I’m starting a Whole 30/Eat Clean Challenge. How do I prepare?

30 days!

You binged out on chocolate, cookies and pizza, again.  You’ve watched yourself sink into a crap hole and could not get out.  Somewhere in your sugar and carb fog, you heard the battle cry – 30 DAY CHALLENGE! We are starting on the first!  We are all doing it together!

Yes, you said. I’m in.  This is the last time I’m going to stuff my face with garbage.  I’m done.  As of the first, I’m going to eat strict!  Eat clean! Stay committed to Paleo or Whole 30!  I’m going to finish out these tubs of ice cream, girl scout cookies, wheat thins and donuts, and as of the 1st, I’m going 100 percent strict!!!

The truth.

The intense feelings of disgust and excitement you feel while you are in the throes of a crap fest help you make a grand commitment to a challenge.  When you feel that horrible about yourself, your desire and drive are in full throttle.  Tomorrow, in a week, today – I’m DONE.

The reality of making it through a challenge, however, is handling the cravings and “eff – its” that you face second by second, minute by minute, and hour by hour once you begin.

The most important part of any challenge is in the millisecond between the time you see a food and decide to put it in your mouth.  On day 4 when you feel fantabulous having been clean for this long, when you are hungry and on the run, what do you reach for?  What happens in your mind when you see the cookies sitting on the office counter? 

Sugar. Fat. Chocolate. Yum.

Do you immediately say – OH NO. I do not eat cookies.  I will wait. 

Or, does the sight and smell of that sugar trigger a hard wired emotional response where you immediately taste the yumminess all through your mouth, you start to salivate like the best of Pavlov’s dogs, and your mind says “Eff it.  This one cookie won’t matter”.  “Eff -It, I’ll start tomorrow.”  “Eff it, I can’t do this, I’m a failure anyway”. 

And before you even feel like you had time to make a choice, the cookie is on it’s way down and your hands won’t stop feeding your face until the plate is empty, even of crumbs.

We won’t  talk about how horrible you feel about yourself the very second the last cookie is gone.  It’s horrific at best. Your stomach is full, the sugar starts making it’s way through your body, you feel disgusting, bloated and gross. You stare at the plate and are haunted and alarmed. You are an utter and complete failure.  How did that happen?  Why did that happen?  You were doing so well!!

This is the reality of a challenge.  The cookies on the counter, your kids’ cereal and snacks at home, any random item that appears in your line of vision at a time when you are not completely prepared.

Prepared.  Prepared.  Say it again.  Prepared.

The essence of achieving success in any challenge is preparation.  Here are some ways you can prepare that will help you stay on course.

1. Decide why you are doing this.  No, I mean really.  Why are YOU doing this?  Do you want to lose weight?  Do you want to perform better?  Both?  Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired?  You need to know.  And you need to write it down, think about it, and feel your personal reasons in your heart, soul, blood and bones.  You need to believe in your reasons and know deeply that your goals are real and doable.  Yes, by doing this challenge you can reach your goals. Yes.  Yes. Yes.

2.  Clear you environment of all foods you don’t want to eat as much as possible. Clean up, clean out. I’m not talking about putting it on the back of the shelf. I’m talking out.   If your family needs the ‘crap’ foods, and many do,  make a special section for yourself. Create shelves in the fridge, cupboards and pantry.  By golly become a food hoarder and put your foods in your dresser drawer.

3. Buy the foods you can and want to eat.  This will be a separate post as well – what foods and why?  Before the 1st, have a huge stash of yes foods.  Get to know them.  Plan on ways of using them.

  Jen Boudreau’s Article on What to Buy for a Paleo Challenge

4. Preparation in the kitchen. Daily or weekly or both. Prep prep prep. Cook chickens, make snacks, always have something you CAN eat.  Buy jerkey, cans of tuna and leave them everywhere you will be.   Prep prep prep your foods.

Be creative! Have Fun!

We all tend to “fail” l when we are hungry and reach for something handy.  It is the most common confession during a challenge.  ‘I was hungry and didn’t have any snacks so I….”

5. Realize you will have cravings. You will hit emotional walls. Your commitment will be very sorely tested. The worst part of cravings lasts 90 seconds.

You will have cravings. They will kick your ass. Fact.

Have mental strategies to keep your from giving in. Get to know the process of seeing a crap food you want.  Go look at one now.  Stare at it and decide what you are going to say to it, and yourself, in your moment of challenge.

EFF NO CRAVING (cookie, donut, candy, pasta, pizza, box of crackers or cereal)..I am better than you! Hell no, I’m not going to give in to this! I am worth it! I can do this right now!  I am so awesome, I do not need this crap! I am going to post on FB and call my friends before I reach for you.  NO!


6. Be accountable.  Start a food log.  Post everything you eat to your group on Facebook.  Seriously.  Be accountable.  Get the support of others. 

7.  Understand that you are attempting to change deeply engrained programming about food.  For most people, it is not easy. It may be the hardest thing you ever do.  You may fall off the wagon early.  Do not give up. Ever.  Get right back on.  Keep at it.  It can take a long time, but it is absolutely doable.

8.  One day at a time is the only way.  Remember at all times that you only have to get through this minute, hour or day.  Break it up into small and manageable pieces.  Cravings are powerful but they do go away.  Walk through each craving in the now rather than in the “OMG I can’t do this for the rest of my life!”.  There is only, ever, right now.

You only have to ever get through one day. Or one hour.

9.  IMPORTANT:  If you have a history of an eating disorder, do not try a challenge without your doctor or support group!  Challenges are known to trigger some seriously nasty stuff in women with histories of eating disorders.  Be self-aware.  Be conscious.  If you feel your old stuff coming on, stop immediately and seek your support.  Please!

10. Remember, the idea is to plan, prep and set up for feelings of success!  Every time you make it through a craving, celebrate!  Every day you wake up and realize you stayed true to your challenge for a whole nother day, celebrate!  The feelings of success and empowerment will grow, the feelings of awesomeness generated by a body eating clean food will take over any negative feelings or cravings you have, and then?  BAM!  You are your goals.



About Eileen Taggart

Flagstaff Real Estate Agent. Top Producer. Olympic Weightlifter. Facebooker. Laughter is everything.

3 comments on “I’m starting a Whole 30/Eat Clean Challenge. How do I prepare?

  1. Why would food challenges cause problems in women with past eating disorders but not men with past eating disorders?

  2. Thank you thank you thank you for taking the time to write this article, My friend and I have started eating clean 100% and I was finding it a little harder then I thought it was going to be. Reading this reminds me to KEEP FOCUSED AND be Prepared!! I will be Preping my food and listening to your tips!! thank you again for saving me from grabbing those cookies!!! 🙂

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