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Today I got a comment on my blog that kinda took me down a level. I’m no stranger to criticism, although I will say that through the years I have tightened my circle and I have learned to value criticism mostly from sources that I have a high level of trust with. My family, my coach, my close training partners, and a few close friends.

But today I had someone comment on this blog that really felt that I was a sham to the Whole30 concept, that by drinking Osmo I was doing a disservice to my followers, and that I basically shouldn’t call this a Whole30. And I’ll tell you, maybe I shouldn’t?? Although her words seemed harsh and critical towards me, I’m trying to think that if she spoke so harshly, maybe this means a lot to her, and so I’m trying to be sensitive to that.

With the Whole30, the authors of the book “It starts with food” are very black and white. The rules are the rules and that’s that. I also found the same thing on the forum, the moderators are of the same mindset of the authors (I guess we call them founders) of Whole30 and I remember seeing and reading a few posts of people talking about how if you weren’t 100% compliant you weren’t doing Whole30. If you had an accidental slip you were okay, but if it was intentional, you weren’t Whole30.

The commenter really called me out on my inconsistencies. And she’s right, I’m probably not 99% whole30, add the Osmo in and I’ll give myself a 82% compliance, heck if it makes her feel validated I’ll go with 35%. I surely don’t want anyone to feel angry or upset with my choice of number.

She found the spots where I wasn’t compliant and when I look back on those days and think about the sugar that was in my bottle to get through a 5 hour ride, or the coke I drank on the Ironman course in the midst of breaking the amateur course record, I was no longer a Whole30er. My choices were intentional.

And I keep telling myself, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. This is so good for you, even just trying is so good for you, don’t be a perfectionist. My personal motto is “Health First” and I felt like I had taken a huge step in the right direction.

So where am I going with this? I just want to be really clear. You my dear “followers,” I love you all, but I am not posting for you. I am so glad you are finding health (if you are) or entertained by my posts (which you may or may not be), but I am not prefect, I am not ever going to be, nor do I desire to be. I am a work in progress and I always will be, and I like that. I will continue to do what I think is right for me, my family, and my endurance goals, no more, no less.

If you are 100% compliant I give you a huge pat on the back. I’m so proud of you for your achievement, you go!

If I have confused or befuddled any of you, if you feel the victim of “disservice” I will tell you this now, I am not an expert, I am a girl, who likes to be outside, and likes to try to get a little healthier every day. I am not the owner of Whole30, I’m just a girl, making food in her kitchen, posting it on a blog that she writes so she can look back on her life when she’s 80. That is all.

If you want to know the details of Whole30 and how they want you to eat pre/during/post workout then YOU go read the book. I’m just going to be over here, doing my Health First thing.

Breakfast: the typical. Sweet Potato Hash with eggs and avocado.

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Lunch: Some left over burger patties, sweet potato with ghee, veggie salad, and avocado. Yes, heating up my burger patties overcooked them, yes they were chewy, and yes, I ate them anyways!

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Dinner: I finally made the Chocolate Chili from Well Fed (not 2…the original). It was really good, but it did have to simmer on the stove for 2 hours which I didn’t quite plan for! I topped it with some sweet potato, and avocado, and had a bowl of veggies on the side.

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I had recorded a Day 7 video blog at the pool today, but after having a conversation about Whole30 with Troy I asked if he would record a little conversation with me. I just watched it and I want to share it for my Day 7 Video Blog.  My husband is incredibly shy, and so I am rally thankful that he let me do this. Love you babe.

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  1. Hey fellow commenters, no need for the snide little comments on the ‘Whole30 police’. It is what it is, a specific, strict plan. Take it or leave it, your choice! No need to insult it or the people who follow it 100% because you can’t imagine “not slipping up.” Do your own thing!

    Sonja made it abundantly clear that she was doing her own version when she started blogging about it. She was honest about being focused on her Ironman/workout performance and eating better than her old habits, and that she wasn’t about focusing on 100% compliance and I’ve been reading since then with that in mind. As someone who did strict Whole30 and struggled mightily with finding what worked for compliant fuel, I understand that completely.

    So is it really Whole30 eating? No. It’s Paleo-ish or whatever you want to call it. But I think if you read more than half a blog entry before rushing out to copy Sonja’s food choices, you will know that.

    I have really loved following along with Sonja’s better eating journey. I love reading it because of her straightforward accounts, her authentic reactions to her discoveries, her thoughts and her JOY. I don’t read it for in-depth Whole30 information. That can be found on the Whole30 website and in the book IT STARTS WITH FOOD.

    Thanks Sonja for writing this blog. I love it and your spirit!

  2. Lots of positive comments here, not sure I can add much! Your blog helped inspire me to do Whole30 and convince three of my Ironman buddies do it. Keep being true to yourself and your goals. I am going to experiment this training/race season with Elete which is Whole30 compliant electrolytes, but it may not work for me. Then I will switch to Osmo. Hold your head high. Eat smart for YOUR body. And go set another course record this year! (And don’t stop blogging!)

