“Earlier this year, my husband and I decided to try a popular eating plan that doesn’t allow processed foods, sugar, dairy, gluten, or grains. That leaves you with whole foods, including beef, poultry, fish, vegetables, and fruit.
Before the plan, I had gotten used to eating small servings of protein—maybe 90g per meal—along with plenty of veggies, potatoes, bread, and other carbs. With starches off-limits, I planned on doubling, or even tripling, my protein intake to stay satisfied.
Although I had come to enjoy my carbs, I wasn’t too worried: I imagined myself with more energy, gleefully eating a hamburger without the bun or a rib eye steak with a side of steamed veggies. It seemed like it would be easy.
The first few days, it was pretty easy. I was motivated and determined, sure this was going to be the magic fountain of youth, which would restore my vigor and perhaps make my skin glow and my hair healthier (hey, a girl can dream, right?). And while it wasn’t specifically for weight loss—the main impetus was my husband’s chronic sinus infections, which we hoped would clear up once we eliminated certain food groups—I figured I might drop a few kilos along the way.
Despite the realisation that this would be tougher than I thought, we stuck with the plan for a month. Breakfast was the easiest meal, since eggs are full of protein, but it took a while to get used to not dipping toast into the runny yolks. Lunch was often sliced meat leftover from the night before—filling but dull—and a banana topped with almond butter, or maybe a salad with the dreaded chicken on top of it.
Ok, so I was bored. But there were some upsides to going heavy on the protein, namely:
I wasn’t as hungry
I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t experienced it myself, but eating mostly protein really is more satisfying than loading up on carbs. For years I was a long-distance runner, so I justified the extra bread and big plates of pasta. When I became the parent of an active toddler, it was still easy to rationalise heaping portions of carbs. Would I still feel satisfied without them? It turned out that I was less hungry once I cut them out in favour of more protein. A big plate of meat with a vegetable on the side filled me up and kept me going for several hours; I rarely felt like I needed to snack between meals.
I looked thinner
After a month the number on the scale didn’t change, but I looked so much leaner. The little stomach pouch I had ever since my pregnancy four years ago almost completely disappeared, and my tight jeans were, well, less tight.
I didn’t feel bloated or sleepy
One of the things I realised early on was that regular bread, the kind on the shelf in the grocery store, always left me feeling too full and kind of sick. In restaurants, I’d often dig into the bread basket, only to regret it soon after: It filled me up so I wasn’t hungry for my entree, and I got really tired when my blood sugar crashed a couple of hours later. By eliminating the bread and focusing on protein, I had so much more energy. I actually felt healthier.
I became more creative
I specifically remember one night, when I was home with just my 4-year-old, looking at the boneless chicken breast I thawed for our dinner and having no idea what to do with it. I was so incredibly tired of chicken, and I was ready to give up. Every recipe I looked at for inspiration either included something forbidden on Whole30, an expensive ingredient, or something that would require a trip to a special store.
Today I do eat some processed carbs, including gluten-free bread (sometimes) and the occasional dessert, but I focus mostly on lean protein, fruits, and vegetables—and I feel much better, more energetic, and healthier. I rarely have pasta, and when I do, the proportions are different. I’ll cook half a box for the entire family, then add twice the meat and some vegetables.
Legumes, including beans, weren’t on menu, but they’re among the first foods I added back into my diet. Not only are they a great source of protein, but they’re really filling, and really cheap! I also love a handful of peanuts when I’m craving something salty between meals.
Recently, I had a work meeting over lunch at a popular restaurant, and I agonized for days over what to eat: The menu had one salad that wasn’t very exciting, and I knew I’d really want the burger. When it came time to order, I asked for the burger without the bun and with a lot of toppings on the side (pickles, sliced tomatoes, onions), and it was perfect.
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