I see so many blog and Pinterest posts that talk all about “surviving” the Whole 30, or “getting through” it. For me, it’s never felt like something I had to endure. For me, it actually feels like the perfect level playing field that gives me a baseline for my health.
I have to credit my friend, Sara, with first introducing me to the Whole 30. She wanted to do it with a friend, and at the time, I was having undiagnosed stomach issues and figured I could try something to help reset my body. The Whole 30 is a program designed by Melissa Hartwig, that essentially takes the Paleo diet to a whole new level.
The rules of the program are:
- Grains of any kind (including corn, rice, quinoa, etc.)
- Sugar (including honey and maple syrup)
- Real food
My first round of Whole 30 was January 2016. As per the usual, we set resolutions to start the year off healthy. The rules of the Whole 30 seemed daunting at first. It was easy to focus on the no this, no that. But it turns out, it completely changed my relationship and outlook on food. I still love food, and I’m still comforted by sitting around a table with friends and family over a meal, but I see food differently now.
At first, it does seem hard. And, I’ll admit… it is in the beginning. SPOILER ALERT: There’s sugar and/or soy in EVERYTHING. Even things labeled “all natural” or “organic.” 90% of the time, it’s got one or both, plus a slew of other additives you didn’t know you were signing up for. That doesn’t mean you’re stuck munching on a carrot while all your friends are loving the life eating nachos (my favorite snack, by the way). It just means you have to be cognizant of what’s being added to your food.
But that’s the magic of the Whole 30. It opens your eyes to what’s in your every day favorites. One can argue that ignorance is bliss, but that’s how we got to where we are with obesity on the rise, and chronic illness springing up out of nowhere. We’ve had our eyes shut tight for so long in blind faith to the FDA and organizations that are supposed to protect us and what we’re consuming. We think, “If it’s approved by the FDA or the USDA, it must be safe, or they wouldn’t allow it on the shelves.” Tell me then, why are there chemicals and additives allowed in our food in the U.S. that are banned in every other country? Why do we need fluorescent yellow and bright red foods that are made with chemicals that are known carcinogens? Why is there a list on the back of a box of cereal that span the length of the cardboard?
What’s so wrong with good-old-fashioned whole, real food?
Do you remember green ketchup? I ate it, all my friends ate it. But WHY did that exist?! Were ketchup sales so down that they thought, “You know… if we turn it bright green, kids will want it and people will buy it in bulk!” As a marketer, I shudder to think this was a conversation that may have happened in a conference room one day.
Even when I’m off of the Whole 30, I use my new found knowledge to make smart choices when I shop. I buy the same brand of salsa from Trader Joe’s. I pick up the same paleo friendly, sugar free snack bars and carry them with me wherever I go. I buy my meat grass-fed, or pasture raised. Sure, off of the Whole 30 I indulge in certain foods like sushi with rice, or gluten free pastries, but I know its not an all-the-time thing. Its a treat. I go out to eat and order what I know I can have (no dairy or gluten) but I’ll throw in a wine or a cider.
But the one thing I haven’t reverted back to is going off the rails. After the Whole 30 I didn’t go straight to my local donut shop and crush a Boston cream (though, the thought did briefly cross my mind.) I’m on Round 2 of my Whole 30, a year and a half after the first.
Here are my tips for staying successful and making it a lifestyle you can love:
- Meal Plan– I can’t stress this enough. If you put in the time on a Sunday morning to lay out your meals for the week and put a grocery list together, your life will be 100000 times easier.
- Use Free Resources– Pinterest is my go-to for new recipes. People add new, inventive Paleo and Whole 30 recipes by the hour, so you can always find something fun to experiment with.
- Have Support– Let your friends and family know what your new 30 day det or new lifestyle entails. Let them know it’s a choice you’re making for your health and find ways you can share recipes with them! See if any of them want to take the challenge with you.
- Be Positive– Set yourself up for a fun ride, not 30 days of misery. If you focus only on what you can’t have and keep your mental countdown of “only xxx days left,” you’re going to be annoyed and dejected. And you’re going to be a pain to hang out with. Don’t complain about it, but instead embrace it! You’re doing this for a reason. Focus on that, and have fun with it.
- Get creative– Find ways you can incorporate the Whole 30 into your normal routine. Going out with friends for brunch? Order eggs with a side of fruit and sliced tomato and a black coffee. You’re still out, enjoying the company, but you’re able to stick to your diet.
Have you ever considered the Whole 30? What were your thoughts? Successes? Failures? Any additional tips?