Thank you for the amazing response to my first post about my journey with Whole30. I had a number of friends reach out to me with additional questions, or to tell me they were now considering Whole30. I’m serious, you all – it has changed my life.
If you want to give Whole30 a try, here are a few tips to get you started.
Like, really prepared. I recommend purchasing and reading a book first – but it’s not necessary. You can get the Whole30 book – which is the rules and guidelines and explanations AND lots of recipes (kind of like a cookbook). Or you can get the one I prefer which is It Starts With Food. I like getting my recipes from Pinterest (here’s a link to my Whole30 board), so it wasn’t necessary for me to have the whole big book. I love how It Starts with Food will tell you WHY some foods make you feel like crap, and the background of the program. Having that knowledge really motivates you and makes you think twice when you’re about to grab a treat out of a candy jar. It also helped me understand why other programs I’ve tried in the past maybe didn’t work for me.
All that being said, one of my favorite things about Whole30 is there is nothing to buy (besides groceries) – so it really is for anyone. There are tons of free resources on the Whole30 official page. If you peruse the website, you can find anything you might need. I just think it’s helpful to read the book (or skim it if that’s more your jam) so you’re in the right mindset before starting.
Pick your start date.
You don’t have to start on the first of a month – but it makes counting easy. I like being intentional when picking my start date, although the whole point is to change your habits, so waiting for a month when you have nothing going on kind of defeats the purpose. You’re probably going to have to go out with friends at some point in your Whole30 and order a water (or sparkling water with lime if you want to be fancy). You’re really going to wish you could go sit on a patio and drink a beer or eat chips and salsa. But the key is – its ONLY 30 DAYS. You can do it.
I tend to go back to this quote from the Whole30 program when I feel like it’s too hard or restrictive:
“This is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You’ve done harder things than this, and you have no excuse not to complete the program as written. It’s only thirty days, and it’s for the most important health cause on earth—the only physical body you will ever have in this lifetime.”
Know what you can’t have.
You can’t have SUGAR (real or artificial), SOY, DAIRY, GRAINS, ALCOHOL, LEGUMES, OR ARTIFICIAL INGREDIENTS. The official Whole30 page is the best place to go if you want to figure out what all you need to cut out. The point of my blogging my experience is not to pretend to be an expert about Whole30 – but to share my experience and show you that it’s completely manageable for ANYONE to do.
Know what you CAN have.
There is SO much variety in what you CAN have. Seriously! You can have bacon (sugar free, though!). You can have potatoes (any variety!) You can use ghee as a butter substitute, eat almost all cuts of meat (hello, chicken thighs!), all fruits, most vegetables, and there are even compliant snack bars for when you’re in a pinch. My favorites are Coconut Cream Lara Bars and Chocolate Sea Salt RX Bars. I even found some compliant fruit snacks today at Aldi! These aren’t meant to replace your 3PM daily afternoon snack….but they are compliant for times you are starving or on the run and not around good, wholesome food.
Every weekend you’ll want/need to meal plan and prep for the coming week. There is not one more important tip I can give you besides meal planning and prep. When I fail it’s because I’m ill prepared. Write out everything you’re going to prep on Sunday, and everything you’re going to eat throughout the week. Then get groceries accordingly. Here’s a sample of my meal plan for this coming week:
Sunday: Bun-less Burgers
Monday: Beef and Cabbage Skillet
Tuesday: Taco Salad
Wednesday: Chicken Thighs and Veggie Sheet pan meal
Thursday: Out to dinner with friends (left overs for rest of the family)
Friday: Flank Steak and Broccoli
And here’s a sample of what I’m going to prep today for lunches and to make the week easier:
Salads in containers for the week, Italian Dressing, roast whole chicken, sausage patties for breakfasts, carrots portioned out in baggies, ground beef cooked for the week, and Chicken Fiesta Lime Soup. Having these things prepped will make lunches a breeze, as well as make dinner a little easier every night. And my philosophy is if I’m going to dirty the kitchen….might as well just do it once. Plus, plan your prep order so you can use the same ingredients all at once. For example, I’ll cook the sausage, then move straight to the ground beef, I have two meals with ground beef next week, so I’ll cook 2 pounds today, and have half for my Beef and Cabbage skillet, and half for my taco meat.
