So, you want to do a Whole30. You read It Starts With Food, you cleaned out your cabinets + pantry, + you spent the last week eating everything you’re going to miss in the next 30 days [don’t lie, I did it too]. You feel ready, nervous, + excited all at the same time to eat healthy – really, really healthy for the next month. You might have started cutting out some grains or dairy already, + think, at this point, that this is easy. As easy as the first few days might feel [if they’re easy at all], there will inevitably come a time where you just want that something — something sweet that’s not fruit, something savory that’s not meat or vegetables, or something new + exciting, + you’ll declare to yourself “the Whole30 sucks.”
Don’t fret! Having done two Whole30s before, I have found, with trial + error, that certain things will truly help you have the best experience during your month-long quest for ultimate health + wellness. With no further ado, here are my tips for surviving your first Whole30.
1] LOSE THE DIET MENTALITY.
Don’t think of this as a one month *cleanse* or a one month diet to get your six-pack or beach bod. The Whole30 is much, much more than that. Don’t focus on the outer effects as much as the inner ones – increased energy, possible loss of stomach aches//bloating, better sleep, loss of allergies. The physical aspects will come with it – but don’t make those your main focus! Make sure you are eating enough at every meal — protein, fat, + carbs are the main components of each meal, ++ make sure that you feel full + never, ever hungry. If you’re hungry, eat more! You should never feel that you have not had enough to eat. Protein, good fats, + veggies are super satisfying + healthy – so eat up!
2] FATS ARE GOOD.
I know this is focused on extensively in It Starts With Food, but I’ll reiterate it: healthy fats will absolutely not make you fat. Since eating more fat in my diet, I have felt satisfied faster, my blood sugar has become more stable [compared to the sugar rush I would get eating *normal* breakfasts such as oatmeal with banana], + I don’t get the *hangry* monster feeling in between meals. ++ get this – I haven’t gained any weight. Please, please do not fear fats from eggs, avocados, coconut, olives, and grassfed, organic meats. It’s all good!
3] CARBS ARE GOOD.
Okay, so you’re eating fats + loving life — don’t forget about your healthy carbs! Just because you’re not eating grains doesn’t mean that you are automatically on a low-carb, Atkins-esque diet. Carbs from veggies are great, but if you’re active, you need to include starchy carb sources in your diet. Going too low-carb is not sustainable, but it can be easy to accidentally eat low-carb when you start your grain-free experience. Make sure you don’t forget about cooking up + eating starchy veggies such as sweet potatoes, winter squashes, plantains, carrots, rutabagas, turnips, + bananas!
If you have an internship, job, or school to worry about, it is really tempting to eat a salad for every meal or just snack on fruit instead of eating real meals. Hey, they’re Whole30 approved, right? As delicious as fruit + salads are, if you don’t plan ahead, you won’t get the true experience of what you should be eating at every meal. Even though it takes some time, meal planning + possibly having a *meal prep day* can really help you throughout the week. Take an hour or two to make breakfast frittata muffins, crockpot some meat + veggies, bake sweet potatoes, chop veggies, + bulk cook anything that sounds good to you. You’ll thank yourself when you walk in the door tired at night!
5] EAT SNACKS IF YOU TRULY NEED THEM.
This relates back to my first point, but if you’ve read the book, you know that it says “no snacking, if you can help it.” While this sounds somewhat harsh, they do it for a good reason – many times we eat snacks, or mini-meals, that aren’t really necessary — we do it out of boredom, because everyone else is eating, or because we feel emotional. This doesn’t create good habits. However, if you truly are hungry + it’s not meal time yet – eat a snack! That is your body saying it NEEDS food, + maybe you haven’t quite figured out how much to eat during your meals to get you through to the next one. That’s okay — just remember to try eating a bit more at meals next time. Like I mentioned previously — never go hungry. Eat if you need to! Make sure each snack includes some protein + healthy fats to keep you full + satisfied.
6] TRY NEW + FUN RECIPES.
