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Why This Popular Real Food Diet Caused Utter Failure (Part 1)

Jumping into the Whole30 without a meal plan? Check out our Whole30 compliant meal plan and a second one with tons of Whole30 vegetables side dish ideas.

Friends Dont Let Friends Eat Grains the peer pressure dieting plan

I don’t know if D.A.R.E. ever worked to keep kids from drinking or doing drugs, but they definitely had some effective marketing techniques that really stuck.

I can’t believe how often I think of the old “Drug Abuse Resistance and Education” classes or joke about it with my classmates.

If you’re not familiar with good old D.A.R.E., you’re probably not a child of the 80s and 90s.

Here’s what it was:

A police officer would come into schools and teach kids to “Say NO to Drugs.” I’m sure it was a massive state or federal expense, and I think its effectiveness was often questioned, but the taglines of the era somehow got burned into my brain, like, “Just Say NO!” and “D.A.R.E. to keep kids off drugs,” and the commercial about the fried egg: “This is your Brain. This is your Brain on Drugs.”

I feel like the program painted high schools as evil bastions of peer pressure, and “those kids” out there were going to try very hard to get you to drink and do drugs. It ultimately created an entire language and thought process about peer pressure that still impacts my generation today.

Most recently, my husband and I were the evil peer pressure initiators, and there was a LOT of “Just Say NO!”

I think it’s probably difficult to be friends with us. Smile

How to Fail at the Whole30

We helped throw our friends into the deep end.

In this series of two posts, you’ll meet some of my husband’s and my closest friends, both of whom embarked on a Whole30 after hearing about our experiences with it last year. They both made it all 30 days, and they both ditched almost all of it afterward, but for very different reasons.

If you’re a glass-half-full sort of person, you’ll see two successes.

If you’re a glass-half-empty, you’ll see two failures.

I think there’s plenty to learn from all the sides of the story.

What’s it Like to be Best Friends with the Kitchen Stewardship® Lady?!?

Cherie and girls in Chicago

Imagine what it’s like to see me every day!

My poor neighbor.

When we were looking at our house as prospective buyers, we knocked on some doors to ask if there were kids in the neighborhood, and imagine our surprise when one man literally picked up a little girl and set her in front of mine.

Before us we saw two pint-sized, blond-haired, blue-eyed three-year-olds who were destined to be the closest of friends, but it would be six months before the moms would meet and discover kindred spirits as well.

Cherie and I are both sarcastic, no-frills former teachers with little patience for stupid people, a fervent passion for our faith (one Catholic and one Christian Reformed, but with more in common than not), a frugal streak and a great dedication to our families. She’s the best neighbor and comrade in the parenting battle that I could ask for…and here’s what she has to say about being friends with ME:

For those of you who think peer pressure disappears after you get out of school, you have never been friends with middle aged women!

Pick  your friends carefully, it can make you a better person or cause huge problems for you.

In my case my friend pressures me to be a better, healthier version of myself. She loves me for who I am but I feel like I can do better when I am with her. With that being said … the first few days of my Whole30, I did not like her very much.

The “More Energy, Less Gut Ache” Reason

To my credit, this was her idea, not mine! We’re passive peer pressure friends, not pushers. Winking smile Cherie had wondered over the past year or two if she should try to cut gluten or grains from her diet to see what happened, but I was surprised when she announced she was just going to do a complete Whole30 during Lent, just like my husband was doing.

The first day of Cherie’s Whole30 was, I have to say – hilarious. She was hungry, cranky, and shocked that it was already so hard! On day two I saw her at the bus stop at 8 a.m. and she said something like this:

Oh my GOSH I am STARVING! I don’t even usually eat breakfast at all but I woke up so hungry and ate 3 eggs and now I’m still hungry and I have a headache! I don’t even GET it!

She would go on to say that she really didn’t struggle with hunger at all after the first few days transition. She made it for 30 days and started to transition back to some of the no-no food groups (grains, dairy) as Easter approached.

