I’m on day 20 of a January Whole30. If you’re not familiar with Whole30, you can read all about it here. While I’m sure the creator of Whole30, Melissa Hartwig, would cringe at my simplistic explanation, to me, it’s kind of a emotional baptism of my sugar-saturated, strung-out, carb-craving brain and the food that feeds it. Some people think of it as a detox, or getting rid of the bad. I like to think of it as a cleansing; making room for the new.
Interestingly, I’ve found that the Whole30 really compliments my sobriety and mirrors my spiritual journey. When you don’t have booze, fried foods, gossip, drama or mood-altering men to keep yourself distracted, you have no choice but to replace old habits with new, ideally, healthier means of getting “high.” It’s fascinating how much reverence I’ve learned to have for all things abstained these days.
The former Queen of Overindulgence now finds deep satisfaction in abstaining from that which does not serve me. Ok, granted: alcohol, is clearly something that should be abstained from if it’s caused wellness issues in your life. But cupcakes? Frappuccinos? TORTILLAS FOR THE LOVE OF GOD?
Whole30 says yes – or rather NO. And with a lot of tough love, I might add! Damn that Melissa Hartwig. She gets me right at my own game.
The Whole30 program is not a weight-loss plan, although most people do naturally shed some poundage. You don’t need to join any membership or pay any fees. You just eat.real.food. It’s a 30-day “whole” food diet. That means no added or refined sugars, dairy, grains, legumes, carrageenan (feel free to look that puppy up), MSG, sulfites, baked goods, processed foods, snacking between meals, desserts or alcohol (duh). It also prescribes lots of water and 8 hours of rest per night, discourages scale-watching, and encourages NSVs (non-scale victories) – you know those things you can feel good about that don’t involve your ass in a thong. Like having more energy and upping your game in the kitchen.
What most people focus on going into Whole30 is what you “can’t have”. Because I’ve attempted Whole30 before by going in with the “poor-starving-me” approach and failed, I really focused on all the things I CAN have this time around – and the list is long.
If you’re thinking about trying a Whole30, I highly recommend reading the book “It Starts With Food” by Melissa Hartwig. Most libraries will have it or you can download it from Amazon. You can certainly do a Whole30 without reading the book, but it’s nice to know the philosophy to the program and the why behind what you’re doing. It helps keep you committed when the going gets tough, and trust me, on days when your car breaks down across the street from favorite pizzeria, it might.
And speaking of broken cars and stress, the Whole30 is great for getting a pulse on your anxiety. If you struggle with it, you know: anxiety is different than stress is the sense that it’s unpredictable and irrational. You can’t always pinpoint why you’re having an episode; it just happens. I’ve found that I have enough of a challenge dealing with the ups and downs of anxiety disorder, that I don’t need my blood pressure and blood sugar to add their two cents, as well. Keeping those things stable has really allowed me to get a feel for when I’m truly feeling “off” and edgy due to mental health, versus when feeling edgy and irritable because I’m coming down from a sugar high. It’s very easy to confuse the two.
Another pro for the Whole30: it has become so widely recognized that you can literally Google “Is _____ Whole30 compliant?” and whatever it is you’re considering sneaking into your watering mouth will pop up with a big red X over it. I’m kidding. But you really can find anything and everything Whole30 on the Interwebs. Makes it easy peasy.
A few things that are KEY to succeeding at the Whole30:
- Focus on what you CAN have. Make a list and keep it where you can see. So when you’re “starving”, you can have as much of that list as you want. I usually take this shopping list and write out my own list of W30 compliant foods that I like and keep it taped to my cabinets, the fridge, and in my phone.
- Learn Your Staples.
What are your must have go-tos? Quick foods and recipes that you can always eat in a pinch and won’t get bored.
For me it’s:
-Egg Scramble Hash w/ Applegate Hot Dogs, Grapefruit, and sliced tomatoes
-Loaded Baked Potatoes with Aidell’s Chicken Apple Sausage and fresh Salsa
-Spaghetti Squash and Ground Turkey Bolognese
-Larabars in my car for emergencies
-Holy Guacamole Minis
-Sparkling water and more sparkling water!
- Stay Stocked Up.
I will say that being on the Whole30 keeps me at the store fairly regularly. Aldi is amazing for Whole30 because their prices can’t be beat and they have really outdone themselves in the health and organic food sections.
- Be Prepared.
You might notice that you’re less likely to eat out when you’re doing a Whole30 for obvious reasons – you think you won’t find anything compliant or you think it will be too hard. This is where preparation comes into play.
If you must go out to eat, go prepared. Whether that means eating at home first, so you keep it light at the restaurant, or you carefully studying the menu, calling to find out how they cook their dishes in advance, and selecting your order prior to arriving, preparation is your friend.
I’ve been caught with a whole lemon in my purse from time to time. No shame in my game! If all else fails, I get a dry salad, load it up with veggies and protein, squeeze some lemon, spoon on some salsa or guac, and load it up with salt and pepper – voila! Dinner is served.
- Expect the Unexpected
No matter where you are, you should be able to be in close reach of food if you need it. So never leave your house without some compliant snack or meal. Ever. This can be the difference between knocking a W30 out of the park and knocking yourself upside the head because you caved and inhaled a Big Mac in a moment of famished weakness.
- Keep it Simple
Brace yourself. When you start looking into W30 recipes you’ll see it all; including pomegranate spritzers and baked blackberry prosciutto cups. HUH? I’ve never even bought a blackberry in my life. I’m not saying I wouldn’t, but just the name of that recipe sounds like I need a nap…and a donut. So, just remember that your plate does not have to be pretty. An organic hot dog with carrot sticks and a hard boiled egg is a meal. A microwaved baked potato with leftover chili and a side salad is a meal. A paper plate with cut up chicken, veggies, and fruit is a meal. Keep it simple.
So, that’s Whole30 in a cashew nut shell.
If you’re looking to reexamine your relationship with food, I strongly recommend the Whole30. I will tell you that I stopped having strong sugar cravings at about day 14 or 15; still waiting on those Diet Coke cravings to dissipate, though. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Since starting the Whole30 I sleep deeper. My clothes fit better. I’m drinking a lot more water and my skin is clearer. And I’m noticing how much I appreciate the flavors in natural foods. The other day I was eating a banana, which I’m normally really “meh” about, but it tasted so much different than any banana I’d had before. Like a dessert! I guess it’s hard to notice how naturally tasty and fulfilling a banana is when you’re tossing back a pint of Moose Tracks every night at 11pm. Hypothetically.
It was the holidays!! Sue me.
I’ll be sharing some of my Whole30 recipes on the blog, but for now – thinking about trying a Whole30? Done one before and have some great staples or hacks? Let me know! I’m a work in progress and it’s progress, not perfection.