Let’s talk Whole30!
I’ve had a lot of friends and family ask me about Whole30, which has shown me that there’s a lot of confusion and misinformation out there about it. After repeating myself a few times, I thought it might be easier to just be able to direct them to a “Whole30” post, then tell them to come back if they still had questions. The same goes for you – if you still have questions, comment below! I promise I will answer them. If I start to see enough of the same questions repeating themselves, I’ll either add them to this post or create a follow up post. Whole30 Part Deux! (Confession: I really just wanted to use the word “deux” on my blog. Mission accomplished.)
Before I dive in to their questions, I’m going to answer the most important question…
What is Whole30?
If you’ve landed here, it’s likely because you’re doing some research on Whole30 and reading up on it. But maybe you were just poking around the internet, and landed here randomly. If so, welcome! If you have no idea what Whole30 is, here is my super-simple definition. It is 100% super-strict Paleo eating for 30 days. That’s it. And I know “super-strict” sounds “super-scary,” but it’s not. It just means you’re holding yourself accountable for your choices for the duration of the program.
The below are all questions that were asked of me by friends and family about the Whole30 program.
Where do I start?
Read It Starts With Food. If you’re considering doing a Whole30, read this book first. It will explain the entire program to you, will answer (almost) all your questions, and will give you a good base knowledge for understanding the how and the why. I see so many people just say blindly, “I’m going to do a Whole30” after reading a single blog post or website, or hearing about a friend who is doing it. If you TRULY want the program to work, you need to understand WHY you’re doing it. To understand the program, you need to read this book.
What steps should I take if I’m serious about doing this?
Well first, read the book. (See above.) Once you’ve done that, you will need to make a game plan. You CAN do it, but it does take prep work! Being unprepared is the one thing that will cause you to fail at Whole30. Preparation is key. You’ll need to map out your schedule of shopping days, cook-ups, and a general idea of what you’re going to eat each day. I recommend doing this a week at a time – this way you don’t have to plan too far ahead, you can buy things fresh, and you won’t feel too overwhelmed. If you prefer to have someone do the meal planning for you, there are lots of services out there that will provide it. RealPlans offers customizable meal planning. If you’re thinking of meal planning yourself, check out this post on how to meal plan in 3 easy steps!
How can I best prepare and set myself up for success, both mentally AND physically?
Know what you’re getting into, then commit yourself to it in both aspects – mentally and physically.
Mentally, you’re going to have to be tough. You’re going to have to be strong-willed, you’re going to have to say “No thank you” more times than you can count in 30 days. Listen to me – it’s worth it. It’s empowering. When you’re in the moment, and someone offers you that amazing looking cupcake, I’m not going to lie to you – it’s going to be difficult to refuse it. But you have to. If you’re committed to this, the answer is no. Once you’ve said no, and you’ve walked away, and you’ve had a few minutes for the craving to pass, you’ll feel empowered. You’ll feel strong. You’ll feel proud of yourself for sticking to your commitment. Remember – there will ALWAYS be another cupcake. Always.
One other thing that will help you get through this is changing your mindset about eating certain foods for certain meals. Eggs are not just breakfast, soup is not just dinner. Stop thinking about having to eat certain things at certain times, and your Whole30 just got a LOT easier. Salads for breakfast, eggs for dinner – there are no rules! The existing ideas about this only exist because society created them, and taught you that this is the way it is. It doesn’t have to be. Eat what you want, when you want.
Physically, you’ll need to know what to expect. Your overall physical health is going to improve. Depending on where you’re starting from, you will have a few days in the beginning when you might be a bit grumpy. Shortly after that, you might feel a bit exhausted, or drained – these are the grains and toxins processing out of your body. You may hear this referred to as the “carb flu.” Once that passes, you will literally see the fog clear. You’ll wake up with more energy, and have more energy throughout the day. From there, it’s easy-peasy! You’ll continue to feel better each day until your body has leveled out at its normal daily energy level.
I’ve had lots of my friends ask me how much Whole 30 costs. They’re confused thinking it’s a program like weight watchers or 21 day fix that you have to buy/subscribe to.
False. With the exception of buying the book (which you could also get from the library for free!), Whole30 costs nothing except the groceries on your plate. If you want to argue that the groceries are more expensive than your processed food, fine. You’re probably right. But they are less expensive than eating out, and are WAAAAY less expensive than the doctor’s bills that will come later on down the road with the health problems you develop. Pay your grocer or pay your doctor, the choice is yours. Eating right is preventative maintenance for your body.
If you drive your car for 100,000 miles and never get an oil change, and your engine blows up, will you be surprised? Can you claim you never saw that coming? Definitely not. Your body is the engine, and the food you eat is the fuel. Put the right stuff in it from the start, and you’ll avoid the fallout later.
WHY should I do this?
