***Check out The Whole30 Version 3.0, active now!***
Last year, we proposed a squeaky clean eating program designed to “change your life in 30 days”. The response on the blog was overwhelming. Hundreds of people participated, following the “rules” inspired by the experience we had when we completed our own 30 day nutritional program. It wasn’t long before testimonial after testimonial began rolling in – body composition started changing, gym performance went through the roof, medical biomarkers began to improve and a whole bevy of physical ailments and conditions were miraculously “cured”. In July 2009, the Whole30 was born, and became the foundation of the nutrition for our Whole9 practice.
And now we’re back almost one year later to launch the program again. First timers are welcome. Repeaters who may have started off strong but slipped back into old habits are encouraged. Bring your Mom, bring your book club, bring your whole gym… because for the next 30 days, the Whole9 site is your nutritional source of motivation, support, advice and direction.
Certain food groups (like grains, dairy and legumes) are probably having a negative impact on your health and fitness without you even realizing it. Are your energy levels inconsistent (or non-existent)? Do you have aches and pains that can’t be explained by over-use or injury? Are you having a hard time losing weight no matter how hard you train, or are pretty lean but still have a little extra puff on your midsection? Do you have some sort of condition (like skin issues, digestive ailments, seasonal allergies) that medication hasn’t helped? These symptoms may be directly related to the foods you eat – even the “healthy” stuff. So how do you know if (and how) these foods are affecting you? Strip them from your diet completely. Cut out all the inflammatory, insulin-spiking, calorie-dense, nutritionally sparse food groups for a full 30 days and let your body heal, recover and reset from whatever effects those foods may be provoking. What, exactly, does that mean? Super strict, by-the-book, 100% Whole30 for the next 30 days.
First and foremost, this will change your life. We cannot possibly put enough emphasis on this simple fact. This. Will. Change. Your. Life. It will change the way you think about food, it will change your tastes, it will change your habits and your cravings. It could, quite possibly, change the emotional relationship you have with food, and with your body. It has the potential to change the way you eat for the rest of your life. We know this because we did it, and hundreds of people have since done it, and it changed our lives (and their lives) in a very permanent fashion.
So what does “Whole30” mean? This is the plan we have created, in as much detail as we can provide.
Eat real food – meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, some fruit, and good fat from nuts, seeds, coconut, olives/olive oil and avocado. Eat foods with very few ingredients, all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they’re fresh and natural.
1. Do not eat dairy. This includes butter, cheese (hard and soft), yogurt (even Greek) and milk (including cream in your coffee or tea).
2. Do not eat grains. This includes bread, rice, pasta, cereal, oatmeal, corn and all of those gluten-free pseudo-grains like quinoa and sprouted grains.
3. Do not eat legumes. This includes beans of all kinds (soy, black, kidney, etc.), peas, lentils, and peanuts. (No peanut butter, kids.)
4. Do not eat or add sugar of any kind, real or artificial. No maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, Splenda, Equal, Nutrasweet, xylitol, stevia, etc.
5. Do not eat processed foods. This includes protein shakes, processed bars (like Zone bars), dairy-free creamers, etc.
6. Do not drink alcohol, in any form.
7. Do not eat white potatoes. It’s kind of arbitrary, but one, they’re a nightshade, and two, sweet potatoes and yams are a more nutrient-dense option, so go for those instead. (On that note, if you have serious inflammation issues like arthritis, you may want to consider avoiding all nightshades for 30 days.)
8. Most importantly… do not try to shove your old, crappy diet into a shiny new Whole30 mold. This means no “Paleo-fying” existing less-than-healthy recipes – no “Paleo” pancakes, pizza or Fudge Babies.
A few concessions, based on our experience, and those of our clients. These are less than optimal foods that we are okay with you including in moderation.
1. Processed Meat. On occasion, we are okay with organic chicken sausage (these are nitrate, dairy, gluten and casein-free), and high quality bacon, deli meat, and jerky.
2. Nuts. We do not want you cracking out on nuts and nut butters, people. Sunbutter is acceptable – buy the organic (no sugar added) if possible.
3. Dried Fruit. In general, careful with the fruit. Use dried fruit and Larabars in serious moderation, and only if it doesn’t send you running for the nearest candy dish.
4. Non-“Paleo” Vegetables. We’re fine with green beans, sugar snap peas and snow peas. While they’re technically a legume, they’re far more “pod” than “bean”, and we want you to eat your veggies.
5. Coffee and black tea. We’re okay with coffee (black, or with a little coconut milk) in moderation, and only if it doesn’t interfere with sleep. Usually, that means none after noon. If you really want to go hardcore and reset your body’s sensitivity to caffeine, skip the coffee/tee for the 30 day period as well.
6. Vinegar. While it’s technically not “Paleo”, we’re fine with using it in small quantities as a salad dressing or in salsa.
7. Salt. While some “approved” foods like olives or bacon will have some salt in them, go easy when adding salt to your food.
Now that you have the basic plan, you need to know how to implement it. It’s simple, actually.
Start now. Today. This minute. Count out thirty days, go immediately to your local health food store, farmer’s market or grocer and stock up on things you’ll be eating. And then… go. Cold turkey, just start. It’s the only way to do it. If you give yourself excuses or reasons to put it off, you may never begin. Do it now.
Your only job for the next 30 days is to focus on food choices. You don’t need to weigh or measure, you don’t need to Zone. Just figure out how to eat like this in any setting, any special circumstance, for the next 30 days. Your only job? Eat. Good. Food.
