What is Whole30: Rules, Benefits and Tips – curious about Whole30? Find out what it is, what it is like to complete a round, the benefits I have seen and tips I have learned along the way!
What is Whole30
Curious about Whole30? Then this post is for you!
Whole30 has 3 parts: 1) a 30 day elimination period 2) reintroduction 3) food freedom.
First: Elimination Period
For 30 days you eliminate foods such as dairy, alcohol, grains, legumes, etc. You eliminate these foods not because they are bad for you! You are eliminating them because they MAY be causing inflammation in your body or otherwise negatively effecting how you feel (this is based off of a lot research that you can read about in It Starts With Food). For 30 days you eliminate these foods and allow your body to reset, heal and form a new baseline.
Following the 30 days you then start what is called Reintroduction. During this phase you reintroduce those foods that you eliminated (because they aren’t necessarily unhealthy, they just may be negatively affecting YOU). One by one, you reintroduce these foods one at a time. So, if first you decide to reintroduce dairy you would include dairy into your daily diet for 24 hours (so you could have a yogurt with breakfast, cheese with your lunch and a glass of milk with dinner – for example). Then the next day you would go back to eating only Whole30 compliant food for 2 days. During this time you would keep track of and evaluate how the dairy made you feel. If it made you feel horrible, maybe that isn’t something you want to eat everyday moving forward. Maybe it is something you want to eat very sparingly or even eliminate altogether on a more permanent basis. If you feel absolutely fine eating dairy, then you might not make any changes moving forward.
Once you have reintroduced the once eliminated foods one at a time and evaluated how you feel, you can then take that information and, essentially, create a “diet” that is tailored specifically to YOU that will make you feel your best as much as possible! This part is called Food Freedom and it can be pretty amazing. For a lot of people in ends up that they like eating Whole30 about 70% of the time or so with the other 30% of the time eating “other” foods. Sometimes they go on vacation and really veer from Whole30, and that’s okay. It just means that maybe when they get back from vacation they might eat a 90% Whole30 diet for a couple days to get back to feeling good.
Third: Food Freedom
In Food Freedom I think of Whole30 as my foundation for how I eat. That is what I make a lot of my food choices around, but I definitely enjoy a lot of non-Whole30 foods — but I make those decisions based on how they make me feel and if they are “worth it.” For example, I feel totally fine eating pasta (especially if it is gluten-free) so I incorporate that into my diet once in a while! How about a fresh-from-the-oven cookie – I wouldn’t feel amazing after I ate that cookie (or two or three), but what is better than a fresh-from-the-oven cookie?! In that moment if I really wanted one and it was a REALLY good cookie – it might be worth it for me to eat one. I would just make sure my next food decisions were maybe more Whole30-based. Life after Whole30 is FREE from restrictions and it is specifically tailored to you and what you learned from those first 30 days + reintroduction.
What it is NOT
Whole30 is NOT weight loss program. I repeat – Whole30 is not a weight loss program! It is not a quick fix. It also something that you need to be careful with if you have a history of disordered eating (because those 30 days are so strict). While many people experience some weight loss, that is definitely not the point of Whole30.
Here are the Whole30 Rules:
- Do not consume added sugar – real or artificial (except fruit juice).
- Do not consume alcohol of any kind – not even cooking with it
- Do not eat grains
- Do not eat legumes
- Do not eat dairy
- Do not eat carrageenan, MSG or sulfites
- Do not consume baked goods, junk food or treats with “approved ingredients”
- Do not step on the scale for 30 days
Read the fine print on the Whole30 website (there are exceptions for things like ghee, coconut aminos, vinegar, etc).
Here is a Rules PDF from Whole30.com you can print!
Here is a Common Additives cheat sheet you can print!
Here is a Whole30 Meal Template you can print!
What are the benefits of Whole30?
The benefits are different for everyone, of course, because every BODY is different.
For me I think my biggest benefit, for the long-term, was that it really taught me how to eat REAL FOOD (which is why that is what all of my recipes are now focused on). It taught me to read ingredient labels and actually know what I am putting into my body. It educated me on how specific foods make me feel. It freed me from the fad-diet mentality! I will never again say – my diet starts tomorrow! If I over-indulge on vacation or just on a weekend – that is okay! I will just gracefully make my way back to eating a little more Whole30-focused food for the next couple day or a week until I get back to feeling my best.
Beyond that invaluable lesson, the benefits that I saw from Whole30 included more energy, better sleep, less brain-fog, clearer skin and just happier!
My Dad did a Whole30 with me last year and he really saw some incredible results (he suffers from diabetes) – click here to read his story (it is a MUST READ!).
Other benefits that people saw include: higher energy levels, better sleep, improved mobility, less pain, improved focus and mental clarity, less bloating, clearer skin, and just a happier disposition.
My top 8 tips for a successful Whole30:
- Know your WHY: why are you doing this. It is the most important question before you embark on this journey. It needs to be a good one (like: I am not feeling my best and I want to try and figure out if there are certain foods that are causing me to feel less than my best). A not-so-good reason would be: everyone else is doing it. This WHY is what you are going to need to look back to when you are tempted to change your mind a few days in. Really evaluate it and make sure you are doing a Whole30 for the right reasons (i.e. it is NOT a weight-loss program!)
- Know the rules + Google is your friend: make sure you have your phone handy because you might be typing into Google “is ______ Whole30 compliant” a lot! And that’s okay! Read up on your rules and then Google those random ingredients along the way!
- Plan your meals: I usually do this on a weekly basis (and will have more resources for you coming in this series). Look ahead to the week and plan according to your schedule. So on those nights when your kids have practice, make something easy or grab Chipotle (they have a compliant Whole30 burrito bowl!) and those nights when you don’t have plans – make a fun new recipe! Check out my 4 Whole30 Weekly Meal Plans here!
- Have emergency snacks/food on hand: even if you plan, you might find yourself ravenous in the aisles of Target 🙂 make sure you have a complaint snack in your car/purse/desk at all times!
- Find inspiration: grab a couple cookbooks, follow some fellow Whole30’ers on Instagram and scope out some cool blogs! Get inspired! (my Whole30 Recipes can be found HERE!)
- Find a community: My favorite Whole30 was the one I did with my entire family and we had an on-going 30 day text chain where we shared non-scale victories, delicious recipes and asked questions! It made it so much more fun!
- Reintroduction: just do it. Seriously – how often will you have the opportunity to try a food group and really know how it effects your body. You did the 30 days for a reason and it wasn’t just so you could feel good on day 30. You did it so you can feel good the rest of your life! And the only way you can do that is by testing out which foods make you feel horrible and which don’t effect you at all! It’s how you can get to a life without dieting! Read more about Reintroduction here!
- Enjoy a month of focusing on YOU! We are all so flipping busy and it is really, really easy to put yourself on the back burner. But what if you took these 30 days to only put real, anti-inflammatory foods in your body so it could have a chance to heal and reset. And what if while you did that you took the time to take a bath at night before bed or do some yoga or read an inspirational book. What if you also incorporated a 20 minute walk every day. Or meditated. You don’t need to do all of these things (it gets overwhelming). But maybe just be gentle with yourself this month and put your body first instead of taking it for granted.
Interested in Starting a Whole30?
Then click through to my post on Your Whole30 Journey: Where to Start! It walks you through the books I recommend, other tips and what recipes to start with!
I hope you found this helpful! No one can tell you what to do as far as your diet goes, but as someone who has counted calories and tried no-carb fad diets that AREN’T SUSTAINABLE, I so appreciate the fact that the Whole30 sets you up for your own individualized food freedom that will last a lifetime. I totally think it is worth it – I just might change your life.