Monday, April 7, 2014

A Whole30 How-To

Many of my friends -- in real life, on Facebook, on Instagram, and through this very blog -- have expressed interest in adopting a Whole30 or Paleo lifestyle, which is super exciting to me, as I know how amazing I feel right now, and I want absolutely everyone to feel this good.

With this surge of interest, I have gotten a lot of questions as to how to even start such a transformation. So, I thought that putting all of that information in one place would be beneficial.

I'm interested in how many of you are already following a Paleo or Whole30 nutritional plan -- and how many of you plan to start. Please leave a comment if you are already or if you are contemplating joining me on this adventure.

But before we jump to the comments, let's first talk about some tips for going Paleo or starting the Whole30 Challenge. :)

1. Read/research as much as possible: there is no such thing as too much information when it comes to making a huge lifestyle change.

Because I personally jumped straight into Whole30, I did a ton of research on that website in particular. If you don't look at anything else on the site, I strongly recommend you check out the Eight Steps for Beginners, the Program Rules, and the Meal Planning Template. There are also a ton of other downloadable documents that will assist you in getting started.

In addition, I found it helpful to read about the why along with the lists of what I couldn't eat (As in all aspects of my life, I need my nutrition to make sense, and I need the rationale behind excluding/including various items in order to really get behind it myself.) So, I read some books. First, It Starts With Food was written by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig, the founders of Whole30, and includes the science (and oftentimes psychology) behind every single component of the program, but all of the jargon and explanations are put into layman's terms. It also includes several personal testimonials, as anecdotal evidence (and individual research) is a key component of the program. I also read parts of Wheat Belly (prior to starting Whole30 and when I was contemplating going gluten-free).

Finally, there are excellent resources splattered across the Internet. My favorite sources for recipes are Nom Nom Paleo, Stupid Easy Paleo, The Clothes Make the Girl, and Plaid & Paleo. I also pinned a bunch of Whole30 recipes to my Whole30 (Half-Crazy) Pinterest board so that I had easy access to a bunch of different options -- all just a click away.

2. Clean out your cupboards: if non-compliant options are not readily available, you will not be tempted to eat them.

This is not an optional step. Seriously, go through your cabinets and your refrigerator item by item and read the labels. If you have things that are compliant, keep them. If you have things that are not compliant, either throw them away or donate them to a food pantry or a friend: get rid of them. I don't care how healthy they seem (quinoa, Greek yogurt, string cheese, peanut butter, Lean Cuisines, etc.), if they are non-compliant, they do not get to stay in your possession.

At this point, your cabinets will likely be very, very empty. When I started my Whole30, I literally carted five paper bags worth of food -- everything from bacon to salad dressing to cereal to pasta -- to one of my former student's houses. I needed room for my new, compliant food, but mostly I just needed to get rid of temptation.

For those of you who live with other human beings who may not be participating in this wondrous lifestyle change, create a space for non-compliant food, preferably a space where you will not keep compliant food, places where your eyes will not gravitate when looking for food. Maybe you have a separate cupboard for the non-Paleo people (and honestly, you will not need much pantry space for your compliant food -- I maybe need one shelf). Maybe the bottom shelf in the fridge and the top shelf in the freezer are their spaces.

Do your best in clearing your kitchen of "bad" food.

3. Prepare for your first week: it is important to plan each and every meal for the entire week (not one day at a time), make your grocery list (to restock your likely empty cupboards and fridge), and prepare meals as much as possible.

I have talked at length about how to plan for meals and create grocery lists based on those meal plans, so I am not going to go into too much detail here. Please just know that this is not an option, and it is definitely not advisable to try and plan meals day-by-day; obviously plans can change, forcing you to revise your original meal plan, but counting on that only sets you up for failure.

What I haven't talked about much on the blog is spending a day (or a couple of hours) prepping meals. The reason I haven't mentioned this strategy is because I do not personally partake in it (I actually find chopping veggies and cooking meals meditative, so I opt to do that each day); however, it is very advantageous for some people, so discussing it here is relevant.

If you have a hectic schedule or dislike spending a heck of a lot of time cooking, spending an hour or so each Sunday preparing for the week can be very beneficial. For instance, you could dice all of your veggies at once and store them in separate resealable containers for easy access throughout the week. You could grill or pan-fry all of the meats you are planning to use so that you just have to reheat everything when you want to use it. You could make full crock-pot meals, store them in freezer bags, and pull them out when you need them.

Robb Wolf, a Paleo guru, has an article jam-packed full of excellent meal prep ideas.

One thing I must say in regard to meal planning and grocery shopping is to read labels. Sugar, for example, can be disguised as a thousand and one different things. Preservatives are generally hard-to-pronounce scientific mumbo-jumbo. Things as "basic" as packaged taco seasoning, containers of minced garlic, and store-bought bacon can contain ridiculous amounts of sugar, preservatives, and other non-compliant ingredients.

4. Tell your friends and family about your healthy-living adventure: the more people who know, the better off you will be.

First, if your friends and family know you are embarking on a new challenge and understand that you will not be eating sugar, hopefully they will not gift you with cookies, cupcakes, or ice-cream dates within the next 30 days.

Second, if your friends and family know what you are doing (and, more importantly, why you are doing it), they are likely to offer you ample support throughout the program. And, there will be days that you want nothing more than to face-plant into a truck full of cookies, but this support system will hopefully talk you off the ledge.

Kumbaya, my friends, kumbaya!
5. Figure out why you are doing this: as Jillian Michaels said, "If you have a why to live for, you can tolerate any how."

It is so, so, so important that you have a purpose for doing what you do in life, especially when what you do is such a significant life change. I discuss my personal why in the blog entry entitled Just Me: essentially, I wanted to, needed to complete this challenge to show myself that I was worth it.

Maybe your why is similar. Or, maybe your why includes improving or eradicating various ailments. Or, maybe your why pertains to strengthening your athletic abilities.

It doesn't matter what your why is: rather, it matters that you have a why. Once you have a why that you wholeheartedly believe in, nothing will make you stray from your plan.

These are tips and tricks that have worked for me in overhauling my unhealthy lifestyle and making my way to a happy, healthy life.

What advice do you have in regard to making such a big lifestyle change? And, how many of you are with me on this Whole30-Paleo-Healthy Living adventure?

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  1. I am on day 9 and its hard, but I know its good for me in the long run - my hubs is NOT doing it, so I have all the crap still around my house - and not just healthy-ish things that you cant have but even horrible food (girl scout cookies) - I find if I eat frozen fruit while he is eating the trash I can make it... at least so far... and I weigh myself once a week, I cant help it and after one week I was down 4lbs - I was pretty motivated by that as well. Thanks for documenting everything so well, I literally read ALL your Whole 30 posts the week before I started... and I am in the process of reading their book now!

    1. Melissa, I am SO EXCITED that you're doing Whole30! I think you will really enjoy It Starts With Food and will get so, so much out of it. Please keep me posted as to your progress! If you have a blog or Instagram, I'd love to follow along! And as always, let me know if there's anything I can do to help!

    2. Just saw this comment, sorry I missed it! I didn't get an email with a notification on it! I do have a blog:


    3. Thanks, Melissa! I'll check it out! (Not sure why it's not notifying of follow-up conflicts. That's weird.)