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Six Reasons Why the Whole30® Didn’t Work For You

We’ve been running our Whole30® program for 3-1/2 years now, and have received thousands of glowing testimonials. (There are even more floating around on the internet, too—Google “Whole30” and you get hundreds of thousands of hits. Literally.) We’ve proven the program improves people’s health, and many report the Whole30 really did change their life.

But the Whole30 isn’t perfect (no diet is, universally), and we will be the first to admit it. The program is as good as we can make it, to have the most significant impact on as many people as we can reach. We’ve tweaked it, adjusted it, made it better as the years went on. But it’s not perfect, by any means, and it’s not a miracle—despite the miraculous results some people do experience.

That’s not to say that a strict 30-day Paleo elimination program isn’t a damn fine protocol. In fact, the Whole30 generally works really, really well for the vast majority of people. Which is why, when we hear from those who say the Whole30 (or some other form of short-term Paleo intervention) “didn’t work” for them, we pay attention. We read their stories, ask questions of these participants, and over the years, have gathered some data on why, for these folks, “the magic” just didn’t come. (At least, not in the way they hoped it would. More on this soon.)

In many cases, it’s not your fault if it didn’t work. And the one thing we want you to take away from this article is that if the Whole30 didn’t work for you, you are not a failure, and there is nothing wrong with you. It just is what it is… but there are reasons for it.

So today, here are six reasons (infused with a gentle dose of tough love) why your perfect Paleo elimination program just “didn’t work”… and what you can do about it.

You Didn’t Do It Right

This is the most common reason for the “failure” of elimination programs like the Whole30 to provide results. You followed the technical letter of the rules, but didn’t embrace the spirit or intention of the program. You “slipped” or “treated yourself,” because you had to/wanted to/figured it wouldn’t really matter. You adjusted the program to suit your cravings, your social life, your idea of “healthy.” You only gave it two weeks before deciding it wasn’t working.

And if you’re really, truly honest with yourself, you know that you didn’t really give the Whole30 your full efforts. And as we’ve mentioned before, mediocre efforts yield mediocre results.

Of course, this isn’t everyone’s situation. So for those of you who really felt like you gave the program the attention and dedication it deserves, then maybe…

Thirty Days Wasn’t Long Enough

While radical health improvements can take place in just 30 days during the program, when you put it into context, decades of less than healthy behavior often can’t compete with 30 days of Whole30. Fat adaptation (teaching your body to use fat as fuel) takes time.* Stubborn medical issues, like psoriasis, migraines, chronic pain conditions, or diabetes, can’t be fully resolved with just a month of healthy eating. And an unhealthy psychological relationship with food—and the cravings, habits, and emotional ties that go along—are often the toughest battle to win.

*This is especially true if you’re coming from a S.A.D. (Standard American Diet). It can take several weeks before you learn to trust the “hungry” and “full” signals your body is sending you—and you may not have been eating enough in the beginning, because you were afraid of all that fat.

Many Whole30’ers report that they didn’t feel or see “the magic” until day 45, 60, or beyond. Whether you choose to extend your Paleo elimination program or not is entirely up to you, but think about your results in terms of the context of your life, your health history, and your habits—and realize that maybe, you’ll need longer than just 30 days to see the ultimate results you were hoping for. But then again, you also have to make sure you’re measuring the right thing. Quite possibly…

You Aren’t Paying Attention To The Right Stuff

You really, really wanted to lose weight on your Whole30, and you read tons of testimonials about effortless weight loss when nothing else worked—so of course, you expected this would be your outcome too. But you didn’t lose weight, or you didn’t lose as much as you had hoped. So you deemed the program a failure, because the number on the scale didn’t budge, or your pants still fit the same. (You could apply this same concept to anything—you were hoping your skin would clear up and glow, your gym performance would skyrocket, or your chronic pain would completely disappear.)

But were you paying attention to what else happened during your program? Are you falling asleep easier, staying asleep longer, waking more refreshed? Is your energy more consistent, or have you lost your usual mid-day slump? Has your pain decreased, has your skin improved, have your allergies diminished, are your sugar cravings easier to battle?

As we’ve written about so many times, the scale (and your body) aren’t the only measure of Whole30 success—in fact, we’d venture to say it’s pretty far down the list of potential life-changing results. And being open to embracing all of the changes the program has to offer—both the expected and the unexpected, the large and the small—can open your eyes to the results you’ve actually achieved.

So if you didn’t lose weight (or change one particular health factor as much as you were hoping), take a different approach and focus on all of the positive changes you have seen. Of course… it’s entirely possible that you’re barking up the wrong tree altogether.

You’re Looking For a Nutrition Solution To a Lifestyle Problem

If you come from a S.A.D.—even the “healthy” kind, with whole grains and low-fat dairy—we’d be stunned if the Whole30 didn’t make a huge impact on how you look, how you feel, and your quality of life. Stunned. But if you’ve been eating pretty Paleo for a while, decide to tighten things up that last 20% in the hopes of seeing the results you’ve been missing, and just don’t see them, you know what that tells us?

Diet ain’t your problem.

