By Jackie Rainford Corcoran EBS Health Columnist

This is part three of a three part series where I share my experiences of following the Whole30 with you. Be prepared for the good the bad and the ugly.

First, a quick recap: the Whole30 is a concept developed by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. In their book, “It Starts With Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways” the Hartwigs lay out a concise and sustainable 30-day nutritional plan.

The plan includes vegetables, fruits, meat and healthy fats. It eliminates refined packaged foods, whole grains, legumes, dairy, alcohol and sugar, as the Hartwigs believe these potentially cause inflammation in the body.

Due to EBS publishing deadlines, I’m writing this article before the completion of the Whole30, but I’m happy to tell you that my husband and I feel terrific and are in no hurry for it to end.

For those interested in following this plan, I’d like to share the challenges along with the rewards so you can fully prepare yourself.

Eating whole foods at every meal for 30 days—that’s 90 meals per person—requires one of our most valuable resources: time. Time management and preparation are vital. Fortunately, there are many online sites devoted to the Whole30 that offer timesaving hacks.

Don’t do it for weight loss. While many people do lose weight due to the elimination of excess carbohydrates and calories, that’s not the main focus of this endeavor—your scale should be tucked away for the duration. The intention is to get us out of a diet mindset and instead focus on how our bodies and minds feel. That said, my tummy hasn’t been this flat in years and my energy levels are way up.

Attending social events can be a challenge. The Hartwigs want everyone to experience “food freedom” and would argue that cloistering ourselves away is the opposite of that. But if you and your peers don’t usually eat this way together and drinking alcohol is the norm, it might require patience and practice to feel fully at ease. However, waking up on a Sunday without the trace of a headache is well worth it effort.

Unless you already follow a paleo diet, you’ll have to get creative in the kitchen. While this is great fun for someone who loves to cook, for those who don’t, consider enlisting a friend or family member to do it with you so they can share the responsibility.

Eating out offers endless temptations but is possible at many restaurants. Recently at Ted’s Montana Grill in Bozeman, my husband enjoyed a gorgeous beef tenderloin, baked potato with bacon and sliced tomatoes.

Completing the Whole30 is not the end of the journey, and in some ways it’s just the beginning. With a well laid out plan, the Hartwigs ask that you bring foods back in a systematic way, one food group at a time, and then go back to the Whole30 for two days and notice how the body responds. I’m looking forward to the experience with curiosity and enthusiasm.

While all this might sound overwhelming and complicated, it’s really not. It’s actually quite simple and, dare I say, fun. It’s in alignment with author and filmmaker Michael Pollan’s adage, “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.”

Change is challenging but in that challenge, growth and good health are waiting for us. I love that January inspired this change in us.

Jackie Rainford Corcoran is an IIN Certified Holistic Health Coach and Consultant, a public speaker and health activist. Contact her at jackie@corehealthmt.com.