So, you want to do a Whole30? No idea where to start? You are in the right place! Leah (PICK + PALEO’S resident Whole30 fanatic) shares her top 10 tips for what to do to get started.
1) IT STARTS WITH FOOD
Get your mitts on a copy or kindle version of It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. The Hartwig’s created the Whole30 plan, and their book It Starts With Food is really the Whole 30 bible. If you want to know the WHY behind the Whole30, this book covers the scientific, physical, and emotional elements. I pick up this book and revisit before every Whole30 – it’s great for motivation and reasoning when the going gets tough!
2) READ UP & LEARN THE RULES
If you can’t spare the change to purchase the book (although I encourage you to beg, borrow, or steal) then make sure you have got your head into the online resources and read up thoroughly. Everything you need to undertake a successful Whole30 is available FREE online at www.whole30.com. In particular, make sure you read The Whole 30 Programme Rules.
To compliment the free resources, the Whole30 Daily is available. For a teeny price of $14.99USD you will get an email every day with tips and tricks, links to articles, recipes and overviews of how you might be feeling. It’s a small price to pay to get a daily kick up the backside and reminder of what you are doing and why! I’d highly recommend the emails – you can save them and refer back to them in future Whole30s too!
3) SET YOUR GOALS
Ok, so you have read up on the programme and decided it’s worth 30 days of your life (seriously, that’s it – THIRTY DAYS) to give it a go. Now what? I’d encourage you to sit down and really think about your motivation for doing the reset. What are your goals? What do you want out of it? Is it to lose weight? Is it to clean out your insides and reset? Is it to gain shiny hair, stronger nails, clearer skin? Is it to sleep better? Is it to try and aid a health issue you are suffering? Really think hard about what your ideal is, at the end of the 30 days – grab a notebook, and jot it all down. When you are struggling, it’s a good place to come back to to remind yourself to stay on track.
4) KEEP A RECORD
Speaking of a notebook – get yourself one. I carry a little A6 notebook in my handbag, and make notes every day. I write down what I ate that day, how I felt, and what exercise I did. The “how I felt” bit is the most important in my mind – I pay attention to my sleep patterns, headaches, energy levels, cravings, digestive and bowel movements, positive changes I am noticing etc. Without keeping a day to day record, I find it very hard to reflect after 3o days and remember exactly how blah and yuck I felt, when right now I am feeling amazing. Take those notes and use them to reflect.
5) START RIGHT NOW
Notebook at the ready, filled with information and programme rules – but still haven’t made the leap? Starting is the hardest part. If you think “oh, I can’t this week, I have xx on” then it’s going to be tough. Dive right in and start today, right now, this very second. It is JUST 30 days.
In saying that, I didn’t start my first Whole30 until 6 months after I had done all my study on it and decided the programme was right for me. I hummed and harred, and avoided it – I wasn’t ready to be 100% committed. January 2013 I decided enough dithering, and plunged right in. I’ve since learnt how to deal with social and travel situations while being on the Whole30 – but that comes with experience. My first time I mentally needed an entire clear month, with no social or travel plans, in order to commit 100%.
So what should you do? If you don’t think you can commit to 30 days right now, then don’t. Look ahead in your diary, mark 30 days somewhere in the future, and commit to undertaking the programme at a later date. Do what you need to do to feel prepared for when this date comes, and plan for it.
6) ANNIHILATE TEMPTATION
Temptation is everywhere. I swear that whenever I decide to tackle a Whole30, everyone around me goes on a baking, fast food eating, fizz drinking blitz, which makes life just a little bit harder (I’ll talk more about this below). So I choose to make things a bit easier for myself at home by removing ALL temptation. If your cupboards are filled with non-compliant foods, then either move them to the top shelf of the cupboard or fridge, give it away or throw it out. Out of sight, out of mind.
I also try to remember that “whether it’s in your mouth, or in the bin – it’s a waste”. Don’t go on a massive pre-Whole30 binge, eating everything non-compliant in your cupboards; instead think about how you can remove the items from your household (or eyesight) so that you aren’t tempted to crack half way through.
