So what’s the Whole 30?
It’s a 30-day clean eating plan that eliminates all dairy, grains and sugar from your diet. It’s a way to truly detox without taking any supplements or doing anything except limiting your diet. It’s also meant to change your relationship with food so you can look at it more like fuel than as a way to make yourself happy.
It’s not carb cutting–you can have potatoes. Just no grain of any kind.
Sugar is consumed only if it appears naturally in food, like in fruit. No other way.
And forget grabbing a hunk of cheese out of the fridge to eat on the go. No dairy at all. Yes, it’s extreme. But I’m going to tell you how to succeed on it.
Most people find it intimidating because it really isn’t at all how they eat. It takes planning ahead, it requires more work and yes, some degree of self-discipline. Of will power. Because most of us eat mindlessly.
This is mindful eating.
I’m now past the 60-day mark and I know a thing or two about how it works and what it takes to make it through. My relationship with food has definitely changed. Sticking to the eating plan now, heading for 90 days, is easier. And I’m now shopping in the far reaches of my closet, where clothes I haven’t worn in years are hung. Want the same outcome?
Here’s how to succeed:
Buy the book
It’s how I learned to clarify butter, which is the only kind of butter allowed. But it’s also got the whole program and some good recipes. You need the book, even though there are tons of websites about the program.
Find tasty recipes online
You don’t have to deprive yourself of flavor. I have a Whole 30 Pinterest board full of recipes and recipe sites I found that are a mainstay of my eating plan.
On this diet you really do have to prepare your food. So I make a lot of bison burgers or chicken or whatever my protein is. I might cook a bunch of brussels sprouts hash so I can eat it for several days. I always have baked sweet potato in the fridge. Once in the fridge it kind of caramelizes and becomes a tasty treat. And I always have on hand tons of apples, pears and bananas.
Fill your plate
Eat all you want of vegetables, fruit, meat, seafood, eggs and healthy fats. All potatoes and root veggies are allowed, unlike on carb-cutting plans.
You’ll wake up hungry. But no more cereal or yogurt or bagels or pastries. I rarely even think about them. Oh and butter? I really don’t like it any more and that was a shock. I accidentally ate something that had been cooked in butter and it tasted…cloying. So only clarified butter for me.
My fast go-to breakfast is a small banana with drizzled almond butter. (No peanut butter allowed!) Trust me, it’s not filling. Just being honest.
If I have more time I’ll make eggs and Canadian bacon. Certain brands of bacon are Whole-30 compliant. To be honest, I didn’t worry much about that because I couldn’t find the right brands. I figured a little lean Canadian bacon wasn’t going to hurt me. But maybe you’ll be able to find the brand.
I always have home-made chicken soup in the freezer. You can also make a huge pot of vegetable soup and eat on it all week. It’s filling. And it’s hard to binge on soup.
Sugar-free catsup and dijon mustard were a godsend for my bison burgers. Oh, why bison? We started eating bison instead of beef because it’s leaner. Condiments make food tastier.
Many salad dressings contain sugar, so it’s best to make your own. I don’t; I use commercial dressing but less of it.
No more Starbucks. No cream in coffee. I bought a half dozen tasty teas and they became my go-to drinks. Chocolate mint tea. Pomegranate. Red Berries. Orange. Oh, I tried them all. I don’t even like licorice and I drank Egyptian Licorice tea and thought it was a treat! I drank my joyless black coffee, which I found far tastier if iced, even in winter. At the 50 day mark I added a little milk to coffee. To tell you the truth, I’ve almost lost my taste for coffee entirely.
How do people afford to shop here? Even so, sometimes I get desperate. The paleo section of the prepared food bar is always there in a pinch, and ingredients are listed so it’s easy to check for compliance. A few of the paleo dishes are sugar-free, grain-free and dairy-free (not all) and if I am really desperate, I empty my bank account to buy them. But you have to be careful what you buy. Sometimes poultry gets old and dry sitting there for hours. I don’t hesitate to return stuff that isn’t good.
