Have you been feeling out of sorts lately? Sore, for basically no reason? Maybe you have had a seemingly almost constant stomach ache and can’t seem to figure out what is causing it. Has your skin been on the fritz for as long as you can remember? Are you convinced your scale is broken because the number hasn’t budged in months, no matter how hard you work out? Perhaps your energy levels always seem to be nearing zero, no matter how much sleep you get.
While there could be a number of reasons for the things that are going on with your body, they very well may have something to do with the food you are eating. It could be one type of food or it could be several. One great way to find out which foods make you feel awful – as well as which ones actually make you feel great – is trying the Whole30 diet.
Whole30 Diet Review
The Whole30 diet was officially launched in 2009 after a co-founder shared her experience with a 30-day diet experiment on her blog. Since then, tons of people have changed their lives and health with the Whole30 meal plan. The creators of Whole30 urge you to, “Think of it as a short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system.”
The program started with the idea that some ailments, like muscle aches, overuse injuries, skin issues, stomach problems, inability to lose weight and more, cannot be explained. Because of this, there is a theory that some of the foods we eat (such as dairy, grains, sugar and legumes) are having these kinds of negative impacts on our overall health.
How do you know if your problems are caused by food or some other culprit? First things first, cut out all of these troublesome, inflammatory-inducing and potential problem-causing foods. Not forever, just for 30 days. Taking 30 days (a totally doable amount of time) to cleanse your body of the harmful effects of unhealthy foods, heal it with healthy foods and reset your cravings for real food and leaving your desire for processed foods behind, could completely change your health, life and body. The 30 days will give you a chance to determine if the no-no foods are indeed causing you to feel like garbage. If you notice positive improvements in your health, energy, skin, digestion, etc., you can assume that your old diet was not agreeing with you.
What exactly is the Whole30 diet? Some consider it a modified Paleo diet, because it operates with the premise that humans probably aren’t meant to eat foods like added sugars and dairy. In a sense, Whole30 simply requires you to eat only real food. If it was man-made, it’s off limits — pretty simple, right?
Whole30 Diet Plan Basics and Rules
Conceptually, the Whole30 meal plan has the potential to be an effective way for people to start being more mindful of the food they are eating. In general, most fad diets start out that way, and only become ineffective or harmful if not followed correctly. Here is a breakdown of what it takes to follow the Whole30 diet.
The 8 Steps of the Whole30 Diet
Whole30 offers a list of steps to help beginners succeed throughout their 30 days of eating ‘real’ food. Here is a quick summary of those steps.
Steps 1 and 2: Learn about the Whole30 meal plan and what it stands for BEFORE you commit. Then learn the dos and don’ts. The rest of our beginner’s guide will help introduce you to what Whole30 is and isn’t, and what you can and can’t eat throughout, so read on.
Step 3: Pick a start date and commit. The Whole30 team recommends starting as soon as you can, but not necessarily right away. It’s better to wait if you have a big event coming up where you won’t be as much in control of what you are able to eat, such as a wedding, a competition or a vacation to an unfamiliar place. You need to be able to be in control of your diet for the entire 30 days.
Step 4: This is the step where you find your support system. You can stay within the Whole30 community to find others to connect with or ask your friends and family to support you over your 30-day journey. Having a support system during a lifestyle change is important in determining whether or not you will be successful. Getting Whole30 reviews and feedback from others who have done it is also a helpful tool.
Step 5: If you are not a planner by nature, this step will be a little harder for you – but you can do it! Not only will you need to clean out your pantry and stock it and your fridge with Whole30-friendly foods, but it is also suggested that you plan out some meals beforehand so that you are not going into meal prep without some things already in place. New eating habits can be difficult to adjust to, so planning ahead is always best.
Step 6: Planning ahead is important not only for your new routine, but also for those moments when temptation ALMOST gets the best of you. The Whole30 diet has a ‘no-slip’ policy: you don’t get a cheat day and you can’t snack on potato chips at 9 p.m. on Tuesday just because you had a bad day. This step involves an if/then ‘crisis management’ plan and also includes alternatives to get you through unexpected situations like a delayed flight on an empty stomach.
