounds along the way (which yes, I did cheat and weigh myself…more than once…but not more than once per day…LOL) but if my head stays this strong and food issues remain in the background versus at the fore front of every day, I don’t care if I stay this weight forever. I am healthy and above all, happy. Thanks for your post!

    • Holly says:

      Maybe we can shout it from the roof tops together? I feel like we will look less crazy if there are two of us???? πŸ™‚

  5. sizzle says:

    I like the idea of a reset and appreciate the realism with which you present the experience to us. Whole 30 is something I want to do but as you said, you kind of have to be prepared- as in get your calendar in order too. With the upcoming wedding, surgery, etc. it just doesn’t seem like I could plan it well enough to be successful. But someday I will! For now I just want to get back to being more strict Paleo. The stress and busy-ness of life has derailed me a bit, sadly. You’re always an inspiration!

    • Holly says:

      You know, I think that’s paramount. You have to *want* to make the time to plan and commit. It’s a big deal, I think. It’s why it took me years to even try it, so I don’t blame you. Preparation is the key to success, I’m sure of it and you have a lot on the plate right now to get prepared for. Food can wait, just do your best πŸ™‚

  6. Mallory says:

    These have been really interesting and informative posts–thank you! I clicked over to the Whole 30 website, but I haven’t found the… explanation per se, of why legumes are bad, and grains, etc. Is there something I can read that explains the thinking behind eliminating these items?

    • Holly says:

      Here are two good ones:

      The Legume Manifesto: http://whole9life.com/2011/04/legume-manifesto/

      The Grain Manifesto: http://whole9life.com/2010/03/the-grain-manifesto/

      I was sort of leery of both of these years ago because I spent so much time eating “healthy whole grains and beans” but it is NOTABLE how much of a difference they have made in my life by actually avoiding them. Food for thought, regardless. There’s lots of info out there about sprouted grains being ok, etc and I’m working my way through all of that at the moment to, just to see what food experiment I can do next πŸ™‚ ha. But for now, omitting them from my diet has made a huge difference.

  7. AndreAnna says:

    I LOVE how not once – ONCE – did you mention the scale or the weight. You, my friend, are the cat’s meow. (And his hairy balls if he’s not fixed.)

    I think, like you said, that this kind of lifestyle is not a long-term adherence, but rather a great reset and “recalibration” as you said. To bring us back, mind and body, to what is good, true, and clean.

    I heart you, cat testes and all.

    (And now I win the day for the weirdest comment ever)

  8. Tasha says:

    Thanks for sharing your feelings! I remember my first Whole30 and I was shocked at how well the body works when you listen to it! The Whole30 is a tool for life! It is not something that would be realistic to do all of the time, but when you fall off it can help you reset your body! Keep going strong and ease back into things after the 30 days. You don’t want day 31 to be full of everything you couldn’t eat for 30 days, the results will not be pretty!

    • Holly says:

      I totally agree — I have no desire to dive off the deep end on day 31, and I really thought the temptation would be there. TOTALLY ISN’T. Things feel great! It’s nice to know you can always be 30 days away from feeling ideal!

  9. Mariah says:

    You’re super inspiring… I love this post!

    There’s been too much traveling these last few weeks, weird one-time circumstances, s’mores, my mom’s homemade lasagna (only spelt noodles, but still), friendly neighbors with their chocolate chip zucchini bread, etc, etc. Goodness knows I won’t weigh myself now (because, ouch, that’s a digger to my pride), but my pants sure feel tight. Ugh!

    I know September is going to be abnormal too, with a couple 4-day weekends at church conventions. I can bring some of my own food, but not everything. However, if I start right now, I could maybe eek out 30 clean days before the crazy starts again…? Hmm.

    Thanks for the inspiration… and keep up the great work! Only a few more days until you can relax with your wine! πŸ˜‰

    • Holly says:

      Oh Mariah, I totally get it. This is life.


      I remember reading a recent Whole 9 post before Melissa was going on vacation and she said she always tries to eat super duper clean before indulging. Maybe give yourself the gift of a few days of awesomeness before the craziness.

      Luckily no one is grading you. It’s all about balancing the insanity right?

  10. This is such a great post, Holly! This sentence “No need to manage the moderation.” is exactly why I follow the Whole30 guidelines 90% of the time. It’s just so much more liberating for me to remove the question marks.

    I’m really glad you’re having a kickass experience. Right on!

    • Holly says:

      Oh seriously! For that reason alone I told Garrett I never want to stop. I think that may have freaked him out a little, but it’s so true. The moderation part is a slippery slope for me, but he deals much better with those types of scenarios. Kick Ass is right…this has been the best!

  11. We don’t throw that “change your life” around casually, you know. πŸ˜‰ While the life-changing isn’t a 100% guarantee, we’re thrilled that it’s happened to you. Thanks for sharing this article with us – we’ve posted it front and center on our Whole9 FB page.

    Melissa & Dallas

    • Holly says:


      As a person who is prone to hyperbole, I was like “Yeah, yeah, yeah. This should be interesting. I’ll try it.” But man, you two are smart cookies. I loved the book and everything in it and am so glad have found such great info on your site! Thanks for stopping by and supporting mine πŸ™‚

      Life: Changed. (Truly.)

      (And it was a pretty darn good life before, so thanks!)

