5 Things I Learned From Failing Whole30

I'm not a medical professional nor nutrition expert- clearly! I'm just an average girl sharing my story about food and how it affects me and my family. Take it with a grain of salt. Ha. Get it? Food and salt. #seewhatididthere

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that at the end of July, I started the Whole30 program. Why? Primarily, I wanted to "reset" my body. At the end of May, I completely stopped breastfeeding Little Lady June which ended a three-and-a-half year trek of back-to-back pregnancy, nursing, pregnancy, nursing. Phew. My body pretty much hated me for that and by July, I was a hot mess. Hormones raging, weight gain, hair loss, still no cycle (since 2011!), fatigue and general unease in my own body.

So, I wanted to reset. Get my body back on track. After doing some research (here lies my error, per David... I considered Pinterest my "research"... I did read the actual Whole30 website but, truly, not a lot of it is scientifically backed), I decided the Whole30 plan would be a perfect fit. It promises to "reset" your body and get you back in check by eliminating many different foods, including sugar, grains, legumes and dairy. The plan is to consume only whole, non-processed foods. Sounds easy, right?

Well, 30 days later, I can honestly report that I failed. Badly. But I can't say that I'm disappointed that I failed Whole30. Why? Because I learned from it. Isn't that an old saying? Learn from your mistakes? Yeah, that. I'm not saying Whole30 was a mistake, but it definitely wasn't a good fit for me. That's right, I'm glad I failed Whole30 because it taught me some really great things about myself and my nutrition. Let me explain.

1. In preparing for and participating in a few full days of Whole30 and a few weeks of a partial Whole30 plan, I learned SO much about some important nutritional facts. For example, sugar. That son of a gun is in everything. The hippie natural peanut butter I spend $6 on at the grocery store? It has sugar in it. Second ingredient. Our unsweetened almond milk? Sugar (in the form of the ingredient carrageenan). Ketchup. Salad dressing. You name it: sugar, sugar, sugar. While I thought we were maintaining a balanced, low-sugar diet, I was actually filling our family's diet with sugar on a daily basis! Whole30 taught me to cut ingredients like hidden sugar out of the staples of our diet. While I disagree with cutting sugar altogether as Whole30 requires, it was so helpful to learn about where those hidden sugars are and dramatically reduce the amount of sugar I ate each day. I sleep better at night and generally feel better without a crap ton of sugar in my diet (that's a medical term, duh). And now I don't feel bad slipping the occasional cupcake into the mix, knowing I'm cutting sugar elsewhere. Another great nutritional fact I finally picked up through Whole30 is protein for breakfast. It's a game changer! Instead of being hungry at 10 AM, a nice chicken sausage + avocado or eggs keeps me full and feeling awake through the morning.

2. Our family ate pretty healthy already. The main goal of Whole30 is to step away from processed foods and stick to a "whole" foods plan. And I was pretty interested to realize that our family does eat mainly whole foods. Without dairy in our diet (because of H's food allergy), our main processed food is carbs. We cut some of that with substitutes like lettuce buns (hello, my children love lettuce, I had no clue) and fruit instead of crackers for a snack. David and I are really guilty of giving the kids processed snacks- animal crackers are so much easier in the car than washing, cutting and cleaning up fruit, ya know what I mean? So that was a huge blemish in our diet that was rectified during my kinda-Whole30-plan. The rest of our regular meals- typically meat and veggies- is pretty compliant! Below is sampling of the foods I ate during the challenge, which are all pretty common meals in our diet anyway.

3. Telling me that a certain type of food is off-limits only makes me want to eat it more. This is totally a mental thing but it's true. Whole30 has a big list of items that are off-limits, including a few things that are relatively healthy staples in our diet: peanuts, beans, soy products, quinoa. I am sure the Whole30 folks have great reasons for prohibiting these products (to help people determine allergies or sensitivities I believe is the main reason), but it felt like an arbitrary distinction for us. So I quickly added those items back in, which led to my fast descent into Whole30 failure. Also, I basically live or die for my afternoon coffee/sweet snack and pretty much cried when I couldn't have apple + peanut butter + Enjoy Life chocolate chips or Kashi Cinnamon Waffle + Enjoy Life chocolate chips (my two favorite snacks... you see the running chocolate chip theme??!). Which is crazy because those are relatively healthy options. So I ate them. FAIL!

