Why I Started Whole30 and Quit (and What I’m Doing Instead)

why I quit the whole 30 challenge
I read a lot about Whole30 over the summer. I had seen a few folks online do the challenge successfully, not just to give their bodies a chance to reset but also to explore their relationships with gluten, sugar, and dairy, among other things. At the time, I was interested enough to read about it, but not interested enough to try. I like sugar! I like wine! I like gluten!

So it wasn’t until the calendar turned over that I felt like maybe it was time to give it a shot. If you don’t know what Whole30 is, you can read about it here. But the gist is no grains, no sugar, no legumes, no dairy, no processed foods, and no alcohol for thirty days. And I thought, ‘What the heck! Let’s give it a try.’

I read and read and read about it. The things that appealed most to me were the crazy amounts of energy you were supposed to have about halfway in and that most people end up losing weight (I have about five stubborn pregnancy pounds on me that will not melt off!). Adam decided he’d do it with me, so we bought a ton of food — lots of fruits and veggies and enough meat to feed a football team. We were totally prepared.

why I quit whole 30 challenge

I’m certain you won’t be surprised when I tell you that we only lasted four days (I mean, I put it in the title of this post). Four days and we were done. I had a terrible headache every day that got worse in the evenings, and I couldn’t concentrate to save my life. I’d sit down at the computer and take four times longer than usual to do simple work tasks. And during the witching hour, when the kids were climbing up the walls, Adam and I were ready to lose our minds. We were starving (even though we were eating all day long) and, for heaven’s sake, why won’t these kids just sit down and watch TV?!

So, we had a long talk about whether this was all worth it, and then we spent over an hour scouring the internet for something, anything, that would tell us if we should hold on or let go. As I searched, I read so many comments from people saying they were grouchy, irritable, and generally feeling like crap even twenty or more days into their month. Don’t get me wrong — we read lots of articles and blog posts about people feeling awesome and generally better than before, but there were just too many people saying they felt awful even at the end that made us feel like it just wasn’t worth it.

Do we want to feel grumpy all day? Do we want to yell at the kids at the drop of the hat? Do we want to get anything accomplished this month?Β No, no, and heck yes!

So we stopped. Or, I should say, modified. We are still off booze and I’m off sugar (Adam had a chocolate chip cookie and then felt terrible — shame on him!). I’m doing limited grains, but only whole wheat, which is hard when I have a two year-old trying to shove Goldfish crackers into my mouth at snack time. I’m also limiting dairy. Basically, it’s a lot of whole, real foods, but no radical elimination of food groups.

why I quit whole 30 challengeToday is day twelve. I feel a whole lot better than I did in those first four days, but every day I think about chocolate and red wine and potato chips and giant greasy cheeseburgers (which I could have, but haven’t). I realize I use food as a treat for myself, and breaking that psychological barrier is rough. But I’m doing it.

The last day is January 31 because the following Sunday is the Superbowl and, come on, we are going to have a party that day! Beer and chips and desserts. I can’t wait!

As for the Whole30 challenge, I still believe it’s good for people who have a legitimate gluten problem or who are lactose intolerant. The diet is good to help people with a lot of different ailments, and I root on anyone who takes on this challenge out of necessity. I will cheer you on! And I promise not to eat any bread or butter in front of you!

11 thoughts on “Why I Started Whole30 and Quit (and What I’m Doing Instead)

  1. Azzari

    Glad that you are making it work for you! I always think that’s the key – being flexible and making a lifestyle/choice/change that works for you and your family.

  2. Jessie

    I’m so interested to hear about your experience! I have a friend who is doing Whole 30 this month and seems to be making some progress, and some of the food she’s instagrammed looks so delicious! Since we have no kitchen right now, I couldn’t possibly do it, but am thinking about trying later this spring. But yeah, if I can’t concentrate and feel like crap for days on end…I don’t think I’d be able to stick it out either. πŸ™‚

  3. Callie Feyen

    I appreciate this refreshingly honest post. I think so much of progress and change and seeing the world differently is figuring out what works and what doesn’t.
    Also, I want those mugs! πŸ™‚

