Post-Whole 30 Reintroduction + Thoughts On What’s Next


Is today your final day of Whole 30? Tomorrow? Are you filled with that simultaneous sense of excitement and anxiety? If so, you are right on track! 🙂

The Whole 30 is such an awesome process. If you decided to take it on, there is no doubt you learned a lot about yourself and your food habits along the way. I don’t know about you, but physically I feel fan-freaking-tastic (and especially compared to how I felt in December – UGH! I have PTSD just thinking about Christmas Cookies.) All of this data you’ve gathered over the last month is hard earned — there have been challenges, and tests of faith in the process. Or if you are like me, moments of weakness and child like behavior/rebellion. But if you pushed through all of that, what you’ve gotten in return is the knowledge of how your body can look/feel/perform if you spent the bulk of your time concerned with the food you put in it.

But Day 31 is back to reality. This is not a Whole 365, nor should it be, and we can’t live our lives spending every single day concerned with the “compliance” of all of our food. It’s not ideal to have such a rules based relationship with food every day of the year, so now the real challenge is revealed: What the heck do you eat next?


The Whole 30 Reintroduction Plan suggests you reintroduce some of the things you’ve eliminated over a ten day period and evaluate how they affect you. So rather that going out and stuffing your face with pizza on Day One (dairy AND gluten, for example) they suggest spreading out the potential stressors on your system:

Day One: Dairy
Day Four: Gluten Containing Grains
Day Seven: Non Gluten Containing Grains
Day Ten: Legumes

You don’t have to stick to this exact order, but you get the idea: Reintroduce and then give yourself some time to REALLY evaluate how this affects you. And it’s important to note that the idea here isn’t to look for immediate digestive distress — everything you eat isn’t just going to “give you a tummy ache” if if doesn’t agree with you. The point is, now that your body is a clean slate, use that as a control group to see if you really do “thrive” when you eat yogurt in the morning and cheese in the afternoon. See how you feel an hour later after you have oatmeal for breakfast instead of something with lots of protein/fat.

The bottom line is: Experiment with foods you miss, but do it in a way that will actually help you gather more information. Don’t just go mow down a medium pepperoni with olives because later when you are bloated and feel like taking a nap you won’t know if it is the cheese or the gluten bomb (Dude, it’s TOTALLY the gluten bomb!) and you have 30 days of data on your side!

Full Disclosure: My first Post-Whole 30 meal will probably involve wine. The food part will be compliant, but there will definitely be a Friday night cocktail. We’ve juiced some limes for our water and all month every time I look at it I think about mixing it with tequila. I’m not even a giant margarita fan, but salty rimmed glasses full of crackling ice cubes sound like just about the best thing ever right now. I REALLY MISS THE RITUAL OF HAVING A DRINK. But beyond that, I have no plans to follow the Whole 30 Reintroduction Plan. (WHAT???)

The reason I won’t be following it is that I followed it to the letter the first time around, AND I’M SO GLAD I DID. I know exactly what to expect when I eat dairy, sugar, booze, gluten — ALL OF IT. I could write you a screenplay complete with narrative arc about how those foods affect me. And that knowledge helps me make decisions in my regular life — and that is such a stress reliever so I want to really recommend it.

I think it’s easy to feel impatient and just want to dive right in to something crazy. And you CAN to a certain extent, if you do it in a smart way. You have 30 days of data behind you, don’t just throw it away on something silly. Because here is the thing: Having the knowledge about how food affects you? Doesn’t mean you can NEVER have that food again. Gluten makes my eyes puffy and makes me depressed about 24-48 hours afterward. Now that I know that, I understand the actual price I’m paying when I eat it. But guess what — I STILL EAT IT SOMETIMES!



But now, I probably wouldn’t eat it a day or two before a job interview. Or a day or two before I had to have a picture taken when I wanted to feel cute. You see? Knowledge is power! I’m a firm believer in life of knowing the rules really well, if only so you know WHICH RULES CAN BE BROKEN, AND WHEN MUAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

So…awareness doesn’t equal law! Just because you take the time to figure out how food affects you doesn’t shackle you to a life of restricted eating. But it does make your choices more informed, and I’m always pro-being informed!

That’s my two cents when it comes to reintroduction, and my plan moving forward. I am going to continue with Whole 30 style eats throughout February just because I am training for this running event, I’m still trying to drop some pounds, and because it agrees with me and I enjoy it. But I’m not doing the full on protocol because I need a little cocktail ritual here and there, and I do a love a good Paleo Pancake! 🙂 Plus it’s Valentine’s Day and we traditionally go wine tasting — can’t pass that up! But I will be trying to keep the eats clean as a whistle around here next month. I’m so SO grateful to have done this in January. It has really put my year in perspective, I think.

