After a holiday season full of indulgences, many of us kicked off 2018 with the popular Whole30 diet. Maybe you overheard a coworker turn down Valentine’s Day candy because she was “on the Whole30,” or perhaps you’re personally keeping that jar of peanut butter sealed and the wine glasses out of sight because you’re on day 20 of the diet. Some restaurants have even begun to capitalize on the diet’s impressive following by creating Whole30 labels for menu items.
“The Whole30 pushes the ‘reset’ button for your body,” says Stefanie Adler, a certified nutrition consultant, holistic chef, and founder of Bright Bean Health. “With an emphasis on only whole, natural foods, the 30-day diet works as a sugar detox, resets your body’s metabolism, and rids the body of potential food sensitivities that may be causing health issues, like inflammation, digestive trouble, or skin breakouts.”
After 30 days, Whole30 leaves many people convinced that food does indeed have immense power over our health and well-being. But is it possible, once the Whole30 is complete, to reintroduce certain foods into your diet and continue to feel great? We sat down with Adler to get her thoughts on creating a sustainable form of the Whole30 that can last for 365 days.
Why the ‘Whole30’ probably shouldn’t be ‘Whole365’
As the name suggests, the Whole30 only lasts for 30 days. Adler believes that this is for the better, since the Whole30 is particularly restrictive; followers can’t eat legumes, processed sugar, dairy, alcohol, or grains for 30 days. “This type of restrictive eating is hard to maintain year-round,” says Adler. “Feeling overly restricted isn’t good for your mental health, which goes hand-in-hand with your physical health.”
How to keep feeling great without restricting yourself
So how can those of us who don’t want to lose the healthy habits (or extra energy) we picked up from the Whole30 create a sustainable version of the diet to follow all year long? Here are Adler’s top tips:
Pause and reflect on your Whole30 journey
Adler suggests reflecting on how the Whole30 made you feel as you reintroduce foods back into your daily diet. “Instead of setting goals around only eating certain foods or a number of calories, set goals for yourself that focus on the feeling you’re loving,” she says. “As you start to reintroduce foods, notice if they’re serving you and your body.” In other words, if a certain food or food group makes you feel not so great, decide if it’s worth excluding from your daily diet. Set goals that feel nourishing to you mentally and physically.
Maintain a focus on quality ingredients
“We learn the importance of additive-free, whole, natural, and quality foods from the Whole30,” says Adler. “Once you start reintroducing foods that work for your body, maintain that focus on quality.” For example, if you want to eat peanut butter again, switch to a peanut butter that has two ingredients (peanuts and salt) or yogurt that doesn’t have any added sugars. During the Whole30, you likely became an expert ingredient reader, so keep honing that skill!
According to Adler, home-cooked food is almost always healthier. Not only will prepping your meals save you money, but you’ll be less likely to buy an unhealthy option when pressed for time. “Pick a few of your favorite Whole30 home-cooked meals and add them into your weekly rotations,” she suggests.
Find your own personal food freedom
“This means feeling comfortable eating the foods you’re craving in moderation,” says Adler. “Often in social situations, people feel obligated or guilty about eating certain foods. Finding your personal food freedom allows you to politely decline certain foods, or have that margarita for a friend’s birthday if it serves you!”
She adds that many people who have finished the Whole30 find success with an 80/20 dieting style, where 80 percent of the time they eat what makes them feel strong and energetic, and 20 percent of the time they enjoy foods that aren’t on the optimal list but make them happy. “For me, this is the occasional gluten-free pizza and organic ice cream night,” says Adler.
Find a community or support system
We suspect that one of the reasons why people are successful on the Whole30 in January is because so many others are participating during this time too. But your support system doesn’t have to end just because your Whole30 did. “Find a way to share what you’re loving about your new lifestyle,” says Adler. “Participate in online communities, pick the restaurant the next time you go out, or offer to bring a dish that showcases delicious whole foods to your next potluck.”
Plus, if you did Whole30 with a friend, coworker, or partner, they’re likely going through the same transition experience as you are. Talk to them about life post-Whole30 for support, ask that they hold you accountable to some of your newly-formed healthy habits. And hey, you might even pick up a new recipe or two.