August 11, 2014

The Whole30-Plus: Extending Your Program for 45, 60, or 90 days


Whole30 participant Tabitha contacted us recently with a question about extending her Whole30. She asked:   “I have some long-standing issues that I have a feeling will take longer than 30 days to truly turn around. Can you give me an idea of what a Whole60/90/120 would look like?” Now, we could tell you what challenges we think one would face during an extended version of the Whole30 program (and we will), but we also wanted to get first-hand advice from folks who have been there, done that. So we asked our Whole30 Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter community what advice they would have for Tabitha, or anyone else hoping to tackle a Whole30-plus.

More days, please

But first, a quick note: why would anyone want to do a Whole30 plus some extra days? Generally speaking, if you have a long-standing medical issue, an autoimmune disease, or a history of tenacious cravings or food addictions, you’ll likely find 30 days isn’t enough to see the full potential of your results. We bet you’ll feel better after 30 days, and will probably see a reduction in symptoms and cravings, but you may be thinking, “I’m still not where I want to be.”  If that’s your context, consider extending your Whole30 to 45, 60, even 90 days to see if additional time on the program brings you the results you are looking for.  One reason not to extend your program? Because you’re afraid to ride your own bike, making your own choices out there in the real world. (Read Chapter 20 in It Starts With Food to help you navigate your fear of Life After the Whole30. We’ve got you covered with a plan, promise.) If you’ve made the decision to extend your Whole30, whether that’s up front before you start or when Day 30 rolls around, here are some success strategies for staying motivated, happy, and compatible for as long as you choose to stay on the program.

What trouble spots or challenges are you likely to face after the first 30 days?

Though you’ll likely be past many of the physical adjustments (lethargy, crankiness, and erratic hunger patterns) once you cross the day 30 line, you can expect to deal with some of the same mental challenges you encountered in the first 30 days—primarily boredom and that all-encompassing Fear of Missing Out.  You may also face more questions from folks who don’t understand why you’re still on this crazy diet. Our advice:

  • Keep a list of your favorite meals from Day 1 of your Whole30. Add to it as your program goes on, and when you’re stuck, fall back on an old favorite. We’re not bored when our taste buds are happy, and it’s okay to eat the same meals every week during your program if it keeps you stress-free.
  • Make a point to find one new and exciting recipe every week.  Make that meal an event—invite friends for dinner, set the table, break out the fancy glasses.  Looking forward to that meal will help you avoid feeling stuck in the same limited menu.
  • Prioritize social events!  Don’t avoid your friends and family during your extended Whole30, as that will only make you feel more isolated.  Plan non-food related get-togethers, have a go-to take-along meal for those times when eating is a part of the plan, and learn to socialize with a mocktail in your hand.
  • Write and rehearse a standard answer for those who ask, “Why are you (still) doing this?”  Be honest about your reasons, and make it personal—list the benefits you’re seeing, and your goals for the rest of the program. Most people will support you once they realize your purpose, and how happy you are with the results you are seeing.

From the community:

  • “After the first 30 days, I needed to change up my menu. I had fallen in to some traps with eating a similar breakfast and lunch day-in and day-out, and I needed to get out of the boredom trap in order to make the lifestyle sustainable. I started a Pinterest board and began pinning recipes from all my favorite Whole 30/paleo blogs and vowed to try several new recipes a week. I began to spend a lot of time in the ethnic food aisle at my grocery store, exploring foods that had always seemed a little too exotic, but turned out to be delicious and Whole30-compatible! (Jessica H.)
  • “I started feeling guilty because I was eating many of the same meals over and over. Then I realized, hey, this is keeping me sticking to the plan pretty easy! I’m not feeling bored, I’m still enjoying while I’m eating, and my meals in general had good variety, so why not? This worked for me for the entire 90 days, and it was more important to me to stay on track than have the stress of making a new recipe every day.”(Jessica H.)

What should I focus on to stay motivated and on track?

Finding motivation after day 30 can be challenging if you let yourself lose focus. Hannah P. says: “I recently completed an autoimmune protocol Whole60. Since I had done several Whole30s before, by the time I was approaching Day 30 I felt like I should be almost done, and the first 10 days or so after Day 30 it was so hard to resist a conscious off-plan food choice. I resisted and stayed strong for 30 days, but it was mentally difficult to overcome the >30 hurdle. Once I got to day 40 it was easy to see the days ticking down, but days 30-40 were the hardest part.” The key to this mental challenge? By concentrating on your goals and your progress instead of the countdown to day whatever, you’re more likely to stay the course. Our advice:

  • Focus on your personal why’s. Keep a symptom or “results” journal, and note the improvements you’re seeing every week. Use these, and share these, as motivation throughout the process.
  • Take progress pictures of your skin conditions, your swollen joints, or the bags under your eyes. Seeing the steady improvement will help keep you focused on the benefits.
  • Don’t focus on the calendar. Counting down the days in an extended Whole30 keeps you focused on how much time you have left, not the successes you see every day.
  • Find other ways to reward your hard work and dedication—something other than food. Treat yourself to a new article of clothing, see a play, get a massage, or buy yourself a new fitness or outdoor “toy.”

