The Whole30 is all over right now. I see it on pinterest, facebook, and instagram ALL THE TIME. And with good reason! The Whole30 is a great way for people to take control of what they eat, learn what makes them feel good (and what makes them feel not so good), and address the sugar addiction that we all have. It makes eating healthy simple. I really can’t say too many positive things about it. I’m assuming that you’re here because you are ready to start your Whole30 journey! Well awesome! I’m happy for you, and I hope you can learn from my experience (and mistakes!).
As a veteran of two whole30s and many whole7s, I feel like I’ve got a handle on this whole30 thing. It has made a lot of positive changes in my life (read more about it here!). It inspired me to go 100 days without eating sugar. It makes me more aware of what I eat. It’s made me a much better cook. And I feel healthier when I do it.
You know that feeling when you have been going on a bit of a binge and eating too much of whatever you want? It happens more often than I care to admit. But it also makes me feel terrible about myself. But I have the solution! Whenever this happens to me, and I’m sitting in a sugar coma with a stomachache and headache, I just think, “another Whole30 (or Whole7 or Whole 15 or Whole whatever…) for me!” And having that kind of control back in my life makes me feel empowered.
So, here are my best tips for how to survive, and even thrive, on your Whole30!
1. Read the book(s)
Seriously. You will not understand it if you don’t. When you’re doing your whole30, you might think, well this feels arbitrary! Aren’t beans good for me? And that’s a really reasonable thought. You have to read through WHY you are temporarily eliminating legumes so that you don’t slip up.
Also, reading the books totally fired me up. It got me so INSPIRED and MOTIVATED to do the whole30 and change my life. I wouldn’t have had the motivation if I hadn’t read It Starts With Food cover to cover.
So I can’t emphasize enough that you have to read It Starts With Food. I’ve also read The Whole30, which is great and answers so many questions plus it has lots of great recipes. So if you want to do it all the way, you should really read both. But if you only read one, read It Starts With Food. Reading will give you the motivation you need and all the explanations for WHY the Whole30 helps.
2. Plan, plan, and plan some more!
If you don’t do at least SOME planning before you start your Whole30, you’re setting yourself up to fail. If you keep tempting foods in your house, you’re orre likely to give in to cravings. If you don’t meal plan, you’re more likely to go out to eat an off-plan meal.
I like to take the Whole30 in 5 day segments and plan each out. I plan out a breakfast, dinner, and side dish. Lunch is almost always leftovers from dinner. I stock up on easy quick snacks.
I know it seems counterintuitive not to start right away, but the Whole30 is pretty specific and strict. If you haven’t prepared by finding some good recipes, picking what to eat what days, getting off-plan foods out of the house, and stocking up on quick easy snacks, you will have a hard time finishing your Whole30. At the very least clean out off-plan foods and make a grocery store run before you start.
If you need some help, I’ve made some free Whole30 planners for you!
3. Remember your motivation
There will be times, especially in the first two weeks, when you want to give up. I was at that point pretty recently. On the Whole30 timeline, it mentions it is pretty common to get very irritable on days 4-5. I hadn’t experienced that in my past Whole30’s, but in the most recent one, I definitely did. Those days happened to coincide with that time of the month and it was like a perfect storm.
I was angry at EVERYTHING. Credit to Lars for putting up with me. I was complaining about food. I was complaining about not wanting to eat anything. I was complaining about anything that crossed my line of vision. And I came very, very close to giving up.
But what kept me from giving up was asking myself- why did I start this in the first place? Because I’m sick of feeling crappy whenever I eat. Because I want to be choosing foods that are good or my health. Because I have so many different chronic illnesses that I owe it to myself to take the best care possible of my body. All those reasons were just enough to keep me from quitting.
Write down your motivation. You may need to look back at it. Or even better, every day, write down a different reason why you are motivated to keep going on the Whole30. You wont finish the 30 days if you don’t remember why you are doing it in the first place.
4.Use your support system
I would not have made it through the Whole30 if Lars hadn’t been doing it with me. He wasn’t very strict about it the first time, because it was something I wanted to do for my health and he doesn’t have any health issues. So he was really doing it to support me. But without him I would have had a tough time.
