The highs! Some lows? We’ll prepare you for all of it.
Whether you heard about the Whole30 from a friend, a social media post, or a podcast, you’re likely curious about what you can expect on the program. Since 2009, we’ve watched millions of people complete the Whole30, and we have a pretty good idea of how your Whole30 could go. (In fact, many community members say our timeline is “eerily accurate.”)
While there is no universal Whole30 experience, our weekly timeline will help you preview the journey, plan ahead for challenges, and make the most of your Whole30 learnings along the way. For each phase of the program, we’ll highlight:
- Positives: The benefits, non-scale victories, and positive results often seen in each stage
- Cautions: Common challenges you may encounter along the way
- Strategies: Tips, mindset techniques, and action items to help you succeed at every stage
For even more Whole30 insights, resources, success strategies, and daily journal prompts, pick up a copy of The Whole30 Day by Day.
The Whole30 is an elimination diet, designed to help you identify food sensitivities, create new habits, and reestablish a healthy relationship with food and your body.
While it’s called the Whole30, completing the full program requires 40-45 days. The first 30 days are spent in the elimination phase, where you completely eliminate specific food and beverage groups and track the impact on your energy, sleep, digestion, cravings, mood, pain, fatigue, and other symptoms. The remaining 10-15 days (sometimes longer) are spent in reintroduction. In this phase, you’ll reintroduce the previously eliminated food groups one at a time, carefully and systematically, and compare your experience.
Read more about the science of elimination diets.
Your week-by-week Whole30 Timeline
Whole30 alumni say our timeline helped them better prepare for the program, feel more confident along the way, and successfully navigate challenges. Here is a preview of a typical Whole30 journey.
Days -30 to 0: Planning and preparing
Positives: Most people start preparing for their Whole30 at least a week before their program begins. Those new to the program (especially those coming from a Standard American Diet and/or with less cooking experience) may want to begin earlier, to feel more comfortable and confident heading into Day 1.
In this phase, you’ll choose your start date, clean out your pantry, plan some meals, grocery shop, and start cooking in preparation for Day 1. This phase also includes recruiting your support team, creating strategies for challenging situations (like business travel or birthday parties), planning some “on-the-go” emergency food, and reinforcing your Whole30 mindset. This will build your confidence and leave you feeling well-prepared for Day 1.
Cautions: Your Day 1 experience is greatly influenced by your dietary choices in the days leading up to your Whole30. Cramming in all the sugar, alcohol, and pizza you can right before your program starts is a recipe for headaches, crankiness, and lethargy, and can put you into a “crash diet” mindset, which won’t serve your Whole30 experience.
Strategies: Many people “soft launch” their Whole30 by making small changes ahead of their start date. This is a fantastic idea. You can ease your way into the program by conscientiously eating less sugar and processed foods, cutting back on alcohol consumption, adding more protein to meals, and putting more vegetables and fruit on your plate.
Follow our planning and preparation guide to kick off your Whole30 with confidence.
Days 1 – 7: Adaptation
Positives: Welcome to the Whole30! You’ve already begun a journey that has changed the lives of millions of people just like you. (If you’re a little skeptical, that’s okay. We receive lots of stories that start, “I didn’t believe the Whole30 would actually change my life—but it did!”) While you’ll likely experience lots of wins even in your first week, it will also be a period of physical and mental adaptation.
On Day 1, most people feel excited, motivated, and confident. That energy can help carry you through! Many people also notice quick improvements in symptoms (including digestion, joint pain and swelling, migraines, and anxiety), better sleep, and fewer cravings even in the first week.
Cautions: However, this week is often the most challenging. Headaches, fatigue, crankiness, and cravings are common during this phase of the program, and you may feel like you’re thinking about food a lot.
Physically, the abrupt decrease in added sugar and processed carbs can leave you feeling lethargic, headachy, and brain-foggy until your metabolism adjusts. Cravings for the foods or drinks you’ve eliminated can also make you cranky, fidgety, and easily irritated. (The Whole30 will help you develop other ways to navigate stress, discomfort, and negative emotions as your program progresses, but that might not feel reassuring right now.)
Your digestion may also experience a period of adaptation to less sugar, more fiber, more healthy protein and fats, and new vegetables. You may experience bloating, constipation, or loose stools as your gut adjusts and learns to process these new foods more effectively. Other health conditions like acne or joint pain and swelling may also remain stubbornly persistent this week. This is common, and should be temporary.