And no amount of additional Paleo elimination, carb-gram tweaks, or fasting cycles is going to completely resolve your issues. If this is your story, it’s time to look at your other factors. If you’re only sleeping five hours a night, doing high-intensity activity six days a week, and eating a purposefully very low-carb diet, you’ve got bigger fish to fry than the occasional cream in your coffee. Check out the Whole9 Health Equation, and see what other factors you need to prioritize to get things moving in the right direction.

In addition, just maybe, and we say this gently…

Your Expectations Are Simply Too High

This is a difficult one to tell people, because we hear “miracle” Whole30 testimonials every day. “The Whole30 made my hot flashes disappear!” “The Whole30 fixed my adrenal fatigue!” “My rheumatoid arthritis was cured thanks to Paleo!” So If you are in menopause, suffering from cortisol resistance, or have an autoimmune condition, you’re wondering, why didn’t this happen to me?

We understand. And we can’t blame you for feeling disappointed when you see other people “just like you” experiencing the results you desperately hoped to see… but didn’t. But the thing you have to understand is that no one is just like you. Your history, current context, genetics, environment all meld together to form a unique situation: you. Which means the same protocol applied to two very “similar” people can yield dramatically different results.

Here’s the other thing we need to be clear about—the Whole30, while a powerful dietary intervention, isn’t always a miracle cure. (We’re probably not going to use that as our next tag line, but it’s the truth.) To be blunt, the impact of your hormones during menopause far exceeds the benefits of not adding milk and sugar to your coffee. The long-reaching effects of chronic stress aren’t usually fixable with dietary intervention alone—that’s the exception, rather than the rule. And, as far as medical research has demonstrated to date, autoimmune conditions aren’t normally fully reversible.

So while the Whole30 could help you improve some symptoms, maybe all it’s going to do for you (depending on your history and context) is help you maintain—or not make things worse. It may improve your skin, your energy, your sleep, but if you’re battling a serious condition or disease (or are going through massive hormonal changes, such as during pregnancy or menopause), it’s just not reasonable to believe that any dietary intervention will magically see you through. It’s wonderful if it does, but it’s simply not realistic to expect.

Which brings us to the final reason, which plays on the above…

Lifestyle Interventions Can’t Fix Everything

Many come to the Whole30 with long histories of yo-yo dieting, chronic stress, poor lifestyle choices, and longstanding illness. The effects of health history are far-reaching, causing changes to your metabolism, your inflammatory status, and how your body responds to stimulus like food, stress, and exercise for years—decades—to come. And some of you are still working through these issues when you come to Paleo nutrition or the Whole30.

This situation requires the toughest love of all.

Lifestyle interventions can’t fix everything. In fact, you could pile a Whole30 on top of sleeping ten hours a night on top of smart exercise on top of stress management… and that still might not totally “fix” you. Because some issues are so longstanding, and so disruptive long-term, that you need targeted intervention with a trained and experienced professional to fix your stuff.  (And we’re not talking about “Are you stressed a lot? You probably have adrenal fatigue. You should take some adaptogens and only do strength work.” This information is basically useless at your stage of the game.)

We’re talking about connecting with a good functional medicine practitioner, doing some very specific (and probably costly) testing to figure out exactly what’s going on, and then supplementing with the appropriate stuff, at the appropriate dose, for the appropriate amount of time. Months, generally. Perhaps a year or more.

We told you, this part would be hard to hear. And we’re sorry if this is your context. But trust us when we say we understand. (Melissa spent two years recovering from her stress addiction and cortisol resistance, working with several functional medicine practitioners, doing lots of testing, and following a very specific supplementation schedule and radical lifestyle interventions to get her to the very healthy place she’s at today.)

Of course, this doesn’t mean diet, sleep, exercise,  and stress management don’t matter. In fact, in this situation, rigorous attention to these details (and we mean rigorous—change-your-entire-life-around-to-improve-these-lifestyle-factors rigorous) is a prerequisite for the work you’ll do with your practitioner. So don’t give up on the Whole30, or your other healthy lifestyle protocols. But in this case, in your context, please don’t expect even this level of attention to the lifestyle stuff to fix everything for you. (Believe us, we wish they could.)

The Good News

After all this, there is good news. If you’ve done the Whole30 with not-so-stellar results, go back and reevaluate your efforts, and your outcome. Perhaps you’ll see your program in a new light—or be motivated to try again. (Our Whole30® Daily has a series of questionnaires to help you be more aware of the benefits, large and small, you may see along the way.)

If you’ve got a complicated health history, don’t be discouraged! You didn’t get to this place overnight, and you’ll not get out of it quickly—but armed with a healthy lifestyle (and perhaps the help of an experienced professional) you are already back on the road to recovery. Patience is key. Being kind to and forgiving of yourself is key. And focusing on the positive changes you are already seeing could have the biggest impact on your experience. How you view the situation is sometimes more important than the details of the situation itself.