So before you start, tell people in your life WHY you are doing the Whole30. If you’re feeling down, you can ask them to remind you. And even better, if you know someone who will go along with it, start with a Whole30 buddy. And if neither of those things will work for you, find a buddy in the Whole30 forums. Isn’t the internet amazing?
The Whole30 isn’t easy, but it is worth it. Without some support, you might not make it through.
5. If you’re not perfect, it’s not the end of the world
I know Dallas and Melissa may disagree with me on this one. I do believe that the Whole30 should be without any slip-ups or cheats, but sometimes things are beyond your control. Sometimes you have to go out to eat for a work obligation, and you may not know whether your food is cooked in a permitted oil, even if you request it. But you have to eat, and you have to live. Life doesn’t stop for the Whole30.
It is not uncommon for me to lose my appetite. Just one of many symptoms I deal with from living with chronic illnesses. On the Whole30 you are supposed to have 3 meals a day according to a meal template. I can’t eat three meals every day. I just can’t. But I do my best. I also find that I feel better when I eat a little more fruit than the Whole30 suggests.
Lars was recently out drinking an iced tea, which was unsweetened of course. When he went for a sip he accidentally picked up his friends coke and had a sip of it. He was shocked and surprised and the taste was unpleasant for him, but he wasn’t just going to spit it out. It was a complete mistake. And he decided not to start over. I know that Dallas and Melissa say that one sip or bite of an off-plan food can set off inflammation- but in this case, Lars forgave himself for it.
You have to do the best you can for yourself. If the fear of not being perfect on the Whole30 will keep you from doing it, you have to let that go. It is better to do your best and get the improvements the Whole30 offers than to give up because perfection isn’t possible.
6. You don’t need to be a 5 star chef
It may be overwhelming to think of cooking so many meals at home. It is even for me and I enjoy cooking. But don’t choose not to do the Whole30 because you aren’t an amazing chef. It is so simple.
You just need to follow the meal template. If that means that you have a steak with a side of steamed veggies (in one of those microwaveable bags) for most of your meals, you aren’t doing anything wrong. Eating on the Whole30 is more simple than you think.
The Whole30 book is great for this. They take you through kitchen basics on what you should have on hand, and have tons of super simple recipes and basics for people who haven’t cooked before. And guess what- one of the benefits of the Whole30 will be that your cooking skills improve! Mine have.
And remember- the crock pot is your best friend. One of my favorite Whole30 meals is made by essentially tossing some chicken and salsa in your crock pot. And it comes out delicious. Seriously, crock pots are amazing.
7. Larabars are useful, but they’re also a slippery slope
Larabars (and rxbars!) are delicious. They are also Whole30 approved. They’re great if you’re out and about and need an emergency snack. But you don’t want to become reliant on them or eat them when you want something sweet.
They may be awesome and a good tool, but they still have a high sugar content. Sure, that sugar comes from dates and other approved sources, but it is much more than you would find in a recipe you make yourself. And so if you eat one when you are craving sugar, you are essentially giving in to your cravings instead of conquering them.
So I say limit your larabars. Use them only when necessary and not otherwise. You don’t want to end the Whole30 and go right into a sugar-addicted binge, right? Stick to protein and fat filled snacks whenever you have the option.
8. Control cravings responsibly
This goes hand in hand with limiting your larabars. You’re going to have cravings. Unless you’ve been doing the paleo diet, the Whole30 will be a dietary change for you. You will be cutting out some things that you enjoy, unfortunately. And your body will whine about it.
I get cravings a lot on the Whole30, but they do get easier to deal with over time. Sugar, salt, starch… my body craves all these things. Fried foods. Seriously.
But when you get a craving, be careful what you reach for. If you are actually hungry, eat a responsible snack, like some turkey and carrots. If you are just craving without hunger, distract yourself. Read a book. Go work out. Watch a movie. Go for a walk. This craving will pass.
My other favorite tool when I’m having a craving is to drink some mint tea. It tastes good and it helps quench thirst. It wont satisfy your craving, but it will distract you until your craving goes away. And since it isn’t sweet it wont keep you addicted to that sweet rush.
