Whole30: Tips & Thoughts on My Last One

For those of you who don’t know, Whole30 is a restrictive food program designed to eliminate everything from your diet that may be causing any number of problems. The program is meant as way to figure out any food sensitivities you may have, and help you foster a better relationship with food; essentially viewing food as fuel rather than an escape, habit or treat.

Today is the last day of my family’s Whole30 experience. The kid has not been on it really, aside from dinner, because I’m not making two different meals. I also read an article (and talked to my nutritionist sis in law who confirmed it) that said diet plans like Keto and Whole30 aren’t good for kids whose bodies and brains are still developing.

But both my boyfriend and I have been following the strict limitations of the diet. This was his first and my fourth Whole30. We both agree it will likely be our last. I’ll talk about that more in a minute but first I have some tips for those who want to do Whole30 and some insight!

Tip the first: If you can get it pre-chopped/sliced/diced/minced/ shredded etc., DO IT!!

Seriously, unless you enjoy spending endless hours doing those things listed above, just buy it already done. Bonus if you can buy a bunch frozen. Trader Joe’s has a surprising amount of stuff chopped/diced etc. I even found sweet potato ribbons there once, and it’s miraculous! Honestly, Whole30 did teach me a lot about preparing food and I even enjoy it a bit more than I did before, but cooking is not one of my favorite things. Cleaning up after cooking is also a drag and with Whole30 you’re likely to use every kitchen implement you’ve ever owned. Buying stuff already prepped (especially onions and garlic) will save you so much time.

Here’s the thing I discovered with Whole30 recipes, the times they list for prep and cooking are assuming you’re already some sort of super ninja in the kitchen. These times are provided by folks who like to cook, who have been cooking for ages I’m sure. Not the kitchen noob (coughmecough) that takes fifteen minutes to slice an onion because they have such a strong reaction (coughalsomecough). So a recipe that takes “20 minutes” according to the book I know will take me 30-40 depending on how much slicing and dicing I have to do. Using pre-prepped stuff takes the total time down to something closer to what’s quoted.

I read some literature that said you couldn’t find pre-minced garlic that was Whole30 approved. This is totally false. The garlic I used I found at Trader Joe’s. The things I couldn’t find at my local grocery stores I found on Amazon, just be sure you can read the labels properly.

Sure, fresh may taste best, but I’m more about convenience and quickness. If you’re not, more chopping power to ya!

Tip the second: Get the meats at Costco!

This again, is a matter of preference. Some folks will prefer to buy fresh meat (and pay through the nose) each week, because Whole30 isn’t just about eating better and learning about your body it’s about buying what you need for a week and nothing more.

I got tired of buying meat every freaking week. Because sometimes it was so much meat! And since I shop at Trader Joe’s I had to buy crazy amounts since most of their meats don’t come in packages larger than a pound. So this time I took a general tally of how much meat I would use throughout the 30 days and bought it all in one go at Coscto. When I got home I divided it up among plastic bags, labeled them and froze them. I’ve only had to buy a couple salmon fillets and ground turkey this round. It seemed like a lot of money to drop all at once, but I really felt the difference at my weekly shopping trips where I mostly bought fruit, veggies, and spices. Often times my final bill was under $100 which is the cheapest I’ve every paid while doing this program.

Tip the third: Plan everything weeks in advance.

This type of thing is difficult to do without a plan. Each time I’ve done this, I’ve had a plan, some better than others. This time was the greatest plan! I knew about mid-summer that I wanted to do a Whole30 in September/October. I started planning at the end of July/beginning of August.

You may be thinking I’m insane, who starts planning that early? I do. That’s how I am. Also one of the things that drives me crazy about Whole30 is the weekly meal planning and grocery lists. I start strong but loose steam about halfway through. So this time I started meal planning really early. I planned a couple weeks here, and a couple weeks there. I leisurely printed out the grocery lists and completed a couple here and a couple there. By the time we started our Whole30 experience I had all my grocery lists ready, and all the meals planned. So I didn’t have to do any extra work while I was doing the program.