    1. I’m interested to see how you find Elete electrolytes! Keep me posted! I’m so glad you have taken on the Whole30, I think you will learn a lot about yourself in the process, as I have as well!

  3. PS – You’ve found training/race day nutrition that works for you, you shouldn’t mess with that just to make someone else feel better.

    1. I agree, it can be such a challenge to find racing nutrition that works and once you find it, you don’t want to mess with it. Thanks for your comments, it makes me feel good that you like what I am putting out there and didn’t feel let down or astray!

  4. Late to the party, I know, but I wanted to reiterate what I see lots of other people saying. Your body is your body. You are trying to find what makes it happiest and most healthy and your mind is part of your body so if not being 100% Whole30 is what makes your body happy and healthy, that’s what you should do. You have been upfront on your food blog about when you’ve gone off Whole30 guidelines and I’ve never thought to feel let down or lead astray by it. I’m super excited by some of the recipes you post so you’re making ME a healthier eater as well. You’re aiming to be the healthiest you can and that’s to be praised not cut down. There are always people out there who need to feel better than others in any way they can think of. Don’t let them get to you!

  5. Gosonja…and keep going!
    Blow this off before it gets blown out of proportion!
    Stick with the ‘I’m just a girl in her kitchen making healthy choices, etc…HeathFirst’
    I’ve learned so much about training and eating from your blog, keep up the great work!
    One thing I’ve learned through the years is:

    Perseverance – continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition

    I give you 110% compliance here!

  6. Hi Sonja. I’ve been a dedicated reader of yours for like 5 years. I think you are the most inspiring person and thoroughly enjoy your blog and insight. You have inspired me to become a runner, enter races and working out at the gym continually. Because of all that I’m a changed person and have gotten my kids active with one of them recently being certified in spinning. I have learned so much from your blog and it has made me not afraid to try new things. To me, your inspiring heart, mind and soul is way more then breaking whole 30 a little by drinking some Osmo which you clearly stated in the beginning that you were going to tweak it a little. Like what everybody else has said, you know your body and what’s right for you. I wouldn’t let what that girl said bother you one bit because you are so much more then what she says. Keep on your journey and inspiring others!

    1. Deb, your words flatter and humble me. I am a little speechless. I’m so thankful for your generosity in speech and I’m even more thankful that you have taken steps to seek more health in your life. That is super awesome!! xoxox

  7. I haven’t read the book nor used the program, but can you tell me if the Whole30 creators or staff address nutrition periodization concepts for high caliber athletes like yourself?

    1. Hi Dina!!! I need to call you for a “catch up” call. The authors have a “workout” section but nothing as in depth as the nutrition periodization that you and Bob advocate. The Whole30 is really meant as a 30 day experiment of one but people love how they feel on it and thus seem to take it ad infinitum. You have no idea how many times I’ve being making meals and saying to myself “Dina would love this, it’s so metabolically efficient” Being grain, dairy, sugar and legume free it’s not far off, but you and Bobs advice is a bit more laid out for the athlete.

  8. I love reading all of the support for you! If you’re not doing Whole 30 right, who is? I should have never entertained thought of potentially claiming that I attempted it then, blech! My vote is for “Sonja’s awesome nutrition – and ever-so-changing plan…” :-)

    1. Thank you Gina, you are my girl! We’ve been through this whole thing together (sorry for the pun) and I really respect your viewpoint. xoxox

  9. Oh hon….. People got all over me for the same thing. I am often amazed at how many are so willing to look at us, and not in their own mirror. Keep on the path!

  10. OMG – I want to come over there and give you a hug! Just so you get the Whole30 Cops off your back call it “clean eating” or “modified paleo” – or just “Sonja’s awesome nutrition – and ever-so-changing plan…”

    I think the important part of this experiment you already got WHEN YOU DID THE WHOLE30 DURING NOVEMBER :-) – how food effects you, where your headaches were coming from, how food fuels. Now just take those same principles and play with them to make your own personal way of eating.

    Most people have no idea what it means to fuel themselves during a bike ride, and that you CANNOT do it on sweet potatoes! Or maybe you can but you won’t be coming out first in your age group in Kona 😉

    I’ve been experimenting with this new way of eating and fueling for a few years now but yours is the very first blog that I learned anything from – and that is a huge compliment considering how much I surf the ‘net!

    You GO Sonja.


  11. “I’m just a girl, making food in her kitchen, posting it on a blog that she writes so she can look back on her life when she’s 80. That is all.”

    That sums it all up. The Whole30 people aren’t paying you to blog about their program, and in the end, all that matters is that you and your family are happy. We are all given brains to be used, so why shouldn’t you use the Osmo creators’ brains to get you to a 9:35 Ironman?