Food dreams at this phase are common! Read more in our Timeline FAQ.
Strategies: Your best options are to take a nap or go to bed early; swap your workout for a walk, half-intensity day, or easy yoga class; drink lots of water; eat Whole30 foods whenever you’re hungry (don’t limit calories or meals); and keep reminding yourself of your Whole30 “why.” Keep planning and preparing too! Reheating leftovers or a Whole30 Approved meal can make coming home after a long day feel easier.
Wondering if your Whole30 symptoms are normal? Read this guide.
Days 8-14: Adoption
Positives: You may still be adjusting to this new way of eating, but some things are already feeling better or easier, and you’re surely feeling more confident. By the end of the week, you may notice you’re falling asleep faster, staying asleep longer, and waking with more energy. (You no longer need that 2 PM hit of caffeine and sugar!) You’re experiencing fewer cravings, you’re discovering new ways of navigating stress, you’re developing new habits, and eating to satiety just feels good. As your taste buds adjust, you’re discovering a newfound appreciation for the sweetness of a strawberry or sweet potato. You may also have noticed a reduction or improvement in symptoms, like acne or eczema, allergies, asthma, migraines, joint pain and swelling, chronic pain, or anxiety.
Cautions: These fall into two categories: physical and mental. On the physical side, digestion can be a mixed bag this week. Many have less gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and digestive distress at this point in the program, while others may still have occasional bloating or irregularity. In addition, it may take longer to notice changes in chronic conditions (like joint pain and swelling, acne or eczema, or fatigue), which can be discouraging.
Mentally and emotionally, we call Days 10 and 11 “the hardest days.” This is when you are statistically the most likely to quit your Whole30. By this point, the newness of the program has worn off, and though you’ve made it through most of the unpleasant physical milestones, you’ve yet to experience significant benefits. This in-between place can leave you feeling impatient, anxious about whether it will be worth it, or tempted to self-sabotage.
Strategies: Our healthcare advisors have offered tips to help to ease your digestive issues during the Whole30. If you’re doing the Original Whole30 and still feeling bloated or irregular, try eating more cooked vegetables than raw (soups or stews, not salads), limit your meals to low-FODMAP veggies and fruits, and eat fruit in smaller serving sizes. If you’re doing the Plant-Based Whole30, especially if you’re new to eating this many legumes or soy-based protein sources, see this troubleshooting guide. Keeping a food journal can also be helpful in identifying the cause of bloating and other digestive issues.
When it comes to “the hardest days,” just knowing they’re coming can be helpful. Remind yourself that if you can see Days 10-11 through, things get much easier. Those who stick with it have three things in common: They have a strong “why” and focus on their long-term goals; they actively look for other ways to self-soothe, relieve anxiety, and navigate stress; and they lean on their support system for encouragement, advice, and accountability.
Use Whole30 Day by Day to help you stay motivated, track your non-scale victories, and hold yourself accountable.
Days 15-21: Smooth sailing
Positives: By the third week, most people are checking off Non-Scale Victories (NSVs) in many areas of their lives:
- Energy and sleep
- Mood/anxiety/mental health
- Athletic performance/recovery
- Other symptoms
Most people also report feeling hugely self-confident, capable, and proud of themselves at this point in their journey. Teaching yourself new cooking skills, maintaining your commitment, and learning how to set and hold boundaries around food and drink are all huge confidence-boosters, and carry over into your career, relationships, and other healthy habits.
Print our Non-Scale Victory checklist and see how many NSVs you can check off!
Cautions: There are a huge number of factors that influence which benefits you see and when, and this may not happen like magic in your third week; it’s not always like flipping a switch! You may experience small, gradual improvements in energy, sleep quality, cravings, digestion, pain, inflammation, and self-confidence as the days progress. You might notice that your mid-afternoon work feels more focused, you’re falling asleep easier, or you haven’t thought about your knee or back pain all day. That’s huge progress!
This is also the point where food boredom can start to set in. (If you even see another egg…) Don’t let food fatigue overtake you! It’s easy to get into a Whole30 rut, which can affect your mood and motivation, but just as easy to break out of it.
Strategies: First, the easy stuff: Cook some new recipes, try a new dressing or sauce, shop for different vegetables, or give yourself a night off and heat up a Whole30 Approved meal to combat food boredom. And remember you can just as easily eat a burger, chicken salad, or chili for breakfast as you can for dinner; no eggs required!
