Me on Whole30: “Hey! I heard you might want to do Whole30 together!”
Friend: “I have zero interest in doing Whole whatever that is.”
Me: “So you’re saying there’s a chance…”
And so it begins.
So, what exactly IS Whole30? In a very concise version, Whole30 is designed to be a reset for your body. It eliminates many foods that people are addicted to and focuses your eating on whole, natural foods without additives and chemicals. To go through the entirety of the plan, visit whole30.com where there is a thorough explanation, etc. The brief version is that for 30 days you eliminate dairy, grains, soy, corn, added sugar of any kind, alcohol, legumes and additives from your diet. What you’re left with are all kinds of fruits, vegetables, nuts, meats, fish, poultry and most other foods in their natural form.
Why would I do that to myself? First of all, I should mention that this is not sponsored in any way and I don’t benefit at all from telling you about this; I just love it which is reason enough to share. I love trying different eating styles to see how my body responds, how I feel and if I believe it is a sustainable way to eat. Being on Whole30 is my all-time, favorite way to eat. It encourages me to try new produce and focus more on fruits and vegetables than I sometimes do when I get off track. While being on Whole30 I am always less bloated, sleep better and have more energy. After about a week on Whole30, food actually begins to taste better (it sounds crazy, but it’s true!). I believe that’s because your taste buds are no longer being numbed by things like alcohol and sugar that dilute the natural flavors of food and cause you to want more to enhance it (sugar, salt, fat, etc.). Long story long, I believe it’s a really healthful way to eat and it can be sustained over time in a healthy way.
Question, will I lose weight? Definitely, maybe…wait, what? Whole30 is not about measuring food, counting calories or eliminating calories from your diet. Depending on your eating habits from before your time on Whole30 and how you choose to eat on it, you may or may not. If you’re looking to lose weight I would just be mindful of the items you’re having (i.e. healthy fats, red meats, your choice of carbohydrates, etc.) to ensure you’re within your target calories. Again, Whole30 actually does not encourage you to calorie count or weigh in but, I don’t want that to eliminate anyone from trying it so if that’s your goal, I really believe you can incorporate this into what you’re trying to accomplish.
The challenges: 1) What will I eat? How do I keep from getting bored? Do I have to prep food constantly? 2) Isn’t this going to be expensive? Now through a few rounds of this, I definitely believe there are some ways to make this a lot easier on yourself so let’s get to it:
Protect your energy. Any time you’re restricting your diet it feels like there are a thousand situations a day where you have to evaluate, “Can I eat this?,” “How much can I eat?,” “What’s in this?,” and that’s not including all the times you have to turn others down who are offering you office snacks, and happy hour dates after work and whatnot. Each of these tiny decisions takes energy and a little will power. Although it may not seem like much, those are two things that are not limitless resources. The solution? Make it easier on yourself. Eliminate as many decisions as possible so that at the end of the day, you have enough left to always make the right (and hopefully easy) choice.
I like to do this in two ways: Prepare your space. Go through your pantry and fridge and get rid of or hide anything you cannot have. If it’s going to spoil, give it away. If it’s going to last and it may be something you want to incorporate down the road, hide it. Make specific shelves in your pantry all “approved” foods so that if you’re in a moment of weakness and open the cupboard, there is no label reading or questioning if you can have something – if it’s in the designated space, have at it.
Second, make it easy on yourself and be prepared. Find some snacks (with protein is preferred) that take little to no effort, are ready at a moment’s notice and can hold you over until you can prepare something else. This helps when you’re running late in the morning or maybe a meeting went long and lunch has been postponed. Some things I like to keep on hand as an example are hard boiled eggs, Lara or RX bars (not all comply but several do), compliant beef jerky, apple slices, baby carrots, etc. Each of these take less than a minute to “prepare” and can be lifesavers in a pinch.
Now, to not spend a fortune… The other major perceived obstacle. Depending on how you ate before, this may cost more or less than you’re used to but, with the right strategy, it definitely doesn’t have to break the bank.
