I love the Whole 30 but I’m never doing it again.

I love the Whole 30 but I’m never doing it again.

I did my first Whole 30 five or six years ago.

Objectively, it was a wonderful experience (and by wonderful, I mean equal parts frustrating, fabulous, maddening, and enlightening).

Since my first attempt, I’ve done somewhere around half a dozen more Whole 30s. Despite the fact that each one is a little less helpful than the one before, I thought I’d be scheduling regular Whole 30s for the rest of my life.

I’ve since decided that’s not a good idea. I love the Whole 30, but I’m not planning on doing one again.

The problem is the finish line.

By definition, a Whole 30 is a short-term, 30 day nutritional reset. It’s an elimination diet: an experiment of sorts.

I’ve done the experiment. I have years and years of data on how certain foods make me feel: I know what foods make me feel like a champ, what foods trigger bad things for me, what foods I don’t want to live without.

I have the information I need. That doesn’t mean I always put it to good use: I know what to do, even if I don’t always do it.

When I lapse into unhealthy habits (as I recently did when we were on vacation), I know the signs.

When that happened, I used to think “it’s time for another Whole 30.” But now I’m realizing that I don’t need a program to get back on the wagon—especially not a program with an end date. Getting back on track shouldn’t be a special event: it should be something I can do immediately, without planning, waiting, scheduling, or grocery shopping.

I love the Whole 30, and I think most people would benefit from doing one (or a similar plan) at least once. You learn so much about your body, and how to treat it well.

But when those 30 days are over, you need to decide what to do with what you’ve learned. Your Whole 30 is over: now what? 

That’s why at this point in my life, the Whole 30 is only a temporary substitute for what needs to be lasting change.

When it comes to what I eat, I know what I need to do, and I can start doing it—today.

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts about and experiences with the Whole 30 in comments.

For me, at this point in my life, the Whole 30 is only a temporary substitute for what needs to be lasting change.

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60 comments

  1. Kristina says:

    I completely agree, Anne. I did a Whole 30 this pat April and I loved the experience. I think it was a good way to ‘cleanse’ my body per sé and get refocused. It also cut my cravings for sugar. I try my best to abide by the 80/20 rule. 80 percent of the time I’m eating the foods that make me feel good and don’t trigger and then the other 20 percent of the time I allow myself to eat other stuff. Not necessarily junk, but just not as clean as my usual.

    I also found that when I am going to have a treat, I’m going to use it on a worthwhile treat. For example, I’m not going to eat three Oreos. Instead I’ll bake cookies or feel free to have a homemade cookie at a friend’s. I guess it’s more of a ‘paying attention’ style.

  2. That makes a lot of sense to me. As a general rule, the menu at my house avoids processed foods and unnecessary carbs. I’m rather fanatic about “real foods”, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t indulge in junk when necessary. For me, the biggest problem with starting a program like Whole 30 is that Real Life doesn’t always line up to our food goals. Bob works a very demanding schedule; I am highly overcommitted. I work diligently to keep kale in our lives, but I find that the “hey, I crossed the finished line” of The Whole 30 isn’t always as important to our lives as the ice cream cone or the glass of wine that allows us to reset for the next day or the next challenge. In a world of subpoenas and fender benders and triple-scheduled meetings, I try to allow for a little bit of grace.

  3. Jacqueline says:

    This was such a timely post for me. I just completed my 4th Whole 30, and this is what I’ve discovered about doing the program multiple times: it gets a lot easier each consecutive time, but the results are also less and less impressive each time around. Like you, I’ve been coming to the realization that I know what my body needs now and what it hates and I don’t need another Whole 30 to help me figure it out. I do like the forced discipline of a Whole 30 to get me back on track after “falling off the wagon.” I have a hard time with the 80/20 mentality. My brain seems to be an “all or nothing” kind of thinker when it comes to being disciplined, and that’s something I want to change.

  4. Stacey says:

    I have done several Whole 30’s as well, the first with the guidance of a yoga teacher and support if the class. I will get my head back in the game by planning a whole 30 on occasion, but none taught me more than the first one. It was a great learning experience about my own body and what it tolerates and how different foods make me feel physically, effect my sleep etc. I am doing one right now, and making it into a project helps me focus and be successful, I like the structure to get back on track. I think 80-20 is ultimately a fantastic lifestyle. Sometimes the reset serves as a reminder of what I need to do.

