Reintroduction – the critical phase following the reset portion of a Whole30, or really any elimination diet that involves systematically and deliberately reintroducing select food groups to learn your body’s response.
In my experience, it’s the piece of the process that stirs up the most confusion and what most folks are tempted to blow right past. Typically, for one of two reasons:
- They want to faceplant back into all the foods they’ve missed. Or …
- The thought of returning to the eliminated foods and triggering the very response they’ve worked hard to overcome is very, very scary.
We’ve reoriented our lives over the past 30 days, in some ways, quite drastically. And depending on your Whole30 experience (everyone’s journey looks different) the thought of either extending the process by another 1-2 weeks or feeling like you have to stop something that’s working can be less than motivating.
FOR THE LOVE OF YOUR HEALTH, PRETTY PLEASE DON’T SKIP THE REINTRODUCTION.
It’s the crucial part of the process where all the lifelong learnings can happen, and precisely why we worked so hard to reset our systems for 30 days in the first place. It gives us the clean slate we need to properly assess how we uniquely respond to certain foods.
Reintroduction, when done properly, gives us the chance to create our personalized nutrition blueprints. Once completed, you’ll have the information you need to make thoughtful decisions about how to nourish your body in a customized way. Pretty amazing!
I share all of this having learned the hard way during my first Whole30. It ended in a Day 31 plunge into all the foods I had missed dearly. Spoiler alert – it wasn’t cute.
Spurred by the very sticky analogy Melissa Urban (Whole30 co-founder) uses in her book, Food Freedom Forever, I’ve committed to a by-the-book Reintroduction for every Whole30 I’ve since completed – three of them so far, and I learn something new every time!
Aforementioned sticky analogy is about pets. Melissa leads you through a scenario in which you’re the lucky owner of a dog, two cats, a rabbit and a bird. You’re constantly struggling with allergies, and suspect your in-house zoo may have something to do with it.
You send your beloved fur/feather babies to hang with your sister for a month to see if that stops the congestion, puffy eyes, and persistent hives. Over the course of those 4 weeks, your allergies vanish, you feel like a million bucks. So, it’s easy to argue that while adorable, your pets are the cause of your misery.
But, you committed to a month, and it’s been a month, and you’ve missed your little babies so dearly! So, you bring them all back home. And duh. Your allergies return with vengeance. It’s unclear, however which pet(s) is sending you back down the path of discomfort.
So now, you’ve not only spent a whole month away from your favorite beings, but also erased the goodness you gained over the last month and are no closer to a long-term solution.
And now you’re sad. And covered in hives.
I don’t want you to be sad, or covered in hives. So …
HERE’S HOW TO EXECUTE THE REINTRODUCTION PHASE
- Bring back ONE variable at a time for a single day, and otherwise stick to Whole30 rules. Then, return to the full set of Whole30 rules for the following 2 or 3 days to give your body time to respond/recover.
- Eat/drink the reintroduced ingredient a few times throughout the day to give your body enough to react to (exception here is alcohol — no need to have booze with every meal, one serving should be plenty to gauge your reaction).
- The order of reintroduction should generally follow a least to most likely to be problematic scale. Typically, looks like this: gluten-free alcohol, added sugar, legumes, gluten-free grains, dairy, gluten.
- Ultimate outcome is to learn how your body responds to ingredients you’ve eliminated so you know if/how much is ‘worth it’ if you do want to mix them back into your diet moving forward.
- Important note: If you know you have sensitivities to some foods and/or not jazzed about bringing them back at all, just skip them all together! Personally, I know gluten is 100% out of the equation for me. I’ve learned it’s never, ever “worth it”, so it’s never part of my Reintroduction plan.
TO HELP BRING THIS TO LIFE, HERE’S A SNAPSHOT OF MY REINTRODUCTION SCHEDULE:
Feb 1: Gluten-free alcohol. Dry wine to keep the sugar content low.
Feb 2-3: Back to Whole30, observe and record any physical or mental changes.
Feb 4: Added sugar . Honey in tea, sugar in things like bacon, kombucha, etc.
Feb 5-6: Back to Whole30, observe and record any physical or mental changes.
Feb 7: Legumes . Peanut butter and hummus.
Feb 8-9: Back to Whole30, observe and record any physical or mental changes.
Feb 10: Gluten free grains. Corn … by way of tacos, obviously. But hold the cheese – that comes next.
Feb 11-12: Back to Whole30, observe and record any physical or mental changes.
Feb 13: Dairy. Sprinkle some cheese on your eggs at breakfast, use butter vs olive oil to cook, etc
Feb 14-15: Back to Whole30, observe and record any physical or mental changes.
Feb 16 and on: Eat according to the blueprints built over the past 2 weeks, feel like a champ, and enjoy the nourishing and joyful power of food!
A QUICK AND VERY HANDY REINTRODUCTION HACK
At Territory, we curate the menu in support of a wide variety of dietary paths. That means you can filter things out like grains, sweeteners, legumes, etc according to your personal Reintroduction schedule.
Simply tell us which ingredients you’d like to avoid during the order process, and we’ll suggest a personalized menu to fit your needs. You can change it weekly to help match your Reintroduction schedule, and what’s in and what’s out for that particular week.
Happy Reintroduction-ing, Whole30-ers. We’re so excited to support all the learnings!