Can the Whole30 diet change your life?

When I came back from my holiday, I felt DISGUSTING. That’ll be what happens when you spend a week and a half eating whatever you want (chocolate), drinking whatever you want (beer) and doing whatever you want (eating chocolate and drinking beer, whilst sitting down).

My skin had broken out. I was grumpy and exhausted. I felt like I’d been run over by an Ocado van. I longed for a reset button that could restore me back to a healthier self.

Enter the Whole30.

The Whole30 is a programme that talks a big game about how it can change your life. In fact, the words ‘change your life’ are used approximately 192 times in its material, and its founders, Melissa and Dallas Hartwig, are pretty confident about the value of it. So are its fans. You can’t get too far into looking into it before you see enthusiastic testimonials from people who are surprisingly happy given they have given up nearly everything that’s fun to eat.

You see, the plan is notoriously tough. For 30 days, you can eat only meat, seafood, eggs, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and natural fats. You are not allowed anything else. No sugar. No legumes. No grains. No dairy. No alcohol. No sweeteners.

Why in God’s earth would you willingly give up Diet Coke, chocolate and pale ale for a whole month? Because the list of purported benefits is practically as long as the dictionary. To name a few: weight loss, higher energy levels, better sleep, a better relationship with food, improvement in medical conditions, improved mood, better skin. I wanted all of these things. Wouldn’t you?

I had tried to do it before, and never made it beyond two weeks. I had always succumbed to the lure of ‘YOLO’, or there was a special occasion, or my willpower just ran out. Now was as good a time as any: I had only one special occasion in September to navigate, I felt motivated to do it, and this blog would help keep me accountable.

You don’t need to buy a book or buy special products to do a Whole30, as all the info you need is freely available online.  But to make life easier, I have the Whole30 book and will be using this as my focus, as going through the information online can lead you down a terrifying rabbit hole (more on this later).

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What I liked about the book is that it focuses strongly on preparation and things you can do to set you up to succeed, focusing on your brain and habits as well as your fridge. As I learned before, following a plan that doesn’t take human nature into account is not going to work. The steps to prepare for a Whole30 are as follows:

1. Choose a start date

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Look: I wrote it in my diary and everything!

 

2. Build your support team.

I asked my partner the following

“Do you support me doing this diet?”

“Yes”

“Great, thanks!”

3. Get your house ready.

I’m ahead of the game on this one – I got rid of everything in the flat I can’t eat on Whole30 already. By.. erm.. eating it all on Day 0. *whistles*

4. Plan for success.

There are two parts to this: meal planning, and planning for what you will do if you overcome obstacles in your daily life.

I approached the meal planning part like this: I needed 90 meals in the next 30 days. I needed to have enough variety so that I don’t get bored of eating the same thing over and over again, but also be efficient enough so that I don’t spend all of my money and time on food. The Whole30 plan is fairly carnivorous and I live with a vegetarian, so I also needed to plan some meals that are veggie or can be adapted so that we could both eat together (i.e. I have meat, he has something vegetarian, and we both eat the side dish). I also wanted to do some batch-cooking and freezing so that I had something to eat on lazy days. This is what my plan looked like:

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The other form of planning is to overcome potential obstacles. This comes in the form of if/then statements. For example: IF I get stressed and want to dive head first into a packet of chocolate Hobbobs, THEN I go for a walk, read a trashy novel, talk to a friend etc etc.  I liked this kind of planning as it has been proven effective by psychologists – you are three times more likely to succeed in changing your habits if you do this. Therefore I was happy to write a long list of scenarios including what I’ll do if I forget my packed lunch, if someone offers me home-baked goods, and so on.

5. Get Rid of Your Scales.

Not weighing yourself is crucial to the psychological side of the plan. The Hartwigs maintain that letting your weight dictate your mood isn’t very healthy. While I could see their point, I didn’t want to take their suggestion of applying a sledgehammer to my scales, so I put them in a cupboard, out of view.

With that, I was ready to go. Day 1: bring it on.

If you’d like updates on how the Whole30 does – or doesn’t – change my life, you can subscribe on the right-hand side of the blog. 

Have you ever done a Whole30? Did it change your life? Please feel free to share your thoughts – and any advice! – in the comments.

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