We’ll be talking a lot more about these complicated issues, and the fact that lifestyle interventions can’t fix everything, in future articles. In the meantime, if you’re one of those people for whom a perfect Paleo protocol just didn’t work for you, take heart. You are not alone, and we’ll do our best to provide you with the information and support you need to continue to move forward with your health initiatives.

We can help you live the Whole9 life.

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Comments

  1. Desi Doucet says

    OMG – did you mean to post this very article for me today? My first Whole 30 (in January 2012) was a bit of a disaster and I was sick the entire time. In retrospect, I think I was eating too many almonds and pecans. I had a friend with a bunch of pecan trees and I picked over 100# of free pecans and would snack on them a great deal. It was too much for me, I believe.

    I am embarking (TODAY is Day 1) of my next Whole30 for the express purpose that I want to give this another shot. I am in a less stressful state than I was back in January and I know that it will get much easier after the 1st two weeks (it just becomes routine). If I don’t get the results I expect this time around, I will seek outside help. I have a very busy life and tend to overextend myself. My father led a similar life and he died at age 54 of a heart attack that I credit mainly to his stressful life (and his bad eating and no exercise). I have tried to fix my diet and exercise, but I also realized that I have a very negative inside voice. I am working to fix the negativity as well. I can’t believe I didn’t realize how unkind I was to myself until now (in my mid-30′s). I realize that this is a journey and there’s no quick fix, it will take time to get where I want to be.

    Right now, I find that it is especially important for me to re-set my eating as I’d fallen completely off the bandwagon. I lost 30# once I began eating a paleo diet almost 3 years ago – my acne cleared up and many other things that I didn’t realize were issues. I wasn’t expecting earth shattering results from my intital Whole 30, but I did want to see some improvement. I was not happy that my digestive tract was such a mess during that time, but I’m giving it another go. Needless to say I’m hopeful that it will be a very different experience this time :)

  2. says

    I feel like this was me on #1, but to my credit I was also giving up “social” smoking, which gave me unbearable cravings, so I quenched them with coconut water, and I even had a paleo muffin with honey in it, so yeah there were a few mistakes I made, and if I had to grade myself I would have given me a C minus, so no wonder it wasn’t life-changing for me!

  3. says

    I think you’ve captured the main reasons that ANY program fails. TV commercials have convinced people it’s easy to reach our health goals, but unfortunately crawling out from underneath 30 years of rubble takes a lot of dedication.

  4. Erin says

    I’ve been following you guys for quite some time now, and although I’ve never doubted the effectiveness of a Whole30 (mostly paleo + a couple Whole30s over the course of a year or so slowly exposed my gluten intolerance – I’ve been completely gluten free for over a year now) I have certainly experienced most of the roadblocks you describe above. I did some backsliding over the last 6 months, and as I’ve just started grad school, I decided I needed to get a leg up by being as healthy as possible. I’m on day 15 of another one right now, and I realized yesterday that this is not just a W30 – I’m currently tentatively planning on quite an extension to the protocol, something I probably mentally wouldn’t have been able to deal with in prior W30′s.

    Also, I’d like to say that this article strikes just the right balance of empathy and tough love with none of the snark. Awesome article.

  5. Dana says

    The timing on this was so helpful for me also having just visited my Rheumatologist today and being told I will never be able to put my arthritis in remission but can simply just improve my symptoms.
    I don’t think I’ll ever have a “miracle cure”. But doing 2 sets of Whole 30 has resulted in less pain, improved sleeping, weight maintenance and relationship with food, so I’m still on board! Would still like to be off medications though.

  6. says

    I’m glad to hear this article’s tone and content are resonating. I’ll be honest – my first draft had a lot more tough love. That’s just my personality (Dallas’ too). But our audience is growing and changing, and so is our approach. And I really hope we’ll have a lot more opportunity to help people if we keep writing things like this.

    Dr. Mark, there’s one more reason a dietary protocol didn’t work: because it’s a crappy protocol. These 17 day diets/3 day detoxes/get skinnier than your friends programs don’t work because they’re faulty in premise and content – I’d venture to say they won’t ever help anybody long-term. But that’s not one of OUR reasons, because programs like Robbs or ours are, we truly believe, solid in foundation, design, and intention (focusing on long-term health, not quick-fix weight loss).

    Melissa

  7. Nancy M says

    Okay, this is the first time anyone in the paleo blogosphere I’ve encountered has even briefly mentioned menopause. But all you say is don’t expect much! Please, for the love of all that’s human, elaborate! I am sure I’m not the only menopausal female working hard to keep healthy. Passing it off with a phrase is just not enough help.

  8. says

    I have about 1 week left on my first Whole30 adventure. It has truly been a journey which i’ve appreciated and developed more insight on my body.

    I’m currently an emotional wreck because my beloved dog is terminally ill (DAMN CANCER!). I’m contemplating extending the journey since all I can think about is a cupcake. I know that I’m struggling because my brain wants to run to sweets to calm my sadness in my heart for losing Clubber. It sucks, genuinely. However, I appreciate that I can at least recognize what is going on, and more importantly that I AM NOT GIVING IN!!!! So many times I wanted to, but I haven’t. That’s huge for me.

