One of the most common obstacles we hear from potential (or even repeat) Whole30’ers is that their significant other (and/or other family member) isn’t on board with the lifestyle. Having a partner, roommate, or family member unwilling to join you in this lifestyle change can leave you feeling misunderstood, unsupported, and defeated before you even start.
However, we know it’s possible to change your life with the Whole30 even while flying solo. We know because you (our readers) have told us of your challenges, your struggles, your strategies, and ultimately, your success. So we reached out to you on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and asked for your stories. We wanted to know what worked for you, the hardest parts of your journey, and how you handled feeling sabotaged or undermined in your journey.
Here’s what we learned: your best advice and some words of wisdom directly from folks who have been there.
Commit for yourself (and only yourself)
One of the best parts of being an adult is the ability to make big decisions about your own life. Unfortunately, we don’t get to make those decisions for the other adults in our lives (and sometimes our kids), even when we think they’re the right ones. If you know that the Whole30 program is something you want for yourself, then commit for your own health—but that’s going to have to be enough.
You can’t force your loved ones to want this as much as you do. You can’t even force them to eat what you eat! But you can (and should) commit to this whole-heartedly if you believe it’s the right thing for your health and happiness, even if no one else is on board.
Advice from the Whole30 Team:
- Take a few minutes to write out your motivation for completing the Whole30 program. Hang it somewhere you can see it every day and let that guide you through the 30 days.
- Share your motivation with your partner (or family) and explain to them why you are committed to this program. Communicate why it’s important to you, but agree not to nag, fuss, or fight about what they choose to eat.
- Make a list of ways you can reward yourself (without food) during these 30 days, and do it. Invest in yourself during this month and use it as a time to grow personally as well as improve your health.
Survey Says! Advice from Our Whole30’ers:
- “Stick to your guns. You have decided to do this program for a reason, don’t forget it, don’t let anyone talk you out of it and don’t let anyone dismiss your goals or convictions.” Holly, Scotland
- “Make sure that before you start that you are solid with the why you are doing the Whole30. You can do anything if you truly understand and believe the why you are doing it. For me, this was a choice, something I wanted to do, something I was choosing at every minute and every day, and because of this the temptations that came my way didn’t carry much weight at all, they were easy to let pass by.” Michelle, OR
- “My husband is always very supportive because he would love to see my chronic illness symptoms resolve. My husband and kids are my biggest cheerleaders so that really helped me to stay accountable.” Blair, TX
- “Remind yourself that you have to do what is best for YOU. You can’t be there for your family if you aren’t healthy. So even if it doesn’t make everyone in the house happy, do what is best for YOU. In the long run, it is what’s best for your family.” Wendy, VA
Ask for the support you need
While you can’t force your friends or family to come on the journey with you, you can be honest about the support you need from them. Often, those who are not participating in the program are really on your side, but aren’t quite sure how to help. Loving and encouraging words, considerate behavior choices, and patience from those closest to us can be key to successful completion of the program.
You may have to ask for those things explicitly, but if this is important to you, it’s worth a potentially awkward conversation.
Advice from the Whole30 Team:
- Before you start this process (and definitely before you get to the Kill All The Things phase), have a conversation with your partner, roommate, or family. Share your personal motivation for taking on the program, and talk about the things that will make you feel supported and empowered through the process.
- Identify key factors that you think will help you successfully accomplish this goal. Maybe there’s a specific trigger food you need to avoid, maybe you need the house to be a junk-food-free zone, or maybe you need to steer clear of restaurants for the month. Ask for their help with these situations during the month.
- Be very clear about how their behaviors could help or hinder you. Remember to use those “I feel” statements we all learned about in Communications class. Let them know how important their support is to you and offer to support them similarly in something they’re hoping to accomplish.
- “My husband was very supportive. He knows I have certain trigger foods that can make it very hard for me to stay away from like cereal, peanut butter, pizza, and anything chocolate. The first couple of weeks of each Whole30, he had his own little hiding place to keep the foods-with-no-brakes out of my sight.” Casey, NC
- “I told my younger brother the ins and the outs of Whole30 and any time that I felt like caving. I would tell him (when I was struggling) and he would tell me to stick it out and that I’d BETTER NOT TOUCH THE CHOCOLATE.” Anna, PA
- “My fiancé was very supportive. He told me that he will never go Paleo, but he supported my decision to completely change my lifestyle. And once he saw how happy and full of energy I was during my first whole30, he kept me on the straight path even when I was tempted to go ‘off-roading.’” Jenna, CT
- “I had my cupboards and his cupboards. I didn’t want to continually come across the bad foods I shouldn’t be eating.” April, Scotland
- “I cooked (and he often helped) only Whole30 meals for us and he ate and enjoyed most of them. Occasionally he would also have some non-compliant foods, but generally he tried to eat those when I wasn’t around.” Hannah, MD
Build an outside network
If your partner isn’t on board with your Whole30, don’t be afraid to find a support network outside of your home. There’s only so much understanding you can expect from those who haven’t experienced what you’re experiencing, and feeling like the odd man out during every meal, snack, and social occasion can be draining on your willpower and commitment.
