In the 5 years I have run Whole30 Nutrition Challenges at our gym, there is never any shortage of excuses I hear from “would be” participants who can’t commit because they simply can’t live without sugar, cheese or bread for even one day. In addition, there are always a myriad of participants who I call “half pregnant”. These individuals claim to be totally committed to the Whole30 Challenge … with just a few “little exceptions”. For example, “I am totally committed to Whole30 except I am going to allow myself wine on the weekends.” Or “I am doing the Whole30, except I can’t give up having cream in my coffee”. The reality is this … you can’t be half pregnant. You’re either all-in or you’re all-out. Unless your fully committed to implementing lasting and effectual change, your wasting your efforts.
There are always those “type A” rule followers who do the Whole30 for the first time and wouldn’t even CONSIDER going off the plan during the 30 days. These people thrive on the rules, need to check everything off the list each day and inevitably seem to have a joyous time throughout their entire Whole30 experience. We all know those people (many of which we may want to kick in the shins by day 15). These “do-gooders” are always the ones that get amazing results during their Whole30… making the rest of us feel …. well, like weak pathetic failures.
The question of total compliance vs. partial compliance is a good one to think about before we start our challenge. I understand how profound giving up some of these foods can be. Therefore I want to offer 5 important tactics you can implement to help you stay on track during your Whole30.
First and foremost, be connected to the PURPOSE for why you have taken on this challenge in the first place. How much do you want to make lasting changes and how important is it to you that you succeed? Why is it important? If the REASON is less important to you than having a little cream in your coffee or a glass of wine on the weekend… then you need to keep looking. Starting your challenge with a clear sense of purpose enables you to focus your efforts on what matters most, compelling you to push forward regardless of the odds or obstacles. Take the time to write your purpose down on paper, be specific, and make sure it means something to you. Then look at it EVERY day.
Second, NEVER set yourself up for failure before you start. It is important to do everything you can to set yourself up for success and assume ONLY 100% compliance. If you start a challenge giving yourself permission to deviate from the protocol, then the truth is you have already failed before you even started!
Third, have you ever heard the expression dig the well before you’re thirsty? This chinese proverb tells us that it is critical to do all the necessary things ahead of time to prepare for potential setbacks or challenges. You cannot wait until you are thirsty to begin digging your well. If you do, you will likely die of thirst before you get the water you need. Taking the time to clean out the kitchen, remove the temptations and prepare for challenging social events or occasions is worth your time before you start!
Fourth, when the urge to cheat strikes (and it will) commit to asking yourself one important question before you cave. What is the part of giving up “this thing” (wine, cheese, sugary treat etc.) that you think will be the hardest? I never say “don’t do it” …I just ask that you take one moment to stop and think. To break through the powerful triggers that make each of us seek immediate gratification without thinking about it. The simple task of asking this question will often break a cycle or pattern allowing you the needed space to make another choice before its too late.
Finally, I want to stress the importance of being a part of the community. The collective energy generated from being a part of a Nutrition Challenge is impossible to replicate on your own. We are all smart people and there are loads of resources available to us on how to be successful with a nutrition challenge like Whole30. The reality in my experience is that the people that join together and hold hands in unison for a common goal… do better, get better results, and have that warm fuzzy feeling all along the way. The people that go it alone… don’t do as well. It is that simple.
I leave you with the words of Melissa Hartwig, creator/author of The Whole30:
“This is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You’ve done harder things than this, and you have no excuse not to complete the program as written. It’s only thirty days, and it’s for the most important health cause on earth – the only physical body you will ever have in this lifetime.”
B.S. Human Nutrition; Exercise Science
Certified Personal Trainer ISSA
CrossFit Level 1, 2, Gymnastics, Powerlifting, Kids