When I work one-on-one with individuals I typically recommend they do a 30 day nutritional challenge. I also like to think of this as a “reset” for their body. It is also just another word for an elimination diet that essentially removes common foods known to cause problems. After 30 days they are added back slowly into the diet to evaluate one’s tolerance. This method is very similar to the Whole 30 Challenge. If you are not familiar with this challenge you can check it out right here.
Today I wanted to share some expert tips on what to do once Whole 30 is over. Most people who complete this challenge find amazing results, but sometimes they need some guidance on how to make lifelong changes. Here are four ways to successfully come out of Whole 30.
1) Assess what you have learned.
Once your challenge is complete this is where you need to really turn your focus inward to assess what the challenge has taught you. If you are like most people you might find that your digestion has improved, energy levels are up, your skin looks clearer, and your pants are no longer snug. Did you notice these things? Did you notice any pain or ailments go away? How about your mood and outlook on life? Are you thinking clearer and feeling more optimistic? This is the time to sit down and write out all that has changed over the past 30 days. The point of the exercise is to come to an understanding of what has happened to your body and mind specifically and uniquely. It is from there that you begin to build your template for the days to come. The cool thing is that the “less-healthy” foods you used to love might not have the same appeal as they used to. You will probably find that there are some things that you can now leave and take.
2) Focus on sustainability.
It is much easier to follow a set of rules for 30 days than to figure out how to make good choices last a lifetime. The rules give a clear plan and that is comforting. If you feel you need to continue with your clear cut rules for an extended amount of time then do that. If that helps you form a healthier relationship with food then do it. It’s your journey. You will know when you are ready to begin taking the principles and living them out in a real way. Eventually you start to work on how to make this work in your real life day in and day out. How does one do that? Well you start by doing the above task of assessing what you learned. From there you build your template with the mindset that this is all about a lifestyle. It is not a fad diet that will disappear in 5 years after the world is sick of talking about it. This can no longer be a “diet mentality”. This is a focus on real whole foods.
If you can remember that real food brings health then you are on your way to sustaining a healthier relationship with food. So, to build your template you need to decide what diet changes you want to keep. In order to determine what foods you have a problem tolerating now you have to slowly reintroduce them back into your diet one at a time. So start with dairy. Eat some dairy at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Then assess how you feel. Did you tolerate it well? Note changes with your digestion, skin, mood, and energy. Do the same with grains and so on (but most experts who know the science would not recommend gluten-containing grains be reintroduced for the majority of people). Do these one at a time so you can really pinpoint what your problems might be.
From there you have your template. You know what foods cause you problems and you know that staying away from them will bring you the best outcomes. Knowing these alone have helped me personally in my relationship with food and my health. However, remember that life just doesn’t stop. Vacations come. Holidays come. Stressful events come. Old habits die hard. This is where you begin to make decisions on what you will and will not allow. You will learn what might be ok to compromise on every once in a while. It’s a very unique journey in which you are in control. Just remember that making this a sustainable way of living takes time. It will take mistakes and learning from them over and over again, but with time it gets easier and easier.
It Starts With Food gives some situations where eating foods that are less healthy might be ok:
- Family events where food plays a major role
- Special events, weddings, vacations, holidays
- The food is simply delicious
The choice is yours. Just make it worth it and learn where to draw your line.
3) Focus on the lifestyle pieces.
Like I said this is about sustainability and about a lifestyle. It is so much more than just changing your food, although that is one of the biggest factors. This also involves starting a consistent workout program, getting quality sleep on a regular basis, and learning how to manage your stress. These are so important and affect your health (physically and emotionally) tremendously! Begin to build these healthy habits into your life. With time your journey will come together beautifully.
4) Forget perfectionism.
Remember that life in general, and your diet to be exact, is a process. Give it all time and keep making the best decisions you can one day after the other. This is not about being perfect because guess what none of us will ever be perfect. The best thing we can all do is simply to start accepting that as a fact and to begin to work with our limitations. See your weaknesses as opportunities to grow. See them also as ways to help others and to be an encouragement to them. Just know that in the times you might slip back into old habits you are not a failure and your challenge efforts were not all for nothing. Pick yourself up and keep moving. We are only human people.
Hope you find these tips helpful and encouraging! If you have completed a challenge like this one or similar please share your thoughts and experiences with us!