Whole 30 Week 1 – 5 Things I Learned, and a whole lot of recipes!

This first part of the Whole 30 Challenge has been both the shortest and longest 1 1/2 weeks of married life, I think. (And we’ve been married for eight years, so that’s saying something!) Emotions have been high – hunger does that to you. And we’re not starving by any means (though Mr. Loper might beg to differ), going without regular foods that we’ve relied on for ‘fillers’ before is definitely a challenge.

I’ve tweaked a few things about the challenge, partly because we’re trying to eat seasonally (and eat what’s on sale), and because Mr. Loper has a sky-high metabolism, and he’s hungry all the friggin time

Namely: Fruit. For Whole 30, they want you to have no more than 2 servings of fruit per day. They want the rest of your ‘fresh produce’ calories to come from vegetables.

I’m sorry, but that’s not going to happen. It is SPRING. There are berries EVERYWHERE. Fresh pineapples are starting to go on sale. I’m going to be eating more like 3-5 servings of fruit per day.

So is Mr. Loper. Because he’s hungry, and there’s really only so many servings of vegetables and protein you can eat in a day. (And only so many hard-boiled eggs – and neither of us like hard-boiled eggs to start with.)

He also made a smoothie last night with almond milk, coconut milk, and frozen fruit. Whole 30 discourages drinking your calories, but you know what: he was hungry. We’d already had dinner, and he just needed something.

That’s another thing I’m not stressing out about with this challenge: micro-managing his intake. There is food available. I will make breakfast and dinner each day, but lunch is leftovers/fend for yourself. He’s a grown man. I refuse to shove food in his face for him. If that means he goes longer between meals than the recommended 4-5 hours? Oh well. Not my fault.

So, what have I learned/experience so far on the Whole 30?

  1. The Hangover is real.
    Days 3-5 were brutal for me. I’ve never had a *real* hangover, but if it’s anything like being dizzy all the time and incredibly thirsty, and absolutely zero energy? Yeah. Ugh. Be forewarned. And we didn’t even eat that unhealthy the week preceding. Though we did eat out a couple of times, and we don’t normally eat out twice a week. We don’t even normally eat out once a week.
  2. Never underestimate the power of a simple meal.
    If we do this again, I’ll be honest – we’ll be grilling out a lot the first couple weeks. Just make a giant salad with tons of veggies (not just lettuce), make a mass of hard-boiled eggs, make some homemade Italian dressing, and get some good cuts of meat. I also roasted 3 lbs of potatoes for breakfasts in the first couple of days, and those were a lifesaver for Mr. Loper’s super-early mornings (he has to be at work at 6 am). He got probably a cup and a half of those, and two scrambled eggs every weekday for breakfast for the past week. I’m hoping to mix up the breakfast menu a little more this week.
  3. If you can’t do it without medication, oh well!
    I’m not talking necessary prescription medication here – I’m talking good ol’ fashioned allergy medicine and pain relievers. I tried to avoid them. I had hoped for Mr. Loper to be able to avoid them, too, but no such luck. There is an ‘old’ saying around here, “Oh, you don’t have allergies? You just moved to Oklahoma? Just wait! Those days are over.”
    It’s true. We have friends who are missionaries, and the Mrs. grew up here in Oklahoma, but her husband is from South Africa. One of the first stops they make here from returning overseas? The store, to get allergy meds for him.
    It also doesn’t help that we’ve been having grass/wildfires/control burns left and right around this part of Oklahoma. When there’s ash falling from the sky, you do whatever is necessary to breathe.
    And true to form, the day after we had severe weather (another tornado fright, in this case), I had a migraine. I was especially trying to avoid ibuprofen, since it can disrupt your gut and Whole 30 is trying to heal your gut, but you know what? I napped. I had 3 cups of STRONG tea for the caffeine. I took 2 different rounds of tylenol, and NOTHING budged that migraine until I added ibuprofen in the mix. It was worth it to be able to function for the rest of the day.
  4. If you want Whole-30 compliant bacon and/or sausage, you’re going to pay an arm and a leg – if you can find them in the first place.
    Now, I’ll admit that I haven’t gone to Whole Foods (*coughwholepaycheckcough*) yet, because I’m trying to avoid really breaking the budget. But I was hopeful that even at Sprouts, I’d be able to find made-in-store options that were compliant. No such luck. I’ve only found one type of bacon that doesn’t have sugar in it (Pederson’s), but it’s a whopping $6.99 for 10 ounces (and that’s cheaper than you can buy it ONLINE, even taking sales tax into account.) Sausage? Forget it. It all has sugar and/or soybean oil and/or corn oil in it. None of those is allowed on the Whole 30. I finally resorted to buying ground pork, and will attempt mixing homemade sausage seasonings into it this week. Prosciutto (salt-cured pork – it can’t actually be called prosciutto if there’s anything other than salt and pork in it) is $2.99/3 oz at Aldi – but I found it to honestly be TOO rich for my tastes.
  5. You might actually be more tired for the first couple of weeks, and definitely more moody.
    It takes a while for your body to adjust to massive dietary changes. It’s re-learning how to use resources that it’s taken for granted for a while, especially if you’re cutting breads and sugar out of your diet completely. It’s relearning how to fuel itself with fats and protein almost exclusively.
    Now that I’m nearing the 2-week mark, I can tell that I’m sleeping better. I just want more sleep every morning. My dreams are slightly less vivid than they usually are, and that means my mind is actually resting. While I may still feel physically sluggish often, I’ve been more alert. (Though afternoon ‘naps’ help.)
    Otherwise, the hardest things to deal with have been the emotional frustrations. Mr. Loper and I have both been short-on-the-draw, and we’ve had quite a few spats over food and everything else that becomes convenient. Fortunately, for the most part unless I’ve been very-very-very-exhausted, I’ve been able to keep my cool and remember that these things are being aggravated because our bodies are re-setting right now.

