We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post.
Okay, so it’s not really a diet but more like a life changing program. So far the hubby and I have tried (and failed!) not once, but twice, to complete all 30 days of the Whole30 program. BUT we still saw amazing benefits and really really want to try it again. Lots of you asked about the Whole30 after I mentioned the crock-pot meals in my previous post about my struggle with body image during pregnancy. You can find that post here!
As a doc, I am not a huge fan of ‘diets’ per say, but after doing a lot of research into the reasoning behind the Whole30, it is something I can really get behind. Founder Melissa Hartwig, along with her husband Dallas, created the Whole30 program as a ‘reset for your health, your habits, and your relationship with food.’
In my mind, I see it as a way to figure out what in your diet is working or not working for you personally, a way to get rid of unhealthy cravings that have been hardwired into your brain, and make some lifestyle changes that you can stick with foreva-eva! There is absolutely no calorie counting and you can eat as much food as you want. YAY!
What is the Whole30?
The Whole30 was created as a way to reset your nutrition, help you cut out unhealthy, inflammatory food groups and allow your body to heal from the cumulative effect of these foods. After the 30 days are up, you add foods back into your diet one by one and determine if you have any sensitivities to them. If you do have any adverse effects, like bloating or decreased energy, you should consider leaving those foods out of your diet or at least eat them in limited quantities in the future.
1. Eat real, whole foods (shop the perimeter of the store – nothing processed or with additives is allowed). This includes meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fruit. Just don’t use fruit as a way to curb your sugar cravings as we are trying to get rid of these cravings altogether. Take this printable shopping list of approved foods with you to the grocery store.
2. Avoid sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, food additives such as carrageenan, MSG or sulfites, and don’t try and make ‘fake’ baked goods, treats, or junk foods with approved ingredients. This is one big difference between Whole30 and Paleo – we are trying to help our brains get over the addiction to treats – no more cauliflower crust pizza or Paleo cupcakes!
3. Do not weigh yourself or take any body measurements for 30 days. Your weight on the scale is not an indication of your health. It can fluctuate wildly by the day or even by the hour. Watching the scale can destroy your self-esteem and detract you from your goal, which is to be healthier!
4. No cheating! Not even for a bite of ice cream or one day off because it is a holiday (like that Fourth of July BBQ you were just at!) – this resets the 30 days and you get to start over from Day 1. Bah Humbug…
If you (like me) are interested in the science behind the Whole30 you should read ‘It Starts With Food’
Our Whole30 Experience
The first time Ty and I attempted the Whole30 we made it about 20 days in, and then frankly I think we got tired of cooking three meals a day and caved in with some fast food. Understandably, it can be tough to cook every night, especially when I sometimes get home at midnight. If I haven’t planned ahead for those shifts I risk slipping up and ordering a pizza.
The first go-round a resource that we found to be super helpful was the menu plan found on Our Paleo Life which includes recipes for the week as well as a shopping list. This made it super easy because we just printed out the grocery list and knew we would have everything we needed for the week.
Making breakfast ahead of time, whether it was a frittata or eggs in a muffin tin, made the mornings easy and set us up for a successful day.
Even completing less than a month of the Whole30, Ty lost about 15lbs – isn’t it unfair how quickly guys lose weight?! His stomach issues disappeared. He also had a lot more energy after the initial couple of days (which are TOUGH and you may feel sluggish – I call this the carb flu) and gained a lot muscle. Like a lot. I certainly didn’t complain about this benefit!!
I didn’t really have a goal of weight loss to start with, I just wanted to get healthier and stronger, but I think I lost about 5-7lbs and gained strength and muscle from all the healthy protein I was getting. My mood was WAY better and I felt so productive at work – my to-do list didn’t stand a chance!
The second time through we didn’t really set out to do a 100% Whole30 compliant month, but instead wanted to try to do it about 80% of the time. This is definitely not what the program is intended for, but we just wanted to clean up our diets a little.
We did find a way to circumvent the trouble of cooking every day with my crazy schedule and found an INCREDIBLE website at New Leaf Wellness which had a plan for 30 days of Whole30 compliant crock-pot meals which we made ahead of time and froze. This was a lifesaver to say the least!
There is a grocery list, recipes, and even printable labels for your freezer bags you can download on the website! We are very very lucky and our grocery store has the option to order your groceries online and then just head over to pick up your groceries during a certain time slot. This made buying 19lbs of chicken and all the other ingredients a heck of a lot easier!
