Diet or Exercise? What’s More Important When Seeking Results?

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the course of my journey is that you can’t out train a bad diet. In my early twenties, I always tried to exercise more to compensate for my poor nutrition choices. It wasn’t until I focused on eating the right food where I started to see my body change. When I committed 30 days to my nutrition at the start of this year for my Whole30, I saw great results without adding more exercise or even changing my exercise routine.

As a health and fitness professional, both diet and exercise are important. But, if I were to put a percentage on both, nutrition is much more powerful. As many of us say, it’s 80% nutrition, 20% exercise. It’s true! Some people who just focus on their nutrition and put minimal effort into their exercise can see great results. If you find you’re putting a lot of effort into your workouts, but are not seeing your body change, it’s time to take a look at your daily nutrition.

Three Key Nutrition Habits To Focus on

2.) Eat at least 5 Servings of Fruits and Vegetables a Day

– this isn’t breaking news. We all know we need to eat more fruits and vegetables to live a healthy lifestyle but it’s certainly important if you’re seeking results. Most Americans eat more fruit than vegetables. When seeking weight loss, focus on eating more vegetables than fruit. I like a 4:1 ratio (for every four servings of vegetables, eat one serving of fruit). This equals out to probably one serving of fruit a day. Everyone is unique, so you can start there and add more if you need it.

How to do it? If you’re a visual person, look at a meal plan visual here.

Make a Switch. First, take a minute to think about what you’re eating for meals or snacks. If you notice you eat crackers, chips, granola bars or cookies on a regular basis, start to replace those items with a fruit or vegetable. When I first started changing my diet, I was eating a lot of crackers, granola bars, pasta, pizza, frozen dinners and bread. I slowly started replacing my snack foods with vegetables or fruit and for my meals, I replaced grains with more vegetables.

Pair a Vegetable with Every Meal You Eat. It’s easy to eat fruit on-the-go, but vegetables are a little bit more work. To help yourself eat more vegetables, buy conveniently already chopped vegetables from the store or commit a few time each day to chop. Of course it’s more expensive to buy already chopped vegetables from the store, but if that’s going to help you eat more vegetables, go for it! I also buy a lot of pre-washed bagged salad. It’s not that much more in money but it’s a time saver! Every meal, ask yourself what your vegetable choice will be. For breakfast, maybe you throw in spinach into a breakfast smoothie or make a frittata loaded with vegetables.

2.) Protein

Protein helps you build and maintain your muscle mass, helps you stay full between meals and stabilizes your blood sugar. It plays a big role in seeking body change. So, how much protein should you eat a meal?

Focus on the size of your palm. This is a good start for the average person, but some people who are very active will need more. Start to read your labels to see how much protein is in the food you’re eating.

Protein Choices I buy every week at the grocery store 

  • Chicken breast (1-2 packages)
  • Boneless chicken thighs
  • Ground Turkey
  • Ground Beef
  • Ground Chicken
  • Tuna fish
  • Canned chicken
  • Mahi Mahi or some type of white fish
  • Eggs
  • Breakfast Sausage Links

* I eat most meals from home and cook for two. This always gets us through the week!

3.) Water – at least 8 cups or half your body weight in ounces.

When I first started dating my now husband, he always teased me that I never drank any water. It’s true! I was always drinking diet pepsi, diet peach Snapple or Propel. Wow, have things changed! Not only does water keep your body hydrated but it plays a role in healthy skin, improves energy and of course, helps with weight loss.

Two things that helped me drink more water:

  • Buy a nice water bottle and carry it everywhere you go. Every time you leave the house, be sure to grab your water bottle. I have two water bottles that I really enjoy, but when I first started trying to drink more water, I found having a water bottle with a straw really helped me.
  • Add flavor when you are tired of plain water. Sometimes I get tired of plain water so I always have lemons or limes on hand to add a bit of flavor when I need it. There are many options you can use besides lemon or lime: berries, cucumber, mint, etc. Sparkling water is also a nice treat, but I always open one once I’ve already had my filtered water goal for the day (75 ounces).

