By Whole30 Certified Coach Natalie Ohanessian of soul-bite
Whether you’re a seasoned Whole30-er or a Whole30 newbie tackling the program for the very first time, it’s safe to say that you might have a few rough days during the first week or two of your program. The Whole30 timeline beautifully outlines what you may experience during Days 1-31, but the summary is this: during the 30 days of your program (plus the reintroduction period), you may feel one bold emotion—DISCOMFORT.
I’ve identified five realms where you’re likely to experience discomfort during your Whole30, and included strategies to help you to navigate from discomfort to growth during your program.
During your Whole30, your mind will likely be up to the same old tricks it always tries to use against you. For example, if you typically struggle with negative self talk, you can expect this same pattern will come up for you during your Whole30 program. This is normal! Part of the Whole30 is about re-establishing our relationship with food so we can carve out new, healthy habits, but this doesn’t happen without working through your established habits.
What can you do about this discomfort? The first step is awareness. Pay attention to when these old patterns surface for you, then respond to the pattern with a positive action. Re-route your mind to focus on something else such as gratitude journaling, stepping outside for a short walk, phoning a friend, or some inspirational reading. Eventually over time, the new and more positive habits will begin to become the “norm,” but it will take discipline and practice!
Be mindful of your “head space” during the 30 days of your Whole30, plus the additional Reintroduction period. A suggestion I love making to clients is to try to be as present as possible during meal times by putting screens away while at the table. This will help your brain catch up with your body, especially when it comes to satiety signals. So much of the time we bypass what meal times are really about: not only a time to fuel our bodies with healthy food, but an opportunity to slow down and connect with loved ones. This will in turn slow down your mind and will create a peaceful environment to enjoy your Whole30 meal with friends and family!
Some uncomfortable feelings you may experience during the first few days can include headaches, fogginess and feeling more tired than usual. Hang in there, this too will pass! Take it slow, drink lots of water and trust that your body will start feeling better before you know it.
It’s important to connect with your intuition and listen to what your body needs, especially during the first two weeks of your Whole30. Some of my clients have found that a gentle walk, an easy nature hike or restorative yoga helps them feel more comfortable in their bodies. But this will be different for everyone. You might need extra sleep; a warm, comforting beverage; a massage; or a bear hug from your best friend. Don’t hesitate to take moments throughout the day to check in with yourself.
Most people in your life will likely be encouraging and interested in the changes you’re making, but the Whole30 can also shine light on relationships that may not be supportive for you. This might show up in your life as someone who is discouraging you from Whole30 success by pressuring you to eat non-compliant foods, or to quit your program early. If there are people in your life that are contributing to a higher stress load and impacting you negatively, you may want to minimize the time you spend on those relationships during your Whole30 in order to set yourself up for success.
Before you start your Whole30, take some time to think about your relationships and try to identify any problems that might arise. I like the advice of “thinking about your relationships through the lens of Marie Kondo.” This straight-forward strategy encourages you to loosen your grip on relationships that don’t bring you joy.
This doesn’t mean you’re going to start kicking friends and coworkers to the curb, but it might help you draw boundaries with unsupportive individuals. I encourage my clients to prepare a “one-liner” they can use when a potentially unsupportive person inquires about that “new diet you’re on.” This way you’ll feel prepared with a response if and when the event arises. Remember, you have permission to keep the interaction simple, breathe and excuse yourself before you get too emotionally involved.
What do your kitchen and pantry look like? Are they filled with non-compliant snack options? Take some time to evaluate your home and work environments to adjust accordingly and make them coordinate with the Whole30 rules so that you don’t find yourself in a sticky and tempting situation.
I love telling clients to get excited about building a “Whole30 Emergency” drawer at work. Sure, you don’t want to default to much snacking, but sometimes you’re in a pinch and we want to make sure you’re well equipped in that moment. Refer to the Melissa’s Emergency Food Encyclopedia to get some ideas of shelf-stable items that will support your Whole30 and remember: have fun with it!
Image: Gaelle Marcel
With a BS in Food Science from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Natalie Ohanessian began her career working for a large food company who focused on providing healthy food as their primary initiative. Intrigued with the world of wellness, she attended a yoga teacher training in Santa Monica, CA, where she became a certified bhakti yoga instructor. She continued to advance her career by graduating as a Certified Holistic Health Coach (CHHC), through the world’s largest nutrition program, The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. In 2013, her business, Soul-bite, was launched. Soul-bite focuses on offering holistic nutrition and wellness coaching throughout Southern California and is dedicated to supporting its local community in sustainable, integrative wellness. Connect with Natalie via her website: