My experience with the Whole30
In my first two years as a high school English teacher, I gained 45 pounds, and I felt miserable. The hours of correcting in the evenings, the pressure to meet deadlines and improve test scores — it became easier and easier to eat what I considered to be convenient food (fast food, pizza, etc.) and to make excuses for why I just couldn’t make it to the gym that day.
With the pace I was keeping, I was headed down a road of burnout and a road towards major health issues.
As teachers, we often put our students and our jobs ahead of ourselves and our health — and sometimes even ahead of our families and loved ones. I don’t think this is ever intentional — somehow, it just happens. It just creeps up on many of us slowly, day by day, week by week.
I decided last year that I needed a real change. I needed to change my relationship with food completely. I needed a lifestyle change that would help restore my metabolism, help my energy, help my moods, and help me be my best self both in the classroom and at home.
Enter Whole 30. I did two Whole 30’s this year, and I was hooked. I felt better than I had in a long time. My headaches went away. I slept better. I was full faster. I wasn’t a slave to calorie counting.
Don’t get me wrong — it was HARD. Most days. HARD. Sometimes I wanted to punch the wall. I would clench my fists in frustration. I would walk away from the teacher’s lounge goodies with a sense of loss. But, at then end of my 30 days, I felt freedom I hadn’t felt in a long time. I felt a deep sense of accomplishment and control–I felt that I had power over food instead of food having power over me.
To help anyone interested in doing a Whole 30, I’ve created a list of 10 suggestions to help you on a Whole 30 journey!
1.Read up on the Whole30
Start your Whole30 on the right foot by reading up on the reasoning and origins of the Whole30, learning about compliant and non-compliant foods, and mentally preparing for the ups and downs the month may bring.
You can go the print book route, but you can also find a TON of free information online. I personally love the feel of holding a book in my hands, marking it up, and folding pages, etc. as I read; however, you can find ample information online through the Whole30 site and also various bloggers.
Check out It Starts With Food if you aren’t familiar with an anti-inflammation diet like Paleo or Whole30. This book breaks down the rationale behind how food affects the body.
Check out The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom to read up on the program before you begin. The book also contains a lot of great recipes.
If you want to go all out on preparing for the Whole30, you can also check out The Whole30 Day by Day: Your Daily Guide to Whole30 Success and The Whole30 Fast & Easy Cookbook: 150 Simply Delicious Everyday Recipes for Your Whole30
2. Have your fridge stocked with Whole30 compliant food
I decided to do my most recent Whole30 on a whim after a week-long camping trip. What I didn’t think about was that my fridge was pretty bare.
I luckily had an RxBar* left over from camping, and I had a solid stock of Ice Age meals in the freezer. I got through Sunday, but if I could have done it over again, I would have started Monday — with a fully stocked fridge.
*RxBars are no longer officially a Whole30 approved partner although the ingredients on many of the bars are compliant. See the Whole30 stance on RxBars here.
3. Seek out support on social media
When I completed my first Whole 30, I did it in complete isolation — and it was so hard. I didn’t realize that such an extensive network of Whole30 bloggers, Instagrammers, etc. existed!
I stumbled upon, and started following, Whole30 recipes on Instagram a few months after my first Whole30, as a way to have my Instagram feed fill with healthy foods. Since then, Whole30 recipes introduced me so many Whole30 and Paleo Instagrammers and bloggers–I love the community and support, and I’m so thankful I stumbled into it!
4. Have quick snacks and meals ready
Tired after work? Me too. And, the combination of hunger and exhaustion tempted me to throw in the towel on several occasions. To combat this dangerous combination, I had to have quick go-to snacks and meals to make in a pinch.
Meal prepping on Sunday was essential for me — I batch prepped food and could quickly pull out leftovers when I faced exhaustion after work. Keeping easy snacks like nuts, apples, etc. on hand also helped.
For my next Whole30, I plan to try my new Instant Pot as a time saving tool! I have never used one before, so I can’t fully recommend it! But, from the reviews I’ve read, it seems like an essential time-saving kitchen appliance!
5. Plan for cravings
Your body may take a few days to adjust to the Whole 30, and you may fight some intense cravings.
