Everything You Need to Know for Your First Whole30
January is a time of resolutions, but for me, January means one thing - the Whole30! 2018 will mark my fifth Whole30, and I couldn't be more ready for it. Last year, I did a studio-wide Whole30 challenge for my Pure Barre clients and staff, and it was so much fun, that we decided to do it again this year! Whether you're a member of my studio or not, this post is designed to walk you through everything you need to know in order to prepare you for the Whole30. If you want to join in on mine, I am starting on January 16 and finishing on February 14!
First off, what is the Whole30?
If you've never done one, the Whole30 can be intimidating. Essentially, it's a 30 day nutrition challenge that eliminates grains, gluten, dairy, legumes, artificial additives, alcohol, and sugar of all kinds. It puts the focus on real food that will nourish and heal your body for 30 days and leave you refreshed, full of energy, and able to metabolize food more efficiently. It's not a permanent lifestyle change, unless you want it to be, and some of the foods it eliminates like oatmeal, quinoa, beans, and rice may be foods that you previously deemed to be healthy. However, they are eliminated because they are common allergens and inflammatory to most people. You will be shocked at how your body and attitude are transformed in just a month's time!
So, what can I eat?
SO MANY THINGS! From the thousands of Whole30 blogs, recipes, and guides out there, you will have no trouble finding delicious meals that are easy to make. I hear a lot of people say that they are overwhelmed by the ingredient lists for some Whole30 meals, but it's a simple matter of changing your shopping habits. For instance, I don't have any butter, flour, soda, sugar, milk, or soy sauce in my house, just to name a few common ingredients. However, I do regularly buy ghee, almond flour, La Croix, almond milk, and coconut aminos because I have learned to shop differently over the years. Once you learn what's in your food, it's easier to know how to shop.
Why is it Better than Any other diet/cleanse/detox?
If you've looked into any sort of elimination diet or detox before, you may wonder why this one is "better" than the rest (in my opinion). You can look up thousands of articles that argue all sides, but here are the top reasons that I will always choose the Whole30:
- It's nutritionally sound, prioritizes real food, and teaches you how to understand your ingredients.
- It focuses on changing your relationship with food in order to change your life for the long term.
- There is no focus on restrictive macro or calorie counting that can feel limiting.
- It's a month - long enough to break old habits and build new ones.
- There are no shakes, smoothies, or "meal replacements" that are often filled with crap, sugar, and additives.
- It's not like a juice cleanse that robs your body of fiber, protein, fat, etc.
- It focuses on restoring your gut health, which helps with hormone balancing, acne, bloating, fatigue, brain fog, weight loss, auto immune conditions, and more.
- The food is delicious, and you decide what you eat from the approved foods, so there is freedom!
- I have seen the results in myself and others time and time again.
How to Prepare: the Food
Plan out the dates of your Whole30 and make sure there are no major life events going on during that month. If you have a big vacation, celebration, or event, then it probably isn't a good time to do the Whole30. More than likely, you will always have social obligations in the month of your choosing, and it can be important to learn how to say no to the foods at these events or restaurants in order to stick to your goals. After all, it's only a month of your life, and cheating isn't allowed.
Once you've picked your timeframe, I suggest planning out your meals a week at a time. I'm not a huge meal prep person, but I do like to batch cook 2-3 big meals and a salad on the day before each week begins. Besides those meals, I like to keep staples on hand: eggs, apples, almond butter, La Croix, sweet potatoes, RX bars (not the peanut butter one because peanuts are legumes and prohibited), and a couple servings of meat and veggies that can be made into quick meals by themselves. Trying to make every meal a masterpiece is exhausting and unattainable to me, but you do you! If you want everything to be prepared in advance, that is totally doable, as well. My ultimate recommendation is to prep something so you aren't caught in a bind and feeling lost when hunger strikes.
Don't be surprised if your grocery bill is high. After all, you're buying high-quality ingredients and cooking at home a lot! In addition, you won't be eating out, drinking alcohol, or spending on excess snacks this month, so I've always found it to balance out. If you've been a bargain shopper, fast-food type, then your bill may be higher than you've ever experienced because you're buying more ingredients and real food, so do acknowledge that shift. I believe that food is medicine, so you can spend it on groceries now, or hospital bills later, just saying.