    I hope that this last week will help prove that my sugar addiction is over, but considering the upcoming decision that will have to be made in the best interest of my boy, I think the biggest challenge is yet to come…..

    Thank you for this program, and I truly look forward to learning more, trying it again and again, and also sharing it with SO many others!!! Anyone who says that they can’t is just not ready to TRY…. CAN’T isn’t a word in my vocabulary and all my clients know that. :)

    Ape

  9. Erin@Whole9Life says

    Ape D: I’m so sorry to hear about your pup. Our pets our like our own furry little children. It is brave of you to continue your Whole30 considering the circumstances and so insightful for you to recognize that emotions are triggering your cravings. We know you can make it to day 30; your resolve to complete the program is palpable.

    Take care. Sending blessings and prayers your way.

    -Erin

  10. says

    Nancy,

    I know, I know… And I’m sorry we haven’t addressed this yet! To be honest, we need to do more research and learn more from our functional medicine mentors before we attempt to tackle this subject – it’s extremely complex, and there are no easy one size fits all solutions. We’ll continue to dive into the research, so please know this topic is very much on our radar. We just don’t want to come out with advice before we feel like we’re adequately prepared.

    Best,
    Melissa

  11. says

    Ive been paleo for the last 6 months and yes I feel so much better, but Im also going thru menopause and a shift worker. I lose a couple of kilos then put it back on, its so frustrating as I eat paleo all the time (Im also gluten intolerant) and know the hormones are not helping at all.
    So understanding how menopause interupts the diet will help a lot.
    Thanks Brenda

  12. Jami McCormack says

    wow..thanks you guys. this is really good to hear…i think i said one day last week f-it! just feel like eating pizza and ice cream! i didn’t…and i don’t REALLY want that but it has definitely been a longer journey for me than some of the quick miracles..but you are right, a lot of things are better and managed and i just need more specific help. this was a very helpful article …thank you very much.

  13. Luv2bhealthy says

    I just purchased the book about 2 weeks ago. I haven’t fully gotten on board yet although I believe what is written in your book. I’ve been carrying it around everywhere so I can continue to read. I am an 80/20 eater (yes, I read about that in your book), and I do have a sugar addiction – not strong, but one nevertheless. I know I feel better when I eat according to Whole9. I can almost feel what sugar is doing when it enters my body.

    Just an FYI concerning menopause: Two and a half years ago, I went for my yearly exam and blood work. When the blood work came back, I was informed that I was post menopausal. I was shocked. I’d had a few hot flashes here and there but no other indication. I am an avid exerciser; Taekwondo, I teach fitness classes, run, just started doing triathlons. My eating habits have been fairly healthy as compared to most diets – no drinks except water and coffee, no fried foods, no fast food limited processed foods (usually in the form of bread, pita chips, pretzels, dark chocolate, and occasional sweets). I still have had no menopausal symptoms except rare hot flashes. I’ve been waiting for the “bomb” to drop because my mother had a horrible time. The only thing my doctor could attribute the easy transition to was my diet and exercise. Maybe I’m just one of those exceptions, I don’t know. But I went on a health journey about 8 years ago after my mom died of cancer (it runs in my family) so maybe I was able to undo some of the damage to my body through my lifestyle changes.

  14. Brandi says

    I ordered the book today and look forward to learning the lifestyle. I have been yo-yo dieting for years and never see results. I know it will be hard to adjust my eating habits but I am READY to try something that will make me feel better. I don’t sleep well because of stress and have had to rely on Ambien to sleep. I am just SO READY for a change!

  15. Mariah says

    Thanks, as always. As a type-A “fix-it” freak with decades of really, really messed up self-inflicted body abuse and a current slew of both genetic and lifestyle based hormonal and systematic illnesses, I need to hear the “tough love” of “be patient” and “it’s not your fault.” 2 years of strict paleo plus strict exercise can’t fix all problems: I am a perfect example of that.

  16. says

    I’m glad to hear you are finding the article (and the message) helpful. We’ll continue to research and learn as much as we can, to help as many people as we can. In the meantime, keep up the good work, and don’t lose hope! I’ve got an amazing testimonial in the works that speaks to patience, a realistic set of expectations, and success that is definitely worth waiting for!

    Melissa

  17. says

    Yes, yes, YES — THIS: “But if you’ve been eating pretty Paleo for a while, decide to tighten things up that last 20% in the hopes of seeing the results you’ve been missing, and just don’t see them, you know what that tells us? Diet ain’t your problem.”

    Soooo true. I’ve come to think of it as “the happiness factor.” Lots of people out there (myself included, at times) tend to only look at diet and exercise. We tweak and experiment endlessly: a couple more grams of this, fewer ounces of that, a bottle of that new supplement everyone’s talking about. Higher intensity workouts, *lower* intensity workouts. Sometimes we very much miss the forest for the trees. We obsess over making everything “optimal,” and we wonder why things aren’t as rosy as we thought they’d be when we got everything in line.

