What Doing the Whole30 Is Really Like

Want to improve your health and change your relationship with food? According to Melissa and Dallas Hartwig’s Whole30 program, by eliminating processed foods, grains, dairy, soy, legumes, sugar, artificial sweeteners and alcohol from your diet for just 30 days, you’ll “put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system.”

The idea behind the program is simple: By ditching unhealthy, inflammatory and symptom-triggering foods for a full 30 days, you allow your body’s systems to heal and reset. Not only have tens of thousands of people tried it, but according to the Whole30 site, 95 percent of those people lost weight and improved their body composition without counting or restricting calories. Many also reported more energy, better sleep, improved focus and happier moods.

Sure, it sounds fantastic, but what’s the reality of spending a month without some of your favorite foods? According to Andrew Ferroggiaro, a 47-year-old attorney in Portland, Oregon, “surprisingly easy.”

Why Do the Whole30?

People embark on the Whole30 for a myriad of reasons—everything from food allergies to skin problems to weight issues. Although he started his Whole30 on January 1, Ferroggiaro says his decision wasn’t a New Year’s resolution so much as a response to a recent diagnosis of sleep apnea. “I tested on the very low end of mild apnea, and felt frustrated that the first line of conventional treatment was a CPAP machine, which insurance wasn’t even going to cover. I did some research and discovered that for mild cases like mine, weight loss can often help. Then I read a random comment online about the Whole30 and I figured, why not?” he says.

Besides treating himself to a few new kitchen gadgets like a spiralizer and a crock pot, he stocked his fridge with lean meats, eggs, fruits, vegetables and a few foods he rarely ate, such as coconut milk, bone broth and ghee—which doesn’t count under the no-dairy rule, since it is lactose-free. “I also found this amazing garlic sauce with only four ingredients that made giving up my favorite mayonnaise bearable,” he says.

The Daily Menu

For Ferroggiaro, most days started with black coffee, scrambled eggs and sautéed veggies. Lunch was leftovers from the night before or a salad with salmon or turkey, and when he felt snacky in the afternoons, he reached for unsalted almonds or Epic meat bars. As far as dinners, he looked to his Whole30 cookbooks for inspiration. From sauces like chimichurri to sides like buffalo cauliflower to entrées like slow-cooked pulled pork with mashed potatoes, he and his two teenage sons were happy and satiated. “I didn’t feel hungry or deprived. Surprisingly I didn’t long for pasta or sugar, but I missed cheese, and admittedly I did rush out to eat my favorite sandwich first thing on day 31.”

How It Felt

He wasn’t cutting calories or going hungry, but Ferroggiaro did feel weak the first few days. “I realized I needed to eat more often. I wasn’t used to eating breakfast or having to snack between lunch and dinner, but once I got on a more regular schedule I felt more energetic,” he says. So much so, that halfway through the month he started running again after a few years’ hiatus. “I’m not sure if it was the 11 pounds coming off or just the way the diet made me feel, but for the first time in a long time I felt motivated to start training again.”

Wanting to move again and dropping weight weren’t the only physical benefits for Ferroggiaro. Over the course of the month his temperamental digestive system calmed, he felt sharper at work, and his snoring dramatically decreased. There were a few emotional changes too. “I definitely broke a few bad dietary habits, and I rekindled my love of cooking,” he says.