Cherie at celebration dinner

Some of you might recognize the cute girls in the photo from Chicago – they’re our sidekicks in the video cooking lessons inside the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse, and this picture is from the celebration dinner that the kids cooked. It was NOT Whole30 approved, but was 100% real food! Winking smile 

I interviewed Cherie after it was all over:

  1. Why did you decide to try a Whole30? I have some health issues and energy issues that go along with Hashimoto’s auto immune disease. Reading up on this, sometimes food sensitivities are a trigger so fixing this may help with symptoms.
  2. What concerned you the most about starting? The planning and cravings. Because I didn’t get rid of everything in the house that I couldn’t have, avoiding things I love was going to be tough.
  3. What were you expecting from it? I hoped to feel better and have more energy.
  4. Tell us about the first 3-5 days – challenges? I was very hungry for the first couple days and really craved sugar which was a surprise for me as I am a person who loves salty snacks.
  5. What things (foods, strategies, mental states, whatever) became your saving grace in getting all the way through it without giving up? Monkey salad was a life saver for me because I am not a big breakfast eater and because it touched on a lot of cravings. Salt, sweet, crunchy. (Note: Monkey salad is a trick I learned from Jessica of Good Cheap Eats – a sliced banana, cashews, and coconut.) I added apple slices as well. Cashews were great. Having an end date helped a lot.Monkey Salad
  6. What 3 things did you learn that you enjoyed that you didn’t expect? I enjoyed being creative in my cooking. It really made me think about my menus because I get easily bored with repetition. I learned that I really like cashews, and I forgot how much I like mangos.
    Katie’s note: I love that part about the Whole30 too – it gets me out of my routine and reminds me/introduces me to new foods that are good for all of us!
  7. Did you see any positive results? What happened? I lost weight I think. (‘Cause she’s a no-frills gal with no scale in the house!) I realized I eat more sugar than I thought. It gave me more compassion for those that have an allergy to deal with and have no option to ‘cheat.’
    Katie: We were both so bummed that there wasn’t a decisive “I feel better” revelation for Cherie. The hoped-for miraculous energy boost didn’t really happen. Some days, her gut pain wasn’t evident, other days, it was, so she didn’t feel like she learned anything about her Hashi’s symptoms as related to food, which was super disappointing!
  8. What did you dislike about the experience? It was very difficult to go out or to anyone’s house or party at any location. It felt very isolating.
  9. How did you do “re-entry” – coming back to normal afterward? Did you learn anything through that process? Introduction was supposed to be one thing at a time. Dairy, gluten were the two major ones I was wondering about. Because I didn’t feel better while doing the whole 30 I wasn’t as deliberate as I might have been.
  10. Will you continue to do anything differently in your eating habits now, after you’re finished, because of what you experienced/learned through the Whole30? I will definitely read labels more and make more items at home.

Cherie has always made quite a bit from scratch, both because of her penny-pinching Dutch heritage and personal preference, like making homemade salad dressings because they just taste better.

So her skill in the kitchen was a pretty high level, as was the “real food” status of the pantry and refrigerator (although she’ll be the first to tell you, with wide eyes, that the Whole30 does a number on a food budget with all the fresh meat, veggies and nuts you need!). She didn’t need to baby step her way into cooking from scratch, because she was pretty much already there.

Her Whole30 was a success: She completed all 30 days, learned about herself and her cravings, lost some weight and found (some) more energy. She’ll be able to apply some of the new cooking techniques/recipes she learned into her normal life.

Or it was a failure: She didn’t pinpoint any food sensitivities, didn’t really enjoy it at all, and didn’t experience the reduction of inflammation that the diet seeks.

And she was darn happy to have a big glass of milk and a bowl of salty, buttery popcorn when it was all over!

Friends Dont Let Friends Eat Grains what happens when rookies try the Whole 30 because their fr

In part 2 I introduce you to one of my husband’s closest friends who also jumped into a Whole30 this year on his own volition. His story is completely different and has even better lessons for us to learn. His Whole30 story is the the “Losing Weight, Killing Cravings” reason, if you’re curious.

What do you think? Was the Whole30 a success or failure for my friend? Have you ever been disappointed by something that you expected to help you feel better and it didn’t feel like it worked?

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15 thoughts on “Why This Popular Real Food Diet Caused Utter Failure (Part 1)”

  1. Julie Cinquina

    Tell your friend to read The Autoimmune Solution by Amy Myers, M.D. I also have Hashimoto’s and the book has been very helpful to me. It includes a 30 day meal plan and recipes.
    I did a Whole 30 last year and it really didn’t do much for me.

  2. I’ve never done Whole 30 but I did embark on the Quitting Sugar lifestyle. I’d heard so many people say it was the best thing, they lost heaps of weight, felt so much better and had more energy, so I was enthusiastic. However, I never noticed any changes at all in myself that I could say, ” hey I quit sugar and now I am XYZ”.
    I am sure that the changes in myself I’ve noticed over the past 12-24months have been a cumulative effect of many changes – including quitting sugar, improving my diet generally, getting more sleep etc- but nothing was as immediate or dramatic as all the testemonials had me believe might happen if I gave up sugar (meaning processed sugar, obviously, not sugar that is found naturally in whole foods…)

  3. Judith Martinez

    Interestingly enough, the DARE campaign actually lead to a real drop in drug use in the US. Before Nancy Reagan started her campaign drug use rates were a lot higher.