Now that you are finishing up, I’d love to hear some of your thoughts:

1. What are your biggest takeaways from this experiment?
2. What habits do you hope to keep moving forward?
3. What might you do different if you did this experiment again?
4. What surprised you?

Need some more Post Whole 30 Info? Check out this post on Life After Whole 30 (The comments are full of good stuff!)

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23 Responses to Post-Whole 30 Reintroduction + Thoughts On What’s Next

  1. Mariah B says:

    I think I’m going to keep going as long as I can, hopefully to a whole 45. I just realized that my coconut cream/frozen berries thing I’ve got going on is totally food-without-brakes for me. I’m still not feeling fantastic (although it could be because I’m playing around with being sick), and since I’ve made it this far, I want to keep on and see how I feel without (no lie) close to 5-6 tablespoons of coconut cream a day.

    Also, now that I’m done with my deadlifting program, I want to reign in my portions a bit and see if that affects the way my clothes fit (and yes, the final numbers when I weigh in, measure, and check body fat after the whole 30/45 is done). I’ve maintained my level of lean-ness throughout the month though, judging my how tight my clothes (still) fit, but I seriously eat 1.5-2x the portions they recommend and sometimes up to 3-4x the amount of fat.

    Thanks for the reminder though, that having all these food “rules” isn’t really good for our mental health and is unsustainable. I know I have food dreams nearly nightly where I’ll do silly things like get “organic” ketchup on my finger and then lick it off. I’ll feel horribly guilty and worried in my dream because then I have to completely start the whole 30 over. Yikes. Emotional stress much??

    But to answer your questions:

    Biggest takeaway? I can eat a LOT of food and still be fairly lean. And I can survive without my PWO protein bar.

    Habits going forward? Planning ahead and hot plates. It’s really not that big of a deal to take in your own food to a family gathering/wedding reception/traveling on the road. And hot plates rock.

    Do differently next time? Try more variety in with cooking. I discovered a few new things, but pretty much stuck to the same ol’ throughout the month.

    Surprises? I don’t know. I guess that I can eat so much! Hah! I was surprised it was as easy as it was, I guess. I was only tempted by cheese for the most part. I nearly had “dirty dreams” about cheese. 😉 And speaking of dreams, I don’t feel like I’m sleeping better really, but my dreams are so lifelike now. I remember them!

    My first non-whole 30 meal will most likely have cheese. 😉

    Sorry for the book! 🙂

  2. Jennifer says:

    Yay we succeeded:D Well done! I finished on Monday and yesterday had a latte (the one thing I have been missing) and went out to dinner, but replaced potato with extra veg, and had a small dessert. Felt crappy when I woke up this morning though. Today I have stuck to the Whole30 plan, but reduced the fat a little as I didn’t lose weight:( That upset me but I got a lot of other takeaways from the experience. Mainly that science works! I truly believe in this Paleo way of life and I love how I have felt these past 30 days; healthy, strong, accomplished, clean.

  3. Thanks for sharing Holly – I’m totally fascinated by your experiences w/ gluten. It’s amazing that you can pinpoint exactly what the symptoms are. I gave up gluten due to an allergy a few years ago and my health improved DRAMATICALLY. I indulge once-in-a-while but always always always regret it.

    My #1 takeaway is actually just to branch out. I realized how creative this food plan made me & how many new recipes I tried – and loved – so why not make sure to keep that as part of my week afterwards?

    While I desperately miss Diet Coke on weekends & Stevia in my morning tea, this plan really made me think about the synthetics that are part of my daily life. Being more aware and more educated means that I’ll make better choices going forward. Hopefully… 🙂

    I WISH I was going to be able to binge or gorge myself on goodies tomorrow but I’m heading to NYC for fashion week on Sunday and I need to fit into my clothes. haha Whole 40 for me I think. <3

  4. Rhonda H says:

    For me the last day is tomorrow.
    My biggest takeaway is that I DID IT!!! I finally said I would do something for a period of time and I did it. And finished it (well tomorrow it will be finished). The food part was easy since I was mostly Paleo to begin with. But the fact was, for me, after the first few days of really focusing on the food, it wasn’t about the food anymore. It was about a commitment to myself.

    I want to keep up the better habits I have made with food. And it turns out I really like GHEE so I plan to keep using that (and probably make my own when I have time and run out of the stocking up of ghee I did for this W30!)

    I might have more variety but I am actually pretty ok with finding just a few things I like and eating them on a weekly basis. We totally fell in love with the Puerto Rican Beef recipe from Everyday Paleo and now have it frozen to take to lunch a lot.

    The biggest surprise from all this, well there are 2: The first one is that I didn’t “cheat” (a friend at work said, “well no one would know,” when she offered me a cupcake, but I replied, “yes, I would know.” I was proud of that.

    The other surprise is how much I dislike Twitter! LOL (Sorry Holly but I just flaked out on posting pix there after I had asked you all those questions on how to do it!) I can do FB but am not into tweets. (I also don’t use my smart phone for any of that so maybe that is why it was more of a hassle.)

    Thank you Holly for the month of encouragement and recipes and just having a go-to place (your blog) to come to when I needed the push! It was fun and a lot easier than I thought it would be. I will definitely do it again, maybe every 6 months or so just to get back on track…

    Oh and my first non-compliant thing is just going to be my Lactaid milk in my coffee in the mornings… and maybe some yogurt with my fruit. Those were the things I missed the most.

    • Holly says:

      Congrats! And don’t sweat the twitter thing — if it’s not fun, don’t do I say! So glad you had such a positive experience!

  5. LKG says:

    My Whole30 ends this Friday at 5:00 pm. I will be drinking a beer at 5:01 pm.

    1. What are your biggest takeaways from this experiment? I do have an issue with sugar and disordered habits when I binge. I want to become the person that is satisfied with a reasonable serving as a treat. I also realized I was chewing way too much sugarless gum.

    2. What habits do you hope to keep moving forward? I am eliminating my one-diet-soda-a-day habit. I will continue to use my homemade coconut milk creamer in my coffee and not return to the junk creamer I used to buy. I hope to stay away from the sugarless gum and candy.

    3. What might you do different if you did this experiment again? Not have such an expectation of weight loss. I know I have lost some inflammation but not really seeing in my clothes the kind of weight loss I was hoping for.

    4. What surprised you? For some reason I have had uncharacteristic puffy bags under my eyes during the Whole30. I have been puzzled by that.

  6. Erica says:

    No whole 30 for me but around here it is whole pregnancy. I sadly learned that wine specifically is my kryptonite. Margaritas are okay though. When my non pregnant life begins again I have to decide if its worth dosing myself with allergy medicine daily just so I can have wine or if I can find a new way. Wine is just so nice but worth all that? Anyway I think it’s great to discover how different foods affect you.

    • Interesting. Do you think it’s the sulfates in the wine? They do make sulfate free organic wine that you might try. I’m just curious because I’m almost positive I also have bad reactions to wine. Trying to decided if it’s worth drinking anymore.

  7. wendy says:

    Hi Holly,
    My husband and I took on the Whole30 and finish tomorrow as well. It was our first time doing this sort of thing and we both really, really enjoyed the results. He lost 22 pounds and I lost 13 pounds, but more importantly, we regained our energy and control of the sugar, carb, and Diet Coke demons. It turns out my husband is sensitive to gluten, which he never knew — for the first time in 15 years he doesn’t get heartburn and doesn’t have to take medicine. He is also able to now eat onions and garlic, which he avoided previously because they caused him terrible stomach trouble.

    We plan to continue eating Whole30/Paleo indefinitely, with a few days here and there with more relaxed rules (e.g., Superbowl). This experience has been great and we are glad to have established optimal eating habits in our house, both for us and for our 5-year old.

    Thanks, Holly, for being a great role model!

    • Holly says:

      Oh this is so great to hear!

      I’ve found the exact same correlation with gluten/sugar and heartburn. I used to chew tums like they were candy. Eliminating the two and I can basically drink molten, hot lava and not get heartburn. I think it’s great they you call them “optimum eating habits.” That’s exactly how I think of it and it’s so nice to know what actually *is* optimum for me through experiences like this. It has really helped me mentally have less emotion involved when I deviate. No one expects perfection, and knowing what is optimum doesn’t mean making PERFECT DECISIONS ALL THE TIME. It does mean you have a pretty good compass though, and that brings me so much stress relief regarding food.

  8. Amy says:

    I learned a lot! I also broke a plateau. I learned how to say no to sugar again. I will take the habits of eating lots of veggies, fruits, nuts with me. I will definitely eat less meat! But I will keep focused on eating “real” food. I also learned a lot emotionally — post coming tomorrow 🙂 Thanks for all your encouragement!