If you feel like you are working hard in the gym, but aren’t seeing the results you want, it might be time to assess your diet. How many times a week are you eating out? How many desserts? Alcohol? All those factor into seeing the results you want. Most importantly, remember why you want the results you’re looking for. My biggest goal this year is to watch my sugar intake. I want to enjoy it when I want, but not let it get out of control with cravings. Sugar can be a slippery slope for me, but still a month after my Whole30, I feel good about my relationship and it’s helped me see better results.

Six Things I Look for BEFORE Investing in a Gym Membership

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I have always loved being in a gym environment. Now, I realize not everyone loves the gym. Maybe it’s being around others, the driving time to even get to the gym, or not knowing what to do, people have countless reasons for not ever wanting to have a gym membership. The good thing is you can get results anywhere! However, I wanted to write a quick post for those individuals who do have a gym membership. I have been a member of several gyms over the last ten years, but I always do a walk through before actually signing up for a membership. Here are six “must have” equipment items a gym needs to have before I invest in a membership. These items help me stay engaged in working out consistently because they offer variety & an enjoyable workout.

 

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1.) Bumper Plates and Barbells

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Now, most gyms will have squat racks or benches with barbells, but not all gyms have bumper plates. Bumper plates are ideal because they are smooth all the way, which allows you to do exercises like deadlifts or hip thrusts much easier. The other plates at the gym have edges (like an octagon) so every rep you complete from the floor isn’t as smooth because it catches the edge and sometimes it shifts the barbell. Now, it’s not the end of the world if the gym doesn’t have bumper plates but it’s a big win if they do. 

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2.) TRX

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TRX training continues to get more popular. Even studios like Orange Theory or small group studios have them. They are great for your strength training program because it allows you to make an exercise easier or harder. Plus, it stabilizes your core with every exercise. 

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3.) Cable Machine

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This is another great machine to do a wide variety of upper body and core exercises. I don’t do much for lower body strength exercises, but there are a few isolating moves you can do.

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4.) Kettlebells and Medicine Balls

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These two pieces of equipment are great for more explosive exercises, as well as “aerobic” strength moves.  Plus, they make doing cardio fun! 

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5.) Plyometric Boxes

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Not only are they great for basic moves like step ups or elevated glute bridges, but you can also do explosive exercises like box jumps. Not all gyms have these soft boxes like mine, but it’s a huge plus if you enjoy doing box jumps since because they provide a soft landing. It also helps if you have a mental block or fear of not being able to land on the top of the box. 

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6.) Assisted Pull Up Machine

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For most women, it’s hard to do a pull up and in order to get stronger at them, you have to practice. The pull up machine is a great tool to use to improve your upper body strength. The more weight you use, the more the machine will help you. The goal: use less weight every month so you can eventually complete a pull up on your own. The assisted pull up machine is also great for completing higher reps. I’ll use it if I’m trying to complete 15 reps. 

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So, if you currently have a gym membership and are not using any of the following equipment items, walk around your gym to see if they are available. Stay tuned for next week as I have prepared to share my favorite go-to exercises using the equipment above!

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4 Exercises to Do Daily

4 Exercises To Do Daily

Exercise is therapeutic to me and I find a way to move daily. Whether it’s leisure walking, yoga, strength training, interval training, foam rolling or mobility drills, these movements clear my head and make my body feel good.

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Now, we don’t want to stress our body every day so doing movement like leisure walking or mobility drills is a great way to move with low intensity. The four movements below focus on improving or maintaining your mobility in your hips and thoracic spine, as well as engaging your core and helping you move in a better range of motion. They can also help you improve exercises like squats or lunges, as well as relieve low back pain.

I complete all of these movements before every strength and interval workout.