All in all, the meal prep probably took me around 10 hours and I did it by myself – only recruiting Ty for a couple of hours. I hand chopped all of the vegetables (only later realizing my food processor could do this a lot faster – whoopsie)! Ten hours sound like a lot of time, but it was absolutely worth it and with 30 meals that works out to be 20 minutes a meal total. Way faster than cooking every day from scratch. Next time, we are going to do the prep together (and use the food processor) so it should take half as much time. Every day when we got home from work a home cooked, Whole30 compliant meal was waiting for us and the house smelled delish!
We plan on getting the freezer meals prepped and ready again just before the baby is born. Then when the little one is here we don’t have to worry about cooking for a whole month! Amen to that!
Lessons From our Past Attempts
1. Pick a time you know you can commit to 30 days
If you are taking a weeklong trip to Italy, this might not be the best time. I personally would not want to miss out on the local delicacies of pasta, wine and gelato. You don’t want to set yourself up for failure. BUT – You should start as soon as possible and not view everything coming up on your schedule (a birthday or a family dinner) as an excuse to push it back.
We are going to Iceland in a couple of weeks and I know we aren’t going to be able to stick to the Whole30 while we are there because we want to sample all the local food they have to offer! So we are planning to start when we get back home state side.
2. You have to plan ahead
I cannot stress this enough. YOU HAVE TO PLAN AHEAD. Once you pick a start date, give yourself some time to clean out your refrigerator and pantry of all foods that are off-limits for the month so you aren’t tempted by them or even use them on accident. You will be SHOCKED when you start to look at food labels and see what ingredients are in the things you eat regularly. Give them to a food bank or neighbor so you aren’t wasteful!
Look up Whole30 recipes that look tasty to you – a bunch can be found on my Pinterest page.
Do as much meal prep ahead of time as you can. Chop those vegetables, portion out your meats, and cook what you can at the beginning of the week so it is less work for you each day. Making breakfast quiches were a big help for us.
Stock up for emergency situations such as for at the office or while traveling. We really like Larabars…most of which are Whole30 compliant.
3. Get support!
There are lots of support networks for people beginning their Whole30 journey. There is a Whole30 newsletter, a forum on the Whole30 website, and Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages where you can share your successes and get tips and delish recipes from others. It is great to hear about other people’s experiences with the Whole30 and some of the health outcomes are just amazing!
Benefits of the Whole30
The Whole30 can change your relationship with food for a lifetime. It encourages whole foods, meal planning and preparation. It teaches you to be mindful about what you are fueling your body with and can give you added insight into the effects, positive or negative, certain foods have on your body. You might find yourself having…
• Increased energy
• Clearer skin
• Lower risk of chronic illness
• Relief from allergens
• Improved digestive health
• Healthy weight loss
• Enhanced focus
• Reduced inflammation (less joint pain, asthma issues, or migraines)
• Improved blood pressure, cholesterol and fasting blood sugar
• Stronger immunity
• Better sleep
• A reset to your taste buds
• Less cravings and hunger
Sounds like a good enough reason for me to give it a shot!
Okay, so What’s the Downside?
I do think it is a little dramatic that if you mess up on day 28 you have to start all over. This can make you feel like a failure and that’s not what this is all about. It’s about creating a healthy lifestyle and a better relationship with food.
Whenever you limit food groups you typically cut calories whether this is intended or not. When this happens you will shed a few pounds, but this weight will likely return as you add these food groups back.
Some important components of a healthy diet are eliminated with the Whole30 – like dairy for instance. Skim milk and yogurt are packed with protein, Vitamin D and calcium. Legumes are great sources of protein. But it is good to take the 30 day break and see if your body reacts well to these foods or not.
I believe that making healthy food decisions 365 days a year is better than just 30 days, but I see the Whole30 as a program to restructure the way our brains think about food and a launch pad for a lifetime of healthy food choices.
What Happens After the First 30 Days?
The goal is to add back foods one at a time and see how they make you feel. If adding back cheese makes you feel like a bloated mess, you probably shouldn’t have cheese every day. But occasionally having it isn’t the end of the world. The goal is to be mindful of what you are eating. Savoring a freshly baked brownie with your sweetie every now and then is okay but mindlessly eating a bag of gummy bears while binging on Netflix isn’t as special.
You should check out Hartwig’s follow up book Food Freedom Forever for more advice on life after those wonderful first 30 days.