  5. I’ve never done a Whole 30, mainly because I know for certain that I’m a moderator, not an abstainer. I make mostly healthy choices on a regular basis as long as I know I have the freedom to make some not-perfect choices too.

    (I’ll eat eggs and veggies for breakfast, but I want a little sugar in my tea. I’ll eat a salad with lean protein for lunch, but I want a piece of dark chocolate afterward.)

    But being put on a restrictive diet with rules and such would just make me want to rebel something fierce. I’m way, way better at moderating than abstaining.

  6. Amy says:

    Thank you for articulating this so well. We have done two (and a half?) Whole 30s, and itreally changed a lot of things fo us, but the strictness of the entire 30 days, plus he planning and all the cooking is just not something I really want to go through again. I just want to use the information it gave me wisely, so that I can feel good and have energy, but not deprive myself from the things I love, either (ice cream!).

    • Anne says:

      “I just want to use the information it gave me wisely, so that I can feel good and have energy, but not deprive myself from the things I love.”

      Sounds good to me. 🙂

  7. Heather says:

    This is super timely for me, as well, as we just finished our very first Whole30. I’m not planning on doing one again in the next few months or anything, but I have wondered if we’ll do it again. I saw my body change for the first time in years, after so much defeat and frustrated efforts in the past, and I think I learned so much from that 30 days that I know what I need to do from here. PS: The bundle sale looks like it has some great resources for us moving forward!! Thanks for the recommendation!

  8. Chrissy says:

    Honestly, I don’t think people should diet with an end date but rather just make a full lifestyle change. If there’s an end date, then once the person is off the diet, he or she will just go back to their old eating habits and gain the weight back.

    They easy diet? Just eat healthy foods, mostly vegetables, legumes and fruit. Don’t drink sodas (diet or regular, neither is good for you), don’t eat out at fast food, nothing deep fried, and don’t eat anything that comes in a package with ingredients that one can’t recognize. Drink plenty of water and exercise 3 – 5 times a week.

    Simple as that. Make it a lifestyle change without an end date. The first week is tough, but it gets easier after that.

    Personally, I eat plant based, whole food vegan style. With my intolerances, it’s the best thing for me. However, others may be different (like my hubby is a carnivore, while my mom flips between vegetarian meals and meat). <3

    • Agree with your Chrissy. We went vegan about 6 months ago to correct some health issues. They are gone and we are healthy. We like how we feel so we are still vegan 90% of the time. Once a week, we eat meat or any other animal protein source of our choice. We went to the beach this past weekend and we had shrimp and fish, even ice cream, but they were side dishes to our main vegan dishes. Whole food plant based diet is so good for all of us in our family. It’s not a diet. It’s a lifestyle! 🙂 If you are interested check out Happy Healthy vegan latest video on YouTube on what to eat in a vegan lifestyle staying away from fake processed foods.

      • Chrissy says:

        That’s awesome!

        Yeah, it really helped out my health too. It brought my asthma attacks down from 15 a day to a 1 a week (if even that). A little meat here and there isn’t bad at all. I gave in and had a little ricotta on Easter (my mom’s ricotta pie is delish). Everyone needs to do what’s best for them. =)

        Thanks for the suggestion! I’ll check that channel out on youtube. My personal fav has been Oh She Glows. Really tasty vegan dishes. ^_^

  9. Bekki says:

    I did three months of whole foods several years ago and concur: it was an excellent teaching tool, but I don’t need a semester long class to review! On the other hand, I’ve recently taken up water fasting and found the benefits of 3, 7, 10, and even 21 day fasts well worth the time.

  10. Katia says:

    Although I haven’t done the Whole 30 program per se, I have participated in similar programs. Within the time frame of the program, I did learn a lot about my digestion, sensitivities, as well as any patterns or habits that do not serve me but to which I had become attached. After the program ended, I continued to eliminate certain foods from my diet. I learned recently, thanks to Gretchen Rubin, that I am an abstainer and work best by completely staying away from the ‘trigger foods’ for which I have a weakness. Yet, I also love sweet treats and it’s my choice to enjoy certain foods, from time to time, that might not be on the ‘clean and healthy’ list. Since having accepted this fact, I have been enjoying treats in moderation, eating more mindfully, and enjoying good food without obsessing about my next meal. One interesting fact I learned about myself is that instead of eating frequent meals without much protein throughout the day, I fare better when I eat light but nevertheless protein-rich meals three times a day. I have been able to eliminate snacking and feel great about not having to log around food in my purse all day, just in case I might get hungry between meals.