    1. And Stacys brain at Osmo is VERY BIG. Anyone who wrote a PhD thesis studying

      “sex differences in response to exercise heat stress, recovery, and nutritional adaptations for health, body composition, and maximizing performance”

      has my ear!!

  12. Hi Sonja!
    You are in no way doing a disservice to ME by documenting your Whole30 exceptions for endurance fuel. I have done two strict Whole30s, but both were during past off-seasons. Moving forward, I want to continue the Whole30 approach to optimize my health, but not at the cost of training myself to be incapable of processing carbs/sugar in Ironman racing. So, it’s your adaptation of the Whole30 rules that I find uniquely helpful and I’m thrilled you merged the food back with your main blog. Rock on : )

    1. Thank you for your insight. I do agree that when performance is on the top of our list we are always trying to optimize health….but then also optimize performance. It’s a hard balance at times and takes lots of exploring! I like the term “Whole30 approach” a lot.

  13. Ugh –> I hate when people tell you that you are doing something wrong when it comes to YOUR body/health/life. You do what is right for you! If you like being vegan, cool. If you like being vegan 95% of the time and having some marshmallows here and there. Cool. If you are vegan but wear leather, its up to you. You have your own reason for what your choices are.

    I say keep up the good work! I’m doing a ‘Whole30’ experiment. I’m SURE I’m going to slip up, who wouldn’t. you can call it “Sonja30, a little Whole30ish”

    1. Thank you Jenna! People are passionate about food, and it seems to bring out very fierce opinions in lots of people! The comments have been harsh, but there are only a few of them, and the positive comments today have far outweighed them. I’m keeping my chin up!

  14. Having just read It Starts With Food, a lot of what Whole 30 aims to do is learn what works for YOUR body. You did your first Whole 30 (with the exception of IMAZ race day, as far as I can tell) at full compliance. IMO, it was smart for you to stick with what you knew for race day, and obviously it paid off. Now that you’ve completed your first, now you’re experimenting with what works to make you a better athlete. Obviously OSMO is not affecting your body in a negative way (because it’s awesome!), and you’re still EATING Whole 30. If I was in the bulk of my IM training you can bet your booty I’d be drinking my OSMO during, and after each workout.

    “We are going to teach you how to turn yourself into a scientific experiment of one, so you can figure out for yourself, once and for all, whether the foods you are eating are making you more healthy or less healthy.” –It Starts With Food

    1. Thank you Melissa for this quote. I really feel like it hits on my feelings about it clearly. This is what I personally have endeavored to do with the program.
      I do feel that I was in a great place for Ironman, it was like a lot of different factors all came together at once.

  15. As a 2xIronman who has done 3 whole 30s (without taking in anything off plan to support my training, though that was easier because i planned each of them for right after major races to make that less of an issue), I understand where the commenter is coming from. The plan calls for 100% compliance, no ifs, ands, or buts about it, and if you haven’t made the VERY hard decisions and sacrifices, you haven’t completed the same program as those who have. I shunned all my noncompliant electrolytes, figured out what fuel I could take during my long workouts while staying with the plan, grilled restaurant staff about ingredients (again, less of an issue because I rarely eat out), and packed my own food for multi-day business trips. It was hard, no doubt, but the benefits were worth it. Part of the magic of 100% compliance is that you learn to live without many things that you thought you needed, because there is no leeway for “just a little bit” or “oops, there must have been a little sugar in that.”

    I don’t think it’s a matter of letting people into a clique/club or not. It’s a matter of proper representation. Those of us who stuck to it 100%, which is what is called for, experienced something different. If you stick to it ~90%, you no doubt experience great health benefits, but it’s not the same as completing a whole 30.

    Maybe think of it this way to relate – somebody read about how triathlon is challenging and fun, and wanted to take it on. So they sign up for an Ironman. Come race day, they find the water to be too cold, so they cut out the last turn buoy to get out sooner. And since they have special circumstances – living around totally flat land – they re-route themselves on the bike to take out the major climbs, but still do 112 miles. And gee, by mile 18 of the run, they feel pretty bad, so they cut that a few miles short.

    Do they get to claim they did an Ironman? I mean, they sure challenged themselves, they discovered love for the sport of triathlon, and improved their fitness leading up to the race. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

    1. I guess I just never saw Whole30 as a competition. I likened Whole30 more to “training for an Ironman” than “competing in an ironman” where cheating, which is what you feel I am doing, is something that gets you a penalty and breaks the inherent rules of fair sport.
      I’m just trying to eat healthy food. Thank you for your comment.

  16. Who needs labels!? Keep doing what you are doing, and if it makes you happy and helps you be a better YOU then no one else has the right to criticize. It’s not like you are advocating eating McD’s for every meals. Keep it up Sonja!

