The fact that I am just now writing this post is extremely amusing,  even to me. But let's go. I did a Nigerian Style Whole 30  for the second time and I  decided to write about it.  I actually did it a while back—as far back as January this year (yes, you read that right)—and this round was much easier especially in terms of planning what I ate. I definitely planned this second round much better and felt better prepared all around. I remember I had terrible withdrawal symptoms with the first one but nothing like that this time around. Anyway, seeing as the post about the first one I did remains one of the most popular posts on this blog, I wanted to follow up with another one. True blogger style.

by the way: this post is excruciatingly long (yikes! sorry) but it's really interesting so, yay?

There are different aspects to this: the why, the how and what, and the so what? Hopefully, this post covers them all in a coherent and cohesive manner. The why. Embarking on this sort of lifestyle challenge in January is not novel at all; it is in fact almost a cliche. The beginning of a new year means everyone wants to be on their best behavior. What else is new?


However, would you believe it if I said that for me, it was more of a spiritual endeavor than physical? My church community was doing a beginning of the year fast, and quite frankly I knew I could not go the whole day without eating. I just can't...not eat. But I also wanted to partake in what we were doing.  So I chose to go the Whole 30 route since in a lot of ways, it was also denying things my flesh would ordinarily desire.  I needed to feel like I was making a sacrifice and Whole 30 seemed to be the compromise between not eating at all and foregoing the fast altogether. Sidebar: I want to write about fasting one day and the right type of fasts (this could be in five years with my current pace of blogging ugh). I will come back to the spiritual aspect of my Whole 30 thing in a minute.

Next: The how. Well, you know the drill of Whole 30 by now: a nutritional program meant to "change your life". No grains (RIP rice), legumes (even peanuts), dairy, sugar, MSG, flour...just nothing that actually makes you happy for thirty days. You are not allowed to weigh yourself either. If you read the  post from when I did it almost five years(!) ago, you will see that there are more rules to adhere to. There is a lot of emphasis [from the creators and stakeholders of that community] on how Whole 30 is not for weight loss. But my friends, who are we kidding? We will talk about whether or not this is something you should do later on in this post. However, should you decide to do it, and you want specific ideas on what to eat, the following paragraphs will help you.

For breakfast, I had things like sweet potatoes and eggs. I HATE eggs. I also once (or twice) had banana and almonds for breakfast but hated it and quickly stopped. The rule says no smoothie, but I had smoothies cos who gon check me. I am an adult person capable of making my own decisions. I always have a smoothie for breakfast anyway, so that was not a big change at all. I should make an entire post on delicious (and healthy) smoothie recipes some time—here we go again with these promises. I made kale pineapple smoothies, kale and apple smoothies, spinach and pear smoothies, cauliflower smoothies, berry banana smoothies etc. An important smoothie ratio I follow is 2 parts veggies (about 4 cups), one (or 1.5) part fruit. If you never take smoothies, ease up to this and start with maybe just a handful of spinach in your smoothies before ramping it up. There is no better way (for me) than smoothies and salads to have my daily serving of vegetables. Speaking of salads:

For lunch, I mostly had big bowls of salad; this is already a staple in my diet so it was not a big switch. I love a good salad so yayy. I was always filled up, to be honest, and if you are not getting filled up you are probably not eating enough. I sometimes had my salads with grilled chicken. I actually prefer my salad without meat of any kind (but I also really need protein so...). Another lunch option I had was pan-roasted Irish potatoes, asparagus (or any other vegetable), with pan fried fillets. YUM. 

For dinner, I had a lot of Nigerian swallows (eba, amala) and soups.  Imagine my delight when I heard egusi soup was Whole 30 compliant. By the way, herein lies one of my problems with the Whole 30 program. See, I don't even like egusi like that but here I was wanting it. More on the problems below. [For dinner] I also had plantain and stew or efo, but grilled (boli) not fried (I can't stand friend plantains and I don't think fried things are allowed on Whole 30). Sometimes, I had sweet potato pottage for dinner and other times, I had just baked sweet potatoes. PS: Every mention of sweet potato is Japanese Sweet Potato, not that other orange travesty (which I actually don't mind lol).  I would normally bulk up the pottage with vegetables. Sometimes, I switched this up and had it for lunch.  Other times, for dinner, I had grilled whole fish with a side of coleslaw. Once, I tried zucchini noodles for dinner and swore to never ever in my life try such travesty again. Apart from the zucchini noodles experimentation, everything listed here are mostly things that are present in my diet anyway so I guess that's why it wasn't so much of a shock for me. Whole 30, for me, was mostly subtracting from my diet rather than adding to it. 

For snacks/desserts, I mostly had fruits. Orange was in season then (I think), and navel oranges when in season are the BEST things ever. Actually, any fruit in season feels really decadent. I'm having a bowl of watermelon as I write this post and mmmph, life is good. So yeah. The program frowns upon snacks but again, I am a grown woman and will do whatever I want to do. I wish I took more pictures of my food but I will admit I did not know I was going to blog about this (cue terrible blogger). Not to mention, I had not changed my phone then (an old, old, really old iPhone 7) so the few pictures I took were really awful. 