    • Anne says:

      Such great insights. Thanks for sharing. And I completely relate on the abstainer/moderator thing. I can’t eat “just a little” of very sweet foods: I’m so much happier skipping them entirely.

  11. M.E. Bond says:

    I did one Whole 30 two years ago and I still can’t believe I made it. During the last week I wanted pizza and pancakes so badly! I know I could eat healthier, but I won’t subject myself to no grains again. 🙂

  12. I think the creators of the Whole30 would love this– because I’m sure they didn’t set out to create a program that people would rely on, but rather one that helps people learn about their bodies and create healthy habits (and know the reasoning behind the healthy habits). I am on a much stricter elimination diet due to an autoimmune disease, and used to think the Whole 30 was kind of silly (why do you need a special program to tell you how to eat whole, clean foods?) until my sister complained about not being able to lose weight. Knowing she eats a conventional, heavily processed diet, I challenged her to try the Whole 30 and have been helping her learn how to meal plan, shop, and cook (something I never expected to be teaching my 32 year old sister). I knew she would agree because it was only 30 days, there were many testimonials of success, and a community of support. You don’t get that from just suggesting a lifestyle change, and I knew that’s what she needed. I’m hopeful she’ll learn the same things you did and continue to make healthy choices that will benefit her whole family.

  13. Ang D says:

    I started the whole30 August 9 with my daughter and husband in support of her. My Daughter’s doc put her on the whole 30 as an insulin reset. I quickly learned that I can’t go without dairy. I had thyroid surgery and need the calcium that dairy provides. The other options weren’t giving me enough. I did see that it has changed my tastes. Tonight my friends and I are going out to eat at my favorite Italian restaurant to celebrate the end of this diet for me. But I can see that I will be implementing some of the options. Definitely less gluten in my diet.

    • Anne says:

      That’s so interesting—so glad you learned new things during those 30 days. I love that you did it to support your daughter, too. Hope it was a useful experiment for her as well.

  14. So funny, because I’ve been thinking the same thing!! I did Whole 30 back in January & I loved how it made me feel, and the insight I got when reintroducing foods (like the headache I got 30 minutes after eating wheat!), but it’s too extreme for me to live out all the time. Now that I know which foods I need to more carefully moderate, I can eat the things I love and still maintain a healthy diet!!

  15. Oh, and I forgot to mention the most life changing aspect of Whole 30 for me: I gave up Diet Coke!!! I had a 30 year habit and quit cold turkey. I haven’t had one since and I don’t plan to!

  16. Nancy B. says:

    I think you have a good perspective on the Whole 30. good for you for doing it and learning the lessons from it. Yes, what you do with that knowledge is totally up to you. I have found huge relief from an anti-inflammation diet (autoimmune protocol subset of Paleo) which is similar to Whole30. It keeps my Lupus and Sjogren’s symptoms mostly under control. You’ll find a mix of relief vs. convenience that works for you. However, if you decided to do the full treatment indefinitely, based on your findings from the Whole 30, you might find a new level of relief that may make you reconsider!

  17. Amber says:

    Super timely as we are just about to begin our first Whole30. Excited to gain an increased awareness about various foods’ effects on my body, emotions, and life. I highly recommend their Whole30 book – it’s incredibly informative and helpful with a cheeky writing style to boot.

    I AM nervous about getting through the (dark) chocolate cravings I’m going to have daily. Any tips?

    • Anne says:

      Good luck with yours! As for the dark chocolate, my biggest tip is to get it out of the house! That’s not crucial for everyone, but it sure was for me. If cravings are bad a change of pace helps me (like, I wouldn’t eat chocolate if I was out for a walk, so that would be a good way to pass the time until I stop thinking about chocolate.)