  17. I have really enjoyed reading these posts and think you were quite clear that Osmo wasn’t following the rules of Whole 30. I personally could not stomach a sweet potato and chicken after most of my summer workouts in the heat, and wouldn’t have time after many others, so I see no problem that you’re adjusted to make this fit your lifestyle. You won’t stick with something if it doesn’t.

    1. I think that’s true Katie. There is the concept of stepping outside what you are comfortable with and trying new things to see if you can adopt them on a long term basis, and then there are the results of that effort. I tried to do some of that after my sessions and I found that very quickly I was just not eating it. Bheh… so rather than force it at this time, I just moved to something that worked for me. Doesn’t mean that maybe it won’t be something I can adopt in the future, or that it won’t be something I use as a tool in the future, but for today, we have to keep working with the mojo that we got. Thank you for your comment!

  18. Good for you for not allowing that comment to get to you. 99.9% of people who read your blog (like me, just an age-grouper admiring your efforts, from South Africa by the way) likes your blog simply for what it is: inspirational & informative & honest & brave & different from all the other triathlon stuff on the internet & just plain good reading material. So, thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas with us, and showing us how far hard work can take you. PS would love to read more about your training regimen though, or is that top secret? :-)

    1. AH HAH! I was looking at the little map that WordPress gives you and I wondered who in the heck is reading in South Africa!!! I’m so stoked that now I have a contact in SA should I ever visit, which I would really like to.

      My training is not top secret, although I think my coach would disagree, but I will definitely share more of what I am doing in that regard. It’s like a whole ‘nother can of worms!!

      1. Would love to be your contact in SA should you ever come this way. You know we have the beautiful IMSA in Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth), although I live in Cape Town, close to the perfect training grounds of Stellenbosch that Chrissie W always used to frequent! (It’s mid summer right now.) Wouldn’t that be a blast! 😀

  19. In our sport, we train how we race, which means integrating your choice nutrition. Sounds to me like you’re staying true to yourself while wisely integrating a tool to support your goals. Stay rad, Sonja – love reading your blog for it’s real-ness.

  20. Well, I think you are fabulous, healthy, gracious, thoughtful and a terrific daughter! And since you took the high road I will too and not post what I would like to say.

    Luv U!

  21. I was sitting at my table eating lunch and thinking about whole 30. I’ve attempted a whole30 once and when I decide to do a “diet” or whatever you want to call it, my brain immediately starts to turn the other direction and want and crave all the foods that are not on that “diet”. In the last few weeks I’ve started to make some different choices with regards to food and meals. A lot of this in thanks to you and this wonderful blog. I’ve wondered for a LONG TIME what other people eat. That sounds weird, but sometimes I just get kind of stuck in my circle of family home life being a stay at home mom and I just don’t find new stuff to try. So I sat at my kitchen table eating lunch which was a total whole30 “approved” meal. And, I thought to myself, “do I really need to do a whole30 plan to eat better?” And, that answer is NO! I can eat well NOW! Yes, I’m sure I could and would benefit from the self-learning process of a whole30 challenge. (and I may do that still!) But, the BEST thing is bringing out goodness in others and the encouragement and sharing. You have done this via your blog (food and tri).

    I love Troy’s soothing, calm, warm voice in the video. He is totally right with the clique comment. I agreed 100% with all he said. So, hell, does it matter that you had coke on the IMAZ course, or you drink osmo during long training sessions or for recovery when the remainder of everything else that you put in your mouth is all good for you good food? I don’t think you’re being necessarily misleading at all. You do, and as should we all!, what is right for you! Coke in the IM marathon and osmo were right for you at the time things. So to your commenter I say she’s got some sour grapes in her craw and she can go on living her whole30 lifestyle. And, good for her. We all do what is good for us at the time. I give us all a pat on the back as those who strive for health. Because really, health is what it is all about. Not branding of a whole30 or paleo, or primal or whatever else is out there.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts Kim. I totally agree that you don’t need a label to start eating more healthy. You can use a program to gain insight, like Whole30 offers, or you can just leap to the “making better choices” end of things. Either way, it’s a personal journey regardless of what you want to label it.

      Troy does have a soothing voice, doesn’t he? I never thought about that until you mentioned it. It’s very deep to, and he always thinks before he speaks and comes off as very well worded. I’m pretty keen on the guy :)

  22. i love how you make whole30 work for you. dogma has not served anyone, and the older i get, the more i can see things beyond black and white.
    how would it be if you did the whole30 to the letter and your performance would suffer? i guess that is not why you are doing this. it is to be a healthier better athlete.
    keep reporting on how it is going! thank you!

    1. Thanks Marian,
      I definitely do not want my performance to suffer. That aspect of my life is really important to me, and I recognize that changes must be made sometimes to protect me from me. We all have different tendencies, and I think learning about those makes life fun.

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