The one thing I always tell people is that I never knew I felt bad until I felt better. When I wasn’t Paleo, and I hadn’t done a Whole30, I told myself I didn’t need that. I was healthy, I ate “well enough,” I paid attention to what went in my body, I exercised. I didn’t need a reset! I’m telling you – you do. We all do. You have no idea how much better you can feel. You have no idea that you have existing digestive issues, or that your body is actually reacting to certain things you’re giving it. You don’t know you feel bad until you feel better. Seriously.
It would be awesome to have REAL reviews and stories from peeps you know and not just random testimonials from strangers.
Fair! I totally get it. It’s easy to find random people who claim this voodoo worked for them, but how do we know they’re real? Well, I’m here to tell you, they’re real. Below are testimonials I collected from 3 close friends of mine that have completed a Whole30. I asked them to send me some info on their Whole30 experiences to share with you, and here is what they said:
Kelly: “My Whole30 journey began in August of 2012. I was working out 5x/week, and felt like I was simply maintaining my weight. I didn’t feel as though I was able to build any muscle or lose any inches to my waistline. If I missed a day or two at the gym, my jeans would feel snug, even though I was making every effort to eat what I thought at the time was “healthy” in the meantime. In my frustration, I reached out to an old friend of mine who was very active in the CrossFit world and very knowledgable about fitness and nutrition. Little did I know how much that email would change my whole life. My friend immediately directed me to read the “It Starts with Food” book, and he also informed me he was doing this program called the Whole30, for the month of September. I read the book, and immediately jumped into the Whole30 on September 1. I want to note that during this first W30 experience I did not go to the gym for my normal classes, at all. I did this because I very much wanted to conduct this W30 like a scientific experiment, and I wanted to see how much nutrition and nutrition alone, was affecting my weight. (At that point I still thought it was all about my weight). I didn’t want to have a different instructor in my fitness classes or any other variables involved. JUST FOOD. The journey began very predictably as outlined in the program. I went through withdrawals, I felt sluggish the first week or so, but I persevered. Around the end of Week 2 is when I really began to realize huge changes. I wasn’t sneezing as much, I wasn’t feeling bloated, I was actually losing weight, my complexion was clearing, I hadn’t gotten one of my regular migraines yet. I was hooked. By far, the best thing about the Whole30 program is being able to see which foods affect you in what way. I found that by cutting dairy, I was able to eliminate all allergy medications. I was making myself sick! And the best news? I didn’t go hungry. Thats the beautiful thing about the Whole30 and Paleo in general, if you are eating the right foods, foods that nourish you, you can eat as much as you want! I definitely have my cheat moments, but the Whole30 helped me gain control of my relationship with food. It showed me how much better I could feel and look, as long as I am eating foods that help repair, help, and replenish my body!”
Jenny: “Before Whole30 my diet was bad…like B.A.D. I ate and drank what I wanted whenever I wanted to. My sugar intake was through the roof and my energy levels were low. My husband and I started Whole30 and even though I felt like I was dying the first week, we stuck with it. I’m SO glad we did. After getting through the rough patches I feel better than I have in SO long. I don’t have an afternoon energy slump anymore. The best part is that I don’t really crave sugar. That’s huge for me. We’re cooking and eating healthy meals at home that I don’t feel bad about feeding my children! Whole30 was definitely a game changer.”
Kristina: “Before I started a Whole30, I was already eating pretty clean, but I wasn’t making a full effort of it. After returning from a vacation in Spain, I decided it was just what I needed to get back on track. I was excited to start- I did my research, read the book, studied the lists, and found some great recipes. I noticed small changes at first – my skin was brighter and had a nice glow, and I was more energetic. I did loose a few pounds as well, but that wasn’t my intent and was just an added bonus. It changed the way I shop for and prep my food, for good. Everything in moderation – I feel like small changes before you start make the Whole30 approach more realistic and less frustrating if you’re new to clean eating. It’s taken me a few years to get where I’m at with food, but with all the information and support groups on social media it’s been a fairly easy transition.”
What are your FAVORITE go-to Whole 30 compliant recipes?
Anything out of Well Fed, Well Fed 2, or Well Fed Weeknights. Seriously, Mel Joulwan is like a Whole30 wizard fo’ realz. That woman can make meals that your friends and family will never know are Paleo, nor will they care. They’re busting at the seams with flavor, and 99% of the recipes in all 3 of her cookbooks are Whole30 compliant. Amazeballs. That’s all I’ve got to say.