7) MAKE A PLAN
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” has never been more applicable than for a Whole30. Set yourself up for success by trawling Whole30 websites for recipes, buying a good Whole30 recipe book (we can HIGHLY recommend Melissa Joulwan’s Well Fed), and creating a meal plan for your first week. Write down what you are going to have for every meal – breakfast, lunch and dinner, and snacks. Put the plan on your fridge, and head out to the supermarket to stock up.
I’m not going to lie. A Whole30 is more expensive than a regular diet. Fruit and veg aren’t the cheapest, and you need a lot more of them in your diet than you may have had previously. Try shopping locally at a market rather than one of the big grocery stores, buy in season, and try online shopping (another way of removing temptation – don’t set foot in a supermarket!). If you do have to go into the store, then “shop the edges” – this is where you will (mostly) find produce and fresh meat. Only venture down those aisles for cleaning products and toilet paper!
Make sure you read the labels carefully too – you might think that coconut milk is ok on a Whole30, until you pick up the carton and see what has been added to that pure coconut milk in order to make it shelf stable! Don’t be fooled – read the ingredients list very carefully.
8) COOK UP A STORM
Along with planning, why not make Week 1 (and the subsequent weeks) a bit easier on yourself by having a cook up. I love spending a Sunday afternoon preparing a few dishes which I can store away in the freezer for emergency meals. Pre-preparing your veggies, meats and sauces can make the weekdays a lot less stressful. A couple of hours in the kitchen on a Sunday means that my week is sorted with breakfasts and dinners – it’s a lot harder to fall off the wagon when I have compliant meals already in front of me!
9) BE SOCIALLY SAVVY
Look ahead in your diary at any social outings that you have coming up, and plan plan plan. If it’s a dinner date, then look up the menu beforehand, and decide what you can have that is Whole30 compliant (or would be if you get it with no dressing/ fries/ breadsticks etc). Instead of dinner, why not suggest brunches – no one will look twice if you order eggs with smoked salmon and grilled mushrooms, or a fruit bowl and black coffee. If it’s somewhere where you think there will only be non-compliant options (ie. canapes) then eat before you go – have snacks in your handbag (fresh coconut, carrot sticks, a bag of almonds etc) to fill you up before you get there.
With social outings will come the inevitable – the questions. I like to call the Whole30 a “nutritional reset” and talk about all the yummy food I get to eat, and find that no one really argues with that. But when you start out by talking about all the “can’t haves” (I can’t have x, I can’t have y) it immediately puts a negative spin on the Whole30 process. Make sure you have read “the elevator pitch” and know how to answer questions – some friends will try and talk you out of it (or tempt you with a glass of wine!), whereas others are super supportive and encouraging. Some will be curious and want to know more. Some won’t even care, notice, or ask. That’s cool too.
10) GET BUDDIES & FIND SUPPORT
The final step – announce it to the world! By doing so, you achieve two things – you keep yourself accountable (can’t fail, now that you have told people you are doing it) and you may receive extra support. I choose to announce my intentions by changing my facebook header image, and sharing my meals and experiences on my blog and Instagram.
My first Whole30 I undertook with a friend, and it was SO good to have someone to email/message with, share recipes etc. I’ve since found a whole range of people online and offline who are Whole30 fans, and the Whole30 forum online is a good resource too. Finding support in others is a great way of staying on track – why not host a Whole30 dinner party and all bring a dish?
If your partner/ flatmates/ other household members aren’t doing the Whole30 with you – never fear. Simply ask them to respect your choice to do this, and not lead you towards temptation. When I was on previous Whole30s, my husband ate exactly the same Whole30 meals as I did, but sometimes added rice or pasta when he wanted to. He never complained at the tasty, delicious dishes I served up to him either!
Good luck for those who are thinking about a Whole30, we hope this post has helped! If you have any questions about the Whole30, please ask away in the comments section below.