If you’re on Instagram or Twitter, then you’ve probably noticed one of the newest food fads taking the country by storm: The WHOLE30 Program. Originating in the bestselling book, its slogan reads, “Change your life in 30 days.”
But does it actually?
To the average American, the diet’s rules may come as quite a shock to the system. The diet aims to “cut out all the psychologically unhealthy, hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, inflammatory food groups for a full 30 days.” This includes saying no to all grains, dairy, legumes, added sugars and alcohol. 7-Eleven would not pass this diet with flying colors.
If you’re among the legions of college students who enjoy bi-weekly (bi-daily?) mac n’ cheese, Papa Johns deliveries, or a night out on the town…you can probably see where these restrictions might alter your daily life (and in the beginning, your daily stomach, too).
As a student who is midway through the challenge, I have developed a basic survival guide for making your Whole30 experience as enjoyable as possible.
With a simple list of official “WHOLE30 Rules,” the diet presents itself as being pretty black-and-white. So, it’s up to you to identify potential gray areas. Will you cut out almond butter because it contains added sugar? Are corn tortillas okay since they’re made with butter? Know how restrictive you want to be from day one so that you’re not forced to make a snap decision later on (The chocolate cake will win. It always does.).
What was most noticeable when I started WHOLE30? Food becomes very present in your life. When you’re not daydreaming about it, you’re picking it out or eating it. Think about it: There are 210 calories in a two-pack of Reese’s Cups. Meanwhile, there are only seven calories in a cup of raw spinach. Make sure you can afford both the sheer volume of food you’ll be eating this month, as well as the time you’ll need to spend chewing.
Amidst all your meetings and exams, you don’t want to be thrown a curveball by your body. Read up on when to expect withdrawal, bloating and more. It’s not as bad as it sounds, as long as you know it’s coming.
Spoiler alert: you’ll need more. After having to process junky foods for years, it’s natural that your body will go into a bit of shock as it makes the transition. This can be diffused if you start moving towards the diet prior to your official first day.
Essentially, your body is sick and needs to heal. Healing requires more sleep. Plan ahead to be in bed an hour or two early during the first week. You’ll thank yourself in the morning.
The Safety Net
After all, we’re still human. What will you do if you wake up starving at 3 am? Be prepared so you don’t succumb to that vending machine. Stockpile a bunch of WHOLE30-approved snack options.
Fresh fruit, protein powder, and unbuttered popcorn are all proven ways to satiate your mid-night munchies. Also, it’s probably best to rid any unapproved substances from your possession before beginning.
Did you know that there is sugar in ketchup? And Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce? And pasta sauce? Even organic salad dressing?! You might notice: these are all the things that have made your food delicious. Now you can’t have them, and you can’t even add cheese to substitute?!
Never fear – countries were conquered for a reason: spices. Penzey’s is an amazing resource, as is your local grocery store. Be sure to invest in some delectable shallot-pepper.
Let the wonderful world of apps help you. There are a bunch of ways to help keep track of your health via your phone. I personally recommend LifeSum or MyFitnessPal.
These apps will not only make sure you’re eating enough calories per day (it’s amazing how far a PB&J or cookie used to go), but will show you vitamins and the ratio of carbs to fat to protein you’re consuming. They’ll tell you what to aim for. You also have the option of connecting to your friends, in case a little friendly competition motivates you.
I’m not gonna lie, this program is hard. At the end of the day, a huge incentive to not just finish an entire deep dish is having your friends there. Tell them your rules, and hold yourself accountable to them. Shoot out a Facebook post. Print out a cute 30-day wall calendar. Maybe a couple of them will even join you.
You now have all the information I wish I’d known before embarking on this wondrous, frustrating, fulfilling month-long adventure. So go clear out that fridge, download that app, print out that calendar and believe in yourself. I do.