August 22, 2022

Dear Melissa: What can Whole30 teach me about self-care?

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The September Whole30

In 2009 and 2010, I was traveling several weekends a month to CrossFit gyms all across the country, to speak to their members about the Whole30 and help them get started with the program. At the time, participants liked to think of the Whole30 as a 30-day “challenge,” which makes sense if you know CrossFitters. They love a good challenge and the badge of honor that comes with knowing they’ve completed something hard.

While we’ve never described the program as a challenge, if you’re joining us for the September Whole30 just because you want to do something hard for 30 days, this newsletter might not be for you. (If you’re just looking for a challenge, the rules are enough! And there will certainly be challenges along your Whole30 journey–peer pressure, stressful situations, unexpected events that force you to question your commitment.)

But I suspect this year, that isn’t most of you–because let’s face it, we’ve all been challenged more than enough in the last two years. And right now, what I’m really looking for, and what I suspect you’re looking for too, is grace. Grounding. Self-care. Nurturing. A return to stability and a sense of purpose as you leave summer behind and return to your normal routines, wanting to feel proactive instead of reactive. You’re ready to take care of YOU right now, after spending the last two years taking care of everyone else.

You’re not here for the challenge. You’ve already proven how strong, capable, and resilient you are. You’re here to reconnect to yourself, and reprioritize YOUR health and YOUR happiness for what feels like the first time in a long time.

If that is why you’re joining us for the September Whole30, I’m here to help.

The Whole30 as self-care

In the earliest days of the pandemic, I began receiving an onslaught of messages, all saying the same thing: “I’m leaning on my Whole30 habits so hard right now.” In fact, so many of you were looking for grounding and connection during that time that we ran an impromptu Whole30 at Home in April 2020. That experience made me realize how much you consider the Whole30 your “home base;” a touchstone to return to when things feel out of control and you need some stability.

If you’re returning to the September Whole30 this year, you already know the immense benefits of the program. Better sleep, more energy, fewer cravings, regular digestion, improved mood, and a reduction of a wide variety of symptoms. But what’s harder to describe to those of you new to the program is how much the Whole30 feels like coming home.

The Whole30 brings you a sense of strong connection to our welcoming, encouraging, supportive community. It gives you a sense of identity–that you are a healthy person with healthy habits, making choices every day that you know will serve Future You. It provides a grounding sense of structure and routine, whether you’re meal planning, cooking with your family, reading your daily text message from me every morning, or completing your Whole30 Day by Day journal every night. And every day, you’ll wake up knowing you are doing exactly what you should be doing to take care of your physical, mental, and emotional health.

That feels good–on top of all of the amazing non-scale victories (NSVs) you’ll be racking up along the way.

Doing the Whole30 can be one of the most energizing, self-confidence-boosting, profoundly transformational months of your entire life. Now, I’m going to offer you some tips to make sure you make the most of it—and they’re not about meal planning or emergency food. These are mindset shifts to help you continue to prioritize YOU and YOUR Whole30 experience, and foster a deeper sense of connection to yourself and the program along the way.

Keep it simple

I’ve said this hundreds of times, but it bears repeating: Remember that your only job for 30 days is to put Whole30 food into your mouth. There is no “perfect” Whole30. There is no prize for making your Whole30 harder than it needs to be. You don’t need to make Instagram-worthy meals, a new recipe every night, or make every plate look exactly like our meal template. Every day is an opportunity to show yourself grace. You deserve that. The only question I’ll ask you at the end of every day is, “Did you stick to your Whole30 today?” Let that be your guiding star

Don’t go it alone

In the past when things got hard, you’ve just… handled them. You’re used to doing it yourself, relying on yourself, and being the strong one for everyone else. Your Whole30 doesn’t have to be like that. Nobody should be white-knuckling their way through the September Whole30. If you need help, ask for help; we have a huge community on our social media feeds and in our Whole30 Forum who are standing by ready to offer resources, encouragement, and connection. If you’re not sure how to navigate the Whole30 this year because of stress, time commitments, or life circumstances, hire a Whole30 Certified Coach to lead you through the program. You deserve that kind of support. If you don’t have time to make everything from scratch, run-don’t-walk to a Trifecta meal delivery, a Chipotle Salad Bowl, or a Made by Whole30 salad dressing. You are not alone, ANY way you stick to your Whole30 commitment is the right way, and you should allow yourself any and all support available to you this month. We’ve got you.

Brush up on your boundaries

You’ll need to say no along the way—to the offer of cake at the birthday party, the bagels in the break-room, or a glass of wine at dinner. But you can protect your energy, time, capacity, and peace by continuing your boundary practice in all of your relationships. In September, make nothing an automatic “yes.” Instead tell people, “Let me think about that and get back to you,” buying yourself the space and time to make the right decision. Tell your spouse you need an hour of alone time on Sunday, and spend that time doing whatever feels recharging. Unfriend or unfollow those accounts who make you feel less than or bad about yourself—even if that person is someone you know in real life. The more you stand up for yourself by setting healthy boundaries, the more capacity you’ll have to devote to your Whole30, and the easier it will be to prioritize your own needs and happiness well beyond the program. You deserve that too.

Celebrate your wins

There is no reason to wait until your Whole30 is over to catalog the benefits, or share them with family, friends, and the Whole30 community. You deserve small wins every damn day, and you’ll have them with the September Whole30, I guarantee it. You just have to look for them. Focus on the full spectrum of NSVs, whether that’s trying a new-to-you food, learning a new cooking technique, or noticing you’re falling asleep easier, have more midday energy, or were able to brush that momentary craving off with ease. Ask yourself, “Am I still committed to myself and this Whole30?” Because that’s the biggest win of all; knowing you are prioritizing your own needs and showing up for yourself, day in and day out. When you notice these things, actively celebrate them! Give yourself a high-five (like, physically do this—you might feel silly at first, but habit research shows it works!) Text your bestie, “It’s 2 PM and I’m still super focused at work–I’m crushing it!” Share a post about how your joints feel, the walk you took today, or the meal you cooked last night. CELEBRATE YOU, because you deserve that whether you’re on a Whole30 or not—but the September Whole30 is a fantastic excuse to practice.

Join us on September 5

The September Whole30 starts September 5th, and I’ll be with you every step of the way, cheering you on, offering advice, sharing my best success strategies, and shouting you out on social media. (Just tag me @melissau!) Let this September be the month YOU return to YOU. Let the Whole30 be the foundation on which you build a lifetime of new, healthy habits, and see how the program can change your life, as it’s changed millions of lives before you. I’m excited for you!

XO Melissa

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