    The happiness factor, for me, is the *other stuff* that can potentially derail, delay, or otherwise prevent the kind of results we would expect to get by finding the magical balance of nutrients & exercise. For people who have tweaked everything to the max and still aren’t where they want to be, one of two things is happening. Either their expectations are just plain unrealistic, or like you said, it’s ain’t the diet. How much joy do they feel? Do they have career satisfaction? Are they in a fulfilling relationship? Are they stuck in a rut, be it in their job, marriage, whatever? I speak from experience (unfortunately) when I say “you can’t out-Paleo an unhappy life.” (Like “you can’t outrun a bad diet.) The cleanest Paleo eating and intelligent exercise will only get you so far if you’re sleepwalking through life, dreading the work day, and just kind of muddling from one day to the next without any infusions of enjoyment and excitement.

    (Of course, eating well can certainly help those feelings, though! Especially if low moods are more a result of nutritional imbalances.) But I agree 100% — we tend to focus on diet and exercise exclusively, when there’s so much more to life that can help or hinder improvements in our health and physique.

  18. Tara says

    I just finished my first Whole30– I’ve been eating pretty Paleo for about a year now, and decided to do Whole30 to see if I could fix up that last bit of gray area in my eating. I unfortunately fall into the “Just didn’t see the magic” camp: I think the biggest improvement/benefit I saw during my Whole30 was the 2 pounds I lost; other than that, I felt exactly the same. I think that, for me personally, this was more a testament to me already being pretty in check: I’m a very avid Crossfitter, get a ton of sleep, don’t have much stress at work, and I’m young (22) and relatively small (5’4″ and 143lbs), but was curious what a Whole30 would do for my body composition, mostly–just that stubborn last bit of weight I can’t seem to lose. The only foods I really plan to reintroduce are milk for my chai, the occasional yogurt, and dark chocolate, but overall I feel as though I wasn’t that far off track before. I’m not frustrated that Whole30 “didn’t work” for me, I’m just curious as to what other people in this kind of situation felt/think.

    To be fair, when I first started eating Paleo about a year and a half ago, it was nowhere near as strict as Whole30 and I did definitely lose weight – probably around 15 pounds. So maybe I’m not a great counterexample to Whole30 after all!

  19. says

    Tara,

    I’d suspect one of two things here. Either (a) diet isn’t your limiting factor in body comp, but other lifestyle factors are (the phrase “very avid CrossFitter” sticks out to me), or (b) the things you’ll have to do in terms of tightening up your diet, training, sleep, and recovery to lose that last big or body fat may not be worth it to you. Heck, I could have a six pack again if I wanted to, but the things I’d have to do to get back to that place – the strictness of my diet, the dedication to training and massive amounts of recovery, etc. – just aren’t worth it in terms of my life balance.

    If the Whole30 didn’t help you tighten up those last few issues, then that’s pretty much what you’re left with. You may find changing your training up and spending more time on recovery practices eliminates just enough stress to help you lose those last few pounds – sometimes, it can be that easy.

    Melissa

  20. says

    Hey,
    I just read most of your stuff and it makes sense. I’m glad to see how realistic and honest you are about expectations and less than miraculous results. Short or long term. One thing I notice a lack of.
    And that is testimonials from men. I’m a man, but I can change, if I have to, I guess. Just joking! I’m 54 and need to lose 20 lbs. I was directed to this info by a chiropractor friend who has had positive results. I hope over the long term I will benefit also. I’ll let you know.

  21. Caroline says

    Great article. I realise it may be a little personal, but as someone who is trying to find her way out of Stage 3 adrenal fatigue, it would be great to hear about Melissa’s journey of recovery. There is so much information and conflicting information out there (I have received conflicting advice from different practitioners), that it would be useful to hear of a ‘real life’ recovery story.

  22. Kathleen says

    I’ve been a steadfast supporter of the Whole 30 mission for the last 28 days, despite seeing nothing in the way of positive results for myself. Prior to the whole 30, my diet was shit. I ate fried food at all hours, drank a lot of beer, and was pretty sedentary. A good portion of my job involves eating out, drinking, and being social, so I’ve taken a huge hit in that realm and only eaten out 5 or 6 times (a stark contrast to the 2x/day in 2012). I haven’t cheated once in the last 28 days, even trying to avoid nuts the last two weeks in an effort to make some progress. I’ve been working out (not too hardcore: just light jogging and pilates) about 4 days a week. The results? My pants are tighter than ever, my skin is totally broken out (usually only happens around my period), I have horrendous headaches nearly every day, and my energy has never been lower. I was diagnosed with depression a few years back, didn’t like being on meds for it, and have been able to tolerate my symptoms without them for the last year. Now I find myself completely unmotivated and feeling isolated like never before.

    Sadly, this article leaves me more frustrated than ever as it looks like my only option for help with my weight, headaches, and depression is doctors, testing, and medicine, which is exactly what I wanted to avoid. I don’t know why, but I’m going to try to continue the Whole30 for a little while longer, just because I’ve had friends get great results. But there’s no “tiger blood,” no clear skin, no positive results… and I just feel like I’m barking up the wrong tree.

