10 Steps for Whole30 Success

I’ve had a lot of people ask me about the Whole30 I find I am giving very consistent advice. Coincidentally, it’s 10 pieces of consistent advice…

  1. Do not decide to do this without reading the books. “It Starts with Food” and “The Whole 30” are both must-reads before committing to this. For me, if I don’t know exactly why the rules are in place, I find them much harder to follow (I’m also a Type A, perfectionist, strict rule abider, so that could be a factor). Some people have commented that it seems arbitrary that you can’t eat lentils or beans, since they’re really quite healthy. It’s true, they aren’t in the same category as mozzarella sticks, but by understanding the specific digestive reactions they have in the body, you get a better sense for why you can’t have them for 30 days. They’re readable in a day; you can skim the science-y parts of the books, but don’t skip them.
  1. You cannot pick and choose parts of this plan. There may be elements of this eating plan that you decide to pick up in your life, however you will not be doing the Whole30. You can’t do a modified Whole30 (save the exceptions listed in the book). Again, when you read the books, you understand why you have to do it the way you have to do it, and why if you don’t do it that way, you won’t be doing it at all. You can’t do it all except give up alcohol, or chickpeas.
  1. I do not recommend doing this as a vegetarian. A former 15-year vegetarian myself, I think it’s important to understand the reasons why you choose not to eat meat. If it’s ethical, then that’s one thing. However, if you’re doing it for health reasons, then I think (again, reading the book), you understand the reasons why meat is not as bad as people make it out to be, particuarly when you can find ethically raised and locally sourced meat (the meat I eat is questionable, but my ethics abandoned me 6+ years ago). There is a section on the book that addresses this, so please read that and make your own decision. It may be that a different eating plan is better for you.
  1. Only do this if you are 100% committed. Don’t try to talk yourself or someone else into it. If you haven’t come to the decision that this is something you are willing to commit to for 30 days, you will not succeed. This is particularly true if you have a busy job, if you travel a lot or if you don’t know much about cooking. The first 2 weeks are overwhelming. I was trying to make all these recipes from the book in a small kitchen without some of the key ingredients (because I couldn’t find them here). I ended up with a lot of food waste the first week, as I ended up with a lot of leftovers and couldn’t get through all the food I had planned to make. I did made a week one meal chart which outlined every meal I’d make for 7 days, but after day 2 I abandoned it. I think it depends on your personal style, but I felt better shopping for 2-3 meals every 2-3 days. It took more time but was more manageable. By weeks 3 and 4, I had a pretty good routine going, but again, I spent one full day food prepping each weekend. During the week was arriving home from the gym at 6 (early by most people’s standards given the 7:30am-3pm working hours here), making dinner, then lunch for the next day, washing dishes and prepping everything for the morning which took until 8/8:30pm. Given that I am in bed by 9/9:30, it really took my entire evening. Fortunately I lead the life of an 80 year old grandmother during the week, so didn’t feel as if I was missing any social engagements [Though, now that I think about it, that metaphore holds no water, as when my grandmothers were 80, they were both still volunteering and had a twice weekly standing bingo date].
  1. Don’t do this to lose weight. This is a huge recommendation of mine. That was one of my major reasons for embarking upon the Whole30. However, after reading 100 times in the books that “if you’re doing this to lose weight, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons,” it finally sunk in. It didn’t stop me from being discouraged when I wasn’t seeing any change in how my clothes fit or any noticeable change in my body in the mirror. I was one of the people that it took until Day 28-30 and beyond to finally start to see the changes. Had I only cared about how I looked and how my clothes fit, I probably would have stopped much sooner.
  1. Don’t not do this because you’re scared of losing weight. I know that everyone’s goal is not to lose weight (lucky bitches). I think that unless you’re already 80% compliant to this eating plan, you will lose at least a bit of weight. However this is because your body is ridding itself of fat. You will become leaner and more toned as your body becomes healthier. As there is no calorie counting or portion restriction, you can eat all you want, and I think the book even encourages bigger portions. Because it’s all whole, unprocessed foods, you really can’t eat too much of them. Your body will become full naturally, and that’s when you stop eating.
  1. The Whole30 book is your bible. I brought this with me everywhere the entire month. Their timeline on how you should be feeling throughout the 30 days is scarily accurate (as I reflected during my daily posts). It will help you understand if you’re “doing it right” and reassure you when you feel off. Keep it with you, especially when you’re grocery shopping and aren’t sue which additives you can and cannot have. If you’re going to spend $30 on something, spend it on this book.
  1. Embrace breakfast. I have had to give myself a full 20 minutes extra in the morning for breakfast (which just means I’m going into work 20 minutes late rather than waking up early!). It’s not an important meal for a lot of people, but for me, breakfast was my biggest meal of the day. It set me up to stay full through 1-2pm, which I really think affected how I ate for the rest of the day. I cannot emphasize enough how the focus should be on breakfast. I still eat eggs, but now I incorporate last night’s dinner – chicken, beef, roasted veggies, potatoes, etc.. I make the “diner breakfast” regularly – the beef patties can be made in advance and reheated on the stove which is an easy breakfast during weekdays.
  1. If you cheat, don’t start over. Instead, add days to the end. When you’re at day 1 or 7 or 10 and still not convinced you like this diet, and you realize you’ve cheated – accidentally or otherwise – the thought of starting back from day 1 is enough to make you want to quit. That’s how I felt after eating my peanuts. However, by the time I got to day 25/30, the thought of adding an extra week was nothing. It seems silly, but it makes a real mental difference.
  2. It doesn’t have to break the bank. Yeah, it will cost money. But for me, the money I spent on groceries was offset by the money I saved not going out to eat and drink on the weekends. There are a few expensive items you need to have – olive oil, almond flour, salmon, etc.. but overall, I didn’t spend more than I used to on groceries. I can buy cheap fruits and veggies in my neighborhood, which means I spend the most of my money on meat and fish. People freak out that this is going to cost them an arm and a leg, but I think that once you get into a routine, you know what to buy and what you don’t need as much of, and it balances out.

