There are the rules, there are strong recommendations, and there is the spirit of the Whole 30 program. Think of the rules as the very bottom line. In order to do a true round of Whole 30, you must follow the rules. I am busy with my own life and raising 2 spirited toddler boys, so I’m not going to have time to come over and check on you, okay? So, I’ll assume you are following the rules.
There are also recommendations that are strongly encouraged for getting the most out of your 30 days; these are things like not snacking, eating your meals per the vegetable, protein and healthy fat template, keeping your fruit to 1-2 servings, saving Rx and Larabars for emergency situations, eating your food rather than sucking down fruit smoothies, and only buying organic and grassfed/finished meat. You can totally finish a round and stay 100% compliant, but the purpose of committing to this program isn’t just about the food. It is also about changing your habits, mindsets and behaviors around food, and to do that, you’re going to have to get honest with yourself.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve worked really hard at letting my ego go, accepting feedback, and reflecting on that to better myself. My first Whole 30 experience was a game changer when it came to reflecting on how I had been feeding myself. I had a whole lot of honesty to come face to face with. I had been pregnant or postpartum since September of 2014 and making a whole lot of excuses since way before then. I was pregnant! I was pregnant and working full time! I just had a baby! I was working full time and had a baby! You see the pattern… I have a full-blown sugar addiction and ice cream was often my reward or comfort when I deserved it or needed it. Not good, friends.
One might be shocked to know that I used to be a master level personal trainer and group exercise instructor. I worked out for a living, you guys. Even then, I had an ice cream ‘problem’. I just had the extra calories to spare because I was doing a ridiculous amount of moving my body. So, you see, my sugar dragon has been breathing fire for a long, long time. I just didn’t have a name for it then. Fast forward to September 2017, I was 5 months postpartum, recovering from a c-section delivery and ready to feel differently. The choices I had been making weren’t really working out for me anymore.
Let’s get to the point, shall we? I could have gone through my entire first round following the rules to a T. I could have refrained from eating all the things on the ‘NO’ list (legumes, sugar, alcohol, grains, soy, MSG…etc) and shoved cashew cookie larabars in my face, or eaten a bunch of red, ripe strawberries with coconut butter every night and still stayed completely compliant, but I wouldn’t have been addressing my deep rooted sugar issue or been honest with myself. My sugar dragon would be just as strong and firey (is firey a word?) as it was on Day 1.
I cut WAY back on my fruit intake for this very reason. It is delicious and healthy and totally allowed, but for me, personally, I needed to make sure I ate it earlier in the day and ALWAYS with a meal- as in, strawberries in my salad, clementine next to my eggs, with my meal. I don’t think I had fruit with dinner more than a handful of times because if I’m being honest, any sweet at the end of the day would make me think and want dessert and I wasn’t about to let those cravings destroy me. I wanted to not only be compliant, but I wanted to embrace the spirit of what Whole 30 is about and I wanted to be in a different place than when I began.
I love to write things down. In a world of technology, I love a fancy pen and a pretty journal. I write thoughts, observations, doodles, and list Non-Scale Victories as they come. Practicing a little mindfulness, I love to come up with a mantra for challenging days to remind myself that I am enough, I am strong and I am okay. You pick what works for you. My journal provides the space for me to remember why my health and my happiness is more important than making emotional food choices. I am able to record and reflect privately. Seeing my successes keeps me motivated and writing about the hard stuff helps me figure out how to move forward.
If you aren’t into the blank slate journal approach, consider Melissa Hartwig’s book Whole 30 Day by Day. It constantly comes up in our Facebook group as an amazing resource to keep you on track.
“It invites me daily to track what I eat and how I feel physically and emotionally. There have been light bulb moments from that and it also informs my choices going forward in the 30 days. As well, I can save it and look back as I do future rounds and compare my experiences.”
“I love it because I can keep it with me and when I start feeling like I can’t do this I read the section I am on and realize all is normal. I also enjoy answering the questions each night. It keeps me accountable and makes me feel proud when I complete each day.”
“I used it, love it and continue to use it on subsequent rounds! 1. I read the next day info the night before to mentally prepare for the next day! 2. Writing things down every day (good and bad) helped me see my learning progress. It reminded me to find something good even on the worst days. 3. The notes and tips were spot on and very encouraging. 4. It’s is small enough to carry around, even when traveling. Keep that extra will power boost with me all the time. 5. Great for re- introduction too. Perfect place to keep copious notes. 6. Nice pocket reference!”
Maybe you don’t want to write anything down, and that’s okay too, but I would encourage you to find time to think about the spirit of the program and make some changes to your Whole 30 so you really get the most out of it. Be honest with yourself. Are you snacking because you’re bored? Are you choosing an apple and nut butter instead of a mini meal? Are you going through the motions or are you doing the hard work to change what wasn’t working for you? Decide what you want out of your 30 days and then make it happen. You can.