Whole30 is a popular diet, and with good reason: it’s quick, it’s healthy, and it reprograms your food preferences. And as a bonus, the diet helps you to discover any potential food sensitivities and allergies you may have.
The downside? If you trip up, you have to go back to day one. Even worse, some mistakes can totally undermine your Whole30 results without your knowledge.
Use this guide to ensure you stay clean and compliant by avoiding common mistakes people make on the Whole30.
#1: Being Overly Restrictive
Let’s get one thing straight. Whole30 is already restrictive, but it’s possible to go too far.
If you like an “all-or-nothing” approach, Whole30 is attractive because it has strict guidelines. From the outset, you eliminate all potential problem foods.
But sometimes people take it upon themselves to be extra, and that’s where you can run into problems. For example, it’s a bad idea to eat the same thing every day, or to only eat the foods you hope will give you the best results.
Make sure you rotate your menu using the Whole30 allowed foods list so you don’t end up with a nutrient deficiency, weakened immune system, or other issues.
On Whole30, your results don’t come from an intentional calorie deficit. It’s about building a new relationship with food, not starving yourself. In essence, you need to eat enough or your results will be subpar.
Counting calories and weighing in are prohibited for the thirty-day period, but if you bring the wrong mindset to the diet, you can still get into trouble.
Be sure to eat until you’re full, without over-stuffing yourself. If you don’t eat to fullness at every meal, you’re under-eating. And that means you’re more likely to binge eat (and go back to day one of the diet), slow your metabolism, and yo-yo on the Whole30, which is definitely not the objective.
Eating too few calories is a habit that can hurt you in the long run. It can even lead to eventual heart problems.
To get the best results, follow the diet and don’t try to get creative or boost your weight loss by eating less. Lots of people do lose weight on Whole30 without going hungry, and building a healthier relationship with food will pay off in ways that go beyond weight loss.
#3: Eating Too Little Fat
Unfortunately, the myth lives on and haunts people to this day. If you believe, even subconsciously, that you should restrict your fat intake…just stop.
Whole30 compliant foods include plenty of healthy fats. Not only are they great for your brain, skin, and organs, eating fatty foods like coconut oil, olive oil, avocadoes, and nuts can prevent hunger pangs and keep you full for longer.[6, 7]
Another positive aspect of eating enough fat is that it helps prevent under-eating. Win-win.
Embrace fat on the Whole30–you’ll love the health benefits, the appetite reduction, and the effects on your metabolism.
#4: Failing to Plan Ahead
The saying “failing to plan is planning to fail” certainly applies to Whole30.
Willpower alone is not enough to get you through your thirty days. At the very least, you need to plan on making several grocery store trips each week and devoting some time to food prep a few times a week.
As you move through the diet, you can establish go-to meals that you eat regularly, as well as quick meals with fewer ingredients that you can cook when you’re in a hurry.
To ensure you don’t get stuck somewhere, hungry and without anything to eat, it’s also smart to keep some portable Whole30 snacks and emergency foods on hand.
Here are some portable, convenient suggestions to get you started:
- Mixed nuts and gluten-free, sulfite-free salami
- A banana and apple almond butter bowl
- Homemade or approved jerky with dried blueberries
- Canned salmon and an avocado
With the popularity of Whole30 continuing to grow, Whole30 compliant snacks have grown practically into a category of their own. You should be able to find ready-made options, too – just be sure to double-check the label. Here’s a convenient list of Whole30 compliant ingredients: https://whole30.com/2015/04/whole30-label-reading.
#5: Not Paying Enough Attention to Food Labels
It’s a tough world out there, and lots of food products that look healthy…aren’t. Just because an item at the grocery store has a soothing green and white label, or the word “nature” in its name, doesn’t make it Whole30 compliant.
To succeed at Whole30 and avoid being set back to day one, you have to master the art of deciphering labels.
Be on the lookout for dairy, any added sweetener including sugar, grains, gluten, alcohol, soy, sulfites, MSG, and carrageenan (which is often found in almond milk). If you aren’t sure about an ingredient, look it up on the spot, because sometimes these ingredients (and their byproducts) go by other names.
#6: Getting Carried Away With Snacking
Although you’re allowed to snack on Whole30, you need to be sensible about it.
You can enjoy foods like nuts, nut butters, and bacon in moderation. However, if you overdo it, you may end up eating a lot of unneeded calories. Another problem with snacking too much on Whole30 is that you can skew your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, which can lead to inflammation and other health issues.
During your thirty days, the best approach is to listen to your body. Remember: there’s a difference between actually being hungry and simply wanting to eat. If you aren’t genuinely hungry, hold off on the snacks.
#7: Trying to Recreate Junk Foods and Your Favorite Snacks
One of the more confusing rules on Whole30 is that you can’t recreate junk foods or non-Whole30 foods using allowed ingredients.
What does that mean, exactly? It means you can eat cauliflower, but you can’t make cauliflower pizza crust. You can eat eggs, but you can’t make egg white pancakes. You can’t eat ice cream, and you also can’t have it in the form of paleo ice cream.
Why not? Two reasons: on Whole30 you’re supposed to take a break from food as a reward, and (because a lot of replacement snacks aren’t very good) recreating your favorite snacks may trigger cravings for the real thing.
However, this rule can be confusing because there are shades of grey. Here’s how to make the right decision.
According to the creators of Whole30, if you’re trying to satisfy a craving for a non-allowed food, you need to skip it. But if you’re looking for a healthier, more nutritious substitute, that’s okay.
For example, you can still make portabella “sandwiches” or spinach-and-egg “muffins.”
#8: We Need to Talk About Your Social Life…
There’s no point sugar-coating this: Whole30 can be difficult if you’re a social butterfly.
For many people, enjoying food together is an important part of relaxing and bonding. As a result, it’s likely you’ll be offered foods you can’t eat when you’re hanging out with friends or family.
There are really three issues here:
- Being tempted by foods you shouldn’t eat on Whole30
- Offending people who mean well
- Feeling awkward (on a date, for example)
The first one is easy to address: just eat a healthy Whole30 meal before you go out, or bring your own food to social gatherings. And to avoid offending others, the easiest way is to tell them in advance, so they don’t get the wrong idea.
When it comes to feeling awkward, lean into it and be confident about your choices. If someone judges you for your personal decisions, that’s their problem.
Ultimately, Whole30 is a temporary diet. If you struggle with awkwardness, try a tea or coffee date instead.
#9: Staying on Whole30 Too Long
While it’s an effective short-term approach to healthy eating, Whole30 isn’t a diet you should eat for the rest of your life. If you appreciate the results you’ve achieved, you can continue to eat the staple foods, but staying on the strict version long-term is a bad idea.
Avoid the temptation to stay on Whole30 longer than recommended. If you find yourself going back to day one repeatedly because of slip-ups, consider a less-strict diet that you can manage more easily.
#10: Reintroducing Foods Too Fast
One unique aspect of Whole30 is that when it ends, you get to slowly reintroduce the foods you used to eat.
After thirty days of hard work, some people can hardly wait to reward themselves with old favorites. But there are several problems you might run into at this point.
Although the diet retrains your cravings and preferences, you can still fall into old habits if you aren’t careful. And even if you don’t, reintroducing too much too fast is never a good idea.
If you rush to add too many foods back at once, you may trigger digestive issues (like inflammation, upset stomach, diarrhea, or constipation), and you won’t gain insight into how each reintroduced food makes you you feel.
The key word for the reintroduction phase is “slowly.” Keep it simple and slow and you’ll learn more about how various foods affect your health and sense of wellbeing, plus maintain your hard-won results.