My #1 goal with shopping for Whole30 is variety. I don’t like to eat the same meal over and over definitely don’t like 3 day old salads because I bought three pounds of lettuce I have to use in a week. Here are some ways I achieve being able to eat well, fresh and keep things interesting:
Know where to buy what. Sometimes this may take a couple trips to determine but once you know what to buy where, it can really save you a lot of money. My typical shopping looks like one trip to Costco and Trader Joe’s per month and then weekly produce from the Farmer’s Market and one stop at Raley’s for anything that might not be available from the other stores (fruit that isn’t in season, something to grab in between Trader Joe’s visit, emergency coffee, etc.). With these trips I always have my regular items I grab and then always shop whatever is on sale. Being flexible is the key to keeping Whole30 affordable. Going in with a list is great but if the protein you wanted is outrageous that week, being able to swap it out for something more affordable is key. If avocados are $3 a piece, don’t buy them! This doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg if you’re willing to be flexible and creative. That being said is they’re 3/$5, buy six!
Protein pack your freezer. My freezer is always full with a variety of proteins: chicken, salmon, tilapia, roasts, steaks, ground turkey, etc. This is where sale shopping comes in. Yes, to buy all of that in one trip would be really expensive…so I never do. That being said every shopping trip I buy something, whether I “need” it right now or not. If salmon is on sale, I get it. Steak? I get it. Even if it’s just $5-$15 worth, if the protein is on sale that I like, I get some of it, sometimes portion it out into smaller packages, but always freeze it. This way I always have a variety on hand, none of which I had to pay regular price for and none of which I am buying the day of, paying a premium just so I have it RIGHT NOW. Having a variety on hand allows you to plan meals based on what you already have which more often than not will save you money.
Find flavor boosting add ins. Bland food is the worst food, don’t eat it. Stock up on items that add a lot of flavor instantly like herbs, citrus, hot sauce, your favorite seasoning blend, jalapeños, fresh garlic and ginger, olives, sauerkraut or kimchee, etc. Choose these according to your own pallet but these quick flavor boosts really help to make even the quickest of meals more interesting and satisfying. Nuts are something I always eat a lot of on Whole30 and shop for just like my proteins: I don’t buy them all at once, but every time, I buy a little and then before you know it, you have a great variety to use in several ways.
Make it interesting. Take this as an opportunity to try some new things! A new recipe, a new ingredient. Sometimes when I visit the Farmer’s Market I make it a mission to come home with something I’ve never cooked with before. I don’t recommend this if you have no idea what it is or how it can be used, but just ask! There’s always an opportunity to learn more and the more excited you are about your ingredients, the more you’ll want to cook with them and eat them later. Shoot, you might just forget that this is something you “have” to do and instead you want to do it.
Finally, buy a few treat drinks. Yes, you should drink lots of water and no, you shouldn’t start drinking all your calories but for me, a little variety goes a long way. Some items I like to include are unsweetened teas (hot or cold), coffee (of course), pure coconut water, sparkling water, mint, lemon or cucumber infused water. Any of these make me feel like I’m still able to enjoy something a little more like a treat and and not sucking down glass after glass of plain old water… as wonderful as you are, water… a girl can only take so much.
Keep it simple. You’ll find plenty of recipes that are considered Whole30 where you’re turning cashews and nutritional yeast into alfredo sauce, which I am sure are great, but it doesn’t have to be that complicated. I love a good fettuccine alfredo as much as the next person, but I am going to save that for when I can have the real deal. Your food doesn’t have to be complicated to be delicious. Choose fresh ingredients you like, cook them well and you’ll be both satisfied and not overwhelmed with either ingredients or a sink full of appliances you used to coax a nut into tasting like a cheese.
My best advice, make it a TRUE Whole30. Take this time to focus on the things that make you whole, what makes you feel alive and fulfilled? Make time to do those things. Fill your time with the things that make you the most whole version of yourself, nurtured, excited and fulfilled. Before you know it the 30 days will be up and you’ll be anxious to begin again.
I hope this encouraged you and took some of the intimidation out of the idea of doing your own Whole30! If you’re trying it for the first time, let me know! I would love to help in any way I can. Keep an eye on my Instagram this week for more Whole30 recipes, shopping ideas and my favorite go-to items from my favorite stores.