This post about 10 lessons from a celiac on Whole30 contains affiliate links.
I have celiac disease and have always said that being gluten-free is NOT enough to heal your body.
If you think about it, just taking out the irritant food does little to heal your body. In addition to removing gluten, you must also take time to heal your insides. (Learn more about how I healed my body from the damages caused by celiac disease.)
The Whole30 offers a great way to do that.
When you accept the Whole30 challenge, you not only take out gluten, but also you eliminate all grains, dairy, alcohol, corn, added sugar (no honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar or artificial sugar), soy, beans and legumes (including peanuts).
You focus, instead, on eating fresh fruit and vegetables, meats, seeds, nuts and potatoes (both white and sweet potatoes are okay).
Because I have celiac disease, I already eat a strictly gluten-free diet. I also don’t eat a lot of dairy – it’s just not my thing. So gluten and dairy were easy for me to eliminate… but what about everything else? Not so easy, indeed!
Here’s are 10 lessons I learned from my personal Whole30 challenge:
(1) Sugar is Hard to Eliminate and Avoid: My body craved sugar throughout the Whole30 challenge. Even though I was able to hold strong, those cravings never went away. After every meal, I craved something sweet. In fact, I never stopped craving sugar even though I was able to steer clear of it.
The greater challenge than craving sugar, however, was finding packaged foods that do not contain sugar. Sugar is in ketchup, mayo, many gluten-free power bars and even in almost all [turkey] bacon. In fact, the Amylu organic chicken sausages I loved so much had a touch of maple syrup in them, so I couldn’t eat them during Whole30 month.
You will need to read labels carefully and avoid anything that includes sugar, maple syrup, honey, agave or any sort of artificial sweetener altogether.
(2) Savory Breakfast is a Must: You will need to get used to enjoying a savory breakfast during your Whole30 month. I already enjoyed a savory breakfast each morning, so the breakfast swap was pretty easy for me. But if you’re a pancake, cereal and acai smoothie bowl breakfaster, the Whole30 is going to shake you. You’ll instead need to get used to enjoying eggs, hashbrowns and vegetables for breakfast. If you’re looking for some Whole30 breakfast inspiration, take a look at my list of 10 Whole30 breakfast ideas and recipes.
(3) Coffee Tastes Just Fine Without Sugar: Speaking of breakfast, if you’re a coffee drinker, you better get used to enjoying your coffee either black or with a non-dairy creamer like coconut, almond or flax milk. I used to put Stevia into my coffee each AM, but I got used to not having it during the Whole30. This is one positive change I will continue to make – no sweetener in my coffee. I’m over it.
(4) Eat Big Meals: Snacking is discouraged on the Whole30, so you’ll want to pack in big meals. I felt like I was eating so much at each meal – sometimes I wasn’t even very hungry for lunch. If you’re looking to kick some of your snack cravings, eating bigger meals and limiting snacking might be the way to go. This also gives your digestive system time to rest between feedings, which is a good thing. I’m trying not to snack as much now that I’ve finished the Whole30 challenge. It’s hard though – snacks are always calling my name!
(5) Eliminating Gluten Isn’t Enough: Just because you’re gluten-free doesn’t mean you’re healthy. I wish more people knew and understood this truth. So many gluten-free packaged foods contains sugar, soy, corn, rice flour and a slew of other ingredients that are not allowed on the Whole30 diet. If you have celiac disease, the Whole30 will be a wake-up call for you. You will realize that a large chunk of gluten-free foods are just junk food in disguise. I plan to limit packaged foods and truly focus on whole, real foods as much as possible.
(6) You May Not Lose Weight: Many people with celiac disease have learned to eat healthy (not all, but many). So if you’re already eating pretty healthy to begin with, you may not lose much weight, if any at all. I lost three pounds. I would have liked to have lost at least five pounds, but it just wasn’t in the cards for me. That said, while I didn’t lose much weight, I felt lighter, and my body felt more svelte. The skin on my face was perfect (I usually have a nagging zit here or there, but nothing during Whole30 month).
(7) Whole30 Snacks Are Good: I felt hungry, A LOT, on the Whole30 diet, so I’m grateful for these much-needed Whole30 approved snacks that I could keep in my purse to eat on a moment’s notice. I loved Wild Zora and RX Bars. I created a list of 10 snacks I loved most – check out my Whole30 snack list. I plan to continue to enjoy these snacks going forward.
(8) Mindful Eating Is Key: As much as I missed the mindlessness of eating whatever gluten-free thing I wanted, I enjoyed that the Whole30 forced me to be a bit more mindful. I was forced to plan meals, thoughtfully consider where we ate out and become an even more avid label reader than before. I was not just looking for gluten, but also I was looking for nasty ingredients unnecessarily hidden in the foods we eat.
(9) Salad Dressing No More: One major takeaway for me is that salad dressing is gross. It’s filled with all sorts of nasty things, sugar and preservatives. I found that I like eating my salads with a drizzle of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and S&P. That’s it. It tastes wonderful and fresh. Less is more.
(10) The Reintroduction Phase is Impossible: When you reintroduce foods to your diet after the Whole30, you are supposed to go slow. But that’s really hard to do. If you wait, it ends up being the Whole40 or Whole50. I tried really hard to reintroduce things slowly. I started with some chocolate and peanuts. Then a day later I added rice. Then two days later dairy. Then Labor Day weekend plans took hold and I was screwed!
I am still holding out on reintroducing alcohol, popcorn and cheese. Those are three foods that I’ve always suspected as irritants for me. I’ll be reintroducing them soon. I’m letting my body rest after being flooded with everything else this past weekend!
Final Whole30 Thoughts
While I didn’t have life-changing results from the Whole30 challenge, I did learn that I still have so much work to do to improve my diet. I eat gluten-free and am fairly healthy already, but I can still do better.
I also imagine that someone who isn’t gluten-free already will really struggle with the challenge. I was halfway there – gluten is very hard to eliminate at first. I already enjoyed my burger lettuce wrapped so it was no big deal for me!
Overall, while the Whole30 wasn’t a life-changing move for me, I did come out of it feeling a little lighter and healthier. Plus, I was proud of myself for maintaining the willpower to keep this diet going for a full 30 days.
I’d love to hear about what you learned when you took the Whole30 challenge. What did you learn about yourself?