*The answer is, it doesn’t exist. Read on, please.

The Whole30 is in full swing, with thousands of you in the middle of your program, and just as many thinking about starting. We read each and every post on our social media feeds and the Whole30 Forum: “Day 12 and I’m passing by the office candy dish without a second glance”, “Day 16 and I made it through a business dinner with my glass of sparkling water”, “Day 1 and my meals are all planned out for the week!”

But we’re also seeing some folks beating themselves up for not completing the “perfect” Whole30. “I broke down and had a snack today.” “I hard-boiled some eggs for my trip, but the eggs weren’t pastured.” “I think I’m eating too much fruit.” Instead of celebrating the fact that you’ve successfully stuck to the program one hundred percent, you’re discounting your efforts by finding things you could be doing better—real or perceived.

We don’t like hearing this. We don’t like it when you minimize your hard work (and it is hard work) by creating ways to be disappointed in yourself during this life-changing process. And maybe that’s our fault… There is often a misconception that we expect your Whole30 to be perfect—The Best Whole30 Anyone Has Ever Done Ever. However, that’s simply not true.

Today, whether it’s your first Whole30 or your tenth, we’d like to share with you our thoughts on commitment to the Whole30, versus perfection on the Whole30.

Follow the Rules of the Program 100%

You may think this one is a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people go into the Whole30 already compromising the rules. “I’m doing the Whole30… plus red wine when I really need it.” “I’m doing the Whole30, but I have two special occasions in the middle where I’ll treat myself.” “I’m doing the Whole30, but I can’t give up my post-workout whey protein shake.”

These “small” concessions are a slippery slope—one from which your brain may have a hard time recovering. After all, if you allow yourself wine on those bad days, what’s to say a little dark chocolate wouldn’t help, too? And those “special occasions” mid-Whole30 can literally erase the benefits of the program in one fell swoop—weeks of effort, wasted on one probably-not-even-worth-it meal.

Having “black and white” goals (no slips, no cheats, no excuses) are actually easier for the brain to process, and takes your decision-making out of “effort” territory and into “automatic” (translation: habit-building) territory. Following the letter of the Whole30 law will actually make your program easier, not harder. And wouldn’t you all like it to be just a little bit easier?

In addition, you are selling your results short if you don’t give it one hundred percent. Trust us on this—and if you don’t trust us, trust Whole30 veteran Anne, who found out the hard way that half-assed efforts yield (duh) half-assed results. Why would you put yourself through a program as challenging as the Whole30, only to reap a tiny portion of the rewards?

Need a Whole30 rule refresher? Re-read the program basics and peruse our Can I Have… page.

Don’t Pursue the Perfect Whole30

Wait, what? Didn’t you just say to follow the program’s rules one hundred percent?

There are many reasons why you should commit fully to the program’s guidelines and rules—all of the rules. (We’re talking to you, scale addicts.) But that doesn’t mean you have to pressure yourself into the most perfect Whole30 ever. Here’s what we mean.

The rules are the rules. No grains. No dairy. No weighing yourself. No SWYPO. But we also offer helpful suggestions to make the program as easy as possible and help you maximize your results. In our free Meal Planning Template, we recommend you eat three meals a day and minimize snacking. In our Good Meat Guide, we encourage you to look for animal protein sources raised in their natural environments and fed their natural diets. In our Pantry Stocking Guide, we talk about finding pantry items with as few additives as possible.

But this doesn’t mean you fail your Whole30 if you have a snack, eat a conventional burger, or buy canned tomatoes with citric acid.

The Whole30 can be intimidating enough in the beginning. Just figuring out what to make for breakfast if you’re not digging into your bowl of Kashi is tough! In addition, changing your habits, your tastes, and your metabolism takes time. Throughout the course of your program, we fully expect you to misgauge your hunger, indulge in some comforting Whole30-approved food when you’re feeling down, and make  food quality concessions when you’re pressed for time, money, or options.

So if this is your first Whole30, be patient with yourself, and remember: You don’t have to be perfect, just follow the rules.

If you find yourself cracking out on (approved) nut butter or fruit one day, no harm, no foul. Just realize you’re probably trying to satisfy a craving, and make a plan to do something different the next time you’re stressed. If you accidentally ate something off-plan (despite your best efforts!), it’s okay. Lesson learned, either start over or just move on—it’s always up to you. If you can’t afford organic or grass-fed at this time, you’re still nourishing your body with whole, healthy foods, and that’s something you should be immensely proud of.

Follow the rules, but don’t self-impose perfection. Changing your life doesn’t happen in just 30 days, so think about this as “kaizen” (continual progress or improvement), not “flip the switch” to Perfect You by Day 30.

Best of Luck on Your Whole30!

From all of us at the Whole30 team, we encourage you to learn, share, and most of all, enjoy this life-changing experience. Have a great Whole30!