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How Can A Whole30 Program Approach Help You Change Your Life and Career?

Change Management.jpgI recently completed a personal change management program.

It involved some big behavioral changes, a personal commitment to making it work, and accountability to see that the program gets completed.

What was this big change initiative?

I decided to follow the Whole30 program. Here is a brief description for those of you not familiar with the Whole 30 program:

Whole30 is a 30-day (duh) clean-eating 
plan designed to clean up your eating habits by cutting out foods that might be having a negative impact on your health (a.k.a. making you feel crappy).

Yes, we're talking about the foods that are super hard to give up: dairy, sugar, grains, legumes, and alcohol.

One thing that I have learned over the years in leading change initiatives is that there has to be an openness with the individual to make an effort to try and make the change work. I had reached the point where I was looking for ways to improve my overall well-being. Spending less time exercising and more time working (and yes - blogging) had taken me far away from my ideal physical state. I was ready for something different.

Like most people, I learned about the Whole 30 Program from conversations with friends. The more I learned about it, the more drawn I wanted to try it out. I found that many people would explain the diet to me as a “process of elimination” as in “you cannot eat this or that”. The people I know who have gone through the program almost all had very positive things to say about. They told me to follow the rules the program (Whole30 does not like to consider itself a diet) prescribes and you will start to feel a whole lot better, have more energy, and lose weight (there – I said it).

What are the Whole 30 Program rules?

Eat moderate portions of meat, seafood, and eggs; lots of vegetables; some fruit; plenty of natural fats; and herbs, spices, and seasonings. 

Eat foods with very few ingredients, all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they're whole and unprocessed.

Avoid any kind of sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, and dairy.

These seemed like pretty simple rules to follow except that it seemed my entire diet consisted of foods in the avoid column. This was going to be a major change management project and I was going to need to start – to quote the old Apple ad campaign – Think Different.

To make this program work:

  • I had to learn new habits (a lot more time devoted to food prep)
  • Resist falling back into negative behavior patterns (mindless snacking)
  • Avoid taking the path of least resistance (hello drive-thru!)
  • Enjoy the journey (a lot of the recipes and foods were great).

Once I got started on the program I naturally drew a number of correlations between my Whole30 journey and how people can more effectively manage their careers and life (this is how someone in outplacement and career transition thinks).

Drawing upon the lessons that I learned from how to make the Whole30 program work for me, I began to think how these lessons would apply to careers and life. The program is a 30-day commitment to change. Afterward, you are free to keep on the program or some parts of it (or scrap it and hit the drive-thru again).

So what are some life/career ideas that any of us could tackle in the next 30 days?

Try Out Some New Positive Habits

One of the hardest things for many of us to do is to act. We know that we need to update our skills, we know that we need to better use our emotional intelligence, and we know that we need to improve our time management skills. All of these positive habits will help to accelerate our career by making us more productive by fully leveraging our capabilities.

We write how we are going to start doing all of these habits on January 01 but forget (or give up) on them by mid-February.

Pick a couple of positive habits and try your best to stick with them for 30 days. Here are some ideas:

  • Start each morning with some type of physical activity. It does not have to be a full hour at a spin class. It can simply be doing some stretches or a short walk.
  • Make an effort to reach out to one new person a day in your network and wish them well. Or better yet, share something with them – an article or a blog.

Encourage Yourself To Not Fall Back Into Negative Behavior Patterns

To make positive behavior changes that will stick, we need to resist the comfort of falling back into the negative behavior patterns and push ourselves to stay on the positive path. There are a lot of negative behaviors that hold our careers back (gossip, procrastination, lack of curiosity, poor listening, low EQ, and countless more).

Many of these behaviors are hard to modify because we have been doing them for so long that they seem like they we are hard-wired into them. This is not true. If I could prove to myself that I could go 30 days without any bread, wine, and cheese (goodbye Roman lifestyle).

Some ideas that might help:

  • Leave your phone at your desk when you attend a meeting.
  • Hit the pause button before you react to criticism or comments. Give yourself some time to let your EQ take over.

Avoid Taking The Path Of Least Resistance

What I have seen from the Whole 30 diet is that a lot of bad consumption habits are based on taking the easy way out. Fast food and prepared food are not the best but they sure are quick and easy. Avoiding the path of least resistance also matters in managing your career. A great example of this is how open we make ourselves to change. Keeping things the way they are is easy and comfortable while trying something new will take us out of our comfort zone.

Some ideas to think about:

  • Take the time to read emails and presentation material for comprehension. Slow down your mind so that you can give yourself enough time to fully understand what is being communicated.
  • Try out a new software upgrade that you have been avoiding because you are so locked into your current routine.

Learning to Enjoy the Journey

While starting the Whole30 program made me apprehensive I learned to enjoy the new perspective it gave me about food. It also has paid off. I do feel better, have more energy, and have lost a few pounds. I am keeping almost all of the new habits I have learned.

My Whole 30 journey was a refresher course in change management. It showed me how talking about what needs to change is easy but making the change takes commitment and sacrifice in order to make it happen. I have to make an admission that I am not a role model for change management (full confession – I had a Blackberry up until last Fall). While I was able to break a number of bad food habits with this program and elevate my consciousness regarding nutrition. While I thought that the 30 days would resemble a prison sentence it actually became quite fun.