We just finished our first Whole30, and I have to tell you, it was a pretty great experience all around, even with being sick for a week at the end. I found some amazing foods that I had no idea would become favorites, like my egg cups, Egg Foo Young (I’m an egg addict, apparently), and Chicken Hash.
I’m not saying that it was super easy, and because of having a wicked sore throat (which turned out to be a combination of strep and another virus), I wasn’t 100% compliant for about 5 days. I had some fruit popsicles that hubby bought, and they had added sugar.
Not the best thing, but when you start bawling because swallowing is painful, you get a little desperate. Moving on. Overall, we’re going to call it successful.
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And as a family, we’ve enjoyed our Whole30 so much that we’ve decided to adopt a paleo diet.
Yes, I Lost Weight
Part of the Whole30 is giving up your scale for the 30 day period. I wasn’t sure if I could make it the full 30 days….
But I did. And you can bet your butt that on day 31 I hopped on that scale in nothing but my birthday suit. And then I jumped off squealing.
And got back on…then went to get Ish to verify what I was seeing.
I lost 20 pounds. TWENTY.POUNDS. In 30 days. That’s insane.
You see why I needed verification? Now, remember that the point of the Whole30 is not to lose weight. It’s to detox your body and figure out what’s causing issues. Losing weight is just a really great side effect.
Other great benefits that I noticed were increased energy, better sleep, improved mood (no yelling!), and I actually wanted to try HIIT, which I ended up loving and adding into my current routine.
Overall, it was a great 30 days. And if you’re considering the Whole30 challenge, I just have two words:
You can thank me later.
My Best Whole30 Tips and Tricks
I really do want to make your first Whole30 easier. When I decided that I was going to jump in last month, I did a lot of reading and found that while there were some helpful tips out there, most of them weren’t applicable to me or my family…or they would have been insanely expensive.
I didn’t feel right about tossing out food, but a lot of what was in the house (grains, legumes, etc.) are not Whole30 compliant, which leads me to my first piece of advice.
Likely, you’re doing some research, reading It Starts With Food, or possibly Whole30. Honestly, I recommend reading both (or skimming one and truly reading the other). So, I assume that you’re not just this very moment deciding to jump on the Whole30 bandwagon (and if you are, I’m not going to discourage you).
I found it very beneficial to take the month leading up to our Whole30 and clean house, so to speak. I stopped buying dairy products (cheese, yogurt, sour cream), legumes (including peanut butter), and other non-compliant items that I knew I normally stocked in the house.
But then, I’m a planner…and I have not one, but two pantries. Be very jealous. It’s pretty awesome, and one of the reasons that we chose this house. Because I have amazing kitchen storage, I use one pantry for the items that are smaller or glass jars where I keep smaller amounts of items I tend to buy in bulk (like baking soda).
Donate Non-Compliant Foods
As I stopped purchasing things that we shouldn’t be eating on the Whole30, I found that I was saving a ton on groceries. I was determined to use as much of what we had as I could. But because I stock up when things are on sale, I had a lot of items that just needed to find a new home.
So Smalls and I packed up some TJ’s bags with cans of beans, bags of rice, and organic fruit snacks. Then we headed over to the local food bank. It feels good to help others, and it got the “bad” stuff out of my house.
This was helpful for me personally because if it’s not in the house, I can’t eat it.
Shop From A List
When you’re starting, it’s true that the first day…or two are easy. And then you just want a freaking donut and will kill someone to get it. Or in my case a kolache. I really, really wanted a kolache. My only saving grace? I’d shopped and purchased all of our food on Sunday (we started on a Monday).
I normally make a grocery list, but often I’ll run across something that looks good on a whim. I vowed that with this Whole30 challenge I would stick to my list. And it made shopping not only faster, but it forced me to really think about what we’d be eating for the week.
I build my list as I plan my menu for the week, using a great Whole30 printable.