  23. says

    Kathleen,

    I’m sorry you’re not seeing the results you wanted to see, and I really can’t say (without more details) what may be happening in your individual context. I can understand wanting to avoid doctors and testing, but there are some things that even the “perfect” diet can’t undo or mediate, and perhaps it’s time to see if you can find a good functional medicine doc or naturopath to help you figure out what may be going on behind the scenes.

    I hope you are eating enough food – to say your energy has been in the tank makes me wonder if you’re under-feeding yourself. And with more info, we could potentially tweak your Whole30 meal timing, volume, and food choices, but it sounds like you may have more important things going on in your life, underneath the dietary choices. I wish you the best of luck, and hope that you are able to find something that works well for you. (And if you want to continue to give the Whole30 a little more time, consider a personal consultation, so one of our experts can help you tweak your program to ensure you’re making the most of the dietary changes.)

    Best,
    Melissa

  24. Theresa says

    I am on day day 19 with the whole30 and I’m not pleased! This has been one if the hardest things I’ve ever done with next to no results. I will say if I’m not having a crazy mood swing(witch is often) my energy levels and mood are better. I’ve only lost 3 lbs so far and no inches Bc my clothes feel like they are getting TIGHTER! I’m so frustrated and have gas many sobs over lack of results. I think I’m so much more upset Bc this is so HARD. I don’t understand why I wouldn’t have had a substantial weightloss by doing the whole 30 Bc I was drinking about 4 times a week, had diary multiple times per day and cheese at every meal, I picked and snacked on everything and def consumed a ton if sugar. I thought by just omitting those bad habits I would have lost 5lbs plus all the healthy eating I would have lost much more weight by now. I’m not even chewing gum. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I do eat fruit and nuts but in moderation. I drink a ton of water. I do snack butt that’s only if I’m starving and not able to eat until later.

    So what is going on?!

  25. Jem says

    I’m on day 46 – and I don’t feel much different. My energy levels and GI issues are slightly better but my skin and waist line are much worse!! I’m carefully following the template but frankly there’s WAY TOO MUCH food on our plates with this approach.

    And I miss cheese as a condiment. Just a tiny bit of parmesan would go a looooooooooong way to making a dish taste divine and satisfying. I’m so bloody bored of these plain meals that I’ve been snacking like crazy because even though I’m physically full my palate isn’t satisfied.

    On day 32 I attended a family cookout and I had a burger on a white bread bun and some tortilla chips – and I felt absolutely fine. Made me realize that the Whole30 is great as an elimination technique but it’s not a be-all end-all.

  26. Ana says

    I am a 23 year old grad student, and I have always been health conscious. I have a friend that started the Whole 30 about 3 months ago due to dairy and gluten allergies. She has lost about 15 pounds and looks/feels fantastic. After hearing the changes in her thinking, lifestyle, and relationship with food, I decided this was a good place to start some changes in my own life.

    I am currently in a counseling program, about half way through. This is a highly stressful time in my life, to say the least. Learning to manage my own needs and needs of others that I counsel has been more of a struggle than anything else in my life.

    Through the past year, I struggled with depression and anxiety, which created a habit of binge eating for me. I would eat quite healthy most of the time, but I would be so stressed that I would eat candy, cake and cookie dough like a robot. I started gaining weight, grinding my teeth in my sleep and having panic attacks.

    This summer has been a breath of fresh air for me, which is why I decided to start the Whole 30 now. I am on day 8, but really struggling with “results.” I must say, I am a little obsessive about weight and appearance-something I am consistently working on through this. Today I just feel defeated because I want more of the physical change than what I’ve seen. I’ve stuck to the plan almost 100% and do feel better about not counting calories and worrying so much. I am sleeping better and have more energy. Those are obviously good things to focus on, but it’s difficult to push the other feelings of defeat aside.

  27. says

    @Theresa, I’m sorry it took us so long to respond to you. The short answer is, I don’t know, and I won’t be able to tell you what’s going on without a detailed consult. Weight loss is so complex, and depends on so many factors, many of them historical. I hope that you learned some helpful lessons from the Whole30, and that you have been able to incorporate them into a new, healthier lifestyle.

    @Jem: The Whole30 is just a tool to help people figure out for themselves the best way to eat for them. If you made your way through the program and came to some decisions about what you want to incorporate back into your everyday diet, then you’ve done just that – which is all we can ask for. We wish you the best of luck.

    @Ana: First, I’d highly recommend talking with your counselor about these issues. This stuff is beyond my education and scope or “practice,” and I’d be remiss to offer you advice over the internet. You really need to continue working with a trained professional to explore some of these issues, and work through them. That having been said, the Whole30 as written isn’t right for everyone, especially those with a history or disordered eating. Perhaps these series of articles will help you understand our thought process, and help you explain a bit about what you’re doing and feeling to your counselor: http://whole9life.com/tag/eating-disorder/

    Best,
    Melissa

  28. Cory says

    I’d LOVE to read the first draft! I like the tough love, too many people today just want things handed to them or a quick fix and never want to hear about self responsibility…. You’re right to be softer having to reach a larger audience. I’m on my second W30 and have learned sooo much and stick pretty close to it now all the time. Coming back to your site and regularly reading your articles always helps keep my focus! ISWF is going to be given to a number of people on my Christmas list this year! Thank you for all you’ve done and don’t lose all the tough love!!!

