Whole30 – The Task Within the Task

Providence hanging to see, at a special memory in Nepal.

Lately, I’ve found myself listening in conversations about Whole30 being another “Fad Diet”, or people resorting back to old habits right after a Whole30, going back and forth between on and off of one. I’ve also heard the opinions, Whole30 is just setting someone up for a lifetime of restrictions and that can’t be good for anyone.

As I’ve sat with the comments, I’ve found that a reaction starts to surface within me, and I’ve been sitting in it for a while. I wanted to take time and reflect on where this might be coming from within me. I now feel ready to open up the space so we can sit together. Settle in on the couch, or at your dining room table with a cup of coffee and let’s talk like familiar friends.

What I am learning is that we are a culture conditioned in our Ego’s. If I’m honest part of what appealed to me about the Whole30 experience initially, was another opportunity to prove my identity as a “healthy” person. It gave me a sense of satisfaction and a bit of smugness to say I had overcome the challenge and had came to the other side as a Whole30 Alumni. I will also admit that right after that smug satisfaction and self professed prestige, I went right back to my old habits. But I’m no quitter, I would just jump right back on the band wagon, let my Ego back in charge and do it all over again. Two more rounds to be exact before I finally starting to see it differently, myself and all the self righteousness that surrounded me. We could acknowledge it now as a small sample of what was, my life story. Which I believe I’ve heard before, “the way you do one thing is the way you do everything”. While I knew that at it’s core Whole30 focuses on our emotional relationship to food, I chose instead to focus on the more outward acknowledgements of successfully following the rules, the “container” of the Whole30. I chose not to direct my attention to the Inner Experience of the growth it offered me.

Richard Rohr, talks about this life concept in his book Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, and also has mentioned this on his daily meditations, which I will link below.

He shares that “Religion and various models of human development suggest their are two major tasks for each human life. The first task is to build a strong “container” or identity, the second is to find the contents that the container was meant to hold. The first task we take for granted as the very purpose of life”.

He then goes on to share that, “We are a ‘first half of life’ culture largely concerned about surviving successfully…But it takes much longer to discover the task within the task, as I like to call it: what we are really doing when we are doing what we are doing.”

The reason I was successful at being unsuccessful at the first few of my Whole30’s was because I was more focused on doing it “right” by the rules. The way I outwardly appeared. What I was stuck in, was not focusing on the issues in the deep inner places within me, that were causing me to reach for these foods in the first place. Instead of sitting with these uncomfortable feelings of anxiety, sadness, disappointment, aloneness. “The task within the task”, I could cover it with my ego and doubling down my concentration on the rules.

It wasn’t until that third time, that I sat with these emotions and where they were coming from in the first place. Was it really worth it having less energy, not being able to go to the bathroom normally, or having complete lack of energy simply because I would choose a brownie that made me feel better, or wine to relax my anxious nerves. It wasn’t until I seriously took to seeking alternate strategies of naming the hard emotions and speaking to them either out loud with others or turning them over to my Inner Coach. It was only with trying out the courage to name my boundaries, that lead to the more permanent Inner Change,expanding to outer freedom. I’ve also had a lot of questions if I plan on doing another Whole30 in the future, and the answer is I don’t. The last time left some permanent changes, and they aren’t rigid, they are still evolving. Just now the decisions aren’t made for me on automatic response, that are sat with in the moment. It won’t be because I “can’t” have something out of willpower or because I view it as bad. It’s because I am on the journey of learning to unravel why I want it in the first place.

Maybe you are considering your own first Whole30 this September or maybe you are on a different journey of health change. At the end of the day, I think we have to sit with ourselves and ask are we more focused on the outer appearances or the Inner Change?

be…the change,


Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: Spirituality for the Two Halves of Live

Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, The Task Within the Task (Sunday, June 12 2016).