It was hard, but not impossible.
The premise of the program is to eat clean, whole foods for 30 days. But, of course, that’s just the first layer of a very well thought out program. Eat three meals a day, large and nutritious enough to keep you full until your next meal. Don’t skip breakfast. Stop eating a few hours before you go to bed. Veggies are “required” at every meal and fruits, which should be eaten sparingly, can be eaten with a meal. Snacking is discouraged – not forbidden – but really depends on your lifestyle.
- YES Foods: lean protein (meats, eggs, fish, seafood), veggies, fruits, healthy fats and oils, nuts, seeds
- NO Foods: added sugar in all forms (even honey), alcohol, legumes, grains, dairy, protein or meal replacement shakes, andd the recreation of baked goods, junk food or treats into “healthier” options
This program puts emphasis on enjoying your food and distinguishing hunger from cravings. Are you hungry enough to eat a plate of steamed veggies? If no, it’s probably just a craving. Stay away from sweet treats like fruit and nut bars when you’re craving – grab some protein instead.
Building Your Plate
- Start with high quality protein (1-2 palm-sized servings per meal).
- Fill the rest of your plate with veggies.
- Add 1-2 servings of fruit per day (1-2 fistfuls).
- Use 1 or more healthy fat sources per meal.
- TIP: Spices make everything (even veggies and eggs) taste wonderful.
It Starts with Food
This book is your golden ticket to success with the program. It was written by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig and breaks down the science and why behind the bad foods we put into our bodies. It is relatively easy to understand, even to non-science-y types (like me!).
Part 1: It Starts with Food – talks about what food should do for us and touches on our biochemistry and how our brains work on food.
Part 2: Good Food Standards – dives deeper into our biochemistry and how our entire body reacts to food.
Part 3: Less Healthy – discusses all of the “bad” foods that are listed on the unapproved list in the Whole30 program and how our bodies negatively react to them.
Part 4: More Healthy – puts a focus on the approved foods and how our bodies positively react to them.
Part 5: Let’s Eat – shows you how to meal plan.
Part 6: The Whole30 – gives you an outline of the program.
Part 7: Whole30, Whole Life – provides resources for successful continuation of the program well after 30 days.
Appendices – include some recipes and a list of resources to help you get started.
Helpful Kitchen Tips
- Rid your house of the “bad” stuff, or at least put it away. I stored all of my baking items in the cabinet above the fridge so it was out of reach – I need a chair to get to it.
- Make your own condiments. It’s cheaper than buying Whole30 approved items AND they are very easy and quick to make.
- Light a candle when chopping onions. (I used onions in almost all of my meals.) Gum used to be my go-to, stop the tears trick, but gum falls into the NO category.
- Prepare your food ahead of time and make sure you have enough to last the week so you won’t be tempted to grab something that isn’t approved. For tips, check out my updated post #mealprep.
- Keep some pre-packaged items on hand for when you’re traveling on the weekends. Trust me, you will be hard-pressed to find anything approved while on the go.
Must Have Resources
Whole30 Website – provides a wealth of information including a meal template, list of approved on-the-go foods, shopping lists, produce guides, and so much more.
The Whole30: The 30 Day Guide to Health and Food Freedom (Hardcover, B&N $30.00) – a quick guide and recipe book.
Whole30 Support Groups – I joined a group on Facebook and it was nice to have accountability and a forum to share recipes and ask questions.
It Starts with Food (Hardcover, B&N $26,95) – see above.
This is not horrible, but takes a little skill, knowledge of the rules, and a brave soul. “I’ll have the bbq grilled chicken, a baked sweet potato, and steamed veggies. Hold the bbq sauce and butter.Do you have olive oil? Not just oil, but the real deal olive oil?” Your tone makes all the difference between sounding like a health-minded individual and sounding like a snobby little twat.
Don’t skip this part. Now that you’ve eliminated all of the “bad” or less healthy foods, it’s time to add them back into your diet one at a time to see if any have an adverse effect. Days 31-40 keep Whole30 compliant and add in a less healthy food every few days and evaluate the outcome. Will there be any foods that you want to completely eliminate from your diet? Self-awareness is key.
Spreading the Word
I learned my lesson about sharing my newfound diets a LONG time ago. Some won’t be happy for you or encourage you. Others will tell you that it’s stupid. A few might even get you to cheat or quit early. Don’t. And don’t listen to them. Do what’s right for you. Celebrate yourself. But, if you must share, do so with class. Melissa Hartwig has a great blog post on sharing your Whole30 experiences and how to do it the right (AKA less annoying) way.
My neurologist was pleased to hear that I was doing the Whole30 – I think she’s actually the only person to encourage me to do it. She suggested that I keep going well after day 30. Her initial recommendations to abstain from alcohol, caffeine, and excess grains and sugar fit in nicely with the program. I’ve never had a doctor advocate for one diet or lifestyle over another, so this was HUGE. Paleo seems like the path towards optimal health.
To be completely honest, I didn’t experience any of the earth shattering changes that others have. I didn’t lose a ton of weight, my headaches didn’t get better, I still don’t sleep well, and I don’t feel like a completely new person. That being said, I would recommend that, at the very least, everyone try a Whole30 once in their lifetime. For maximum health benefits I would recommend doing a Whole30 once a year.
Why? For me, the Whole30 was a total eye-opener. Prior to starting my journey, I didn’t realize how much sugar or hydrogenated oils were in EVERYTHING. I took many of the “healthy” grocery store items for their full-face value. I never thought that ketchup, bbq sauce, salad dressings, mayo, and even bacon and diced tomatoes would be laden with every form of sugar that you can imagine. I was blind to the fact that what I was putting into my body was actually doing more harm than good. I took “good” food for granted.
So, maybe I don’t have a miraculous or glowing success story to share with the world, but I have something just as good, or even better: awareness. I’m mindful of everything I put into my body, scrupulous about how food is prepared, and conscious about every bite and sip I take.
Thinking about starting your own Whole30 journey? Start with It Starts with Food. And, as always, I’m here to answer questions about my own experience.