Step 7: One major advantage of Whole30 is that numbers are basically non-existent, and that includes the numbers on your scale. You are not allowed to weigh yourself at all during Whole30, so if you think you will submit to temptation, get rid of your scale before you get started so you can focus on the food itself, not how much you weigh because of what you eat. This phase is not about your weight or body composition, it’s about teaching your brain and your body what healthy food is.
Step 8: This is Day 1 of your Whole30 journey. Starting, after all, may not be the first step, but it is probably among the most important of them all. Taking action and improving your relationship with food by sticking to your commitment is already an amazing achievement, and it’s only your first day!
For more detailed information, you can read further into each of the steps we have summarized here. Next we will break down the foods that are and are not allowed in the Whole30 meal plan so you can start creating your grocery shopping list.
Foods you can eat on the Whole30 Diet
- Meat, such as chicken, turkey, beef and pork
- Seafood, such as shrimp, crab, tuna and tilapia
- Eggs (prepared any way you want)
- Vegetables, such as carrots, celery, tomatoes and squash
- Fruit, such as apples, oranges, pears and grapes
- Occasional nuts like almonds, Brazil nuts, pecans and pistachios
Foods you cannot eat during Whole30
- Grains, such as breads, cereals and rice
- Legumes, such as beans, peas, chickpeas and peanuts
- Dairy – no milk, yogurt or cheese
This diet also eliminates foods containing any form of added sugar and any foods that contain MSG, sulfides or carrageenan. You are also not permitted to consume alcohol of any kind during Whole30.
What are Whole30 Approved foods?
Whole30 Approved foods are a list of brands and products that you can be assured comply with the Whole30 meal plan rules. These are great foods to keep with you in case you are in desperate need of a snack – foods such as Wild Zora Bars and Epic Bars.
What happens after 30 days?
As its name suggests, the Whole30 diet is only meant to last 30 days. It was designed specifically to come off as an easier, shorter and more effective approach to dieting. There is no calorie counting or measuring involved. During those 30 consecutive days of your commitment, you are expected to follow the rules and do your best to make healthy food choices. What happens after those 30 days is up to you.
It’s important to note that Whole30 does not allow “slip ups”. If you cheat or eat anything that is not on the approved list of foods, you start over. Simple as that. Making it to day 28 and having a cupcake at your friend’s baby shower means that you start right back at day one. So, keep that in mind before you begin, messing up could turn Whole30 into more like Whole55.
The idea is that, by the end of your Whole30 diet, you will have a better understanding of how to choose healthier food options in all settings and how eating good food consistently can make you feel. You also get to decide which foods you think make you feel good and which ones don’t, and structure your diet as such from that point forward.
Many people go on to complete the 30 days again and again, essentially making Whole30 a lifestyle change rather than a temporary diet. These are generally the people that experienced amazing results, whether weight loss or improvements in health, and cannot imagine going back to their old ways of eating.
Starter tips for a successful Whole30
- As always, choose the Whole30 diet for the right reasons. This is not a diet that focuses on weight loss. Instead, you need to focus on the food itself and how it makes you feel. Dairy might bother your stomach, and you might not realize it until you cut back on eating it for awhile.
- Download this shopping list to give you an idea of which foods you should be prepared to buy at the grocery store before your Whole30 diet begins.
- If you don’t live alone, ask your roommate or partner if they want to join you. Sometimes having someone else along for the ride can almost make dieting fun.
- Plan your meals ahead of time. While this might seem time consuming or unnecessary now, you will be glad you took this step later, so don’t skip it! Your first week of the Whole30 diet might be more difficult than you think. You might be hungry or craving carbs or just want pizza. Knowing what you are going to prepare ahead of time helps tremendously.
Menu and Meal Planning
- Avocado tuna salad
- Salmon asparagus bundles
- Mixed nuts
- Apples with almond butter
- Applesauce with cinnamon
Grocery Shopping List
- Ground beef
- Frozen grilled chicken breasts
- Spinach and lettuce
Does the Whole30 Diet Work?
What are the benefits of Whole30?
- Eliminating processed foods and added sugars from your diet.
- Paying more attention to the food you are eating and the choices you are making at restaurants, at work and at home.
- Promotes the use of real food as a measurement of health instead of body measurements like weight and waist circumference.
What are the disadvantages or risks of Whole30?
