DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Digital Minimalism and Whole30

Written by: on March 14, 2019

Last winter, I completed my first Whole30. If you aren’t familiar with the Whole30, it’s like “pushing the reset button on your health, your habits, and your relationship with food”[1] It’s more than just a diet and a cleanse. Essentially, you remove certain food groups (like sugar, grains, dairy, and legumes) from your diet for 30 days. These food groups are selected because the “scientific literature…has shown to be the most commonly problematic in one of four areas – your cravings, metabolism, digestion, and immune system”[2] At the end of the 30 days, you slowly, and I mean slowly, reintroduce each food group in to your body in a systematic way, to see just how your body responds.


I did Whole30 with my husband and mom, and basically Whole30 lite with my kids (They still ate cereal – so sue me; I have a short window to feed and water them in the morning before school). It was a very stretching exercise for us. None of us had ever done anything like this before. Not only was the diet challenging and the cravings very real, the amount of prep and clean up I did on a daily basis was just insane. At one point, I felt as though I was using every dish we owned to make breakfast for 5 people on a Saturday morning. Around day 14 however, I noticed that my mood became less irritable, I wasn’t snoozing my 5am gym alarm, and I was generally more awake and productive throughout the day. By day 20, I was walking on sunshine. Dishes were no match for me! I could simultaneously be running around the house with my kids, answering emails, and being the most hospitable host to multiple guest with ease.  I was practically invincible! When day 30 rolled around, sure I missed the occasional bowl of ice cream, but if I felt this good, I didn’t need it anymore. But to follow the plan, I reintroduced each food group slowly and systematically. I wish I could tell you that my energy stayed, my habits had completely rewired, and my relationship with food was magically changed. By the end of the following month, I regularly enjoyed ice cream, stuffed myself full of tortilla chips, and consumed my weight in Girl Scout cookies (I mean – WHY do they come out at the start of each year?!). I realized that while the changes I experienced on Whole30 were real, I needed a better way to make them more sustainable in my life for good.


Needless to say, I was less than surprised to read in Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, when Cal Newport went to great lengths to point out that if one wants to change their patterns, they need a full reset.[3] And lo and behold, what does Newport suggest? He proposes selecting  30 day period to take a break from technology you consider optional while you intentionally discover or re-discover things you might find enjoyable, followed by a reintroduction of optional technology to see how your mind, body, and soul respond.[4] Newport says, “The problem is that small changes aren’t enough…to reestablish control, we need to move beyond tweaks and instead rebuild our relationship with technology from scratch, using our deeply held values as a foundation.”[5]


While Newport does give plenty of tips and tricks along the way (I’m definitely thinking more before I click “like” or make a comment on Facebook and Instagram now), he advocates for a full reset of our technological framework. In fact, the goal is really to radically and permanently transform your relationship with technology.[6]


This last January, I did Whole30 again. I found myself in many of the exact same positions on day 14, 20, and 45 (those darn thin mints!), but this time, it was easier overall. I was more prepared. I knew what I was getting myself in to. I’ve managed to stay on a relatively healthy eating plan. I’m beginning to optimize what is right for my body. Maybe next month I’ll consider a digital de-clutter. Just promise me the Girl Scouts won’t come out with an app.



[1] Melissa Hartwig, Whole30 Fast & Easy: 150 Simply Delicious Everyday Recipes for Your Whole30 (New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017), viii.

[2] Ibid., vii

[3] Cal Newport: Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World (Penguin Random House, 2019), xvi.

[4] Ibid., 59

[5] Ibid., 27

[6] Ibid., 70

About the Author


Karen Rouggly

Karen Rouggly is the Director for Mobilization in the Center for Student Action at Azusa Pacific University. She develops transformational experiences for students serving locally, nationally, and internationally. She completed an MA in Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary and is passionate about community development, transformational service and helping students understand vocation and service. Karen is also an active member at the Vineyard Church Glendora where she is a small group leader and serves on the teaching team. She is also a mom to two sweet boys, wife to an amazing guy, and loves being a friend to many.

16 responses to “Digital Minimalism and Whole30”

  1. …just say no to the app. Hahahaha! Speaking of apps, when I upgrade to the latest phone, I always opt to get it fresh, with none of my current apps on it. This forces me to slowly download the apps manually, which forces me to think of what I really only need to be productive. When I do this yearly upgrade I end up with fewer and fewer apps and I like that. Besides, I discover that many apps become useless to me as newer versions of it are rolled out by the developer. In other words, many promise more than they deliver. I call this the “3 steps forward, 2 steps back” kind of progress. I’d rather do the “1 step” at a time kind of progress. Hahahaha!

