#whole30 april.

This post is personal, and has nothing to do with my business as a photographer (unless you’re looking for someone to take photographs of your food). But I just had to share my experience over the last 30 days doing Whole30. Many of my friends and strangers on Instagram followed my journey and find the program too intimidating to try for themselves. Well, I am here to tell you that if I can do it ANYONE can do it. Here’s how:

Step One: Find Your WHY

It took me months to prepare for my first Whole30. I’m not kidding. One of the main blog’s I follow did January Whole30, and I was intrigued. Jen is in the fitness industry, she’s super fit, she already ate pretty healthy, and I wanted to know, WHY? Why did she feel the need to do this program? Her why was a major skin issue she has that was pretty much cleared up two weeks into the program. That was her why, so I needed to figure out mine. I already knew about myself that if my why was to lose 10 pounds, there was no way I was going to stick with Whole30. So after reading other people’s why’s, reading the Whole30 book (everyone says to read It Starts With Food, and I think people should read it, but I haven’t yet) I found my why. I want to get pregnant, and I was not going to bring a baby into a body filled with crap. I was overweight, had developed some terrible eating habits, drank too much wine, and I was OVER IT. Over feeling blah. Over feeling the need to buy my first pair of spanx. Over the worry. And because my why was SO important to ME, there was not one point in those 30 days that I even considered cheating.

Step Two: Know the Rules

If you hate reading, here is a link to ALL of the downloads for Whole30. The rules, shopping list, additives cheat sheet. It’s such a blessing that you can view this for FREE. The main idea of Whole30 is to eat protein, veggies, healthy fats, and the occasional fruit for 30 days and then introduce foods such as dairy, gluten, legumes, back into your diet slowly to see if your body has any negative reactions to them. If it does, you would omit or limit the foods that bother you for the rest of eternity.

Step Three: Where to Shop

I live in a one horse town. Not really, but close. We don’t have a Trader Joe’s or a Whole Foods or anything glamorous. So I headed to Rochester to get my pantry items for Whole30. At Trader Joes: almond and cashew butter, raw nuts, Spicy Italian Chicken Sausage, salsa, ghee, and cooking oils. At Wegman’s I got some organic marinara and they also have nut butters, they are just more expensive. They have compliant chicken sausages and ground pork, you just need to be sure to read your labels. Read for INGREDIENTS. It doesn’t matter what the nutritional information says if the ingredients say the product has less than 2% added sugar, that’s a no go.

Here at home, I go to BJ’s for compliant bacon (Vermont), and shrimp. They also have compliant deli turkey (Applegate), but I don’t really love it. For most of my produce I go to Tops. I get my organic chicken tenders from Walmart and also my compliant tuna (Wild Selections), Coconut Milk (Thai Kitchen), and La Croix (although Target has a better variety). I get my eggs from our “egg lady” which is what we lovingly call her. Her family owns a local farm. I get my grass fed beef from a local farm as well. When the farmer’s market opens again, I’ll be forgoing stores altogether for produce, which I’m super excited about.

Figure out your salad dressing situation, it will save you. I get my balsamic from a place in Maine because my parents travel there for vacation every year and we also order online. Their balsalmics and olive oils are naturally enhanced with fruit, so they are compliant as long as you don’t get anything  like maple for example because maple isn’t compliant. I also used Zoe’s Kitchen Greek dressing, which is made on site with olive oil and natural seasonings, you can buy them at any Zoe’s restaurant.

Seasonings. You can find compliant seasonings in a lot of places. I order mine from Flavor God. They have great combos already assembled like Taco Tuesday and Garlic Lovers, so you don’t even have to think about it. I marinate my chicken in Garlic Lovers, Spicy Everything, and Lemon & Garlic (depending on the meal) adding EVOO and white vinegar, and it’s amazing. Just make sure you choose the compliant seasonings.

