9 Things You Should Know Before Starting the Whole30

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If you haven't heard of the Whole30 before, you're going to hear about it today and for many days after this one because it's here to stay. I give a more detailed summary on what it entails here but my very brief description goes like this: The Whole30 is a program where you strip out all foods that have a poor impact on your health, such as sugar, grains, dairy, and legumes.

Still think you want to try it? I've done the Whole30 myself and have a few helpful tips to share.

Keep in mind that everyone experiences the program differently. It was harder for me than it was for my husband. (Seriously, the man barely struggled. Ugh, so unfair.)

Here are 9 things you should know before you start the Whole30.

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 1. It's a lifestyle, not a temporary diet.

Don't look at it as a temporary fix to your health because then you'll be missing the main purpose of the Whole30. This program is a lifestyle, not a diet.

Let yourself be open to fact that the Whole30 is here to create a permanent change. Plan on sticking with it after the 30 days and continuing to make healthier choices with your life.

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2. It might take a serious toll on your psyche.

Let me just raise my hands and shout so everyone can hear me loud and clear: doing the Whole30 program was very difficult for me! Don't let people convince you that you just have to "put your mind to it" because the experience is different for everyone.

I spent over 20 years perfecting the art of eating pizza so it took a lot of hard work to resist the temptation of my comfort foods. Making any sort of big change to your life is hard, especially if it involves the habits you've had for your entire life. I never read ingredient lists or listened to my body before so it felt mentally exhausting to start doing so now.

3. You will likely fail if you aren't thoroughly prepared.

If you start to enter the "I'm Getting Hungry" territory and you have no Whole30 menu or recipes to follow, you will probably blow it. I know that sounds ridiculous. How hard is it to cook some meat and veggies, right?

You're in the process of resetting your body to a more healthy system so you're not going to feel like your normal self. If you're not prepared to eat healthy before the cravings kick in, you're going to lose every single time.

4. It gets worse before it gets better.

The Whole30 isn't a quick fix to your health problems. If it was, it would be called the Whole48 hours. I personally felt and saw the biggest change in my body towards the end of the 30 days.

When you start the program be fully aware that the headaches and withdrawals are coming and that in spite of that, you will survive. 

The Whole30 authors state that you will experience "the carb flu" during the first week. Since you're removing so many foods that you typically depend on for energy (sugar, carbs, etc.) your body is going to essentially freak out. Headaches, sluggishness, and bad moods are normal. Warn your spouse.

5. It's okay if you fall off the wagon as long as you climb back on before your body notices.

When I started researching Whole30 experiences through different forums, I was blown away by the comments made by people I'd like to call the "Whole30 Police." They were so strict about every detail of food that I was turned off by the program.

Look, I get it. The Whole30 is very structured. But if you're supposed to make this big life change then you need to take into account the fact that we are all living, breathing, mistake-making humans.

If I had adopted a 'succeed or die' mentality I would've given up much, much sooner. Finding forgiveness for myself has been the saving grace that tells me, "You've got this, girl. Just get back up and keep going."

6. It's not over at the end of 30 days.

You didn't see that coming, did you?

This kind of ties in with the #1 but I feel the need to mention the Reintroduction stage. You can read a bit more about it here but essentially you will slowly introduce some non-compliant Whole30 foods at the end of 30 days, one at a time, to determine how they affect your body.

Here is the authors' recommended schedule for reintroduction.

Day 1 - Legumes

Day 2 - Non-Gluten Grains

Day 7 - Dairy

Day 10 - Gluten Containing Grains

7. Cheat Days are the gateway to failure.

Have you ever given up cake for Lent? I was raised Catholic and every year we would consider Sundays our "off" days during Lent. Monday through Saturday we would make the sacrifice and give up the sweets and on Sunday we would pig out.

These Cheat Days made the Lenten experience much, much harder. The same will be true if you try to cheat during the Whole30. Just don't do it.

8. You will become a master of thinking outside of the meal plan box.

If you're like my family then you've been using starches like pasta or rice as one of the main ingredients of your meals for years.

Obviously, those aren't allowed on the Whole30. So if you want to eat a spaghetti wannabe then cook some spaghetti squash and pour some homemade sauce over it.

Will it taste identical to you what you're use to? Heck no. But there are some killer recipe options out there and you can eat some delicious food if you're willing to step out of your comfort zone.

Here are some of my favorites to get you started:

  1. Sausage and Sweet Potato Hash - Noble Pig

  2. Paleo Sausage Egg "McMuffin" - Nom Nom Paleo

  3. Homemade Guacamole - I Heart Naptime

  4. Spaghetti Squash Boats with Homemade Meat Sauce - Lexi's Clean Kitchen

9. There's a fine line between encouraging and using a soapbox.

Lastly, I have to include this because it was such an influence on why I didn't start the Whole30 sooner.

If you haven't already, you're going to run into that Whole30person. Let me explain. I have a well-meaning friend who will look at your cheeseburger and fries and shake their head, giving you the gory details about how you're ruining your body and will never enjoy the same health they have. That feels judgmental, right?

Now that I've done the Whole30 I can honestly say that I get it!If you're successful with the program, you're going to feel so freaking healthy and happy that you'll want to spread the good vibes to everyone.

But there is this dangerous line between encouraging your friends and using a megaphone. Some people might be really aggressive about what you should/shouldn't do. Don't let their comments about the Whole30 turn you away from the program.

The Whole30 may be a little difficult but it is absolutely worth all of the hard work. If a pizza-loving, ice cream-eating woman can do the Whole30, so can you. Good luck!

Have you tried the Whole30? Did you love/hate it? 

My Whole30 Resources:

  1. My Pinterest Whole30/Paleo board full of recipes.

    1. Book: The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom

    2. Book: It Starts With Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways

    3. Website: The Whole30

    4. I also have a lot of different recipe websites that I use. They can be found in the meal plans below.

Note: I am not affiliated with or endorsed by the Whole30 program or it's authors in any way. All views and opinions are my own and based on my personal experience. Please consult a physician before you make any drastic changes to your diet.

Looking for meal plans? Here are 30 days worth of meal ideas that will fit your busy schedule.