Yeah, I was the genius who thought I could start a Whole30 with just a simple list of things to NOT eat. That did not go well #failedwhole30. At a minimum, visit this Whole30 website that tells you the basics of the program.
For me, reading It Starts With Food was critical, because it really helped me understand the WHY to this program. It’s a great book that give enough education to be empowering without getting too science-y to be overwhelming. And, I needed to understand why eating more fat wouldn’t make me fat #lowfatgeneration or lots of eggs wouldn’t raise my cholesterol. Or understand that I wasn’t struggling with sugar due to lack of willpower, there was SCIENCE behind my cravings!
Cut the Crap
Excuse the gruff expression, but seriously, get the tempting food OUT. You will waste so much willpower being around food that you are tempted to eat. I know most of you share homes/kitchens/meals with other people, most of whom are not doing a Whole30. So, at least ask them to meet you in the middle – try to agree to at least get out of the house YOUR personal temptations. For example, I could care less if Goldfish crackers are around, but brownies, cookies, or cakes used to be my sugar addict’s biggest trigger.
If your family members aren’t going for getting your triggers out of the house, at least get them out of SIGHT. Visual cues are huge in food addictions and challenges. Put their food in a separate cupboard, or better yet, tell them to stick it where only they know it is. It will be a lot easier to be successful if you don’t have to reach around the Oreos to get your coconut milk!
Find your WHY and tell someone
Whether it’s to your significant other, bestie, child, entire IG following…verbalize it. Then write it down and put it somewhere where you will see it. WHY did you want to do this? And I challenge you to go deeper than, “I want to lose 10 lbs” or “I want to be healthier” – WHY do you want those things?? This WHY is your life preserver in those moments when you are so OVER this.
My Why: Mostly my sugar addiction – I was tired of food having so much power over me and wrestling with that relationship constantly. Also, I had struggled for decades with acne and wanted better skin. I was also tired all the time and couldn’t get through the day without a nap.
Homework – I have all my clients print out and highlight the non-scale victories (NSVs) that they want to see change. Seeing changes in these NSVs will be really motivating to make lifelong changes to your relationship with food! (It also gives less power to just the number on the scale ; )
Hide (or toss) the scale
Seriously, that little hunk of glass/plastic/metal is not your friend and does not determine your worth or success. We are going to focus a lot on NON-scale victories. There is a reason that not weighing yourself is a RULE, not just a recommendation – keep your sights focused on the bigger picture.
I have coached over 1000 clients. It has never (nope, not ONCE!) been motivating or helpful to step on the scale. Stop lying to yourself that it will be! See link here for more details on why not weighing yourself is one of the rules: https://whole30.com/step-seven/
Find your Exit Buddy
An exit buddy is someone you reach out to before you decide to abandon ship – your spouse, bestie, personal trainer, IG following…whomever! Approach them before you start and let them know you really want to do this, why, and if they will help you remember that when you are struggling to stay committed. All I ask is that IF you are looking hard at throwing in the towel on your Whole30…you text or call that person.
But, be realistic – sometimes your spouse or bestie aren’t the best choice, as they might just tell you “it’s no big deal” to have the drink or chocolate. Sometimes a less emotionally connected person, like an accountability buddy from the gym might be a better choice.
All the participants I know who have used the Exit Buddy have been successful in not abandoning that ship (and they are so glad they did!). Cause, generally, you don’t really want to give up on your goals – you are just stressed, tired, worn out, frustrated, etc. Talk it out to someone, connection is usually what you truly need, not the cookie!
Develop a label-reading habit
This is really just a good life skill. When you put something into your cart/mouth, you are accepting what ingredients are in it. Are you really ok with there being more grams of sugar in your healthy yogurt than a Snickers bar? Would you have made that choice if you knew?
A few Whole30 specific label reading tips:
There are two main reasons why something is not compliant once you check the label:
- It has dairy, grains, sugar, legumes, soy, alcohol – a really easy way to scan for this – if it has the allergen warning in bold that says “Contains: Dairy, Soy, Wheat” etc. that will quickly tell you if this is compliant. Dairy, soy, and wheat are always OUT on a Whole30!
- It has an inflammatory additive that’s not allowed. For #2, bring and use the Allowed Additives here (or screen shot it on your phone) to determine if an additive on the label is ok or not.
