So, you've completed your first Whole30. Congratulations! Hopefully you feel amazing, and have some physical results to boot.
But what comes after Whole30? What are you supposed to do now?
I had this question a lot when I was first getting started with Whole30 and a paleo lifestyle. And after Whole30 the first few times, I actually did it wrong.
I had no idea what to do, and so I just went back to eating different food groups.
But I quickly found that this was not the right way to do it. When your body reacts to something, you have no idea what it's reacting to when you reintroduce everything all at once.
The hardest days on Whole30
Aside from the first week...
The hardest days on Whole30, at least for me, are the last two or three days. You're so close to the end and just dyyyyying to eat something off plan because you've been denying it to yourself for 28 (!) days.
Stick with it. Don't give up. After Whole30 (not after Whole28 or Whole29) you feel a crazy sense of accomplishment that makes it all worth it.
Now, remember, if we're going to do this right, there are still a few more days to keep ourselves on track.
What happens after Whole30
So what happens after Whole30? The answer to that all depends on...you.
I know, not the answer you wanted. But truly, it really is up to you. The way I see it, there are a few different paths you can take for what happens after Whole30:
- You sabotage the whole thing, go off the rails, eat whatever you want, and within a month or two are right back where you started.
- You binge for a few days, then get back on track and continue to eat healthy for the most part.
- You reintroduce all food groups at once, so you don't know what's causing what, and then carry on with your day to day.
- You reintroduce food groups one at a time, carefully, and measure how your body reacts to each one, then make an assessment on how to proceed.
Which "after Whole30" type are you?
In this post, I'm going to walk through how to do it right, which means you'll follow number four above.
It does require more attention and more hard work, but if you've come this far, trust me - you can do this.
What to do after you finish Whole30
First, give yourself a giant congratulations! Whether its your first time or not, finishing a Whole30 is no simple feat.
Now, here's what NOT to do - don't go eat everything under the sun. In fact, the best thing to do is to not mix the food groups you've eliminated, which can be tough!
Here's the catch - you can only reintroduce one thing at a time to see how your body reacts to it. If you mix things together, you won't know which is the cause of whatever you're feeling, and you'll be back at square one.
I always said after my first couple of Whole30 rounds that "I didn't know I felt bad until I felt better."
Sometimes we think our bodies are doing just fine, until we change something, and then we realize we didn't feel as good as we thought we did.
So, after Whole30, we're going to do what's called a reintroduction.
How to reintroduce foods after Whole30
Here's how to reintroduce foods after Whole30: you want to isolate to a single food group at a time.
Then, you want to make sure you give your body a few days to react to it and see what happens.
This means you can't use ice cream for dairy, because it also contains sugar. You can't eat a taco with black beans because you've then just introduced grains and legumes at the same time.
So, yes, technically your 30 days are over. But if you want to reap the real rewards of the program, you need to give yourself another 15 days to figure everything out.
All the things you've eliminated are:
Added sugars and sweeteners
So, here's how to reintroduce foods after Whole30. You're going to take 4 days for each category. On day 1, you're going to reintroduce that category at every meal. Let's use dairy as an example.
Breakfast: plain greek yogurt with berries and sliced almonds
Lunch: Whole30 friendly salad with protein; add some cheese on top
Dinner: Roasted veggies, chicken breast, different type of cheese, small glass of milk
Then, after you eat that for a day, you're going to go back on Whole30. I know, I know - you just finished!
But this is the only way you're going to find out how your body reacts to the things you just served it.
You need at least 2-3 days before reintroducing another food group, and here's why:
Day 1, you're introducing the food. You need 24 hours to allow your body to react to it.
Then, you need 24-48 hours for your body to process it out, so you're working with a clean slate when you reintroduce the next food group.
Otherwise, you're going to still have dairy in your system when you introduce grains, and so on. How will you know what the cause is of your achy joints, your gastrointestinal distress?
Answer, you won't.
How to eat after Whole30
Ok, so let's talk about after you finish your reintroductions. This is your true "after Whole30." And then what do you eat? How do you eat?
Once again, there are no Whole30 police - the answer is up to you.
First and foremost, I hope you remember the amazing colors you see in a produce section like the one above. So many vitamins, minerals, and healthy things are in there - and tasty, too! This is where the majority of your food and calories should come from.
Beyond that, I recommend using the information you gleaned about yourself from your reintroductions to determine what your body can tolerate, and what it can't. Use that to decide how to eat after Whole30.
There is no one right answer that applies to everyone, as each of our bodies are different. We all started with Whole30, but that doesn't mean that's where we'll all end up.
For me, I'm able to tolerate a small amount of grass fed dairy, and I eat a little bit of grains in the form of rice and oats. Other than that, I mostly eat Whole30 all the time.
So, can you do Whole30 forever?
In my opinion, no. If you live in such a strict state of denial and restriction for an indeterminate period of time, eventually something in you is going to crack.
Your brain needs an end state after which it knows something is going to change.
You CAN do multiple rounds of Whole30. I like to use it as a reset from time to time, when I feel like things have gotten off track, or I just need a clean start.
Now, that said - "food freedom" - which we will talk about more below, is a different concept, in which you can keep yourself to a looser set of guidelines that work for you - all the time.
What is "food freedom"
Food freedom is about indulging when it’s worth it, passing when it isn’t, and never feeling guilt or shame for doing either.
It’s about taking morality out of food, and recognizing you are not a “good” or “bad” person based on what’s your plate.
It means you never again feel powerless over food. You don’t obsess. You don’t get anxious. You aren’t stressed.
It means that food is FUN again. It means you feel free to play around with how much, how often, and in what quantity while still looking and feeling exactly as awesome as you want.
It means you don’t restrict needlessly, or binge heedlessly. You make conscious, deliberate decisions around food, and sometimes you say yes, and sometimes you say no, and both are totally okay because you chose it.
It doesn’t mean you’re a perfect eater or always make the “right decision, always stay on track, or never fall back into old habits.
Now, I realize, and hopefully so do you, that these are some seriously lofty goals. It takes YEARS to find food freedom, and some people may never find it.
That's ok. This is about the journey, about learning about ourselves, our bodies, and what works for US.
What's hard for you or best for you is going to be different from someone else, and that's ok too.