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!)