I honestly don’t know if I’ll be able to complete Whole30, but I’m going to try, starting on January 2. I tried to do paleo last year, and I lasted three and a half days–not a great record. Every year, my best friends do a January cleanse of either paleo or Whole30, and every year I thought they were crazy and that there would be no way I would join. This year, however, I’m going to give it a shot. To do that, I have needed to prepare myself with strategies to overcome the challenges I know lay ahead. This is how I’m preparing for Whole30, from a complete beginner.
Why now? I’m sick of feeling like shit. As I get older, I can’t bounce back from December Bender like I used to. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, the amount of holiday parties, receptions, and dinners is insane. If I had gone to every event I was invited to, I would have been gouging myself on food and drink literally every day during this time. It makes my body ache and my mind slow. I need a reset.
Because I have had a good number of friends do Whole 30, I am lucky to get their opinions on what are the hardest parts of doing Whole 30. Based on their feedback and my own experience from trying (and failing) at paleo, here is what I am preparing for
Challenge #1: It’s difficult to be social while on Whole 30
So much of my social life is based around food that it’s difficult to imagine not being able to eat the pizza at book club or enjoy a glass of mulled wine to heat up from the cold (seriously, this weather is insane). I have a pretty active social life, and maintaining connections with my friends is critical to me.
Strategy: My friends and I are hosting potluck Whole30 dinner parties. This way, we can enjoy each others’ company without the pressure of all the foods on the Whole 30 naughty list being around. This will also help to lessen the amount of cooking we need to do (see Challenge # __). For my non-Whole30 friends, I’ve had to have the willpower to say no to delicious dinners, or, for events I need to go to, the willpower to not partake in the food and drink. The FOMO is strong, but I have to be stronger.
Challenge #2: I have to give up the foods I love
I have ranted and raved about how dumb it is that chickpeas are not paleo or Whole30 approved. My breakfast in the mornings is generally some mixture of oatmeal, Greek yogurt, and Krave beef jerky (I realize that last one is weird, but I like my meals to be protein-packed), all of which I won’t be able to have. If I bring my lunch, it’s dumplings, burritos, or something I’ve made with a lot of grains and/or legumes. I won’t be able to soak up the last bit of soup with my bread. I love food, and this one is really hard for me.
Strategy: When I did paleo in the past (and quickly failed), the thing that broke me at the end was that the rules didn’t make sense to me. I didn’t understand why (according to the blogs I read) honey was acceptable, and 100% dark chocolate with acceptable, but chickpeas were not. My end to paleo culminated in me standing in my kitchen, pouring honey on squares of dark chocolate. But, the issue wasn’t really the “rules” I found when googling, it really was my lack of understanding about a) what the rules actually were, and b) the reasoning behind the rules and why they make sense.
To solve for this, I started reading It Starts With Food by the Hartwigs. I figured, if I was going to do this right, I should learn about the program from the creators themselves instead of the evangelists on the internet. I chose It Starts With Food instead of their other books because of the publisher’s description, particularly this part:
Now, Dallas and Melissa detail not just the “how” of the Whole30, but also the “why,” summarizing the science in a simple, accessible manner. It Starts With Food reveals how specific foods may be having negative effects on how you look, feel, and live-in ways that you’d never associate with your diet. More important, they outline their lifelong strategy for eating Good Food in one clear and detailed action plan designed to help you create a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, calm systemic inflammation, and put an end to unhealthy cravings, habits, and relationships with food.
I need to know the “why” so that I understand the importance of following the rules. My body might not have any issues with chickpeas, but for many people, legumes can cause gas, bloating, and inflammation in the gut. Putting aside the other issues with legumes, this one was enough for me to agree that that only way I will know if this is actually a problem for my body is to cut them out of my diet.