As with any diet that cuts out specific foods and food groups, there are a few downsides and even some risks to the Whole30 meal plan, many of them preventable if you do your research beforehand.
- This diet cuts out many of the foods we are used to eating on a daily basis. If someone is not careful about learning how to replace these ‘forbidden’ foods with different, possibly newer foods, it could lead to nutrient deficiencies.
- The diet eliminates foods like yogurt that contain probiotics, which are recommended for maintaining a healthy digestive system.
- While weight loss is possible on this diet, it is most likely due to calorie restriction, not because you might be eating healthier foods.
Reviews and Weight Loss Results
What happens when your diet is packed with fresh, healthy foods? Not only will you feel like a million bucks, you’ll look pretty great too! Check out the amazing Whole30 reviews and results these beautiful ladies experienced.
“I found the whole30 in November of 2015 and started practicing then, but actually did my first whole30 challenge in January of 2016. And most of my results are from healthy choices in my life after whole30, choices I wouldn’t have been able to make prior.
I started at 165 lbs and now I stay around 120 lbs. I do have really good weight loss results, but even better are my non-scale victories likes less frequent headaches, stomach issues, and dizzy spells. Better sleep, more energy, clearer skin, I could go on….
The most difficult part for me also doubled as a learning experience: reading labels. I had to learn (sometimes the hard way) you have to read the labels on EVERYTHING, I’m a pro at it now though!
The easiest part of whole30 is the fact that I’m not limited to certain sized portions or a certain amount of calories. I can eat as much good, real food as I want until I’m satisfied 🙂
It’s a lifestyle change and it has literally changed my life and the way I think about/look at food.”
“I began the Whole30 diet on May 3, 2016. To date, I’ve lost 33 pounds. I’ve had countless other non-scale victories as well. My skin has cleared up. I have tons of energy and I’m more productive in my daily life. My sweet tooth has finally gone away! I now crave whole, healthy foods.
Restaurants on the Whole30 can be a little challenging at first, but I researched and learned that most establishments will cater to your specific needs. I would look at the restaurant menus online beforehand and if I had specific questions on how the food was prepared, I would call.
The part that I like the best about the Whole30 is how structured it is. The program is designed so if you eat something off the plan then you start over. The structure of the program is what I like the best because I’m a rule follower and it gives me guidelines to follow. It doesn’t allow for little “non-compliant” treats that have the potential to derail progress.
I’ve been one of your typical yo-yo dieters all my life. Switching from popular fad diets to weight loss pills to calorie restricted dieting. I was a little reluctant at first to try Whole30 because it is a bit restrictive but I read It Starts With Food and learned the science behind the program and it made sense to me. Something with Whole30 just clicked with me. I’ve never felt better than I do right now. Fueling my body with whole, nutrient dense food has made such a huge difference. You don’t realize the effect of the foods you’re eating until you strip them from your diet. Just 30 days of eliminating a few food groups and it has the potential to change your life. It has certainly changed mine!”
“My initial goal was to do the whole30 for 90 days, however I planned a last minute vacation that brought me to finish earlier. Therefore i have done the whole30 for 88 days.
To my knowledge, I have lost 18 pounds in the 88 days I have done the whole30. I am sure I have lost a lot of inches because most of my clothes are falling off, but I have failed to take measurements at first. My advice would be, take measurements as the scale doesn’t always move. Measurements allow you to see the changes the scale is not showing.
My skin is clearer, my stomach has been feeling better than it has in more than 7 years. I no longer use food as a coping mechanism.
The most difficult part was to get started because I had an extremely bad week food wise and I decided to quit cold turkey and start the whole30. It was also saying no to eating my favorite junk food but it was worth it.
The easiest part is finding what to eat,thanks to the whole30 recipes page. Once you finish the whole30 and you see how great you feel, you will want to keep going like I did.
If you are contemplating the idea of doing the whole30, just jump in and do it. Don’t do it for the weight loss because, it’s not about that. It’s about changing your relationship with food and improving your health while making the right choices and learning what works or doesn’t work for you, food wise.”
Before and After Success Stories
“I did my first round of Whole30 in February of 2015 and my second round of Whole30 beginning January 1, 2016. Round 2 lasted 81 days. I have been strictly Paleo since ending that round in late March, returning to the Whole30 guidelines anytime I notice old/bad eating habits returning. While a typical round is only 30 days, I’ve learned that it really isn’t a “diet.” It’s a foundation for a new lifestyle.
