After publishing my Whole30 reflection, I’ve received more than a few emails and messages from friends old and new about the process, changes I experienced, and how they can incorporate the program into their lives–or even if it is right for them.
I am certainly no professional, but after looking back over my own experience, I’ve boiled it down to these 6 must-take steps to set yourself up for a successful Whole 30 Program. Here we go!
Let’s do the dang thing! But start from the bottom, mmmkay??
#1 Read the Book
This is a non-negotiable. No blog, no friend, no article, and nope not even the Whole 30 website! can prepare you for your journey more than the book can. You wouldn’t build an IKEA dresser without a manual, right? (Wait– don’t answer that…)
The Whole30 book will be your guide and your lifeline before, during, and after the program. Read it once, then read it again. Get it messy with dog-ear pages and underlines. Pour over the why. Pay attention to the timeline of what to expect in your body, in your mind. Skim the recipes and get yourself excited for your coming adventure. This is your journey. Do. Your. Research!
#2 Define Your Goals
The Whole30 program creators are adamant (and so am I): this is NOT a weight loss program. This is not a quick fix. Sure, you may lose weight. But the ultimate goal is not reflected in the numbers on a scale, but in mental clarity, strength, and general feelin-good-ness.
I journaled my goals at the beginning:
- Level my moods and anxiety, let my food work in tandem with my other treatments to lift depression
- Achieve stable energy levels and improve sleep
- Reverse PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)
- Break my unhealthy habits and relationships with food
When you read the book, you’ll see page-long lists of Whole30 purposes and desired outcomes. Pick your top few (not weight loss please) and write them down. Then it’s time to decide WHEN to begin, which leads us to…
Get ready for a fresh new perspective on food 😉
#3 Choose Timing Wisely
If you’re about to embark on a vacation, wedding or holiday season, moving, switching jobs… basically if you’re in transition or traveling, this may not be the start date for you, bud. Grocery shopping, meal prepping, and cooking are much much easier when you have an established routine in your own home and own schedule.
Also, let’s be real. Life is short–go sip champagne at your best friend’s wedding, have a piña colada and shave ice on the beach, and eat that pasta in Italy. Then come back and start your 30. (p.s. read the very last paragraph of this post for one more very important thought about timing.)
#4 Plan and Prepare
Before I started, I spent most of my Sunday preparing. I marked my favorite recipes in the book and created a plan for the first 4 days of my journey. To keep it from being too overwhelming, I looked for simpler recipes for busy days and dinners that produced leftovers for lunch.
I’m the type that never knows what I’ll be craving until it’s time to eat, so I didn’t plan out a full week of food– also because dang, that’s a lot of groceries. Instead I took a smaller, mid-week TJ’s run to re-stock on fresh produce and meat.
I then chose a night for meal prep. No, this doesn’t mean cook a bunch of bland chicken and soggy veggies to eat every day… Instead I made sausage patties and a frittata to heat up at work and enjoy for breakfast the first few days, whipped up a batch of Power Balls (recipe to come!) for pre-workout snacks, and made clarified butter (ghee) that lasted me a solid few weeks.
#5 Build a Support Team
That Whole 30 life is easier if your inner circle has your back. Set aside some time to chat about your upcoming journey with those you spend your hours with– this may include your best friends, your roommate, significant other, coworkers or family. Ask them to respect you in your endeavors (and like, can they not wave that donut in your face??) and champion you through. (The book even has a chapter on how to share your story with others!)
Remind your crew this doesn’t mean you can’t go out and have a good time, it just may look a little different. Thankfully The Boy was down to cook approved dinners and was patient with my restaurant orders, and my coworkers respected my ix-nay of Friday Fireball shots and two even joined me for no sugar and no alcohol in May.
And the best part? I Whole30-ed with two of my best gal pals in the city. Dinner parties, meal prepping, and kombucha happy hours are better with friends.
#6 Start Before You Begin
Truth time: I went ham on a Paxti’s pizza, cranberry scone, and plate of Italian Homemade tagliatelle the weekend before May 1st. It. Was. Bad. I learned the hard way a “banned food binge” is not the best kick off to your 30… It’ll come back to kick you in the butt about 10-12 days into your program. (Wut?? Read the book. It’s science.)
I recommend cleaning up your diet the week leading up to your start date. This could be as simple as enjoying alcohol only on weekends, staying away from refined sugars and packaged products, and cooking at home a few nights a week. Your transition will be much easier–trust me.
A well-prepared goal getter gets the..uh, goal
I’ll leave you with this:
We humans have an impeccable ability to convince ourselves we just don’t have the time to take on something like this. Life is busy. Well, life is always going to be busy. A magic pocket of 30 days isn’t going to line up perfectly for you.
The truth is, you have time for what you make time for. And what you make time for reflects what you value the most. I believe a strong foundation of health goes a looooong way in keeping us resilient in this messy world. It allows us to live fully alive, excited about our work and loving towards our family and friends. I have a feeling you may think this way too. Whole30 isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t a magical cure-all. But taking time to truly treat your body right, well, that is the magic right there.