Whole30-ish:: How to Kinda Sorta Follow the Rules and Still Be Successful

It’s that time again:: the time of year when overnight everyone rushes out to buy the latest juicer, gym membership or piece of exercise equipment and suddenly starts buying all organic produce and grass fed, non GMO, no antibiotic meat. Crowds at the gym are eye-rollingly absurd and the Instagram #NewYearNewYou hashtags are out in full force, yet everyone knows that come about the third week of January {when most people abandon their New Year’s resolutions} it will all be over and we can resume our normal inactive, processed food lives.

A person taking a photograph of a colorful meal. There is usually a decent sized group of folks you hear about every year who decide to do the Whole30 challenge. What is the Whole30 Challenge, you say? I’ll get into the nitty gritty details in a moment, but essentially it’s a 30-day program that focuses on whole foods and eliminates many other types of foods all for the purpose of “resetting your health, habits and emotional relationship with food“.  It is very similar to the Paleo diet, just slightly more restrictive. I completed the Whole30 Challenge a few weeks ago and survived, HOWEVER I took the liberty of making a few adjustments according to my own interpretation of the program.  Now, if you are a Whole30 purist and the type to restart your 30 day clock over if you accidentally consume a single chickpea or drop of hidden soy during your challenge {which is what you are technically supposed to do according to the “rules of the program”}, you should probably stop reading right now because this blog post will certainly cause your head to explode. No need to turn me into the Whole30 police either, I promise. This post is geared toward the “tired as a mother” mamas out there who want to get out of a rut and focus on positive health and well-being but might’ve been previously intimidated by the restrictive rules of Whole30.

What is Whole30?

Whole 30 is a 30-day clean eating plan created by Melissa Hartwig Urban that is designed to help people “reset their health, habits and emotional relationship with food.” The rules of the program are very clear:

  1. Do not consume added sugar, real or artificial.
  2. Do not consume alcohol, in any form, not even for cooking.
  3. Do not eat grains.
  4. Do not eat legumes.
  5. Do not eat dairy.
  6. Do not consume carrageenan, MSG or sulfites.
  7. Do not consume baked goods, junk foods or treats with “approved ingredients”.
  8. Do not step on the scale or take any body measurements for 30 days.

That’s it.

Why I Did Whole30

In full transparency, I chose to complete the Whole30 challenge to get rid of the last 7-8 pounds of baby weight that I was having trouble shedding 6 months after the birth of my second son – which is completely counter to the whole point of Whole30 in the first place. Whole30 is way more than just weight loss, so purists tell you that if you just want to lose a quick few pounds – do something else instead. Like I said, I am fully aware that I went into this for all of the wrong reasons so no need to circle the Whole30 wagons on me or tag this post on Melissa Hartwig Urban’s Instagram page and talk about how it is so annoying when people do Whole30 just to lose weight. I know what I did, so chill.

How I Made Whole30 Work For Me

I am a mother of three with a full time job in Corporate America and my husband currently travels 60-70% of the time. The ages of my children range from 16 years old to 6 months old so to say that I am busy and have my hands full is an understatement. I knew going into the program that I would need to be realistic when balancing my busy life with a pretty restrictive Whole30 diet and that there would need to be things I would have to be flexible on during the 30 days.

Here are some of the slight modifications I made to the program:

