October 8, 2018

Dear Melissa: Is One Day of Reintroduction Enough?

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Dear Melissa, Is just one day of reintroducing a food group really enough time for my body to react if it’s something my body doesn’t like? –Kelly, Kenmore, WA Dear Kelly, Sometimes, yes. Often, no. This is why, in Food Freedom Forever, I talk about reintroduction as a lifelong process. Here’s the longer answer, pertinent to your upcoming Whole30 reintroduction. Sometimes, the foods you reintroduce have an acute and noticeable effect. You experience digestive distress, bloating, headaches or migraines, hives, lethargy, cravings, allergy symptoms, congestion, or joint swelling within a few hours—a very clear sign that there is something in that food group that isn’t working in your body. It can also take a day or two for symptoms to show up. This is especially true of chronic pain, skin conditions like acne or eczema, or psychological symptoms. A friend of mine has eczema, and when he eats something off-plan, it’s usually a day or two before the skin behind his knees and elbows gets dry and itchy. And gluten often makes me break out, but not right away—but it’s happened often enough that there’s definitely a corollary. That’s why we ask you to return to the Whole30 for two days AFTER your reintroduced food group … to give you time to let any delayed consequences settle in, or to give your body a chance to calm down should the effects hit immediately. (Pro tip: if you have a delayed or significant reaction, stretch this Whole30 interim period out even more to let the effects of one food group totally dissipate before bringing in the next.) However, I consider it “reintroduction” every single time I eat something not Whole30, even if I haven’t done a reset in months. Every time I drink a glass of wine, eat a cupcake, or enjoy white rice with my sushi, I’m paying attention.

  • How did this make me feel, physically and psychologically?
  • Are there any consequences—even small ones—that I can pick up as a pattern?
  • Based on this, is this food or drink still worth it?

This is how I figured out that multiple exposures to gluten too close together (like a cupcake two days in a row, or bread three meals in a row) make me lethargic and de-motivated. It’s subtle, but after repeated exposure, I picked up on a pattern, and it’s helped me make better “worth it” decisions for me going forward. This is the tricky part about reintroduction—the amount, frequency, and context of the reintroduced food all make a difference in how you feel. Maybe eating small amounts of sugar here and there are no issue, but a giant amount all at once really sends you sideways. Maybe gluten by itself (like bread) is barely noticeable, but gluten + sugar (like cookies or cake) have a profound negative effect. Perhaps you can get away with eggs or nightshades once in a while, but if you eat them too often, the eczema flares. This is why, as part of your reintroduction and food freedom plan, the slower you go, the more you’ll learn, and the more closely you pay attention, the better you’ll be able to make the right “worth it” decision for you. During this Whole30, use the guidance and journaling space we provide in Whole30 Day by Day to keep you connected to the process and learn as much as you can from your Whole30 reintroduction. Best in health, Melissa

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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 Urban is a Certified Sports Nutritionist, and a 5-time New York Times bestselling author (It Starts With Food; The Whole30; Food Freedom Forever; The Whole30 Cookbook; The Whole30 Day by Day; and The Whole30 Fast and Easy Cookbook). She has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Forbes, CNBC, Details, Outside, SELF, and Shape as the co-founder of the Whole30 program. Melissa lives in Salt Lake City, UT. Photo by Mario Vega