Going out to eat
I’ve been out to eat a bunch of times. I’ve traveled. Still on the program. Make sure the bread is somewhere else on the table. Check the menu to find salads or plain meats you can eat. It’s possible to go out to eat on this diet. You just have to read the menu and ask questions.
Pay attention to your body
Because this is such a change from how most of us eat, your body may not like it at first. Pay attention to signals that you are not getting the nutrients you need. You might have to modify the plan somewhat.
Leg cramps happen with an imbalance of mineral electrolytes: too little calcium, potassium or magnesium in the diet and in fact, I started getting them in Week 5. I remember them from going on the Atkins diet all those years ago. I now take a multi-vitamin. Which is always a good idea, anyway, No more leg cramps.
Recognize you’ll be hungry
Look, I’m not going to kid you. Unless you eat like crazy, you’ll get hungry the first month. At least. Drink some hot tea. Eat a piece of fruit or part of a sweet potato. And think about how much fat you’re burning with those hunger pangs. At about Week 6, my cravings departed. Mostly. I’d established new eating habits. I didn’t get hungry very often. But it took that long to stop wanting what I couldn’t have. Except for Half and Half in my coffee. Oh, did I want that. Because I loved a good cup of coffee. But not straight up. No, I never developed a taste for black coffee.
When I reduced carbs significantly years ago on the Atkins diet, I got a major energy rush and many Whole-30 eaters report this. But alas, I didn’t get additional energy, myself. But I didn’t lose any energy, either. About Week 7 I noticed I was more clear-headed. I’m not sure how else to describe it. Just had more clarity of thought and still do.
It isn’t why I did it, but it was a major benefit. On this plan, you’re not supposed to get on the scale, so I didn’t, until the end of Week 5, when I saw that I’d lost at least 20 lbs. It’s fast, I know. But without sugar or grain or dairy, it just dropped off.
Let’s be clear: You can exercise all you want, but weight loss happens in the kitchen. And this plan is proof. But do NOT get on the scale because it’s not about weight loss. Don’t obsess over weight loss, the founder says, it can demotivate you if you feel you are not dropping quickly enough. And that’s why she tells us NOT to weigh. I haven’t been on the scale since that one time. But I can certainly track what’s happening by how my clothes fit. Being in the dark end of my closet feels GREAT!
Look, I get it. Detoxing for our health isn’t much motivation for most of us healthy folks. Since you can’t get on the scale (which I find a punitive experience, anyway) I motivated myself to continue by trying on clothes. As I got to the very back of my closet, where my smallest size clothes were, and found the gap between button and closure narrowing significantly, that became motivation. When clothes got too big, it was motivation. Real motivation.
Relationship with food
Actually, my relationship with food did change. I do love to cook and I love to prepare pastas and other things that are not allowed on this plan. So I had to change my orientation and challenge myself to cook Whole-30 instead. And even though I’d like food to be the pleasure it once was, it isn’t, and at this stage of my life, that’s ok. Because food and I were way too close. Wayyy to close. Especially me and carbs. We were tight. Too tight.
I got through 60 days eating this way, till I had to go away to school and worried that I couldn’t totally control my meals. So I carried with me some unsweetened applesauce, fruit, chicken broth and hoped for the best. Turned out it wasn’t a problem. Tomorrow I leave for Antigua and I’ll stick to the program as much as possible. I’m not obsessing about it–I just know I won’t eat bread, dessert, snacks, etc. I won’t drink.
I’m planning to keep eating on this basic plan as long as I can because I do think it’s healthier. We leave for France near mid-May and at that point I will drink wine and eat a little more normally. After all, it’s France! But I hope that by then moderation will be ingrained and I won’t go overboard.
Got questions? I’ll answer them. Have you done a Whole 30? Tell us about it. Want some Whole-30 recipes? I had a few yummy Whole 30 meal ideas in THIS POST.