Congratulations: You’ve completed your first Whole30®! I hope that during your journey you learned as much about yourself and your relationship with food as we did. One of the first things most of us asked ourselves on Day 1 was “What are we going to eat as soon as we finish”? My family’s answers ranged anywhere pizza to wine and cheese to Girl Scout Cookies (Thin Mints, please!).
As we marked off each Compliant Day, we became less and less fixated on what we would indulge in once our 30 days up and more worried about undoing all the progress we made for one silly meal on Day 31. However, we know that this isn’t meant to be a long-term plan and that we would eventually (intentionally or not) end up eating something that is off-limits. We referred back to Chapter 20 of It Starts With Food to see exactly what is recommended to do on Day 31. The book suggests a slow approach to reintroduction that will help identify food intolerance once and for all.
The thing is: some of us don’t have food intolerance. We simply have food addictions (I’m looking at you, pasta) so reintroduction might not physically punish us but might start us on a slippery slope of bad decisions. Another recommended way to approach life after Whole30® is to adopt a 80/20 or 90/10 lifestyle- 80% (or 90%) of your meals and drinks are compliant while 20% (or 10%) are not. Some people might find this easier to maintain long-term because of the extra wiggle room.
By the book
The book suggests reintroducing one off-limits category at a time so that we can identify food intolerances and know which food groups to avoid entirely long-term. The plan is to introduce sugar, for example, and then go back to fully compliant meals for 2 days. If we have no negative side effects from the sugar, we are in the clear the start incorporating it back into our main diet. Basically, pizza on Day 31 isn’t advised because we are likely introducing MANY off-limits categories at once and by doing so won’t know for sure which ingredients might lead to undesirable effects.
In the hours and days after introducing one off-limits category, we should pay close attention to how we feel. Keeping a journal of what we’re eating and how we feel might help trigger self-realizations and could be a good way to start this evaluation process. Wait two days in between introductions to be sure of each food group’s effect and then reintroduce the next group. As with the first 30 days of the program, reintroduction is a rigid process that requires a certain amount of self-control. After 30 days of hardcore planning and prepping, this might sound like a logical next step or it might make you want to ditch organization and lists for the rest of your life.
After each food group has been reintroduced and their effects noted, we can decide what we will allow into our diets again and what will be ditched forever (still looking at you, gluten).
80/20 Paleo Lifestyle
An 80/20 approach is a more lenient (and arguably convenient) way to handle life after Whole30® – especially for those of us who are fairly certain we don’t have any food intolerances. 80% of the time we maintain a Paleo/Whole30® lifestyle while the other 20% of the time we have items that are not. The 20% of the time can be every morning in the form of a breakfast taco, or once every few weeks with back-to-back days of indulgence. The point is, we make the rules but hold ourselves to a mostly clean lifestyle. This freedom can be relieving after having 30 (or more) days of total of rigid rules and second-guessing (was that chicken I ordered really cooked in olive oil? I wonder if the spice rub had sugar in it. My skin is breaking out…did I eat gluten and not realize it?!) However, the lack of structure this provides can lead to a slippery slope and might result in us falling completely off the wagon for a period of time.
Down the road
There are a few reasons why jumping into another round of Whole30® will make sense:
- We’ve gotten so far off the path that we don’t know how to get back on without extreme measures. If we wake up one day and realize that we haven’t had a compliant meal in who-knows-how-long and we feel like CRAP, it might be time to consider another round of Whole30®
- We’re slowly slipping back into old ways with unhealthy relationships with food. Maybe we’re eating 80% compliant but we are obsessing over ice cream and planning our days around its consumption the rest of the time. If this sounds familiar, it might be time for another round.
- We just want the structure back! Sometimes life is easier with rules and regulations to help us along. If we’re having a hard time with reintroduction and setting healthy limits of certain foods on our won, it might be time for another round!
What is your plan after Whole30®? Let me know! If you have any questions about the program or want to check out exactly what we ate on our first round of Whole30® check out these articles: