Tips for Success on Whole30

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When people are making New Year’s resolutions, healthy eating and weight loss are always at the top of many peoples’ lists. The options and programs for doing so are endless, but there is one that had caught my eye for quite a while. Like many people, I’ve been intrigued by the concept of the Whole30 program for a long time. I’ve had many friends do it with various levels of success, and it has always been something I thought I should try. I kept putting it off until a friend posted on Instagram that she was going to do her 3rd round of it and invited others to join her. After we chatted, I decided to take the plunge and commit myself to the 30 day food regimen and see just how it would affect me. 

Many people do Whole30 for the sole purpose of losing weight. I’ll admit, losing some of the stubborn post-baby weight (ahem, 3 years after my youngest was born) was something I was hoping for. But for as long as I can remember, I’ve had an unhealthy relationship with food. Although I generally eat pretty well, my dependence on sugar is a dangerous habit I knew I needed to get under control. Another bad habit of mine was the constant snacking throughout the day, and not having a real meal until dinner time. (Any other mama grazers out there?!) Additionally, since infancy I have had psoriasis, a skin disease which at its root is an auto-immune disorder. I was hopeful that 30 days on whole foods could show a positive effect on my skin by reducing inflammation.

How To Be Successful On Whole30

I was excited – and hesitant – to begin such a dramatic program. The concept is incredibly simple – eat only whole foods (meats, eggs, vegetables, and fruits) and let your body have a break from potential problem-causing foods (sugar, alcohol, dairy, soy, legumes, carbs). Just because the program is straightforward doesn’t mean that people find it to be easy. On the Whole 30, I found a few things to be absolutely key to staying on track.

  • Go into it with plenty of background information. Read the book, follow Whole30 official and related accounts on Instagram, find some good food blogs for recipe inspiration. Starting blind will not set you up for success. 
  • Have a buddy. My friend Kim lives several states away, but we were able to check in frequently about how we were each doing. Spoiler alert: there will be days when you won’t want to continue. Many – if not most – people find this to be quite challenging. Have someone that you can talk to and encourage along your journey. If you know you are being held accountable, you will have a greater chance at success.
  • PLAN. I’ve always done meal planning for my family, but Whole30 took this to a whole new level. There could be no evenings where I panicked with nothing prepared and could just make some mac and cheese. 
  • Have back-up snacks. Snacking on compliant foods is technically ok, but somewhat frowned upon on Whole30. If you are trying to break a habit of constant snacking, reaching for a LaraBar every day is not going to help re-set your body’s cravings. That being said…life happens. During my Whole30, I had to be at several places (field trips, road trips, long meetings, etc.) where I knew a compliant meal would not be available and I wouldn’t be able to whip up a meal. I always carried a LaraBar (make sure it is a compliant one – no peanuts or chocolate!), a bag of raw nuts, or fresh fruit with me just in case. 
  • Keep a journal. I didn’t journal every day, but I kept notes of how I was feeling along the way. It was helpful for me to be able to record the journey.

My Best Food Finds

I’ll be completely honest: almost every day, all I wanted was a big bowl of pasta or a freshly baked cookie. With those obviously off-limits, here are some of my best food finds that helped me throughout my 30 day program:

  • Trader Joe’s Everything But The Bagel seasoning. I had eggs every single morning for breakfast and loved, loved, loved using this seasoning to take them from dull to divine. This seasoning is so versatile – people also love it on roasted potatoes, avocados, and chicken.
  • Sparkling water. Yeah, La Croix is pretty hipster-trendy, but I found myself having at least one can a day. The fizz factor made me feel like I was drinking something special. It became my late-afternoon pick-me-up of choice. 
  • Roast chicken. Each week, I roasted a 3-4 lb chicken (just remember to use ghee instead of butter!) for a meal along with some seasonal vegetables. Easy, compliant, and a surefire crowd pleaser. 
  • With leftover roasted chicken meat, I’d make a curry each week. My eldest is a pretty picky eater, but she loves curry. Make an easy sauce with green curry paste mixed with canned coconut milk (Trader Joe’s is compliant – always check other brands for additives!), add chunks of roasted chicken and some veggies. It is a perfect, hearty meal! 
  • Soup! Each week, I would make a huge batch of soup for one dinner. The leftovers would be my lunches for the next several days. Surprisingly, everyone in my family loved my eggplant and cauliflower soup, and I looked forward to a warm bowl of it for many lunches. 
  • Almond butter. Peanuts – a legume – are off-limits, but there are so many great alternatives out there. My favorite is almond butter. Perfect to pair with apples, bananas, or even on “sweet potato toast” with a little cinnamon. 

After The 30 Days

I admit, I was very glad when my 30 days were over. I never quite kicked the carb or sugar cravings, and I never experienced a boost in energy like so many others do, but I did notice a few positive effects. Besides losing some weight, I found that my snacking desires had really lessened. It’s easier for me to grab some fruit or have some water or tea when I feel the need for a little pick-me-up. I’m more mindful of what I am eating, and what I am buying. After a few trips to the grocery store and carefully reading labels, you will be shocked to see how much is added to seemingly natural foods (added sugar and/or corn by-products are everywhere!). I might not do a full 30 days again, but I’m grateful for the lessons it taught me – and for the self-control I proved to myself I really had!

Have you tried Whole30? Skeptic or a convert? Leave me your Whole30 stories and tips/tricks in the comments!