 

I don’t have “clothes on” before and afters, but I think some of the below pictures show the difference – particularly in my face, which I feel is always the last place I lose weight. The picture with my friend’s baby was taking around Christmas 2015, while the photo on the right was taken in March 2016, about a month after I completed my Whole30. My face reverts back to its original heart shape, and my cheeks and dimples become more prominent!

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Rapelling down a waterfall in April 2016- 3 months post Whole30. Feeling strong and looking fit!! 🙂 

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I personally think the difference is my face is incredibly obvious from the left (November) to the right (March). Incidentally this picture was taken with the amazing health team in Gaza.

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The problem is that now my sports bras are too big!!!

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Beyond Day 30

14 – 17 February – Day 29 – Day 32

I technically finished the Whole30 on Monday. I decided not to go for a full extra week because of the peanuts, but I sort of am, by default. I had been working for weeks to plan and lead a crazy stressful meeting on Monday and Tuesday (day 30 and 31), and had settled myself to a celebratory drink on Tuesday evening. However, I have remained Whole30 compliant other than my three gin and sodas (which were as compliant as they could be, minus the gin) on Tuesday.

I do feel as if I have had a ton of NSV, but I also feel as if my clothes are finally fitting better, and I can see a difference in the mirror. I wore a dress that I had gotten around Christmas time to my meeting on Monday, and while it’s a stretch fabric, I felt much less comfortable in it when I tried it on in December. I looked super hot in it on Monday! At the conference, I brought my own chicken salad, because it’s hard to know what the buffet food is made with, so to be on the safe side, I brought my own food.

However, I think a true testament to the success of this program was my ability to bypass the hotel’s buffet and coffee break snacks. Usually that’s the highlight of an offsite conference, so the fact that I was able to not just resist, but not even crave, these treats was a real success. I also didn’t get the 2pm slump that I saw all of my coworkers getting after lunch. There were many closed/closing eyes, and I felt nice and chipper.

