The Whole 30 is the only restrictive diet I ever recommend to the women I work with.
Here’s why, and how to do it right so you get lasting results.
If you’ve worked with me you know that I’m not a fan of restrictive diets (a.k.a. any diet that completely eliminates specific foods or food groups).
For the most part, making any food forbidden is a recipe for disaster.
When you first go on a restrictive diet you’re in the honeymoon phase.
You’re super excited about all of the promised benefits that this diet has to offer, and you’re ready to take on any challenges you might face head on.
Or at least that’s what you think.
Then reality sets in.
And your tummy starts to grumble.
You get cranky and something stresses you out, and do you run to the unsalted raw carrots in the fridge?
Of course not.
Or maybe you do, but while you’re crunching away all you can think about is the exact food you’re not supposed to be eating on your new diet.
You might overcome the first few hurdles and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
But eventually you just can’t keep up, and guilt becomes your new companion because you’ve “fallen off the wagon”.
Cleanses and detoxes are tempting because you get all the benefits of a diet but don’t have to commit to more than a set time-period.
There’s immense therapeutic benefit to fasting when under the supervision of a trained health-care professional.
And it’s always a good idea take some time to push the reset button and commit to eating only whole ingredients.
But most cleanses and detoxes are actually just crash diets (*ehem* eating disorder training wheels *ehem*) in disguise.
And this is why the Whole 30 is different.
The Whole 30 doesn’t tell you to count calories.
And it doesn’t tell you to restrict your fat intake (which is what leaves you feeling starved on most other diets).
Instead, the Whole 30 encourages you to eat only foods that are nutrient-dense and truly nourishing for your body.
So what is the Whole 30 anyway?
The Whole 30 sprung up from Dallas and Melissa Hartwig’s bestselling book, It Starts with Food, and has grown into a full blown revolution in modern wellness circles.
When you do the Whole 30 you commit to eating what’s been dubbed a Paleolithic diet for 30 days.
This is actually a misnomer, because there’s lots of evidence that cave-people ate many of the foods that are discouraged in the Whole 30.
But the idea is a good one: to eat the way our ancestors ate.
Namely whole, nutrient-dense, nourishing foods, like organic, hormone-free, pasture-raised, and wild meats, healthy unrefined fats like olive oil and avocado oil, lots of vegetables, nuts, seeds, and optional fruit if you want it.
Everything else, like grains, corn sweeteners, processed foods, dairy, and even beans are left out because they don’t have as many nutritional benefits as the foods that are allowed.
By focusing your attention exclusively on foods that are most nourishing you’re accomplishing a few things.
First off, you’re breaking your sugar habit, which is great because sugar is one of the biggest culprits behind modern health concerns.
Secondly, you’re forcing yourself to find creative ways to use healthier ingredients in everyday life.
This is especially valuable when you’re tired and stressed out and would really just like to stick a box of mac n’ cheese in the microwave and call it a day.
And then there’s the obvious health benefits of eating only the most nutrient-dense ingredients.
But do you have to keep eating paleo after the Whole 30 to get lasting results?
Absolutely not. IF you do it right.
What most people don’t realize is that the Whole 30 isn’t just like other restrictive fad diets.
It’s actually a great opportunity to learn how your body responds to different ingredients.
Because we all have a unique response to food.
Some people feel bloated and gain weight easily when they eat too many carbs.
Others feel agitated and more easily stressed if they have too much meat.
The Whole 30 gives you the opportunity to learn how your unique body reacts to specific ingredients.
But it’s crucial that you take time to observe your body’s reactions as you reintroduce the ingredients that you’ve cut out.
You can’t just scarf down a margarita pizza and malted milkshake when you’re done and call it good.
That kind of attitude is going to undo a lot of the good that you just did while you were on the diet.
The way to get lasting results from the Whole 30 is to approach the reintroduction phase as a scientist would.
Isolate each ingredient to see how your body reacts.
So, for example, let’s say on day 1 after your Whole 30 you want to reintroduce dairy.
Hit it hard for the first day.
Eat yogurt for breakfast, have cheese for lunch, and a glass of milk after dinner.
Then meticulously record your reactions.
Pay attention to how your digestion was before you reintroduced dairy (1-2 well-formed bowel movements= healthy. Anything else means something’s up.) Notice any gassiness, bloating, or abdominal discomfort.
Take careful note of your sleep patterns, your energy level, your mood, your skin, headaches, etc.
Then observe what happens on all of those fronts after you reintroduce dairy (or whatever ingredient you’re on).
Record your reactions for 2 days following the reintroduction, and if nothing comes up, feel free to keep eating that food.
If, however, you have any signs or symptoms pop up that might point toward a sensitivity, leave that ingredient out as you test all the other ingredients.
Go through each ingredient independently like this, hitting it hard for one day, then recording your reactions for 2 more days, then reintroducing the next ingredient on your list.
The more specific you can be, the better your results will be.
Because again, this is all about learning how your unique body responds to different ingredients.
Yes, this drags the Whole 30 out a whole lot longer than 30 days, and that’s hard.
But the information you’ll get from this second, reintroduction phase is what’s going to give you results that’ll last a lifetime.
Because once you know how your body reacts to different ingredients, that’s when you know what to look out for in the future.
It doesn’t mean that if popcorn makes you feel constipated and groggy that you can never eat it again.
But you’ll be able to make an informed decision.
So if you’re already feeling worn down, or if you have an important event coming up, you’ll know that you’d be better off avoiding that trigger-ingredient for the time being.
And that’s it.
That’s how to do the Whole 30 right so you get lasting results.
Of course, it’s important to remember that we’re all unique.
Some people, for example, have sensitivities to nightshades (or citrus, or nuts, or eggs, or pork, or raw fruit, etc.) but these are still fair game in the Whole 30.
If you go through the Whole 30, go through the reintroduction phase, and can’t pinpoint a food sensitivity but still have symptoms like the ones listed above, then something else is going on.
You either have a food sensitivity to a food that is allowed in the Whole 30, or there’s a deeper imbalance that can’t be addressed by diet alone.
If this is you, set up an appointment with me or another qualified and well-trained holistic health practitioner.
Because you deserve to be the healthiest, most vibrant, and well-balanced version of you, and sometimes you just can’t do that alone.
Now I’d love to hear from you.
Have you done the Whole 30 or other elimination diets? How did they impact you?
Leave a comment, I’d love to know!