It’s my warm up and gets my blood flowing. You can also do these movements to wind down at night in front of the television. I even recorded these videos in my own living room!

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Squat to Stand – complete 5-10 reps

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Key Tips:

  • Keep your heels on the ground the whole time. Don’t let your heels rise off the floor. 
  • In the down position, lower yourself down to a position that’s comfortable. If you have tight hips, it might be challenging. Lift your chest and pull your shoulders slightly down. You should feel some engagement in your upper back. Also, using your elbows, push them against your knees, letting them slightly go out. You’ll feel a good stretch in your hips.
  • In the up position, focus on feeling a good stretch in the back side of your body.

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Lateral Lunge – complete 5-10 reps each side

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Key Tips:

  • Keep your heel on the side you are lunging towards. If you are finding you can’t keep it down, lift your hips and chest so you are higher off the ground.
  • Drive the toes up on the extended leg. You should feel a better stretch in your inner thigh.
  • For a challenge, keep your hands off the floor and as you move side to side, keep your hips as low as possible. Pause for a few seconds at each side.

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World’s Greatest Stretch Combo – complete 5 reps each move

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Movement One Key Tips: Keep the front foot flat on the ground and fully extend your bag leg by squeezing your quad strong. I prefer to keep both hands on the inside of the front foot. Focus on feeling a good stretch in your hip flexor (back leg).

Movement Two Key Tips: Drive the toes up, keep a flat back and ease into the stretch. You should feel a good pull in the back of the leg.

Movement Three Key Tips: Keeping the front foot flat and back leg extended, slowly rotate with your upper back. You should keep the front of the back leg still, not letting the front of your hip rotate. For the arm reaching up, focus on reaching the hand towards the ceiling, as if you are trying to touch it. You want to get a nice stretch in your upper back.

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Inch Worm – complete 5 to 8 reps

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This is a great move to engage your core, shoulders, hamstrings and calves.

Key Tips:

  • As you walk out into a push up position, brace your core and reach your hands out as much as you can without letting your low back collapse. This challenges your core and shoulders. 
  • As you walk your hands back to your feet, brace your core again to avoid letting your hips sway back and forth. Try to walk your hands to your feet, driving your heels to the floor. If you can’t get your hands to your feet, find a range of motion that works for you.

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Struggling with keeping your heels down in these movements? Start working on your ankle mobility.

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You’ll want to focus on your front foot. Drive your knee as far forward as you can without letting your front heel lift. How good is your mobility? Ideal ankle mobility is when you can get the center of your knee past your big toe. Complete 10 reps each side for 2-3 sets.

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Three Fat Burning Treadmill Workouts Under 25 Minutes

25 Minute or Less Fat Burning Treadmill Workouts

With the weather still being too cold, I have had to keep my interval training workouts indoors. While treadmills aren’t the most liked piece of cardio equipment, you can use them to put together a short, effective workout. Like I talked about in this article, you should always prioritize your strength workouts first but if you have more time, interval training is the next piece to burning fat and increasing your metabolism. These workouts could also be done after strength training (if you can only exercise 2-3x a week), but I would do about 10 minutes of intervals.

Here are three workouts I have been doing lately using a treadmill. For you, pick three speeds/inclines that get you out of your comfort zone. I have listed mine. You’ll notice the speed and time will vary, but at the end of each interval, you want to feel like you’re working hard.

Three 25 Minute or Under Treadmill Workouts

Workout #1 – Flat Sprint Intervals 

Warm up – walk at a comfortable speed for 2 minutes

  • After each interval, I hop off the treadmill, decrease my speed to a slow walking speed and rest as long (about 30-40 seconds) as I need until I can sprint again. Including the warm up, this takes me a little less than 25 minutes. If you are finding you are needing longer rest time between each interval, subtract two 60 second intervals from the workout. At the end of the workout, I cool down until my heart rate decreases (1-2 minutes).
Speed Incline Interval Length Time
9.5 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.6 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.7 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.7 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.7 mph Flat 60 seconds
11.2 mph Flat 30 seconds
11.2 mph Flat 30 seconds
11.2 mph Flat 30 seconds
11.2 mph Flat 30 seconds
12.0 mph Flat 20 seconds
12.0 mph Flat 20 seconds
12.0 mph Flat 20 seconds

Workout #2 – Sprints with hills 

I will complete this workout on treadmills where the highest speed or incline is less than my gym’s treadmill. Again, I warm up and cool down just like the previous workout example. I also rest as long as I need with each interval (usually 30-40 seconds).

