what you need to know before doing your first Whole 30

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of interviewing two friends, Jennifer Stefancik and Melissa Rockman, also known as planks4peanutbutter and netflixtofitchicks on Instagram. They're completing their second round of Whole 30 this January, and they've been absolutely killin' it. I thought I'd pick their brain on their Whole 30 experience, as well as find out any tips they had for people wanting to try Whole 30.

N: What made you decide to do Whole 30?

J: The first time, we did it in the summer on a whim. I did it mostly to break sugar habits — I wanted to stop craving dessert after dinner every night. This time, I'm more interested in the reintroduction period, so I can see what foods I'm sensitive to.

M: The first time, I did it because Jen was. I've always had digestion issues, so that's also why I'm doing it this time.

N: So what does this reintroduction period look like? Are you nervous about reintroducing anything?

J & M: It's a 10 day period of slowly reintroducing the foods you couldn't have one food at a time. So the first day (day 31) is legumes. Then you go back to Whole 30 eating for 2 days, then reintroduce gluten free grains (day 34). Back to Whole 30 for 2 days, then reintroduce dairy (day 37). Back to Whole 30 for 2 days, then reintroduce gluten (day 40).

J: I'm nervous about reintroducing dairy. I've cut it out a couple of times and I usually feel different and definitely bloated afterwards.

M: So Whole 30 says that if you don't like it (don't miss it), then don't reintroduce it. I don't like beans — they give me digestion issues — so I'll do a reintroduction of just soy the first day.

N: What's the best thing you did before starting to prepare?

J: Definitely research. Research what Trader Joe's has, what Whole Foods has, what regular grocery stores have. I didn't walk into a grocery store until I had a meal plan for the first week.

M: I researched off-limit things and added them to my phone. A lot of things that are actually OK (like xantham gum) have science-y sounding names that can throw you off. I also used the Whole 30 website a lot and looked up the hashtags #whole30approved and #whole30 on Instagram for inspiration.

M: A HUGE thing was meal prepping — you can no longer rely on anything else for your food. Essentially, you don't leave the house without food, in case you go somewhere were you can't eat anything. We had RXBars, EPIC Bars, Chompsand Larabars as emergency snacks, but these should only be as a last resort.

Also, be careful when buying bars —  read the ingredient list to make sure everything is actually Whole 30 approved.

N: I know for me, once I get started meal-prepping it's all good, but I find it hard to get motivated to start. What motivates you guys?

J: I block off 3 hours on the weekend, put in a podcast, and just do it.

M: I actually meal-prepped 8 freezer crockpot meals for lunch and dinner over Christmas break, and just bought fresh veggies to supplement, so that made it easier. I also do different meals on different days to break it down, so I'd prep breakfast on Sunday, lunch on Wednesday, etc. This also saves space in your fridge!

Melissa used this Excel template as a guide — feel free to download and adjust!
Photo by Melissa Rockman

Photo by Melissa Rockman

N: What's the best meal or recipe you've made?

J: Jennifer Hanway's Hearty Cacao Chili! If you already have the spices, all you need to buy really are zucchini and beef.

Photo by Jen Stefancik

Photo by Jen Stefancik

M: I've been really into egg bakes!

Photo by Melissa Rockman

Photo by Melissa Rockman

(I agree — Melissa's egg bakes have looked so frickin' good.)

N: Speaking of meals, I'm sure you've had some challenges eating out. how did you deal with that?

J: People will think you want to go to "healthy" places. But vegetarian and vegan places are hard because there's so much soy. Go to any American restaurant or burger place with grass-fed meat, and go for salmon or steak. Make sure to ask if it's just cooked in oil and spices, no sugar, and that the veggies aren't cooked in butter.

M: I had to go to an Asian place for work, and it was really hard because everything had soy sauce. But they were really accommodating and we eventually found something that worked! Protein and veggies always work. My go-to was actually Chipotle — we do this Whole 30 meal of romaine, carnitas, guac, and any salsa they have (except the corn salsa).

Photo by Melissa Rockman

Photo by Melissa Rockman

For more on eating out while on Whole 30, check out Life Health HQ's restaurant guide. PS: We met at Mother Juice, which is a vegan place that DOES have Whole 30 compliant foods!

mother juice

N: What's the biggest craving you've had?

J: I have a huge sweet tooth, so definitely sugar and dessert. I definitely found myself legit Googling pictures of dessert one night.

M: Snacking. On Whole 30, you're supposed to eat 3 big meals, so I missed having my snacks.

N: You guys are both super active — did you notice anything different in your workouts?

J: You know when you go out to eat and you wake up with a food hangover? That doesn't happen on Whole 30, so your morning workouts feel much better.

M: I didn't really notice anything different, but I used working out as a tool for not snacking between breakfast and lunch.

Photo by Melissa Rockman

Photo by Melissa Rockman

N: What are you most excited for when Whole 30 ends?

J: I honestly want to see how it fits into my lifestyle. I'm nervous for the reintroduction because I feel so good. But I definitely miss the social aspect of eating.

M: I agree — I'm less social on Whole 30. I'm excited to eat with other people. I'm also excited to go back to Starbucks and try their fun new drinks.

N: What tips do you have for people doing it the first time?

J: Once you slip, you have to reset and start all over. People who fail are usually ones who slip and then don't go back. You have to read all you ingredients; you can't be lenient because then it's like a slippery slope.

M: Tell everyone you're doing it. Have a good reason and do enough research to be able to explain it — it's NOT a weight loss diet. That way, you give people a heads up and also get accountability.

J & M: Pick a buddy (bonus points to if your boyfriends do it with you). Pick a month where you don't major events or things you have less control over (weddings, vacations, etc.)

Photo by Melissa Rockman

Photo by Melissa Rockman

N: How do you feel now, physically, now you're coming to the end? any big takeaways?

J: I don't want to use the word "pure," but that's actually how I feel. My skin's also cleared and my teeth are whiter. I feel better overall. I still get bloated sometimes if I eat a big meal or drink too much seltzer and kombucha, but I haven't had any stomach pains.

M: It's great feeling full but never stuffed. I loved proving to myself that I can do it, and that I can cook 3 entire well-balanced meals each day.

N: Would you do it again?

J: If I'm able to stick to a Paleo lifestyle 80% of the time, I'm not sure if I would feel the need to do it again. But it was a good idea to do it right after the holidays.

M: Yes!

I personally did try to do Whole 30 — it worked for a couple of weeks before I started class. I did end up drinking alcohol (oops) and fell of the Whole 30 train at the very end (AKA now), but I cut out dairy completely and feel much better, and have 99% cut out all grains and peanuts/peanut butter. It proves to yourself that you don't need these things, whether or not they make a difference. I'd love to start snacking less though, and Jen and Melissa definitely inspired me to start meal prepping more.