You’ve no doubt read about Whole30, the plan that aims to reset your metabolism over the course of 30 days. Of course, reading about Whole30 isn’t going to give you the benefits – you have to actually take part. Getting started can be intimidating, though.
The following is advice that I followed in preparation of my own Whole30 experience. I’m halfway through Day 1 and can totally see why this lifestyle change is considered a challenge for some. Here is a quick rundown of what Whole30 is, what it isn’t and how to physically and mentally prepare yourself for the challenge.
What Is Whole30?
Put simply, Whole30 is a 30-day meal plan in which you focus on whole foods for all of your meals. It’s not meant to be a quick way to lose weight or get rid of those love handles, but rather a life-changing experience that will recharge your metabolism and lead to a host of other benefits.
For those who are used to eating what they want, when they want, the list of program rules can be downright frightening. Yet this isn’t a plan in which you count calories or simply cut back on food. When done correctly, Whole30 can offer satisfying meals and limit snack cravings.
The list of things you can’t eat under Whole30 is admittedly much longer than the list of what you can eat, but the program’s shopping list includes plenty of ingredients for you to get by. Things you can eat include meat, seafood, vegetables, eggs, some fruit and good fats from the likes of avocados, nuts, seeds and oils.
What Whole30 Isn’t
Plenty of people have written about their experiences with Whole30, and they would all no doubt maintain that this isn’t a fad diet. That said, this might be the painful part for most: the foods you can’t eat.
Here’s the simplified list of what you will be avoiding for 30 days: sugar of any kind – including artificial – alcohol in any form, all grains – including rice, corn, oats and wheat – legumes – including all beans, peanut butter and all forms of soy – dairy – including milk, cheese and yogurt, carrageenan, MSG or sulfites.
With that in mind, there are a few exceptions to the rules, such as clarified butter or ghee, legumes such as green beans and snow peas, most forms of vinegar and limited salt.
Preparing Your Kitchen
One of the beneficial side effects of Whole30 is it gets you into the routine of planning your meals ahead. With that the case, you’ll need to make sure your kitchen, refrigerator and pantry are prepared for the challenge before you begin.
Be sure to stock up on items that are approved by the program. A good rule of thumb is to plan and buy food for your first week, then adjust future shopping trips based on the foods you consumed.
That said, don’t pick a meal you like that includes approved ingredients and eat it every single day. That’s cheating. Another side benefit of the program is it encourages you to be creative and even innovative in your meal creation, which in itself can lead to a certain level of satisfaction.
On the flip side, while stocking up with approved foods, you’ll want to get rid of or hide the foods that aren’t allowed. You don’t want to make any bad food decisions during your 30-day commitment. Not having the unhealthy choices in front of you in the first place can make that portion of the challenge that much easier.
Preparing Yourself Mentally
Those new to the Whole30 concept may think it will be physically challenging to avoid foods you know and love for 30 days. That is definitely true – it certainly is physically challenging. The biggest hurdles you’ll need to clear if you’re going to be successful, however, are the ones in your mind.
Indeed, the Whole30 program’s creators say its physical benefits are profound, but that its psychological benefits may be even more dramatic. Your psyche before you begin is just as important.
First, be prepared to make yourself accountable. If you make a poor choice and go back to one of the off-limit foods, it’s ultimately you that made that decision. You and only you are in control of how Whole30 plays out, whether it’s a success or not.
Be sure to keep reminding yourself that it’s only 30 days. It’s not as if you’re fasting for a month. You can still basically eat what you’d like, provided it’s from the approved list of foods.
Prepare yourself for outside influences as well. During the 30 days, you’re no doubt going to encounter people you’ll have to explain the program to, as well as tempting food options at functions for work, friends or family. Again, remember that it’s you who is in control. Nobody but you decides what you eat.
It will be a challenge, yes. At times you may want to give it up. However, as long as you’re well prepared both physically and mentally before you begin Whole30, you’ll set yourself up for a successful and rewarding experience.
I’ll follow up this post in the weeks to come with my favorite recipes and my program process!
Week 1 Update
Week 1 started off pretty well. I was excited to get to eat all the foods I had prepped the day before and excited to try some new recipes. I prepped an entire batch of veggie, bacon and egg frittatas in a muffin tin. Since I’m not the biggest fan of eggs, I topped my frittata with organic salsa and avocado slices. It tasted like every wish and every dream I’ve ever had was baked into those muffin-shaped eggs. 10/10 would recommend.
The first week I tried to branch out and try a ton of new recipes. I made pork carnitas, meatballs and zoodles, grilled steak with roasted sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts, in addition to some of my more typical meals.
The hardest thing hands down was the coffee situation. I like cream in my coffee and can’t drink it black. I went the entire first week without coffee and it was miserable. However, aside from the caffeine withdrawals, I felt amazing. I don’t know if it was a placebo effect because I know this program is supposed to make you feel amazing, whatever the case may be – I was feeling in tip-top shape. WHEN I WASN’T STARVING.
“Don’t snack”, they say. “It will teach your body to eat only when it’s hungry”, they say. That is such a load of BS. I snacked all. the. time the first week. All compliant. All typically spaced in 3-hour increments, but snacking all the same. I read that I was probably feeling the urge to snack because I wasn’t eating enough during scheduled meals. That’s probably true, as I typically am a big grazer and eat 5 small-ish meals a day. So making an effort to not snack is something I’m focusing on this week.
- More energy
- Generally feeling better (no stomach issues)
- Less brain fog
- Miss bread