  • Meat:: Whole30 purists recommend eating “pastured, organic, local, grass fed meat”. But not everyone has access (either physically or financially) to Whole30 approved meats like that. And you might not know this, but most processed meats contain ingredients that Whole30 says to restrict. A common one is sugar. I had to be flexible on this point because as a busy working mom, I needed easy to source and easy to prepare meats. So for my Whole30 journey, as long as the ingredient list said the meat contained “less than 2% sugar” {a common label you’ll see on packaged meats} and had no added sugar on the label, I ate it. This included sausage, ground beef, & chorizo which I frequently consumed either on eggs, stir fried in with vegetables, or put on top of sweet potatoes.
  • Snack Foods:: Whole30 basic principles support not snacking throughout the day, even on compliant foods. If you want to know the science behind it, read the book but the punchline here is that not snacking did not work for me. I am go go go from the moment I wake up until I am lucky enough to put my head on my pillow at night and I need additional fuel throughout the day to keep me going. Some of the snack foods that were my lifeline during my Whole30 experience {some of which will raise eyebrows for the W30 purists out there} include:
    • Unsweetened apple sauce pouches
    • Fresh fruit
    • Avocados
    • Beef jerky {as compliant as I could find}
    • Almonds & cashews {raw}
    • Almond butter {without added sugar}
    • Plantain chips {yes I know…these are frowned upon}
  • Chilling Out and Not Obsessing:: As I said, I’m a busy mom that also works full time.  My day job consists of occasional catered lunches brought into the office and business dinners and I’m not going to lie – it can be hard to find compliant Whole30 options sometimes. Bringing meals with me everywhere I went was not practical so I had to chill out when it came to eating meals that I did not prepare. Is it possible that I was “buttered” at a restaurant even after asking the waiter for a side of veggies with no butter?  Sure. Is it possible that a salad  I ate possibly had hidden soy or added sugar in the vinaigrette dressing I asked for on the side? Sure. But I had to chill out and just roll with the punches, focusing on the bigger picture rules of the program such as avoiding dairy, grains, junk food and alcohol.

My Results

I consider my Whole30 challenge to have been successful for a variety of reasons::

  • I lost 7.5 pounds {woo hoo!!!}
  • I felt less bloated and lethargic
  • I became a lot more “food aware”, meaning I have a whole new appreciation now for ingredients in our foods and those to avoid

Will I Do Another Whole30 Challenge?

Absolutely. Completing the Whole30 challenge {even with my modifications} was definitely worth it and I plan to do it again. As Melissa Hartwig Urban says on her website, “This is not hard. Fighting cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black Is.Not.Hard. You have done harder things than this.”She’s totally right. One of the things that was really helpful to me was that my husband did it with me. I have friends who have done it together as well and having an accountability partner as well as someone to compete with helps you get over the hump on the really challenging days when all you want is a bowl of queso, a glass of wine and some chocolate.

After I complete my next Whole30 challenge though, I plan to do a proper re-introduction of foods instead of just jumping right back into my old habits. The timing of the end of my Whole30 challenge this time around happened to coincide with an annual Friendsgiving dinner party that I throw every year. So I jumped right back into dairy, carbs and alcohol all on the same night and for the next few days I could definitely tell that I jumped back in too quickly. And jumping back in right away meant I really don’t know if I have any food sensitivities that I should be aware of going forward. So next time, I will allow a bit more time for a proper reintroduction.

So there you have it. Hopefully some of my tips and tricks can help you be successful with a Whole30 challenge as well because it really is a great program. Just remember:: Mommin’ is hard. This is not. YOU.CAN.DO.THIS!

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Vicki has always had Texan blood pumping through her veins. Raised in Katy as the oldest of four girls and now a resident of Kingwood, she’s known for her undying and somewhat fanatical love of all things related to H-E-B, Amazon Prime, Taylor Swift, and Texas A&M, her alma mater {WHOOP!}. She has a passion for supporting other working moms in the workplace, as well as military veterans. Married to Paul since 2011 {also an Aggie and a veteran}, she has three kids:: step-daughter Madeline {2003} and sons Hamilton {2014}, and Harrison {2019}. By day, Vicki is a full-time working mom who works in HR and by night she’s a closet “60 Minutes” & “Real Housewives” fan. Always first out on the dance floor for “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, Vicki enjoys unwinding with friends over a glass of wine, a new craft brew and/or a H-E-B cheese ball.


  1. I have accepted the Whole30 challenge and now I would try my best to follow this diet plan no matter what it takes. Rules of this dieting plan may seem too much easy but you gotta believe me that they are not. With a little bit of motivation and determination, I would fulfill all criteria of this challenge.

  2. You are my spirit animal!! I’ve always done my best with the W30 rules, but I do bend them here and there while making sure everything I put in my body is “technically compliant”. Hello, *gasp* banana “pancakes” and plantain chips. I’ve had the most success with this eating plan and always return to it when I am starting to feel out of control with my eating habits. It has helped me lose 80 lbs – not that I was doing it for that reason because Lord knows I am not one to break the rules – I love that it’s not a diet but a nutritional mindset, and It Starts With Food was a game changer for me. Thank you for posting this and allowing others to share their thoughts!


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