Whole 30 vs Vegan Lifestyle?
I have struggled a bit about whether or not a Whole 30 or a vegan lifestyle would be better for me. Have you had the same questions? I was vegan for four years, vegetarian for 20 and have started three Whole 30's, and completed two. I have experimented over the years with lots of different eating styles. I try hard to stick to a whole foods diet--with very little processed food but if I am being truly honest, those processed foods slip in a lot more often than I would like.
At the start of the year, I know I want a reset and have put a lot of thought into the question:
Which one of these "lifestyles" would be best for me right now?
What is the difference between Whole 30 and a Vegan lifestyle?
The Whole 30 is a program developed by Melissa Urban to reset your body and get rid of crazy food addictions and bad patterns. On the Whole 30, for 30 days, the following is not allowed: dairy, grains, legumes, alcohol, sugar, weird additives, or food that contains compliant ingredients but made into something else.....like, banana ice cream or coconut flour pancakes. While it might sound totally restrictive, WHAT DO YOU EAT?, once you get into it, you will see that there really are a lot of whole food options that taste great and feel good and nurturing to your body. Things like kalua pig sweet potatoes or chicken tortilla soup (sans tortilla) or avocado topped Paleo chili.
For some good resources on the Whole 30, I suggest It Starts with Food, The Whole 30: The 30 Day Guide to Food and Freedom, The Whole 30 Fast and Easy, and the one I am most excited about, The Whole 30 Day by Day Guide and Workbook. These are all from Melissa Hartwig, the co-founder of the program and the place to start if you are just getting started with this.
I also love Melissa's personal Instagram account and her IG stories are very inspiring. She may be the cause of my crazy desire to move to the mountains of Utah. Check her out.
A couple of other things about this program. It is super tough love. If you cheat, YES, even just a nibble of bread, she tells you to start over. She advises you not to weigh yourself or take measurements during the 30 days but to focus on non-scale victories. The Whole 30 requires lots of planning, and lots of cooking. There are very few restaurants (maybe Chipotle) that offer Whole 30 compliant meals and at least in the beginning it is easier to just eat at home instead of trying to figure out what you can eat and where.
***Since I originally wrote this post, there have been many products that have been re-formulated to be Whole 30 compliant. Chipotle also offers Whole 30 options with their bowls. It has definitely gotten easier to eat out on the Whole 30 in the last five years.***
What is a vegan?
A vegan is someone who doesn't eat animal products of any kind--no dairy, no meat, some vegans chose not to eat honey (since they are a product produced by bees). Even though it might sound limiting, vegans have tons of options . Check out the Instagram feed, "I don't want a salad" and you will see that vegans are not living off of carrots and lentils, there is a way to make almost everything vegan. Some of my recipes on this site like the Five Layer Bars, the Butternut Squash Soup, and the Lettuce Avocado Sandwiches are vegan and you wouldn't need to add anything to them to make them better for omnivores. They are perfect as is. My favorite vegan cookbook, Veganomicon is a great resource for amazing recipes.
What is better for you, becoming vegan or doing the Whole 30?
In my opinion, this all depends on your goals. Are you wanting a quick reset or are you wanting a total lifestyle change? Do you have an addiction to sugar or bread that you are trying to get over?
If you have the same carb-addiction, that I do, being vegan is WAAAAYYY easier than the Whole 30.
Most breads are vegan, bagels are vegan (except the cheese bagels, duh) and Tofutti cream cheese is even better than dairy cream cheese. Rice is vegan. Coconut milk ice cream is vegan, certain brands of chocolate chips are vegan. There are tons of vegan options at restaurants. Avocado sushi is vegan. Cheeseless pizza is vegan! When I started college, I was the worst ever vegan. I ate french fries and salad from the cafeteria and then had a little stash of vegan bologna slices and bagels back in my dorm room. I would walk to the co-op daily for vegan chocolate chip cookies and I would eat tons of Jolly Ranchers. Bananas were a staple too. If I wanted a burger, there were tons of options! Soy based veggie burgers topped with dairy free cheese----VEGAN!
Being vegan is great for the planet and has the potential to be a good and healthy lifestyle, if you do it correctly. But, for me, it is too easy to slip into baking vegan brownies and eating baguettes with dairy free cheese. If your goal is to have a smaller environmental impact on our planet, being vegan is better than the Whole 30. If you want to save the animals, go vegan. The Whole 30 is not for you.
- need something more restrictive. Some people need hard and fast rules to be successful.
- need something to stop the endless cycle of mindless carb intake
- need to really focus on what I am eating and to do a complete cut from sugar and grains and other inflammatory foods (beans, dairy)
- need to add more vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds into your diet
- have a source for quality clean meat products from reputable farms (I have heard that a lot of people use Butcher Box if they don't have a good farm nearby. I have never tried them but let me know if you have.)
- are willing to fully commit for 30 days
Try the Whole 30!
It isn't forever. It is just 30 days. A reset. A re-evaluation of how my body reacts to different foods.
During the Whole 30, I really focus on the food that I am eating. The Whole 30 requires cooking or at the very least preparing your meal in some fashion at home.
Sometimes, the Whole 30 gets really boring. My breakfast was always eggs, bacon and strawberries. Scrambled eggs, boiled eggs, fried eggs.....always eggs. BORING. You don't have to eat breakfast food for breakfast.....why not a nice big bowl of chicken curry (without the rice) or a giant bowl of chia pudding?
Sometimes you just NEED a piece of pumpkin bread and you have to dig deep for the willpower to avoid it. Remember, IT IS ONLY 30 DAYS and there are lots of resources out there to spice things up and help you out.
Along the way, you may find that you are 1) stronger than you think, 2) that real food tastes great, and 3) your cravings for sugar can subside. I felt that my mood shifted, I was sleeping better and my clothes started to fit better. You also might find that you actually enjoy cooking and eating at home.
I felt great each time I did the Whole 30 and my husband loved it. He much prefers a big pot roast with potatoes and carrots to a brownie. I had weight loss each time and felt proud of myself for sticking to the challenge.
Besides the whole no sugar and grains thing, the hardest parts of it for me was:
- being prepared everyday (meal planning, planning for temptation scenarios)
- not being bored with options
- getting enough calories in to fuel workouts
- having to cook for a family where not everyone was doing the Whole 30 (see this blog post for some thoughts on this)
However, there are LOTS of resources out there to help with all of these things.
Check out my past posts about the Whole 30 for more: