food freedom

You Finished The Whole 30: Now What?

Life after those first thirty days.

Congratulations! You’ve just finished The Whole30. You’re feeling (and looking!) great, you’ve found that unbounding, unstoppable energy called Tiger Blood, and you’ve never felt more alive. You’ve stepped on the scale for the first time since you started The Whole30, and you’ve lost weight, too! Like so many before you, The Whole30 has changed your life.

If you followed the program rules and guidelines, you’ve also done your reintroduction. That means, after eliminating certain food groups from your diet for thirty days, you’ve systematically brought each food group back into your diet one at a time, evaluating its effects on your body inside and out.

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The choices you make around food and your diet post-Whole30 will look significantly different than before, based on the new knowledge you have about your body. Or will it? Thirty days is an amazing start to your personal wellness journey, but it won’t immediately undo decades of food habits.

Here, a few suggestions to make sure your progress from the Whole30 isn’t quickly overturned by a friendly bag of Cheetos.

STEP #1: WRITE IT DOWN!

The ten (or more) days spent in reintroduction are, in many ways, one of the most important parts of your Whole30 journey. While the headache from those cupcakes and the stomach pain from that pasta may feel unforgettable now, it’s easy to let the memories of those food reactions fade over time. So write it down! Document your process of reintroduction, and record all the changes that happened due to reintroducing each food group. I’ve also found that documenting your entire Whole30 journey, all the way from Day 1 to reintroduction, can greatly enhance your experience—and help you make more informed food choices in your life after Whole30.

STEP #2: Read Food Freedom Forever.

Melissa Hartwig, the co-creator of The Whole30, released Food Freedom Forever last fall. This handy book is an absolute must-read for those looking to continue seeking a healthy emotional relationship with food and mindful eating habits. It covers how to make proper food choices in your life after Whole30, how to acknowledge when your healthy habits are slipping, and determining when it’s time to do another Whole30.

Welcome to the Food Freedom plan
Food Freedom Forever
End the yo-yo dieting cycle... forever.

I had already completed three rounds of The Whole30 before Food Freedom Forever was released, and my life after Whole30 since reading the book has informed and inspired me in so many ways. If you’re a go-getter, start reading Food Freedom Forever during your Whole30 so you know what to do as soon as it’s finished.

STEP #3: Evaluate your “worth it”. 

The Whole30 helps you to reframe your thinking around food and form a healthy emotional relationship with what you eat. But once those thirty days end, you’re left with endless food choices and no “rules” to hold you back. The safety and security of the Whole30 rules bring so many to embark on an immediate second Whole30, Whole60 or even Whole100. You find yourself in a place where rules are easy to follow (as opposed to making decisions around non-compliant foods), so you choose to stick to The Whole30—and miss out on truly unique food experiences. I’ll tell you a secret: A balanced, mindful diet filled with healthy choices and occasional indulgences is 100% possible! And it is empowering.

Evaluating your “worth it” means choosing when, how, and why you choose to eat a food you know will cause negative consequences on your body. Eating chocolate on Valentine’s Day might be something you make a conscious, mindful choice to enjoy—or it may be something you choose to pass on, instead enjoying a bouquet of flowers and meaningful quality time with the one you love. Choosing if a food is “worth it” or “not worth it” is a big step toward living a healthy life after Whole30. (And it isn’t eating chocolate “just because it’s Valentine’s Day”.)

This is a continual, unending journey, and the answers to whether or not a food is “worth it” will also change. But mindfulness around eating and informed food choices using the tools that The Whole30 has taught you will equip you to make the right choice.

STEP #4: Don’t label yourself right away. 

Many who finish their Whole30 with success immediately choose to label themselves “grain-free” or “Paleo” or “dairy-free” and so on. If you feel unstoppable in your Tiger Blood, it’s easy to feel ready to commit to a dietary label for life. I’d encourage you to pause and truly reflect on that decision. The decision to become Paleo (similar to The Whole30 in many ways but different in even more) isn’t one I’d recommend making lightly; after all, only thirty days ago you may have been eating a steady diet of M&Ms and McDoubles. You feel great now, and you can’t imagine giving up this lifestyle, but there is still so much to learn about the complexities of your body and the ins and outs of your daily diet. Don’t rush to commit to abstaining to a food group for life just yet. Start by simply incorporating the values and habits of a diet you seek to follow, and avoid being too harsh or unkind to yourself when you slip up. Speaking of slipping up…

STEP #5: Acknowledge when you’ve slipped and go again. 

Eventually, one not “worth it”, mindless slice of break-room birthday cake will be eaten in a weak moment. And you’ll find yourself driving through Starbucks for a muffin and a Macchiato months later, bloated and broken, wondering what happened and how it went wrong.

This inevitably happens to everyone. As I mentioned earlier, one 30-day dietary reset can’t permanently undo decades of unhealthy habits and food behaviors. Your first Whole30 is rarely your last Whole30. Food Freedom Forever (really, you must read it) teaches us to accept that slip-ups will happen, acknowledge that you need help getting on track again, and jump back on a Whole30 when necessary to work on your habits. Sometimes you need all thirty days, and other times just nine or ten. But The Whole30 is always there to help you get back on track when you need it. And that’s the beauty of the Whole30: It isn’t a crash diet or a quick-fix. It’s a reset, designed to help you when you need to reset your habits and your relationship with food.

The Whole30 is an amazing way to reset your emotional relationship with food and create healthy habits around eating. Once The Whole30 ends, you’ll find yourself informed about your body and ready to choose the right foods for your body, and the right times to indulge and enjoy.

(Not yet completed a Whole30? Read The Cheat Sheet: Whole30 Tips, Tricks and All-Around Hacks for Real People.) 

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