As you approach the holiday season, you’ll find yourself preparing for all kinds of festivities – 97.2%  of which include buffet tables laden with unhealthy food. (1)  You’ll be tempted all season long with breads and cheeses, chips and dips, pies, cookies and cakes – and we haven’t even mentioned the wine, beer, and eggnog.

There’s a reason the January Whole30 is so popular – the holidays bring out the worst in us (nutritionally, that is).  The pressures of the season, the endless availability of sweet treats, and the social pressures at holiday gatherings create a recipe for overindulgence, a few extra pounds, and a sleigh-full of feeling out of control, guilt, and stress.

One counter-strategy is to commit to a Whole30 and white-knuckle your way past every single holiday temptations. But straight from the top, we think embarking upon a Whole30 during the holiday season may be exactly the wrong thing to do. Surprising, coming from tough-love champion Melissa Hartwig? Let’s discuss the four reasons why we generally recommend against a full-on holiday Whole30.

Lack of Awareness

First, the Whole30 is primarily about awareness.  The only way to learn how certain foods are actually affecting your health is by paying close attention during the 30 day elimination and the subsequent reintroduction period. And even if you’ve done multiple Whole30’s in the past, you’ll still learn something from this one, and you still want to reap as many benefits as you can from your efforts.

But let’s be honest: during the holidays, nobody has time to pay attention to anything. So why go through all the effort of giving up foods you like if you’re not going to learn as much as you could from the experience? From an awareness perspective, you simply can’t give the reset the energy and attention it deserves during the holiday season.

Too Much Stress

Reason number two: according to a 2009 survey, 90% of adults said they experience anxiety about the holiday season. (2) People stress about everything from family conflicts to gift purchasing to finances, and that stress can have a seriously deleterious effect on your mental and physical health. So why would you add to that stress with a Whole30 during the time of the year when it’s most difficult to avoid temptation? For someone new to the program (or coming back after a long absence), this sounds like a recipe for failure, unhappiness, or both.

The point of the Whole30 is to improve to your health, not undermine it. Under normal circumstances, changing your diet can be difficult, especially in the beginning. But during the craziness of the holiday season, when you’ll be faced with temptation on a near-daily basis, the added pressures of a Whole30 may prove more stressful than helpful.

Special Traditions

Finally, the holiday season is about more than just parties, gifts, and desserts.  It’s also about family traditions, celebrating your culture and heritage.  Often, it’s when Mom, Gram or Uncle Charlie breaks out that once-a-year cake, pie, or gnocchi for which they are famous. And it could be a shame to miss out on Aunt Rose’s apple pie – something you’d consider 100% worth it in your food freedom – because you don’t trust yourself around the rest of the holiday treats.

Some foods hold a significance that far exceeds the sum of its vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. That kind of food should be honored, savored, and shared in the company of those you love. And in this special instance, it doesn’t matter that your Mom uses an entire cup of Crisco in the cake batter, because that cake is full of memories, history, and tradition – and if you really wanted a slice, we’d hate for you to miss out on that.

Your Food Freedom

One last piece of tough love: Fear of making your own decisions with treats, sweets, and adult beverages is not a good enough reason to Whole30 through the hoidays. Your food freedom demands that you learn how to evaluate “worth it” when faced with temptations, stand firm when faced with peer pressure, and learn to enjoy the social occasion regardless of what’s on your plate or in your glass. The holidays are the perfect time to practice!

Nervous about making the wrong call, eating stuff that isn’t worth it, and feeling out of control? Don’t be…. because this time, you have a PLAN.

Prepare Your Holiday Game Plan

The holidays are not the time to cop out on making your own decisions by blindly follow our rules… but you also don’t get a free pass to go completely off the rails, saying you’ll “worry about it in January.”

It’s time to read and adopt the holiday plan in Food Freedom Forever, on page 138.

  • Get your nutrition in line before the madness begins with a Whole30, an abbreviated Whole30, or the reset of your choice
  • Use our conversation scripts to talk to friends, family, and co-workers before the holiday events
  • Create if/then plans to help you handle office parties, pot-lucks, and family celebrations
  • Follow the In the Moment Success Strategies outined in Part 2 to help you make the right “worth it” decisions for you
  • Know that you can always return to your reset between parties and events if you need a health, habit, or self-confidence boost

If you DO Whole30…

If, for whatever reason, you do choose to Whole30 through the holidays, we want to make sure you are prepared to deal with the challenges this entails. Make sure you have the support of friends, family, and a community who understands. Our Whole30 forum and social media feeds (@whole30 on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat) is a great place to connect with others for support, advice, and motivation, and accountability, and our Whole30 Daily newsletter may just make the difference between staying on track and falling face-first into a fruitcake.

So this holiday season, the Whole30 team encourages you to eat, drink and be merry – and to use the new 3-step Food Freedom plan to help you practice your food freedom during the festivities.


  1. We just made that up – but if you’ve ever been to a holiday party, you’ll know we’re right.
  2. We did not make this up. http://www.harrisinteractive.com/vault/Client_News_Caron_2009_12.pdf