  9. Kristabella says:

    I love your posts and your take on this whole thing. It’s realistic. My friend started Whole 30 on Monday and I sent her your blog because it is a good mix of everything and how to do this in the real world we live in where, yes, I like booze and it is hard to give up!

    My last day is Friday. I plan to introduce dairy and booze first. I want a latte. More than I want a glass of wine. And weirdly, that’s about all I really want.

    Biggest takeaways – my addiction to sugar. I knew it was there, but good Lord it was worse that I ever thought. And it is so MENTAL. I’m so glad to have kicked the Sugar Dragon in the nuts.

    Habits moving forward – I’m going to stick to Paleo at least 80% of the time. I’m going to have dairy every now and then and some alcohol, but I at least want my meals M-F to be Paleo, if possible.

    Do different – I’m not sure I would do anything differently. I think I did pretty well. Maybe try some new veggies and branch out from frittatas at breakfast. I’m so tired of frittatas.

    Surprising – The energy levels, no more crazy drops in blood sugar and the sleep. I’ve always been a good sleeper, but the sleep I’ve gotten this month has been AMAZING!

  10. Yay! We made it! My only regret is that I’m not feeling as great as it seems like everyone else is. I managed to complete this whole30 but never seemed to kick the cravings. And never got the tigers blood. This morning, I pressed snooze for 2 hours! It hasn’t been pretty.
    I’m a little sad about it because the first two weeks were great and then I felt this slow slump as the days progressed. Maybe it’s just other things in my life? Stress, not sleeping enough, not exercising enough or exercising too much. Not sure.
    I bought a little moleskin notebook and I’m starting to keep track of everything I eat plus exercise. And then how I feel. Hopefully things will start to make sense. And like you, I’m not reintroducing anything. At least, not until Valentines Day, but even then, we have reservations at a gluten-free allergy free restaurant. So it will probably just be a glass of wine.

  11. Samantha says:

    So, the gist of my take-away from this Whole30 is here:

    A couple of thoughts – it was my third and by far the easiest. I went into it in the worst shape I’ve ever gone into a Whole30, and the health improvements came fast. I’m planning to eat the Paleo Parents new pancakes tonight (surprisingly, the *only* thing I craved) and then back at it tomorrow. My plan right now is to eat Whole30 for two more weeks – one week normal and one week without nightshades to get a better handle on some issues I think they might be the root of.

    I’m not really bothering with reintroduction this time, though I did blog about the process because I think it’s something that can be easy to overlook. I know what I can and can’t eat, and what the results are when I throw it all out the window. I do feel differently at the end of this one – more firm about where I am and what I need to be doing next. In my previous Whole30’s, there’s always been a sense of “oh crap, what next!?!” that I’m not feeling this time.

    It’s a positive place to be.

    • Holly says:

      Loved all of your takeaways — and how awesome that you basically OWNED the stuff on The State of Your Health List. Super super great!!!

  12. I finished my Whole21 on Sunday and went on a crazy sugar bender. I didn’t realize how addictive sugar can be or just how crappy it makes me feel, but now it’s so obvious!

    I also like black coffee now! I didn’t realize it during, but now I’ve put stevia and flavored creamer in my coffee and they both tasted awful! Very surprising.

    I like my tiny waist and how I feel so much that I can’t justify not eating clean. I just need to find a way to balance my “cheats” so I don’t spiral out of control.

    • Holly says:

      Oh I totally get this! It’s such a dramatic difference for me too with the eating clean vs not. I mean, in theory I just think it is NOT WORTH IT AT ALL.

      But I also have a brain that thinks about cake sometimes, and I basically love any and all food, so yes: The Balance becomes the big juggle. So glad your experiment went well!

