You’ve probably heard about the Whole30 by now–the very strict, restrictive, 30-day diet intended to give you a nutritional reset. The diet promises all sorts of things, from reducing inflammation to balancing your hormones. It cuts out all dairy, grains, sugar, and a number of other foods (many of which are normally considered part of a healthy diet). You are probably wondering why anyone would do this, and that is absolutely the right question!
But I did it, and what’s more:
This past January, we embarked on this endeavor as a family.
Yes, you read that right. All four of us were in. We were going to sink or swim together.
With our Whole30 a few weeks behind us, I have had some time to reflect on the positives and negatives we experienced. I’ve also had some time to think about what was helpful/not helpful in the days and weeks leading up to our month of “eating clean.”
Have a good reason! If you are thinking about doing a Whole 30, don’t just jump-in. You have to know your why. For my family, our 4-year old had been having chronic, mild tummy aches. Visiting our pediatrician wasn’t helpful, and we wanted to see if something like wheat or dairy were bothersome to her. Like ripping off a Band-aid, I wanted to get this whole experience over with as quickly as possible and get to the bottom of her tummy issues. Thirty days sounded way better than eliminating one food at a time and reintroducing it over months. Any time I felt like throwing in the towel, I thought about my daughter and our reason for doing this. If it weren’t for this very good reason, I’m not sure I would have completed it!
Find extra money. Seriously, we had been warned that the Whole 30 could be expensive, but we were shocked…our tally at the end of the month showed us spending around $500 more that month on groceries than we normally do. Yikes! That was about a 40% increase on what we normally spend in a month for a family of four hungry people who already cook whole foods at home most of the time.
Test some recipes. As soon as you even start thinking about doing a Whole30, start finding recipes that look enticing to you. Before your Whole30 start date, cook and eat some of this new stuff. This way you will have some things that you know you’ll like by the time you are committed! This was a big help for my family since there were meals that we knew that we could enjoy for that month.
Get the book. There is lots of information online about what you can or can’t have during your Whole30, but for me, that isn’t enough. I have to know the why behind everything. This is a mandatory step–and if you can’t read it in its entirety before you start, then please read it while you are on it!
Be prepared for your hardest days. I knew that there was no way I was going to drink my coffee black, and I didn’t want to make my own compliant coffee creamer because I felt that might be cheating (this is just me–lots of people do it!). I do however, like hot tea with nothing in it, so my husband and I switched to that for the Whole30. I was surprised at how little I missed coffee, but I think that was because I was prepared to do without it.
I wasn’t, however, prepared to miss a break from cooking and dishes so much. I already cooked most of our meals at home, but changing from sandwiches for lunch to another home-cooked meal every mid-day is exhausting. Then there are all the dishes involved…I’m tired and irritated just thinking about it.
Be prepared to be at least a little anti-social. Unless you decide to invite all of your friends over so that you can cook for them, you will probably be turning down any social invitations. I went out for a girls’ night and had sparkling water with lime for my cocktail, which was actually fine, but I wasn’t prepared to get so upset when I had to turn down playdates that involved meeting at restaurants. I just wanted to socialize with some other moms and give myself a break from cooking…but I had to say no and cook anyway. It felt arbitrary and miserable.
The Whole30 might not work as expected. One month after finishing, we have re-introduced all the food groups in the order recommended. I was excited to find out what the culprit for my daughter’s stomach aches had been…but she didn’t react to anything. When Valentine’s Day rolled around, I had re-introduced my habit of eating a little bit of chocolate after the kids go to bed. Perhaps my daughter was reacting to something else in her life, or maybe an offending food has to build up in her system. Maybe I need another month (or year) on the Whole30 to truly kick my cravings for sweets.
But deep down, I am relieved that she hasn’t had any adverse reactions to the whole foods that are all around us…and I am also happy to eat delicious, home-cooked, whole foods that aren’t necessarily “compliant.”
Have you done a Whole30? Is there anything else you wish you had known before you started?