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I am proud to say that I have successfully completed two rounds of Whole30. I am less proud to admit, however, that I have also started and quit Whole30 on a few separate occasions, primarily because I jumped in without giving it much thought and was not following the tips and tricks mentioned in this article.
What is Whole30?
In short, it is a thirty-day program during which you fill your body with wholesome, natural and clean foods and eliminate foods that are highly processed and/or are known to cause inflammation in the body.
A quick list of foods you CAN have includes:
- Clean meats (preferably organic)
- Vegetables, including white and sweet potatoes
- Tree nuts and seeds
And a quick list of foods you CANNOT have includes:
- Sugar or sweeteners including honey and agave, etc.
- Dairy Products
- Legumes including peanuts
For those of us who have ever suffered from unhealthy eating habits and/or emotional ties to food (I have both hands raised in the air) then you are in for a treat… one that will completely change the way you feel and think about food. What’s more, I can almost guarantee that you will lose some weight during this 30-day program while gaining renewed energy, improved thinking, restored sleep, better moods, clearer skin and healthier hair.
If you want to take the plunge and give it a try, I highly recommend you follow these 12 tips and tricks to help you succeed. Have a plan. Follow through. Don’t give up.
#1: Mentally Prepare
You have to get your mind in the right place before beginning this or any other program that involves a complete overhaul of what you eat. When I decided I wanted to do a second round of Whole30 back in April, it wasn’t until September that I felt mentally “ready.” This year for my family, September seemed to be the month where life was moving at a slower pace and I could take a deep breath. There weren’t ump-teen events, holidays, vacations and/or birthdays to partake in so it seemed like the best month for me to tackle Whole30.
Make a physical or mental list of why you want to do this and read it or repeat it to yourself often. Think up a little mantra you can repeat to yourself. Something I would say in my head when I felt tempted to bail was, It’s only 30 days. You can do it. You’re not going to die. You can do hard things. You will feel so much better and feel so accomplished once you are done.
#2: Gather Recipes
A few weeks (I recommend a month) before starting, begin writing down meal ideas and researching recipes to make throughout your 30 days. You do not need to have 30 unique and elaborate dinner meals planned. Pick two or 3 recipes that are “more involved” per week and double them so you will have leftovers (see #7).
I am a big sauce and dressing kind of gal but pretty much any store-bought sauce does not fit the list of approved Whole30 foods. If the thought of eating dry chicken makes you want to cry, too, then I recommend finding a few sauce and dressing recipes to make and have handy when your meals are more on the simple side and need a little extra zing.
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#3: Collect Ingredients
This program does require several spices and other dry goods that you might not normally have as pantry staples. Once you have your list of recipes, make a list of ingredients. Then, go to the store and stock up (but don’t go too overboard) on dry goods with a longer shelf life.
It would also be wise to make a list of the fresh foods that you think you will buy on a weekly basis and have that handy each time you to the grocery store.
#4: Meal Prep
If there are things you can make ahead that you can freeze, keep in the fridge for a week or stash on the pantry shelf for a while then make that before starting or before launching into another week.
Some key items I made ahead were taco seasoning, ranch seasoning, BBQ seasoning/rub, BBQ sauce spaghetti sauce, Thai Coconut and Curry “peanut” sauce, ranch dressing and just a basic salad dressing made with olive oil, red-wine vinegar, lemon juice and a few other spices. I would also cut up and roast a pan-full of sweet potato chunks at the beginning of each week to have with eggs or dinner as a side.
#5: Always Have Snacks Handy
Whether you are a grazer (like myself) or not, if you are doing Whole30, I feel it is key to your success to have a variety of snacks handy at all times. Seriously. At. All. Times.
Having snacks handy throughout your Whole30 day allows you to feel full and satisfied and wards off those pesky drops in blood sugar, making you much more likely to succeed.
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Think about it. If you are at a kid’s birthday party with your littles and all of the sudden hunger strikes you, the chances of there being good, wholesome food choices in that moment are slim. And, no, last I checked cupcakes are not Whole30 complaint.
But, if you have a packet of pistachios in your handbag or a baggie of apple slices tucked in your coat pocket, then you can get a little bite to hold you over until you get home and have access to an actual meal.
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#6: Always Have Water Ready
Drinking water continuously throughout the day helps you to feel full and refreshed. When I am hydrating often and intentionally, I feel like I can think more clearly and have higher levels of productive energy.
I also find that drinking 8 oz or more glass of water immediately after each meal helps to fill me up and curbs my sugar cravings.
