Friday, August 30

Whole30 Part VI: What Now?

I'll be completely honest, I've been thinking about what to write in this post since mid-June. Even before publishing the first installment in the Whole30 series I was contemplating this exact article and the messages I wanted to convey. I don't want to come across as too dramatic, but I'd consider the concepts of "Life After a Whole30" just as important as the basic fundamentals of the program itself. After all (as It Starts With Food points out), "it's much harder to make Good Food choices out there in the 'real world'."

It's true though, isn't it? For the past 29 days for us August Whole30'ers we've had to abide by a set of strict parameters. And for all intents and purposes, I dare say, the rules were simple and straightforward: Eat this, not that. Everything was clearly laid out. For the past four weeks we've had default answers for why no booze, desserts or pizza. Automatic "No, thank you's" were like clockwork. But the second midnight hits on Day 30, what happens? You've finished a Whole30... what now?

I'm going to do my absolute best to answer this question, but I can almost guarantee you I'll fall short. That's not to say this is a cop-out-blog-post, but as you'll come to realize, it's the honest fact of the matter: There's no silver bullet or one-size-fits-all for life after Whole30. What works for you might not work for someone else. That's the amazing thing about food, diet and overall health. It's so intertwined throughout individual lives and circumstances that there isn't a single plan that works well for everyone. And therein lies the journey. This is where you begin to unravel your own plan that works best for you. While the Whole30 may be over, hear this truth loud and clear: 

You're just getting started.

Often times in life we get so wrapped up in the day-to-day that we forget to step back and look at the big picture. So with that in mind, let's quickly re-visit the purpose of the Whole30. I've written on this topic some, but not nearly as elegant as the crew at Whole9. Here's something they posted on their Facebook page a few days ago that I thought was nearly perfect.
The Whole30 is a personal awareness tool, a growth opportunity, a short-term program to learn about yourself, your habits, and your individual physiology. Every person's "results" from the Whole30 are different. The Whole30 is not a perpetually restrictive diet. It is not a medical diagnostic tool. It is not a universal cure for those with unhealthy eating behaviors. It is incredibly powerful for both physical and psychological health, but it is not a panacea. In taking on the Whole30, you also take on some personal responsibility to learn about yourself. For those of you currently participating in a Whole30, or planning to start in the future, we wish you happy learning!
Keeping this top of mind, let's dive into this question of "What now?"

Transition with a purpose

As much as I know you want to go out and slam chips & queso, beer and ice cream tomorrow, please-please-please, in the name of Good Food, don't! You've worked hard to metabolically and psychologically repair and reset, don't blow it on some cheap and unhealthy thrill. You've shown discipline for 30 days and the pay-out has been some incredible mental and physical benefits, but you also have an unrealized asset at your fingertips: you can now, once and for all, determine which specific foods make you unhealthier.

Some of them are obvious detriments to your health. It's hard to make a case for alcohol or added sugar. But some of the other food groups are going to require you to experiment with, such as dairy, gluten and legumes. 

I implore you to capitalize on this Whole30 to deduce once and for all which foods have negative impacts on your health, and furthermore, the magnitude of those impacts. If you need any help or guidance on how to do this, the Whole9 has some fantastic resources such as this document, or you can always reach out to us.

Practice, practice, practice

Jessie and I have been eating a Paleo diet since doing our first Whole30 almost one year ago. But as we've mentioned before, we still indulge. What would life be like if we couldn't have a slice of pizza on occasion, a glass of wine with friends or a piece of dark chocolate after dinner? Indulging is fine, and some could argue that the psychological benefit of the experience trumps the negative physical effects. As an example, Jessie and I are leaving for Italy with my family today. To think that I won't have some grains or wine while in Tuscany is asinine.

However, please note the qualifier of "on occasion." This is the hard part. Over time, poor eating habits can creep back into your daily life choices. A stressful day of work excuses you to reach for a beer in the fridge when you get home. An iota of peer pressure while you're out with friends becomes an "Automatic Yes." Without the Whole30 rules, your fall-back responses and justification for choosing more healthy over less healthy are gone.

Or are they?

Practice, practice, practice. When faced with a food decision in the near-future make it a point to say 'yes' to the healthier option. Consciously realize ahead of time that you'll be saying 'no' to the unhealthier option. Ultimately you are the only one who gets to determine when the unhealthier food is truly worth it. I'm not suggesting you have to conduct some long and drawn out cost-benefit analysis of each food choice you make going forward, but I am suggesting you stop for a second and ask: "Is this worth it?"

