Prior to embarking in higher education, many individuals are warned about the dreaded “Freshman 15.” Those on a protracted academic endeavor may wind up seeing this turn into the “PharmD 30.” While good nutrition, aerobic exercise, and making SMART goals are important, the reality is that grueling academic schedules, residency training, or adapting to life as a New Practitioner often interfere with the best healthy living intentions.
If I am being honest, a healthy lifestyle has not always been at the top of my priority list. But now that I am in my early 30s, I realize how much I squandered those years of speedy metabolism and ache-free joints. Pursuing a healthier lifestyle has been something I have attempted to be more diligent about in this new phase of adulthood, but where to start? I have long been doubtful about many of the popular lifestyle brands and the sustainability of their promises. I know that, while some people swear by them, they are experiences I do not want for myself.
Enter the Whole30.
An elimination diet
One of the Insta-bloggers I follow had chronicled her experiences sans rose-colored glasses, which I appreciated. It was these posts that first led me to research what the Whole30 is all about. At its core, the Whole30 is an elimination diet, aimed at identifying the foods that act as triggers for inflammation, digestive issues, and other intolerances, as well as breaking your body (and brain) of cravings to certain foods (hello, sugar dragon).
On paper, the plan can seem extremely daunting and restrictive: no added sugar (real or artificial), alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites for 30 days. By following the plan, including the 7- to 10-day reintroduction period, you gain a better appreciation for the types of foods and additives that your body responds to well and responds to poorly. With that newfound knowledge, you can choose to retain or discard as much of the program as you like.
It can be done!
You may be wondering how success is even possible with a crazy schedule, limited budget, and so many restrictions, but I can assure you that I have managed to complete four trials so far.
Here are some of my tips to a successful Whole30 experience:
● Do your research. This is not a program that is easily carried out on a whim. Know what you are getting yourself into before you start.
● Collect resources. One of my favorite aspects of this program are all of the free resources available. The Whole30 website (https://whole30.com) has all the information you need to get started, as well as sample meal plans. Pinterest and the Whole30 recipes Instagram account will be your friend, as well.
● Plan ahead. My most successful experiences have involved meal planning and making time for meal prep on the weekends. “Once A Month Meals,” a freezer meal-planning service (https://onceamonthmeals.com/blog/recipe-roundups/50-freezable-whole30-re... or https://onceamonthmeals.com), also has a list of compliant freezer meals to make those extra busy times manageable.
● Be prepared for sticker shock. I remember looking at my receipt after my first Whole30 shopping trip and wondering if I had made a terrible error. If you are anything like me, you will wind up buying more produce and protein than usual. However, I was able to make these meals stretch much longer than anticipated, which balanced everything out.
● Read the Whole30 timeline. This timeline gives you a realistic framework for how you may feel physically and emotionally throughout the month.
Self-awareness over gimmicky
The Whole30 may not be for everyone, but it might be for you. I love that the premise of this program is based in nutritional education and self-awareness rather than a gimmick to lose weight. One of the rules of the program is to abstain from weighing yourself throughout the month. You are also encouraged to celebrate non-scale victories, such as improved sleep quality, lack of the afternoon slump, and clearer skin. For those who decide to try it, get some accountability, follow others along on social media, and try not to have too many expectations.
I had heard people raving about their experiences, so I went into my first Whole30 experience with an open mind and was so encouraged by the process. Good luck if you give it a try!