Whole30: Battling Systemic Inflammation & Food Cravings


Many of my massage clients tell me about their struggles with systemic inflammation and their attempts to lower it by supplementing with curcumin, turmeric, tart cherry juice, etc.  I have personally tried  these long-term approaches without much luck.  Whole30 is a New York Times best-selling book containing a challenging and effective 30-day diet aimed at reducing chronic systemic inflammation and its effects.  Secondary results of the diet include: improved sleep, mood, sex life, body image and composition, relationship with food, and self-esteem.  Other benefits are reduced or eliminated food cravings, anxiety, depression, and medical issues (e.g. high blood pressure and cholesterol, skin conditions, diabetes, digestive and thyroid issues, arthritis, joint pain, autoimmune diseases and allergies).  Weight loss is not a goal of the Whole30, although the average weight loss during the 30 days is five to 20 pounds.   I was curious to see what this popular process would do for me, so I did it!

The Whole30 is an elimination diet where people cut out certain foods for the duration of the 30 days and add them back in one by one at the end to see how each affects their systems.  Cheating is out of the question because one must have a completely clean system for the reintroduction phase to work.  Here are the basics:  YES on meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts (except peanuts) and natural fats; NO sugar (not even fake sugars or natural ones like Stevia), no alcohol, grains, legumes (including soy), or dairy.  I saw the authors of the book on a talk show and was intrigued, especially by the gourmet meals and promises of increased energy.  I finished my 30 days two days ago, and have decided to extend to 45 days before adding food back in. Some people continue for up to 90 days. This a personal choice; depending on your situation, you might benefit from a longer elimination phase, but it is not necessary.  Choosing to do the Whole 30 is up to you, but I can share my experience with you.  If you want to read about other Whole30 experiences, you will find a lot of information on the website (link below) or in personal blogs and online articles.

First, my “NSVs” (non-scale victories) include:

  • eliminated body pain
  • deeper sleep
  • improved coordination
  • improved digestion
  • reduced anxiety
  • reduced food cravings (especially for sugar and dairy)
  • reduced cellulite
  • different body composition
  • learning how to cook!
  • delicious recipes to explore/better relationship with food
  • clearer skin and mind

My scale victory – total weight loss for the 30 days was:  6 pounds – tah dah, which was surprising and welcome because I ate a lot of food.

Confession:  this was not an easy process.  I think I was battling a full-on sugar addiction, and the days between my body not being able to burn sugar for energy and learning to burn fat for energy were not a pleasant walk in the park.  My first week was fun, interesting, time-consuming (a lot of chopping/other food prep), expensive (unusual ingredients/a lot of meat), delicious, and exciting.  I was full of hope and determination.  The second week, my energy started to drop and I had trouble going a full day, forming complete sentences and working out.  For me, this lethargy-phase lasted two and a half weeks.  Most people get cranky in the early stages, but my crankiness manifested as complete unsociability.  A friend got angry at me in a social situation because I wasn’t “present”.  Not with her, I guess, but I was definitely present to my own Whole 30 world and changing body.  I started being ultra-selective about whom I spent time around or whether to even leave the house.  Surprisingly, at the same time, anything physical I attempted went REALLY well; I had more focus and coordination, in spite of the lowered stamina.  As a massage therapist, I was worried about my work performance, but found that my focus was better than ever.

The food is fantastic, AND the recipes are time-consuming and involved. I got tired of chopping and shopping.  The book’s authors stress the importance of planning ahead and preparing for the 30-day journey, but I wanted to start right away, so I jumped in.  This was a stressful way to embark.  If you do the diet, follow the authors’ advice!  They have taken many people down the Whole30 road, and are experts.

I’m doing a Whole45 because I haven’t experienced the sought after “Tiger Blood” phase yet, where people feel clean, energized, euphoric and basically, like a million bucks!  Around day 28, I started to get my first energy, and here, at day 32, I feel only slightly more.  There is an online forum of people who start on the same day, and everyone has a unique timeline and experience.  There was Tiger’s Blood coursing through the veins of my forum by week three, but I’m getting the impression my blood will be more like that of a calm, purring kitten.  We’ll see.

Yes, I recommend this diet – for people who are committed to making big changes in their lives.  It’s not easy to get through, but I wouldn’t go back for anything.  I will learn more in the reintroduction phase. For now, I’m proud and glad to have done the Whole30!

Here is the link to a good overview:  Whole30 Info

The media section has articles with information, and you can also read parts of the book and get recipes.

Good luck.  And if you want support, let me know!

The following are links to recent articles from July 2015:


US News & World Report

Ask Men

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