You Don’t Need More Willpower to Do the Whole30

Being a Whole30 Certified Coach is fun because I get to experience each of my first client’s first discoveries and Food Freedom epiphanies with them. Part of my role is to help develop a mindset that is conducive to a successful Whole30 and Food Freedom.

Perhaps one of the most difficult concepts I’ve tried to explain to my people is this shift away from a willpower mindset. Does the Whole30 take discipline? Oh, for sure. You will experience cravings. You will want to quit. You will need someone to talk you off a ledge involving donuts in the break room. But I don’t think discipline means exactly what you think it means. Let me explain.

The Whole30 requires you to first make a decision: Am I going to complete a round of Whole30? When you answer, “Yes” to that question, you’re preemptively answering “No” to the following questions for a 30 day period of time:

Am I going to consume grains?

Am I going to consume dairy?

Am I going to consume alcohol?


Therefore, during your 30 days, the real question is never going to be, “Am I going to eat this thing with sugar in it?” because, again, you answered that question by answering the first question, “Yes.”

This is the paradigm shift required to ditch the pressure of searching for more “willpower.”

If you were to have to answer that question, “Am I going to eat this product with sugar in it?” all day long, studies show you’d run out of willpower and eventually eat the sugar. (Such studies are referenced in Melissa Hartwig’s book, Food Freedom Forever, my personal favorite.) So, you only have so much willpower each day. I need everyone to understand:

1) The Whole30 isn’t about willpower.

2) This is good news.

The concepts of “willpower” and “discipline” seem to imply that you’re faced with one choice after another in which you have to employ some inner strength to make the “good” decision. If you think about it, that’s not really what you’re doing during a Whole30. In this way, the work is done for you and you can truly trust the process.

Picture this scenario:

It’s Day 9 of your Whole30. You’re at the grocery store scouring marinara sauce ingredients (your fave new hobby) and you find one with all compliant ingredients EXCEPT ONE. The LAST ingredient is “sugar.”

This is not a dilemma. The decision is made for you in this moment. It was made when you said “Yes” to changing your life with this program.

If this seems like it’s not-so-great news to you, I get it. You’re still having to follow rules (I’m looking at you, The Four Tendencies “Rebels”) and it sucks. But it’s a good thing for many of us (Obligers, Upholders, and even many Questioners who’ve been given a good enough reason to commit). Some people have to play their own Jedi mind tricks on themselves in order to get ish done. There is zero shame in that. What I’m proposing is that for most of us, there is value in shifting away from a willpower focus. Instead, we should rejoicing in the lack of decision making you have to do for 30 days.

To be sure, there will be moments when you ask yourself “Am I going to consume this sauce with sugar in it?” and what you’re really asking is “Am I going to start this program over again?” At which point you could reach out to your Whole30 Certified Coach for a reminder of why you wanted to do this in the first place and some ways to divert your attention away from this. (Yep, more Jedi mind tricks.) That’s what we’re here for!

Ultimately I want you to know that you can do this. People worry all the time about giving up the ONE thing they just don’t think they can be without. Alcohol. Heavy cream in the coffee. Sonic Happy Hour. You name it. I’ve heard it. My response to that is always, “You can do anything for 30 days.” It will be hard, but worth it. And remember that the mental exhaustion of having to choose deprivation over indulgence is not part of this process. You don’t have to choose anything except to start the program and trust the process.