Congrats! You’ve finished your Whole30! You’ve checked off a whole bunch of Non-Scale Victories, you feel amazing, and hey, maybe you’ve even lost a few pounds along the way. Your skin is glowing, your thinking is clear, and you’re sleeping like a baby.
Day 30 comes with a ton of emotions: You’re happy, joyful, proud, and feeling so accomplished, as you should! But is also brings fear and a sense of uneasiness – what’s going to happen now? Will I fall face first into a meal of nachos and ice cream? How do I keep up this good feeling forever? Will I fail?
As we’ve mentioned many times (and as you have read in your Whole30 book and on the Whole30 website), Day 31 is not meant to be a free-for-all in terms of eating. Doing that really defeats the purpose of the 30-day reset you’ve just completed. You will have NO idea which foods affect you and how. You will have NO data to create your Food Freedom, and chances are you are both going to feel terrible and slip back into old bad habits quickly.
Let’s NOT do, that, OK?
On Day 31, you will instead begin Whole30 reintroduction, which according to the Whole30 website is “your one opportunity to slowly, carefully, systematically reintroduce some of the off-plan foods you’ve been missing into the ‘clean’ environment you’ve created with the Whole30. Now is your chance to really evaluate how these foods make you feel in the context of a better relationship with food, improved metabolism, healthier digestive tract, and more balanced immune system.”
There are two ways to go about reintroduction – the fast track method or the slow roll method. Regardless of the one you choose, it’s important to remember that you are still going to be eating mostly Whole30 foods – you will just be adding back items you have removed during your round. This is not a free for all or an excuse to chow down on junk! A little tough love here, but I need to say it again!
During the fast track reintroduction, you “reintroduce ‘less healthy’ foods back into your diet one group at a time, while keeping the rest of your diet as Whole30-clean as possible. Think about it like a scientific trial, where your Whole30 is the control and the one food group you are trying to evaluate is the experimental group.” There’s a sample schedule fast track reintroduction schedule found here on the Whole30 website!
With this method, your 10-14 day reintroduction (depending on if you add in alcohol/separate out sugar), may be tough. As it says in the Whole30 book, “reintroducing so many off-plan foods in such a short period of time (especially when your system has been so happy without them) means your energy, sleep, mood, cravings, skin, digestion, and medical symptoms may all blow up at once.”
With fast track, you reintroduce each food group separately (Whole30 recommends you start with gluten-free alcohol or legumes first, then non-gluten grains, dairy, and gluten-containing grains, leaving AT LEAST two days of Whole 30 eating in between reintroducing each food group.
With each food group, you take careful notes about how you feel. How is your digestion? Skin? Sleep? Thinking? Energy? Using data you collect from your reintroduction, you will begin to create your own Food Freedom – where “only you can decide what’s worth it for you.” More on Food Freedom below…
With the slow roll method, you don’t follow a set schedule or timeline of reintroduction. As it says in the Whole30 book, with slow roll, “you continue eating mostly Whole30 until something so special comes along that you decide you’re ready to indulge, and evaluate the effects.”
This does NOT mean going nuts with cake and ice cream or testing out wine by the bottle. You are only reintroducing foods you find irresistible, and you are only testing out “a small amount of off-plan food at once.” You may feel OK and that’s good news – but not permission to pig out. You need to take it slow and evaluate one thing at a time, on your own schedule.
Whole30 also offers another way to think about slow roll reintroduction: by allowing small amounts of sugar back into your diet in the forms of ketchup on a burger, salad dressing at a restaurant, or bacon cured in sugar. You are still eating by the standard Whole30 meal template but you are just relaxing it a bit on the added sugar rule. This gives you some additional flexibility to eat in restaurants, or at a friend’s house. But a word of caution here: If adding back certain sugars gets your Sugar Dragon roaring again, then perhaps it’s best to leave them out of your diet for the time being (or forever!)
I love this part of the book when it describes slow roll reintroduction as a marathon, or a lifelong process. This could not be more true!!! “Now that you have a baseline for looking and feeling your best (the Whole30), every time you eat a potentially less-healthy food, you should both savor it immensely and pay close attention to how it impacts you.”
The Whole30 book has an awesome Reintroduction FAQ section beginning on page 132. I highly recommend reading it – and reading it again.
At the end of the day, the reintroduction process is intended to help you create your own personal Food Freedom – a way of living in which you are in control over food (and not the other way around), deciding what is worth it, in what amount, and when. If you discover during reintroduction, for example, that dairy gives you terrible headaches – you can move forward in your life armed with that knowledge. If you decide one day to enjoy special ice cream, well, then you know what it likely to come.
In Food Freedom, you can be at peace with food, knowing that it’s not GOOD or BAD but some foods is more healthy/less disruptive to your body than others. There’s no dieting, no counting, or stressing – just living. And the best thing is that when things get shaky – and your decisions around food start to get a little wobbly – there is always Whole30 (or a shorter reset) to return to. This is a process, a journey, and it will likely take several rounds of Whole30 to get there. So, don’t give up!
If you don’t have a copy of Food Freedom Forever, I suggest you pick one up – either at your local library or on Amazon! It’s a great read and you will find yourself coming back to it time and again.
The Whole30 blog also has a round-up of some Food Freedom resources to help you along your way.
Since October 2015, I have done eight rounds of Whole30 – most have been 30 days but two have been longer (60 and 75 days) which I think were the keys to my success. This journey has been incredible – I am a former Weight Watchers leader and binge eater so feeling secure in my Food Freedom and feeding myself foods that help me feel my best has been life changing.
But I am human and once in a while, my Sugar Dragon starts to roar or I find myself enjoying wine a few too many nights in a row. So, what do I do? I DO NOT go back to the “might as well” mentality that I had back in my dieting days, aka “I might as well eat the whole cake because I had a slice.” Nope – I go right back to Whole30 (or a shorter reset, where I might eat Whole30 for 7 or 9 or 12 days, depending on what I need) and get myself refocused on healthy eating and feeling my best. As time has gone on, I live my Food Freedom for longer and longer stretches, and it becomes easier and easier.
This can be you, too. I promise. If you do the work, the reward will be worth it.
Are you doing Fast Track or Slow Roll reintroduction? Let us know what your plan is after the September Whole30!