The Whys and Whats of the Whole30
Updated: Nov 10, 2018
If you follow us on Instagram and Facebook, you most likely know that we are currently hosting a Follow Your Gut MDNP Whole30 support group. What you may not know, however, is what the Whole30 is. While some call it a diet, I hesitate to give the Whole30 this label. Not only does the word “diet” carry a negative connotation, it immediately makes one think of deprivation with the intention of weight loss. And this is not what the Whole30 is designed to accomplish. What the Whole30 IS designed to accomplish is a dietary “reset,” and is intended to be a tool that one can use to determine which particular foods in their diet may be contributing to, and even triggering, chronic physical (and mental) symptoms. With that in mind, one could label it as a type of an anti-inflammatory elimination diet.
The Whole30 is similar to the Paleo diet in terms of what foods it does, and does not, allow. It was formulated in 2009 by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig (a certified sports nutritionist) and has since gone viral within the nutrition and fitness worlds. According to the official Whole30 website, the program is a “short-term nutrition reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system.” How exactly does it do that? By completely eliminating certain foods from that your diet that may be having a negative impact on your health- without you even realizing it. After the 30 days are complete, you gradually re-introduce the foods that you eliminated in structured manner and take note of which foods make you feel less than your best self.
In addition to helping you determine how specific foods affect you physically, the Whole30 addresses the emotional relationship that most of us have with food. It emphasizes the importance of self-reflection, mindful eating, and food quality over calorie counting and deprivation. It is not, and I repeat NOT, designed to make you lose weight. But here’s the thing. When we focus on nourishing our body with healthy foods that make us feel GOOD, are cognizant of our body’s hunger cues, and eat mindfully, weight loss usually happens as a happy side effect- assuming we have weight to lose.
From a medical perspective, I consider the Whole30 to be an excellent, structured form of an elimination diet that can be beneficial for patients who experience chronic symptoms ranging from digestive distress to fatigue and joint pain. Additionally, patients who suffer from an auto-immune disorders (ie. Hashimoto’s disease, inflammatory arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease) may benefit from a program like the Whole30 as it cuts out foods that commonly trigger inflammatory-type symptoms. Given the elimination of grain-based carbohydrates, processed foods, and added sugars, the Whole30 can also be very helpful for patients with Type 2 Diabetes and other obesity-related conditions.
With all of this being said, here is a quick run-down of the Whole30 “program rules” (adapted from the official Whole30 website):
>Eat REAL food including moderate portions of meat (we recommend organic, humanely-raised, grass-fed sources when possible), seafood, and eggs; unlimited vegetables; some fruit; and plenty of natural, healthy fats (we recommend olive oil, nuts/seeds, coconut, avocado, and ghee)
>No added sugar, real or artificial (includes natural sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, and stevia)
>No grains (includes both gluten-containing and gluten-free grains)
>No legumes (includes peanuts and all forms of soy)
>No processed food additives such as carrageenan, MSG, nitrates, and sulfites
>No baked goods or “healthy treats” made with Whole30 approved ingredients (this is where the unhealthy emotional relationship with specific foods really comes into play)
There are a few important things I want to make note of. One is that there is NO calorie counting on the Whole30 and stepping on the scale is discouraged. As I alluded to above, the program is not designed to be a weight loss diet. Focusing on how much calories you are eating and obsessing over a number on a scale will cause you to overlook how you FEEL on the program. Improved energy levels, less pain, better sleep, and increased mental clarity are much better indicators of improvements in your health than a bunch of arbitrary numbers! You can, however, check your weight and measurements before and after the program.
The other thing to keep in mind is that the Whole30 is not meant to pigeon-hole foods into being “good” or “bad.” The term “bio-individuality” really comes into play here. This concept refers to the fact that one person’s food can be another person’s poison- an idea coined by IIN founder, Joshua Rosenthal. While processed junk food, artificial additives, and loads of added sugar are hardly healthy and should be avoided as much as possible by everyone, foods such as legumes and certain grain-based carbohydrates may not bother some people and have their own set of intrinsic health benefits. The post-Whole30 reintroduction really helps to shed light on what does, and does not, work for you as a unique, complex individual.
If you are interested in learning more about the Whole30 you can check out the wealth of resources on the official website, as well as request to join in on our Whole30 reset group on Facebook. While most of the women in the group are partaking in the program along with us, some are simply there to learn and observe. Either way, we would LOVE to have you!
As always, I recommend that you check with your own health care provider before embarking on something like the Whole30, especially if you suffer from any chronic health conditions. I also caution against trying a restrictive program like this if you have an eating disorder as it may act as a negative trigger. Lastly, I want to point out that neither Jaci or I are certified Whole30 coaches. We are simply acting in a supporting role in our Whole30 group and are sharing resources and tips that we have learned from already completing a round of the program ourselves.
Continue to Follow Your Gut,