Since my first round of Whole30, I have lost a total of 30 pounds. I am down from a size 12 to a size 4. While seeing those numbers change is exciting, I have gleaned so much more from the program. I’ve learned exactly how my body reacts to certain foods and understand the physical consequences I might go through if I decide to eat them. My gut-health is much better, meaning I don’t get sick very often. My skin is clearer, my emotions are steadier, I have consistent energy throughout the day, I don’t have “brain fog” like I used to, and I always feel satisfied, but never full, after eating. Most importantly, I have a new relationship with food and am in total control of my choices. Food used to be my driver and it no longer motivates me to work harder, nor comforts me when I’m stressed.
The easiest part of the Whole30 is deciding to do it, finding recipes, and reading others testimonials. The most difficult part of Whole30, for me, was persevering through it. Meals on Whole30 weren’t too difficult. Remembering I was on the Whole30 in the mundane, in between, grab-a-quick-piece-of-candy-from-the-candy-jar moments…those required more focus and grit. My first round of Whole30, I was constantly reminding myself that satisfying a temporary and present desire for an off-limit food would prolong my long-term and deeper desire of better health. Little did I know, making it through that first round of Whole30 would set me up for long-term success and a brand new lifestyle.
If you’re interested in trying the diet, do it. Whole30 is unlike any other program that helps you get results so you can return to your old ways– it’s a lifestyle change where you’ll have to take a good look at yourself, your habits, and your emotional and physical relationship with food, and make tough choices for a better you. You’ll have to open yourself up to face some potentially harsh realities. You’ll discover areas of your life and health that need and deserve to be addressed. Habits that began in childhood will likely change and change can be difficult. It’s tough at times, but you are worth your best efforts. Whole30 is an incredible springboard into better health– physically, mentally, and emotionally.”
“I started my first round of Whole30 a year and a half ago. I lost about 20lbs the first month and loved the way I felt so much that I continued after those 30 days with eating Paleo. I’ve since done a total of three rounds of Whole30 and eating Paleo between them. Whole30 has been a life changing tool for providing me with the knowledge about food, ability to make conscious choices about what I’m eating and how it affects my body and allowing me to fix my previously unhealthy relationship with food.
To date, I’ve lost 120 pounds in the last year and a half. I started in March of 2015 at 293 lbs and currently weigh 173.
The most difficult part about starting a Whole30 was adjusting to an entirely new way of eating and preparing meals. I was eating the standard American diet- lots of fried, fast, and easy options. I had to switch gears and do a complete 180 from the food I was used to. The results and the way my body responded was all the proof I needed to see that I had been treating my body all wrong. Because of that, it wasn’t hard to get past the initial learning curve.
The benefits beyond weight loss that I’ve experienced are better sleep, no more ankle or knee pain, increased energy, staying full and satiated between meals, no more lethargy or “Thanksgiving hangover” after meals, no counting calories, tracking points or measuring, my skin has cleared up and my doctor says my A1C is better than any patient she’s seen in months.
While cutting out processed foods and sugar may sound daunting, most people find that by doing a Whole30 they’ve been made aware of foods that they didn’t even know they had sensitivities to! By learning that, they can have better control over how they feel, how their food choices affect that and then continue working towards optimum health.”
“I’ve been on the Whole30 diet for about a year off and on. I am on my 5th round.
I have lost 30 pounds all together. I never really measured myself. I can tell the difference in my waist. Improvements I have noticed is my face is less blemished, I sleep better, I feel energetic, I feel less bloated, and I feel amazing.
The most difficult part is reading labels and making sure everything I buy is compliant. Also, the first 10 days are brutal; I felt like I had a hangover for days. The easiest part is eating all the delicious foods I prepare. I love to food prep, it makes me feel accountable.
If you’re on the fence about Whole30, I would say try it! It will change your life. You will feel better and look better. It will be a challenge but in the end it will be worth it!”
The Whole30 diet is a great way to get in touch with your body and figure out which foods might be causing you trouble. If nothing else, you will learn to eat healthier, at least compared to the way you were eating before. Even nutrition experts will praise that fact and make Whole30 reviews positive.