Get used to reading ingredients, not nutrition facts.
This is actually okay – refer to the list of ingredients that you can eat.
Simple – look for ingredient lists like these.
If you see “artificial” or “artificially” anything…..you don’t want it.
You will become an expert at reading ingredient lists – but not overnight. It takes some practice and time to learn. You want to avoid anything that says “artificial” or “artificially flavored”. You want to avoid SUGAR and any sugar trying to hide in a different form (I’m talking about you dextrose and maltose). No maple syrup or honey or Splenda or anything else “like” sugar. Find a full list of those tricky names here and a full list of all the okay ingredients that you might find in things here.
Your first trip to the store when you’re planning your Whole30 is going to take forever. Print those pages off, along with the list of what you can have and take those with you. You’ll need to look at every ingredient unless you’re buying produce raw and straight off the shelf. You will start to realize there is sugar in EVERYTHING (in some form or another). One time I found there was sugar in the spice packet of my potatoes. WTF.
Keep it simple – especially at first.
When I started my first Whole30, I had so many dishes every night it was a freaking production and it WORE. ME. OUT. You can find millions of recipes on Pinterest for Whole30. Some are super complex. Save those for when you are really going and ready for some variety. When you’re just getting started, STAY SIMPLE. I mean sheet pan meals, zoodles and spaghetti sauce, meat, veggies, fruit, salads. If you don’t know what all these things are, that’s okay – I’ll be posting compliant recipes over the next month and beyond that can help you get started and stay on track.
Heres a look at what I’ve been eating so far in my first 3 days:
Chicken thigh sheet pan meal
Salad with chicken and balsamic vinegar/oil
Sugar free bacon
Meat + veggies + fruit
Egg scramble + coffee
Bun-less burger + green beans
Grilled meats + carrots + blackberries
Salad with shredded pork + pineapple
I’ve learned so much just from following Whole30 myself. The main thing I’ve taken away is that sugar is in EVERYTHING. Even if you think you’re being healthy by eating greek yogurt (full of sugar) or reduced fat this or that (tons of sugar), or even DIET something (get outta here aspartame!), until you actually learn what you’re putting in your body and cut out the sugar, your weight is just going to keep fluctuating and you’re going to keep feeling like crap. Fake sugar makes your body think you’re eating sugar, which makes you crave more sugar. Its a terrible cycle.
Here are some Q and A’s I was asked since my last post and want to share with you all.
Do you feel really restricted on Whole30?
In short, yes, but only for 30 days. And there are so many convenience foods I’ve found that it really isn’t bad. The hardest for me personally are sweets and alcohol. But those also are probably the two that make the biggest difference for me. Once you’ve done your first 30 days, you can add back in what you want, but you honestly don’t even want them like you used to. You know how it makes you feel/what it does to you, and it’s a million times easier to say “no thanks.”
How can I get started? Where should I go?
As I said before, I plan on posting my personal experience on this blog, so I encourage you to sign up for email updates and check back often. However, I’m not an expert, I’m only sharing MY OPINION and take on the program, so your very best bet is to check out the real Whole30 program page. Those folks are the experts, and everything on the site that you need without buying A THING.
Are you working out, too?
I’m not proud to say I’m not right now. I’m still nursing so I know that’s helping me burn 500 or so calories a day. And I am chasing a toddler around, so I call that some exercise. Additionally, though not technically “working out,” I try to get up and walk around through out the day as much as possible. I know I need to get more consistent with working out because the health benefits are obviously super important, but I’m not there yet. If you aren’t eating healthy and you aren’t working out right now, I recommend you get your eating in check first. If you try to do too much at once, you’re going to set yourself up to fail. If you ARE working out – don’t stop!
Feel free to leave more questions in the comments. I hope you’ll be following along over the next coming month or share with someone else who wants to start eating healthier, and follow me on IG for more looks at my yummy (and simple) meals. Soon I’ll be posting some ideas for easy compliant convenience foods, my favorite sheet pan meals (I could make these every night), more Sunday prep ideas, recipes, and more.
If I can do it, I swear anyone can!
Who is with me???
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