  12. Cat says:

    Wow, Holly! I came here from Whole9’s facebook page because the blurb they posted from here could have come from my own mouth. I had almost the identical experience with my Whole30. I was also already paleo and didn’t expect major changes either. I am now one month post-Whole30 and still sticking to it pretty exclusively. There have been a few indiscretions, but I’m not ready to go whole-hog on anything because I love too much how I feel! My brain is finally free!!

    Anyway, best of luck with your last week. Enjoy it!

    PS – I’ll shout from the rooftop with you as well. Maybe if there are three of us, we can start a trend? πŸ˜‰

    • Holly says:

      Thanks Cat! Yes, definitely shouting in threes is waaaaay less crazy! πŸ™‚ Thanks for stopping by!

  13. Jeremy says:

    Awesome review, and I love your attitude and perspective on it all. I really like your thought that now you’re always 21 or 30 days away from being inspired and feeling well. I think that’s really important and empowering for the rest of your life, particularly since we so often beat ourselves up about being unhealthy for periods of time.

  14. Cyndi says:

    I’m starting whole30 on 9/1, so I’ve been wandering around online looking for bits of wisdom from those currently going through the experience. My big take away from your (really great, by the way!) post is that I’ll be eating with “my heart and not my head.” So, so looking forward to that! The heart always knows best!

  15. I’m doing the Whole30 too and have been blogging about it as well. Even though I started out Paleo a few months ago, this has still been a challenge, but I welcome it. I disagree with the readers who want to wait until a good time in their life…it’s never going to be a good time. As they say in the book, start today. I did this through MY BIRTHDAY! Not my choice because I’m doing the challenge with my gym, but it WAS my choice to not eat cake or any other sweet ON MY BIRTHDAY. This was huge for me because my philosophy is that EVERYONE should have cake on their birthday (and invite me over for some too). I also had to attend several parties (with champagne, my favorite) and a road trip during this challenge and I did it! Yes, living life during Whole30, it can be done πŸ™‚

  16. Meredith says:

    Wow! I could have written this post, almost word-for-word (minus the “partner in crime” part.) I’ve been Paleo for a while, but I’m doing the Whole30 for August and I’m seeing the same kind of changes. I, too, am a WINE GIRL, and I plan to bring it back into my life in September, but I’m not sure about the rest. Like you said, the strictness and not managing macro-details is absolutely freeing. Thanks for the great post!

  17. Feeling exactly the same way, 100%. Whole30 IS amazing, and there are parts of it I will absolutely retain after…like I finally kicked my Splenda habit, and I can actually wake up without coffee. But like you, life goes on, and it’s meant to be enjoyed. The great thing is that now we have this little secret weapon called Whole30.I’m even contemplating starting every new year with a Whole30 to detox the holidays and get my brain in order.

  18. I’m so glad I happened to stumble upon this post. My boyfriend and I decided tonight that we would give those Whole30 thing a try, and I was already feeling like a failure for thinking about booze and sweets and how I could never imagine a life without them. Thank you so much for your honest and refreshing POV on this! Can’t wait to get started…and I won’t beat myself up any longer for embracing my liquor love every now and then πŸ™‚

  19. Yay, Holly!

    I have to admit, I’m smug and stubborn about things like this too…

    I LOVE your approach of “Eating food that makes me healthier” with no focus on macronutrient ratios or specific timing or combinations.” That’s how I feel about everyday life.

    I toyed with doing a Whole30 this past month, but decided instead to focus on making food decisions from a place of love. It sounds like that’s your long term plan as well πŸ˜‰

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  21. lindsay says:

    love this, love your perspective!

  22. Chloe says:

    So I was just wondering if you weigh out everything in your meals. I’ve been paleo for a year and a half, but lately the weight loss has stalled and I wasn’t sure if I needed to start weighing things out. I feel like once I start weighing I start to get neurotic about things. Just was wondering if you has any advice. Thanks in advance !!

    • Holly says:

      Hey Chloe — I don’t weight ANYTHING. It makes me crazy. Weight Watchers PTSD, sorry, just can’t do it. Back in April (somewhere in the archives) I did some Zone Diet experimentation just for fun (ha! “FUN!) and not only did it make me crazy, but I gained 7 lbs. So. Not a fan of the weighing and measuring. At all. Ever. OMG HATE HATE HATE.

      I was wondering, before starting the Whole 30, if that was the direction I should take. Get back to weighing and measuring, maybe my portions were out of whack, since my weight loss had also stalled a bit. But I gave myself this month off from thinking about it, just decided to eat what my body wants to eat, and have lost 12 lbs. (shhhhh! I’m not supposed to weigh myself yet, but I couldn’t stop myself today. It’s Day 28, I’m allowed!)

      Anyway, give yourself a month of really strict eating (but as much as you want whenever you want, just no marginal foods at all) and see what happens. I’d bet you would get results. At least that was my experience. And it has been super motivating! Best of luck!

  23. Chloe says:

    Holy crap! Congrats on the weight loss!! Super motivation now to inspect where I need to clean up my eating (and drinking). Also, so beyond happy about the no weighing thing. Hope the rest of your whole30 is great!

  24. PaulaB says:

    Holly, I want to join you guys on the rooftops or the mountaintops! This was my first Whole30 after a year and a half of Paleo, and my experience was similar to yours.

    Chloe, my weight loss was also stalled for almost a year after losing 50 lbs in 6 months. The Whole30 has gotten it going again…with NO WEIGHING or measuring! Just pay attention (at least in the beginning, till you get used to it) to the recommended portions as detailed in It Starts With Food or the Whole9 website and, when in doubt, eat more vegetables instead of nuts and fruit.

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