From Melissa Hartwig, who maybe isn’t actually a donut person
When I was in Portland, OR for the Whole30 book tour, I was told by basically everyone on the internet that I had to try one of Portland’s famous donut joints—either Voodoo or Blue Star. As I do enjoy a good donut once in a while, and these donuts are once-a-year opportunity, I decided one morning after breakfast and a long walk that I’d go for it. Since maple-bacon-peanut-butter-with-truffle-sprinkles aren’t my jam (Voodoo has some crazy flavors), I opted for Blue Star.
I waited in line, selected an Old Fashioned, and walked back to my hotel, prepared to get romantic with my donut. I pulled it out of the brown paper bag, sat down, and took a bite, prepared to be transported to Blue Star bliss.
It was okay. Not incredible. Certainly not close-my-eyes-don’t-talk-to-me good (the standard by which I measure Worth It). It was just… a donut. So, I didn’t finish it.
You heard me. I put it back in the bag and didn’t finish it. Even though I told myself I could have a donut that morning. Even though it was sitting right there, and would be sitting right there for the next two hours until I checked out of my hotel. Even though my brain was already trying to coerce me into having more. “Just a few more bites to make sure it’s really not that good because it probably actually is and you should just try it again again again until it’s gone HEY THANKS.”
This experience is not unusual for me. I think something is going to be worth it. I try it. It’s not, in fact, worth it. I abandon. The end. So, in a continued effort to help you tame your Sugar Dragon, let’s turn this into a Life After Your Whole30 rule, shall we?
We’ll call it, “Melissa’s One Bite Rule.”
Just One Bite
Here’s the rule in a nutshell: If you think your less healthy treat is going to be so delicious, so incredible, so worth it, and then you take your first bite and discover it’s not… STOP EATING.
The only reason to indulge in a less healthy treat in the first place is if it’s so incredibly, deliciously worth it that you’re willing to accept the less healthy consequences as a trade-off for getting romantic with this treat. So if you discover it’s not what you imagined—not as delicious, not as satisfying, not as special—then why keep eating? (It’s not like it’s good for you, after all.)
Aside: if this is the case, please don’t beat yourself up for “learning the hard way.” Remember that the hard way is the only way you’ll ever learn, because until you try it, you’ll never know whether it’s worth it or not. Right? Right. Moving on…
It really is that simple. Just. Stop. Eating.
Of course, simple isn’t always easy. That’s where my Sugar Dragon tips here come in handy. Make sure you’re practicing conscientious eating, especially with that first bite. Belly-breathe, pause, and reflect. Give yourself the psychological space to make a decision based on logic, not your brain’s toddler-like demands for more sugar. Create some distance—I’ll wait three minutes, and if I still want another bite, I’ll have it.
If the Whole30 black-and-white rules really worked for you, create a hard-and-fast rule for this too. “Every time I eat a less healthy food, the One Bite Rule is in effect.” Period. That helps to take some of the effort of decision-making out of your hands, freeing up your willpower center for more important tasks—like, was this sip/bite so mind-blowing I need to keep eating?
With a Side of Tough Love
Now, here comes the One Bite Rule tough love. (You knew it was coming, because it’s me, and this is Whole30.)
You have no excuse not to do this.
You’ve done the Whole30. You no longer automatically eat. You are no longer a slave to saltsugarfat. YOU ARE IN CONTROL OF YOUR FOOD. This is what the Whole30 taught you, this is what you worked so hard for over those 30 days, and you are not going to throw away all of your hard work and food freedom accomplishments because all of a sudden, donut.
You are not going out like that.
So if you find yourself eating something that you know makes you less healthy and at some point after a bite (whether it’s the first or the third or the seventeenth) you realize it’s not worth it any more, just stop. Because you should, but more important, because you can.
THIS is life after your Whole30. With the food freedom you fought for and earned also comes responsibility–to yourself and to your health: physical, emotional, and psychological. Give yourself the space, time, and grace to arrive at this point; continue to practice; and forgive when you mess it up, and you will never be controlled by food ever again.
Melissa Hartwig is a Certified Sports Nutritionist, and the author of the New York Times bestselling books It Starts With Food and The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom. She has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Details, Outside, Redbook, and Shape as the co-founder of Whole9 and the Whole30 program. Melissa lives in Salt Lake City, UT.