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How to get and then STAY back on track

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Dear Whole30 community,


I've started and failed four Whole30s. I have gotten a lot out of them, though, and really want to make the next one a success.


Whole30 #1: 17 days; ended at a dim sum lunch for volunteers of an event I was at.


Whole30 #2: a re-start the following week that lasted less than two days.


Whole30 #3: twelve days, ended at a barbecue two days ago where there was absolutely no compliant food (not a single thing that didn't have soy or sugar or grains), which I know is no excuse, but also I had started SWYPOing with coconut milk and cocoa to make unsweetened ‘chocolate pudding’ a few days before, then finishing the half-mouthful of juice left in my daughter's cup because wasting food is bad, etc.


Whole30 #4: also a re-start, started today and lasted about four hours (hungry and ate my compliant-but-too-small lunch halfway through the morning, and so gave in and ate non-compliant lunch with a friend).


Here's what I’ve learned:

  • This is probably not a productive way of looking at this, but the two longer ones (12 and 17 days), even though well short of the goal, both gave me tremendous results. Better skin, dropping pant sizes, more steady energy and less resistance to getting out of bed in the morning.
  • Sugar and gluten really have a vice grip on me. Wow. I already knew I was addicted, but this is crazy. There was a lot of internal pressure to ‘reward’ myself for all the progress I had made by indulging. But the giving in/cheating occurred in social scenarios, not in private, where I probably would have just had another apple or handful of cashews.
  • As soon as I gave in, I noticed the impact on my body – brain fog, bloating, needing to nap, waking up feeling I’d been hit by a bus, etc.


As I type this, I’m eating a second chocolate bar and contemplating going to the coffee machine to get a hot chocolate. It’s like I can’t stop, and part of my brain is saying ‘why worry when the weight comes off so easily; just do another Whole30 again later’.

I know that I eat sweets because my parents (very reasonably) restricted them when I was growing up, so they are special occasion treats/forbidden fruit, and also because they’re just plain addictive. For each of the Whole30s I have eaten a lot of fruit, including dates, which I know are just inside the dividing line between food and candy. But I didn’t really feel cravings for unacceptable sweets (or gluten) as long as I was eating compliant, it was once I ‘quit’ at a social gathering and tasted them that the brakes came off again. I think the effort of shopping, planning, cooking, and NOT buying certain things depleted my willpower to a level where once I start eating some of the things, I end up eating ALL of the things.


So what I’d like to ask the ‘hive mind’ is: If you’ve quit/failed and restarted, how do you restart and stay on track, and how do you stay strong at social gatherings? People weren't pressuring me to partake, I just didn't want to explain the whole thing to everyone and have to have the same conversations all over again blah blah...


I feel that the great results I’ve had should be enough motivation, but it ends up working the other way; the fact I’ve had results already (even though I’d love to drop another two pant sizes and get the ‘tiger blood’ feeling that I’ve heard about) gets used as an excuse to cheat.


Argh! Advice please.



p.s.: In case this is relevant, I’m breastfeeding.

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p.s.: In case this is relevant, I’m breastfeeding.

Really, super duper relevant!  Yes, Whole30 is a lot of work and prep and thought and action.  If you are not eating enough (for a bf'ing mama, 4 full meals a day plus mini-meals if needed), you will fold quicker than a hiccup in the face of temptation.  If you are inserting large amounts of dried fruits and SWYPO items and walking the very edge of compliance (juice, anyone?!), you are not changing your mind about how you choose to eat.  All you're really doing is prolonging the inevitable slide back into sugar and gluten.  


Whole30 is hard.  It takes planning, it takes packing food to events, it takes finding a one or two line explanation that either opens or closes conversation depending on how you're feeling that day.  It takes working through the cravings and not toeing the compliance line.


I'm sure others will chime in with their experience as you are not the first and certainly not the last person to struggle with this.

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Everything is harder when you're hungry. Everything, but especially things that take planning and prep time, and things that might be stressful (navigating a social gathering while on Whole30, for instance, or, you know, parenting).

