Welcome to Dear Melissa, where we answer your questions about transitioning into or or maintaining a healthy Whole9 life, helping you make what you learned during the Whole30 work in the real world. Today, we’re talking about shortened versions of the Whole30 program and when it’s appropriate to take on a mini-reset.


Dear Melissa,
I haven’t been able to find information on doing a “Whole7” or a “Whole10.” What exactly are they, and when should I be doing themN.D.

Dear N.D.,

When you see someone mention a “Whole7” or a “Whole10,” they’re talking about taking on the Whole30 rules for a shortened period of time—less than the prescribed 30 days. There are times when this approach is really helpful, but it should be used carefully—and it’s not a replacement for a full Whole30. Here’s what I mean.

What is a Whole7 or Whole10, and why would you do it?

The rules for these mini-30’s are the exactly same as the rules for our original 30 day program. No added sugar in any form, no grains, no legumes, no dairy, no recreating baked good or treats, and no scale. The only thing different is the time frame—you are deliberately following these rules for less than the prescribed 30 days.

People take on a shortened version of the Whole30 for many reasons. Maybe that sneaky Sugar Dragon starts to breathe fire again and you feel like a quick craving reset will send it back to sleep. Maybe you’ve got a vacation or important event coming up, and you want to look and feel your best heading into it. (People also take on shortened versions after a vacation, to ensure they quickly get back on track with their healthy habits.) Or perhaps you have a stressful situation (new baby, job change, etc.) coming your way, and you want to be mentally and physically prepared, feeling a solid sense of self-efficacy. Some people just throw them in regularly for good measure, as a way to keep their healthy habits solidly in place.

One caveat—doing a Whole5, Whole7, etc. only benefits those people who are able to quickly jump back into the Tiger Blood stage (where you’re feeling awesome, self-confidence is high, cravings are under control, and you remember exactly why it is you love eating this way)getting there way faster than the two weeks it usually takes. Generally, that means it only works for people with a whole lot of Whole30 experience.

When is (or isn’t) a mini-Whole30 a good idea?

It’s only appropriate to do an abbreviated version of the program after you’ve successfully completed at least three by-the-book Whole30s and reintroduction periods.

First, a shortened version of the program won’t ever give you anywhere near the benefits of a full 30 days. You can read our answer to the question, “why 30 days?” in It Starts With Food, but long story short: these changes take time. In reality, a week simply can’t accomplish the same healing process or change your habits the way a full Whole30 will.

Which means if you’ve gone completely off the rails since your Whole30, you’re still pretty new to the program, or your medical condition or symptoms are presenting again, doing another full Whole30 is your best option. In fact, an abbreviated Whole30 will do you more harm than good, as 7 days is probably just long enough to remind you how hard the first week of a Whole30 can be, but not long enough to have you seeing the benefits. That sounds like a losing situation to us! So if this is your context, do yourself (and your body) a favor and reboot for the whole 30 days.

In addition, you need some experience with how the Whole30 feels to be able to jump into that Tiger Blood feeling in just a few days. Only those really familiar with the program and how it affects them will be able to recognize the more subtle changes that happen early on (sleeping better, cravings lessening, energy improving, self-confidence boosting), and be able to use just a few days of those feelings as a springboard to getting back on track. During your first Whole30, this is all new. During your second, you’re (surprisingly) still figuring things out, and may find it’s even harder (and slower to show benefits) than the first. By the third, you’ve got it pretty well down, and are far more aware of the subtle effects of food and drink during your reintroduction period. At which point, you can feel free to throw in some Whole7’s or Whole10’s if you need them.

Finally, one more word of caution: don’t even think about taking on a mini-Whole30 as a crash diet plan. It won’t work, because that’s not how our program is designed—in fact, every crash diet backfires, leading to weight gain, worse cravings, and a return to the guilt-shame-regret spiral that got you into trouble in the first place. But you already know this, which is why we don’t crash diet anymore, do we?

Are you ready to try a Whole5, Whole7, or Whole10?

If you’ve done at least three full Whole30 programs, been working hard to maintain your new healthy habits, and just need a little reminder/pick me up/kick in the pants, a shortened version of the Whole30 may be just the ticket to help you accomplish some short-term health and habit goals. This mini-reset will help you nix some bloating and digestive discomfort, settle your moods, reduce your cravings, and remind you that you’re in control of the food you eat, not the other way around.

I wouldn’t recommend doing less than 5 days, as 2 or 3 aren’t going to be long enough for most to really recapture that Tiger Blood, so start with 5, and feel free to extend your commitment if you feel like you’re still not where you want to be when Day 6 rolls around. Who knows—you may just end up happily doing a full Whole30 again, and reaping all the benefits of the full program!

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.

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Melissa Hartwig is a Certified Sports Nutritionist, an RKC-Certified Kettlebell instructor, and the author of the New York Times bestselling book It Starts With Food. She co-founded Whole9 and the Whole30 program with her husband Dallas in 2009. They live in Salt Lake City, UT.