  29. says

    I’m on day 29 of my first Whole30, and the first 2 weeks weren’t as bad as I expected in terms of cravings and preparing meals. My mother and I have been doing this together, and we are both creative cooks and have put together some of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. REAL FOOD is only boring if you make it boring. That being said, I have struggled with my ‘results’ on this Whole30. I am small in size, but have a pretty high metabolism these days and tend to burn through my meals quickly. Finding the right combination of proteins/fats/carbs to keep me full for more than 2 hours has been challenging. Not the end of the world, but there were a few times that I could feel my energy falling out, and had that ‘I need to eat IMMEDIATELY’ feeling before I got the shakes, or worse, passed out. (low blood sugar and diabetes run in my family, although I have personally not tested positive for the diabetes) I also noticed an increase in abdominal cramping, bloating, gas, and heartburn. This was how I felt before going gluten free, and it started to get worse and I was very frustrated trying to figure out what I was missing, what I was doing wrong. Some research led me to articles on fructose malabsorption, and I’m now wondering if that may be where my problem lies. I’ve replaced my yogurt, cheese, and occasional rice/potatoes with more vegetables and fruits, many of which are pretty high in fructose. Even the vegetables like brussel sprouts, onions, and broccoli can cause stomach upset. So while I wasn’t necessarily doing anything ‘wrong’ in terms of following Whole30, my body seemed to be going through some shock and chaos. I may attempt another Whole30 in the future, with more focus on low fructose foods. Sometimes there are other factors beyond ‘you just didn’t do it right’. I do have to add, my mother says she has never felt better, and while she’s planning to reintroduce yogurt and a little cheese, she wants to maintain a grain free lifestyle. She’s lost weight, has more energy, and her arthritis has already improved. Same program, different people, different results.

  30. says

    Cory, thank you for the kind words. We’ll keep up with the tough love when appropriate, don’t worry!

    Danielle, I’m sorry you’ve been having some struggles. It can be frustrating to troubleshoot a new program. You could be doing everything right, and still having issues! If some of the foods you’ve reintroduced aren’t sitting well with you, a food journal can help you pinpoint where the trouble is coming from. I hope that you can troubleshoot and arrive at a healthy Whole30/Whole9 style diet that works for you.

    Best,
    Melissa

  31. Alexa says

    Danielle, I’m finding myself in a very similar situation to you! I’m on day 20 currently and obviously plan to continue up to the finishing line, however I’m still waiting for the hallelujah moment to kick in. The energy, the positivity, the tiger blood!

    Whole9 team – maybe you can help me shed some light – I’ve been pretty much 100% paleo for over 4 months ever since being tested for food intolerances (gluten, wheat, cows milk, corn, legumes, almonds all showed up as reactive) so for me the Whole30 was really just about giving up the natural sugars (except max. 2 small pieces fruit per day) and the alcohol. Do you think this could have an effect on the results? The fact that I wasn’t really ‘shocking’ my body into a whole new regime, but rather just taking it to a slightly higher level?

    Maybe it just means there’s something else causing the bloating and occassional cramps, like eggs or too much sweet potato (is there such a thing?!) Might have to experiment with excluding these to really find out. Either way I’m not discouraged and I’m excited to complete it knowing I didn’t cave in – overall it’s the concept of eating real foods that’s key, so thankyou for all your advice and hard work getting the message out there.

    • says

      Alexa, it makes sense that you wouldn’t experience this dramatic transformation of energy/sleep/etc. if you’re really just cutting out a few grams of added sugar a day. Chances are your “a-ha” moment came about three months ago, when you had been eating a strict Paleo diet for about a month! But yes bloating and cramps can be caused by any number of foods–FODMAPs are a likely culprit, as are nuts and seeds. Keeping a food journal might help you notice that you tend to feel bloated after you eat broccoli or nut butters, and trying some basic eliminations (low-FODMAP for a while, no nuts and seeds for a week) may help you ID the specific foods. We have a low-FODMAP shopping list here on the site, which might help if you decide to go that route.

      Best,
      Melissa

  32. Danielle says

    Alexa- I found that I felt much better once I cut out the high fructose fruits I had been consuming. I felt hungry all the time and ate a lot of sweet potatoes, squash for carbs, and would have 2 pieces of fruit with my snacks throughout the day. I quit eating grapes, raisins, apples, and anything with dates and have felt much better! The gastroenterologist said ‘classic case of ibs’. I say bull, there’s obviously something all these issues. It’s not random irritability. For me, I’m pretty sure it was the excess fructose. You could try switching to a lower fructose fruit for your snacks and maybe that will help. It certainly helped me! I avoid apples, grapes, dates and raisins. Bananas, berries, and a little fresh pineapple have all been well tolerated. Hope that helps! It took me until day 28 to finally hit on fructose as a possible culprit.