Bonus Tip: Splurging for grass-fed butter is worth the cost if you clarify your own butter for the challenge. I had 2 tablespoons of conventional butter left in my fridge before the challenge began, and I added it into the pound of Kerrygold butter that I bought. The two didn’t mix well during melting, and the majority of the conventional butter ended up being stuff that had to be skimmed/filtered out. From the Kerrygold alone, I got nearly the full two cups of fat for the clarified butter. I probably would have had half that if I’d used the same amount of conventional butter.


Food has been hit and miss. We’ve had some amazing things, some not-so-amazing things, and even been able to mix in a few familiar things. Here’s the amazing (and sometimes familiar) ones! (I also made homemade mayonnaise, but it wasn’t my recipe, and it’s not a public recipe, so not sure how to go about sharing it yet.)

  • My Homemade Chicken Soup
    Make this without rice and/or pasta, and it’s compliant! Ideally, make it from a leftover roasted chicken from dinner, like I always do. 2-3 meals from one chicken is awesome!
  • I used the directions from Country Breakfast Bowls as my guide for roasting potatoes – I did 3 lbs altogether. Note: this recipe as a whole is NOT Whole-30 compliant. I did only the potatoes. Nothing else.
  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Aioli
    I always use olive oil for my roasted Brussels sprouts, and used homemade mayo for the aioli.
  • Roasted Root Vegetables
  • Herb Roasted Pork Loin
  • Crockpot Azorean Spiced Beef Stew
    Sprouts Farmer’s Market brand of Organic Beef Broth is the only Whole-30 compliant broth of any kind that I could find. Just FYI. I was lucky, and it was on sale for 2/$3 the week I needed it. The same brand of chicken and vegetable broth (both organic and non) were NOT compliant.
  • The Best Pork Chops Ever
    It’s been a couple of years since I attempted pork chops, and last time was a dismal failure. This time? Um, this is probably going to end up in our regular meal rotation. It’s amazing.
  • Nature’s Candy
    This has already been a favorite of ours for a while. I recommend doubling this recipe. Unless you’re only feeding yourself.
  • Sweet Potato, Apple, and Pancetta Hash
    First off, I couldn’t find pancetta at all at any of my ‘regular’ stores. So bacon it was – for the aforementioned $6.99/10 oz. Second, this was delicious. But. It took way longer than the times listed in the recipe itself for each step. I expected to spend about 30 minutes on this, including prep. It was more like an hour and a half. Turn up the heat on your pan to medium-high, and you should spend infinitely less time on this.