Also, as you do, you will come across a lot of sneaky names for sugar (see photo below). Keep in mind if you see any of these, that item is OUT for the 30 days.
It’s NOT enough to read the nutrition facts and see how many grams of sugar are in it. It could have 0g sugar but still contain an artificial sweetener, which makes it not compliant. Or it could have 6g of sugar in the nutrition facts but all that coming from fruit in the product and that is compliant. Whole30 goes by the ingredients, not just the nutrition facts!
Read this “Can I have ______” article – Trust me, it will save you so much time and wondering. I can’t tell you how many times I have pointed people towards this article to know if they can have smoothies, fruit juice, fries at restaurants, etc.
Get in the habit of meal planning and prepping
Yes, you can get through a Whole30 eating the same 5 meals over and over and over. But are you building a sustainable habit or just getting through the 30 days (i.e. putting yourself on a “diet”)? You deserve more than just that diet mentality!
Meal planning is the #1 habit that I’ve seen change my client’s relationship with food and something I feel has been point critical in conquering my sugar dragon as well. It’s also part of the reason why I failed my first #whole30 – I didn’t have a plan, just a list of foods NOT to eat.
You make on average 221 food decisions a DAY. That can quickly exhaust your willpower. When we don’t have a meal plan and the ingredients to execute it, the wiggle room can get dangerous. Without a meal plan, my meals end up relying more on less nourishing foods, which leave me less satiated and “snacky.” Without a meal plan, my meals aren’t ready when I am hungry, which means my blood sugar gets low and allll the sweet things start sounding good (i.e cravings increase), as my body starts craving a quick hit of energy.
Whole30 did a great thorough interview and article with me on this topic. It spells out exactly, step by step, how I meal plan and prep (spoiler – I don’t do a gigantic all at once meal prep on the weekend). It’s a rhythm that has worked for me in being sustainable. Because that’s the goal my friend, building *sustainable* healthy habits around food.
Prepare your If/Then Statements
Willpower can take a back seat if you make your decision ahead of time. This preparation technique based on habit research can be game-changing in challenging social situations. What scenarios do you see potentially tripping you up? Date night with your husband? Friday donut day at the office? Being at a party? Out to happy hour with friends? Then take the time to make this If/Then plan:
- IF I’m on a date with my husband, THEN…(you’ll go to Chipotle and order their compliant Whole30 Bowl? You’ll research ahead of time at your favorite restaurant to find something compliant?)
- IF someone brings donuts into the office (my fave!), THEN…(you’ll stay out of the office break room that day? You’ll bring a compliant snack to eat instead? You’ll enlist your office bestie to help hold you accountable?)
- IF you are at a party and there is nothing compliant, THEN…(you’ll bring a CHOMPS stick and Rxbar in your pocket? you will mingle for an hour and then excuse yourself? Or, even better, you will talk to the host(ess) ahead of time and bring a dish like my brisket sliders so you know you have something to eat?)
It’s really common for repeat Whole30ers to come into this with the thought that they will do this round as a Whole30 + ______ (Whole30 + gluten-free grains, or Whole30 + their protein drink with stevia). I have never seen that go well, as it challenges the black and white rules from the get-go and often leads to other “exceptions” and abandonment entirely of their Whole30.
Please read through this article – yes, 100% compliant really does make a difference and you get what you pay for! Plus, you are worth keeping this commitment to yourself – commit now to give this round 100% compliance!
Also, if this is your second round, please be aware that many find the second round harder than the first. You’re coming in with expectations, it’s no longer new and exciting. Be better prepared for what many experience their second round by reading this article.
If you are feeling overwhelmed
I want you to think back to when you started to drive. I learned to drive in downtown Houston (literally downtown – my instructor thought that if you could drive in downtown with traffic, five highways, and crazy people you could succeed anywhere! Ha! #soscary). I remember trying to think about my speed, my mirrors, my distance from other cars, my accelerating (“No, merge onto the freeway faster!”). But now, I can drive, manage my kids’ fights, and put on make up all at the same time.
You will hit your stride, this will get easier and you will be talking the lingo and walking the walk like a Whole30 pro in no time. Just like driving. And giving up won’t get you to your destination.
You’ve got this, my friend! I am rooting for you!!