Are your energy levels inconsistent or non-existent? Do you have aches and pains that can’t be explained by over-use or injury? Are you having a hard time losing weight no matter how hard you try? Do you have some sort of condition, like skin issues, digestive ailments, seasonal allergies, or chronic pain, that medication hasn’t helped? If you’ve answered YES to some or all of these questions, the Whole 30 diet is aimed at you.

Melissa Hartwig, the Whole 30 co-creator, says by eliminating the most common craving-inducing, blood sugar disrupting, gut-damaging, inflammatory food groups for a full 30 days, you’ll allow your body to heal and recover from whatever effects those foods may be causing. 
Push the reset button with your health, habits, and relationship with certain foods, and the downstream physical and psychological effects of the food choices you’ve been making will become known. You’ll supposedly learn how the foods you’ve been eating are actually affecting your day-to-day life, long term health, body composition, and feelings about food.

Let me start by saying the Whole 30 diet isn’t really a “diet” in the normal sense of the word. Rather, it’s more like hitting a food reset button to determine what, if any, usual suspect “problem” foods are unknowingly contributing to your health issues.

So how does The Whole 30 plan work? First of all, this plan has A LOT of rules. If you’re going to try this 30-day reset, be prepared to eat out less and prepare most meals at home because compliance with this plan means very carefully eliminating specific foods from your diet for one month. So much so that one small slip up during those 30 days (ie eating a slice of pizza) will throw you back to day one of the plan. That’s right... Screw up and you’ll have to start the 30 day process over.

𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗙𝗼𝗼𝗱𝘀 𝗔𝗿𝗲 𝗘𝗹𝗶𝗺𝗶𝗻𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗱?

Once you decide to give this process a try, you’ll have to eliminate 100% of some foods for 30 days. The off-limits foods are:

•No added sugar or artificial sweeteners
•No alcohol
•No grains
•No legumes
•No dairy

More specifically...

𝗗𝗼 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘀𝘂𝗺𝗲 𝗮𝗱𝗱𝗲𝗱 𝘀𝘂𝗴𝗮𝗿, 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗹 𝗼𝗿 𝗮𝗿𝘁𝗶𝗳𝗶𝗰𝗶𝗮𝗹. No maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, coconut sugar, date syrup, stevia, Splenda, Equal, Nutrasweet, xylitol, etc. Read your labels, because companies sneak sugar into products in ways you might not recognize.

𝗗𝗼 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘀𝘂𝗺𝗲 𝗮𝗹𝗰𝗼𝗵𝗼𝗹, 𝗶𝗻 𝗮𝗻𝘆 𝗳𝗼𝗿𝗺, 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗻 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗰𝗼𝗼𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗴. (And ideally, no tobacco products of any sort, either.)

𝗗𝗼 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗲𝗮𝘁 𝗴𝗿𝗮𝗶𝗻𝘀. This includes (but is not limited to) wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, millet, bulgur, sorghum, sprouted grains, and all gluten-free pseudo-cereals like quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat. This also includes all the ways we add wheat, corn, and rice into our foods in the form of bran, germ, starch, and so on. Again, read your labels.

𝗗𝗼 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗲𝗮𝘁 𝗹𝗲𝗴𝘂𝗺𝗲𝘀. This includes beans of all kinds (black, red, pinto, navy, white, kidney, lima, fava, etc.), peas, chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts. No peanut butter, either. This also includes all forms of soy – soy sauce, miso, tofu, tempeh, edamame, and all the ways we sneak soy into foods (like lecithin).

𝗗𝗼 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗲𝗮𝘁 𝗱𝗮𝗶𝗿𝘆. This includes cow, goat, or sheep’s milk products like milk, cream, cheese, kefir, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, or frozen yogurt.

𝗗𝗼 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘀𝘂𝗺𝗲 𝗰𝗮𝗿𝗿𝗮𝗴𝗲𝗲𝗻𝗮𝗻, 𝗠𝗦𝗚, 𝗼𝗿 𝘀𝘂𝗹𝗳𝗶𝘁𝗲𝘀. If these ingredients appear in any form on the label of your processed food or beverage, it’s out for the Whole30.

𝗗𝗼 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘀𝘂𝗺𝗲 𝗯𝗮𝗸𝗲𝗱 𝗴𝗼𝗼𝗱𝘀, 𝗷𝘂𝗻𝗸 𝗳𝗼𝗼𝗱𝘀, 𝗼𝗿 𝘁𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁𝘀 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 “𝗮𝗽𝗽𝗿𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗱” 𝗶𝗻𝗴𝗿𝗲𝗱𝗶𝗲𝗻𝘁𝘀. Recreating or buying sweets, treats, and foods-with-no-brakes (even if the ingredients are technically compliant) is totally missing the point of the Whole30, and will compromise your life-changing results. These are the same foods that got you into health-trouble in the first place—and a pancake is still a pancake, even if it’s made with coconut flour.