Thankfully, there is a huge online community of current and past Whole30ers who are willing to motivate, celebrate, and troubleshoot this process with you.
Advice from the Whole30 Team:
- Find support in a social media group, on our Facebook page, or our thriving Whole30 forum, or run through our I Need Support track on Whole30.com. Be active online and share your experiences. The more you give, the more you’ll get back.
- Recruit a few friends who are doing (or have done) the Whole30 before and set up an accountability group. Go to them when you’re feeling tempted, disappointed, or just need some inspiration.
- Share your successes and let others celebrate with you (even if they don’t know what they’re celebrating). Post your accomplishments on Facebook, share with your co-workers, or do a happy dance with your trainer. When you’re excited about what’s happening, it will spread to those around you.
- “I made a Facebook group of the people interested in participating, and also some paleo veterans that could give lots of recipes and moral support! That part worked great. It was over a year ago and we still share recipes and thoughts, suggestions. It’s amazing.” Kristin, CO
- “I made copious use of the Whole30 forum and kept a food diary that helped me a lot to get my feelings out and assess my progress. I also had a friend who let me vent my frustration as often as I needed and we’d swap food ideas and recipes, even though she wasn’t on the program. She kindly made sure to tell me how awful she felt the day after a pizza binge, to reduce my jealousy.” Kate, CT
- “A very good friend of mine who lives in Palm Springs did her first Whole30 a few weeks before I started mine. I kept seeing her Facebook posts and decided to check it out. When I decided to do it, she was so supportive and willing to answer any questions I had. We talked on the phone for hours and I would text her daily with questions until I felt confident enough to find the answers on my own. Now, I have some friends who I inspired to do Whole30 and I am supporting them as she supported me.” Nicole, CA
- “I started my own W30 support group on Facebook. Other friends joined in and we shared recipes, tips, even our honest struggles as each day went by. It was such an encouragement to know I wasn’t alone! I also scored some amazing recipes by checking out what others were sharing.” Blair, TX
- “I was introduced to the Whole30 program almost immediately after I joined Crossfit Rockland, as they were starting a box-wide 30-day challenge, and my second Whole30 was with them as well. All of the coaches there really know their stuff, not just about Crossfit, but about nutrition too and were always happy to answer any and all questions. Everyone at the box was able to use each other for recipe ideas, to vent about their Whole30 struggles, and to give advice on how they managed different situations, etc.” Kaitlyn, NY
- “Start following “Paleo/Whole30” people on social media. They gave me a sense of encouragement and gave me someone to relate to. I felt like I was sharing pictures and recipes with friends.” Kristen, NC
- “I joined an Instagram group that was doing a Whole30 together in January and made sure to post at least one meal picture a day. That was really helpful to get ideas and support through comments. I posted on Facebook a lot and one of my friends that live far away was doing a Whole30 at the same time too. My social media posts then inspired my cousin who lives in another state to start a Whole30 and we shared recipes and ideas for meals. She also totally understood how I felt since her husband was also not participating. I looked on the forums and asked questions when I was unsure.” Rose, VA
Find common ground in the kitchen
Some folks who embark on a Whole30 have families that are willing to eat whatever is placed in front of them. Others find themselves responsible for making multiple meals that suit the family’s needs. Whatever situation you find yourself in, work to establish some common ground around mealtimes.
Advice from the Whole30 Team:
- Determine ahead of time how much modification you’re willing to make to the meals you prepare. Will you make separate breakfasts and lunches but only one compliant dinner? Will you eat a separate meal at the same table?
- Communicate your decision ahead of time to your family or roommates. (Don’t wait until dinnertime to announce that you’re not making the pasta they requested.)
- Involve them in the process, if they’re willing. (“Would you rather have sweet potato or roasted butternut squash tonight?”)
- Try to find at least one part of each meal that everyone at the table can enjoy together. That may be a dish of roasted Brussels sprouts, a grilled steak, or a fruit salad.
