This January, like so many others around the world, I decided to do another round of Whole30. I *think* it's my fourth (although if memory serves, round three ended after about 2 weeks!) but this is my first one as a vegetarian. And let me tell you, this was a tough mother to get through! I did it with my sister and co-creator of our podcast, Life As We Try It, and we recently aired our episode on the Whole30 earlier this week. (Check it out on iTunes, Google Play and Spotify if you want our full deep dive as we paired it with a Whole30 approved mocktail!)
So for those who are curious about doing your own Whole30, I thought I would share, in no particular order, a few of my tips and feedback on what you may also expect to experience during your 30 days:
1. Meal planning is key - Whole30 came out with a very helpful timeline here and while there may be a certain point in the program where you can expect serious food boredom, I find this can happen at any time if you don't take a little time to plan ahead. Around week 3 of my program (right on track according to the timeline!) I forced myself to dig out a few recipes, make a grocery list and actually write out a menu for the week. For me this was a complete life saviour as this is also a time when the desire to quit is high. I'm talking about testing all of your limits related to food and habit!
2. Use the community - Whole30 has quickly become one of the biggest communities for those trying to do elimination diets or detoxes. The first one I did was way back in 2014 before Instagram had really hit its stride and you didn't have the sense of community within the Whole30 followers. All you have to do now is search #whole30 on any social platform and you can expect a deluge of recipes, support, and thank god, memes! I even went down a complete reddit hole one night when I was particularly desperate and it helped reading about others in the same boat!
3. Weight loss is not the #1 goal - While this will vary significantly from person to person, I have found that with each Whole30 I've completed, I've lost less weight. The main goal of the 30 days is to eat real food. So cut out all the crap and allergens that our body gets overloaded with and see how we react. I first came to it as a way to figure out some food sensitivities. I now know how my body reacts to them so I can make informed decisions. Yes, I may normally be gluten free (not only do I get the fun bloat and tummy issues, but I get weird spots of rashes on elbows, knee caps and one lone finger...bizarre!), but if I decide I'm gonna eat the damn pizza or snack on some ooey gooey gluten filled treat when out with girlfriends or travelling, then I will. We're all adults here. But thanks to my first two rounds of Whole30 and reintroducing the foods afterward, I was able to get some real answers on how certain foods affect me.
4. There's no hiding from your habits - Since I have done a few of these, my main goal with this edition was to see what habits I've settled into and how they affect my overall mood and outlook. How many of us pour a glass of wine after a long day, because we're bored, or because XYZ? I found this was a habit I was slipping into, especially in the lead up to the holidays. Which in our family starts sometime around October thanks to a steady stream of birthdays, holidays and the move toward hibernation in cold dark winters! So even though I may have almost wept by my third weekend of no booze watching my boyfriend pop a beer or pour himself a G&T, I knew I would feel better at the end after giving my liver and body a full 30 days off. Surprisingly this time, I did not miss the sweet stuff as much. My first one? I was having vivd dreams of salted caramel shortbread (and you can bet your ass that was my first treat on day 31). This time? I don't even know what "treat" I would want. I got groceries yesterday - which would include any food I wanted since Whole30 ends today - but I walked up and down the aisles not "craving" anything. But that glass of wine tomorrow? I'm going to savour every slow sip!
5. Maybe not for the veggies - As this was my first Whole30 as a vegetarian, I'm not sure I would advise it to other veggies. OR, better yet, perhaps get guidance from a proper nutritionist who can help meal plan and ensure you are getting enough nutrients. I bent the rules with one minor caveat. Along with no wheat, gluten, grains, soy, dairy, sugar and alcohol, a traditional Whole30 will not allow legumes or beans either. I added these in for more protein sources. Again, we're all adults so you do you boo. If you want to eat eggs 3 meals a day for protein, go for it. But for me, I wanted to focus on whole foods for this month so allowed beans and chickpeas. Others may opt to add in soy or other vegan friendly protein sources but this is what worked for me. Having said that, I'm not sure I noticed the surge in energy most report during the 30 days (and that I have experienced in the past) because I perhaps wasn't taking in enough protein or complex proteins that I'd normally get from quinoa or other balanced meals. (My family also has a history of low iron that causes energy slumps so this could be a result of me being a veggie and possibly needing iron supplements again so always check in with your doc or nutritionist).
6. Do expect clearer skin and clothes fitting better - Without overloading your body with sugar, dairy and gluten, you can expect less bloating overall for the month and the lack of sugar and booze will certainly do wonders for your skin! I'm not one to struggle with much acne but I did notice again a bit of a glow to my skin, which is always welcome, but especially in January when the summer tan has long since faded.
7. Hang in there - As I mentioned, this round seemed to affect my mood much more than in the past. I'm not sure if it's because I work from home now, it's effing cold in Canada in January or this particular season in my life just made things trickier. BUT, I am very glad I can stand here on my last day and say I did it! There will be moments (perhaps lots and lots of moments) when you'll just feel like giving in, quitting or saying F this. I have been there. A LOT this round. But like I said, rely on your community, get inspired with new meal ideas and focus on the positive. Maybe you don't get that glass of wine with friends, but you get to smugly wake up with zero hangover! Sure you missed that birthday cake at your friends party, but you know what? You can have cake on day 31. If you really really want to, you can have whatever you want on day 31. It's not forever (thank f**k) and that's what really pulled me through.
YOU GOT THIS. ✨
Have you ever done a Whole30? I'd love to hear your experiences! And if you're thinking about it and have any questions, please ask away! Now I'm off to put my champagne in the fridge so it's ice cold for my mimosa tomorrow 😅
Celebrating the end of another successful round of Whole30!