The five dieters , from left: Food and Dining editor Joe Yonan, Local Living editor Kendra Nichols, food critic Tom Sietsema, deputy Food editor Bonnie S. Benwick and sportswriter Adam Kilgore. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

A month ago, five Post staffers embarked on a 30-day diet, each looking for a way to reset their eating habits. Now, they’re turning the page, but this is much more than a tidy endpoint: It’s the beginning of making their new, healthy habits stick.

This month-long challenge wasn’t a contest per se, and there is no one winner; all the staffers made their chosen plans work for them, and each has good results to show for it. Collectively they’ve freed themselves from unhealthy habits and adopted positive ones; they have been enjoying more nutritious foods and less hyper-processed, sugary stuff; they have been eating more sensible amounts more mindfully; and they feel better and have lost weight.

But, predictably, life also got in the way of some of the goals they set — with house moves, IRS audits, traffic jams, travel and irresistible parties interfering with their best intentions. I spoke with each of them to get their main take-aways from this diet experiment, and help them strategize all-important next steps. I also managed to convince them to let me check in with them next January to see how they have fared a year later.

If you started a diet on Jan. 1 like they did, or otherwise made resolutions to live healthier, this is an invitation to pause, reflect on your successes and, perhaps, dreams dashed over the past month and recalibrate your plan so you can keep moving forward. Hopefully, the insights shared here will inspire and inform your own next steps.

Kendra Nichols: The Whole30

Kendra’s wise words to those thinking about the Whole30 diet is to be smart about planning when to start. For her, this challenge was smack in the middle of a move, making it more stressful and difficult than it otherwise would have been. Being between homes and unable to locate the right cookware amid all the boxes, she found it nearly impossible to achieve one of her main personal goals: trying an array of new recipes. She also told me she was “crankier than usual,” to the point where her co-workers dubbed her diet persona “Whole30 Kendra.” But she admirably stuck it out, and lost 9 pounds in the process. Along the way she learned, among other things, that it suits her to eat a hearty breakfast so she isn’t hungry again until lunchtime, and that she can live happily without a vending-machine sugar fix or the 20-ounce diet soda she had been drinking daily.

Kendra has done Whole30 before, and does well with a strict set of rules to follow. The downside has been that when the diet is over, she is left rudderless and winds up returning to her old habits. Last time she did Whole30 she skipped the reintroduction phase (in which you gradually add back the forbidden foods) and went straight to cake. This time she is thinking more long-term. She’s going to view the suggested reintroduction as an extension of the rules, following the specific 10-day transition the book offers. Even more, “I’m going to make myself a little rule book” to follow thereafter. This personal, formalized structure will go a long way toward helping Kendra achieve what she called her ultimate goal: “making moderation the new normal.”

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