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The detox diaries: Joe O'Shea has reached the end of the Whole 30 and doesn't even want a cheeseburger


Joe O'Shea

Joe O'Shea

Joe O'Shea

After 30 days of (almost) perfect compliance with the Whole30 programme - no carbs, dairy, alcohol, grains, or pretty much anything - you might think that the first thing you would do on reaching the finishing line is to dive head first into a mountain of cheeseburgers.

After a month without any fun, food or drink-wise - and times when it really felt as if we would just keel over with the hunger - you might think the first item on the agenda would be to go mad and pile into the beer and chips.

But the funny thing is, apart from a few drinks with friends to cap off a few days in Dublin, the urge to carb-load like we're about to ride the Tour de France just hasn't been there.

First thing's first. The one piece of information that everybody who has been following our detox on social media and in real life wants; the question that always comes up: "How much weight did you lose?"

It's obvious that we are obsessed with weight and fascinated by anything that might help us shift a few pounds. You just have to look at the book best-seller charts, at prime-time TV, newspapers, magazines and the internet. Few subjects attract the kind of universal attention and focus that weight loss does.

Our family and friends (myself and my wife Holly did this together) all want to know how much weight we shifted, even though, strictly speaking, we were not allowed to go near the scales during the 30 days (apparently, there's the danger of disappointment sending you running to the nearest kebab shop).

Well, in my case, I started at just over 14 stone and finished at just under 13. So I lost a stone and a couple of pounds over the 30 days. Does it sound like a lot? It certainly feels good.

Clothes that were tight, or basically stuffed in the back of the wardrobe, now feel like they fit. I've started back running and it feels a bit strange, like I have taken off a backpack that was full of stones.

And you do get that: "God you've lost a lot of weight!" reaction from people. Which, let's face it, unless you are some sort of saint, feels great. If we are honest, we can never get enough of people telling us that we look fab.

After a pretty extreme diet, you almost come to expect it. You walk into a room practically doing a twirl, waiting for the compliments to start flying. It does feel a bit silly and narcissistic. There are few things like doing something like the Whole30 to encourage a little bit of self-obsession, even if it is mostly healthy.

I wasn't exactly overweight to start with. But I was definitely carrying too much timber. And the Whole30, while it was tough, a real drag over the whole of August, has done what it claimed it would do.

Or has it? Diets such as the Paleo, Whole30, Atkins and so on, make big claims on "re-setting your relationship with food" or fundamentally changing lifestyles.

However, what it felt like was a starvation diet. You cut out bread, milk, cheese, rice, pasta, spuds, all sugars and just about everything bar fruit, nuts, veg and meat and you are certainly going to see results.

Our friends want to know, would we recommend it? Would we pass on the book to them and tell them to go for it?

Well, it's a qualified yes. If you are worried about your health, your weight and your relationship with food, something like the Paleo or the Whole30 (and there are lots of variations and endless advice to be had from the internet) does make sense.

It's sold as a 30-day reset for your body and mind. And it does do the job in that respect. We have started thinking more about what we eat and drink, and how we are going to go forward now that the regimen has ended.

The feeling of focus and clear-headedness that comes with not drinking for four weeks is one that I want to continue to enjoy. I'll still have a beer or glass of wine, but I think the relatively frequent "sessions" are going to become much fewer and further apart. Special occasions rather than, "Well, it's Friday evening so let's go to the pub."

And now that I have dropped a stone in weight, I don't want to put it back on again. That would just be dumb and all of our suffering will have been in vain.

However, while it may sound obvious or trite, you don't need a big book and a scientifically worked out nutritional plan to look after your weight and health. A good diet and plenty of exercise really are all you need.

If you don't know where to start, sure, do a 30-day plan. It's great for giving you dramatic results which will then encourage you to kick on. It shows you what is possible by following a very strict programme.

It doesn't matter how unfit or overweight you might be. It can be done and you can get pretty dramatic results in a relatively short period of time. Seriously, don't keep putting it off or think there's no point. Go for it, you will definitely feel better in body and soul.

And do it with someone, your partner, a brother, sister or friend. There's nothing like having someone else go through the same suffering you are experiencing to help you reach your goal. Just expect a few tears and lots of cranky moments.

However, now that it is over for us, we are not going to become Diet Nazis. Life really is too short to go without good cheese, chocolate and great wine.

I'm glad we did it. But the Whole30 will now go back of the bookshelf, to be used only in case of an emergency.


Irish Independent