- “For meals – since August we have a system where I make some sort of grain side dish for them and an extra veggie for me to replace it. Example: last night i made a quick Asian stir fry with shredded cabbage, chicken, and broccoli slaw. On the side brown rice for the guys, cauliflower rice for me. Is it extra work and extra dishes? Yes. I am getting used to it, for me it is worth the effort.” Wendy, VA
- “Since my boyfriend had already completed a whole30 with me and being that he was so supportive of me wanting to continue being paleo, this was easier than I expected. He does work from home, so his lunches he is on his own and eats however he wants to eat, but he agreed for Breakfast and Dinners he would be more than happy to eat whatever necessary for me to succeed in the Whole30.” Marissa, CA
- “I also got first dibs on our dinner items – both for that specific meal, but also for lunches for the next day. So I got as much of the veggies and meat that I wanted for that meal and lunch before my husband got his portion. If he was still hungry or was going to snack after dinner like he does every night then he could do that with the non-compliant food in the house.” Rose, VA
- “One of my husband’s requests was that I didn’t eat dinners that were completely different from the rest of the family. So, I planned compliant meals for all of us and typically prepared a grain like pasta or rice for everyone else to eat. It really worked pretty well and we discovered some new recipes that everyone liked!“ – Laura, FL
Find common ground elsewhere, too
For many of us, quality time with our loved ones looks like pizza dinner, celebratory ice cream, or a date night with drinks. When you take on the Whole30 program and decide that food should make you healthier, those bonding activities no longer make sense. However, simply abandoning those social traditions can cause a big rift in some relationships. It’s important to brainstorm other ways you can nurture and maintain those relationships that don’t involve off-plan food.
Advice from the Whole30 Team:
- Communication, as always, is key. Talk to your family about the things you’d like to change in the coming month, and get their input on how to preserve the tradition in a healthier way.
- Don’t be a Whole30 hermit! Find ways to enjoy the social interaction of date night, business dinners, or family gatherings while staying true to the Whole30. You’ll get support simply by socializing, and your family will see this lifestyle isn’t so limiting after all.
- If your spouse insists your kids still “deserve” their treats (and even undermines your authority on this one), don’t fight it right now. This month is about changing your life and settling into your own new habits—that has to take priority until this lifestyle feels manageable and easy for you.
- “My dad was very supportive. He and I get together for dinner every week, usually to go out, but during the program, he came over and we cooked together. He enjoyed finding clever, filling ways to make something delicious. It was also helpful having someone take on some of the cooking burden to reduce my constant food prep.” Kate, CT
- “My husband and I love to go out to eat, especially on the weekends, so it was a big adjustment for us and something we started to miss. We found a great salad place that had a ton of Whole30 approved choices. We decided every Sunday we would eat here (with my salad dressing from home, of course). This became something we looked forward to each week.” Kristen, NC
- “I decided as my food journey has progressed that I’m not going to acknowledge or fuss about junk food (i.e. Raisin Bran, Saltines, or Jif) coming in the house–but I would no longer be the one to shop for those items. From there I just don’t mention it, don’t let it take up space in my head.” Ellen, MO
Best Advice Ever: Be prepared
To wrap up the conversation, we asked our solo Whole30ers for the one piece of advice they’d give anyone trying to take on the Whole30 program alone. Know what they said? Almost unanimously, they answered that you have to be prepared. (But you already knew that, right?)
Advice from the Whole30 Team:
- Before you begin your program, run through one of the two “get started” tracks on Whole30.com: I’m New to the Whole30, or I’m Doing Another Whole30. We’ve created these steps to fully prepare you for the next 30+ days.
- “I know this is said a lot, but it’s because it is SO important – you have to PLAN.” Kate, NH
- “It is possible. You can do it. Plan ahead and never let yourself be in a position where you are without complaint food choices.” Laura, FL
- “Preparation is huge. Take an hour or two on the weekend to cut up vegetables, hard boil eggs, cook up meat, etc. so you can just grab it out of the fridge and don’t have to think about it. Keep your house well-stocked with Whole 30 approved foods and if necessary get rid of any food items that will tempt you.” Nicole, IA
- “PREP!!!! I can’t say it enough.” Rose, VA
- “First, Read It Starts with Food, then follow all the guidelines, prepping your fridge and pantry, joining the forums, telling someone you are doing this and explain to them what it is and what it means to you.” Marissa, CA
- “Take the time and effort to plan ahead.” April, Scotland
- “Plan ahead….find meals that sound wonderful and build your week around those foods. Prep your meals ahead of time so when you get home from work you are less likely to have the urge to snack or grab those convenience foods that are not a part of Whole30.” Sarah, CO
You Can Do It! The Successful Solo Whole30
So there you have it: the best advice we and our community can offer to folks taking on the Whole30 alone. Is it harder than your average Whole30? Maybe. Is it doable? Absolutely, with commitment, support, and planning. Is it worth it? One hundred percent.