December 19, 2023

Three Steps to Maintain your Whole30 Commitment

Dear Melissa—Melissa Urban wearing a light blue jean top and darker blue jeans, cooking on a wooden table top, and smiling at the camera.

Dear Melissa, 

I’m on Day 3 of my first Whole30. So far it’s going really well, but the excitement of the first day or two has worn off, and it made me think about a video you made talking about motivation. You said when you’re starting a new habit, you won’t feel motivated every day, so you can’t rely on motivation alone to see you through. (You were talking about working out, but doesn’t that apply here too?) Knowing I won’t always be as motivated as I was on Day 1, how can I stay consistent with my Whole30 commitment for all 30 days, plus reintroduction?

–Sarah, Chicago IL


Dear Sarah,

I love this question because it shows you’re already thinking ahead. In order to turn your Whole30 commitment (and all of the actions that go into keeping that commitment) into a habit, you need to build consistency with these new behaviors. And you’re right—you can’t rely on motivation alone to see you through.

On Day 1 of your Whole30, everything feels exciting! Everyone is starting on the same day, you’ve got your meals planned, your Day by Day Journal is open to a crisp new page, and the newness of the program will easily carry you through your first day or two. But just a few days in, it’s normal to lose that motivation, especially if you’re feeling tired, cranky, or missing some of your favorite foods.

As I said in the video you watched, motivation doesn’t precede action, action precedes motivation. And in order to keep your Whole30 train firmly on the rails, you need to take small actions every day to maintain that consistency, until your Whole30 feels like a comfortable habit. (For most, this happens late in the third week—that’s when most people say, “I don’t even remember what day it is, it just feels so easy now!”)

Here is your three-step action plan to maintain your Whole30 commitment regardless of motivation, backed by habit research and more than 14 years of Whole30 experience. 

Action 1: Eat Whole30 food

Your first action is perhaps the easiest—keep eating Whole30 food. The “eating” part is easy—you do that every day. So make the “Whole30 food” part easy too! 

  • Plan your meals ahead of time, so you know what you’re having for the next day or two at minimum. (A week at a time is even better!)
  • Have Whole30 emergency food (like hard-boiled eggs, a protein salad, a frittata, roasted veggies, and deli turkey) in your fridge at all times. 
  • Sign up for Thrive Market and stock up on on-the-go foods like meat sticks, nuts and seeds, almond butter, olives, and compatible RXBARs.
  • Make sure you have Whole30 food stashed everywhere—your purse, gym bag, desk at work, car glove box, diaper bag, or backpack—just in case.

And then let it be that simple. Is it Whole30? Eat and enjoy. Don’t worry about eating the rainbow of veggies, making perfectly portioned plates, how much fruit you’re eating, or whether your meals have enough variety—there will be time for refining your menu as other aspects of the Whole30 start to feel more automatic. Just maintain the action of eating Whole30 foods for every meal and snack.

Action 2: “Show up” for your Whole30 commitment

I’ve talked often about making your goals so small, they’re impossible to fail. I call this “showing up.” (Habit researcher and Stanford professor Dr. B.J. Fogg refers to it as a “tiny habit.”) If you’re eating Whole30 food, you’re already “showing up,” but I want you to add one more thing to your routine to solidify your commitment. That could look like:

Ideally, you’d build this into your morning routine—or use these prompts to create one—so you maintain consistency with the habit. (A sample morning routine could be wake, shower, breakfast, post yesterday’s meals to Stories, then spend 5 minutes completing your Day by Day journal). Bonus if you build another check-in into your evening routine, like completing your Day by Day journal before you go to bed, answering “YES!” to your Whole30 daily text, sharing a summary of your day on Instagram, or watching our Day by Day YouTube video for the day you’re on.

Action 3: Actively look for Non-Scale Victories

Habit research shows that adopting a growth mindset (“with dedication and effort, I can get better at tasks or habits”) and using “I am” statements (like “I am Whole30”) can increase self-efficacy and help you embrace this new, healthy identity more effectively. We’re also going to use this to take advantage of your brain’s tendency to slip into confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias makes us look for things in our environment that support our preconceived ideas. To put it another way, when you think something might be true, your brain goes to work to find evidence that supports your theory. Sometimes this works against us: If you’re convinced a particular investment is a good one, your brain may filter out news or information that demonstrates the investment’s risks. 

Confirmation bias happens to all of us—it’s just how our brains work—but in this situation, we’re going to put it to work for us. Tell yourself every morning (as part of your new routine), “I am Whole30,” or “I am a healthy person with healthy habits,” or “I am worthy of keeping my Whole30 promise to myself.” You’ll then support that with evidence—”I’ve eaten only Whole30 foods for every meal since Day 1,” or “I’ve journaled three days in a row in Day by Day” or, “I’ve connected with my Whole30 support community every day so far.”

Because you’re actively affirming all of this, your brain is now primed to seek other evidence to support how Whole30 you are.

Non-Scale Victories you might notice:

  • I woke up with a little more energy today
  • My cravings last night after dinner weren’t as strong
  • I didn’t feel bloated after breakfast 
  • My knee doesn’t feel as sore 
  • I haven’t had a migraine in two days
  • My skin feels healthier
  • My meals have all been delicious
  • I’ve tried two new vegetables this week
  • I’ve cooked every single day so far
  • I went for a walk yesterday 
  • WHOOP says my sleep was better last night
  • I read ten pages of a book today
  • I’m feeling more connected to my friends
  • My spouse and I are encouraging each other
  • I’m feeling confident in my ability to see this through

The list here is endless, and this three-step action process creates a healthy inertia—you take action, so you feel more motivated, which helps you notice even more benefits, which makes you want to keep taking action.

Download our list of non-scale victories and check off every accomplishment, big or small.

You ARE Whole30

On the days when you do feel motivated, use that to take your Whole30 commitment even deeper. Make a new recipe, offer advice or motivation to someone else in the chat, set up your auto-subscribe in Thrive Market, or go for an extra walk that day. But on the days when you wake up thinking, “I’m committed but not especially motivated,” let this simple three-step action plan (that can take as little as five minutes a day) see you through yet another day of eating and living Whole30.

Happy Whole30 Day 3!
Melissa

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