Before embarking on my own personal Whole30, I decided to Google and see what all of my health professional peers were saying about the Whole30. I feel that I’m a little late to the game in talking about Whole30, although it is the diet I have followed for several years now. I started eliminating different foods a number of years ago in an earnest attempt to stay off the toilet. Yes, you read that correctly. I found that many foods I ate were causing me extreme diarrhea. So I started eliminating and journaling to see which ones were triggers.
I eat only real whole food (mostly...nobody’s perfect), and I think the Whole30 program has done more for American health than any other program I can think of. So when the time came to look up this well-beloved and respected diet, I expected all sorts of Google hits featuring every nutrition professional singing the praises of Whole30 and its value. I certainly did not expect the poo-storm of propaganda and misinformation that came up on the first page of results.
Whole30 is dangerous? It’s too restrictive? It’s a part of body shaming? Really people? Just really? As so-called nutrition professionals, you have the audacity to say that an elimination diet is dangerous? When did it become dangerous to remove processed foods from your diet? I admit that doing so is dangerous for the American corporate food industry profits, but to reach so far as to say that it is dangerous for physical health is beyond preposterous.
I find it just sickening that we are so overfed and undernourished that we can’t bear to eliminate certain foods even for 30 days. Think about our ancestors who ate only what they could find, kill, or carry with them. They didn’t have the luxury of eating fresh apples in July because apple season doesn’t come until the Fall. They certainly didn’t eat twinkies, ding-dongs or ho-hos either. But somehow, it has become body-shaming to recommend the elimination of this processed trash-food from your diet, even if it’s just for 30 days.
When I was in nutrition school, I learned a lot about a whole foods diet (like Whole30) and I always came back to the same question: How do I easily teach this concept so that my clients get it and can be compliant? I’m sure that Melissa Hartwig had the same questions. And thus the genesis of Whole30. She designed a program focused on real food and eliminating processed foods, sugars, and inflammatory foods.
Saying something like “I‘m doing a Whole30” seems much more glamorous than telling your friends you are on an elimination diet. The Whole30 is an elimination diet. You take out (read: eliminate) all fake foods for 30 days, and then slowly reintroduce them---if you choose. During the reintroduction process, your body will let you know what’s still working, and what’s got to go. There are many goals and points to this process, not the least of which is your improved relationship with real food.
Because sugar, treats, sweeteners and the rest are not approved on Whole30, you get the uncomfortable awareness of your bad food habits. Are you a stress-eater, social-binger, or boredom muncher? Well, if you’re sticking to the Whole30 rules of no sweets, chips, or crackers, you are likely going to notice when and why you get cravings.
Here are the benefits I have observed from Whole30:
Knowledge (a true super-power)
Self-awareness (triggers and stress-eating)
Improved immune function
Less gas, bloating, belching
Improved mental clarity and focus
More physical and mental energy
And still others have reported:
Decrease in chronic pain
Increased muscle tone
Reduction in headaches and migraines
Better sleep (To be honest, I don’t really have room for improvement-I love my sleep already! But this is a major benefit for many)
Saving money on food (no lattes or fast-food bills)
I often get the question: “What is the difference between the Paleo diet and Whole30?” Doing a Whole30 is basically committing to a very strict Paleo diet for 30 days. So in essence, there are no differences in the foods you are eating when you are Paleo and when you are on Whole30.
When you are on Whole30, you are only eating Paleo-approved foods. But when you are on Paleo, you might choose to eat Paleo-approved treats that aren’t allowed on Whole30. So your Paleo food list might include some organic dairy and almond flour cookies, but your Whole30 meal will not. It might seem a little confusing at first, but practice makes perfect. Do a Whole30 and then transition to a Paleo. You will catch on to the differences.
Besides all the benefits I listed above, my top reasons for doing Whole30 multiple times per year are gut and mental health. By the way, your gut health and mental health are inextricably tied together. You can’t change one without changing the other.
I don’t like feeling tired, bloated, sluggish and ill after eating. I don’t like headaches, diarrhea, constipation, and gas either. I especially don’t like the anxiety and depression I was plagued with for over 2 decades. Whole30 is a big part of my solution for all of those issues. It is the foundation on which I build my best life. If you don’t think that food affects your mood, maybe it’s time to test that theory. If you believe what the TV commercials tell you about fake foods, maybe it's time to try a little truth and purge out the propaganda. If you can’t even imagine going without sugar or sweeteners, maybe it’s time to look at your cravings and addictions.If you are interested in trying the Whole30 and want support, recipes, and motivation, it’s not too late to join my Whole30 Challenge! You can sign up here for your personal weekly resources.