I did have three gin and sodas on Tuesday night, and felt absolutely awful on Wednesday morning. It has really reminded me that it’s just not worth it, especially on a week night. I totally understood, in theory, that you don’t just (for example) miss the gym on Tuesday night, and perhaps not eat well on Tuesday night, but you miss out on being productive on Wednesday, you eat like crap during the day, and then just want to have a nap after work, rather than go to the gym. In theory, I knew this was what happened, but after a hangover-free month, it really hit home to me, that I would have had just as much fun with my friends drinking soda water, or having one drink. I’m going to try to do that this weekend, too. A good friend is going away, so I will have to go out, but want to try to be good so that I don’t miss out on being super productive this weekend.

18 February – Day 33

I took my after pictures and measurements this morning. To be honest, I’m so glad that I’m feeling better and have so many NSV, because my measurements are shockingly the same, as is my weight (though that’s less surprising given the weight training/muscle building I’ve been doing). In the before and after pictures, I can see a difference, but it also just shows how much farther I want to go. However, I think I can achieve more, by maintaining the motivation I’ve had to work out, and to eat healthy.  One fear I do have relates to adding back in some of the things I’ve been missing, while also continuing to eat relatively compliant. During Whole30, we’re encouraged and allowed to have fats (clarified butter, nuts, olives, etc…), and you can eat until you’re full, because you’re eating totally good food. However, if I eat until I’m full, continue to eat healthy fats, and ALSO eat pizza, drink beer and wine, etc… then I can see that adding up quickly. So I really need to be careful. I am so happy and it’s so easy eating this way, that I can see myself remaining relatively compliant 90% of the time. However, when I travel I may be more lenient, and also when going out every now and again.

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Have a long way to go before I’d be comfortable sharing either before and afters from another angle

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I told a friend at the gym last fall, as I stared in the mirror at a body I was really unhappy with, that my goal was to look in the mirror wearing this outfit and not be able to see my fat rolls and love handles. I’ve definitely come a long way! I think this was around Day 28

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A little snug in the thighs still, but I haven’t comfortably worn these jeans in 3 years! Why I brought them to Jordan with me where I’ve only been living for 2 years must have been wishful thinking.

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But now the problem is that a lot of my pants look like this…

10 March – Day 54

It’s been nearly 60 days as I finally get around to wrapping this journal up so I can share it with everyone who has been waiting on it!! After nearly a moth of reflection, I have to say, the Whole30 has actually changed my life. It has changed my relationship with food, it has made me more careful about what I decide to eat and when. It has made me stop and think before eating something that is off plan, just because it is there, and it has made it EFFORTLESS to look at some foods and not even desire them. I’ve had several conferences at hotels this past month; the buffets have always been a point of weakness for me with the specially made pasta bars, the creamy chicken and meat dishes and the soups and bread. However, I have gotten into an effortless habit of bringing my own protein salad – chicken or tuna, usually, and just making myself a salad from the salad bar. I have sampled the meat dishes, but because I don’t know – or do know – that they are cooked or marinated in non-compliant ingredients, I often stay away. It’s not because I’m trying to stay 100% compliant forever, but more because I still don’t know how some of these foods affect me, and I don’t particularly want to find out in the middle of an important conference or workshop.

I have been drinking lightly on the weekends – so far only gin and sodas and some wine. I had a couple of beers and pizza one gloriously sunny Saturday afternoon, but woke up on Tuesday with marks on my wrist from my hair elastic and tight rings. I could feel the bloating and my pants were tighter… I am inclined to say it was from the pizza, as it was my first time having bread or cheese, and I read in the book that some people get bloating 3 days after bread.

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Not nearly as satisfying as it used to be

I find that I’m just so happy with how I’m feeling, and how I’m looking that I don’t want to go too far off the compliant track, because I’m worried I’ll fall off (I’ve also continued with my weight training routine, which I know is contributing to all of this). However, I am off to Berlin for the weekend, which means 5 days of not exercising, as well as plenty of beer and meals out… I’m just going to have to be ok with falling off the wagon as long as I can get right back on it next week! I have a work trip to Gaza the week after I return, and while I think I will try to prepare the way I did last time, I will be a bit more lenient about what I eat from room service and the cafeteria at the office. Now that the weather is getting nicer and I have some personal and work trips coming up, I know I will have less time to spend inside food prepping and I will be more tempted to sit outside eating and drinking, but I think I can be smarter about the decisions I made. I went out for dinner with some girlfriends the other night and had a couple glasses of wine, as well as a salad with bacon and parmesan shavings on top. I considered removing them, but figured I could manage a few bites without hurting anything.

