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My short-lived experience with the Whole30

A first-year’s innocent idea gone wrong

Before driving back, I headed to Trader Joe’s with high hopes.
Before driving back, I headed to Trader Joe’s with high hopes.

Like any first-year, my first couple weeks were filled with late-night Crossroads runs, too many Einstein Bros. Bagels meal exchanges and an accumulation of junk food wrappers. I helplessly watched my Plus Dollar balance reach $0.17 within a month — an absurd feat. Feeling myself falling prey to the “freshman 15” stereotype, I headed home over fall break and decided that I would start a Whole30 challenge.

The Whole30 challenge is essentially a short-term nutritional reset that helps to identify the food groups having a negative impact on the body’s well-being. For 30 days, I would only eat meat, fruit and vegetables.

I knew it’d be a challenge — no grains, added sugar, dairy, legumes and essentially all processed foods.

Before driving back, I headed to Trader Joe’s with high hopes. Since I had finished all the snacks I had started school with, I planned to replenish my supply with healthy choices. My cart filled itself with fruit bars, unsweetened mango slices and coconut chips, smoked jerky, apples and even some dried broccoli florets.

As for the challenge itself, how long did I last? A shameful five days but nonetheless an accomplishment — I think.

Monday, Oct. 8

I was energized my last morning at home, eager to start the Whole30. I had a hearty breakfast of poached eggs and sausages — chock full of protein, this was sure to tide me over.

Sure enough, by the time I had arrived in Charlottesville at 4 p.m., I still hadn’t eaten lunch. At this point, I had an inkling I was setting myself up for failure.

At around 9 p.m., I headed down to the first floor of my dorm where some of my friends were ordering Papa John’s Pizza. Test number one, I suppose. As a lactose intolerant, pizza had never been of interest to me, but I think the restrictive mindset I had to adopt made it more appealing than it should’ve been.

I managed to brave this test by sheer will. Midnight found me back in my dorm, however, when my hunger hit and I wound up inhaling a chunk of my snacks. I fell asleep quite full that night to say the least.

Tuesday, Oct. 9

I woke up not hungry. Since it was a reading day, I headed over to Starbucks to work on some essays due that week. Normally, I would’ve ordered my usual vanilla bean coconut milk latte. Instead, I dejectedly began my work empty-handed.

Around 2 p.m., I felt my stomach growl, so I made my way to O’Hill, where I realized I’d have to resist the desserts I normally would have sought out first. Sighing, I filled a to-go box with a hard-boiled egg, sausages, chicken breast and seasoned zucchini.

My meager meal glared back at me, daring me to try and enjoy it. I choked it down, the chicken breast needing a good amount of water to swallow properly.

Later that evening, I found myself back at O’Hill. I think I had just accepted that my food choices would be more limited than usual. Without a second thought, I took a plate of seasoned chicken and broccoli, dumped it in a to-go box and left.

The rest of the evening passed uneventfully. I felt a slight craving for something sweet later that night, so I ate an apple & strawberry fruit bar which was surprisingly deliciously sweet.

Wednesday, Oct. 10

I woke up feeling light and motivated. I found myself heading to the gym, much to my surprise. After my classes, I stopped by Newcomb and filled a to-go box with an odd combination of coconut shavings, chicken and tomatoes. I guess you do what you have to do, right?

I spent the day wrapping up a couple of essays, so dinner was just two hamburger patties sandwiched between some lettuce and tomato. Sad.

Thursday, Oct. 11

A growl from my stomach was my alarm this morning. Hastily, I ate two fruit bars to try and quell it. I had a feeling today would be difficult.

I grabbed a breakfast of plenty of hard-boiled eggs and bacon as soon as I could before getting ready for class — a necessary move.

Later on, a couple of friends asked me to join them at Pavilion XI for an early dinner. I figured I could find something to scrape by, right? Sort of. After ordering Subway, my friends laughed as I pried open my sub and ate its contents — turkey, lettuce and tomato.

Friday, Oct. 12

I knew I wouldn’t last much longer. My options felt constricted and I felt too pressured to keep this up, especially in addition to my studies. However, I surprised myself when dinner that night was still reasonably healthy — pork loin, green beans and tomatoes, which is still Whole30 certified.

I think the experience of the past couple days actually made an impact on my food-related decisions. Although I consciously made the decision to join my friends in eating some of my birthday cake Saturday evening — hence abandoning the Whole30 — I didn’t mindlessly consume it like I previously would have. The next day, I realized I had somehow adopted a relatively healthy and mindful mindset as I entered the previously formidable O’Hill.

The Whole30 is definitely a viable challenge, but for me, now might just not be the best time. However, I think the experience alone of temporarily adopting the Whole30 mindset was beneficial for setting me up for success as I face the rest of my first year head-on.

Elise Kim is a Food Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at