This week I’m excited to share a guest post from my friend and co-worker, Katie, who I refer to as my foodie sensei because of her mad baking/cooking skills. We first connected over our love of good food and I enjoyed hearing her perspective on doing a Whole30. I hope you find it helpful!
The fitness and nutrition community all over America has been abuzz about Whole30 for a while now, and the fervor seems to grow with every passing January. This past January, my husband and I decided to give it a try. The creators of Whole30 are pretty clear that its primary purpose is not for weight loss; it’s intended as an elimination diet to help people understand how what they eat may be adversely affecting their bodies.
Despite reading up on the challenge and seeing that the creators of it heavily emphasize that is “isn’t hard”, I went into Whole30 expecting it to be really hard. I don’t buy into the notion that just because there are things harder than giving up a whole bunch of the foods I like best, I shouldn’t call an elimination diet difficult. I also don’t, as a rule, seem to experience any noticeable adverse effects from my diet. My expectations going in, then, were these: 1) It would be hard and I would hate it. 2) It wouldn’t really teach me anything about myself that I don’t know already. 3) I figured I’d lose weight just for the fact that I would be cutting out so many foods I enjoy.
If, after reading my exceedingly low expectations for this challenge, you’re wondering why I proceeded, that makes total sense. In fact, about 10 days in, I really began to struggle for my lack of “why”. If not to isolate a specific health symptom, then why? If not to feel better, then why? In this crisis moment, I realized that my “why” was just to be able to say, “Yeah I’ve done Whole30, yes, all 30 days” when salvation-by-nutrition diehards come at me to ask if I’ve ever done it. I am pretty salty about the maniacal devotion to so many various diet challenges/lifestyles/nutritional beliefs out there and it shows in the fact that my main motivation for finishing Whole30 was to shut people up about it. I’m not really sure if that colored the experience I had or not.
Meal-planning is certainly essential to Whole30 success, and with the help of Skinnytaste, one of my favorite recipe sites, it was pretty easy to do. The most difficult part of actually planning and buying food was reading all the labels for the vast number of ingredients that Whole30 does not allow. The grocery shopping was expensive, but I’d say it balances out when you factor in that you essentially can’t eat out for the entire 30 days. I made a lot of things with acorn squash, and ate a lot of meals repetitively until I didn’t like them anymore. I felt about the same at the end as I had at the beginning and lost only 4 pounds.
Despite not enjoying my own Whole30 experience, I do think there are people who would benefit from trying it out. I think it would be helpful and insightful – though even more challenging – for people who don’t already plan meals. To have to be that intentional about what you’re eating might help you realize that you’re eating way more or way worse than you think you are. I also think Whole30 can be beneficial for someone who is genuinely experiencing regular and severe adverse physical effects for reasons they’ve been unable to ascertain. I suspect, however, that for a lot of people, Whole30 makes them feel better because it’s addressing one of so many various health factors when they were previously addressing none of them. Of course eating healthier will make you feel better. But why take that to such a limiting extreme when you’re probably not even hydrated, adequately-rested, or getting enough exercise?
I was 235 pounds when I graduated from college. I never exercised, ate whatever I wanted, and didn’t pay any attention to hydration or sleep. Six months later, I began Weight Watchers, and over the next two years, I lost 80 pounds through the Weight Watchers philosophy of “all things in moderation” and a regular exercise regimen. Learning to eat things I enjoy in moderation helped me to develop a healthy relationship with food that was not based on deprivation or cutting out any food groups. For this reason, I don’t recommend Whole30 for most people. I think that people relate to food and themselves poorly when they label delicious things unequivocally “bad” and attempt to remove them from their diet forever. I think Whole30 perpetuates the struggle of someone with a food addiction that causes them to swing from the unhealthy extreme of binging to the overcompensation of eliminating something completely.
In light of my own path to success and experience with Whole30, I would encourage people who are unhealthy, specifically people who are overweight, to attack their health issues in a way that also addresses the emotional aspects of eating that we face. I think it’s best to put in the work and self-restraint to develop a relationship with food that helps you figure out where all foods that you love can fit into your life. While it may be true that nitrites, added sugars, etc are “bad”, I think it’s worth asking yourself before you start Whole30: is it worse for me to adhere to a scientifically healthy but unsustainable eating plan, or for me to eat some “junk” in moderation but ultimately lose weight? I say, go with what works for you to lose the weight – at the end of the day, if you cut out rice/cheese/whatever but you’re still obese, you’re not healthy. Period.
Emily again! Have you tried a Whole30 or something similar? What was your experience? I hope this inspires you to seek out the way of eating that is right for you and that will be sustainable for the long-term.
About The Author
Katie Roche is a late-twenties Air Force spouse, currently residing in South Carolina. She works part-time at an insurance general agency, and when she’s not cooking, spends her time learning how to play hockey and knitting things for people who live in places where knitted things are desirable. She runs a hilarious culinary blog – Me, Myself and Ina.