Several months back, I did my very first round of Whole30. It took me about two read-throughs of the book, a lot of research, and five months of countless excuses “but ____ holiday is coming up”, “my birthday is happening and we’re going somewhere special to eat”, “we’re going on vacation and I don’t want to be restricted” , I’m too busy/tired/bad at cooking, etc”. I could probably fill a book with all of the excuses I had in my head that tried to keep me from setting a start day.
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It’s gotten pretty popular, especially in the healthy eating and wholistic living corners of the internet, but if you’re unfamiliar with what Whole30 is, it breaks down like this:
- Raw, unprocessed, real food. You can eat as much of it as you like, but it’s recommended to focus on healthy fats and protein before loading up on fruit.
- Added sugar, real or artificial.
- Alcohol, in any form, not even for cooking.
- Carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites.
- Baked goods, junk foods, or treats, even those made with “approved” ingredients.
Also, don’t step on the scale during the 30 days.
That’s it! At first glance, it sounds daunting – possibly even scary depending on your history and cooking background (I was straight-up terrified). I won’t sugar coat it and say it’s super easy; radically changing any habit is never easy. Changing the way that you eat (or don’t eat every single piece of delicious looking junk food that crosses your path) is, to many people, one of the hardest things to try and do.
So, without further ado, here are some of the things that helped me begin, power through, and eventually love the experience of, my first round of Whole30:
Stop waiting for the “perfect time” to start.
We’ve all been there with a diet before: the “I’ll start on Monday” or “I’ll start on the first of the month” are spoken with confidence, but then those magical days come around and we don’t start. We forget or we have plans and suddenly we’re starting next Monday or on the first of next month… It’s a vicious cycle, but I’m here to tell you a secret:
THE PERFECT TIME TO START IS THE EXACT MOMENT YOU HAVE THE DESIRE, DRIVE, AND MOTIVATION TO GET GOING!
If you’re stoked about Whole30 after reading the book, don’t wait to start on Monday just because it’s what you see other people doing, clean out the fridge and pantry, ditch the junk food, go shopping , and start tomorrow! After months of putting it off, I ended up throwing out my excuses and starting my Whole30 in the middle of the month, on a Wednesday. Just go for it!
Plan out your meals as much as much as possible!
Whole30, like many other clean eating plans/lifestyles, requires a bit of preparation. Is it possible without meal prepping? Sure! But being at least mostly ready for the week ahead will save you a lot of stress and last-minute confusion over what you can and can’t eat. It’s never fun to be scouring ingredient labels to find something Whole30 approved when your stomach is growling and you’re developing a headache because you haven’t had anything in hours. Trust me, just try to avoid that scenario. Set yourself up for success instead of failure and have lots of healthy, yummy, approved options available at all times (even when you travel)!
Cut up all of your produce as soon as you’re home from the store.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve gone to the store with the best of intentions – you’ve scanned every ingredient list, armed yourself with a massive Pinterest board of delicious recipes, not allowed yourself a single off-plan item, and come home to a fridge stocked with mass amounts of produce in every color of the rainbow; only to throw out half of that beautiful (expensive) food out a couple weeks or so down the road because life got too busy and you didn’t have the time to use it.
Of course, produce is bound to go bad on us from time to time. However, I’ve noticed that if I cut up and put the ready-to-eat food into mason jars (my preferred storage for produce), then I’m waaay more likely to consume them before they’ve gone bad. There’s just something about fresh fruit or veggies being sliced up and ready that makes them disappear in my household!
Double your dinners and eat the leftovers as a meal the next day.
Whole30 food is wonderful, but some of the recipes can definitely be a bit more time consuming than you may be used to. One of the ways I found to save time (and sanity) during my Whole30 was to double almost every dinner we made, especially those that were family favorites, and send them with us for lunch the next day! It definitely helped me spend less time in the kitchen while still making it easy to stay on track.
Make use of your InstantPot (and if you don’t have one, oh my goodness, get one)!
The InstantPot was probably my biggest secret to success. It’s no secret among my friends and family that I’m not a big fan of cooking. In fact, being intimidated by cooking (and also hating my tiny, dishwasherless kitchen) was probably the biggest among my long list of excuses prior to doing Whole30. The InstantPot helped me in those times when I wasn’t prepared like I should’ve been. Check Pinterest for a recipe, throw a few ingredients in the pot, set the timer, and voila! An approved, hands-off meal in (usually) less than 30 minutes. I can’t tell you how many times I used my IP during my Whole30, but it was nearly always multiple times a day and often I was wishing that I had a second one for entrees and sides at the same time!
If you’re overthinking it, simplify it.
Yes, you need to become proficient at reading your labels. No, you can’t just go to a restaurant and eat without asking lots of questions. Still, one of the biggest pitfalls I’ve seen happen to so many is some hardcore overthinking. There’s thousands of approved recipes available to you that are awesome and some people excel at making every complicated recipe they come across, but for the rest of you, feeling like you have to make 5-star restaurant meals every single day will wear you out fast. About 80% of my breakfasts and maybe 50% of my other meals (and snacks) were simple, tried-and-true things, consisting of only a handful of ingredients (or less) and that’s totally okay! If you’re the kind of person who buys the same things at the grocery store every time you shop prior to Whole30 because, well, you like what you like, then chances are a simple Whole30 will be right up your alley. I had lots of of my favorite frozen veggies on hand and would eat them frequently, just by themselves. It doesn’t always have to be fancy for it to fill you up and be nutritional!
Last, but not least:
Don’t stress (I repeat, don’t stress) over being perfect.
Does that mean you should throw the rules to the wind? Of course not! If you purposely down that Snickers bar, please, follow the rules and restart! However, if you had a technically compliant day, but you ate too much fruit, too little veg, too many nuts, didn’t hit the amount of protein you’re hoping for, or, *gasp*, you had that “emergency Larabar” that was stashed in your car in a less-than-an-emergency situation – it’s okay. You’re still in the game! Pick yourself back up and try to be more balanced tomorrow! This isn’t a competition with all of those perfect looking Instagram fitness gurus on their 27th round or with all the Whole30 bloggers and, let’s face it, even if you stay compliant, that doesn’t mean you’ll always be well-rounded. Just remember that no matter what, at the end of your 30 (technically 40) days, you’re still going to have accomplished something amazing. You’re still going to have killed that “sugar dragon”. You’re still going to feel like a million bucks after this journey. So take it one day at a time and don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Before you know it, you’ll realize that you’re in your own groove and you’re rocking it!
Written by Jess
What helped you get through your Whole30(s)? How would you help someone who’s doing their first round? Share your tips below!