  18. Amy says:

    Funny, I’ve recently started my 4th or 5th Whole 30, one of which I gave up on. The first one set me on a pattern of eating (primal/paleo) that I’ve really settled into. And that mostly works, but….chocolate. And a 10k race on the last day. Since I’m an abstainer, I guess that’s what this round is for: resetting my habit of avoiding sugar and supporting the next few weeks of heavy training. It’s not too hard, and it does have lasting effects, but I do agree with you and others that say eating healthy is not a short term challenge, it’s a well-intentioned commitment that needs room for some imperfection. Looking forward to that finish line treat!

  19. Alicia says:

    What a timely post! I just “abandoned” my first Whole30 attempt. Not because I *couldn’t* make it through (I’ve done many similar elimination diets in the past), but for much the same reasons you discovered. I learned what my body can tolerate, what I don’t want to ever give up permanently (chocolate!), and what I’d like to abstain from, or at least extremely limit (gluten) within the first 3 weeks, and I felt no need to continue the diet past this point. I also am at a very busy season of my life, and found the food prep/planning to be much too tedious for me at this time. However, I do believe the Whole30 can be a very helpful tool for many people!

  20. Laurie says:

    I recently finished my second Whole 30, (my first was a few years ago) and I totally get what you’re saying.
    I did find this attempt to be very beneficial in reminding me clearly why I need to avoid certain foods. I tend to go into denial when I am feeling better and slowly those bad habits creep back in.
    I LOVE the Whole 30 for what it has taught me, and for the real benefits that come from that kind of healthy eating (like soft healthy skin!)
    I felt amazing when I was on it, and that faded as old habits crept back. The dull headaches and general feeling of fatigue and heaviness after meals that are thrown together without careful consideration.
    I think part of my problem is just setting aside enough time and brain space to focus on making our meals more compliant instead of going with the old standards that aren’t really very healthy.
    The other problem for me is using food when I’m stressed or exhausted.

  21. Julie says:

    I tried Whole 30 a couple of times, but with the demands of a big family with their own peculiar food issues, I couldn’t keep it up. I have discovered, however, a number of foods that affect me adversely, and while it adds another dimension to meal planning, it’s totally worth it to me. I think often of your “abstainer vs. moderator” mentality – I’m an abstainer.

    I’d love to know what specific foods affect you.

    • Anne says:

      I don’t do well with anything super sweet or starchy (blood sugar issues), and there are foods I can only do in limited quantities (like dairy). I never touch artificial sweeteners because they kick off intense sugar cravings. The combination of foods also matters a lot: I can put craisins on a salad, but I can’t eat them plain. I can eat nuts in small quantities, with something else, but if I eat them alone I get killer stomachaches.

  22. Cutzi says:

    Yes and amen! This is where I’m at too. In fact, I was just teasing a friend recently who is doing yet ANOTHER W30. I said, “Maybe you should just decide you’re not going to eat gluten and dairy.” 😉

  23. Amy says:

    Thank you for this! I’m currently in the middle of a Whole30 (first one was 2+ years ago) and there are so many thoughts rattling around as I’m doing this. After some indulgent summer vacations, I knew that this was needed in order to curb the sugar dragon & to refocus me on the eating that I know I should do. A joy that has come from this round is reawakening the enjoyment of cooking/spending time in the kitchen (cooking for 1 can get dreary). As this round ends, my goal is to transition from “needing to do a W30 to reset” to incorporating the rules that are best for me into ‘just my normal routine.’

    • Anne says:

      Yes, that’s an awesome goal! I’m with you on the sugar dragon—when I start getting sloppy with what I eat that’s what comes bounding back.

  24. Marisa says:

    I have done a Whole 30 and it did not do a whole lot for me as I have done a few cleanses after seeing my natropath and they were basically the same – cut out dairy, wheat, sugar, etc. I know what foods affect me and I avoid them 95% of the time.

    On the flip side, I do believe it is a wonderful tool for people to find out about their body’s reaction to certain foods, their emotional connection to food, knowledge of how additives, chemicals effect your body, and becoming more aware of the importance of eating healthy foods. It is a good learning tool for people to introduce discipline into their eating, realize and become empowered by the fact they they CAN say no to pop, loads of sugar, etc., and provide a springboard to then making a LIFESTYLE choice to be healthy and make wiser food choices as well as exercise. Diets don’t work. Lifestyle choices do 🙂 If this is what it takes to get someone there go for it – just realize it doesn’t stop after 30 days and then you go back to what you were doing before you did the Whole 30 or you will be right back where you started.