Over time this practice makes you better at the decision-making process. Jessie and I have certainly been aware of our improvements in this area. Candy in the office? Nah, we're good. A 'night-cap' drink at 1:00a? No, not necessary. A beer with a dear friend I haven't seen in a while? Your damn right, pop one open for me! 

You see, these mini cost-benefit analyses get quicker and easier the more often you do them. And the better you get, the more you advance in the right direction on the continuum of health.

Find out what works for you

My friend Aaron wrote a guest post saying how the Whole30 isn't right for him. He has his system figured out and is admittedly not perfect, but still maintains a steep upward trajectory of becoming healthier. But guess what? Just because it doesn't work for Aaron, doesn't mean it won't work for you. There are many, many people out there who thrive under stricter conditions such as the Whole30 that eliminate all mini cost-benefit analyses. Jessie and I are two of them. To have scheduled Whole30 reset's sprinkled in throughout the year can be a fabulous plan for some.

I've read that cheat days or cheat meals aren't a great idea. Again, I ask 'why?' If something works for someone and they're continuing to advance in better health, how can we possibly say with a straight face that they aren't good ideas?

Everyone has a system, whether they realize it or not. Finding the right system for you becomes tricky, but essential. My advice here is vague, but it's the best I can do. Try out different strategies, but give them a chance. Trying something for a few days isn't giving it a chance. Give it a couple weeks at the bare minimum to establish routine and habit. If you don't think it's the best strategy for you at that point, strike it and try something different. Again, the goal here is to continue moving forward toward better health, the 'journey' so to speak.

Temptations are fleeting

The word 'temptation' is derived from the Latin word 'temptare,' which means to handle, test or try. Something that's tempting has the implication of being a short-term satisfaction with long-term regret.

This concept really clicked for me during this August Whole30. Toward the beginning I had cravings all over the place. Even two weeks into the program I found myself really wanting unhealthier foods. The temptations were often times very strong and hard to resist. It wasn't that I ever doubted my commitment to remaining Whole30-compliant, but for whatever reason, the desires were potently strong. As if it was an itch I needed to scratch, the temptations would appear suddenly, and in full-force.

But then as quickly as they arrived, they'd be gone. They'd evaporate as if they were never there to begin with.

Temptations are so incredibly fleeting. They come and go. And it's at that critical juncture in time that they appear we have to be ready to make a decision. Sometimes the decision may be to give-in and indulge, which is fine. But more often than not when that temptation passes and you wake up the next morning feeling energetic instead of tired or hung over, the decision was worth it. Having this awareness, in my opinion, is such a vital key to success.


Be sure to check out Whole9's resources on "off-ramping." They have a very detailed prescription of the 're-introduction' phase of the Whole30. Learn more here.

Also, don't hesitate to reach out to us! We've done quite a few of these and would love to give advice where we're able! You can leave a comment, or follow us on Facebook, TwitterPinterest and Instagram!

To finish this blog entry by saying anything other than "Congratulations!" would be a complete disservice to all those who made sacrifices and trade-off's over the last month. Sacrifices that may seem small to some, but were substantial for those doing it. Trade-off's that could appear easy from the outside, but were often times difficult in reality. So in all seriousness, from the bottom of our hearts, Jessie and I say: Well done, and congratulations! You did it!


  1. Trey and I are going through the controlled reintroduction process now. Day 1 and Day 2 post Whole30 was alcohol. Trey and I both tried cider and wine, and I tried 100% agave tequila while out with some friends. Harpoon cider (zero additives) gave us a dull headache immediately. Original Sin cider felt fine for both of us. Wine hurt my gut. Not sure Trey had enough to feel an effect. The agave tequila (Dolce Vida and Patron) produced a pretty clean feeling buzz, and is the winner for my body hands down. However, we're not trying to go broke. So don't know how actionable those findings are.

    You better believe I felt like a huge DB asking the bartender what 100% agave tequila they had. Being a needy patron is NOT my cup of tea. Not cool.

    All in all, not feeling as great as we're used to. Brains are foggy and congested with a twinge of pain.

    Now we're doing another 3 days of clean eating then reintroducing dairy. Gotta admit this self experimentation is pretty fun. Also loving the reason to keep clean eating going strong for at least another 20ish days.

    Have y'all done the reintroductions before? What were your findings?

  2. Brian, you should continue to host Whole30 "resets" throughout the year. Now that we've got it down, it's not as scary or daunting and it is SO much easier to have that secure and fun support system we had during the August Whole30. Maybe the next one can be after the holiday season when we will all feel like we need it :).

    1. Whole30 re-set starts in two days, Annie! Are you in? :-)


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