When anyone takes on a food plan like Whole30, all of their concerns are probably focused entirely on what they can eat; but it is a lot more nuanced than that. Subtleties in the how, when and where you eat can have a huge impact on the benefits from your Whole30. So let’s take a look from all angles:
Eat mindfully. Buzz words, I know but essentially you should focus on your food. Chew slowly and thoroughly and aim for around 30 chews per bite of food. For anyone who suffers with indigestion this is key. I have suffered with gastritis a lot and I know that my habit of wolfing down food brings back the pain. When I focus and chew properly, there is none.
Stick to the usual 3 meal times per day: breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can have bonus pre- and post-workout meals of slightly different composition (see below). I have coupled my second Whole30 with intermittent fasting, where I do not have breakfast ensuring a 13-hour plus fasting window, to see if I can get additional gut healing benefits so watch this space.
Eat at the table. No distractions. No TV, no mobile phones. Just you, food and anyone else you are eating with. This goes hand in hand with eating mindfully. TVs and phones will distract you from chewing and tasting your food thoroughly.
The ideal Whole30 plate is simple in concept: 1-2 palms’ worth of protein with the rest of your plate full of vegetables. Fats wise include: 1-2 thumbs’ worth of compliant oils, fats or butters; 1-2 heaped handfuls of coconut or olives; a closed handful of nuts and seeds; up to 1 avocado; and/or up to half a can of coconut milk. You can add fruit occasionally. Aim to make sure your portions are big enough to help you avoid snacking.
For your bonus pre-workout meal, have half the usual protein and fat but no carbs in the hour before your workout. For your bonus post-workout meal, have the usual protein, carb-dense vegetables (sweet potato, squash, beets, etc.), minimal fat and avoid fruit.
I know from my own experiences it can be difficult to stick to all of these Whole30 rules and suggestions perfectly all the time. I have a huge sweet tooth so I regularly turn to fruit as a snack. Looking at these rules though, they are really simple and easy to follow. It’s just a case of building the habits from the get go, something I’ll be working on as I refine my approach in future Whole30s.
The official Whole30 site has a great 1-pager summarising the ideal meal here.
Dr Dilraj Kalsi uses Lifestyle Medicine and Digital Health to empower patients to reverse disease via his online clinic Hippocrates Lounge. He is a Lecturer in Digital Health at the University of Warwick and publishes regularly on patient empowerment with colleagues from Oxford University. For all his latest health tips straight to your inbox, sign up here!