What is the Whole30, and What Should I Expect From It?

Hand holding the Whole30 Cookbook

I, like many, many other folks am happy to turn the page on 2017 and kick off 2018 with optimism, joy, and confidence. One of the most consistently powerful ways I have found to improve my energy and outlook is to nourish my body with quality food.

For that reason, I will be doing my fourth Whole30 this January. I have many friends and family who will be also completing a January Whole30 (for most it’ll be their first!), and I’m so excited to share the experience with them.

So, What is the Whole30?

The Whole30 is a 30-day reset where you eliminate certain foods from your diet. The following are not allowed: grains, alcohol, dairy, soy, processed foods, added sugars (including honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, and the like), legumes, and anything not “real.”

Foods to be enjoyed during the month are vegetables, meat, eggs, seafood, fruits, and natural fats. Whenever possible, it’s recommended to opt for sustainable, ethically-treated, grass-fed, pasture-raised, and/or organic fare.

The goal of the Whole30 is to make intentional, mindful food choices, feed your body well, and hopefully shift your emotional relationship with food. It’s NOT a diet.

There’s no calorie counting, portion limits, or weigh-ins. You nourish your body by eating real food when you’re hungry, and that’s about it.

What Should I Expect From the Whole30?

Having completed the Whole30 three times over the past three years, I can tell you that during some parts of the month you will feel incredible, full of energy, and so happy you decided to hop on the January Whole30 train. Woohoo! On other days (mostly towards the beginning, when your body is adapting to zero refined foods), you will likely feel quite awful. It gets better; I promise!

Here are some things you can expect to experience and learn while on the Whole30.

Meal prep is everything.

If you plan on completing the Whole30, you’re going to have to make use of your kitchen. I highly recommend making food in bulk and having meals and snacks stored in the fridge for takeaway lunches and meals at home. I personally prefer to meal prep several meals, or meal components, on Sunday night so that if I have a long day and don’t want to cook dinner on, say, Tuesday night, all I have to do is open my fridge and grab a Pyrex full of soup or casserole. Some of my favorite foods to meal prep are the following: hard-boiled eggs, frittatas, salads, soups, a whole roasted chicken, roasted potatoes and veggies, ground beef or turkey, and fruit.

Food is emotional.

I can’t tell you how many times during my first Whole30 experience I would yearn to get home after a long, stressful workday, order a pizza, and have a glass or two of wine while planted on the couch. By not being able to give into those desires like I always had, I realized that my temptations weren’t food cravings. Rather, they were ways for me to cope with stress and “treat myself” for making it through another rough day. Noticing and working through my emotional relationship with food and identifying the triggers for my food habits was groundbreaking. I struggled through this lots (and still do!), but I’m now much better at being more mindful about choosing healthier ways to deal with stress, like drinking a cup of herbal tea, working out, or taking a long, hot shower.

Sugar is in everything.

I tend to not do a lot of sweets at home. We don’t typically keep cookies, candy, or other dessert-like snacks in the pantry, so I didn’t really think I consumed that much sugar (besides fruit, the occasional treat, and cocktails). However, once you go grocery shopping and have to look at all of the ingredient in everything you buy, you would be so amazed at how much food has added sugar in it. From soup, to bacon, to sauces and condiments, sugar lurks in so many unexpected places at the grocery store. Doing the Whole30 has opened my eyes to this and taught me to ALWAYS read labels and be wary of anything prepackaged.

Go through Whole30 with someone else.

I went through my first Whole 30 by myself, which wasn’t easy. Nothing was more challenging than being home with my boyfriend while he poured himself a drink after work, or talked about how he had tacos catered in the office that day. It was bad enough to be tempted by coworkers and in social settings, but nothing was worse than living with someone who was eating Oreos on the couch next to you and sprinkling cheese all over your otherwise Whole 30 approved zucchini pasta. That’s why I’m so excited to go through this January Whole30 with friends and family. Whether it’s your husband, best friend, or even a coworker, go through the program with someone else and/or get an accountability partner; you’ll be so much happier.

Carry emergency food.

Whether you plan on hitting the gym after a long day at the office, have a meetup with friends planned for after work, or you’re anticipating a long day of travel, always bring emergency food with you. I almost always had an apple and a bag of almonds in my purse or gym backpack just in case I wouldn’t be getting home on time on any given night. While snacking is frowned upon on Whole 30, there have been several instances where I hadn’t eaten since noon, just had an intense workout, had no plans of going home anytime soon, and simply needed some food in my stomach before getting seriously hangry. In fact, nothing is worse than reaching that state and not being able to find anything Whole30-approved nearby. You’ll be way less likely to give into temptation and be way more pleasant to be around if you’re always prepared and have emergency food on you.

Are you planning on completing a January Whole30? Let me know in the comments below if you are, or if you’re interested in joining an accountability group!

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