RX Bars. These are technically a snack bar, and Whole30 doesn’t promote snacking unless you absolutely have to (rules: three meals a day, eating enough to get you to the next meal, stop eating a few hours before bed). I keep these around for emergencies only. I ordered the Whole30 combo pack and they are all amazing. I actually only snacked about 5 times in the 30 days, and only because I had a late lunch at work and thought I was going to die. My snack would be a handful of raw nuts and twice an RX bar.

I didn’t workout on Whole30 other than some light cardio here and there because I didn’t want to mess with my hunger (snacking is a problem for me, so I didn’t want to do it). If you do workout regularly, there are pre and post workout meals to follow which you can find in the links.

Step Four: Plan Your Meals

Being prepared is the only way you are going to successfully complete Whole30. I was on Pinterest weekly, planning my meals, I also scoured Instagram and kept everything very simple as to not overwhelm myself because I am far from being the best cook in the land.

First things first, breakfast. As someone who had been drinking protein shakes for the last 3 years, eating actual food before work was an adjustment. My go-to? 2 hard boiled eggs, organic celery with cashew or almond butter on top. All foods that can be prepared the night before. I throw in some leftover sweet potatoes here and there. And also add some chia seed pudding (basic recipe from bucknakedpaleo on Instagram, check her out). Weekend breakfast looks a lot like the picture below. I will add half an avocado if we have a ripe one. Please don’t forget about your healthy fats, they are super important!

Lunch. Most of the time it’s leftovers from dinner the night before. But sometimes I spice things up. It is VERY important that you learn to make your own mayo (or purchase a compliant one, like Primal Kitchen’s) so that you can enjoy some chicken salad, egg salad, and tuna salad. The mayo recipe is in the Whole30 book. It will change your life. Also pictured, a beautiful salad with a balsamic I purchased while visiting a friend in PA. Again, get your dressing game strong.

Dinner. The most important meal to plan for in my opinion. No one wants to figure dinner out after work when they’re tired and hungry. Have a plan. Pinterest is really inspiring if you are looking for easy meals with very few ingredients. The three recipes below were inspired by Pinterest and adjusted to meet my Whole30 needs and preferences.

Links: Potato DishShrimp, Stuffed Peppers

And when in doubt, GRILL. The weather is only getting warmer, take advantage!

Step Five: Partner Up

Don’t go through this alone! It is so much easier when you have someone you can have compliant homemade dinners with or chat about how you’re feeling. My mom did Whole30 with me and THANK GOD. I eat dinner at my grandma’s with my family twice a week, so twice a week a compliant meal was prepared for me. I know I’m kind of spoiled, but you should find your person who loves to cook and is super good at it so you can be spoiled, too.

Step Six: Know the Random Rules

If you want to have a perfect Whole30 (which is hard, but doable, I did it), there are some rules (some arbitrary, some important) that you will find in Melissa Hartwig’s (founder of Whole30) books. No weighing yourself. Your plate should have mostly veggies for every meal, add a little protein, healthy fat, and occasional fruit (you’ll find her meal template in the downloads link). When you eat there should be no electronic distractions, no phones or television, she wants you to be present, not just mindlessly shoving food in your mouth. No dessert, even if you figure out how to make it compliant, don’t. Eat your meals, don’t drink your meals. If you cheat, you need to begin again starting at Day 1. Some of these rules sound a little crazy, and if they turn you off, don’t follow them. You’re an adult. But I encourage you to take them into consideration.

I absolutely recommend this program to anyone interested in changing their relationship with food and hoping to feel and look healthier. I wouldn’t have taken the hours to create this post if I didn’t. Whole30 gave me so much. Clearer skin. Amazing sleep. Looser fitting clothes. A better relationship with my husband (when you’re healthier, you’re happier). I lost 11.6 pounds, which was fun, but definitely not the most important part of my journey.

“You don’t need to weigh or measure, you don’t need to count calories. Your only job for 30 days? Eat. Good. Food.” – Melissa Hartwig

It has been so liberating not counting ANYTHING. No calories. No containers. No macros (I actually have never known what those were). NO NOTHING. Just me eating real food. And that was is a huge part of my WHY. Thanks for reading!