So a few days ago I finished my first Whole30. To explain what that is, I could give you a summary of all the things you can’t eat and terrify you, or I could describe it perhaps too simply: If you don’t put crap into your system, you won’t end up feeling like crap, because SCIENCE.
I did cut a lot of food out of my diet, some that was glaringly obvious, and some that was totally counter-intuitive (and that I don’t miss in the least). The month felt like it would never end at times, but there were also days that flew by in bursts of newfound energy. On day 29, I was talking to a Starbucks barista who had offered me an iced tea sample. I asked if there were added sugars and she said yes, so I politely declined and thanked her for the offer.
She asked me why, and when I told her that I was closing in fast on my last day of Whole30, her jaw dropped.
“OH MY GOD. We just started. It’s Day 1!” She squeaked with excitement and gestured at her fellow coffee slinger. “…Does it get hard? Does it get better? Does it really work?”
She seemed to be terrified, curious, and hopeful – and actually those seem to be the go-to sentiments when I’m asked about my experience.
As for ‘if it works’, I don’t know.
I really don’t.
It depends on your baseline, and your health concerns. It depends on what motivated you to try it in the first place. Everyone is going to have a different result. I lost 2 pounds, and got rid of my joint pain. Cap lost almost 20lbs (seriously how do men DO that?!) and we’re both way happier, energized, and sleeping better.
I don’t know what will happen for anyone else, but I do know that your life will change because your habits will change, and you will not want to go back to doing the things you were doing before you started.
That’s pretty much exactly what I told the Barrista.
I also told her I’d be back in 10 days to see how she and her friend are doing. In the mean time, I’ve thought of 25 things that may or may not help you on your first Whole30, and may inspire me to stick to it.
- Go through your cupboards and your fridge, and your pantry FIRST. No really. Before you start, you think you can totally get away with keeping some of the goods at the back of your cupboard because really what’s a few sulphites? Trust me. You really don’t want to think you have access to something only to have it on the ‘avoid’ list.
- Spices and seasoning make all the difference. Dill, parsley, basil, rosemary, lime, lemon, chili, cumin, coriander. Stock up or better yet, grow your own.
- Grab some cedar, maple, and alder planks for your bbq!
- Curry pastes + coconut milk and veggies of your choice? BRILLIANT.
- Make sure you have baby food jars or the like for making your own mayo, ketchup, bbq sauce, pre-made meat rubs and dressings…
- Always have extra lettuce for lettuce wraps.
- Cocount aminos will change your life. BAM. Look for this soy-free sauce/seasoning and watch it transform your cooking. If you can’t find it at your local health food store, you can totally find it on line which also means you can buy it in pjs, and have it delivered. (Thanks, Well.ca)
- Meal planning and prep, ftw.
- For the first 2 weeks, don’t think about your budget. Don’t think about ‘how much’ you’re eating. Your cravings may have you eating twice as many apples or 3 times the eggs you anticipated. Go with it. Don’t restrict, but let yourself eat and focus on healing. You’ll even out and find your own ‘tricks’ and shopping preferences later.
- Don’t let anyone bug you. If you want to commit to this and you are sharing your journey because it will give you strength and endurance, then do it. Just be open to the fact that you might be unfollowed, unfriended or whatever. Who cares. You got this. If not for my friends sharing their stories, I wouldn’t have tried this and my joints would still have me hunched over in the fetal position.
- The weirdest life issues, pattern recognition, and problems will come up during your cravings and your detox. Use the opportunity to solve them.
- Don’t be shocked if you like black coffee by the end of week 3.
- NUT BUTTERS. Dammmmmmmn.
- Prep for being on the road— always carry an emergency apple, veggies, hard-boiled egg, Lara Bar, almonds, etc. and refillable bottle of water.
- Remember this when you feel overwhelmed: no matter where you are (whether you’re buying at a big box, an organic boutique grocer, or on line) you have access to this lifestyle. Easily.
- Do tell your doctor(s) about your Whole30. Even if they’ve never heard of it. Let them know that you’re changing your diet. It might impact the way you absorb your medications, and you might need to get some prescriptions tweaked along the way – also do get your blood work done to make sure you’re on point before and/or after. (I get mine done once a month to monitor my body’s reaction to my meds, but it’s a great idea for everyone.)
- Don’t be surprised if the Whole30 starts feeling like a summer camp where you actually fit in and feel great about yourself and you’re a bit scared to leave it. You can always go back.
- Tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, coconut milk, lime, coconut aminos are like the ‘MacGyver Whole30 starter-kit’.
- It’s ALWAYS easier to make it yourself than it is to find a bottle with no sulphites, preservatives, and random fillers and sugars on the label.
- Don’t shut out your cravings and think about how you ‘would love to’ satisfy them. Stop, breathe, feel and understand your cravings instead. It helps you stay calm as opposed to crazy HANGRY, and gives you insights about your energy peaks and dips.
- Put grapes in the freezer and crunch on them. SO. GOOD.
- You will totally have food-porn dreams about various foods on the ‘no-list’. This is normal. I hear it’s normal. Except for maybe that one I had about the grilled cheese sandwich.
- Keep baby food around for quick-grab, organic, no preservative food on the go or as sauces for marinades— if you don’t believe me try chicken grilled with basil and pear sauce (AKA pear baby food).
- 30 days feels like forever until day 29. Then you can’t believe how fast it went by.
- BUDDY UP! There were so many times that Cap and I would talk each other through cravings and keep each other going. We highly recommend this – it saved us from throwing in the towel multiple times.
- Print out some of the resources on Whole30.com and keep them with you while you’re grocery shopping. It’s way easier to dodge soy, corn, preservatives and sugar additives with their cheat sheets!
- When you first start your Whole30, try and go to a local farmer’s market or a specialty store so you’re not trying to navigate through all your favourite baked goods and temptations.
- Be prepared to look at everything you thought was food (frozen pizzas, sauces, breads, peanut butter, jelly, soups) with the disillusioned shock that it’s not actually food. That was a tough one for us. We called this our ‘food mourning period’.
- Sugar addiction is ugly and real. Like Gary Busey on Celebrity Rehab, real. Be patient and kind to yourself. And tough. Be tough.
- When you really want that cheeseburger (because you will) know that you will look back on this time with pride, and that it actually does change the way you do things. Seriously. It’s the most ultimate way of being kind to your future self.
Moving forward I’ll be using Whole30 and Paleo guidelines as my new ‘normal’, adding the indulgence of a glass of wine, or getting my Jughead Jones on when the call of the burger is heard.
I’ll be keeping everyone updated with my health progress, news from my docs, and any other awesome recipes that I find or come up with.
If you want to pick my brain about this, go ahead. Ask away, or post in the comments.
You got this.