I just completed my Whole30, and what a difference! I never thought I would find something that would have such an effect on me—it has totally changed everything! However, on Day 28, I was visiting my grandparents (they are in their mid-80s), whom I very rarely get to see. My grandmother made lunch, but trying to explain to them what I can and cannot eat would have been difficult. I made the decision that being blessed to have a meal with them was much more important to me than following the Whole30 rules. But I have been having serious guilt issues about getting so close to the end and not finishing straight through. It is the only day that I went off-plan, and I added on two extra days at the end because of it, and I ate Whole30 for my other two meals that day… but does that make a difference? Do I need to start again? -Rhea, Edinburgh, Scotland
This is always a tricky situation, and one we addressed in It Starts With Food:
You may at some point find yourself faced with a dilemma—eating something less healthy that you really don’t want to eat, or hurting someone’s feelings by refusing. Handle these situations delicately. First, if the food in question is seriously going to affect your health, then you have to speak up. Your loved ones don’t want to make you sick, so if they simply didn’t realize that you don’t tolerate dairy well, explain (without getting too graphic) and politely decline the dish. If it’s just a matter of preference—you don’t want the dessert, but your mom made it special for the occasion—then it’s best to go with the flow. Accept a small piece, eat just enough to participate in the celebration, and deal with the consequences—which will be nowhere near as serious as turning down the triple-layer chocolate cake your mom spent the afternoon making just for you.
There Is No Guilt
In this case, you made a conscious, deliberate decision in the middle of your Whole30. You weighed your options — and made the decision to go off-plan ahead of time. It wasn’t impulsive, you didn’t give in to peer pressure or a craving, and it wasn’t emotional. You weighed the pros (having a lovely, stress-free lunch with your dear grandparents, whom you don’t see often) against the cons (breaking the commitment you made to yourself, eating something off-plan and experiencing the consequences) and made your choice.
Therefore, there is no guilt. After careful consideration, you made right decision for you in that moment. You even went the extra steps to maintain your commitment by adding two days to the end of your program! So stop thinking about this and move on—that’s an order. You should be proud of your efforts and your commitment to both your family and the Whole30.
A Missed Opportunity
I do believe you missed an opportunity here. We tend to avoid what we perceive as difficult discussions. We’re afraid the other party won’t be able to handle it. We say things like, “they won’t understand, they won’t like it, it will make them upset or unhappy.” But this behavior makes people small. By assuming they won’t be able to handle it, you deprive them of the ability to be as big, powerful, capable, and strong as they really are. And you deprive yourself of what could have been a really amazing conversation, an enriching shared experience, or moving forward with something important to you.
Imagine if you had talked to your grandparents about your recent thoughts on food and nutrition. What if you had approached it like this: “So, I’ve been eating this totally natural, whole-foods diet—foods like lamb, potatoes, broccoli, and butter. This kind of diet is actually pretty popular right now, which is funny, because isn’t this how you grew up eating?” This may have opened a really lovely conversation. Your grandparents may have shared stories of how they grew up, the kinds of foods they ate, and how they’ve seen things change over the decades. It may not have changed your lunch plans, but you would have had learned something about your grandparents that you wouldn’t have otherwise known. (And who knows—maybe your grandmother would have been excited at the prospect of arranging her lunch to suit your Whole30!)
Have That Conversation
I’m not saying to approach it without tact. Saying, “I won’t eat your rice, Gram” is certainly not achieving the goal of bringing you closer as a family. But that doesn’t mean you have to avoid the conversation altogether. Find the right time and place, and take the right approach, and invite people to rise to the occasion. Even if the conversation doesn’t go as well as you’d hoped, at least you invited them into an honest discussion. You gave them the opportunity to share in an important piece of your life.
Now that your Whole30 is over, you may want to have that conversation with your grandparents. It’s a great excuse to pay them another visit. You can even volunteer to cook or bring lunch with you, and share this “trendy” way of eating with them. I’m sure that would give them a good chuckle.
Best in health,
Got a question for Melissa? Submit it here.
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 credit: Marie Carmel Photography