When it comes to your Whole30 mindset and evaluating your “progress,” there’s a reason it’s not the Whole20. We encourage you to trust the process for the next 9+ days. Stay on the lookout for small, gradual improvements to keep you motivated, and celebrate the wins you are seeing. Don’t compare your results to anyone else’s, either, because that’s unfair to you. Also, lean on your support system here! Talking about how you feel and asking others to share their positive observations thus far can help keep you motivated.
Browse our database of delicious Whole30 recipes to combat food boredom.
Days 22-30: Home stretch
Positives: This is often the point where people lose track of what day they’re on, because meal prep, cooking, and enjoying delicious Whole30 meals feels like second nature. The NSVs continue to roll in, you’ve learned new ways to navigate stress (and they’re working!), and you might even think to yourself, “This really has changed my life.” Though you’re excited to reintroduce the foods you’ve been missing, you already know you’ll take a lot of what you’ve learned so far into life after your Whole30.
Cautions: You might feel so good, you ask yourself, “28 days is as good as 30, right?” It can be tempting to end your program a few days early, but remember—you committed to the Whole30, and you owe it to yourself to keep that promise to yourself. Plus, many report the last few days bring even more noticeable non-scale victories.
It can also be tempting to skip reintroduction and dive right back into pizza, beer, and ice cream on Day 31. Please don’t do this! The Whole30 can teach you so much about how foods work for you, but without a proper reintroduction, you lose half of the learning experience. Yes, you feel better now, but you won’t know which foods were contributing to your fatigue, pain, digestive issues, or symptoms until you reintroduce. Remember, your Whole30 isn’t done until you’ve finished reintroduction—and reintroduction brings you one step closer to your own personalized, sustainable, joyful food freedom plan.
Strategies: Finish this week strong by making all of your favorite Whole30 meals, planning your reintroduction schedule, and shopping for the first few foods or beverages you’ll be reintroducing. For extra credit, start reading or listening to Food Freedom Forever to prepare you for the next phase of your Whole30 journey.
Days 31 – 46: Celebration and reintroduction!
Positives: It’s time to celebrate your Whole30 accomplishment! You made a promise to yourself, and you kept that promise. You’ve developed new healthy habits; discovered new tools for self-soothing, navigating stress, and relieving anxiety; greatly expanded your kitchen and cooking skills; and radically improved your self-confidence and self-efficacy. On top of all of that, you may feel better than you have in a very long time… maybe even ever!
You’ll spend the next 10-15 days (or longer) in reintroduction, bringing back just one food group at a time, then returning to the Whole30 elimination phase for 2-3 days in between. Pay attention to how the reintroduction of these foods impacts your energy, sleep, digestion, mood, cravings, aches, pains, and health conditions. Comparing your experience—how you felt without these foods in your diet, versus how you feel when you reintroduce them—will give you valuable insight as to how these foods work in your unique body.
Caution: Don’t rush this phase! The more time you spend here, the more opportunity you have to learn exactly how these foods and food groups impact you. This experience will form the foundation of your food freedom plan, helping you make the right decisions for you about the foods that are “worth it” in life after the Whole30.
Strategies: You’ll be most successful here if you plan and follow your reintroduction schedule as carefully as you’ve planned elimination; day by day, and meal by meal. Journal your experience and record how the reintroduction of each food and food group impacts your energy, sleep, cravings, digestion, mood, and other symptoms.
Many alumni stay closely connected to the Whole30 community even after their program is over. Continuing to share your Whole30 learnings can help motivate and inspire others, keep you firmly entrenched in your healthy habits, and help you continue to refine your Food Freedom plan.
Read or listen to Food Freedom Forever and get excited about life after the Whole30!
Your Mileage May Vary
Your Whole30 experience will be as unique as you are. You may find you breeze past some of these phases while being stuck in others for longer than anticipated, experience benefits earlier or later than expected, or skip past the “hardest days” entirely, feeling confident and motivated! This timeline is a general guide, but if your experience doesn’t perfectly match ours, it doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong.
In addition, as much as we’d love to be able to change everybody’s life in an equally stunning fashion, the Whole30 isn’t the right fit for everyone. If you discover your Whole30 experience varies widely from this timeline, if the improvements you hoped to see just aren’t appearing, or if you’re experiencing challenges that aren’t otherwise outlined here, please consult your healthcare provider for more specialized guidance.
We hope this week-by-week guide helps you feel more prepared to start the Whole30, and offers you comfort and reassurance along the way. We’ll be cheering you on!
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