The only way this will work is if you give it the full thirty days. Anything less and you are selling yourself – and your results – short. The first few days (at least) will be tough, as your body heals and adjusts to this new way of eating and your brain wraps itself around going without all those sweet tastes and sugar-driven energy spikes. And while you may start to feel better after a week or two… the healing process takes significantly longer. In addition, the mental addiction and emotional connections to sugary foods, large amounts of carbohydrates and over-the-top, chemically-altered flavors is going to take a lot longer to overcome. Stick with it, be patient with yourself, and commit to the full program.
This is not a “challenge”. If you’re just looking for a 30 day test of mental toughness before going back to your beer and pizza on day 31, go somewhere else. We want you to THINK about what you’re eating, why you’re eating it and how it makes you feel every step of the way. We want you to think about what you’re NOT eating, and how those foods may have been negatively affecting you. And we want you to commit to sticking with it for as long as it takes for the magic to happen.
At some point, we promise you… the magic will happen. Your energy levels will increase and stabilize, and you’ll feel just as good first thing in the morning as you do at the peak of your day. Your body composition will start to change – even if you don’t cut calories (and we encourage you not to). Your performance in the gym will improve, and your recovery will skyrocket. Conditions, ailments, aches and pains will miraculously start to improve. And through all of it, you’ll be eating delicious, fresh, natural, real food… things that you will come to realize DO taste good, and are both satiating and mentally satisfying.
The final caveat: this requires full buy-in, and 100% commitment. That means no cheating. Just ONE “cheat” could irritate your digestive tract and promote an inflammatory response, or provoke an insulin spike which sends you straight to the nearest vending machine for a Coke. A single cheat will ruin the effect of the “reset button” you are trying to push. This isn’t Whole9 playing the tough guy. This is a FACT, born of education and experience. The only way this will work is if you give it the full thirty days, without a single, solitary “cheat”.
Right here on the Whole9 site. Come to our house, sign up for the month and post back here as often as you like. We’ll provide the forum for the next 30 days. Post your progress, your results, share good recipes, ask questions. Tell us how good you look, how much better you feel, how much energy you have. Inspire each other. Support each other. Fist bumps all around for those of you who finish out the full 30 days. Right here, right now. Let’s do this.
Here comes the tough love. This is for those of you who are considering taking on this life-changing month, but aren’t sure you can actually pull it off, cheat free, for a full 30 days. This is for the people who have tried this before, but who “slipped” or “fell off the wagon” or “just HAD to eat (fill in food here) because of this (fill in event here)”. This is for you.
1. It is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Giving up heroin is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You won’t get any coddling, and you won’t get any sympathy for your “struggles”. Because if we (Dallas and Melissa) can do this while living out of a car on our road trip, relying on a restaurant or a cooler for 90% of our meals, while constantly socializing for business, YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE. It’s only thirty days, and it’s for the most important cause on earth – the only physical body you will ever have in this lifetime. So suck it up and join us.
2. Don’t tell us you “slipped”. Unless you physically tripped and your face landed in a box of Krispy Kremes, you DID NOT SLIP. You made a choice to eat something of poor quality. It’s always a choice, so do not phrase it as if you had an accident. Commit here, 100%, for the full 30 days, or go somewhere else.
3. You never, ever, ever HAVE to eat anything you don’t want to eat. You’re all big boys and girls. Toughen up. Learn to say no (or make your Mom proud and say, “No, thank you”). Learn to stick up for yourself. Just because it’s your sister’s birthday, or your best friend’s wedding, or your company outing or the Fourth of July does not mean you have to eat anything. It’s always a choice, and we would hope that you stopped succumbing to peer pressure in 10th grade.
4. This does require a bit of effort, people. If you’re cutting grains, legumes and dairy for the first time, you have to replace those calories with something. You have to make sure you’re eating enough, that your vitamins and nutrients are balanced, that you’re getting enough protein, fat and carbohydrates. You’ll have to figure out what to eat for lunch, how to order at a restaurant and how often you’ll need to grocery shop. There are a ton of good resources search-able on this site, and Googling “Paleo Recipes” is a great place to start. We’ll give you plenty of resources here, but take responsibility for your own plan. Improved health, fitness and performance doesn’t happen just because you’re now taking a pass on chocolate milk.
If just one person changes his or her life – just one – this entire series of posts will be well worth our time and energy. If this is anything like last time, hundreds of you will take this seriously, and see amazing results in unexpected areas of your life. We want you to participate. If this is the only commitment you make this year, do it. It’s that important. We believe in it that much. It changed our lives, and we want it to change yours too.
There are plenty of “Paleo challenges” out there – things that sound a lot like the Whole30, that promise you’ll “look, feel and perform” better. They give you more of what you want – arbitrary points or a burpee penance for cheating, acceptable alcohol choices “if you must drink” or dark chocolate approval if it’s “pure”. But here at Whole9, we’ve built our entire business around telling you what you need, not what you want. We will not pander to you here. We will tell you what we know to be true, based on literally hundreds of testimonials and clients’ real results. Programs that offer built-in cheats or rationalizations for less than healthy food choices simply do not work long-term. They don’t teach you anything about how the foods you are eating are affecting you, and they don’t do anything to help you change your habits, patterns and behaviors. The Whole30 program has been in motion for almost a year, with participants all across the world – and has measurable, real-life, sustainable results to back up our claims.
Post questions to comments. Post your commitment, if you’re up for it. (Just make sure you re-read the Tough Love portion again before you sign up.) Start the Whole30 with us today.
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