  13. chelsea says:

    This saved me! on day 18 and running out of things to eat…

  14. Susannah says:

    Today is my last day – I had to tack on Jan. 31 – it just seem wrong to end a day before the month’s end..haha. I am so excited to have done this and to have done it 100% compliant!! Yea me!! I don’t often acknowledge my accomplishments so forgive me for tooting my own horn 🙂
    Biggest takeaway – I can survive stress, life’s ups and downs etc. without cookies and candy. And without fake sugars. I started with 3 months of terrible eating behind me and that seems like a bad dream.
    Habits to keep – no sugar and no grains. I am not reintroducing either to my diet. I know my sugar dragon sleeps with one eye open (love that image!) because it has been in me for decades and is quite at home. The times I have eaten dried fruit this past month has shown me very clearly that I must be vigilant.
    Do different – make jerky at the beginning! Be sure to have crunchy veggies ready to eat, also hard boiled eggs at all times.
    Surprised – I went into my Whole30 with a very bad case of plantar fasciitis. I had had 2 cortisone shots and was not improved at all. I barely dared to hope that it would improve but know what? IT DID! This is huge! I was looking at continuing to be in severe pain and very restricted in my exercise or surgery. I am not 100% back but the difference is incredible.
    I am only reintroducing dairy and alcohol. Both of which I missed so so much. So tomorrow night, there will be cheese (made in-house from my goat’s milk) and wine!
    It has been really fun to do this with you, Holly, and everyone else. Thanks for all the great Whole30 posts and recipes this month.

    • Holly says:

      So glad to hear this Susannah, and let me tell you I TOTALLY understand the sugar dragon. We had dried mango a few times this month and literally it was like a red flag flying that I do not have the healthiest, ahem, psychological response to dried mango. 🙂 I know it could be worse, for sure, but you are right, remaining vigilant about sugar really helps me out overall because I find the process of moderating my sugar intake really stressful.

      I once heard on a Robb Wolf podcast that anything going on in your body that ends with -itis has a base in inflammation. And since we know that diet is one of the biggest contributors to systemic inflammation that has always stuck with me as a major indicator of my body telling me to CLEAN UP MY ACT. (I’ve also struggled with plantar fasciitis in the past and it’s amazing how much clean eating rectifies it for me!)

      Anyway…toot the hell out of your own horn, this is an awesome accomplishment! Excited to hear about what comes next!

  15. Emily says:

    WOOHOO!! We made it! So happy and excited and feeling sooo much better than I was feeling when I started. This Whole30 certainly had its highs and lows for me, but overall I’m glad I did it and happy that I had a chance to do it alongside a great group of people. So…

    Biggest Takeaway: Being prepared/doing cook-ups on weekends is 90% of the battle. The weeks when I did not do this, I really struggled with getting meals on the table quickly enough so that I wasn’t starving by the time we ate and so that I could get to bed at a decent hour.

    Habits to keep: Quitting sugars and grains. I can’t say I’ve 100% “quit sugar” just yet, since I am going to still allow alcohol for the time being. But the lack of sugar in my system has been reeeeaaally good for me and helped me avoid the tired, sluggishness as well as the cravings (which I abhor). So I think this might be a lifestyle change to make permanent over time.

    Do Differently: Definitely get a better grasp of the weekly meal plan and make time to cook ahead! Also, I would have worked out more. That said, I did lose 15 pounds and 5 inches (FIVE!!!) off of my waist. But if I had worked out more often, I may have made more progress in that time.

    Surprises: Discovering that missing out on something I want *RIGHT NOW* is tough in the moment, but if I just push through the emotions and have a cup of tea, I eventually feel better. And I certainly am happier for it in the morning. This goes for all my missing wine, beer, and cheese over the course of this challenge.

    While I am going to indulge in some spirits after this is over, I’ve already decided that I’m giving up lager/light beer for 2013. So if I drink, it’ll be wine or a clear liquor. And I’m going to be very selective about when I do imbibe. I’ve got about 55 more pounds to lose, and I’ve finally come to grips with the fact that I’m not going to do it without giving up all those empty calories for an extended time period. And just getting to that place and being okay with it is huge for me.

    • Holly says:

      Congrats Emily! What awesome results! We had a very similar Whole 30 🙂 (And I’m never ever giving up booze. Like, Ever. haha) But, I will say I gave up beer last year and I will tell you, I don’t miss it at all. When I get a beer-ish craving I grab an icy cold cider (no gluten, feels like beer, but doesn’t make me puffy/bloated and gross) and that seriously gets me through summer! (beer season for me lol) Anyway, for what it’s worth!

      I’m also still slaying my sugar demons, but that will probably be a lifelong challenge. Or maybe just a challenge that takes longer than the rest. 3 years ago I couldn’t imagine giving up bread, now I don’t even miss it. A year ago I couldn’t imagine living with cheese, now I don’t even think about it hardly. Maybe in a few years I’ll feel that way about sugar. I can wait. 🙂

  16. Bonnie says:

    Could you write about your side effects from each of those foods that you listed? I have reactions to them all, as well, and would like to see what you experience…. Thanks!