Cooking has become second nature and I find I can whip something compliant up without planning it. There are a few “musts” that I make sure I have at all times, and from there I can make something work on the fly:

  • Clarified butter
  • Eggs
  • Frozen meat: chicken, fish, ground beef. I also have IKEA meat and chicken balls that work well in a pinch
  • Cans of tuna
  • Smoked salmon (the kind you buy at IKEA)
  • All veggies including garlic
  • Lemons
  • White or sweet potatoes
  • All spices
  • Nuts, particularly almonds

I found I did NOT use a few things as much as the book said I would, including almond milk and cream. I made mayo a few times, and really love the ranch dressing. However the book made it sound like you were going to have “coconut cream emergencies” which I did not have. I have taken to using coconut milk in my coffee, which I enjoy. I also enjoy it black!

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Clarified Butter For. The. Win.

Week Three and Four: A routine

4 – 9 February: Day 19 – 24

I haven’t been keeping up with this journal nearly as well as I was earlier in the month. That might be because there’s not a whole lot to tell. I’m still compliant, haven’t cheated, etc… I got back into the gym after Gaza, which has been great, though the fact that I can’t lift my arms to take my glasses off of my head without leaning my head forward is indicative of how much you pay for slacking in your weights routine for a week++!! I’ve not felt any of the “tiger blood,” which is frustrating, but I guess I’m also not feeling bad. I guess waking up is easier, and I feel like I’m sleeping well, but by no means do I skip the snooze button yet. I think probably I’ve lost a couple of pounds, but nothing super noticeable. I think what I’ll take away from this, regardless, is being more creative in my meals.. I’ve pretty much kept to the boring salad with grilled chicken on top for lunch, just because it’s easy to make, and I don’t really mind it. But I do enjoy mixing up my breakfasts the way I do, and having plenty of fresh foods (particularly meats, as I always have veggies on hand). I love roasted sweet potatoes.. they might be my new go-to snack.

Being off alcohol has been surprisingly easy, but I think that’s because I haven’t had any big events to make it through. A lot of my friends are out of town or not going out much either, and my grandma lifestyle during the week makes it super easy to turn down invites for dinner, etc…

I will most definitely go back to some pizza immediately after I finish (I think I’ll do another week before reintroduction), and I think I’m already pretty good at portioning out a kit kat to last me 2-3 days (I really don’t have a sweet tooth, so one or two sticks at a time is all I need to satisfy a craving). I don’t feel like I had a sugar dragon like people who often do this talk about, so I actually feel like I’m punishing myself, when I know that I can control my consumption of sweets.

Anyway, we’ll see what the next 10 days brings!!!

Edit: interestingly, I just opened the book – which has not been an ever present presence in my life the way it was the first couple of weeks – to the section where they talk about how you’re feeling daily, and day 21 is spot on with where I’m at. “I am so over this.” Day 22-25, “the scale is calling…” states that “you’ve been focusing on all of your non-scale victories for the last three weeks, but now you’re just dying to know..has anything really changed?” Yep. That’s where I’m at.. ok, looks like I’m still on track (tiger blood aside..or maybe I got it and didn’t even realize it..)

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When I’m pressed for time it’s easy to grab the ready made “street chicken” (a nickname due to the roaster’s present on the sidewalk of the storefront, not actually because the chickens come from the street…I hope..)

10 February: Day 25

I successfully made dinner for 5 tonight! It was also another good test, because everyone brought wine and cocktails. It was really very easy for me to just have my sparkling water and not feel left out. However, I am looking forward to having those casual drinks again, though I think I will not be as frequent as I used to be with the casual, “just because” drinking. Meaning, I’d rather drink on a night when I’m going out to have a fun night, rather than just sip a glass of wine because it’s there.

