paleo map

A few weeks ago, I saw my friend Jessica post this comment on Facebook: “Contemplating doing a Whole 30 once Valentines passes. Thinking that might help me troubleshoot my aches and pains. Encourage me or talk me off the ledge?”

It stuck in my brain for days because I’d been thinking of doing one, too, ever since my friend Heidi first tried it, but I just didn’t really want to take the next step. I’d read about Whole30 (and the Whole9 group that created it), and I had added a few Paleo cookbooks and podcasts to my repertoire. Yet I still didn’t really want to go there, if you know what I mean.

But doing it with someone else? That had appeal. I’m not a fan of food fads, but joining a group of friends in camaraderie, where we could share the highs and lows of the whole process (and maybe laugh at ourselves at our weeny-ness about not having wine for a month)? That sounded more fun.

So today is Day 10 of my Whole30, and I’m floored by how I feel. It’s really pretty incredible.

What on earth is Whole30?

I know, sounds like some sort of infomercial energy drink, right? It’s actually the name of a 30-day food plan created by husband and wife team Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, who own a crossfit gym in Utah (yeah, they’re “those” types of people—healthy ones).

paleo breakfast

Basically, it’s Paleo hard-core. It’s no sugar, grains, dairy, and legumes for an entire thirty days—so you guessed it, it’s not easy. But what’s amazing is that I feel fuller than I ever have in my life because for the first time in ages, my body is getting what it needs to tell my brain it’s full when it has the food it needs. I can trust my signals again.

Its purpose is to zero in on what foods may be troubling you, often without you even being aware. So many modern-day issues, such as healthy weight maintenance, depression, skin and joint issues, autoimmune conditions, and more—all start with food. Whole30 pares down your diet to the bare essentials for a full thirty days to help your body heal from what may be hurting you.

So I’m only a third in, but I’ve already learned some helpful tips.

1. Focus on what you can have, not what you can’t.

Whole30 means I’m not currently eating some of my favorite foods—aged cheeses, red wine, and dark chocolate, for instance. But you know what I can have? Every kind of quality meat imaginable. Tons and tons of vegetables and plenty of fruits to take off the sweet cravings. Coconut products galore, which turns out are AMAZING. Who knew?

paleo lunch

There are more recipes and ideas out there than days of the year—simply search “Paleo” on Pinterest and you’ll see. (I’ve created a Paleo pinboard, too.)

2. Plan in advance.

Meal planning has made this possible for our family—there’s no way I could fly by the seat of my pants and make this happen right now. On the weekends I decide what we’re going to eat for the entire week, and I shop straight from the list.

My meal planning tool of choice right now is Plan to Eat, but I also love and subscribe to Whole Family’s Kitchen‘s meal plans, and they have a great selection of grain and gluten-free menus.

And date night—oh, date night. It’s hard to eat out. Did you know that almost every restaurant known to man uses canola oil? I had to call all over town to find a place that would let us request our food be cooked with olive oil instead of canola. But calling ahead did help us know where to go and what to order ahead of time, so we weren’t caught off-guard.

3. Roll with the punches.

Whole30 Timeline

I’m not gonna lie—it’s hard, especially at first. This timeline seems spot-on to me. The first few days, I had a mix of wanting to “kill all the things,” followed by an intense desire to just curl up and take a long nap until morning. I even had what’s known as “carb flu,” where it really did feel like I was getting sick—turns out I was detoxing from carbs.

It helps enormously to just go with the flow, let your body do its thing, and not give up when it feels icky. Most people wake up around Day 8 and start feeling much, much better.

4. Find a group.

I can’t stress this last bit enough. Our little Facebook group has been my lifeline, because I’m the type to give up early on these things due to boredom or lack of accountability. It’s been fantastic to vent, share, encourage, and learn from ladies like Anne, Jessica, Mandi, Heidi, Tricia, Katie, Sarah, and more.

So if you decide to try out Whole30, I highly, highly encourage you to form a group and try it together. Plan a start date, read the Hartwig’s book It Starts With Food in advance, to fill your head with the reasons you’re doing this, and then? Just… start. No time like the present.

paleo breakfast

I figured this—I can always go back to my former way of eating if I didn’t like the results. It’s only thirty days, and I’m not a toddler—I can totally tell my brain and my body “no,” even if I might want to throw a tantrum. But something tells me I’ll feel so good in twenty days that I may be forever changed, if my experience is anything like the thousands of others I’m reading about.

According to the Simple Mom Facebook page, a lot of you have tried Whole30s with great success, and it’s been fun to read your encouragement and questions on Instagram, too. So I know I’m not alone here. I just wish I took the plunge sooner.

Your turn—what’s been your experience with this type of eating? Are you Paleo (or Paleo-ish)?