Speed Incline Interval Length Time
9.5 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.6 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.7 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.7 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.7 mph Flat 60 seconds
10.0 mph 3% 30 seconds
10.0 mph 3% 30 seconds
10.0 mph 3% 30 seconds
10.0 mph 3% 30 seconds
10.0 mph 5% 20 seconds
10.0 mph 5% 20 seconds
10.0 mph 5% 20 seconds

Workout #3 – Don’t Like to Run? Try This. 

Note: Treadmills vary with incline. Luckily at my gym, the treadmills go all the way up 30%. Most treadmills go up to 12-15%. Remember, find three inclines that push you outside your comfort zone. If you find the highest incline doesn’t challenge you, try increasing your speed or trying Workout #2. I will complete Workout #2 when I visit my parents using their treadmill. Rest as long as you need after each interval. I usually drop the incline to 10-12% after each interval and when my body feels it’s ready to complete another interval, I increase the incline back to where it needs to be. If your legs are tired, I would decrease the incline to more of a flat incline during every rest period.

Key tip for incline walking: Brace your core and pump your arms. By avoiding holding onto the rails, you’ll work your abs, glutes and legs much more.

Warm up – 2 minutes at a comfortable pace

Speed Incline Interval Length Time
3.4 mph 24% 60 seconds
3.4 mph 24% 60 seconds
3.4 mph 24% 60 seconds
3.4 mph 24% 60 seconds
3.4 mph 24% 60 seconds
3.4 mph 27% 40 seconds
3.4 mph 27% 40 seconds
3.4 mph 27% 40 seconds
3.4 mph 27% 40 seconds
3.4 mph 30% 30 seconds
3.4 mph 30% 30 seconds
3.4 mph 30% 30 seconds

 

Whole30 is the best nutrition program to follow

My Whole30 Experience and 15 Reasons Why I Feel It’s the Best Nutrition Program to Follow

I’ve known about the Whole30 program for a few years. I remember reading their first book in 2014 “It Starts With Food” and having mixed emotions. At first, I loved learning the science behind their nutrition program, but it was hard not to get a little defensive because many of the foods they said weren’t ideal were in my diet regularly. I had thoughts like, “well, that’s not realistic for me. I can’t eliminate Greek yogurt forever.” I also had a hard time relating to the authors because they never talked about what high calorie/less nutrient foods they consumed from time to time. But, my thoughts completely changed after their second book was released “The Whole30” and Melissa’s third book “Food Freedom Forever” because they started feeling relatable! Aw, Melissa loves Cadbury eggs and cupcakes AND she eats them? Ok, now I’m listening!

I’ve done two short versions of the Whole30 before and felt a big difference in my body. I could work 12+ hours but still have energy to go to the gym afterwards. I learned what foods I could live without because they affected my body in a noticeable way. Most of all, I slayed my sweet tooth.

So, after the holidays, I wanted to participate in the official “January Whole30” to feel involved in their community and challenge myself to complete a full 30 days of the program. Luckily, I found a friend who was also doing it, so it’s been fun to support each other.

Since I’ve done two short versions in the past, there wasn’t a lot of shock to my routine. I had already taken out a few things of my regular meals (protein bars, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, beans, lentils) Sometimes I indulge in bread, pasta, peanut butter or cheese, but most likely I’m eating something I enjoy or am at a favorite restaurant.