First things first: make sure you get enough to eat. Especially as a breastfeeding mom. This will be more food than you think you "should" eat (especially if weight-loss is a goal), but don't worry about it. Eat it anyway. Eat to get as much nutritional bang for your buck as possible: if you have a choice between kale and celery, for instance, choose the kale.

I find that when I'm eating enough food (and it's a lot!), my urges to go off-plan go waaay down, and they're more manageable when they do pop up.

I still struggle in social situations—I won't lie. My last barbecue went pretty well: all I ever had to say was, "No, thank you." No one asked questions beyond that. There was an awkward moment when someone went to hand me something, I said "no, thank you," and he was a little taken aback. I just had to sit with the awkward feeling. But you know what? Nothing bad happened. I'm still friends with the host. I think I was much more aware that I wasn't eating than anyone else was (I had a slow cooker full of pot roast waiting at home).

Number one, eat. Number two, turn your "can't"s into "no, thank you"s. Or "not today"s. If you need something more, "I'm following an elimination diet right now" can be helpful—both in terms of explaining things to friends and acquaintances, and also supporting your own thought-process about Whole30.

It's hard, but it's doable. You can do it.

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I started my first attempt at Whole30 on July 1st. I quit the evening of July 4th, AFTER meal three.


I started my second attempt at Whole30 on July 7th. I quit the evening of July 13th, AFTER meal three.


I started my third attempt at Whole30 on July 23rd. I quit the evening of July 29th, again, AFTER meal three.


I started my fourth attempt at Whole30 on August 4th. I plan to make it the full 30 days.


I have been a Weight Watchers member for 14 years, and this way of eating has been HARD for me to adapt to. I also couldn't get past the horrible tired feelings the first few days of the Whole30. And I wasn't willing to admit OUT LOUD that I am addicted to sweetness. Not just sugar, but artificial sweetener too. My first week of the Whole30 will make me lose water weight, look pretty svelte, and I think to myself, "Hey, I look good. I'm not sick. So why am I doing this?" Then I go on a wicked food, carb, sugar binge. (Think Chinese buffet, with ice cream and a skinny flavored latte from Starbucks. Maybe some pizza for dinner that night. No joke!) 


I have been reading some other books from the Whole9 website "Stuff We Like" page, and even though I read both of the Hartwig's books, I am in a place now mentally where I am better able to receive the information that so many of even the things I thought were healthy that I ate regularly ARE NOT GOOD FOR ME. I'm more acclimated with the Whole30 way of shopping, prepping, cooking. And my re-entry into the last two attempts has really been smooth without all the icky tiredness. (In the month of July, I ended up eating 19 of 31 days compliant with Whole30.)


I started smoking everyday when I was about 13 years old. When I was 23, I felt like 10 years was too long to have done anything at that young age. So I quit. Haven't had another cigarette AT ALL since that day: January 2?, 2000. I'd tried to quit twice before, but failed. The difference that time was that I wanted it badly enough. That was what I needed to make it. And for me, that's what it remains. I HAVE TO WANT IT BADLY ENOUGH. I think this time, with the Whole30, I do!


Just my experience that I share to encourage you! I have gotten so much help and kindness in these forums. You're in the right place for that!!

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Hi everyone,


Thanks for your suggestions and encouragement!


I will work on preparing food to take to social events, bigger servings (I've been a grazer most of my life), and accepting that babies wasting a bit of food/juice is a lesser evil than me sabotaging my goals because I don't like to see food wasted.


The great thing is that Whole30-style eating has become pretty normal thanks to all these "practice runs", so that even after cheating/quitting, I don't go back to 100% SAD, but rather ~ 70% Whole30 and ~ 30% gluten-y, sugary stuff, which makes each new Whole30 attempt a little smoother (smaller/shorter carb hangovers, etc).


I'll let you know how the next try goes!

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Totally agree with ultrarunnergirl's comment on the daily emails! They are great.

I'm struggling myself today, so I'm afraid I don't have much more advice to offer, but I'm with you!

Wait: except that I've wanted to quit all day (day 10), but haven't (that's the big thing!) because I've been jumping on here and twitter (#whole30) periodically throughout the day for support from the awesome Whole30 community.

Wishing you the best.

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