I am no expert on Whole30, but I posted a call for questions on my Instagram account because I’ve been getting a lot of questions here and there, and thought I might be able to help others who are considering it by sharing my experience. I’ve compiled a list below and did my best to answer everything!
Q: What is Whole30?
A: Whole30 was designed by Dallas Hartwig and Melissa Hartwig and is a 30-day nutritional reset. It’s designed to remove processed, inflammatory, allergenic, and otherwise potentially harmful foods from your diet entirely so you can fuel your body with foods that won’t interfere with the way it’s designed to work. You can read more here: www.whole30.com
Q: Is Whole30 the same as Paleo?
A: No. Paleo has no defined rules and everyone interprets Paleo eating differently. Whole30 also excludes some things that are generally allowed on most people’s interpretation of Paleo. Whole30 has very clear restrictions.
Q: Why did you decide to do this?
A: See my post here.
Q: Do you have to pay for this program?
A: There is a book they suggest you read, “It Starts With Food” but I haven’t read it, and I found everything I needed on their website for free (steps, rules and shopping list).
Q: Is snacking allowed on Whole30?
A: The answer is no. There’s a great section of their website which addresses snacking and the message there is that if you’re going to snack (on compliant foods), you should be reflecting on why you need the snack (not eating enough at mealtime? Not eating enough vegetables? Not drinking enough water?) so that you don’t snack in the future. I still struggle with this part, personally. I’m trying to craft my meals in a way that stays with me until the next one, but if I’m hungry, I eat (but only compliant foods).
Q: What results have you been noticing?
A: SO MANY. I’m on day 12 now. I can feel a difference EVERYWHERE. I’m sleeping better, my blood sugar levels don’t spike and dip, my energy levels are better, I no longer have stomach issues, I don’t feel bloated after meals, my clothes are fitting better, I’m thinking more clearly, the list goes on. I also don’t feel that emotional attachment to food which is HUGE for me. Food is just fuel now. It’s not a friend, it’s not a time-killer, and it’s not a reward. It’s fuel. I will be forever grateful to have learned that feeling. In terms of weight and measurements, I will report back at the end of the Whole30. But my husband says he can see a difference!
Q: Is your husband/family doing Whole30 with you?
A: My husband was such a great sport and said if I was going to do it, he wanted to do it along with me for support. For the most part, we’re eating the same stuff. He and I do like some different foods (he doesn’t like sweet potatoes, I do. He loves eggs, I don’t.), so I’ve just tried my best to make sure we have enough around of what we both like if it’s a meal we both aren’t in love with. If he has eggs over hash browns for dinner, I’ll make myself some bacon, slice up some avocado and have some of the hash browns on the side. So, our meals are similar but not identical. For the most part, our kids are eating some of what we do and some of their own foods. We did not cut any food group from their diet, but we have removed a lot of the processed foods they were eating and swapped them with more fruit, veggies, raisins and cashews. I do make some different foods for them at mealtimes. (I should note that my daughter has some sensory issues and her diet is always a bit different from ours). My little brother is also doing this with us long-distance from Houston, and he’s the one who asked me to start. He’s done this before and checks in with me every day to see what I’m eating and how I’m feeling, and he’s giving me the encouragement I need when I need it. He eats crazy healthy and I’m so grateful for his help!
Q: Did you have headaches when you started? If so, how long did they last?
A: Oh my gosh YES. The first day was absolutely awful. I couldn’t believe how awful I felt. The combination of skipping caffeine and sugar sent me down fast – but it was an incredible moment of clarity for me. I realized how much my body depended on crap and I HATED that and wanted to stick with the program even more. By day two I was a little groggy but ok! Day three on I’ve been great!
Q: Do you get cheat meals or is it super strict?
A: No cheat meals or snacks! Not even a bite or lick of anything. You aren’t doing Whole30 if you’re cheating!
Q: What are some red flags on labels?
A: The last time I read labels this much was when I first joined weight watchers and they had a little cardboard slider card to determine points values and you had to calculate EVERYTHING (anyone remember that?). Now, I have to avoid anything with added sugar (often listed as dextrose), most oils, MSG or alcohol. You wouldn’t BELIEVE how much of those things are in EVERYTHING we eat.
Q: Where do you find sugar-free bacon?
A: I found mine at Sprouts, but I’ve heard Whole Foods and Trader Joes carries it as well! Read the labels VERY carefully! It’s expensive, but it’s worth it.
Q: Have you had any cravings for non-compliant foods and how do you deal with that?
A: Occasionally, yes! I’m an extremely competitive person and once I know something is off-limits, I block it out of my mind. If I don’t, I get so fixated on it I want to cave. I will not cave in these 30 days so I just stop thinking about it and distract myself. If I want something salty, I go for cashews or almonds. If I want something sweet, I reach for some fruit. It’s not the same as a donut but I feel a lot better afterwards!
Q: Do you follow a specific workout regimen or program on Whole30?
A: No. Whole30 is totally focused on food. I’m just doing me regular routine at the gym.
Q: Other than water, what have you been drinking on Whole30?
A: Nothing. I tried coffee black and decided I’d rather drink water. Ha! A lot of people drink tea or sparkling water (as long as it’s naturally sweetened with fruit juice and not sugar).
Q: Can you have smoothies?
A: Nope. Even with compliant ingredients – the point of this program is to eat the actual whole foods. Ice cream made by blending whole frozen bananas is also off-limits. The way you eat the food is just as important as the food, according to this program.
Q: How did you get started?
A: I only took a few days to prep. I thought a lot about why I wanted to do this. I think getting mentally ready is just as important as being prepared on paper. I read the Whole30 website and then printed off the shopping list from their site. I scoured Pinterest and Instagram (search #whole30) for meal inspiration and made a list of things I thought my family and I would like. I got rid of everything that was part of my old diet (coffee creamer, dark chocolate, cheese). Then I went grocery shopping!
Q: Where do you get your meal inspiration?
A: Mostly Instagram! I’m a visual person and need to see a picture of something before I try to make it. If you go to my account (@jen_plans), you can click on who I’m following (upper right corner) and I have a bunch there that I love! You can also search #whole30 for pictures too! There are a TON of blogs out there posting Whole30-compliant meals so don’t be afraid to search Whole30 + your favorite foods. And don’t be afraid to try new foods.
Q: How long does meal prep take?
A: Honestly, less than before. Less ingredients, more grilling and roasting and more foods in their natural form make prep really easy overall. I probably spend 30-60 minutes on shopping day to prep food so that it’s ready when I need to cook it, but I’ve always done that so it’s no time added. If I have cut up broccoli in a big zip-top bag in the fridge, it’s easier to dump some in to steam than if I have to get out the cutting board each time. Anything I can do to make meal time faster or easier, I do ahead of time.
Q: Do you miss any non-approved foods?
Of course not! YES. My coffee creamer. See you July 1! For everything else, as each day goes by there’s less I miss, truly. I like the way I’m feeling. I like that I don’t have to worry about portions. I like that I’m fueling my body and not making it groggy, slow or bloated.
Thanks so much for reading! I hope I was able to answer all of your questions!