Whole30 Day 31: Reintroduction and Finding Food Freedom

I did it! I completed the Whole30! It surprised me that it didn't take long for it to stop be a major thinking-about-it-every-second challenge and more of just "the way I'm eating right now." I'm really proud of myself for sticking to it — no cheats for the full 30 days. There for sure were moments of serious cravings (like when all I could think about was a Sonic chili cheese dog on day 13), but the most challenging part was the social aspect. I barely went out to eat last month. When I did, I felt like "that person" asking about cooking oils and dairy and grains and soy. But I found ways to spend quality time with the people in my life in ways that didn't center around food, which is a major #NSV (non-scale victory) in itself.

Today is day 31, which is a little scary as now I have some choices to make. Over the next 10 days, I'll systematically reintroduce the foods I've eliminated for the past 30 days one at a time to evaluate how each group affects me in the context of a better relationship with food, improved metabolism, healthier digestive tract, and more balanced immune system.

Once I know how each group effects me, I can decide how I want to incorporate them into my life after Whole30. This is Whole30 founder Melissa Hartwig's concept of food freedom — it's MY choice which foods are "worth it" to me and how, how often, and how much I want to incorporate them into my life after Whole30 in the context of how they affect MY health.

The reintroduction phase is critical to Whole30. It's the whole point of doing the thing in the first place — to identify which foods potentially bother you and how. So may people simply load up on pizza, cupcakes, beer, chips, and ice cream on day 31, which totally undermines the entire experiment! This is the one opportunity to carefully and systematically reintroduce off-plan foods into the new "clean" environment I created in my body over the past 30 days.

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The food groups I've eliminated are grains, legumes, dairy, and alcohol. The idea is to reintroduce each group one at a time while keeping the rest of my diet Whole30 (with a few fully-Whole30 days in between each reintroduction) so I can evaluate how each group affects me in isolation. That means I won't be combining any of these groups — for example, no toast with peanut butter (grains + legume) and no nachos (grains + dairy).

The program recommends introducing only the foods that I actually miss. I don't miss legumes at all, so I won't bother reintroducing them into my diet. I've never liked beans, and I don't miss peanut butter (I have almond and cashew butter now) or soy (I can use coconut aminos instead of soy sauce).

Surprisingly, I don't really miss dairy either. I've never been a milk drinker or yogurt eater. The only dairy items I would want to try incorporating are cheese and ice cream, both of which have non-dairy options. I'll do a day of introducing dairy to see how it affects me, but I would be OK leaving dairy out of my food freedom.

I also would like to keep added sugar out of my diet except on special occasions or when it's truly inconvenient to find another option. The Whole30 has eliminated my sugar cravings, and I'd like to keep it that way!

Here's how reintroduction will go:

Day 31: Alcohol. I'll have wine tonight (while keeping the rest of my diet Whole30-compliant today) then go back to Whole30 for two days.

Days 32–33: Whole30

Day 34: Gluten-free grains. I suspect I won't like the way grains make me feel. They usually make me bloated, whether they contain gluten or not, so I anticipate I'll limit them in my regular diet. On day 34, I'll have some gluten-free bread and corn chips with salsa while keeping the rest of my diet Whole30-complaint. (I don't like rice, quinoa, oats, or corn, so I won't bother reintroducing those).

Days 35–36: Whole30

Day 37: Dairy. I'll have cheese and ice cream today while keeping the rest of my diet Whole30-compliant. I don't think I have problems with dairy usually, but I might be surprised! Since I don't really miss them, I will most likely limit them in life after Whole30.

Days 38–39: Whole30

Day 40: Gluten-containing grains. This day will be the most fun but will probably wreak the most havoc on my body! I'll have a muffin and pasta on this day, while keeping the rest of my diet Whole30 — so I'll make sure my pasta sauce and muffin ingredients are compliant other than the gluten. I love baked goods and pasta, but (like non-gluten grains) they make me bloated and puffy and I surprisingly don't miss them much. I suspect I will save these for special occasions in post-Whole30 life.

Day 41: Life after Whole30 begins! Food freedom, here I come.