We could devote an entire website’s worth of content to maintaining your new, healthy habits after your Whole30 is over. In fact, we’ve devoted an entire chapter in It Starts With Food to just that–so if you’ve read Chapter 20 already, you’re in good shape. Well, at least you’ll know how we think you should approach life after your Whole30. Enacting that strategy may prove more difficult.
The truth is, it’s much harder to make good choices out there in the real world (we call this “riding your own bike”) than it is from within the confines of the Whole30. So we’re going to outline our basic strategy to keep you moving continually towards More Healthy while finding a balanced, sustainable diet that works for you.
Your Life After Strategy
All in all, we want you to understand three very important things about Life After. First, the Whole30 was just a starting point. You cannot erase decades of unhealthy food choices and damaging behaviors in just a month. Our program gives you an amazing jump-start, but you’re not “done” yet. Second, you will slip back into old habits. At some point, no matter how good you feel now, no matter how much you swear you’ve left those less bad foods behind… they’ll creep back in, maybe a little, maybe a lot. And finally, this is okay. Expected, even. (See point #1.) And it does not mean that you have failed. Hear us clearly on that one.
So how do you allow yourself to indulge in less healthy (but totally worth it) foods without turning back into a Cookie Monster? Here’s our basic strategy; but first, a word from our sponsor: Do not plan cheat days. That is just setting yourself up for failure. Do not decide ahead of time that on Saturday, you’re going to want pancakes, brownies, ice cream, and movie theater popcorn. Because when Saturday rolls around, even if you don’t want pancakes, brownies, ice cream, or popcorn… you will eat them anyway, because you told yourself you could. This is the opposite of the strategy we want you to follow.
So what should you do instead?
- Continue eating Whole30-ish every meal, every day, as long as that feels good to you. (We say “Whole30-ish” because added sugar may creep back in, like ketchup with your burger. That seems reasonable to us. If ketchup is the worst thing in your diet, you’re doing okay.)
- When something comes around that is too good to pass up—too special, too sentimental, to important culturally, or simply too darn delicious—make a conscious, deliberate choice as to whether or not you are going to indulge. (Use our Guide to Off-Roading if you need a little help developing your own “worth it” thought process.)
- If you choose to indulge, take your time. Savor it. Eat consciously. And eat only as little as you need to satisfy the situation, your experience, or your taste buds. Maybe that’s a bite, maybe it’s the whole cookie, maybe it’s 6 cookies—just make sure you don’t fall into automatic consumption.
- When you’re done, move the heck on. No guilt, no shame, no remorse. You made a conscious decision to eat something you deemed worth it. Good for you. Now let’s move on back to our normally scheduled healthy meals.
You may find that you indulge once every few weeks, because nothing really amazing comes up in between. Or you may find that you indulge every day for 12 days, like on a vacation in Europe. Both are okay, as long as you are following this protocol. Conscious, deliberate decisions. Honest evaluations of “worth it.” And then a return to your normal healthy habits, no beating yourself up.
Whole30 to the Rescue
This all sounds fine and good, but what if you find yourself sliding down that slippery slope of a vacation, holiday, or stressful time? Before you know it, you’re eating more “dirty” than “clean,” and you’re no longer in full control of your food choices. If this happens, you know exactly what to do: another Whole30. And it doesn’t even have to be a full Whole30—maybe you do a Whole14 or a Whole7, just long enough to get back to feeling awesome and reminding yourself why you usually pass on those less healthy foods-with-no-brakes.
Give yourself another reset, start over with your Life After strategy, and watch those periods of less healthy get shorter and shorter as the years go on. Congratulations! You are officially riding your own bike—and looking pretty darn good, we think.
- Re-read Chapter 20 in It Starts With Food for our full “life after” strategy
- Download our Guide to Nutritional Off-Roading for handy consultations
- Read our articles about life after your Whole30, including strategies for holidays, weddings, and vacations