  4. beth lehman

    i’ve often wondered about trying whole30, but the idea of feeding my family one thing and me another is too overwhelming. just this week, i started mini-fasting… the idea is you limit calories severely for two days and then eat normally for five. i tried this in the fall and was surprised how well it went. i had eggs (like i almost always do) for breakfast and then a smoothie or brothy soup for dinner. lots of water and tea in between. for me, this resets my relationship with food and helps me get back in touch with eating because i’m hungry and because i need fuel for what my body does, instead of mindlessly eating or habitually consuming food. i definitely had more mental clarity and was surprisingly not crazy hungry. the hunger i felt passed and i felt as hungry as might have been normally by dinnertime. my sister sent me a few articles about it if you want to read more!


  5. Greta

    One of the best quotes I ever read was this: “Don’t reward yourself with food; you’re not a dog.”

    That said, when I’ve accomplished something, or need to salve my soul, or I’m just exhausted, my default setting it to eat something yummy, a treat, a reward!

    Andy suggested going without sugar once. I asked him if he’d like PMS me around all the time. He changed the subject.

  6. Brandy

    Thank you for this post! I am quitting Whole 30 today on Day 4! I could have written your post. I stick to a Paleo diet nearly all of the time anyway so I am bailing. Not the program for me.

    1. Lindsay Post author

      Hi Brandy! It’s interesting that you’re already Paleo and didn’t get far with Whole 30. My husband and I went cold turkey on everything and I figured that was a large reason why we couldn’t hack it. Anyway, I’m glad you found encouragement here. Do what your body is telling you! You’re doing great! πŸ™‚

  7. Shauna

    So glad I came across your post. I am a fit, healthy woman, but wanted to get away from processed foods and sugar. I made it to day 11, then had some wine and hummus at a party. I still feel so much better, but I am a mom of three and a teacher, and we are headed back to school this week. I simply don’t have time to do the work required. I have decided to stick with the general rules, but I am not going to kill myself over a glass of wine, or a taste of something that is not on the list. I already feel better and will probably switch to a paleo diet at some point. One interesting thing that happened to me was that my vegetarian mom made a spaghetti with soy crumbles and since there was nothing else to eat I had a bit, my stomach immediately reacted! So, I do want to gradually re-introduce foods to see if I have any other sensitivities. Anyway, enough rambling, I am just happy to see someone else modify whole 30!

  8. Karen

    Thank you for posting this. I am on day 17 of my first Whole30 and am one meal away from throwing in the towel. It has made me think about how much I mindlessly eat and hopefully to be more intentional about cooking wholesome food for my family, but it has also made me hate food in general. I hate eating. I hate cooking. None of the meals I’ve eaten have been horrible – the food is actually good, but about halfway through, I just want to throw up. Therefore, I stop eating and am hungry an hour later. My mood is horrible and I dread each day b/c I know I have to do three more meals like this. I think this can’t be healthy anymore than all the junk I was eating before. I mentioned stopping the program to my husband yesterday and his response was “you will be happier.” I do feel some better – my brain fog is gone, I don’t feel tired and sluggish all the time, but I’m also whiny and in a bad mood b/c I’m so tired of thinking about food and food having no pleasure. Yes, I know that I am guilty of overindulging in treats and special foods far too many times, but to remove all pleasure from eating is just a unhealthy in my opinion. I haven’t decided what to do yet – if I will keep going the full 30 days or if I will walk away, but it was nice to read a perspective that is different from the hard line, if you quit you are weak, Whole30 is the greatest thing ever mantras that are so prevalent online. Thank you.

  9. Seana Davidson

    OMG! I just started the Whole 30 with a friend, day 3, I’m quitting it for the same reasons you did. Headache, brain fog, couldn’t get my work done, hungry all the time. I’m an active busy person with things to get done. I couldn’t afford to go on for another day and lose work time. I also had trouble sleeping.
    I did a bit of reading about it, and nutritionally, it’s not supported.

  10. Seana Davidson

    To add a bit of detail…My motivation was to get off the sugar and alcohol. and force myself to start cooking regularly again. I think I can eat a bit of honey, quinoa and cheese and still cut out the sugar and chemical additives.


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