Why I ended my January Whole30 and how it helped me with grief. Here are the lessons I learned from Whole30 and why I probably won’t ever do another round anytime soon and/or ever.
I’ve done 7 complete rounds of Whole30 over the past 4 years. SEVEN. Were those seven rounds necessary? Yes and no. Each round I did had a reason. Some for the right reasons (trying to figure out why I’m an emotional eater), and some for the wrong reasons (trying to lose weight for an event). After every round, I always learned something new about myself and took those lessons I learned and applied them to life after Whole30. I gave myself time to navigate life after Whole30 and knew that I could always turn back to the program whenever I needed to. It wasn’t until my last completed full round in September 2017 that it all clicked for me.
After I finished that round, I knew that I wouldn’t need to do another round of Whole30 anytime soon because as the weeks went by and then the months went by, I had found my food freedom. I found what worked and didn’t work for me. I found that ‘balance’ everyone talks about. I won’t go into full detail on my food freedom because what works for me won’t work for you and vice versa. My advice is to always follow the Whole30 guidelines for reintroduction. IT IS SO IMPORTANT! See how your body reacts to foods brought back into your diet, and evaluate what will or will not work for you. There’s no right or wrong way when it comes to finding your food freedom as long as you’re finding something that works for YOU.
After a few months of really finding my groove in life after Whole30, January was upon us and talk of the official January Whole30 was in full swing. I was adamant on not doing a round because I didn’t need to but my skin had other plans. I had a random and huge breakout in December and didn’t know what was going on. After a couple weeks of trying different remedies, I surrendered to doing the January Whole30 strictly for my skin to possibly find the root of the cause. The round was going fine until the third week when I heard some of the most devastating news. One of my best friend’s brother passed away, and I was thrown completely off guard.
There I was 3000 miles away from friends and family mourning the loss of someone I’ve known for almost 20 years with so many questions and no answers. Typically, I would have turned to food for comfort and would’ve just called it quits for my January Whole30. Surprisingly, that wasn’t the case and being on a round helped me keep some type of normalcy throughout my week before I went back home. My meals were prepped so I didn’t have to think about food, and I knew from past experiences that turning to food was not going to fix how I felt. It would have just been a temporary fix, and it would have reverted me back to suppressing my feelings instead of facing them and allowing myself to grieve.
This was a foreign concept for me because I was and still am an emotional eater. Food brought comfort when I was sad, stressed or anxious, but I learned from all of my Whole30 rounds that I needed to take away my emotional ties from food and look at it as a way to just stay fueled. Instead, I turned to yoga, I talked to my therapist and made sure to check in with my friends and family. I wrote and reflected a lot. I stayed busy but not busy where I could avoid my feelings (again, something I would have done in the past). There’s no right or wrong way to grieve, but I knew turning to food would not have worked for me because it never worked in the past.
The memorial service was held on Friday evening, and it was tough to say the least. After the service, friends and family gathered at a local restaurant to continue to celebrate and honor Shane’s life. Food was served and the last thing I was going to do was ask what was or wasn’t Whole30 compliant. Instead, I once again, took the lessons I learned from Whole30 and applied it to the situation I was in. I loaded my plate with lots of veggies and the proteins available. I stayed away from sauces that I knew had dairy in it, ate the fruit, but definitely didn’t say no to the shot of whiskey everyone had in honor of Shane. It was then I realized this was my ultimate food freedom test, and I managed to pass. The night continued on, and we laughed, we cried and we reminisced all of the memories we had with him. I didn’t think twice about ending my Whole30 and have absolutely no guilt about it.
The weekend has passed and I’m going back to my life in LA. There won’t be a mini reset or restart of the Whole30 because I don’t need to do one. After Friday night, I went back to eating the way I normally do –which happens to be Whole30 compliant 85% of the time anyway. This is my food freedom, and it works for me. Far too often I see people use Whole30 as a crutch because they feel guilty for indulging one weekend and want to “get back on track.” That’s not why the program was designed. If so, wouldn’t it just be another fad diet? Obviously, I understand doing multiple rounds because I definitely did. However, I always say do a Whole30 if you truly need to do a Whole30. It shouldn’t be used as a quick fix to feel good for 30 days and then for you to only go back to your old habits. If you’re not taking the lessons you learn from Whole30 and applying it to your life afterwards, you’ll never find your food freedom and will continue to be in this cycle of being on a round and not being on a round. Again, NOT why the program was designed. Plus, I’m pretty sure Melissa Hartwig wants you to find your food freedom or she wouldn’t have written Food Freedom Forever (btw I highly recommend reading this book before your Whole30 round ends)!
I love the Whole30. You know that. I know that. Everyone knows that. The program changed my life, and I will forever be grateful for Melissa and her team. I will continue to be a part of the community, be supportive and be a source of information for anyone who wants to do the program. What I won’t be doing is another round anytime soon if not ever. Okay, maybe not ever because I do believe in mini resets, but a full round is not in the cards for me because I found my food freedom. Melissa says it all the time, it’s not Whole365 or WholeForever. Use the program to reset yourself, and then apply what you learned to life afterwards.
It’s not going to be easy, there will be mistakes and it doesn’t happen overnight. Hell, it took me nearly four years to figure this all out for myself and I’m still learning. I get the struggle. Trust me. We’re battling YEARS of habits we’ve created for ourselves and sometimes 30 days isn’t going to fix all of that. What we need to do is be more conscientious when we find ourselves going back to old habits. Whenever I find myself turning to chips and chocolate more so than usual, I will stop myself and evaluate the situation. Why am I turning to these comfort foods? Am I bored? Stressed? Actually hungry? Asking these questions allow me to pause for a moment before I find myself spiraling again. There have literally been times when I have my hand in a bag of chips only to drop the chips back into the bag and put it away because I knew what was happening. There have been times where I ate a whole bag of chips without realizing, and afterwards knew not to buy anymore because they are my food with no brakes. Allowing myself grace and forgiveness is also part of the food freedom process. You live and you learn.
Most of you are nearing the end your of Whole30, and might be nervous or scared about reintroduction. Please don’t be. Here’s the thing, you don’t have to reintroduce anything on day 31 if you don’t want to. You can continue on eating Whole30 compliant until you find something worth reintroducing. You can also do the fast track route so you know sooner what will and will not work for you. Whatever you do, just do the reintroduction. I personally think it’s the most important part of the program that will help lead you into finding your food freedom, and hopefully steer you away from using Whole30 as a crutch in the future.