  33. says

    As I was reading through some of the comments from ‘unsuccessful’ W30 participants, it occurred to me that some of the meal compositions could be part of the problem. If you’ve noticed yourself gaining weight, rather than losing, during the W30, are you eating too much animal protein? Are you eating too many nuts? Are you getting enough freh vegetable at every meal? Are you drinking enough water?

    I think these questions are important to ask ourselves, in addition to assessing our sleep patterns, stress levels and exercise recovery times. While this program truly may not be for everyone, as the article stated, the potential experiencing of success could be as simple as an adjustment of what we put on our plates.

    Best of luck to all, and thank you for a great article!

  34. Lisa says

    I needed to see this today!!! I did my first Whole30 in April, and I was just starting to see some healing, and then I re-introduced dairy and all of my symptoms came back immediately. And in the month since then, every area where I made progress has been reversed. So now I’m starting a Whole14, and I’ll extend it as long as necessary. If I need to be strict for several months, I’ll do it. I wish I had waited for a better resolution of my symptoms to start doing re-introductions. But at least this gives me hope.

  35. guillermo jose says

    B.S. im 191, 6’1″ and crossfit, lift weghts and have a potbelly, i have done the wh0le30 diet strictly and have not lost one gram or reduced my gut. didnt work for me….at all. 30 days lost.

  36. Lisa says

    The majority of comments, instructions and projections made about this diet assume that you eat poorly to begin with and/or never exercise: what can a person who historically has eaten correctly and exercises regularly expect? That is, a person who has read food labels for decades, already eat only whole foods cooks from scratch, already strictly limits sugar and carbs, consumes far fewer calories a day than the Fed recommends, exercises regularly, and etc (… based on the original D’Anamo “Eat Right For Your Type”)

    I need to lose 25 pounds. It was 15 pounds (too much alcohol, slacking on exercise ), then 10 more in 2 weeks this winter due to meds I stopped quickly. I am also peri/post menopausal and have low thyroid which was historical handled with Synthroid with no problem, but which I have been augmenting with Iosol and a lot of supplements over the past 6 months.

    I was on Atkins 2 weeks but felt dangerously faint and had to stop yoga (was passing out). Paleo is very close to how I have eaten for the past 20 years, but with much less fruit (which is hard for me) and, of course, no grain-carbs. I have been on it a week and have been getting bad headaches at night (I take Imitrex for them).

    Many people have posted great success with the Whole30: can this be expected only if you ave never been strict with diet and exercise?

  37. Lisa says

    (… and, for Nancy M., Black Cohosh will get rid pf all post and peri-menopausal symptoms except weight gain. Buy it in powder form, dissolve one teaspoon in a bit of boiling water and drink fort thing in the morning. Within an hour all the symptoms will go away (no hot flashes, etc). There must be something similar you can do to re-set or augment hormones so avoid weight gain…?)

  38. Blondie says

    And I thought I was the ONLY person not to get good results from Whole 30. Not only did I not lose weight, I gained weight. I felt horrible and often had to go to bed in complete exhustion every day at 5pm.
    I followed the diet to the letter.

    But I am sticking to it because dispite really negative results, I think the whole idea behind Whole 30 makes sense.
    I am in my 6th week.
    We will see. Still have not lost ONE pound much less a pant size….just the opposite.

  39. Lisa says

    This caused violent migraines for me. Day 1 through 3 were OK, started headaches day 4 and by day 6 I had a severe migraine. I have changed this diet to allow more fruit carbs, and a tiny piece of multi-grain bread with p-butter and jam once a day – that is, bread the size of 4 postage stamps. This had eliminated the headaches.

  40. Kiesha says

    “We told you, this part would be hard to hear. And we’re sorry if this is your context. But trust us when we say we understand. (Melissa spent two years recovering from her stress addiction and cortisol resistance, working with several functional medicine practitioners, doing lots of testing, and following a very specific supplementation schedule and radical lifestyle interventions to get her to the very healthy place she’s at today.)”

    This is where I’m at. Inexperienced some great sdvantages to the whole 30 & I believe that I will do it again soon. I am on the hunt for good specialists and “functional doctors” to set aside time examine what true damage chronic stress has done to my body. This is one journey not a sprint. People need to realize this program opens the door to knowing more about your body.

    I loved reading this insight. Thanks for sharing.

  41. Leslie says

    I have not lost any weight on the W30. I am on day 20. I think I am eating to many blue berries and almonds. Can someone recommend a snack I can get at night. Night time is my weak point.

  42. Chelle says

    I’m SUPER curious as to why the “creators” of Whole30 feel like it’s necessary to berate, denigrate and basically yell at people to get the point across about the diet and its benefits. If it’s so great, why the hard sell? Why use the classic “insecurity” approach to get people to do it? And why blame people for “not doing it right” or being weak, instead of talking about positive things and building on strengths?
    I actually find it a little sad, that there are people out there with so much self-loathing and insecurity that they like it when people talk to them like they are stupid, weak little children. Man. I hope, for those people, that they go get some therapy, STAT. Life can be pretty great even without someone berating you for your natural human frailties.

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