9. Stay off the scale
If you want to ruin your Whole30, weigh yourself every day. If you want to make it through and feel great, stay off the scale.
The first time I did the Whole30, I did not stick to this. I barely lost any weight for the first 20 or so days. Since I wasn’t doing the Whole30 for weight loss, that was fine for me and I still stuck to my motivation. But if weight loss is a big motivator for you, it will discourage you to step on the scale and not see the progress you hoped for.
I did lose weight on the Whole30 (which I actually ended up doing for 45 days the first time) and almost all of it was in the last 15 days that I added on. I could tell through my body’s responses that the 30 days was not long enough for me the first time through. If I had focused on weight loss, I would have given up on day 30.
I also urge you not to do the Whole30 if your only goal is weight loss. Most people who do the Whole30 lose weight. But the other benefits (or non-scale victories) are way way better! More energy, better sleep, better skin, a sense of healthiness, less bloating, less headaches, etc… those are all way more beneficial to me than the scale. So if you only want weight loss, the Whole30 might not be for you. You need more motivation than that to make it through and trust the program.
10. Starches are not the enemy
Yes, the Whole30 is low carb and low starch, and yes the Whole30 wants your body to learn to run on fat as an energy source. But that doesn’t mean you get rid of starches all together. If you’re struggling on your Whole30, you probably aren’t eating enough starchy veggies. I try to eat at least one serving each day. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and squash are all great sources of healthy starches.
The Whole30 may be decreasing your carbs, but that does not mean that your body still does not need or want carbs to function. It can be a really hard transition for your body. So make it a little easier on yourself and embrace starches. Don’t be scared of them. They will not ruin your Whole30. I’m not saying to eat only starches… just don’t feel like you should avoid them. They are still good for you.
11. Non-food rewards
I don’t know about you, but if you are anything like me, I use food to control my moods. Well, I’m trying not to anymore. But my instinct after a stressful day is to reach for the chocolate. And one of the things I’ve tried to teach myself on the Whole30 is not to use food as a reward. It will just ruin the experience. What’s the point of doing the Whole30 if you reward yourself with a cupcake as soon as the 30 days are over?
So try to think of other non-food rewards. If you make it through a really tough day and stick to the plan, make yourself a luxurious bath. When you make it through your family dinner without slipping up, buy yourself some great new music that pumps you up. If you make it through the whole program- celebrate by splurging on that thing you’ve been eyeing. Get a mani pedi. Get new clothes that fit you better. Buy a new book. Get a massage. Get flowers. Visit the museum you’ve been wanting to go to. Watch a guilty pleasure movie. Netflix binge your favorite show. The ideas are endless.
12. Follow the spirit of the plan, not the letter
Yes bananas and eggs are approved, but paleo pancakes do not you follow the spirit of the plan. You aren’t supposed to be using less delicious replacements for food, you’re supposed to be changing how you think about what you eat. Yes, unsweetened applesauce is technically an approved food, but if you have a giant bowl of it with berries for breakfast, you aren’t following the plan and it won’t work for you.
A good rule of thumb is, if you say anything is “technically allowed,” it isn’t following the spirit of the plan. Don’t do it half way. Do it right. You owe it to yourself.
13. If it’s not for you- that’s okay
There is a transition going into the Whole30. You will probably feel worse for a few days before you feel better- this is your body adjusting. But there are situations under which the Whole30 doesn’t make sense anymore.
It’s just not for everyone. And that’s okay.
If it doesn’t agree with your body, accept that. My husband did great on our first Whole30, but on our fourth he was losing weight like crazy. I was worried about him- and he did step on the scale because we were concerned about his health. He had lost 17 pounds in 15 days. And he was never overweight, he’s a slim guy. That was just not healthy and too much stress on his body, so he stopped that Whole30 early.
You owe it to yourself to give it a good chance, but you also owe it to yourself to listen to your body if it is telling you it does not like what is happening.
The Whole30 has been so positive in my life. It has really made a difference in my relationship with food. And you can have that too.
So there you have it- 13 tips to help you through your Whole30! Now get to that reading and planning… you won’t regret it!