Challenge #3: The amount of cooking required is exhausting
Cooking can be exhausting for me, that is true. In general, though, it’s not a task that I dislike. It’s not my favorite thing to do, but I do enjoy it to a degree. I have no issue in theory with meal prepping. My issue is that there are things I would rather do with my time. I would rather spend my time going to a concert or being with friends or even scrolling through Instagram than actively cooking in the kitchen by myself, and then cleaning an overflowing sink’s worth of dishes. I have a pretty busy schedule, and finding time to cook is difficult. As a result, I eat out for lunch nearly every day.
Strategy: I’m using a service called Territory Foods to make my Whole30-compliant lunches. This meals I only have to cook my breakfast and my dinner. Twice a week, I pick up my fresh lunches in a refrigerator of a local gym. I get to choose which meals I want, and I’ve been surprised by the good variety of Whole30-compliant meal options they have–I had about 8 different options to choose from for my 5 meals this week, I have found that the normal-sized meals are filling enough to keep my nourished through the day. However, probably the best part is that the food is good! They’re flavorful and filling, which is perfect for me. If you’re interested in trying Territory yourself, use the referral code YUMMYPALEO to get a $50 credit, which is nearly an entire week of meals.
I am also meal prepping my breakfast and dinner. I do not have time to cook breakfast in the morning, so I generally opt for the grab-and-go options. Breakfast is the one I’m having the most trouble with in terms of figuring out what I want to eat instead of my normal non-compliant breakfast, but I’m also open to non-traditional foods for breakfast (see: beef jerky), so if my egg bakes don’t do it for me, I can always try to mix it up a bit more.
I’ve already meal prepped breakfast for the next week and dinner for the next couple nights, so I’m feeling comfortable with this one for the next week!
Challenge #4: I snack. A lot.
I eat when I’m stressed. I get cravings frequently for foods I know are bad for me and have difficulty saying no to them. Whenever there is a catered lunch at work, even if I’m not a part of it, the leftovers are available in the kitchens, and they are definitely not Whole30-friendly.
Strategy: I have found that having a protein-heavy breakfast means I don’t snack in the morning, and don’t have the desire to. I’m planning on continuing this with Whole30. For the afternoon cravings, I am hoping that having a more substantial lunch than just salad will also cut down on the amount of snacking in the afternoon. I’m going to be tracking exactly what I ate and when, and whether I have any cravings for snacks.
I will admit that my strategy for this one is a bit more wishy-washy. I’m hoping that by logging what I’m eating, when, and how it makes me feel, I’ll be able to figure out what works and what doesn’t for me. I’m a big proponent of data for this, even if it is imperfect.
Challenge #5: I don’t like the idea of eating a lot of fat
I get what the Hartwigs are saying. I hear them. But that doesn’t make this one easy for me. My typical meal, I’m looking to have a lot of protein and a tiny bit of fat. This is not the Whole30 way.
Strategy: It’s only 30 days. If my body doesn’t react well to eating more fat, it won’t have a long term impact to my weight. am going to be tracking my meals to track how I’m feeling, and while that will include looking at macro and calorie counts, I will have to remind myself that I am resetting everything I thought about food,
Tomorrow I start Whole30. I’m genuinely excited for it. I’m excited to not eat crap and not feel like crap. I’m hoping my joint inflammation will go down and my skin will be more clear of acne and eczema. I’m hoping my bloating will go down. I’m hoping to reset my relationship with food and be able to eat intuitively.
Things I have working on my side:
- I have a plan, and have been thoughtful in my approach. I know they say to just start ASAP, but for me, that would mean failure.
- I cut caffeine and artificial sweeteners out of my diet in 2012.
- I don’t keep snacks in the house. The only snack I keep in the house are frozen blueberries, which I typically eat 1-2 cups of a few times a week.
- I have my friends doing it at the same time.
- I have the luxury of having an organic grocery store within 2 blocks, and I’m able to afford to eat organic and naturally raised products where it’s beneficial.
- I know the challenges, and I’m still determined to do this.
Here’s hoping I get through the next 30 days!