I made chicken picatta, which isn’t in the Whole30 book, but was a recipe I found online. The pounded, butterflied chicken breasts are breaded in almond flour, which everyone agreed added a nice texture, and was also quite filling. I’m very proud of myself because this is quite possibly the first time I’ve cooked for people, and I was able to multiply a recipe without screwing it up. My friends have all been supportive, so I haven’t felt like I had to justify myself or argue why I’m doing this, which has been really nice.

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These are my weekends now….

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It’s true, it’s my worst fear.

12 – 13 February – Day 27 & 28

I wouldn’t quite call it tiger blood, but this was a fantastic weekend. I think I’m one of those people for whom it takes until the final week to start feeling good and seeing results. Not to say that I have felt bad per say, but it hasn’t felt any different. However on Friday, I woke up naturally at 7:30 (granted, I went to bed at 10pm..) feeling refreshed. As I was changing for the gym I think I finally noticed a change in my body. It’s not drastic, but I can tell I’ve lost some of the weight in my stomach. I’m excited to take my measurements. It was leg day at the gym, and while I’ve always had really strong legs, I was just staring at myself in the mirror as I did my squats…they’re just solid muscle. I felt like I had more energy and a great workout. I was super busy with errands and food prep on Friday, and usually get a mid-afternoon slump, but didn’t feel the need to lay down at all. A friend came over and commented that he thought I had noticeably lost some weight, my skin was clearer, and I didn’t have the puffy skin/discoloring under my eyes (which, to be honest, I didn’t know I had to begin with!!).

On Saturday, I had the same morning routine, and met one of my best friends for coffee. She hasn’t been around nearly the entire month I’ve been doing this, as she’s been traveling for work, and after a few minutes of talking she commented that I seemed much happier and like I’m in a much better place. I think that feedback was perhaps the most important to me, as I really did feel unhappy the past few months, probably mildly depressed. I’ve been in a funk, for a combination of reasons (work, relationships, friendships, etc…), and while work hasn’t gotten much easier over the past month, I think I’m coping better. I’m happy in my apartment, I’m happy with my routines and habits, and I’m feeling more confident about myself. I’m not socializing as much as I used to, but I’m ok with that, because as I said when I started, I needed some “me” time, and I’m glad that I’ve been taking it.

I think this is exactly what the book refers to when they say that if you’re focusing on scale victories, you’re going to miss all of the other, perhaps more important benefits that this month can bring. I can’t emphasize enough how amazing it has been to have productive, busy and fulfilling weekends. I feel like I can fit so much more into my day, sure, because I’m not drinking and therefore not hungover, but also because I am more motivated, I have a purpose/things to do (food prep), and my energy doesn’t flag mid-afternoon. And yes, I’m so excited to see what the scale and measurements say, and that will really motivate me to continue eating like this and living this lifestyle, which I think is great.

The only thing I’m debating now is whether Monday will in fact be day 30, given the “peanut incident” on day 6, 7 and 8. I am 100% ok with sticking to this for another couple of weeks, but I would really like a night out next weekend, so I may reintroduce some gin, but not allow myself to reintroduce the wrong foods as a result of drinking. Then I can hop back on the whole30 for a few more days while I do the food reintroductions. Anyway, we’ll see what next week brings!!

Incidentally, when it comes to cheats that cause you to restart from Day 1, my biggest advice to people is to not restart your count, but add the days on at the end. When I considered the prospect of starting over from day 1 at day 9, it was not something I wanted to do. I wasn’t yet sold on the Whole30, and felt it would be silly to restart for such a non-important reason. However now that I’m on Day 28, the prospect of another 10 days is actually exciting, and feels like a piece of cake. Therefore, while I may technically only be on day 19, mentally, it doesn’t feel as overwhelming.

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I personally didn’t like the sweet flavor the red onions gave to the stock. Also find that thyme tastes like dirt to me.

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The seared tuna was a frozen patty. Delicious.