6 Weird Things That Happen When You Go On The Whole30 Diet

Looking to clean up your diet and reap all the benefits of the Whole30 plan everyone’s buzzing about? Fans say giving up processed foods and added sugars helps cut cravings, amp up energy, and solve digestive woes—losing weight is almost an afterthought.

(Learn how bone broth can help you lose weight with Women's Health's Bone Broth Diet.)

But is it everything it’s cracked up to be? We consulted registered dietian Justine Roth R.D., who runs a private practice in New York City, about the diet and all its possible side effects.

Unlike a lot of fad diets, Whole30 is pegged as a major lifestyle restart, not just a weight-loss program. The focus is on ditching processed foods and eliminating added sugar (for 30 days). Be warned though, it’s not for the weak-willed: Forbidden foods include all sweeteners (including maple syrup), booze, quinoa, beans, soy, and dairy. And you do it cold turkey—no easing in.

“It’s way more extreme than paleo,” says Roth. “But the idea is that you make these changes and stick with them long-term, because you’ll eventually lose the cravings for processed and sugary foods.”

Given that most of the foods on Whole30’s no-no list are a big part of the average American diet, your body will experience something akin to nutritional whiplash once you start. “The first two weeks are especially tough,” says Roth.

Here are some of the side effects, good and bad, that you can anticipate.


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Bet you never thought that’d be on the list, huh? But it’s not uncommon for dieters to start off with a high when they begin any kind of new clean-eating program, and Whole30 is not different, Roth says. “You feel less bloated and lighter when you’re only eating fresh whole foods, and it contributes to a happier mindset," she says. "The euphoria is in the beginning and usually subsides shortly after beginning the diet." So don't expect it to last. 


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Within a few days to a week, feeling good about your responsible health decisions gives way to the overwhelming desire to stuff food in your face. (We're just being honest.) “Often, people don’t know how to satiate themselves with the foods they’re allowed to have on Whole30,” says Roth. Combining fruit with nut butter, for instance, can help slow digestion and head off the blood-sugar spikes you’d experience from fruit alone. This one might taper off after a couple of weeks. But, for others, it continues throughout the duration of the diet.

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Roth describes the feeling as “like the last day of the flu." You’re run down, with achy joints and a dull headache that just won't quit. Caffeine and ibuprofen might mask the effects, but it won't treat the root cause. “The main reason is you’re restricting carbs and, depending on how low you go with carbs, triggering ketosis," she says. After all, all of those processed foods are some of your body’s main source of carbs, a.k.a. energy. Over time, as your body adjusts to breaking down fat into ketones for energy, this will fade. But it's a pretty nasty process.


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With hunger and sluggishness on the menu, it's no surprise why moodiness is, too. “Especially for the first two weeks, you’re very cranky,” says Roth, noting that carbs are also a main nutrient involved in making serotonin, your brain’s feel-good hormone. During this time, focus on doing things that perk up your mood. Get a massage, take a bath, do you.

Stomach Problems

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Loading up on veggies is great. But doing it all at once (like, on day one of Whole30) causes a sharp increase in your fiber intake, says Roth. The problem? All that fiber can lead to discomfort. “Different fiber does different things,” she says. “It either bulks you”—which can result in constipation—“or speeds up digestion”—which can lead to diarrhea. Your tummy troubles will fade as your gut adjusts to your new fiber intake, but do you best to increase fibrous, and gas-promoting, veggies such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts, in moderation.


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“This is a very hard diet to stick with because it’s so restrictive,” Roth says. So people cheat a lot, and then they’re wracked with guilt when they fall off the wagon. This is one symptom that doesn't go away the longer you are on the diet, she says. #sorry


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