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The Whole30 Review: Should You Do It? Category: Nutrition + Food Category: Relationship With Food
Date: May 19th, 2017

I’ve had a few folks ask me recently if doing the Whole30 program is a good idea, so this week’s Q&A is my response to the “Should I do it?” question with commentary on the “Whole” thing (come on, I couldn’t resist!)

(https://www.whole30.com)

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QUESTION:

My husband and I are considering doing the Whole30 Program because I hear it’s a great all-in-one system to lose weight and get healthier.  It seems like it’s not a fad and I know so many people trying it right now.  Is it safe nutritionally?

And, I’m curious to hear your “eating psychology” perspective about it.

Would you recommend this as a way to lose weight and keep it off?
Will it ultimately hurt my relationship with food instead of helping it?
And do you think we might be inclined to binge as a result of being starving on it?  (I’m really weary of that. I hate being hungry.)

Thanks,
— Laura and Tad Shoenfeld

 

ANSWER:

The Whole30 is a popular weight loss and health improvement dietary program that launched in 2009 and has gained a lot of attention lately.

The idea is simple;  eliminate an entire set of foods (and food groups) for 30 days to clean out your system, reduce inflammation, kick-start fat loss, heal the gut and feel like an energetic jumping bean.

The program encourages you to completely 100% eliminate the following for 30 days:

—  Sugar in all forms:   Nothing processed and nothing natural (like fruit or date syrup)
—  Artificial sweeteners
—  Alcohol
—  Grains:   Nothing!  None of the usual gluten-filled suspects are allowed like bread and pasta, AND none of the gluten-free whole grains or grain products like quinoa, millet, buckwheat, etc
—  Legumes:  No beans, hummus, peanut butter
—  Soy:  No natural forms like Tofu and no soy-based products like soy protein powders or anything with lecithin
—  Dairy:  No cow, goat or sheep’s dairy

So my friends, this is what I call an “elimination diet.”

Myself and other nutrition professionals have been using this technique for years to help clients do all the things the Whole30 plan boasts it will do around healing the gut, allergies, inflammation, etc.

And…. yes…. it kick starts the heck out of fat loss.

It’s a solid technique for its intended purpose, but as with any major diet overhaul there are some very real physical and psychological things you need to consider if you’re going to do this,  and this is where we get into the pros and cons of this “whole” thing.  (yup, there’s that pun again)

First, the pros, which will directly answer a couple of the questions above.

The Whole30 Plan boasts that if you follow the plan to the tee for 30 days, you could see considerable improvements in these areas:

  • Fat Loss (especially for those having a hard time losing it)
  • Energy Levels Greatly Increase
  • Inexplainable Aches and Pains Melt Away
  • Skin Conditions Heal
  • Digestion Improves
  • Allergies Become Milder or Eliminate
  • Cravings for Sugar, Salt and the “bad stuff” Go Away

 

I give a YES to all of this.

Indeed with the strict elimination of these foods you could very well see any of these positive changes in your physical health.

 

In fact, when taking my clients through elimination protocols in the past 10-15 years for many reasons related to candida / yeast overgrowth, mood issues, skin health, fertility and so much more, I’ve personally witnessed incredible health, body and mood transformations as a result of these elimination protocols.

So in answer to Laura and Tad’s question above, I’d say yes, this program is a great “all in one” dietary plan to get healthier and get the fat-loss train moving.

To speak directly to the question of “Is it safe nutritionally?” –
Yes – but only because it’s for 30 days!

You’re eliminating a whole lot of nutrients on this program.  That’s fine for a short time, but not fine for the long haul.

An Elimination Diet is in the category of what I call a Therapeutic Diet:

Any diet protocol that is restrictive in nature for the sole reason of healing, whether it be physical (for the body’s health) or spiritual (for the soul to have greater connection or clarity.)

A therapeutic diet, when done well, ALWAYS has a beginning and an end.  Don’t confuse it with a Maintenance Diet, which is what you normally do every day as you’re going about your life practicing heathful eating and self-care.

Since the Whole30 is a therapeutic diet in my eyes, this is the major point to take away from this: Don’t position this as the right or good way to eat for an extended period of time.

It’s very strict and therefore, yes, can create unwanted eating behaviors like binge eating or overeating as a reaction to the strict limitation.  It’s not your maintenance diet to ensure lasting, permanent body fat control.

Position it only for what it is:  A Jumpstart.  A Kick-Yourself-In-The-Hinney toward healing your physical health concerns and losing fat.  A Healing Protocol.

You will still absolutely need to find the Maintenance Diet that works for you to stay healthy and continue or maintain your weight loss efforts.

And remember that the definition of what “works” means from a very whole perspective, taking into consideration not only good nutrition and weight loss, but the very very important relationship with food area as well.

It “Works” means:

— You’re losing weight, WITHOUT mental or emotional struggle

— You’re permanently staying at the body size you truly want to be, WITHOUT mental or emotional struggle

— Your feeling great about yourself AS you lose body fat, and as a permanent state once you’re at the size you want to be

 

To finish the cons of my answer to Laura and Tad’s questions, yes, I would be a bit on guard that this program could produce hunger and prompt you to want to overeat, binge or enter into that all too dangerous “screw it” mode where you put yourself into a complete “all or nothing” zone.

Can you get around this?  Absolutely.

That’s where focusing on and understanding  the deeper inner workings of your relationship with food comes into play!  It’s essential to learn how to transform your relationship to the whole process of losing weight and getting healthy to one of balance, low-stress and guilt-free eating, just to name a few.  This should happen in addition to focusing on the “what” part of whatever you’re putting or NOT putting  in your mouth 🙂

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