  2. mm Mary Mims says:

    Karen, I like that you are comparing the digital reset to this eating plan (which sounds really interesting). I can relate because I have started trying juicing, which I’ve done before. I think depending on your age, a digital reset may not be as difficult since many older people, like myself, do not rely on digital media as much. I found after the election, I stopped using Facebook due to the negative comments. I only started using it again for this program. However, as someone who works with young children, I do see the dangers of digital media. I am not sure that those who need help the most, the youngest, will be able to follow Newport’s recommendations. I am not sure what the answer is, but I think the problem is going to get much worse before it gets better.

    • mm Karen Rouggly says:

      Mary – these are great points. I wonder if the problem isn’t necessarily with the kids but more so their parents! I’ve found that when I eat well, it’s easier for my kids to eat well because I am modeling appropriate behavior and eating habits for them. Much of the research talks about how parents are still incredibly influential forces on children. How can we leverage that influence by encouraging parents to model appropriate behavior with technology?

  3. mm Jenn Burnett says:

    I’m increasingly aware of how our addictions or poor behaviours are interconnected. I’ve been trying to reduce my stress (and it’s impacts on my body) and have realized both how much my digital interactions can contribute to it AND my food habits. And coffee and sleeping (or lack thereof). Do you see a correlation between your eating and use of technology? Or just the fact that a detox from both is useful? What other aspects of our lives could benefit from a 30 day reset?

    • mm Karen Rouggly says:

      I’ll tell you what – I love popcorn, but I LOVE popcorn during a good show or movie. I think as we use technology, certain aspects of our brain are turned off, and I wouldn’t be surprised if one of those capacities is our food regulation.

      In general, I think about resets in the same regard that Newport does. It’s not enough just to fast something, but we also need to introduce or reintroduce things of importance. For instance, lent isn’t just about us giving something up, it’s about us inserting God and contemplation of the work of Jesus on the cross in that open space. Thoughts?

  4. mm Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    Awesome connection Karen. Hopefully day 45 the second time around was better than the first. Samoas!!!

  5. mm Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Great post, Karen. My husband began experiencing adrenal fatigue after 35 years of pastoring so we went to a nutritionist who reset our food, water, sleep and movement. It has been life changing. Phase one is similar to Whole30 only our return was different as it is intended to be a new lifestyle. Like you, the difference is amazing and now I am keenly aware of how these things affect me overall.

    I have practiced a digital reset a few times and it is a very similar practice. Unfortunately, I don’t always have control of that due to work and DMin programs 🙂 like I do nutrition. That said, I can control the “extra” screen time and what a difference it makes. Sean’s post reminded me.

    Good stuff.

  6. mm Sean Dean says:

    Thanks for the reflection Karen. All diets be they digital, media, or nutritional hold the choice of simply nourishing us or comforting us. Thanks for the great analgy with how Whole30 does it. One of the trainers at my gym says, Whole30 great but what do eat on day 31 will determine your success. I feel like that’s the real key to Newport’s strategy, the slow re-entry. As both you and Digby have noted, there’s nothing really new here, but it is a good reminder. Thanks.

  7. Mario Hood says:

    Never heard of this but might try it, that is the Whole30 idea. Thanks for the great post.

  8. Andrea Lathrop says:

    Great connection made, Karen. Loved it and just wanted you to know. 🙂

  9. Karen, this is a great post. I realise that we loose the “consciousness and presence of mind” when things become routine and we’re unlikely to even notice their impact on our lives. It is when you intentionally decide to reduce on these routine things that you regain the presence of mind and become aware of their harm or benefit. I have learnt a good way to declutter and I might have to adopt a similar strategy to minimise of my use of technology.

  10. mm John Muhanji says:

    Karen, you have just hit at the very place Newport is nailing down on us about the descipline of using technology for healthy living. Thanks for informing us about the whole30. To reset your habits is not as eady as it may seem to be. I admire your courageous and resilient move you took for the sake of your health. It is exactly what Newport is admonishing us to take note and care for our health in a noisy world. Thanks for sharing Karen.

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