So you Want to do a Whole30? 5 tips to Get Started
Hi friends. Welcome back to Wellness Wednesdays, a weekly series where I share about all things wellness! This month, I’m focusing on the Whole30 as I participate in one, sharing some real time experiences as well as tips!
*If you missed my first post in the series, (What's a Whole30) check it out here.
Where does one begin when starting a Whole30? It can be daunting, I know. Even though I’ve completed one whole round, it’s still a huge undertaking. But what seems hard at first starts to be old hat by week two, and honestly, the more you prep, the easier your 30 days will be.
I thought today I’d share some of my own little ways I’ve prepared for a Whole30 as a sort of five-step guide. I did these all the first time around, and again this time, in more depth. Since I knew what to expect, it was easier getting started for me, plus it's two years down the road from my first W30 so there are more resources, more compliant products, and newer/better places to shop!
Without further adieu, here’s my little 5-step guide to taking on ho to prepare for a Whole30.
I’m going to tell it to you straight. A W30 is going to take effort. Sure, you might be thinking—ok, I’ll just cut out these food groups and be good to go. But until you settle in with the why behind the how, you might not be 100% on board. I think it’s easy to sometimes make a decision to do something, but it’s harder to stick with it because we lack the motivation. (I’ll raise my hand to this.) Thirty days is past that magical-if-it’s-even-real habit mark, so having some oomph behind the how of a Whole30 will really help prepare your heart + mind for one.
Even if you aren’t a science person, it’s really interesting to learn about why so may food groups are a no on a W30. You’ll learn a LOT behind the food you eat, and it might be a good tool to help you finally say no to certain foods forever.
If you’re brand new to W30, I highly recommend reading It Starts With Food and The Whole30. It’s how I started. Both books offer great research, planning, and will help you get up and running with the program.
- ISWF was Melissa Hartwig’s first book so it does outline a W30, but it’s a pretty dense, science-y read. However, it breaks down all the scientific nutrition stuff behind a W30 in a really accessible manner, giving you the whys behind each food group being nixed and just how food truly affects us.
- The Whole30 came next and it’s less science, more guide. It offers five easy steps for preparation, gives you a preview of a typical 30 days, offers some meal prep and cooking skills, a detailed FAQ section, AND has more than 100 recipes to get started.
- Also start getting an idea for Whole30 recipes! You don't have to buy every cookbook out there (I mentioned several I love in my last post) because there are plenty of recipes on the internet. I love the W30 Blog and the Whole30 Recipes on Instagram!
For the final step in researching, I’d recommend reading some testimonials, particularly stories from everyday people!. There’s a page on the official W30 site, as well as bloggers all over the webiverse sharing their stories. Some of the journeys that people have been on—their success stories and healing—are truly amazing, and they’ll be super encouraging to your own journey.
As important as research is, you could keep doing it for years and still never do a W30, so at some point you’ve got to trust that you know enough to just jump in. This is where some prep comes in handy.
Spend some time looking at nutrition labels
Ideally, you’ll be eating things that don’t really have labels, but if you want bacon, some lunch meat, tuna, pre-made bone broth or a slew of condiments (which you will!), you have to know what you’re looking for. Don’t worry about calories or all that stuff—you’re mostly looking at the ingredient list to make sure it’s super short and doesn’t have added sugar. Note: Here's a handy cheat-sheet for common additives.
I’m pretty picky about meat and go for pasture raised, grass-fed, organic and/or local as possible, but sometimes it’s hard. (Note: it’s also more expensive.) If that’s not something you can afford right now take it One. Step. At. A Time. But I will place value on better quality meats, so if you're someone who worries about antibiotics and hormones in your meat, and are Midwest based, ALDI also has a new line of Never Any! Meats that are free of those and animal byproducts at affordable prices!
Visit your grocery store, or other local stores without shopping
Before you jump in, take time to truly see what local stories have to offer. Whether it’s big box (and you can find stuff there!) or local co-ops or natural food stores, just take note of all the produce, meats, eggs, and maybe look at the natural foods section to see what you can get where. This is a great time to check out those labels! Don't forget to talk to local butchers to learn about their meats and see if they offer sausage or bacon without added sugar.
Just last weekend I stopped by a brand new co-op in a town about 30 minutes North and discovered a local bacon without sugar! Cue happy dance.