From the community: 

  • “I focused on the joy of how clean my body felt. I have two young kids, and so being able to wake up in the morning with them and not feel like crap was an absolute miracle for me. When my body feels clean, my whole life runs smoother. For me, this is worth it. On a more practical note, I also used a reward system for my first two rounds of Whole30. On day 1 I picked out an item of clothing that I really wanted but wouldn’t normally spend money on and told myself that as soon as I complete the program, I could go out and buy it guilt-free. It worked well.” (Joanna vdB.)
  • “Focus on HOW YOU FEEL. I can’t emphasize this enough. It’s not about the numbers on the scale, the size of your pants. Do you wake up feeling energized and alive? Do you feel like you can make it through your day without an extra pot of coffee? The energy boost I got was worth any sacrifice I made in regards to eating choices. I could make it through a long day at work, exercise and still have energy to spare. I also began to sleep better than I had in my entire life. I fell asleep quickly, stayed asleep and woke up with my alarm clock or before it. All of those feelings are what drove me to continue, along with the relief I had gotten from nearly a decade of migraines. (Jessica H.)
  • “To stay on track, I just remembered why I wanted to do it for 60 days. I remembered my blog followers that would be expecting Whole30 recipes, and I remembered my good friend who was doing her first ever Whole60 as a switch from SAD with me. I knew I couldn’t let her down and I would have to finish the 60 days.” (Hannah P.)

What can I do to make my Whole30+ as successful as possible?

While you can’t control every circumstance you encounter during your 45/60/90 days, there are certain steps you can take to create an environment of success for yourself.  Mental preparation, careful planning and a willingness to be flexible are key to surviving your extended Whole30.  Our advice: 

  • Get your head in the game before you start. List the various circumstances you might face during this time and come up with a plan for how to negotiate them. Include food options, how you might answer potential questions, and how you can get yourself out of the situation if you feel like you’re losing control.
  • Build a support system of people who know you well, and can help talk you through the tough times. They don’t have to be working the program with you, but they do need to understand how important this goal is to you. Take advantage of this often—don’t wait for a tough situation to reach out.
  • Know that there are going to be times when you just have to make it work. Give yourself permission to eat a meal made completely of disjointed ingredients, scope out some grab-and-go options at your local grocer for food on-the-fly, and don’t beat yourself up if a new recipe turns out to be a flop.

From the community:

  • “Support. Support. Support: It helps so much to share the burden … with someone who actually cares about your journey. Plan meals: And if that’s too difficult, find at least three quick complete meals you can fall back on. Always keeps those ingredients in the house for the days that you “just can’t”. Because life continues to happen when you are on Whole30 and just like some days can be good days, some days are going to be bad days. Try to stay ahead of the game and have some good food ready to go.” (Mandi L.)
  • “I’ve led a few groups of people doing the Whole30 challenge and they have all said the same thing: that it’s so much easier to complete if you have friends and family doing it with you. We started a Facebook group for sharing recipes and leaving encouraging notes and tips for each other and it was very successful!” (Joanna)
  • “If you’re a parent, do not fear bringing your family in to the mix. My children often ate Whole 30 dinners without even realizing I had done anything different to prepare our food. My husband did his 30 days during my 80 and he has changed many of his eating habits permanently as a result of his experience. And reach out—there is a huge community online, ready and willing to answer your questions and speak from a place of experience.” (Jessica H)

A final word about a Whole45/60/90 or more…

Finally, remember that there is no such thing as the perfect Whole30, so keep your end game in mind. It’s critical for your medical condition, cravings, or other goals that you to stick to Whole30 foods 100% during the entirety of your program. It’s less important that you never have a snack, always eat organic, eat protein three times a day, and don’t drink your calories. We make recommendations like these during your program to help you be successful, but if you’re able to stick to a Whole90 with some snacking, smoothies, ingredient meals, and breakfast repeats, you’re winning. Cut yourself some slack, and be proud of your hard work—we know it will pay off in the end, no matter what your end goal.      

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