I knew I needed a change. I had lost and gained the same five pounds at least three times. I was craving carbs, feeling lethargic, and by the end of most days, my knees were hurting. Something had to give. I was desperate to feel better. I had nothing to lose. So I did it.
I started my very first Whole 30.
I was unprepared, I admit. I had not read the books. (There are two, by the way.) I had not collected a huge assortment of recipes to get me through. I hadn’t researched the best tips for success. I had not placed an order on Amazon.com for clarified butter. But I had a sincere desire to change. And change I did.
It Starts with Food. It’s the name of the book (written by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig), and it’s the actual place Whole 30 starts. Whole 30 is a 30-day plan of eating real food. Good food. Nothing has to be weighed and measured. It is a lazy mama’s dream. There are rules. These are not the kind of rules that you break. Not if you want to be successful. In fact, if you break a rule on Whole 30, you start over at Day 1 the next day. This is not the time to rebel, y’all. This is the time to comply. So, 30 days of lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts. Simple right?
This, unfortunately, excludes a few things. So no sugar (real or artificial), alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, MSG, sulfites, and no recreating junk foods or treats with Whole 30 approved ingredients. (This last specific is what Whole 30-ers refer to as SWYPO. Because I am a lady and my mama sometimes reads my posts, I will allow your Internet search skills to clarify that one for you.) The last rule of Whole 30 is NO WEIGHING. I am type-screaming this because it is difficult. Hide your scale. Throw it out. No weighing.
I was worried. How would it work? Finicky kids, busy schedules, restaurant dining. I actually had Mother’s Day, my fourth wedding anniversary, end-of-school parties, and Memorial Day all falling within my 30 days. There were plenty of things to stand in my way. But I did it. And you can, too.
- Do check out the website. This was where I began. They have free downloads that give you a shopping list, meal template, and the Whole 30 rules. Free, y’all.
- Do not try to force this on your young children. The first few days of Whole 30 are hard. I definitely had withdrawals and headaches and felt generally terrible. If your 16-year-old wants to try it, great. This is the perfect time to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your kids’ diets! It just might be rough on younger little bodies to make such drastic changes so quickly.
- Do make the Whole 30 compliant mayo. And the ranch dressing, if you like such things. (Go to Pinterest and search Dump Ranch. It sounds weird. It tastes awesome.) It may feel overwhelming to make your own. I get it. But I nailed it the first time. I am neither a chef nor a genius. You can do this. And it means salads with bacon and avocado. And potato salad and chicken salad with grapes and pecans. You need to make the dressings.
- Do embrace the weird ingredients. Clarified butter? Coconut milk? Arrowroot powder? Coconut aminos? I didn’t have these things in my pantry before Whole 30. I do now. These are excellent, Whole 30 approved substitutes for butter, milk, flour, and soy sauce. You will be glad you did.
- Do get some accountability. I told my friends and family what I was doing. They watched me like a hawk. They admired my willpower as I passed up donuts and strawberry shortcake. On Day 28, my mom saw me picking up a tortilla (that I was planning on giving to my son) and she stopped me, “Can you have that?” Accountability. That’s what it looks like. Also, there are Facebook groups that are incredibly helpful. You can ask any question (and warning: people do ask anything) and you will get an honest, Whole 30-approved response. There are also online forums on the Whole 30 website.
- Do focus on the things you CAN have. Coffee with coconut milk. Guacamole. Steak. Bacon. Cashews. Bacon Cashews (this is actually a thing). Apples with almond butter. Pineapple with coconut cream. Kombucha. You don’t have to weigh anything. No measuring. How jealous will your friends be when your “diet” (this is not a diet, but everyone will call it that anyway) allows you to eat steak and a baked potato smothered with ranch dressing? Once you feel a little more educated about what’s allowed, walking through Whole Foods and Trader Joes will be like a scavenger hunt. You will find yourself wanting to high five the cashier when you find compliant foods.
- Do reintroduce foods appropriately. This is big. After 30 days of healing, if your body reacts to the hot fudge sundae you eat on Day 31, you will have no idea if it is reacting to the flour or sugar or dairy. All of your hard work is for nothing if you don’t learn something about how your body reacts to specific foods. This is where you will win or lose.
I slept better. Like a rock, actually. My knees no longer hurt. At all. My skin was awesome. I felt in control of my eating habits. I had nothing to lose but 30 days, and in the end I lost 10 pounds. It was worth it.
If it sounds like something you’d like to try, do it! Be sure to take before and after pictures, and show us your success!