January Whole30: There were a few things I had to take a break from in my weekly routine including the following:

  • Half & Half in my coffee – it wasn’t much since I only drink 8 oz. a day, but 1.5 TB was removed (daily)
  • 1 Tsp sugar in my coffee (daily)
  • Plain Rice Cakes (about 3x a week)
  • Brown or White Rice (about once a week)
  • Tillamook Cheese (about once a week)
  • Going out to a favorite restaurant 1-2x a week (pizza, Thai, Mexican, burger)
  • 1-2 Desserts a week (sometimes it would be a few squares of chocolate and other times it would be a slice of cake or cookie.)

January Whole30 Replacements

I went 28 years of not being a coffee drinker until I took a trip to Vienna, Austria. The coffee was amazing and I wanted to continue to enjoy it once I returned home. So, we bought a nice espresso machine and my little cup of Joe brings me joy in the morning.

Thanks to Nutritiously Rooted, I was given the tip to use coconut oil for a dairy-free ‘cream’ option. I put maybe ½ tsp of coconut oil into my 8 oz. coffee and blend it with a blender. Delicious coffee! It has a subtle sweetness & creaminess.

15 Reason Why I Believe the Whole30 Program is The Best Nutrition Available

  1. It’s free!
    • Like many programs out there, you have to invest in their products. Whether it’s breakfast/snack/lunch/dinners you eat every day, meal replacement shakes/bars, energy drinks, cleanses or supplements, most of the time you hear they feel great because they use their products. The Whole30 is just food and their entire program is free on their website. Although the books are a great resource, they are not necessary to be successful.
  2. You feel amazing from just food (hence their first book, “It Starts with Food!”)
    • Again, no magic here. Just food. It’s amazing how hard work and dedication towards eating the right foods can transform so much in your mind and body.
  3. You feel way more than willpower during and after the program (MY FAVORITE REASON)
    • Your willpower will get stronger the more you test it. But sometimes testing your willpower leaves you with a feeling of being deprived. It’s like you secretly want it, but are choosing to not indulge. The Whole30 gave me a whole new perspective on my favorite foods. When normally I would jump to get a Dairy Queen cone, PCC cookie, or any homemade dessert, after completing the Whole30, I didn’t have the same feeling around them. Instead of feeling like “YES! GOTTA have it now!” I had thoughts like, “do I really want it?” Throughout the program, I did have thoughts that specific foods like pizza, cookies or nachos sounded good to eat, but those feelings were never strong enough to actually eat it. I was even around pizza, homemade cookies and ice cream during my Whole30, but felt at peace around them and not deprived. Even as I was approaching my last few days of the Whole30, I wasn’t counting down the days until I could eat cookies, pizza or dessert again. These are feelings I never thought would exist for me. I’m aware that this may change months down the road, but I know I can always resort back to a Whole30 when I feel I’m craving sugar more than I want to.
  4. You learn what works for you.
    • After doing abbreviated versions twice, I learned I feel best when I don’t eat beans, cottage cheese, protein bars, Greek yogurt, etc. Even though rice & oatmeal are excluded in their program, I have found I don’t notice a difference in my body when I eat it, but they aren’t a regular item in my meal plans anymore. Sometimes I can have a little cheese and be fine, but if I have too much, I notice a negative impact. Same with bread. A little is fine, but several slices makes me feel different.
  5. Taste buds are transformed (2nd Favorite Reason)
    • Since you do not consume any added sugar or artificial sugar, simple things like strawberries taste really sweet. Your taste buds transform! My new cup of coffee tastes sweet without sugar and I can taste the ingredients in every meal. A few years ago, I remember eating my favorite go-to protein bar after taking a six week break. It didn’t even taste good and I haven’t gone back since. Another positive with having your taste buds transform: you need less of your favorite sweet treats. You are simply satisfied with less.
  6. It changes your relationship with food.
