Back in January, I was looking to start my health kick with a new eating routine. At this point I had spent hundreds of dollars doing “Challenges” and cleanses. I had tried everything ranging from Beach Body’s Shakeology to Advocare’s 24 day challenges, 10 day fix, 10-day rest, etc.
I would always complete the “diet” or challenge with minimal results and have the weight pile right back on. I attribute this to the fact that none of the things I had invested in taught me anything about healthy eating. They paused the bad habits just long enough to take me broke and give me false hope.
This is around the time someone suggested Whole30 to me.
I got on their website and read through each and every page. I became more and more excited as I realized this “Program” didn’t require me to purchase a membership/package/vitamins/supplements or anything else that was expensive. In fact, it didn’t require me to buy anything other than Whole30 compliant groceries. Whole30 does have an amazing book/cookbook that goes more in depth than their website- but I didn’t even buy this until halfway through my first round. (I do recommend buying this off Amazon if you are interested in starting a Whole30 – the recipes are amazing!).
What is Whole30?
Think of it as a short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system.
For the first time, the eating plan I wanted to pursue didn’t promise a certain number of lbs. lost, but instead it promised I would feel better and have more control than than before. The program actually discourages you from jumping on the scale at all. It suggests weighing before and taking before photos if you must, but instead encourages you to focus on how you FEEL. It urges you to pay attention to what your skin does, how rested you feel when you wake up and how things taste. This program forces you to listen to your body. It forces you to pay attention to what you’re eating and how each ingredient effects you. At the end of the program, you will definitely lose some weight, but that is considered an added bonus to feeling amazing and in control.
I will warn you – it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. At the beginning of your Whole30, you will likely go through a sugar withdrawal that causes headaches. It’s unpleasant, but can be counteracted with lots of water and ibuprofen. It’s short lived, but it’s honestly a much needed wakeup call to show us just how sugar dependent our bodies are. This phase is referred to as “the hangover” and can be explained as your body working its way through a whole host of junk it stored from the foods (or food-like-products) you used to eat.
This program isn’t a quick fix. It’s a complete reality check. Whole30 will rock your world in many ways. It calls for discipline, preparation, and honesty. Yes, it is a lot of cooking, but who doesn’t need a push to be a better cook? For the first time in my life I’m making meals that actually taste amazing…. and I’m enjoying spending hours in the kitchen making them!
“The program promises a laundry list of potential benefits, such as improved body composition, higher energy levels, better quality of sleep, improved athletic performance, and a reduction of food cravings, particularly when it comes to sugar and carbs. Participants have chimed in with their testimonials crediting the Whole30 program with everything from clearing up acid reflux to complete elimination of autoimmune disorders. Beyond the physical benefits, the Whole30 program aims to reshape “long-standing, unhealthy patterns related to food, eating and your body image.”
Is it tough? Yes, at first. Is it worth it? TOTALLY.
My first Whole30 lasted the month of January and after it was over I ate about 75% compliant for the next few months. I am currently halfway through my second Whole30 and am so glad to be back on the program. I plan to use Whole30 as a baseline for my diet for the rest of my life.
I’ve compiled some information below that may help answer any questions your may have about Whole30 – I hope you get inspired to do one yourself!
What can I eat?
On the surface, the Whole30 menu looks a lot like the Paleo diet (low carb, high protein), but think of it more as an elimination diet, except there’s no 80/20 balance either — no cheating, no indulgences for one month. For one month, it completely strips away “hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, inflammatory food groups,” considered to be grains, sugar, dairy, alcohol, and legumes. Equally as important as eliminating these groups is not to be tempted to “junkify” their old favorites — for example, a meaty “Paleo pizza” or “coconut-flour pancakes” are off-limits. For Whole30 participants, it’s not about stretching the rules of the diet to their furthest limits. It’s about learning to enjoy whole, clean, simple foods that fuel your body.
What are the benefits?
The physical benefits of the Whole30 are profound. More than 95% of participants lose weight and improve their body composition, without counting or restricting calories. Also commonly reported: consistently high energy levels, improved athletic performance, better sleep, improved focus and mental clarity, and a sunnier disposition. (Yes, more than a few Whole30 graduates said they felt “strangely happy” during and after their program.)
What is off limits?
- Do not consume added sugar of any kind, real or artificial. No maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, coconut sugar, Splenda, Equal, Nutrasweet, xylitol, stevia, etc. Read your labels, because companies sneak sugar into products in ways you might not recognize.
- Do not consume alcohol in any form, not even for cooking. (And it should go without saying, but no tobacco products of any sort, either.)
- Do not eat grains. This includes (but is not limited to) wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, millet, bulgur, sorghum, amaranth, buckwheat, sprouted grains and all of those gluten-free pseudo-grains like quinoa. This also includes all the ways we add wheat, corn and rice into our foods in the form of bran, germ, starch and so on. Again, read your labels.
- Do not eat legumes. This includes beans of all kinds (black, red, pinto, navy, white, kidney, lima, fava, etc.), peas, chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts. No peanut butter, either. This also includes all forms of soy – soy sauce, miso, tofu, tempeh, edamame, and all the ways we sneak soy into foods (like lecithin).
- Do not eat dairy. This includes cow, goat or sheep’s milk products such as cream, cheese (hard or soft), kefir, yogurt (even Greek), and sour cream… with the exception of clarified butter or ghee. (See below for details.)
- Do not consume carrageenan, MSG or sulfites. If these ingredients appear in any form on the label of your processed food or beverage, it’s out for the Whole30.
- Do not try to re-create baked goods, junk foods, or treats* with “approved” ingredients. Continuing to eat your old, unhealthy foods made with Whole30 ingredients is totally missing the point, and will tank your results faster than you can say “Paleo Pop-Tarts.” Remember, these are the same foods that got you into health-trouble in the first place—and a pancake is still a pancake, regardless of the ingredients.
The final rule..
One last and final rule: You are not allowed to step on the scale or take any body measurements for the duration of the program. This is about so much more than just weight loss, and to focus on your body composition means you’ll miss out on the most dramatic and lifelong benefits this plan has to offer. So, no weighing yourself, analyzing body fat or taking comparative measurements during your Whole30. (We do encourage you to weigh yourself before and after, however, so you can see one of the more tangible results of your efforts when your program is over.)
My Whole30 Hacks
- If you don’t have a food processor – get one. It makes thinks like making soups and sauces super easy. The sauces are what make everything taste SO good.
- Make sure you have plenty of tupperware!
- Go ahead and buy the Whole30 book… it helps you get even more excited and motivated for the challenge.
- Make sure you print out the Whole30 Timeline or make your own like I did! It’s nice to be able to reference how you’re feeling and mark off the days until you finish.
- Get a nice water bottle. I am not sure why, but this always makes me more excited to drink water!
- Get La Croix. I wasn’t too crazy about it in the beginning, but now its like my crack when I’m tired of water.
NOW GO START YOUR WHOLE30 !!!
Download your own Whole30 Calendar HERE
Most of the information in this post has been sourced from the official Whole30 website and Popsugar.
One Comment Add yours
“This program isn’t a quick fix. It’s a complete reality check.” I look forward to it. This post is such a candid, thorough summation of Whole 30. Thanks, Abby! As a complete newbie to the Whole 30 program, your summary is a great primer. I can’t wait to get started!