For 30 days this month we're exploring Whole30, the 30-day reset and refocus on whole foods. Whole30 isn't a diet or a judgment of foods as "good and bad." It's actually a short-term reset that has helped many of our readers cook more and figure out the foods that make them feel their best. Read more about our coverage here.
You did it! You just finished day 30 of the Whole30 program. Congratulations! You went a month without gluten, legumes, sugar, dairy, grains, and carrageenan and it's time to celebrate. Break out the cake and Champagne and go to town, right? You can order pizza now, right?
Not so fast. What a lot of people might not know is that Whole30 doesn't really end right after day 30. Yes, I'm sorry to break the news.
Why Whole30 Is Actually 40 Days
One of the main goals of Whole30 is to figure out what foods make you feel crummy. After you eliminate these foods from your diet for 30 days, you're supposed to slowly reintroduce them — one by one — to see what affects you (and what doesn't!).
If you drink some beer, eat some pizza, and down a whole cake, and you happen to feel bad the next day, you won't be able to figure out which of the ingredients — dairy, sugar, gluten, alcohol – is actually the culprit. That's why Whole30 is more like Whole40, because it should take about an extra 10 days (or more) to reintroduce the foods you cut out for the program.
It's frustrating that these extra days don't get more attention, because they are arguably the most important part of the program. But we're here to help you!
But First: What Not to Do Immediately After Whole30
I'll be honest, when I did Whole30 for the first time, I mostly did it just to see if I could. I'm lucky enough to not suffer noticeably from the aches and pains, skin issues, or digestive ailments that many people who choose to do Whole30 suffer from. I definitely did feel my energy levels, skin, and body composition improve, but when I ended Whole30 for the first time, I didn't have a plan.
My first meal after Whole30 was a huge array of dim sum, which included all the things: soy, grains, and gluten. I felt fine afterwards, but in the two months since I ended my first round of Whole30, I have noticed some unpleasant changes. My skin, for example, has been breaking out with small bumps (which had completely disappeared on Whole30) and I started to feel more sluggish and weighed down.
Did I know what was to blame? No, I did not. That's because I didn't have a plan. And you need a plan.
How to Approach the 10 Days After Whole30
Whole30 encourages you to follow a four-step plan to conclude the program and reintroduce foods to your diet. The suggested plan follows a 10-day framework, which starts with adding legumes and non-gluten beverages (like wine!), followed by non-gluten grains, dairy, and lastly gluten-containing grains.
Each food group gets its own day. For example, the day Whole30 suggests for reintroducing legumes includes peanut butter on an apple for breakfast, miso soup at lunch, and a side of black beans with dinner. The rest of your diet stays Whole30-compliant, and you go back to Whole30 for the next two days and monitor how you feel. This continues for each food group over the span of 10 days.
What I'll Do Differently Next Time
In addition to following a slower reintroduction next time I do Whole30, I also want to really write down how I feel during the 40 days. I want to take down some data points, like how my hair looked, how my digestion was, and what my energy levels were, maybe even scoring them on a scale of one to 10.
This process of record-keeping will allow me to compare certain metrics at every stage of the Whole30 experiment. It might seem tedious, but it's both helpful information to know about one's health and a great, more objective way to measure progress.
If you're doing Whole30, make sure to plan ahead and make the most of your 30 (really 40) days. If you've already finished a round and were like me, it's never too late to try again!
30 Days of Whole30: We're kicking 2017 off with 30 days of Whole30. Why Whole30? It's not a permanent diet; it's not a prescription for eating. It's just 30 days of eating whole foods and exploring a more purposeful, mindful approach to food. Read more here on what Whole30 is and how to follow along.