Lastly, decide what kind of snacks are going to be right for you. The Whole30 actually recommends avoiding snacks and focusing on 3 whole meals a day. However, if you're active like me, nuts, nut butter, RX bars, and approved Lara Bars can be life savers in a pinch. Look at your activity level and decide for yourself!
How to Prepare: the Emotional State
This part is the hardest for most people, the idea of "giving up" so much. I will be honest in saying that I love doing the Whole30 because of the way it makes me feel, the results I see, and my love for real food and nutrition. However, if this is your first time, it's okay to be nervous and have a bit of FOMO. You will probably experience some nasty detox symptoms within the first week, and most people quit within the first 10 days. But, if you can stick it out, it will change your life. I would recommend reading this blog post for a good laugh and a realistic look into what you'll experience. Additionally, try to reframe your language and thought process. Think about what you're gaining vs. what you're letting go.
Blogs to Follow
If you're like me and want inspiration on your Whole30 journey, here are a list of my favorite blogs to follow for resources and recipes! Now, one thing to note is that many recipes you will find may say they are Whole30, but they aren't always. Paleo recipes are not always Whole30 because Paleo does allow sugars such as coconut sugar, maple syrup, and honey. Additionally, the Whole30 doesn't allow any "junk foods" made with Whole30 approved ingredients. Click "SWYPO Whole30" to understand more about this topic.
Books to Buy
If you're more of the print variety, there are so many good Whole30 books, including a few that just came out! I would recommend purchasing the original Whole30 book if you don't have it, and there is a new Day-by-Day book that looks great. The writing in these books is sure to keep you entertained, but remember, owning a Whole30 book isn't necessary to successfully complete the program! All info can be found online.
My Tips and Tricks
The Whole30 is most fun when done with friends, and that's exactly why I'm doing a studio-wide challenge! Join our Facebook group here for recipes, accountability, and more! Additionally, check out this list to the right that is an easy source of haves/have nots on the program.
Make something easy for breakfast like a frittata, an egg scramble, or an apple with almond butter or chia pudding when on the go. Do a salad for lunch with a protein in it, and have a nice, warm meal for dinner. This is a link to my Pinterest board with recipes that I have personally tried and loved! I'm always adding to it, and you can follow my Instagram to see the ones I'm making in real time. All the blogs I mentioned above have Instagram accounts, as well.
Stock up on La Croix and GT's Kombucha, both are approved drink! I am a kombucha fanatic, so this is one of my favorite items during Whole30. Beware, a lot of kombucha brands add sugar, which is why I recommend GT's - they sweeten with fruit juice.
Yes, you can drink coffee, but no, you cannot have creamer or sugar in it. Try making Bulletproof coffee (coffee blended with ghee and MCT or coconut oil) for a frothy drink that is delicious! Or, just add unsweetened coconut or almond milk to black coffee.
Change it up on Week 3. By that point, I've found that I'm always a little bit bored and itching for something new. I tend to try more new recipes at this time because I'm over the hump and need to be entertained!
Try to do your shopping at King Sooper's (Kroger), Sprouts, Natural Grocers, or Whole Foods if possible because these stores have the largest selection of organic items and more of the specialty cooking items like Tessemae's dressings, coconut aminos, ghee, coconut butter, and sugar-free chicken/beef broth (the Imagine brand is my favorite).
Make sure you read EVERY LABEL. So many items have hidden sugar or sulfites - bacon, nut butter, balsamic vinegar, broth, almond milk, coconut milk, and spice mixtures, to name a few. You also want to avoid all artificial sweeteners and zero-calorie drinks because these are full of nasty toxic ingredients aka not real food. Remember that "sugar-free" doesn't always mean it's clean and approved. Read. This is usually the most eye-opening part of doing the Whole30 for the first time, and it really helps you shop during the program and in the future.
Lastly, don't be afraid to tell your friends what you're doing and bring your own meals to gatherings. Offer to cook at home instead of going out, and remember that it's not embarrassing to be "that girl (or guy)" for a month of your life. You're taking a positive step to change your health, and if anyone gives you a hard time over it, that is their problem. Be proud of the choices you're making, and stay strong because it is so worth it!