Recent Comments

  • Jean Marie Bauhaus
    April 4, 2016 - 1:05 pm · Reply

    I was just outside with my dog and thinking, “I wonder how Whole30 is going for Rebekah.” And here you are to tell me. 🙂

    I haven’t checked the labels for myself yet, but as far as I can tell from googling, Aldi’s Simply Nature bacon might be compliant, and way more affordable. Their chicken apple sausage is also supposedly compliant, but again, I won’t be sure until I get there and check the label. I’ve been finding a lot of great-looking simple meal ideas by checking out the various Whole30-related hashtags on Instagram.

    This is my birthday week and so I plan on eating a good deal of junk before the week is out. I’m hoping next week’s version of me won’t hate this week’s version of me too much after I start my own Whole30 and the hangover phase kicks in.

    • Rebekah Loper
      April 4, 2016 - 1:12 pm · Reply

      The Aldi bacon is not, it still has sugar in it (in the form of evaporated cane juice, I believe). Believe me, that was the first thing I checked!

      *hugs* I’d say be prepared for hangover-like-feelings. Put easy things on your lists for the first several days, and keep plenty of water close by.

      • Rebekah Loper
        April 4, 2016 - 1:16 pm · Reply

        Also: I think I looked at the chicken apple sausage at Aldi and it wasn’t compliant either, but I don’t remember exactly why. I believe Sprout’s made-in-store chicken apple sausage WAS compliant, but I was looking for sausage for a particular dish and wasn’t sure how the flavors would go with it.

        • Jean Marie Bauhaus
          April 4, 2016 - 1:27 pm · Reply

          Good to know. I was just looking at the current Sprout’s flyer and it looks like their chicken sausage is on sale. Guess I’d better stock up!

          • Rebekah Loper
            April 4, 2016 - 1:29 pm ·

            I would be sure and ask at the counter. The ingredients list I looked at on a 1-ish lb of non-link chicken apple sausage there was compliant, but it’s difficult when things don’t have a tag readily available!

  • Marisa Mohi (@GentleMarisa)
    April 4, 2016 - 5:58 pm · Reply

    Wow. Just wow. I applaud your dedication to this challenge. We’ve tried to shop for it before, but yeah. I’m going to consume my non-compliant meats because that’s all I can find. And, as someone who has had both a real hangover and a funk food hangover, I can tell you the food hangover is way worse. When your body starts getting rid of all the processed stuff you’ve always eaten your whole life, it’s weird.

    • Rebekah Loper
      April 4, 2016 - 6:35 pm · Reply

      These days I wonder what the difference is between dedication and sanity, but the fact that today I had the mental focus and physical energy to sit at my computer and write not one, but three blog posts, was amazing. I haven’t been able to do that in months.

      And I guess I can say I’ve survived my first hangover then, lol.

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About Rebekah

Rebekah Loper writes character-driven epic fantasy featuring resilient women in trying and impossible circumstances who just want to save themselves but usually end up saving the world, often while falling in love.
She lives in Tulsa, OK with her husband, dog, two formerly feral cats, a small flock of feathered dragons (...chickens. They're chickens), and an extensive tea collection. When she's not writing, she battles the Oklahoma elements in an effort to create a productive, permaculture urban homestead.