The first day on my most recent Whole 30, I craved a Coke Zero so badly! I imagined how a cold, bubbly coke over ice would compliment my meals so well. I let out an audible sigh each time I opened the fridge and saw the Coke Zeros taunting me from the shelf (my husband still drinks them). Cravings will happen. And, planning for them can be essential to a successful Whole30.
For me, I needed a replacement drink when I had a Coke Zero craving. I don’t typically buy bottled water, but to get me through my craving time, I would buy “fancy” bottled water. It helped me feel like I was getting a treat, and it was an easy alternative to grab from the fridge when I really wanted to grab a Coke Zero!
6. Keep moving and stay busy
You may not have the energy to do intense workouts while on your Whole30, but keeping some movement in your day will definitely help take your mind off your cravings.
Cleaning, organizing, light walking, writing, crafting — these all kept my mind and body busy during my two Whole30s this past year. Find a new passion or a new hobby to start learning this month to keep you distracted! I plan to work on sports photography and learning the Adobe suite while I’m not planning recipes!
7. Plan for social events
Even with the most careful planning, social events will come up during your Whole30. It’s extremely hard to hibernate and avoid all social activity for 30 days. I thought I had my social calendar mitigated and meticulously mapped out for my first Whole30, but alas, I forgot out the January birthday celebration at work or the donuts at the all-staff meeting. My brother’s birthday also falls during January, and my mom usually hosts a family dinner.
You’ll need to plan for the inevitable social events. My go-to strategy for staff celebrations is to bring my own snack. While my co-workers munch on donuts, I pull out a pack of sunflower seeds or bite into an apple. If they are drinking a fancy coffee, I will make my favorite tea.
For home celebrations, I may bring my own meal sides or ask if the meat can be cooked plain for me (depending on who’s hosting!). And, at restaurants, I try to plan ahead by looking at the menu. If there isn’t anything to eat on the menu, I will eat ahead of time.
Socializing, while a challenge at times, can also be good. It can help keep your mind off the 30 days and make the month more manageable!
8. Keep a calendar – check off days
For me, I find something so satisfying when I put my pen to paper and check off when I complete a day. I write out all 30 days on a post it, stick it to my fridge, and check the days off one-by-one.
This check off system has saved me from cheating once or twice, too! When I wanted to quit, I saw the check marks staring at me as I opened the fridge, reminding me to keep going!
9. Understand that people may not want to talk about your experience
If you fall in love with how you feel and with the Whole30 in general (like I did!), you may want to tell the world! But, just beware that the world may not want to hear about it.
I was/am so in love with the Whole30, but when I tried to tell people, I got a variety of reactions–mostly negative. I wanted desperately for people to try the Whole30 and love it as much as I did — but it didn’t work out that way. Instead of taking it personally, I learned to find comfort and support on Instagram and other online communities.
When people ask me how I’ve lost weight, why I’m not eating a certain food, or why I look so much happier, I now just mention the Whole30 and say, “If you want to talk about it sometime, let me know!”
10. Work on a plan for after the Whole 30
I saved this step for the last 5 days of my Whole30s. Until this point in the program, I was just in day-to-day survival mode. However, when I turned down the homestretch and hit the 5-day-left mark, I started to feel a sense of dread and anxiety instead of elation that I should have felt that close to the finish line.
I do better when I have a strict plan to follow and a strict yes/no list for eating. The end of Whole30 meant gray areas, muddy waters, and the potential to relapse back into my typical out-of-control eating.
Fortunately, Whole30 has a lot of resources and readings for easing the transition back into “everyday” life. I spent my last few days planning for “life after,” and it was time well spent. Was I perfect after? No. Did I eventually relapse back into old eating habits? Yes. But my relapses were temporary, and to get back on track, I did a few days of strict Whole30 eating again.
Overall, the Whole30 changed my relationship with food and taught me that I can be in control over my eating. It has connected me with a passionate group of Instagrammers, bloggers, and others who are on a health journey, like myself.
For the teachers reading this: we so often put others ahead of ourselves, but it’s time to put ourselves first! The Whole30 is do-able on any schedule, any budget, or any experience-level. If you want to talk about it sometime, let me know! 🙂 @theprairieplanner (Instagram) or firstname.lastname@example.org