There’s a bunch of meal planning websites, some might even be Whole30 specific. I’d say don’t waste your time or money on those. I’ve tried a few here and there and I wouldn’t recommend any of the ones I tried. This time I used an Excel spreadsheet and the grocery list pdf you can find online. This experience has been the best and all it cost me was the ink from my printer and the paper the lists were printed on.

If you don’t plan anything ever, let this be the one thing you do plan.

Tip the last: Don’t be afraid to try!

So Yoda says “Do or do not, there is no try”, but I have to respectfully disagree with the Jedi Master. I think that’s applicable to some things in life (you either go jogging or you do not), but with Whole30 I think it’s ok to try…and sometimes fail.

This is my fourth Whole30, but it’s only the second one I’ve completed. It’s hard to do, there are harder things in life sure, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t.

Much of our social lives revolve around food. When we get together with friends we meet up for meals, drinks, coffee. Even events like going to the movies, or going to a game night also involve tons of beverages and refreshments that Whole30 forbids. My boyfriend is surrounded by snacks and food he cannot eat all day long at work and he hasn’t slipped. But if he had, I wouldn’t have made him feel bad for it.

You shouldn’t feel bad either. If you accidentally eat something with an ingredient you’re not supposed to have I really don’t think it’s the end of the world. Especially if you don’t have an adverse reaction to it. I’ve never been an advocate of the mindset of starting all over if you have one slip up.

Likewise if you get halfway through and decide you simply can’t do it, or it’s not for you there’s no shame in stopping. I won’t say quitting because I feel like that word has a lot of negative connotations surrounding it. Choosing to stop doing something isn’t always a negative thing.

A piece of information for those humans who experience menstruation: Here is a thing I didn’t know about Whole30, if you’re doing the program and on hormonal birth control you may experience some wacky periods. The fact is Whole30 changes your diet so drastically that those changes combined with the hormones of your baby blockers could cause your period to freak out. It didn’t happen to me during my first two because I wasn’t on hormonal baby blockers then and my third try was pretty crappy so it’s sort of unfair to say I was actually doing a Whole30. Just know that if your period freaks out, it’s probably normal. But if it’s weirding you out go see a doctor. I’m not a doctor of anything so taking my word for it if your experiencing something heinous is not a smart idea.

In closing I have a few thoughts on this experience. Whole30 has taught me a lot about my body, food, and the relationship between the two. The first one I did was by far the best, but the subsequent ones have never quite gotten me in as a good a place. Through this diet I’ve learned a lot and become more confident in the kitchen. But I think this one will be my last.

There are some meals I really enjoy from the cookbooks so I’ll probably make those once in a while, but I doubt I’ll ever do a full on Whole30 or any variation of it again. Why?

Well, I’ve learned more about the program and what your body is dealing with when you do it. I’m not going to get into it because I’m not a nutritionist and will get all the things wrong. This time around I was using Whole30 to break some bad habits I’d been indulging in over the summer. I was approaching an unhealthy weight for my height and wanted to make a change quick. So in addition to working out regularly, I started Whole30.

But I think what would have been more effective would be finding a balance. Whole30 does not offer you balance. If eating poorly and sitting on your ass all day is an extreme end of a spectrum, then Whole30 is the other side of that. It’s an extreme program. It cuts out entire food groups which are not wholly bad for you. It turns wanting a piece of cake or a glass of wine with dinner into a forbidden fruit. Eventually you just end up replacing those things with something else that happens to be Whole30 approved.

There are some things I will stick with after our 30th day is gone. I’ll try to keep added sugars out of our foods at home, I’ll probably opt for more healthy bread options, and definitely limit alcohol and sweets. But I don’t believe it’s healthy for me to keep yo-yoing between extremes. My goal after this Whole30 is done is to find a happy balance, because that for me is the key to being happy.

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