What's the Whole30 and Why am I doing it?


Even though the Whole30 is becoming pretty popular, some readers might be brand new to the concept. I’d thought I’d kick of my Wellness Wednesdays posts by sharing a little bit about it and why I love it so much.

If you read my Cait Goes Paleo prologue yesterday, you’ll remember that I first completed a Whole30 two years ago. I had discovered the program several months before then, but it took some time to convince the hubster to join in with me. We ended up completing our first round at the end of July 2015, the same month we moved into our first house. How we didn’t go crazy, I’m still not sure, but perhaps it had to do with the fact that we were eating a super clean diet and felt all-around fabulous! Since then, I’ve completed one other round on my own and tried two more but was unsuccessful: I flubbed one up via some hidden ingredients and rather than just starting over, I transition to Paleo and chose to stop the other one because my heart just wasn’t in it at the time (plus it was a really stressful season of life.) 

Now, I’ve come to a fork in the road where I’m fully ready to get my nutrition back on track which is why I love the Whole30—it’s a nutritional reset plan and not a diet.

The idea behind the Whole30 is that certain food groups can negatively impact our health and fitness without us even realizing it. The only way to know how and if certain foods do this is to strip them from our diet completely for a timeframe. The Whole30 eliminates these possible food groups for 30 days to allow the body to heal and recover from whatever effects food may be causing. This also allows us to hit reset on our habits and relationship with food. (Ice cream when you're sad, anyone?)

You can find a complete rundown of the program rules here on the Whole30 website, but for now, here's a simple breakdown: 

For 30 days say

YES: to real foods and No to:

  • Added sugar, real or artificial
  • Alcohol in any form
  • Grains of all kinds
  • Legumes
  • Dairy
  • Added carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites
  • Baked goods, junk foods, or treats with “approved” ingredients like Paleo pancakes, banana ice cream, etc. 

The reason why the program cuts out these food groups is because they are all foods that might have a negative impact to our health. Sometimes we might not even know how food could be affecting us: think inconsistent energy levels, GI issues, unexplained aches and pains, or other conditions that haven't been helped with medication. Some of these symptoms can be directly related to the foods we eat, and the only way to know is to cut them out for a time being and then reintroduce them.

One final rule of a Whole30 is to NOT step on the scale or take any body measurements because this program is about so much more than weight loss. It's not a "diet" like you might think of as we're used to the term, but instead a reset for your system. Yes, there will probably be weight loss, but so many other positive health outcomes stack up! And THOSE are the point of a Whole30.

If you’re like most people I talk to about the program, you’re immediately thinking What can I eat? It’s pretty simple. You eat real, whole foods like meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruits, natural fats, herbs, spices, and seasonings. Basically, you eat a bunch of foods with very few ingredients or NO ingredient labels at all.

There are some exceptions to the program though. You can use:

  • Ghee or Clarified butter which are technically a type of dairy but contain no milk proteins which are often what upset our health
  • fruit juice as a sweetener (if needed for some recipes)
  • vinegars (minus malt)
  • coconut aminos and salt even though they have a trace amount of added sugar
  • certain legumes likes green beans, sugar snap peas, and snow peas because they are more pod than bean

If you’re brand new to the program or want more detailed information, then visit the Whole30 website where they offer a rundown of the program AND all sorts of other tips and explanations! 



    So why this program? Why not just jump right into Paleo? Or try a regimen of something else to help out?

    I am a big advocate for eating a whole, real foods diet that is as pastured/grass-fed/organic/local/sustainable as possible, and I believe that our nutrition has the power to heal us. When we eat a healthy, whole foods diet--cutting out the things that affect us--we have the ability to possibly curb or even heal some of our health issues. We also shouldn't necessarily need a huge supplementation process* if we're eating a real-foods diet, but some might benefit from a good (even raw) multi-vitamin, fish oil, and perhaps a probiotic if we aren't already getting our nutrients from our food. Many people will argue that today's food is much less nutrient-dense than it was years and years ago, and I understand that because of food production. But I'm not going to fret over it. That's why I prioritize our groceries and choose local/pastured/organic as much as possible; plus I just really love food.
    *For more on supplementing a real food diet, I like this article.

    Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.
    — Hippocrates, father of medicine, 431 B.C.

    Honestly, I think it comes down to the fact that every body is different and what works for some people doesn't work for others. For me, a real-food diet works because I've experimented with it, and I've learned about my body. Yesterday, I had my yearly physical and went over a complete blood panel plus some extra tests, with my doctor. According to all my labs, I am extremely healthy--even more so in a few areas (my heart, kidney, and liver function are off the charts good) yet I'm still feeling eh in some areas. For me, I'm almost positive my health struggles come back to my nutrition, stress, and the fact that I'm not a 20-year old triathlete anymore. My hope in going through a Whole30 this time around is to help reset my system and figure out which foods truly bother me and are contributing to my fatigue and a few other issues, but I'm also hoping to change my relationship with food (sayonara nemesis) so that I can find freedom in my nutrition. 

    Plus, I just really love the idea behind the Whole30 and my doctor is all for it. The program is sort of a basic blueprint for the Paleo diet which can be explained as a nutrient-dense whole foods diet based on eating a variety of quality meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. It improves health by providing balanced and complete nutrition while avoiding most processed and refined foods and empty calories. (via The Paleo Mom)  Essentially, the Whole30 would fit in the realm of Paleo, but the program is much more than just what you can and can't eat. It's about changing your mindset and relationship with food, and the reintegration process after the 30 days is key. That's always the hard part-but it's the part that is so worth it. 

    Some of my favorite Resources 

    Embarking on a Whole30 is becoming easier and easier than even two years ago when we tried it the first time. I highly recommend reading the program book first, and then if you're interested in the science behind the why, check out It Starts With Food.  The newest book, Food Freedom Forever, is more about the reintegration process and I'm working my way through it now. Find both books here.

    Nowadays, there are many other resources in the form of books, blogs, recipe collections, and more. You can even find a list of downloads on the Whole30 website with easy guides for the program, and their blog offers a fabulous roundup of recipes, tips, Q&A's, and approved food items. 
    Here are just a few of my other favorite Whole30 recipe resources:

    In the last several years as I've embarked on a change in my nutrition, the biggest thing I've learned is that little by little progress adds up. Sometimes it takes awhile and sometimes it takes multiple tries, but eventually we'll get there. Especially if our hearts are ready for change. 

    PS...this isn't a sponsored post in any way. I just love what the Whole30 is about, I've had great results in the past, I'm 100% for whole foods nutrition, and I want to share it with the world!

    Leave a comment!
    Have you completed a Whole30 before or are you on the fence about trying one? I'd love to hear your thoughts or any questions you have!