Choosing better health with Whole 30

By Danielle Scroggins | Published Saturday, February 16, 2019

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Healthy – that’s my word for 2019, so I began January with an extreme start.

I participated in the Whole 30 Challenge, something I had only slightly researched after seeing social media posts. To be honest, it seemed daunting, difficult and downright depressing.

For those of you not familiar with Whole 30, it’s an eating program designed by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig that focuses on a clean diet and eating real food.

What is real food you might ask? According to Whole 30, real food consists of all lean protein (including eggs), vegetables, fruit, potatoes and healthy fats like avocados. Foods excluded from the program include sugar, dairy, grains, legumes and alcohol.

Like I said, daunting, difficult and depressing. But the light at the end of this food tunnel is that this strict diet plan lasts for only 30 days.

In their book, “It Starts With Food,” the Hartwigs explain the science of what we eat, down to the macromolecules, and how each kind of food affects digestion, energy level and overall health. I read the book from cover to cover and was actually highly intrigued with their explanation of chronic inflammation within the body. This inflammation can appear in the form of allergies, joint pain, rosacea, headaches, sleep problems and even something as simple as water retention. So with the help of a few friends, Google and a Whole 30 cookbook, I embarked on this adventure.

Well, I should give my husband some credit. For the first time in the history of our 23-year marriage, he jumped on board my health kick. Without his participation, I guarantee I would have thrown my hands up in frustration in less than a week. But we pushed through the Whole 30 Days.

It was not easy, but it was worth it. I learned more in this one month of food choices than in a lifetime of dieting.

First of all, we didn’t think of this challenge as a diet. We looked at it as a chance to learn more about how to plan, prepare and eat our food. We didn’t focus on losing weight (although we were hoping to drop a few pounds). We conducted massive amounts of recipe research, compiled countless grocery lists and completed multiple shopping trips to different grocery stores including our normal Walmart, Nature’s Grocers, Trader Joe’s and Central Market.

The first week was brutal. Eliminating dairy meant losing my morning coffee creamer. Eliminating grains meant zero convenience foods. Eliminating sugar meant reading every single label. (There is sugar in everything!)

As our bodies detoxed from sugar and carbohydrates, we were lethargic, grumpy and very thirsty. As life would have it, I traveled to Arizona to help family during that first week, and I think my husband survived on bananas, oranges, lettuce, steak and potatoes. While it was hard to be on-the-go and away from home, I managed to find plenty of eggs and avocados. There were hunger pains for sure, but since portion sizes and calorie counting aren’t part of the program, we were able to eat what we could, when we could.

We learned about healthy replacement ingredients like coconut milk, almond milk, almond flour, ghee and avocado oil. We tried new spices like Herbs de Provence and Trader Joe’s Everything Spice. We found a salad dressing without sugar and tried cauliflower rice, broccoli rice, zucchini noodles and sweet potato everything. As I prepared breakfast, I planned lunch and dinner. There was more chopping, prepping and slicing than ever before in the Scroggins’ house. I’m not lying. It was a lot, but around week two, we turned a corner.

We had more energy! My husband planned our whole summer, and then began analyzing our entire budget. He was so motivated to streamline our finances, we changed internet providers, satellite TV companies and our cell phone plan (in the same week!). He traded in one car and bought our soon-to-be college student another car with a standard transmission, adding that teaching her to drive it would be “no problem.”

I started to feel a difference within my yoga practice and was able to push myself into harder poses and twists. My old injuries stopped aching, and my joints stopped hurting. My husband stopped snoring, and more often than not, I actually slept through the night. We were alert and ready for the day. Our food cravings stopped. My usual sweet treat with my coffee didn’t cross my mind, and my husband stopped trolling through the pantry after dinner for “a little something sweet.” We became motivated to stay on the program because of how good we felt mentally and physically.

I must confess, we weren’t perfect. We dined on Babe’s Chicken at our son’s football banquet, let a few tortilla strips slip into our salads at Mi Cocina, and shared a happy hour or two with friends to celebrate life’s little things.

We weren’t perfect because life isn’t perfect, and we are just fine with that. We modeled healthy lifestyle changes for our children and exposed them to new foods. We created new habits that we intend to continue and discovered how to incorporate healthy habits into our hectic lifestyle.

Over the next month, we will follow the re-introduction plan outlined by Whole 30. The program does allow for sugar, legumes, grains and dairy after the initial 30 days, just in moderation. Everything in moderation, right?

Danielle Scroggins is a Decatur resident, Decatur High school graduate, former teacher and mother of three. She writes a monthly column, Life is Kid’s Stuff, for the Messenger.

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