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It was a bit of a learning curve to learn that not all paleo recipes are Whole30 compliant. Hence the list. It helped me a whole lot.
Print it out, tape it to your fridge, and refer to it often (you can also use this list when you’re doing your clean out!). When I made my shopping list, I’d jot down the required ingredients, and then check the list (again), just to be safe.
Once I got to the store, it was easy-peasy, because I vowed to only buy what I needed. I found that because I was only buying on plan, I was actually saving money on groceries.
Money Saving Tip: You don’t have to buy only fresh fruits and veggies. Okay, you should probably buy fresh fruit, since smoothies aren’t recommended, but save yourself some money and buy frozen veggies if they’re cheaper. You’re going to cook them anyway (in most cases). Most of the veggies that I serve for dinner are frozen, and I just use my steamer to cook them. They’re delicious, and may actually have more nutrition than off-season veggies in your grocery store.
Most sites hinted that I should stock up or save ahead because of the expense, but I just didn’t find that I was spending a ton. Rather, I came in under our weekly grocery budget all month long.
I did use my Thrive Market membership to purchase a few staples that I wasn’t able to find locally like coconut aminos, Paleo mayo, Lard, and Ghee. Their prices are cheaper than Amazon, and shipping was nearly as fast (and it’s free!).
Use Whole30 or Paleo Cookbooks
Yes, the internet is a great resource, but when I’m cooking, I still like to have a cookbook (most of the time). Looking at the yummy photos helps me to decide on recipes, and Smalls loves to help choose our meals for the week.
Yes, we could surf the web and look, but realistically, having a book is just So.Much.Easier. Here are the ones that I reached for most during our challenge:
- Nom Nom Paleo
- Against All Grain
- Eat Like A Dinosaur (A MUST if you have kids that are doing this with you!)
In my humble opinion, it’s not worth stressing yourself out trying to turn your standard recipes into Whole30 recipes.
Prep Is Your Friend
For the love, please, please save yourself a headache and prep. You don’t have to do a lot, but doing simple things will make your first week better:
- hard boil some eggs,
- make your egg cups,
- portion out your lunches,
- peel and slice your veggies,
- chop up your onions and peppers
It takes me less than 2 hours to prep on Sundays and it saves me so much time during the week. Plus, having my breakfasts and lunches prepared leaves no room for excuses. It’s already done, I just have to heat it up or put it on a plate. And Ish had no problem grabbing his meals on his way to work.
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This also eliminates any excuses you may find for eating out…because let’s face it: there aren’t a lot (if any) Whole30 compliant restaurants.
The whole point of doing a Whole30 is to eliminate all of the potential irritants from your diet. Then you slowly, deliberately reintroduce them. If you plan to just resume eating the way you were pre-Whole30, then you may as well not even start.
Reintroduction is actually the second step to the Whole30 challenge that people seem to miss. This is the point where you take your hard work over the previous 30 days, and then slowly (yes, slowly) add in those foods that you eliminated and see how your body handles it.
As I sit here typing, I’ve only reintroduced non-gluten grains and dairy. The recommendation is that you introduce an eliminated food group, then go back on plan for 2 days afterward and see how your body handles it.
I think this is super, super smart. And in my case, I did fine with non-gluten grains, but dairy…let’s just say I won’t be eating it much anymore.
I’m sure that I’ll try some legumes next week, but I’m taking it slow after the dairy debacle.
Just Do It
So. If you’re on the fence, pick a side and jump. The Whole30 will change your life. It’s a great way to learn about your body and kick some really, really bad habits (ones I didn’t even know I had!).
Here are my tips again, just to make sure that you caught them:
- Make small changes leading up to your Whole30 start date
- Donate the “bad” stuff to a food pantry before you start.
- Tape the Whole30 “approved foods” list to your fridge.
- Invest in a few Paleo cookbooks and use them.
- Prep breakfast and lunch ahead of time.
- Don’t skip reintroduction. Just don’t.