Day 30-- the day everyone who has ever done the Whole 30 waits for. The end is here! But the funny thing about the Whole30, is that you think day 30 will come and it will all be over, but you start to realize pretty soon that there really isn't going to be an "end." The habits you've adopted (or re-connected with) have become sort of engrained-- maybe it took a week for you to realize, and maybe it took the whole 4 weeks-- maybe you didn't even realize it until a post-Whole30 binge on crappy food made you feel so terrible that you now see what this entire month was supposed to teach you. Whatever your personal situation, it's pretty rare to finish the Whole30 and find yourself in the same position as before, feeling as if all your time and efforts were a waste.
So for me, day 30 wasn't anything special or monumental. Of course I was excited to start to reintroduce some healthy foods that I missed, and have a treat here and there (balance is certainly key), but I knew weeks ago that getting back into this rhythm was just what I needed, and I wasn't planning on messing it up.
Day 30 meals (below):
Breakfast: Scramble made with leftover sweet potatoes, cauliflower, steamed zucchini, & 2 eggs topped with jalapeno mango sauce, decaf coffee (not pictured) with 1t each of butter and coconut oil
Lunch: Leftover smoked chicken, sweet potato, and steamed green beans
Dinner: Leftover smoked chicken (yes, again... I don't get bored of it!), boiled yucca, coconut kale, and salad with green olives, lime/avocado oil dressing, and dried herbs
So what now? Well, everyone is going to have a different post-Whole30 plan. The smartest plan, in my opinion (and I'm not alone), is a controlled reintroduction phase. Why isn't continuing to eat this way forever the smartest plan? For some people, it is the best plan, but speaking generally, I would say as your next phase, reintroduction trumps extending the Whole30 for 45, 60, or even 90 days. If you work to reintroduce foods and realize your body functions best without them, you can always choose to go back to the Whole30... or you also may be able to reintroduce foods, find some that your body is fine with, and then continue on with an adapted, personalized Whole30. For most people, I think trying to eat according to Whole30 guidelines forever is unnecessarily restrictive. Having food "rules" to follow just takes away from the innate intelligence of the body to decipher what foods it prefers and which it does not. And mentally, it's not the best course of action. Food always will have social and emotional components, and we can't ignore that. We just need to find our own balance, choose our own battles, and create an eating style that works best for our own unique physiology. So do I think that it's fine to have sugary, processed, gluten-containing foods on a daily basis? No. Way. But hopefully, the Whole30 taught you that!
So why should you go through a reintroduction phase when you finish the Whole30? There are many reasons, and I could dedicate a whole blog series to them, but I will list the most important. Firstly, and most simply, why waste the last 30 days? You just changed your whole outlook on food, and food behaviors, for a month. You probably feel better-- more vibrant, less moody. You likely are sleeping better, performing better at work or in school, and feeling stronger in the gym. You may have even lost a few inches or pounds along the way. You also made a dramatic impact on your health, which you may or may not realize. Why throw that all away?
Secondly, the Whole30 is an experiment-- a way to figure out exactly which foods your body does not tolerate. It is essentially a classic elimination diet. While food allergy testing has become fairly popular, it's not very accurate. Especially since allergies have their roots in digestive dysfunction, we really can develop new allergies without even realizing it. Also, a sensitivity, or intolerance, to a food can be just as problematic as an allergy. Food allergies are created in response to protein-based substances (called antigens) that the body recognizes as foreign, and therefore creates antibodies to attack the antigen whenever it's present in the body. We know the top allergen foods/proteins, so these are what gets tested. But food intolerance cannot be tested, because they are not caused by protein-based substances. Yet food intolerances cause the same allergic-type, immune reactions in the body as allergies would. We must treat them as one in the same.
Again, since food allergies and intolerances have their roots in digestive dysfunction, it actually is possible to get rid of them. The Whole30 is a great start because it helps us remove the inflammatory, gut-irritating foods and therefore, allow the digestive system to get back to working order---- but sometimes (and usually), 30 days is not enough. So by reintroducing foods and weeding out allergies and sensitivities, we can allow the gut to continue to heal, as we venture on with our lives post-Whole30.
The most accurate way to pinpoint food allergies and sensitivities-- what foods your body likes and doesn't like-- _is an elimination diet. You reintroduce foods systematically, one by one, and take note of symptoms that may or may not arise. It is important that you isolate the foods you reintroduce, to be able to determine exactly which may be causing negative symptoms. With the Whole30, you have cut out most of the top-allergens (gluten, casein, peanuts, and soy), and foods that often cause sensitivities (all grains, corn, and legumes), so now it's up to the individual to decide which to reintroduce, and how. (Here is the Whole30's example reintroduction schedule).
My plan for post-Whole30 was to start with some dairy, since one of the things I missed most was cream in my coffee. But knowing what I know about the processing of dairy, I choose to have only grass-fed and/or organic full-fat sources. (Again, this could be its own blog post!). On day 1 post-Whole30, I woke up and had a Whole30 compliant breakfast, but added some grass-fed heavy cream to my coffee. I prepared myself for some expected digestive distress, but luckily, I had none! I went through the rest of my day is if it were still the Whole30, and did the same on day 2. Still no digestive issues... so I'm in the clear, right?
