Why I Failed my Last Whole 30, and What I’m Doing to Succeed This Time

There’s no record of the last Whole 30 on this blog because I didn’t write about it. Perhaps that shows how little I was invested in it. I attempted a second Whole 30 some time last summer, but I just didn’t stick with it for more than a couple of days. Perhaps you’ve failed a Whole 30 or two as well.

I’ve pinpointed my failure to one factor: I was not motivated. Last summer, I was in the final throes of writing and defending my dissertation. Every bit of extra energy I had went to completing my doctoral work. Even after I met my deadlines, I had so little ambition left that pursuing a 30 day lifestyle challenge felt insurmountable.

In retrospect, eating whole, “clean” foods would have been especially helpful during that high stress time. Instead, I turned to unhealthy comfort foods. I told myself that I wouldn’t let one poor decision throw me off track, but I followed each poor decision with another poor decision. I was definitely off track.

This time around, I’m planning to succeed. Here’s how:

Plan ahead. It almost feels pointless to repeat this, because every Whole 30 tip sheet out there recommends that you plan ahead. But it is absolutely essential. The thing about eating a Whole 30 diet is that it’s difficult to grab and go. Make sure that you the meat you plan to eat for dinner is thawed and ready to go when you get home from work. Buy frozen vegetables, or spend a little extra time a few nights per week prepping vegetables for other nights that week.

Cook extra. A lot extra. We realized that we eat a lot more meat than we thought we would. This means that we are now cooking twice as much as we think we’ll need for dinner and the next day’s lunch. This ensures that we will definitely have leftovers for lunch the next day. If you actually end up with leftovers beyond that, that’s great! The next day’s lunch is also prepared.

Use an RSS Feed reader to follow recipe bloggers. If you’re not familiar with RSS feed readers, they are a simple web-based interface that aggregates all of the blogs that you read into one interface. I use Feedly because it seemed like the next best thing after Google Reader was discontinued. Feedly is as simple or complex as you want to make it. You can, but don’t have to, combine the blogs you follow into groups or folders. This way you can easily skim through your recipe blogs separately from your mommy blogger or world news blogs.

Keep a go-to list of easy recipes. Ideally, this is a list of easy and quick meals that you can make in a pinch. You could create a list by bookmarking recipes in Feedly, creating a board in Trello (my new favorite collaboration and task management tool!), or pinning recipes to a Pinterest board.

Find an accountability buddy. This time around, Sam and two of my friends are also participating in the Whole 30. Knowing that we’re all in this together really helps. I started my Whole 30 along with the official January 2015 Whole 30. The Whole 30 blog posts and posts on Instagram by others doing the Whole 30 at the same time are especially motivating. If you have no one to partner with, try signing up for the daily Whole 30 e-mails.

Be easy on yourself. The Whole 30 has very strict rules, and you’re bound to slip-up somewhere. It’s up to you to evaluate how much you messed up. Did you accidentally eat non-compliant bacon? Personally, I’m not sure this warrants starting all over with the Whole 30. Just keep going and follow the rules. Did you consciously decide to go out for pizza or eat a bagel? Well, that’s another story, and you should probably consider starting over again.

Have an emergency stash of snacks. The Whole 30 bans snacking, but sometimes you’re in a pinch and you need a snack. Don’t go to the vending machine! Keep a stash of Whole 30 compliant snacks around. I keep a Lara bar in my purse (and I’m planning to give the Whole 30 endorsed RX bars a try soon). Other options are nuts, pumpkin seeds, jerky, olives, pickles, sliced bell peppers, carrots, celery, and nut butters (to eat with the celery, of course).

Practice makes perfect. Finally, just know that the second (or third, in my case) time around, the Whole 30 is a lot easier. I still struggled with the sluggishness and headaches the first couple days, but completing the Whole 30 still feels do-able (hopefully that’s still the case on days 15 or 20). A lot of it has to do with knowing what to cook, how much to cook, how much to pack for lunch, and what snacks to have handy for when you’re in a pinch.

Are you in the middle of the January Whole 30 now? How are you faring?

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