This isn’t a time to eat the same meal every day, at every meal, just because it’s whole30 approved. As Melissa Hartwig once said, “if you’re eating chicken, broccoli, + sweet potato at every meal, you’re not doing it right.” Experiment a little! There are so many sites that have amazing whole-food recipes that will blow your mind. A couple of my favorites are PaleOMG + Balanced Bites. Look around + pick something exciting + refreshing! Experiment with veggies + spices you’ve never tried before, a new fruit or a new cut of meat. Download this shopping list with items you may not typically buy. Be sure to bring it to your next grocery run! However, make sure you’re only making the food, + not some of the *treats* that pop up online, which brings me to my next point…
For a definition of SWYPO, see the Hartwigs’ post here. In a nutshell, don’t fall prey to the *Whole30* pizzas, brownies, cookies, cakes, + any other replacement foods that try to replace the junk food you miss. It may be made of approved ingredients, but is tons of almond flour combined with eggs and almond butter to make paleo brownies going to make you any healthier? I didn’t think so. It may be approved, but it is in no way as healthy as eating a solid meal of protein, fat, + fruit or veggies. Skip it, if only for the 30 days. You can do it!
8] STAY MOTIVATED. IT IS ONLY 30 DAYS.
There will inevitably come a point where you don’t want to cook anymore, you miss ice cream, you feel that *this is HARD* + you get cravings for stuff you used to eat – or stuff you wouldn’t have ever touched with a pole, but now sounds like a luxury. It’s hard to know that you CAN’T have something — maybe you don’t love Oreos, but on Day 16, you’re tempted to eat one because it’s sitting there + you know you can’t have it — in turn making you want it more. The cravings will come, + I am not perfect at all, I definitely had them. Drinking flavored tea after meals can fill the void of *boredom eating,* + eating fruit with your meals can curb cravings for after-dinner dessert munchies. Take note of when these cravings happen, because it’s most likely a pattern each day, + know that you’re in control of them! For fun, read the Whole30 Timeline — you’ll realize that you aren’t alone!
9] DO THE REINTRODUCTION.
I cannot stress this enough. You are eliminating many potential allergens from your diet during the 30 days. If you feel better, your skin clears up, you lose weight or just lose the constant stomach ache, you might be sensitive or allergic to something that you didn’t know about until you cut it out completely. Yes, it takes a while, + is tedious – but I promise, the reintroduction is worth it. If on Day 31 you eat noodles with soy sauce + ice cream for dessert, how will you know which one of those three allergens is responsible for your three-day stomach ache? During my first Whole30 I didn’t do the reintroduction, + I regretted it, as I later didn’t know what was causing my upset stomach – was it the dairy or the gluten? Do yourself a favor, especially if you feel amazing on the Whole30, + do the reintroduction.
I hope that these tips help you out on your first Whole30 + maybe put you at ease about some parts of it. The first time I did the Whole30 it did not go as smoothly as my second, mostly because I was afraid to eat enough + got bored with my food a little too quickly. Experiment with your food + don’t be afraid to try new things!
After both of my experiences, I felt the best I had ever felt. I always struggled with being really bloated after meals, + most of that went away. I probably lost a little weight [I don’t know, since I don’t weigh myself] but honestly, that was nothing compared to how much energy I had + the confidence I had in how I was fueling my body. My workouts were great, my sleep was awesome, + I just all-around felt good.
Of course, there were some rough patches – I was used to eating something healthy yet chocolaty after dinner, but that was out during the Whole30; I definitely had some days where I wanted to dive head-first into a pool of ice cream, but after the third week, I didn’t even want ice cream [my favorite!] that much anymore. I now eat pretty close to the Whole30, with some special exceptions like dessert sometimes + ketchup on my omelettes — hey, some stuff is worth it! Don’t forget to have fun with your Whole30!
If you decide to take on the Whole, make sure to tag #CHAARGWhole30 + @CHAARG on insta so that we can follow your journey : ) Good luck!
+Claudia, The Ohio State University