Not really. One thing I really noticed was that Thursday (day 2), I felt exhausted. My limbs felt heavy, and I felt very weak during my workout, despite eating the same foods/amount I had eaten for over a month now. The only difference was that small amount of dairy. Could that really make me feel so drastically different, so quickly? I had my doubts, of course. The day before was a very long, stressful day, so I knew that could definitely impact me. So I took note of it, but didn't make any decisions just yet. Day 3-- same feeling during my workout. So I planned to take a rest day the following day, and see what happened.
That evening, I went out to eat with some friends. I had what I thought was a pretty Whole30-compliant meal (smoked ribs without sauce, collard greens, and mashed potatoes). That's the nice thing about not being officially "on" the Whole30-- not having to be super specific or picky at restaurants, but having good faith that what you order is pretty much junk free. I'm sure some bad oil or dairy snuck in there because I woke up in the middle of the night feeling absolutely horrible. I wondered if it was just the fact that I ate so late and didn't properly digest, but I am sure it was food quality/ingredients affecting me as well.
Day 4, we decided to get out of the house, despite the cold, and go to Edgewater, NJ to shop and have lunch at one of our favorite restaurants- Bareburger. We know the food is high quality and organic, the menu is unique and extensive, and the food is delicious. Gluten-free items are all labeled and they also make all of their sauces, which are all gluten-free. I chose a wild boar burger with uncured duck bacon, pickled red onions, pineapple relish, and local gouda cheese, wrapped in collard greens. We also split sweet potato fries and a tray of homemade pickles and coleslaws. Everything was amazing, as usual, and I was excited to enjoy a relaxed, yet still healthy meal, without paying for it. But again, about 30 minutes after we finished, that overwhelming veil of exhaustion fell over me. Since the cheese was really the only non-Whole30 part of the meal, I assumed again it was the dairy!
Fortunately, that tired feeling went away soon and I could enjoy the rest of the day-- but now with a watchful eye. As we were shopping, we found some Caveman Cookies (at HomeGoods of all places, which actually has really great paleo-friendly foods and condiments!), which we bought to have as a treat that night. We stopped at Whole Foods before we headed home to pick up some essentials we can't get near home-- Swiss-water processed decaf coffee, raw sauerkraut, and even some Steve's Paleo Bars. We grabbed a coffee before we left, and were pleasantly surprised to see "Mammoth Coffee" listed as a new menu item. Coffee blended with grass-fed butter and coconut oil. Thank you Whole Foods! Now if only some more popular coffee shops would catch on!
The following day, day 5, I had a Carob Chip Perfect Bar, which would introduce some legumes (in the form of peanuts) and non-gluten grains (in the form of rice powder) back into my diet. Perfect Bars were something that prior to Whole30, I had gotten into a pretty dependent habit with-- eating one every single morning for breakfast. It was actually one of the habits that were my top priority to break, mostly due to the fact that I was so reliant on them, but also due to the blood sugar effects. In the grand scheme of things, these bars are far from unhealthy. They actually are one of the best meal-replacement bars out there with very healthy ingredients! But, to have one for breakfast every day isn't ideal. They still are high in sugar, and even though it's mostly unprocessed, it's still sugar. I wanted to see how I would react to them, especially just before a workout, and thankfully, I felt much better during and after than I did the past few days! I will likely only have 1 a week, on Sundays, the days when I do train longer.
My reintroduction conclusions? You may notice that I didn't reintroduce most of what I cut out-- gluten, most non-gluten grains and legumes, artificial sweeteners, etc. That's because I really don't plan to have them in my diet, for the most part. Artificial sweeteners are always out for me-- I went through a bad period of terrible migraines due to putting sucralose in my coffee, and never touched the stuff again. Plus, it's fake. It's crap. No need for it! Since I've done the Whole30 before, and since Celiac disease runs in my family, I choose to avoid gluten 99.9% of the time (I still have yet to reintroduce beer, and that will be interesting since I love IPAs, but I plan to hold off as long as possible!). I know how my body reacts to high carbs and sugar-- particularly the adrenal and hormonal consequences, so non-gluten grains and added sugars will continue to be minimal for me. I will likely have some sushi with white rice, and some "paleo" treats on occasion. Legumes are also not an issue for me, since they haven't really been a part of my diet in a long time. I just don't find myself wanting them... I don't really know anyone who just can't live without beans. The most intriguing thing for me was the dairy, and I think for now, it's safe to assume my body isn't a fan. I admit, I'm a bit disheartened, but I know that as I work to heal my digestion, high-quality milk products will likely not be an issue for me anymore.
So on day 6, I am going back to my routine-- a mostly Whole30 eating style, with an occasional grain/gluten/dairy-free treat here and there-- when I determine its worth it, of course. I am extremely pleased with my Whole30 experience, and have made some huge changes in my life that have paid off in big ways. In my next post, I will recap my results, and go over my ultimate takeaways from this 30+ day journey!
Kim Jordan, NTP - Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, health educator, CrossFitter, nature lover, student of life, once-aspiring writer. Owner of Root and Branch Nutrition.