Welcome to Dear Melissa, where I answer your questions about transitioning into or completing a Whole30, successfully sticking to your new Food Freedom habits, and figuring out how to make a healthy, sustainable lifestyle work in the real world.
A Facebook friend is doing the Whole30, but still allowing herself half-and-half. I do the Whole30 a few times and year and never break the rules! How should I respond to her? –Bea, on Instagram
I hear this ALL THE TIME. “My friend/mom/boyfriend is doing the Whole30 but still drinking wine/using sugar in coffee/sneaking dark chocolate, isn’t it my job to tough-love them into compliance?”
Well. That depends.
Are they asking you for help, motivation, or support? If they’re leaning on you in any way during this Whole30, then yes, it’s your obligation to remind them of the rules, the need to do the program 100% by the book, and the likelihood that they’re selling themselves short if they choose to continue breaking them. THEY came to YOU for help. You have every right to give them what they need, not what they want. And if you truly believe that doing the Whole30 all-in, following every rule, is a necessary part of the life-changing (spoiler: it is), then it’s your obligation as a good friend, son, or significant other to say so.
But that doesn’t mean you have to come out guns blazing. Here’s what it could sound like:
“Hey, Sam, I’m psyched you’re really getting into the program, and your dinner on Instagram last night looked amazing! But you’re asking me to help you, and the way I can help you best is if you follow the program 100% by the rules. I know you’re clinging to your half-and-half hard, and there must be some emotional attachment to it. I felt like that with my (fill in food here). But I was committed to seeing what the program could do for me, and I knew I’d be kicking myself if I “finished” without actually DOING THE THING. Plus, you really should figure out how that half-and-half may be negatively impacting you–and if it’s not, you can go right back to it without a worry when the month is over. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.”
If they’re open to the conversation, a good follow-up might be, “What’s the part of giving up the half-and-half that you think will be the hardest?” This opens up an authentic conversation, and gives you the opportunity to connect. Try to share from your own experience, and have compassion. Sometimes, just giving voice to the concern is enough to override it, and you may find by the end of the conversation, you’ve got an agreement to comply with the rules and a tighter bond with your Facebook friend.
Or maybe not. At which point, you get to decide if you’re still going to provide them with support if they say, “No, thanks, I’m going to keep doing it my way.” Maybe you will, because you feel like something is better than nothing, and they’re going to feel so good and confident in the end that eventually, they’ll be ready to do the actual Whole30, by the book. Maybe you won’t, because their lack of commitment is going to wear on you, frustrate you, or bring you down, and there are people actually willing to do the work that you could be helping.
Either way. I won’t judge, and you shouldn’t judge yourself here. Make the decision that is right for you. On the other hand…
Are they not asking you for anything? Maybe they’re just sharing their Whole30 choices in a Facebook group in which you happen to participate, or mention their “transgressions” in casual conversation. In that case, their Whole30 is none of your business. They are the only ones responsible for their own health and wellness, and you’d be butting in where you weren’t invited. Just bite your tongue, say nothing (if you can’t say anything nice), and move on.
Yeah, this one really is that simple, hard as that may be to swallow.
Finally, one last word specific to social media groups and forums: If there is one thing I’ve learned in the last 8 years of running the program, it’s that you can’t police the entire internet, and you can’t do it for everyone, and everyone comes to it in their own time… or they won’t, and that’s not my business either. If there’s SO much of this going on in your group, LEAVE THE GROUP, and explain why politely but clearly. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll trigger at least one other person to evaluate their Whole30, but at the very least, you should be clear about excusing yourself. It might sound like this:
“I was hoping to find support and motivation in this group, but the fact that so many people are modifying or ignoring the Whole30 rules just doesn’t work for me. For my own health and happiness, I need to be in a place surrounded by people are fully committed to the program. This helps me honor my own commitment, and stay on track with my own Whole30 goals. I wish you all the best; I’ll be heading over to the (link to group here) if anyone wants to pop in and say hello.”
I’ll summarize this with a piece of tough love, heavy on the love: In the end, the only person you can be responsible for is YOU. And if you’re all up in someone else’s business, who’s minding yours?
Best in health,
Got a question for Melissa? Submit it using this handy form.
Remember, we aren’t answering questions about the Whole30 rules via this column (use the forum!), nor are we able to offer you specific advice about your medical issue, health condition, or body composition.
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; Food Freedom Forever; and The Whole30 Cookbook. She has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Details, Outside, SELF, and Shape as the co-founder of the Whole30 program. Melissa lives in Salt Lake City, UT.
Photo credit: Marie Carmel Photography
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