what is whole30?

What up party people!

I've had a lot of ladies (and some gents) reach out this month about my #whole30 experience, why I did it, and if it worked, so I thought I'd give you guys a little recap. If you’ve been thinking about trying it, just curious about what it is, or are just here for the recipes, do I have a treat for you! If you hate when people take pictures of their food, give you nutritional tips and post “transformation photos”, I accept you and also this post probably isn't for you. 

What is the Whole 30?

First and foremost, What is Whole 30? 

From Melissa Hartwig, the co-creator of the Whole 30 herself, "Certain food groups (like sugar, grains, dairy and legumes) could be having a negative impact on your health and fitness without you even realizing it. Do you have some sort of condition, like skin issues, digestive ailments, seasonal allergies, or chronic pain, that medication hasn’t helped? These symptoms are often directly related to the foods you eat—even the “healthy” stuff."

Does anyone NOT have one of these above mentioned issues? By eliminating the most common craving-inducing, blood sugar disrupting, gut-damaging, inflammatory food groups, you have this opportunity to get to the root of the problem, let your body heal and then rediscover what works, and doesn't work for your body through reintroduction. (Oliveyouwhole has a great post about reintroduction here) Basically like pushing the reset button on your health. 

To summarize the program rules:

Eat real food. 

  • Do not consume added sugar, real or artificial. No maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, coconut sugar, date syrup, stevia, Splenda, Equal, Nutrasweet, xylitol, etc. Read your labels, because companies sneak sugar into products in ways you might not recognize.

  • Do not consume alcohol, in any form, not even for cooking. And ideally, no tobacco products of any sort, either. - This was an easy one for me, never smoked a cigarette in my life. 

  • Do not eat grains. This includes (but is not limited to) wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, millet, bulgur, sorghum, sprouted grains, and all gluten-free pseudo-cereals like quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat. This also includes all the ways we add wheat, corn, and rice into our foods in the form of bran, germ, starch, and so on. Again, read your labels.

  • Do not eat legumes. This includes beans of all kinds (black, red, pinto, navy, white, kidney, lima, fava, etc.), peas, chickpeas (oh how I missed you), lentils, and peanuts. No peanut butter, either. This also includes all forms of soy – soy sauce, miso, tofu, tempeh, edamame, and all the ways we sneak soy into foods (like lecithin).

  • Do not eat dairy. This includes cow, goat, or sheep’s milk products like milk, cream, cheese, kefir, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, or frozen yogurt.

  • Do not consume carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites. If these ingredients appear in any form on the label of your processed food or beverage, it’s out for the Whole30.

  • Do not consume baked goods, junk foods, or treats with “approved” ingredients. Recreating or buying sweets, treats, and foods-with-no-brakes (even if the ingredients are technically compliant) is totally missing the point of the Whole30, and will compromise your life-changing results. 

  • Do not step on the scale or take any body measurements for 30 days. The Whole30 is about so much more than weight loss, and to focus only on body composition means you’ll overlook all of the other dramatic, lifelong benefits this plan has to offer.

These rules come directly from the Whole30 website cited above.

Why did you do the Whole 30?

I believe that everyone has a very unique relationship with food. Some people love to cook, some hate it. Some people love to only eat whole ingredients, some grew up on processed foods. Here in Los Angeles it's pretty common in any select group of friends that you have: a vegetarian, a vegan, a meat lover, a gluten-intolerant person etc. (which can make dinner parties pretty difficult, trust me.) What we can all agree on though, is that we want to fuel out bodies with the best possible ingredients to live a happy and healthy life. 

I travel for work. I split my time between SF and LA, which means I’m either in my car for a few hours snacking on something I grabbed at a gas station, or in an airport paying way too much for things that look healthy but turns out actually aren’t. After 6 months, this started to show, mostly in my tummy. Ever heard the expression 'skinny fat'?

Before you get all hyphy about body dysmorphia or a supposed eating disorder, please let me stop you and reassure you that I LOVE my body. Really, I do. Sometimes too much. Ask my sister, or anyone in my snapchat favorites. However, I do like to stay fit and lean and STRONG, and I know when my body is not at its best. Adjusting to travel life was a struggle, as everyone warned me it would be. I’d be lying if I told you breaking up with my best friend/personal trainer didn’t have an effect on my personal fitness journey as well. So, I had to find a way to find the balance again; the motivation to look good just for myself, and the power to take my life back. 

I am a creature of habit, as much as I love to pick up and leave, backpack around the world, I’m still a planner at heart and I thrive on a routine. I know this about myself. So, if I was going to get back into the gym and back into shape, I had to really commit to it and make a plan.

In addition to committing to the Whole30, I committed to waking up early every single day and working out. I used to do this all the time. I would get up at 5:30am every single day, go to the gym from 6:00am - 7:00am, come home and make my breakfast and be at work by 8:00am. There may have been a boy there I needed to see, and casually squat in front of, but either way, it kept me fit. 