    My biggest dream would be that enough people realize the importance of healthy eating and can rise up and put pressure on companies and government to change their regulations regarding what they allow companies to put in and do to food.

  25. Andrea says:

    Such a timely post, for sure. I completed my first Whole30 two years ago and was able to extend it to a Whole90 to battle some nasty Sugar Demons. I was able to maintain 80/20 for about another year. For me, I have realized a serious food addiction and, while I have planned to start another Whole30, have found it difficult to commit wholeheartedly to do it again. Even so, so many positives came from that experience. One, I gave up fast food and never looked back. Two, found I prefer water to any other beverage. Like others who have posted above, I have come to realize what foods truly affect my immune system or ones that mess with my emotions and overall well-being; I find I do not miss anything that causes me to feel angry, irritable, sad, or itchy. 🙂 For me, eating is a daily challenge…but the Whole30 taught me to ride my own bike, as they say in the book, “It Starts with Food”. On top of it all, this process has changed not only my way of thinking and overall health, but also that of my husband and young adult daughters. It was so nice to hear that others feel the same. It makes my current struggle to get back on track just a little bit less lonely and frustrating. *heart*

    • Anne says:

      “I have come to realize what foods truly affect my immune system or ones that mess with my emotions and overall well-being; I find I do not miss anything that causes me to feel angry, irritable, sad, or itchy.”

      So true!

      Glad to hear this makes your current struggle to get back on track a little less painful. You’re not alone in this. 🙂

  26. Tina says:

    I have started but never finished a Whole 30. I know a bunch of people who have and for most Day 31 seems to be eat anything and everything. But in the Whole 30 book It Starts With Food, it talks about slowly reintroducing foods, paying attention to how they make you feel and then deciding if and how often they will be a part of your diet. That knowledge seems to be the purpose of a Whole 30.

  27. TraciY says:

    Good morning!
    We started our journey in January with a100% whole 30. I say 100% because so many people say they are taking the Whole 30 Challenge, but say things like “except for milk” or “it’s just one meal with bread” and by definition of the program, these make the program, not the program.
    The first week was the biggest challenge. Learning to cook without pasta, rice or bread was a HUGE learning curve. We were so excited to finish and made the decision to be at least 80/20 with most of our 20% enjoying fine dining and our favorite local microbrews.
    When we realized that we were settling into some old habits again such as late night snacking and french fries with dinner, we decided it was time for a few weeks of clean eating. This time, we read “It Starts With Food” as we reset. This helped cement not only our habits, but our thinking as well. Now we understand the WHY.
    We will make missteps along our way because we are human and love food, but know that we always have a plan and a safety net if we get too far off track.

  28. LizS says:

    Yes, I do agree as well. I think majority of people struggle with how to eat AFTER Whole 30. I think Melissa is actually writing another book about this. I’ve been following Melissa and Dallas since before they named this Whole 30. It was just 30 days of Paleo. This is my 6 year doing them. I love them. Who doesn’t, besides being frustrated sometimes, you feel great?
    The biggest problem for me is I always go on a 2 week sugar binge afterwards. I don’t mean to. I don’t plan it. It just happens. I just completed my 3rd Whole30 in the past 12 months 2 weeks ago. I’m 1 year postpartum and still have about 18lbs to lose. I lost 7lbs on my recent Whole 30 but guess what? I’ve already gained 5 back. That’s a bummer but it’s also a lesson.
    So my plan going forward is I will take 2 weeks to follow the Whole 30 rules if I need to but other times I’ll keep it simple. Allow some sweetener in my coffee and tea, stay away from breads and pastas and packaged foods. And keep it mostly plant based.

  29. Patty Lee says:

    I’m not doing another one. If Dallas doesn’t need to do another one, neither do I. It wasn’t designed as a perpetual, continual diet. No such thing as a Whole 365. Those who’ve lost large amounts of weight with the Whole 30 put it all back on. Once you stop, the weight comes back on. It’s the same with everything you do on a temporary basis. When you return to your old ways of eating, all of the weight returns with it. The results are temporary.

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