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The Whole30 Program and What You Need to Know

What is Whole30?

Whole30 is, for lack of a better word, a “diet” that focuses on an individual’s relationship with food. The Whole30 program was developed by entrepreneur and author Melissa Hartwig Urban. Melissa is the co-founder and CEO of Whole30.

Most recently, Whole30 has partnered with supermarkets like Thrive Market to develop and market salad dressings and dips that are Whole30 compliant.

The Whole30 program eliminates a series of foods that are said to cause inflammation in your body, which put you at risk for allergies, diabetes, high blood pressure, IBS among other things. Hence the program is really an elimination diet that cleanses your body of inflammatory toxins caused by certain food groups for thirty days.

Following the thirty days, you monitor re-introduction to determine what foods the foods that cause irritation and are not right for you.

The reason they call it Whole30 is that people follow this type of eating for a minimum of 30 days restricting specific foods.

Note that some people might need more than 30 days and to the program for 60 or 90 straight days. Some people adapt Whole30 eating as a lifestyle. However, many people don’t feel that it is a sustainable lifestyle change as it is very restrictive.

Why do people do Whole30?

Many people turn to Whole30 a program focused on eating whole foods to change their relationship with food, loose weight, control diabetes and other health issues, increase energy levels, and reduce inflammation in the body.

The following chart identifies the target goal out of 63 people surveyed on why they were interested in completing a round of Whole30.

ConcernResponses%
Change Relationship w/Food2432%
Loose Weight1829%
Control Health Issues1422%
Increase Energy Levels69%
Control Diabetes12%
Total Surveyed63

Foods That are Restricted While on a Round of Whole30

People who follow the Whole30 program are restricted from consuming:

  • Added sugar, even artificial sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Grains
  • Legume
  • Dairy
  • Baked goods, junk foods, or recreations of treats
  • Carrageenan, Sulfites, MSG

This means that they cannot eat anything in the food groups above. So, in the morning when you are ready to have your cup of coffee or tea, you’ll need to re-think whether you can drink it black and unsweetened. Of course, you can find non-dairy sweeteners, but let’s face it, it’s not the same.

Another big hurdle is breakfast. A lot of people eat oatmeal, a muffin, or a bagel for breakfast. Guess what? All of these are restricted. This makes breakfast one of the most difficult meals to plan for when prepping your meals.

To be successful at planning for breakfast, you need to think of breakfast as just another meal. When you start to think of breakfast as another meal, it opens up endless possibilities like having a salad, sausage or eggs.

Counting Calories and How Much Can I Eat?

The great thing about the plan is that you don’t count calories. Instead you follow a template eating 3 meals per day.

Snacking is discouraged unless you are exercising or nursing. If you exercise then you can have a mini meal for energy.

As part of the meal template you would fill your plate full of whole foods using your hand as a guide:

  • Proteins – 1 to 2 palm size portions
  • Veggies – 2/3s of your plate
  • Fruit – fist size occasionally, being careful not to push vegetables off your plate
  • Good Fat – every meal the size of your thumb

Many of the people surveyed indicated that they did not have a pre workout meal and just waited to have breakfast. Those that did have a pre workout meal had a banana and rxbar and then ate when they returned from the gym or they had an entire meal pre workout as per the template.

Can I lose Weight on the Program?

First, I want to say that Whole30 is not a diet and it was not intended as a weight loss program. But, many people do it with the sole intent of loosing weight because they have heard that weight loss is one of the side effects of the program.

The unfortunate thing is that not all people who complete the program are actually successful at loosing weight.

As part of the program you are not allowed to step on the scale for 30 days. This may be because people tend to gain weight or bloat in the first week while their bodies are detoxing. This water weight or bloat causes individuals to get disappointed quickly because they think they are gaining weight or that the program is not working for them.

Those that break the rules and do step on the scale, quickly get discouraged and quit before completing the 30 days. This is probably why it’s a rule not to step on the scale.

For those that do complete a round but don’t reap the benefits of weight loss, this might be because they averaged a calorie surplus, have sedentary lifestyle, have hormonal imbalances, be stressed or other reasons.

I’m not a doctor, these are only some reasons that may not result in weight loss after completing a round.  And, with any change in diet, always consult a physician.

Does Whole30 Have Any Side Effects?

Yes! There is a day by day timeline of how you are going to feel on approximately each day during the 30 days. For some people, the identified effects may come on an earlier day and for others come later. Some people never feel the identified symptom.

You can find the timeline here.

How to Prepare for Whole30

If you want to be successful at doing the program then it will require you to clean out your cupboards. Toss out all that junk food or hide all the food that is restricted to avoid temptation.