I also like to make things in big batches, so I can eat leftovers for other meals during the week. My Turkey Pumpkin Chili is a good one that makes lots of leftovers, and my Sweet Potato Crust Quiche is good for any time of day. A couple of my other go-to resources are Nom Nom Paleo’s 30 Days of Whole30 Recipes, or a Whole30 search on Pinterest. There’s no regulation on Pinterest, remember, so a lot of people claim things are Whole30 that are not, which drives me crazy. Check your recipe ingredients if you have doubts or aren’t sure. And if you really feel like you need more daily support to stay on track, you can sign up for the Whole30 Daily, which will send you daily emails to keep you on track and hold you accountable each day. I also have a private Facebook group for Whole30 support, which you can request to join here.
What are your FAVORITE go-to Whole 30 compliant snacks when you REALLY are just tempted to eat off plan and need something quick and yummy?
You have to be careful with this one, as sometimes “quick and yummy” in your head actually translates to a sugar craving. There’s no SWYPO in Whole30, which means no Paleo baked goods or imitations of non-Paleo foods to trick your brain. They even go so far as to say no smoothies, which tends to be a big point of contention with a lot of people. You’re allowed white potatoes, and usually what I want is crunchy and salty, so I’ll dice some of those up and eat them with some homemade spicy ranch. That being said, here are my go-to snacks that help to have on hand in a pinch:
LARA Bars (only some flavors – check that it doesn’t have sugar, chocolate chips, etc in it!), Epic Bars, my Nutty Espresso Bars, Rx Bars (same deal as the LARA bars – no peanut butter, no maple syrup, etc)…
Are you seeing a trend here?! Bars are easy and portable and don’t get smashed in your purse. If you’re at home, hard boiled eggs or deviled eggs made with homemade mayo, roasted & salted nuts (I make my own, but just read your labels before you buy.)
What did you wish you knew BEFORE you started?
How much it would change me, my taste buds, and my lifestyle. After just a few days, I was able to notice flavors in things I hadn’t before. I noticed when things were overly sweet, when they needed salt, and mostly when they were over-salted (which was a lot!) Recognizing the flavors and my reactions to them changed the way I cooked and the way I ate. If I knew how awesome Day 30 was going to be, I wouldn’t have struggled so much with it or waited so long to start.
To a lesser degree, I wish I had known what the cooking and prep would be like. I would have made a couple of batches of things in the slow cooker ahead of time and frozen them to pull out on nights I just didn’t have the energy to cook!
I’d love a grocery list for the first 2 weeks. HOLD my hand. I can eat chicken and a sweet potato every day if I know how much to make and when to eat. Pretend I have no brain. HAHA!
I almost didn’t include this “question”, but then I realized there’s a very important lesson in it! You can make however much you want, eat however much you want, and eat it whenever you want, as long as you stay within the food guidelines. This ISN’T a diet. It’s a conscious decision that you’re making to learn what your body does and doesn’t tolerate. There aren’t rules on portion sizes, no points are being counted, and no one has a watch set with a timer telling you when to eat. Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full. As long as your ingredients and the things you are eating fall within the guidelines, it’s fair game.
I’d love your “what I have in my fridge at all times” kind of thing.
What I have in my fridge at all times: healthy, nutrient dense vegetables, high quality meats, some fruits.
Ok- that’s the easy cop-out Paleo answer. But I DO have those things in my fridge at all times. Here’s what else I try to keep stocked so I don’t lose my marbles:
Seltzer water: I love Spindrift – my favorite is the Raspberry Lime flavor. Whichever one you pick, just make sure there are no added sweeteners or sugars in it.
Coconut water: my favorite is the EarthFare store brand or BlueMonkey. Not all coconut waters are created equal, so try some out and see which ones you like! They are great for hydrating after a workout.
A jar of cashew or almond butter: I buy my cashew butter at Trader Joe’s and my almond butter in a big ol’ jar at Costco. When I’m hungry and am too lazy to make anything or heat up leftovers, I slice an apple and dip it in cashew butter. The apple is a carb, but the nut butter is a fat and will keep you full for a few hours!
Sliced meat: Make sure you’re getting high-quality here, and read your ingredients. I usually keep Applegate Farms pepperoni in the fridge – it’s a good burst of protein, flavorful, and an easy snack.
One last thought…
A Whole30 lasts 30 days. Not 20, not 25, not 29. Those would be called a Whole20, Whole25, and Whole29, respectively. If you read the book, you’ll understand that these are acceptable timeframes for a second or third Whole30, or any time thereafter. I hope I don’t upset any of my friends who have gone on Whole30’s and not completed them to the end, but here’s the hard truth: You didn’t do a Whole30.
The program is designed to reset your body, and how it reacts to anything and everything. You have to give it 30 days to get the full effects. Can you learn things about your body and the food your eating in less than 30 days? Sure. Did you complete a Whole30? No, you did not.
For your first round, stick to it. See it through. DO ALL 30 OF THE DAYS. I’m sorry to yell at you, but I want you to understand why this is important. It’s called Whole30 for a reason. Don’t cheat yourself.
Have more questions about Whole30? Leave them in the comments and I’ll get ’em answered!