Thinking of doing a Whole30? I’m not going to lie—it’s challenging—but so worth it. Get off sugar, minimize cravings, and learn to love real food. Here are 10 strategies to help you through your first Whole 30.
I completed my one and only Whole 30 in June 2013, which obviously makes me an expert—not!! But I did complete one and I continue to eat primarily this way, so I can at least tell you what works for me. I wrote about how it changed my life here. It truly did. But I did not know the impact it would have when I was doing it. At that time, I had no idea that I had done something that would dramatically change for the better, how I eat.
Be sure to visit the Whole 30 website!
There is a lot of debate about what is the best way to eat. I am totally guilty of always thinking that my way is best. That being said, I’m not trying to convince anyone else to do a Whole 30. However, if you have the above goals and you are thinking of doing one, these strategies work.
For what it’s worth, it totally changed how I look at food. People can say all they want about moderation and that there is “no bad food.” But that’s not true. The stores are filled with foods designed to override your hunger so that you overeat and induce cravings. Those little serving sizes? They are just a gateway to overeating foods that will raise your blood sugar and cause you to gain weight.
The thing is, completing your first Whole 30 is not easy. However, at some point you begin to feel really good. Really good. Mind-blowing good. Even though I felt better than I had ever felt before or since, it still was hard to get through the 30 days. Not so much because it’s hard to eat this way but hard because most of my world doesn’t eat this way. So, it takes a real commitment to stick with it. It was so worth it though.
How did my life change? Here it is in a nutshell. I completely quit using any artificial sweeteners, even the supposedly “healthy” ones. I lost my sweet tooth and rarely eat sugar or fake foods. I became fearless about eating healthy fats. I quit snacking. I rarely crave junk or fast food. Cravings are mostly a thing of the past.
I still enjoy food but it doesn’t rule my life like it used to.
But to get those benefits, you have to make it through your Whole 30. Again, I am not saying everyone needs to do this, but if you are thinking about it; I encourage you to read up and go for it. Here are the strategies to help you through your Whole 30.
1. Read the books. Especially It Starts with Food
This was THE book when I did my Whole 30 and I think it has the best information about why it’s worth doing. It tells you why you are doing what you are doing. You are reprogramming your brain and healing your body. Unfortunately, these can’t be shown on the scale. So knowing why you are doing what you are doing really helps with keeping you committed to your 30 days.
2. Don’t Fight the Rules—Just do It!
The program may seem overly strict but here is a reason for this. The purpose is to heal not only food-related damage to your body, but a lifetime of psychological damage. Creators of food products have designed foods so that we crave them and so that we will eat them well beyond when we are full. Many people think they have no willpower when in fact, there is an entire food industry dedicated to making them overeat!
Whole 30 is your way out of that crap.
3. Join the Forum
Your support will probably not come from friends and family. It’s not because they don’t love you. It’s because the majority of people just don’t understand the importance of eating real food. So you have to find another support system for Whole 30. It’s so worth it!
The Whole 30 Forum is an amazing resource. I was on there every day, before work and after work. There are categories for every situation and people of all levels of experience. The moderators are intelligent, sensitive, and knowledgeable. I learned so much from the forum and I can’t recommend it enough.
This is a link to a blog post from the Whole 30 website. It discusses following the rules and support in the official forums that I recommend vs. unofficial Facebook groups.
4. Get the Newsletter
Whole 30 has a daily newsletter for the duration of the 30 days. Because every day brings new challenges, feelings, and physical challenges; it is extremely helpful to have a daily email to let you know what you can expect and strategies for dealing with it.
5. Keep a Journal
I kept a journal through my Whole 30 journey and I’m so glad I did. I wrote everything I ate and how I felt. I loved seeing all the vegetables I was eating!
At one point in the middle, I started feeling lethargic. When I looked over my journal, I realized that I wasn’t eating starchy vegetables. I started adding sweet potatoes to at least one meal a day and that helped a lot!
6. Eat Your Carbs
It’s tempting to think of Whole 30 as a low carb diet because you aren’t eating grains or beans. But it’s not. You can eat plenty of carbs and I encourage you to. These carbs include sweet potatoes, winter squash, carrots, and fruit. I included a moderate amount with each meal and it made a huge difference in how I felt. Remember the journal? When I started feeling not-so-great, I tracked it to not eating enough carbs. When I started eating more potatoes, I began feeling better.
7. Don’t Think of it as a Diet
Because you are giving up so many different foods; it is easy to think of Whole 30 as a diet. It’s not! I can’t emphasize that enough. And if you cut out fat and carbs or reduce serving sizes, you will not get the most out of your Whole 30.
You need to retrain your body to eat properly. To stay satiated between meals or at night, you need to eat enough at your meals. Whole 30 provides a template for creating your meals. If you follow this, you won’t get hungry. You may not lose weight initially but you won’t be putting on the pounds either.
As your body and mind adjust to Whole 30, you will also eat in line with what your body’s needs actually are. I lost about 3 pounds during my Whole 30 and that was okay.
8. Eat Fat
Eating fat is scary for many people. We have been brainwashed into thinking fat is bad. How often have your heard that butter, lard, beef, and other fats are bad for you. It’s just not true. Fats are essential for the proper functioning of our bodies and we need fats for proper fat burning.
What makes us fat are the kinds of foods that interfere with our food processing hormones. When we eat lots of sugar and foods that act like sugar in our body, then our body cannot burn fat for energy the way it is designed to. The culprit is not too much fat in your diet—it’s too many sugars and foods that act like sugars.
Whole 30 allows you to cook in healthy fats. In addition to that, it tells you to add additional fat to your meal. For people who have been trying to cut the fat out for years, this can be scary. But fat not only helps our bodies function better, it makes food taste better, and it keeps us comfortable for longer.
9. Eat Enough
I used to fear being hungry. I would not only eat all my meals but I would also carry around snacks. It seemed like I was hungry all the time. After my Whole 30, I didn’t need to snack—my meals kept me going from one meal to the next.
My hunger changed too. I would get hungry as meal time approached but it wasn’t a ravenous “I HAVE to eat!” kind of hunger. It was a gradual gentle hunger that gently built until it was time to eat. I could easily go 5 or 6 hours without eating.
10. Be Open
Be open to all the discoveries you’ll make about your relationship with food. You will find out what foods are most addicting for you and what foods may be causing physical problems. Everyone is different. I learned that wheat really hurts my digestive system. I can tolerate dairy but I lost my desire to have it with every meal.
I learned to eat vegetables at all my meals and still do. I tried sardines and hated them no matter how hungry I was. I started drinking and then making kombucha. (Now it’s bone broth—I always have to be making some weird stuff!)
Coffee was allowed but sweeteners and dairy are not. As soon as my 30 days were up, I went right back to my coffee with cream. I didn’t realize I was addicted to sweets in the form of artificial sweeteners. Giving those up was hard. However, after my 30 days, I couldn’t tolerate the artificial sweeteners anymore. Your tastes WILL change.
And those are my 10 strategies to help you through your first Whole 30.
That’s it! That’s what got me through my 30 days on Whole 30. If you are curious go check out the Whole 30 website.
I love reading your comments and hearing how you are living your own Think Big Life. Please feel free to join the conversation!
Here are my favorite Whole 30 Books. I own them and still refer to them! (Affiliate links: See my full disclosure here.)
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I'm a former counselor, career services leader, and college advisor. Now I coach and write at My Think Big Life promoting health and personal growth.