  4. I started the autoimmune paleo April-2015 but with too much fructose. When I realized my error, I cut out the extra fructose Sep-2015. I was trying to put Raynaud’s into remission. I’ve started trying to reintroduce foods now although I never felt any different on AIP. I have now learned I have hypothyroid, so hoping thyroid meds will help the Raynaud’s as all as my undiagnosed foot pain. It has been very frustrating watching so many people get better on AIP while I didn’t.

    1. Julie Cinquina

      Get the book Stop the Thyroid Madness and visit the website. Lots of valuable information regarding the thyroid.

  5. I recently did whole30 with my daughter (she lives in Germany and I live in Australia) she discovered that after many years of living as a vegetarian that she cannot eat legumes. I was happy to discover that I have no such problem, as I found the diet to be very expensive. I hope to live the rest of my life with minimal white flour and sugar. I discovered lots of lovely recipes and love to meal plan and shop weekly. I lost weight, but none of that horrible belly fat, so am now doing the fast diet – eating 500 calories two days a week.

    1. Wow, what an interesting revelation for your daughter Gillian! I assume she felt loads better on the Whole30! Crazy! A lot of people blame that belly fat on wheat, but I’m not sure how long it takes “off” wheat to make an impact. There’s also diastasis recti, or the “mummy tummy” which causes the lovely little roll above the jeans and won’t be helped by diet. I’m looking into it myself actually, after 4 kids! Info here: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/fit2b (click diastasis in the menu). Good luck! 🙂 Katie

  6. We did the Whole 30 last year in March and found great benefit. It helped me realize that gluten is a real problem for me, so I have cut that out since then. We have been doing it again this April and I have to say that this year it is just annoying me. I am hungry all the time, I am crabby all the time, and I just don’t think this is sustainable. It was a wonderful thing for me last year in terms of the gluten as well as sugar cravings. But this year it just feels like one big frustration. We have decided to just throw in the towel on this one as of this weekend. It is pretty clear that I don’t have any other major issues, we just want to keep down on the dairy consumption and try to keep grains for only sometimes foods. Our big problem is eating out, so that is the one thing the Whole 30 keeps us from doing!

    1. How interesting that you had such different experiences, Alaina! Are you doing the part where you don’t eat between meals? That would make me hungry too, but we just skip that part. 🙂 More nuts, maybe? I know it’s really important to eat enough fat, too, which can be easily overlooked. Sorry you had a bum experience, but what a GOOD thing that it was able to show you a sensitivity last year! 🙂 Katie

      1. I know, it is so crazy! I was still eating snacks all the time, but just feeling completely famished. We are exercising/more active than last year, so that could be it. I also didn’t have a sugar craving problem this year, which I considered a huge success. 🙂

        I think it must have had something to do with activity/carb level. I just could not get enough carbs, no matter how many sweet potatoes I ate! Now that we have added back in some cheese and just a few grains (rice, quinoa) I feel enormously better. So crazy.

        1. I have heard of people trying GAPS and they just couldn’t be w/o the carbs, Alaina, so I think you’re not alone in that. We ate a LOT of white potatoes and were glad they were Whole30 legal now!! I am sure that a Whole30 plus rice, quinoa and a bit of cheese is still a doggone healthy lifestyle!!!

  7. Encouragement for Cherie… I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s about 5 years ago and tried e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. diet related to help it. I did Whole 30, autoimmune paleo (no nuts, nightshades, eggs), you name it and I did not see profound differences from any of it. I was seeing a naturopath in my area at the time, but have since (about a year ago) started seeing a naturopath in Arizona who specializes in treating patients with Hashimoto’s. I fly out for an office visit once a year, so he can prescribe my thyroid meds. I am finally seeing major changes in my health and energy after getting some testing done. I had some vitamin/mineral deficiencies and some heavy metal issues that we are slowly working on resolving together. My new doctor took a look at my thyroid markers and couldn’t believe I wasn’t having much worse symptoms than I was. He attributed it to my squeaky clean diet, so eating real food is not a waste. Quite the contrary. However, I’m now convinced that it is just one of many tools necessary to get back to health for most people. Don’t give up on your health journey. God will lead you to the right people to help you.

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