It’s no secret, I’m a big fan of Whole30. With such a high percentage of my patients having Hashimoto’s and PCOS, it’s a great template to women started on a very immune-friendly-hormone-helping diet. It’s very straightforward (eat these things, don’t eat those things) so it quickly becomes easy to look at any menu or grocery store item and say Yah or Nah.
The program also has a ton of online support and via social media so as you’re getting the hang of it those first few days you can reach out and see how other people are making it work – and of course, what delicious food they are eating! Seriously, search #whole30 on Instagram and prepare to start your tummy growling. And on a personal note I really, really like Melissa Hartwig (one of the program’s founders and very much the face of Whole30). She’s earnest about helping you feel and function better in your life – and very funny to follow on social media.
If you haven’t already dabbled in it, you’ve probably at least heard of Whole30 – or know a few people who’ve tried it. As the name implies, it’s a 30 day plan. A show-yourself-what-you-can-do type thing, a see-how-much-better-you-feel-on-real-food deal and a chance to finally jump off the sugar rollercoaster (be that sweets, too many carbs or too much booze).
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Sounds great right? It is. But sadly what I see in practice is while they felt great doing it, my patients are getting lost between 30 days and the rest of their life. In general, I kinda hate 30 day plans because they set you up from the beginning to be following a plan/regimen/template for 30 days. You’re starting with the end already in sight – which is kinda the opposite of the “lifestyle change” we all encourage you to do. So while I see the downside to a 30 day plan like this, there a few outstanding upsides with the Whole30 – particularly for patients with any type of autoimmunity, PCOS or other female hormone issues (i.e. endometriosis, menopause, etc.), digestive or skin problems or any sort, or even someone just curious about the Paleo Craze and what it could do for them.
Here’s what’s so great about the Whole30:
You can do anything for 30 days.
Giving up gluten or alcohol for the rest of your life can seem very daunting – you instantly start looking for that one time when it will seem impossible. I remember a woman in my office saying, “But Dr Brooke I just want to be able to have a glass of champagne at my daughter’s wedding!” Ok, when’s her wedding? Oh….she’s 7? Maybe we deal with that after she gets through elementary school and for now just focus on the next 30 days. Sound good?”
They cut through a lot of our crap.
While tough love isn’t my style of coaching, Whole30 does it really, really well. With reminders like “birthing a baby is hard, beating cancer is hard, drinking your coffee black is not hard. It jolts us into the reality of how dependent we *think* we are on our nightly glass of wine and cream in our coffee. Melissa also reminds us that we are grown up adults with free will to make our own choices. We do not have to eat anything offered to us, we always have the right to decline – politely of course, and other than “slipping face first into a pizza” there are no slips – only choices. As I say in my writing and with my patients: let it be easy.
A lot of the angst we have is self-induced, we make it harder than it needs to be by getting our emotions all up in our food. Don’t fuss about it, just choose. (If this sounds like you, check out my email based mindset program here.)
It’s not forever, but 30 days is usually enough to see some dramatic symptom improvement be that less bloating, more energy, clearer skin, better skin, lower levels of inflammation which may show up as improved joint pain, less water retention, etc. And while the Whole30 is clear it’s not about weight loss, many people report some nice results on the scale as well. For some it’s a few pounds, for others it’s more dramatic (15 pounds or more). For those with stellar weight loss results you were no doubt eating something that caused you a great deal of inflammation and what’s 30 days of your life to uncover that?
You wanna try it don’t you? Ok, you get your hubby or co-worker on board and do a Whole30.
But eventually it is over…now what? This plan is nothing if not rife with support, so as you wrap up your 30 days you’ll get some guidance on “what now” for sure. However, after working with so many people going through this program, here’s how I coach them for Life After Whole 30 and how not to make the Whole 30 their a new yo in their yo-yo dieting habit:
You started out for 30 days, BUT what could you actually do forever?
Have you started eating ground bison for breakfast and found out that you totally love it? It fills you up and satisfies you better and for longer than eggs or cereal? Have you started having a small salad for breakfast with your scrambled eggs and you found that gives you stellar energy until lunch? Have you found real food snacks and quick meals that replace your old habit of protein bars? Or did the skies part when you got off gluten entirely? Sure this is a big adjustment that felt hard at first, but feeling that much BETTER is easy right?
Maybe you can’t do it every day, but what could you do most days?
For example, your local breakfast joint probably doesn’t cook with coconut oil and they probably don’t serve ground bison for brunch. SO sure, you are more like Whole25 when you eat there – but can you do your bison and healthy fat when you cook at home? Sure. So do that. Do more of what works as often as you can – don’t flip out about the rest. Don’t let the idea of “this isn’t perfectly Whole30 so I’m gonna have a doughnut” get you. Always opt for the best you can do in ANY situation – it’s better than giving up.
What did you truly hate and while you pulled it off for a month, couldn’t do forever?
This may be wine or sugar. You probably learned that you felt much better off these things, but living the real world with the idea of “never again” makes you want to cry right? Don’t cry – but don’t eat those things every day either. Most days are sugar and booze free, for the other days enjoy those things – or whatever it is that you want to have in your life on occasion. This is a great way to learn moderation for foods that don’t work as well for you but you probably won’t choose to skip it every time for the rest of your life. I think it’s important to learn during the Whole30 as well if there are foods that work for you and foods that do not work at all.
For example, if your joint pain disappeared off gluten and dairy that’s a big red flag that those foods do not work for you and are detrimental to your overall health as they clearly up your inflammation (which has a role in nearly all chronic disease).
You can learn from your experience with the Whole30 how to customize your diet just for you as well as side step the good food-bad food trap and learn what works for you. More on this idea of “food that works for you.”
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While this isn’t officially Whole30 sanctioned, this free guide is my two cents on making Whole30 work for your hormones and immune system with a few tweaks that for my purposes aren’t deal breakers and if they allow you to get through the program.
My goal for recommending this particularity diet strategy is to help women with Hashimoto’s and PCOS uncover foods that don’t work well for them.
I’ve found after sending 100s of women through this plan a few caveats can make the plan easier to stick with for some women and doesn’t undermine the big picture in my opinion.