I’ve been meal planning for several years now, often getting up Saturday mornings with my coffee and cookbooks to plan our food for the week and make a grocery list. I like to go weekly because produce is more fresh that way, plus I hit up our farmer’s market every Saturday. Sometimes it's easier to go every two weeks and I totally understand that if you don’t have time weekly. You could also plan meals for the month and then just shop whatever weeks work for you! The key here is planning what you're going to eat: breakfast, lunch, AND dinner.
Or, if you really don’t even want to mess with this, the W30 now has a meal-planning service on their site. It’s a small fee, but probably worth it if you hate planning.
3. Clean out your pantry/get your kitchen ready
It seems simple, but it’s hard. You don’t want your kitchen full of non-compliant food that might just be a temptation during your W30 so the easiest thing to do is out of sight out of mind!
This one was really hard for me the first time around because I am NOT one to just get rid of food. I hate wasting things, so I bagged up all my unopened non-compliant items and took them to my local food pantry. I was determined to not go back at all to some of those foods. For items that were opened and still good, I passed them off to some friends and family. I know, I should be trying to get them to stop eating that stuff (like regular flour, condiments with sugar, etc) but not everyone in your life is going to be ready for this change like you. So don’t feel guilty about passing off the food! Just work on getting your pantry cleaned out in the least-wasteful way possible so there’s no temptation! You want your kitchen ready so when you walk in to cook, you aren't bombarded by all the things you can't have.
And, here's a handy pantry guide for your W30 and what you want to have on hand!
4. Think positively
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
-Mary Oliver, " The Summer Day"
If you're ready for an change and excited for this journey, you're going to go into a W30 in a pretty good mood. But, you're also going to hit some rough patches. I may be all sunshine right now, but check back in next week. Week 3 is where it gets real: real tough because you're halfway but not there yet, real boring (especially if you live with a picky eater), and real tedious because it might seem like the same things over and over again.
Combat that with positive thinking. Think back to why you are doing this, especially if you're having health issues. You're doing this for YOU and for your future! You have one wild and precious life--what do you want to do with it?
The first time I did a W30, I wrote myself a little note before I started to look at when it got real. I reminded myself why I was doing it and also asked myself if I was feeling better yet. Every time I read that note, I truly was starting to feel better and just noticing the small changes helped me keep going. I also left a couple of sticky notes on my bathroom mirror, the coffee pot (I was breaking myself of a sweet coffee habit,) and on my computer with some words of encouragement. It's amazing what a little note, quote, or verse can do!
5. Share with others & connect
Finally, share with others around you that you’re going to be doing a W30 and connect with people who either have done it or are doing it. Let your friends and family in on this journey 1. So they can hopefully be an encouragement to you during this time and 2. So they know that if you bring your own food to Sunday dinner, it’s not because you don’t like their cooking!
It’s much easier to do a W30 when people in your life know it. Things come up during the month and you want to be able to stick with it, so don't skip out on that family get together just because you can't eat the food. Eat before you go somewhere or bring a side dish or two and some snacks to share so you know you'll have food! Also remember to that you don't really have to explain yourself or your in depth story about why if you don't really want to.
When you connect with others who have completed or are completing a W30, it helps keep you accountable, plus you can share tips and tricks! You can find a forum on the W30 website, or reach out to others you may know who have done this before. Feel free to even let me know in the comments how your journey is going.
There you have it! My 5 steps to prepare for a Whole30! Now, I'm sure you're wondering how my own journey is going...
My W30 update: week 1 done
Today is day 9 for me this round, and so far, I am feeling loads better than I was just a week ago. It’s amazing how much our systems shift just within the first few days! I’m already noticing that I’m sleeping better, my energy levels are higher (no more 2pm crashes!) and all my brain fog is starting to lift! But, I've also been moving my classroom and so today, I'm actually pretty tired--not energy-level sucking tired, just hardwork tired. If you're curious as to what a timeline of your body/emotions might look like on a W30, here's a great article breaking down a general idea of what you might go through during those 30 days. I definitely went through those phases my first time around because it was a much bigger detox for me. This time, since we don't regularly eat some of these food groups, I was able to skip over some of the headache and grouchy phases!
This weekend I'm headed to a retreat where all the meals are cooked for us, so it's going to be an adventure in eating for me as I pack up leftovers in a cooler. Stay tuned for that!
My hope is this little guide will help encourage you to start on a new health journey. Whether you end up doing a Whole30 or just starting small and changing some of your eating habits, every little step counts. So remember that and know that you truly can change your health by changing the food on your plate.
P.S. This is not a paid endorsement for Whole30. I'm just passionate about nutrition, food, and how it affects our health!