    • Not only did it help me slay my weekly sweet tooth, but I recognized eating habits with other areas of my life. If I was feeling upset, it was natural to comfort those feelings with something sweet. Many people learn how to re-work their eating habits so they aren’t emotionally eating. For example, when the Seahawks lost versus the Falcons on 1/14, I wanted a cookie. But, those feelings were stemming from my sad mood vs. actually wanting a cookie.
  7. Your energy skyrockets naturally.
    • My energy stayed steady all day throughout most of the program. No crashes. No naps. No wanting to skip a workout because I was tired. I had a few days that didn’t feel like my energy was through the roof, but I could easily pinpoint why.
  8. You elevate your cooking skills.
    • Since you are eating real food 24/7, you get lots of practice preparing meals and it’s actually fun. Your confidence in the kitchen increases the more you experiment with new recipes.
  9. Your skin glows.
    • I do my best to take care of my skin by washing my face every night and moisturizing twice daily, but I felt like I had a better glow compared to my normal.
  10. It doesn’t feel like a diet.
    • Could I follow the Whole30 diet forever? If I wanted to. I know there will be moments when foods that have sugar, gluten, dairy, etc. will come up, but I can choose if I want to indulge. What I can do forever is follow the Whole30 90% of the time. Every meal I cook from home (but one) follows the Whole30 and is very satisfying! With practice, I also know how to eat out at restaurants while still following the Whole30 plan.
  11. Weight Loss/Fat Loss.
    • I noticed throughout the program that my body felt firmer, especially in my arms & legs. I lost six pounds. This is a nice perk and can keep your motivation high to continue but it’s definitely not my favorite reason why I love the Whole30.
  12. You become a leader to others.
    • Since I have practicing cooking mostly Whole30 meals at home for a few years, I have found I’ve inspired others along the way. Whether it’s sharing a go-to recipe with my sister or cooking for others, people start to pay attention. My father-in-law actually lived with us for 10 months and he has even told us he eats way more vegetables now (living on his own) because of our cooking.
  13. Recipe library!
    • This is another great reason why I love the Whole30, new recipes! When you are sick of your healthy go-to recipes, I find myself wanting comfort food. The Whole30 allowed me to add more recipes to my go-to dinner menu. Eggs mildly bother my throat so I can’t eat them too often. This forced me to find new breakfast foods and it was a fun experience. Plus, it’s something I can easily continue post Whole30. I did buy their cookbook and it’s been fun to experiment with recipes. I made a homemade mayo, which I really liked and also found new recipes that I can make every month.
  14. Tough love!
    • Melissa Hartwig is famous for her tough love talk to the Whole30 community and I couldn’t be more thankful. I always keep her in mind when it comes to taming my sugar dragon. Throughout the beginning of my Whole30 this month, I had thoughts like “Am I wanting to eat fruit because I want something sweet?” and “Is this going to tame my sugar dragon?”
  15. Nutrition Label King/Queen.
    • The good thing about reading labels with everything you buy is eventually you don’t have to do it anymore. You form a habit (and remember) what items don’t have added sugar, carrageenan, or other non-compliant ingredients. Days before starting my Whole30 journey, I did notice I was buying some items that weren’t Whole30 compliant like deli ham and sausages, but it gave me that awareness. After finding new foods, I can easily replace them with better options.

Bonus: My husband loved every single Whole30 meal I made. He did not do a Whole30 with me, but he enjoyed the meals and even commented that he feels best when he eats that way. For those of you worried that your family members won’t do the program with you, it’s totally okay if they don’t. I made my Whole30 meals but would add items like bread, rice, tortillas, sour cream, etc to many of his meals. He did enjoy official Whole30 meals too. It’s a win for me and him.

Hopefully this blog post gave you more insight on my Top 15 “wins” with the Whole30 program. If you’re having feelings that this program is too strict, just try it. How you feel after completing the program is worth it!

Here is an example of some of my meals. Some are super simple while others take 30 minutes or less.