Some specific foods that fall under this rule include: pancakes, waffles, bread, tortillas, biscuits, muffins, cupcakes, cookies, brownies, pizza crust, alternative flour pastas, cereal, or ice cream. No commercially-prepared chips (potato, tortilla, plantain, etc.) or French fries either. However, this list is not limited strictly to these items—there may be other foods that you find are not psychologically healthy for your Whole30. Use your best judgment with those foods that aren’t on this list, but that you suspect are not helping you change your habits or break those cravings.

The Whole 30 mantra: When in doubt, leave it out. It’s only 30 days.

WOW! When I said the Whole 30 diet had A LOT of rules, I wasn’t joking.

𝗧𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗲 𝗶𝘀 𝗼𝗻𝗲 𝗹𝗮𝘀𝘁 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗳𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗿𝘂𝗹𝗲:

𝗗𝗼 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗽 𝗼𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝗰𝗮𝗹𝗲 𝗼𝗿 𝘁𝗮𝗸𝗲 𝗮𝗻𝘆 𝗯𝗼𝗱𝘆 𝗺𝗲𝗮𝘀𝘂𝗿𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁𝘀 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝟯𝟬 𝗱𝗮𝘆𝘀. The Whole30 is about more than weight loss, and to focus only on body composition means you’ll overlook all of the other dramatic, lifelong benefits this plan has to offer. So, no weighing yourself, analyzing body fat, or taking comparative measurements during your Whole30. (They do encourage you to weigh yourself before and after, so you can see one of the more tangible results of your efforts when your program is over.)

𝗬𝗼𝘂’𝘃𝗲 𝗦𝘂𝗰𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗳𝘂𝗹𝗹𝘆 𝗖𝗼𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗲𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝟯𝟬 𝗗𝗮𝘆𝘀...𝗡𝗼𝘄 𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁?

After 30 days, here’s where the science experiment gets interesting. You will now, slowly and methodically, add back these problem foods one at a time. This part is critical because, for example, let’s say you decide to eat pizza after you’ve completed the 30 days. Pizza contains both dairy and grains and if you experience any negative issues from the pizza such as bloating, cramps, joint pain, or digestive issues, you won’t really know if it was the dough or the cheese that caused the problem to surface. The rules of reintroducing these foods back into your diet are just as important as the rules you followed when you eliminated these foods.

What’s the point of all this? Well, once you’ve completed the 30 days and slowly reintroduced all these potentially trouble foods back into your diet, you will ideally recognize that some or all of these foods have been the root cause of your health issues and make some lifestyle changes to eliminate or at least significantly restrict these foods from your diet for good.

𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗕𝗼𝘁𝘁𝗼𝗺 𝗟𝗶𝗻𝗲-

I think the Whole 30 diet experiment can be a useful tool in helping people realize that foods such as sugar, dairy, beans, and soy can, and do, cause various health problems for some people. If you stick with the Whole 30 rules and succeed in completing this plan you will hopefully begin to make the necessary changes in your eating habits to improve your overall wellbeing and eliminate the foods that have been causing or contributing to your ailments.

In theory, I wholeheartedly agree with the premise of this plan. In reality, following the Whole 30 program will take some serious effort and a real determination but if you can commit to following the incredibly strict diet for a month and then methodically reintroduce those foods back into your life one at a time, you may be able to isolate which foods you have a sensitivity to and eliminate the culprits from your life. Or you may determine that while some of these foods were contributing to your various health conditions and/or sabotaging your weight loss goals, the pleasure you get from eating these foods outweighs the health benefits of eliminating them from your diet.

For weight loss, I’m not sure if I’d categorize the Whole 30 as a true weight loss diet. If you were to eliminate sugar, processed foods and alcohol from your life, there’s no doubt you’d feel better and likely shed some pounds. From that standpoint, the Whole 30 plan could be a valuable part of getting some of your eating habits on track to a healthier you but there is so much more to leading a healthy lifestyle than simply eliminating a handful of foods from your life. Portion size, calories, balanced meals, and exercise... these are all critical to sustainable weight loss and a healthy lifestyle and are not inherently part of the Whole 30 experience.

In my opinion, the Whole 30 diet is really best suited to those who experience specific health issues that are commonly associated with certain foods such as bloating, leaky gut, diarrhea, nausea, constipation, inflammation, and so on. You don’t necessarily need to go through the process of this diet to learn, for instance, that sugar and processed foods cause inflammation and digestive problems for some people. I’ll save you the hassle of participating in this restrictive diet and tell you that sugar and processed foods are bad for you. That’s a fact that science has already determined. If you want to take it one step further and learn how your body reacts to legumes and grains, go ahead. You may find they’re causing you harm you never realized.

The real question is are you willing to give up these foods in an effort to improve your specific health issues? Only you can decide if participating in the Whole 30 plan would be beneficial to your particular situation. Will the Whole 30 diet make sustainable long term changes in your life? I have my doubts. Will you lose weight with Whole 30? Probably, but because this diet doesn’t address calories and portion control, I think weight loss would be limited and short term unless you embrace removing all these foods for good.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published