Other Whole30 beverages include:
- Black coffee
- Unsweetened tea
- Hot tea
- Sparkling waters such as La Croix
- Water flavored with cut up lemons, limes or berries
#7: Make Enough to Have Left overs
If you are cooking, chopping, sautéing, roasting, spiralizing or blending something, double or triple the recipe so you have enough to get three or four meals out of your efforts. This way, when you are in a rush, you don’t have to stress about making another meal. You can simply throw some leftovers in the microwave for a minute and eat it on the go rather than giving in to that secret stash of old Halloween Candy you have hiding in your car.
P.S. Get rid of the secret stash of Halloween candy you have hiding in your car before starting Whole30!
#8: Keep it Simple
I feel it is vitally important for the sake of your sanity and your wallet to resist the urge to try and make every Whole30 meal gourmet and elaborate.
Pinterest will trick you into thinking you need to, but you don’t.
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Instead of making a breakfast casserole with eggs, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, and sausage that requires 15 spices, just scramble up some eggs with salt and pepper, throw in some potatoes (if you have time) and eat a banana.
Rather than soaking cashews in organic chicken broth and blending them with coconut milk and 10 other spices to make an “alfredo sauce” for shrimp to serve over roasted spaghetti squash, just sauté up some chicken, steam some broccoli and throw it together with some of the sweet potatoes you roasted at the beginning of the week for dinner.
Of course, it is totally fine to reserve a few meals each week for something different and “fancy” but, I’m telling you, you will lose your mind trying to do it 3 times a day for 30 days straight.
You’ll burn out quick, go bankrupt and likely give up if you try to recreate every Pinterest meal you find. So, follow this 80/20 rule: 80% simple, 20% more involved.
#9: Have Accountability
If possible, I highly recommend rounding up friends, your mom, your sister, your spouse, some coworkers or anyone who is willing to do this with you. It is fun and bolsters relationships when you are tackling and overcoming a challenge together. Having accountability also makes you much more likely to succeed, in my opinion.
When I did Whole30 the first time I did it with two of my friends and loved having people I could check in with for encouragement. We could also swap recipes and offer up meal ideas.
#10: Don’t Be a Recluse
When you are watching what you eat and are cutting out processed foods and other social foods such as desserts and alcohol, the thought and act of going out to eat with others can seem daunting and intimidating.
What will people think of me? Will they be offended if I come to their party and don’t have a drink or don’t eat their food? Will there be anything on the menu for me to eat?
Because I love to eat special meals out, spend time with friends and host parties at my house, this one was often tricky and difficult.
My best advice is to just not care! Don’t worry or care about what others think of you and resist peer pressure. We aren’t in middle school anymore (thank God!) and most people will be encouraging and curious.
Offer to bring a dish if you are going to a gathering. My favorite thing to bring was a veggie tray, fruit salad, green salad or some kick-butt chicken wings.
If eating out, you are usually safe with a salad (minus the cheese, croutons and candied pecans) topped with dressing you brought from home. It is definitely not as exciting as what you might normally order but, eh, you’ll live.
You guys, I went to Disney World for 3 days while on this program. If I can do that, you can do anything.
Also, don’t make a big deal out of it! Please resist the urge to explain yourself before anyone even asks. If I may be blunt, that is super annoying. I found that most people just aren’t paying attention to what I am or am not eating or drinking.
#11: Don’t Count Calories
Nope. Just Don’t. Whole30 is challenging enough and throwing an element of calorie restriction or counting calories will only make it harder and truly mentally exhausting. Honestly, this is one of the main reasons I love this 30-day program because, although my food choices are limited, I feel free to eat as much of them as I want!
You guys, I still managed to lose 7 pounds and I was consuming a whole avocado, two bananas, approximately one pound of pistachios and probably an entire can of full-fat coconut milk EVERY DAY… among other things.
So, go ahead! Have another handful of cashews and an entire pint of strawberries and don’t worry about it.
#12: Don’t Weigh Yourself
Weight loss is obviously a good thing to aim for. The less pounds your body is carrying around the better you will feel and the easier it will be able to move. Your knees and back will thank you, too! However, I would not make this the primary reason you want to complete Whole30 and I most certainly would not weigh yourself until the very end.
I can almost guarantee you will lose weight but it will not happen over night and watching the ounces slowly tick away is a slippery slope that often leads to discouragement and defeat.
Do it because you only get one body and you want to take care of it. Do it to feel better and sleep better and have more energy. Do it because you want to be in a better mood and stop yelling at your kids or snapping at your spouse. Do it to establish better eating habits that will stay with you for the rest of your life and to break the chains of food addiction and emotional eating.
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I think you’ll find that if you drastically change the things you are putting in your mouth, your body will respond and the pounds will melt off.
That’s all I got! Now… go get ‘em! You absolutely can do this. And, when you do, let me know how it goes!
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