4. I really needed to exercise. As I embarked on this Whole30 adventure, I realized that I was paying so much attention to my diet and how it affected my body but I wasn't focusing on exercise at all. When I officially "quit" Whole30 after a few days, I pledged to quasi-continue the plan but also to immediately incorporate exercise, as well. David is currently training for a marathon and is super active, so he's inspired me to get my butt in gear. I joined a gym and while you won't find me hogging the treadmill or pumping iron (is that a thing people say??! side note: one of my best girls just informed me that pumping iron is actually very vital to our health and something I should prioritize... which I will now! thanks for the info, Court!), I am attending 2-3 classes a week which I love. Yoga, kick boxing, spin, step, all kinds of good stuff. And I feel great! Whole30 and my attempt at feeling better through my diet made me realize how important it was to exercise, too.

5. You've got to do what works for you. I have read so many glowing reviews of the Whole30 plan and I'm truly happy for those folks. But personally, a life without a cold beer and peanut butter just ain't worth living, even for thirty days. While that's slightly dramatic, it is important to know what works for you. Because of HDawg's severe dairy allergy, we already have so many food restrictions in our life, it really doesn't feel healthy to continue to add in more limitations. Especially when I'm realizing we already make so many healthy choices already. That's why I tweaked the plan, to work for me.

So there you have it. I definitely FAILED the Whole30 challenge, but I'm glad I did. As an update, I am feeling great. I'm more toned (thanks to exercising!), sleeping more soundly (goodbye sugar!), started my cycle (sorry if my father-in-law or someone else is reading and doesn't want to hear that, ha!) and feel like a new woman. If you're feeling like you need a reset, I strongly encourage you to try the Whole30 OR, more importantly, your own version of it. Do what works best for you and your family and make sure your choices are long-term and lasting! Don't feel bad if you fail, too, as long as you are making changes that are best for you. We can be Beauty School Drop Outs together!


  1. High five, recent Beauty School Dropout here too!! I attempted to start Whole 30 a few weeks ago and also only made it a few days on strict Whole 30. After just a few days it was way more meat than I am used to eating or really agree with eating plus I was really craving green smoothies and hummus and I thought - wait, why would I not eat those things?? A week or so later we had to travel for my husband's grandmother's funeral and it just wasn't important to worry about what I was eating, you know? Plus whole wheat bread and peanut butter are often the healthiest options at my MIL's house so you gotta do what you gotta do ;)

    Anyways, thanks for this post! Love reading your home and family updates.

  2. I couldn't get past the no beans thing when I was reading their site. But it is insane that there is so much sugar in everything. I was trying to find sugar free ketchup for my kids. Yeah that was pointless.

  3. You can definitely learn a lot by doing the Whole30! Jay and I did it last fall and once you make it through the first two weeks, it gets tons easier. We had huge success and have been able to add back in our favorites (they coach you through how to do that) like wine, beer, quinoa, even the occasional pasta dish without it jeopardizing our success. Combined weight loss of about 45 lbs, sleeping better, more energy, digestive systems on track, thinking clearer, many aches and pains gone -- we're big fans, can you tell? Glad you've figured out what works for you... Kudos!! xo Heidi

  4. What's that old saying? "Everything in moderation." It really is true! And, eating a variety of foods is also essential. If you think about it, years ago, that is how people ate (there were no drive throughs)...and they were healthier for it.

  5. Love this post! I need to cut sugar and alcohol and exercise more and then after a long day, I'm all like, meh, I need my wine!! #sorrynotsorry Good for you though...you look awesome and glad you're feeling good too!

  6. Awesome. Love this post and the honesty. I'm not a fan of the whole30 fad for mostly all the reasons you pointed out. It's great if you truly eat like crap and need to get back to basics, but for people who mainly eat whole and healthy foods it's just not really necessary (in my unprofesh opinion). I just think most of these things are big fads and aren't sustainable, but it's great if you learned something, I think I actually learned a few things from your post!


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