Also, many people fail because they were never prepared in the first place. “When you fail to prepare – You prepare to fail”.

Have recipes ready. Use Sunday as meal prep for the whole week and store your food in the fridge for lunches. Know exactly what you are going to prepare for dinners. Shop to ensure you have everything you need to prepare your meals. And most importantly – keep it simple.

Of 55 people surveyed, they indicated that the following items would have been good to know before they started a round:

ItemRespone%
Meal Prep is Essential2138%
Meal Plan & Recipes to Go1629%
List of Brand Name Pantry Items916%
Keep it simple or prep work will be overwhelming916%
Total Surveyed55

SWYPO

A lot of people don’t understand what SWYPO means.  It stands for “Sex With Your Pants On” and basically means that you are re-creating a non compliant baked good or treat with compliant ingredients.  Because Whole30 focuses a lot on changing your relationship with food, the idea of re-creating a baked good, a pasta or a cereal for example are restricted and referred to as “SWYPO”.

Many people can’t get over this and miss that pizza or cereal so much they attempt to re-create it with products that are compliant like chia seed pudding or pizza made with almond flour. Re-creating restricted foods with compliant ingredients is not permitted on a round, but it’s ok for off-round eating.

Exercise

It’s not necessary to exercise while doing Whole30, but exercising is a healthy part of any lifestyle.  Incorporated exercise is a great way to increase endorphins, increase cardiovascular health and tone your body. As well, exercise is a healthy way of maintaining mental health and de-stressing. 

Exercised While on RoundResponses%
Yes8161%
No2620%
Sometimes2620%
Total Surveyed133

Many of the people surveyed indicated that they did not have a pre workout meal and just waited to have breakfast. Those that did have a pre workout meal had a banana and RXbar and then ate when they returned from the gym or they had their meal pre workout as per the template.

Re-Introduction

It doesn’t end once you have completed 30 days of the Whole30.  There are 2 more phases, so to speak.  Re-introduction is the first phase after completing a round.

The re-introduction phase is a really important phase. You start by introducing one of the restricted food groups that you eliminated while on Whole30.  For example, you would re-introduce dairy products and then wait 3 to 5 days to see how your body reacts to the re-introduction of this food group.  If all is fine, then you continue with introducing another food group like grains.

Some reactions people experience in re-introduction include: hives, headaches, stomach upset, inflammation, etc. If you do experience negative effects from re-introduction of a food group then you would make a decision on whether you can find a suitable substitute to replace that food or continue to eat it knowing that you will experience the negative effects.

You continue re-introducing food groups one at a time leaving days between food groups until you have re-introduced all that were eliminated while on round.

By the time you are done re-introducing all of the initially eliminated food groups you should have an idea of which foods have a negative effect on you.

FoodResponses%
Dairy4737%
Bread2923%
Sugar2923%
Alcohol76%
Legumes76%
Rice53%
Soy42%
Total Surveyed127

Food Freedom

The second phase that follows after completing a round of Whole30 refers to “food freedom”.  Food freedom basically refers to one’s ability to adapt healthy eating habits from having completed a round.  They say that it takes a person 30 days to form new habits.  Maybe this is why the program is called Whole30.  After 30 days of eating whole foods and eliminating those so called inflammatory foods, one develops a habit of choosing “healthier” foods, making “healthier” recipes, and ordering “healthier” take-out food.

In fact, many people adapt specific diets after they have finished a round of Whole30.  Of 57 people surveyed, 14% indicated that they would adapt the Paleo diet. Others identified that they would continue to remain Whole30 compliant 80% of the time.

DietResponses%
Stay Compliant 80% (regular eating 20%)4477%
Paleo814%
None59%
Total Surveyed57

Support

There is a lot of support for people who decide to do a round of Whole30.  For starters, Melissa Hartwig Urban has a website dedicated to the program where you can find support, forums, podcasts, recipes and so much more.

For more information on Whole30, visit the site www.whole30.com.

If you are interested in doing a round of Whole30, this Whole30 starter kit is an essential resource.  Get it here.

Additional PDF resources are here.

In addition to the official Whole30 website, there are many Facebook groups that offer support. The following group is one of the largest support groups and offers gentle support. If you are thinking of doing a round of Whole30, joining a support group is essential to success.

Join Whole30 Recipes, Meals and Gentle Support here.

There is also a food freedom group available for support here.

Whole30 Recipes

As someone who has personally completed Whole30, I’ve adapted some recipes on my website which would be compliant while doing a round.

Here are a few tasty Whole30 recipes:

The following recipes, while compliant are technically referred to as SWYPO.  They should not be consumed while on round, but would be a perfectly healthy option when not on round.

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