My Pure Barre studio is doing a group Whole30 challenge this month, and as it's the first of the month, I thought I'd share some tips from my experience with this program a few years ago.
1. Meal plan.
This one is a no-brainer and is absolutely essential to surviving. Because the Whole30 is so strict in terms of what you can and can't eat (read more about the guidelines here), meal planning is the key to happiness while doing this challenge. If you're not a meal planner or an intentional grocery shopper, this month will make you into one! In fact, I'd never meal planned a day in my life prior to doing the Whole30. It actually does make shopping easier and, ultimately, less expensive, since you only buy the ingredients on your list and not extra things just because you're hungry. I wrote a blog post on meal planning here that you can check out for tips!
This also means that if you do choose to go out to dinner, look ahead at the restaurant's menu. Make sure there's a W30-compliant option for you. There is nothing worse (and I can say this from experience) than sitting at a table and watching your friends gorge themselves on the bread basket when you can't eat anything because you didn't call ahead.
Find W30 recipes on the following sites:
2. Snack plan.
Technically, this program isn't big on snacks, but I like to think it's a principle issue: they don't want you to mindlessly snack on something because the point of undergoing the 30 day challenge is to re-set your impulses. However, doing this for the first time is a big change. Especially in the first couple of weeks, you will be hungry. And when I'm hungry, I'm usually also hangry. Meaning I need a quick, easy, pre-made option to tame the beast. Some great W30 snack options include:
- Fruit and sugar-free almond butter.
- Slices of bell pepper or baby carrots in this sweet potato hummus.
- Roasted almonds or salted cashews.
- Boiled eggs and bacon.
3. Be accountable.
Anyone who's completed this program will tell you that it's difficult, and they're right. When I did it in 2014, I was absolutely floored at how many of the foods I ate every day contained ingredients I'd never noticed, like added sugar or preservatives. It will change the way you see food for the rest of your life. And it's true that the best way to go through this experience is to do it all the way - not to cheat with a little something here and there. You'll feel so proud of yourself, and, if you're anything like me, you'll have lost some weight by the end. I was 12 pounds down when I did it!
That being said, it's definitely easier to do this if you know someone who's doing it with you. When I was doing the W30, I had two great girlfriends from college and my mom alongside me. It made dinners so much more fun because I could pop over to my mom's house - we were in it together! It also gives you someone to text when you feel like you might actually cut off your right arm if it means you can have a cheeseburger.
4. Learn to say, "No."
I think women, and particularly Southern women, are bad at saying, "No." We want to be all things to all people, we want to be polite, we want to please everyone.
The Whole30 is not about that.
Saying, "No," is a BIG part of this month. You will have to turn down the offer for dessert. You'll have to pass on having someone pick up lunch for you at work. The daily bagel run instantly goes out the window. Coffee with sugar and caramel and whatever other kind of sugary goodness is a negative. Wave goodbye!
BUT - there's a flipside to that coin. Saying, "No," is empowering. Emboldening, even. When I did this program and chose not to indulge in something, initially, there was disappointment, but in the end, I felt so proud of myself that I chose self-control over a slice of chocolate cake. There is power in "no," and beyond just food-related things, it's something we could all learn to say more often. Politely, of course. ;)
5. Get fancy and treat yo'self!
It's easy to feel deprived during this experience, but fret not! There are so many beautiful, decadent meals in your future, if you're willing to step into the kitchen and step up to the plate. It really is a culinary adventure. I learned more about cooking during this month than at any other point in my life.
Below are some photos of totally compliant meals to get your tastebuds interested in the days to come!
I mean, right? Doesn't that look great?? Other ideas not pictured but still swimming in my memory are:
- Homemade chicken soup with a side of sliced pear.
- Hot spinach salad with boiled egg and bacon dressing.
- Pork tenderloin, sweet potato fries, and a salad with homemade (compliant!) dressing.
- Fruit salad drenched in fresh coconut milk.
- Sweet potato hash with crispy eggs on top.
- Sauteed sausages on a set of crispy roasted veggies.
SO - may the force be with you! Good luck!