Did I eat MSG? No. Or wait, I should revise. I ate some soups made by my mom and I implemented a don't ask, don't tell policy. That is, I didn't ask if she used seasoning cubes (popularly known as maggi even though they are technically Knorr lol) which have MSG in them. I know she rarely uses seasoning cubes in her cooking generally and has all but eradicated it from her cooking except for when cooking stuff like Jollof rice (which I wasn't eating anyway) but I was still too afraid to ask. If this means I inadvertently ate MSG, then C'EST LA VIE!

As you can see, a huge saving grace is that Nigerian foods are very very Whole 30 compliant. If I do not eat Nigerian food, I'm just not sure how I would have done this. 

Notwithstanding all of this, by the last week of the program, I was over it; not because of anything other than I was freaking bored. And this is coming from someone who normally eats the same lunch every day of the week and has had a green smoothie every day for several years now. I am the definition of creature of habit and even I got tired of Whole 30, which is saying something. Boredom was the biggest challenge with this round. 

And now the so what. Did I see any life changing effects? I did not lose weight at all, but then again I was NOT looking to lose any so maybe there is a mind thing at play here? I know I ate more because I wanted to be full. I will say though that my stomach was really really really really flat with well defined abs. Like, y'all no matter what I did my stomach remained flat. It was a fascinating mystery. Thinking back now, I'm not so sure why I am so certain I did not lose any weight since quite frankly, I never weigh myself. Whole 30 or not, I look in the mirror and thank God for what I see and keep it moving. Without the actual numbers, I can't say for sure I did not lose weight. But, with these things you always know and I feel confident saying I did not lose any weight. Just that flat stomach thing, which I must admit was freaking dope. But dope enough to give up foods I really enjoy? Nah dawg. 

A second amazing effect was on my skin. My skin was clear, CLEAR. Throughout my adult life, I am not sure it has ever been so clear and smooth. Now, this one is a little complicated because I also changed my skin care routine around that period. In December, out of sheer boredom, irritation, frustration (or whatever), I woke up one morning and threw away all my beauty products. I had had enough and stripped my routine to a bare minimum: I literally only washed my face and used my sunscreen moisturizer (Elta MD — obvs this is NOT sponsored Lol). That was it; no serums, no toners, nothing. So was it my skin care regimen or Whole 30? I think it might be a little bit of both. Now that Whole 30 is over, my skin is still doing well (knock on wood); better than previous years, but not quite as amazing as it was in January. I still just wash (with Cerave), maybe apply acne spot treatments when necessary, and then moisturize with something that has SPF (either Elta or Fenty). At night, I use Cerave moisturizer (my dermatologist also recently got me on prescribed retinol that I use once a week).  I will say though, as simple as this routine is, I am a STICKLER for actually following it every single day. So take all of that and do whatever you will with it. 

With all of the above, would I still recommend Whole 30? The answer is no. I think it's restrictive and has the potential to trigger unhealthy practices. It also increases cravings on an abnormal level. It's almost like the more you tell yourself you can't have a particular food, the more you crave it; thereby leading to unhealthy behavior and terrible eating habits. It can be especially triggering for someone who has an eating disorder. That is not my experience, so of course, it was easier for me.  If you can use the program to figure out whether you are sensitive to certain foods, and then stay away from such foods then sure, perhaps. The problem is I'm not even sure you can use Whole 30 to figure this out. There is the argument that once you cut certain foods from your diet for an extended period of time, reintroducing them will trigger a reaction to them whether or not you actually have a sensitivity to them. There is also the fear component; I will let this post explain that. Most importantly, it is not sustainable. It is so extremely rigid as to be vexing. Some of the restrictions are so unnecessary, you start to question the reasoning behind them. Why ban beans, for instance? It's almost like the program sets participants up for failure. I think the ONLY reason I went through with it was because of the aforementioned attached spiritual aspect and connotation. I don't diet and I needed a reason to continue with this.  So you need a why if you're going to get through this.  All that denying oneself of what you actually enjoy can also be detrimental  to our mental health as well. Get this, I did this in the middle of a freaking pandemic. I suppose this is why Whole 30 is also almost always ranked as one of the worst diets ever by doctors, nutritionists, academics, and other experts. 

I want to end this post by reiterating that YOU DON'T NEED TO BE ON A DIET TO BE HEALTHY. This is a FACT. It is an objective, evidence based fact. Dieting can in fact, be unhealthy and dangerous. And most times, diets don't even work. I hear you say, well what if i want to lose weight. That's not a terrible thing at all and it is also very valid. Yet I will argue that even if you want to lose weight, you don't need to be on a "diet". However, I don't have much experience with that so I won't say much from a personal angle. The science does say you need to embark upon something sustainable so that it's easier to stick with it and your body isn't lacking good nutrients. I understand that everyone needs or wants a reset every now and then. In that case, I suppose it would not hurt to give Whole 30 a try. 

Again, a lifestyle that is sustainable is the best approach. I found this very fascinating video (and this) and I think it will be really really helpful for chronic dieters or just...everyone to see the miracle that our bodies can be. A significant aspect of how we look is actually genetically predetermined, except you have leptin resistance or something.  I will reiterate what I wrote in the first post: everything in moderation. Eat vegetables with your meals. Eat in moderate proportions. Don't use food as a filler for emotional stuff but ENJOY food. People sometimes say food is just a tool, you eat it for energy and that's all. I can't relate. Food is an experience for me. So eat, my loves. 



PS: Thank you for reading all the way! This post on Whole 30 took sooo long to compile, write, put together, and [finally] post so please read and share it widely! And of course, let me know if you have thoughts. Gracias!

No comments