“I’m doing my 7th Whole 30.”
A friend posted that on Facebook the other day, and my first thought was “Good for her!”
But my next thought was, “Why count? And is this really helping her?”
Now, don’t get me wrong: I am NOT bagging on the Whole 30 or any gym’s 30-Day Paleo Challenge! Whatever gets people moving in the direction of better nutrition is GREAT! And I know that in the beginning of every year, many gyms sponsor all sorts of month-long reset programs so that members can concentrate on what they’re eating and how much of it. Many of us need a structured path to help us eliminate sugar, grains, alcohol, etc. It all makes sense to me.
But what if we made gradual changes that stayed with us? What if didn’t just concentrate on dedicating 30 days to improving our nutrition, but continued to do that every day? Wouldn’t that be ideal?
Think about it this way: If your buddy walked into the gym and announced he was going to take 30 days to get strong, you would cock your head and look at him like he just suggested we all ballroom dance.
“No, dude. That’s not going to work,” you might say. “You can’t get strong in 30 days. I mean, 30 days is a good start, but you have to make small improvements every day. Train consistently. Plan on gaining strength over the course of a year, and beyond. Evaluate your goals, and work towards them with a steady pace. And be prepared for setbacks, but keep going.”
Yet we get ourselves in this headspace that a 30-day reset program is going to change everything for us. Maybe we need to be a bit more realistic. So, let’s look at the pros and cons of a 30-day Nutrition Challenge:
- Structured plan
- Focus on healthy eating
- Community support (if you’re doing it in a group or online)
- Helps eliminate the junk from your diet
- It’s only 30 days
- It’s only 30 days
- Restrictive plan
- Can encourage disordered thinking about food
- We can tend to over-focus on the end of it (“Yeah! It’s almost over!”)
- Some people binge upon completion
Some folks really enjoy a 30-day “reset” because it gives them a reason to toss the junk from their diet and focus on eating clean, whole foods. That’s all good! But what I’m trying to say here is this: don’t shoot yourself in the foot while you’re cleaning your gun.
Know that a reset is a reset, not a plan for nutrition for the rest of your life. Don’t do a challenge, then at the end of those 30 days, undo the good you’ve done and find yourself deeper in the hole, trying to dig your way out again using the same shovel!
Don’t let that be you. If you do a 30-day reset program, go into it with a plan for what you’re going to eat after those 30 days. Plan your nutrition for 60 days or 90 days, like you would a lifting cycle. Maybe even sketch out some plans for the next 6 months. Think, evaluate, adjust.
A 30-day reset can be a chance for cleaning the garbage from your diet, a chance to concentrate on eating “meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar.” Plan, stock your pantry with staples like Steve’s Sauce Sampler and Steve’s Meat Lovers Sampler, and make sure you know what you;re going to do beyond those 30 days. The month will end, but don’t let your renewed nutrition focus end with it! Good luck!