10 Keys to Starting Whole 30


I have a number of friends who like to do New Year’s Resolutions. They often involve a new exercise thing, joining a gym, going on a diet, giving up cake, starting to spend more time outdoors, or committing to reading a certain number of books in a year. One of my friends wanted to do the Whole 30, which is, in essence, a paleo cleanse. She is more or less gluten free, but she really wanted to do a “hard reset” on her diet for the new year, and she asked me for some advice since I’ve done it in the past. I offered to do the 30 days with her to support her efforts, and also because I think it’s a good form of discipline for myself. Her questions and initial apprehension in getting started made me realize that there are some easy tips to put her on the path to success.

  1. Set your mind in the right place before you even start – that means deciding from the outset that you can and will do it. If you doubt yourself, you will have a hard time. Your mind is powerful, so use it to your advantage. It also means choosing a date to start, and well, then, just start. There is always a good reason to put it off or wait or something…the fact is, making a different in your routine is hard, and that’s what you’ll be doing.
  2. Hold it lightly. What I mean is, decide that you will do this, prepare, be committed to it, but if something happens on day 10 and you have a piece of bread, don’t beat yourself up, get back on the horse.
  3. Set aside one hour each Saturday or Sunday to prepare for the week ahead and write down what you plan on having for each meal, list some snack ideas, and identify the prep work you need to do. For instance, note that you need to take the chicken out of the freezer on Tuesday that you are going to use on Friday.
  4. As you plan your week ahead, spread your “left overs” out across several days and don’t try to eat it all in 3 or 4 consecutive meals. Your body and mind likes variety and it will keep your food interesting. Another idea is to make your left overs into “new” food. If you make a roasted chicken for dinner one night, repurpose the left over chicken into lettuce wraps for lunch the next day.
  5. If you are doing this with a partner, plan your meals together. So, if you are deciding what to have for dinners, I suggest that you pick two meals and your partner picks two meals that you definitely want to have that week. The other three meals can be leftovers or “pick up meals”. Your partner’s buy-in and involvement will keep him or her invested in the effort, and will help you in the motivation department, too!
  6. Also as you are planning, take into account your “busy” days, and don’t try to do too much. I have a yoga class on Tuesday nights, after work. So between getting home, taking care of the dog, changing clothes, getting to class on time and fighting rush hour, I have very little time to prep a meal. Tuesdays are a great night for me to use the slow cooker, or to have left overs, and I put that into my plan.
  7. Speaking of too much, don’t try to start lots of new things when you embark on the Whole 30. I know it’s tempting to decide that you are going to turn over a BIG new leaf and start Whole 30, a new exercise regimen and getting up 45 minutes earlier every day to take care of all those house chores first thing, all in the same week. Don’t put yourself under this kind of pressure to make so many drastic changes all at the same time. Be proud that you are making one change, and be confident that when you are ready to add more change to your life, those new changes will still be waiting for you!
  8. Don’t plan to make big decisions in the first 7 days. Your body is getting used to a new routine, and may be going through some withdrawal. It’s possible that you will be irrationally cranky.   Don’t add to the stress that you are putting on yourself by artificially adding to that, if you can avoid it.
  9. Set up your pantry and put away all the unnecessary stuff. I put all my baking supplies (sugars, flowers, chocolate chips, etc) away in a plastic bin and put it downstairs. Out of sight, out of mind! It’s amazing how this works – it’s not that I actually forget I have it, but it has been moved so it’s not as easily accessible. This means it’s easier to overcome the temptation to eat that snack or bake some cookies.
  10. Lean on resources that are fun, full of ideas, and easy to use! The first time I did Whole 30, I thumbed through the Well Fed cookbooks by Melissa Joulwan almost every day. I also visited the Nom Nom Paleo and The Clothes Make the Girl website regularly. Both of these had Whole 30 specific plans and tips that were really valuable.

Finally, decide you are going to have fun – yes, I know this makes 11, but this should be more of a general guiding principle of life, don’t you think? We can do pretty much anything for 30 days…make it an adventure, and you never know, you might even create a new habit!

High Five


There is a camaraderie that I’ve noticed among runners, and it doesn’t really matter how long you have been categorized that way.  There are those that have been running for years, those that are just starting out, those that are “seasonal runners”, or those that get out there and are trying for the first time.  There are the serious runners, the ones that are wearing gear that is weathered and potentially wearing out, they move in a lynx-like fashion down the path, their heads high, their stride smooth, their shoulders back and their jaw loose.  I strive to look like that some day…  And then there’s the rest of us, in varying degrees of Not-Looking-Like-That.

I remembered when I first started….  I couldn’t run more than a mile, and I was SLOW.  Painfully slow.  I planned out where I would run based on how much “traffic” I thought I would encounter, cars as well as people – I certainly wouldn’t run on a busy street, no matter how many lights I could avoid or in a popular park, no matter how smooth the path would be, I thought I was too slow, and I didn’t want to embarrass myself.  I kept hoping that someday I would get good enough that I could run on the “busy” streets or in the pretty parks.

I made excuses to friends when they asked me how I was doing, how far I’d gone or how quickly I’d finished, saying things like “It was a good run, but it was still so slow – I’m not going to tell you how long it took – I don’t want you to laugh at me.”  And one day, I remember a friend responding with, “I would never laugh at you – you still got out there.  You went further and faster than any other person who sat at home on their couch.”  That was encouraging, but it didn’t make me faster.

When I first started, I struggled profusely, and I kept my head down whenever I passed one of the “real runners”.  I’d sneak a glance at them, and hope that I could look so cool one day.  They were always so focused, and damn it, they just looked good.

It turns out though, that when you run almost every day, you get better, stronger and faster.  You have to push yourself, don’t get me wrong.  I kept running when I thought I needed to slow down or walk, I made my feet move faster when I thought I couldn’t go any faster, I ignored the searing pain in my chest when it seemed like I couldn’t get enough oxygen, and then one day, I realized I had improved enough that I could run on the busy streets now.  Most of the time, I still choose to run through the quiet neighborhoods because I like looking at the houses, see the trees, and the way the sun makes interesting shadows on the street.

I still don’t think I’m a real runner, but when I was out there this morning, I saw the woman I used to be.  She was coming towards me, slowly, and obviously struggling to just keep going.  She glanced up and immediately looked away.  I knew that look.  I’d done it at least a hundred times on this same street.  It was the look of shame, of not being good enough or fast enough or polished enough.  It was the “I’m so sorry that I’m out on this same street with you – I don’t deserve to be here.  You’re the one that is the runner.”  As she came closer, I said, “Hey, high five!” and I held my hand up.  “Way to go us – we got out here this morning!”  And suddenly her face lit up like a Christmas tree, she grinned and walked a little bit taller.  We high-fived and as we went on our separate ways, I ran a little bit stronger because today, her grin was the thing that encouraged me.