This time around, no boy. So I signed up for a program 24 Hour Fitness is running called StepUp . 24 Hour Fitness and University of Pennsylvania's Behavior Change for Good initiative launched a ground-breaking science-based program that aims to create lasting life-changing health habits. Is it becoming more clear why this felt like the perfect compliment to the Whole30 program? It sounds complex but really, it's simple. Every morning at 6:00am, I got a text that said something like "You planned to workout today. After your workout please complete the one-question survey". And at 9:00am another text, "How was your workout today? How long did you workout for? 10-20 minutes press 1, 21-30 minutes press 2", and for every day that I completed the workout and answered the text, I received 300 points in the StepUp program. Queue the accountability I needed and was missing. So simple, and yet effective. I made sure not to open the text until I made it to the gym, and my type A personality HATES pending notifications, so I had to go. Yesterday I even realized that with all these points I've gained this month, I get an Amazon Gift Card, which I had completely forgotten about. I was just excited about getting rid of my notifications. 

How to Prepare for the Whole 30

On a drive down from SF to LA, I had a cool 6 hours to kill and rather than rehashing every relationships failures and every awkward thing I ever said to a Starbucks barista in my head, this time I decided to go for a podcast. If you’re thinking about trying whole 30, or just curious about how it came to be, I think this is a great place to start. I learned about Melissa, her fitness journey and why an elimination diet worked for her. I learned that I too am a “finisher” and must finish something if I start it, especially if it’s a promise I’ve made to myself. And I learned that maybe (shocker) I had been mislead by some of the fitness/nurtitional advice I had found on the internet. 

Luckily, this podcast found me at the end of a month, and (uncommonly) coming up on three full weeks at home in Los Angeles. This is important because it allowed me to cook most of my meals, and avoid bad habits while traveling. Now those of you that follow me on Instagram know that I love to cook for myself, I always have. My family has always eaten wholesome ingredients and not much processed food, so this wasn’t a huge jump for me UNTIL I learned how many things that we regularly eat have sugar in them.

The next thing I did to prepare was sign up for Thrive Market. Conveniently, new customers get 20% off your first 3 orders with Thrive, The Ultimate Health Podcast I just linked you to offers you a discount code midway through as they're a sponsor, AND i just searched for coupon codes on the interwebs and got additional savings. 

Finally, I utilized the tools that were available to me. I signed up for the Wholesome newsletter for recipes and inspiration and started following the Whole30 Instagram accounts so that it was always right in front of me.  


1. Listen to this podcast!  

2. Sign Up for Thrive Market!  

3. Familiarize yourself with the Program Rules!

4. Sign Up for Wholesome!

5. Follow some accounts that will help keep you on track. @whole30@whole30recipes@whole30approved, and @melissa_hartwig (#whole30)

The 5 Stages of Whole 30

Stage 1. Inspired - Day 1. I'm ready! I listened to my podcast, I signed up for my gym program. I'm committed. I can do this! 

Stage 2. Panic - Day 4/5. I'm in whole foods, walking the aisles aimlessly, I've eaten the same thing for breakfast for the last 5 days. What can I actually eat? Why does everything have SUGAR in it. Am I going to starve? Purchasing a few basic condiments and sauces from Thrive Market helped relieve this panic that I had walking through whole foods, reading ingredients and feeling like I may actually starve. *spoiler* I did not starve, and neither will you. 

Stage 3. Am I Dying? - Day 10. I won't get into the specifics here, but there is something that happens to your body when you remove all the toxic waste that you've been fueling yourself with, (and it comes in the form of smushy poops). Yes, I called my sister and asked her if I was dying. She has done Whole30 before, and reassured me that there is an entire section on the Whole30 website about smushy poops, and I was not going to die. This was a close one folks. 

Stage 4. I am a Beautiful Goddess and my Body is a Temple - Day 18. I'm feeling good. I've made it to the gym every single day. I'm feeling strong, I'm feeling lean, I'm lifting heavier than I ever have. I have a butt, a real butt. That bloat that has been sitting in my lower stomach for the last 6 months is not completely gone but certainly WAY better. I might wear a crop top. 

Stage 5. Sugar Monster - Day 26. I don't even like sweets. I'd take a Caprese Salad over a slice of cake any day of the week. I love salty, savory things. But the sugar monster does not discriminate. It lives deep within you, and will make you dream about doughnuts and sprinkles. Also, people will eat ice cream and churros in front of you, point it at your nose, ask if you want some, and then say, "Oh wait, you're on a diet, right?" DO NOT give in. You can do this! Eat some fruit, it helps. 

In Conclusion...

Was it worth it? Absolutely. Did I meet my goals? Of course! Was it what I expected? Not exactly. Again, I'll ask you to remember that everyone is fighting their own battles. Just because my weight is less than average, or my physique 'seems fine', does not discount my want and need to take care of my body. I can't tell you how many people responded to "I'm doing Whole30", with "Why are you on a diet?", "You look fine", "You don't need that", and while I know these sentiments almost always come from a good place, try to remember that everyone is unique, and everyone has their own set of goals and challenges. For me, chronic knee pain and restless sleep are WHY I did the Whole30, the six-pack was just a bonus. 

The biggest struggle for me during these past 31 days was not avoiding alcohol, or finding things in Whole Foods that I was allowed to eat. It's 100% a mental game. It was more challenging explaining to people WHY I wanted to do the Whole30, than actually doing it. I had to continue to remind myself why I started, and just commit to the program.

This is your commitment to yourself, to your body, to your future. This is you telling yourself you're going to do something, and then doing it. This does require effort. Grocery shopping, reading the back of the package for ingredients EVERY TIME, eating out with friends, explaining the program to your friends, family, colleagues, all these things take effort. But you have a  number of tools at your disposal, so don't be afraid to ask for help. 

Give it 30 days, it will change your life.