A huge thank you to Whole30’s Robin Strathdee, who recognized the need for this update, and crafted our new language.
Recently, there’s been a lot of buzz about the term “Tiger Blood,” as used in our Whole30 Timeline. (For those of you wondering where the phrase originally came from, it was Charlie Sheen, in an interview with Esquire Magazine. However, we just co-opted the phrase for our own use and gave it our own definition—nobody really knows what he was talking about in that write-up.)
Here’s what our original Timeline said:
Days 16-27: Tiger Blood. Goodbye cravings, hello Tiger Blood! This must be what everyone is talking about. You’ve hit the downhill slope of your Whole30 and life is beautiful. Your energy is through the roof, you’ve kicked the cravings, you’re experimenting with new, delicious food, and you’ve finally got the time to notice that your clothes fit better, your workouts are stronger, and you are generally more awesome.
So where did the concept of Tiger Blood come from? The idea of Days 16+ being “magical” started with Dallas and Melissa’s original experience with the Whole30, back in April 2009. Melissa says, “For me, it was like I woke up one morning and a switch had flipped. I was no longer dragging, cranky, or foggy. I had energy! I was strong! I felt unstoppable! And that magical feeling continued as long as I stayed on the Whole30.”
For Melissa (who was already exercising regularly, eating a Paleo-ish diet, and generally feeling really good), omitting the last few “less healthy” items from her diet made a dramatic change in her energy, body composition, and performance in the gym. Many of Melissa’s blog readers and fellow exercise enthusiasts shared this experience during their first Whole30, too—so for this population at this time, we defined Tiger Blood as flipping a switch and going into “Energizer Bunny” mode.
Today’s Tiger Blood
Since that very first Whole30, however, we’ve come to realize that the program benefits aren’t dramatic, “light switch” moments for most. Not everyone feels like the Energizer Bunny, grins like the Cheshire Cat, or feels unstoppable during their program, especially if you’re recovering from decades of poor eating habits, a sedentary lifestyle, or chronic health conditions.
This isn’t news to our readers, either. From the feedback we’ve received from our community, it seems like you already knew this. Here’s what you are saying about the Tiger Blood phrase:
“I feel that the ‘Tiger Blood’ expression is a little misleading because if people don’t feel like superheroes after a certain amount of time they think they’re failing or doing something wrong.“– MsPefy13
“Lots of people never get that awesome feeling that everyone is bragging about, though they experience all kinds of other beautiful things and shocking transformations that they end up not noticing because they’re so focused on the fact that they don’t think they’re getting what they were promised.” –LadyM
“I hate that Whole30 has taken that phrase and used it to describe people just feeling better. Forget tiger blood. Go for actually feeling better.” – AmyS
Turns out you guys are right on this one. We should have expanded our definition of Tiger Blood long ago, and we haven’t—which leaves many of you feeling like you’re missing out on something with your Whole30 experience. So, we’d like to apologize. It’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong. We just set the Tiger Blood bar too high, and that’s on us.
What Does Tiger Blood Mean to You?
Knowing we wanted to revise this portion of the timeline, we asked our Facebook community members whether they experienced “Tiger Blood” during their program, and what the phrase meant to them. People shared a diverse list of results, but were pretty consistent in theme.
“Tiger Blood eluded me during my Whole50, but I did have more energy than before and noticed that I was doing tasks instead of putting them off.” – SharynF
“I never felt any Tiger Blood-type magical burst of energy. What I did feel is steady continuous energy throughout the day. I wake up more easily and earlier on a regular basis, sleep through the night more often, and don’t run out of energy or feel like I’m going to crash every afternoon.” –Khhdesign
“I’m on Day 20 and don’t have one drop of Tiger Blood. I was worried about not having the boundless energy described on the timeline, but realized I was starting to feel…. calm and content, just being. This is huge for me! Before the Whole30 I was exhausted & had very low energy… literally, chugging coffee all the time, prying my eyes awake at 3pm to last the rest of the work day, falling asleep on the couch by 7pm. Now I’m slowly becoming ‘me’ again… and ‘me’ means eventually working past equilibrium & having more energy to exercise & move more!” -Skepticallytrying
“Tiger Blood means that chunk of brain and emotion that was always worrying about monitoring myself to make sure my blood sugar didn’t bottom out and my pain level didn’t explode is suddenly free to deal with normal day-to-day challenges that used to keep me exhausted. I can DO again!” -Diannah R.
“For me, Tiger Blood means laser-like focus. Decision making became simpler, clearer. And days where I am up at 4 am and still going strong at 8 pm. Amazing.” -Jessica H.
A Newly Defined “Tiger Blood”
What we’re seeing is that Whole30’ers generally experience most (if not all) of the benefits we mentioned, but it’s not always a light-switch experience, and the change might not be as dramatic originally portrayed. Your “Tiger Blood” may not qualify as heavens-opening-angels-singing-beam-of-light eureka moments—the benefits may show up gradually, or appear in a form you weren’t expecting based on our original description.
So today, we propose a new definition, based on the experiences of the folks in the trenches, slugging it out one day at a time (and sometimes for 45 or 60 days instead of 30). We hope this new definition accurately reflects the benefits you should see, while offering hope for those who don’t experience “Energizer Bunny” or “light-switch magic” in the typical time-frame:
Days 16-27: Tiger Blood!
You’ve hit the downhill slope of your Whole30 and life is beautiful—which means different things for different people. For some (generally people who came to the program eating well, exercising regularly, and feeling pretty good to begin with), Tiger Blood means someone flipped a switch and turned on the awesome. Energy is through the roof, cravings are under control, clothes are fitting better, workouts are stronger.
For others, this Tiger Blood stage feels more like a real sense of self-efficacy. It doesn’t mean things are perfect (or even easy), but you’re proving to yourself that you can do this, things are getting better, and you’re seeing improvements (small or large) almost daily. Your energy is steadier, you’ve got a firmer handle on the cravings, and you’re experimenting with new, delicious foods. You may notice that your ability to focus is keener, your body composition is changing, your moods are more stable, you’re stepping up your exercise, or you’re just plain happier these days.
Of course, this may not happen like magic at the halfway point. There are a huge number of factors that influence which benefits you see and when. If you’re one of those folks who has hit the halfway mark and isn’t seeing or feeling the dramatic changes others have reported*, know this: You’re not doing it wrong. If you began the Whole30 with a medical condition, a long and rooted history of unhealthy food habits, or a chronically stressful lifestyle, your “magic” may take longer to appear, and probably won’t be a “light switch” moment. Don’t stress about whether you’re feeling honest-to-goodness “Tiger Blood”—be patient, and be on the lookout for small, gradual improvements to keep you motivated. Slow and steady still wins this race.
*There really is no such thing as a “typical” Whole30. Honestly. There are just trends and common occurrences.
A postscript: no Tiger Blood at all?
Sometimes (albeit rarely), we hear from people who tell us that the Tiger Blood phase—either some or all of the descriptors—never happened for them at all. Sometimes they’re just expecting the magic to happen earlier than is reasonable. But often they’ve done everything they know to do, and still haven’t seen the benefit.
That doesn’t mean their Whole30 was unsuccessful or that they did something wrong. In fact, there are several legitimate reasons why that may be the case: pre-existing medical conditions, lifestyle factors, under-eating, and more. If that’s you, please don’t be discouraged. You may just need a little more time and a little more support on the program, or you may need to take your efforts up a notch and find a good functional medicine doctor to look more specifically into your hormones, gut, and adrenal function.
Image credit: Photoblog is a Perfect Name