You’ve probably seen #Whole30 popping up in your Facebook or Instagram feeds over the past few months and wondered what it was all about. It’s a new approach to healthy eating, but it’s not a diet.
Since the Whole30 program is primarily about dietary choices, it’s easy to see why some people are calling it “the hottest fad diet.” National media coverage reinforces that idea by presenting the concept as a you-have-try-it-now trend. And at first glance, it makes sense. The Whole30 is a short-term program revolving around food with strict rules (no sugar, alcohol, grains legumes, MSG or dairy) and some “trendy” components (like eliminating gluten). But the Whole30 is the furthest thing from a fad diet — it’s actually not a diet at all. Here’s why:
1. Most diets focus only on weight loss.
A lot of diets assume the only thing you care about is how you look and how much you weigh. They don’t take into account all of the other benefits that come from living a healthier lifestyle.
The Whole30 is focused on health, not weight loss. You’re not allowed to step on the scale for the duration of the program (30 days), giving you a welcome respite from the obsession with body weight. Instead, you're encouraged to focus on a long list of benefits you’ll likely see — improvements in energy, sleep, attention span, mood, athletic performance and recovery, digestion, pain, fatigue and other medical symptoms.
2. Most mainstream diets are centered on calorie restriction alone.
This usually requires counting, measuring, or tracking your food — a tedious, unsustainable practice. Other diets don’t address your habits or your relationship with food, instead only focusing on how many calories you’re eating. They don’t teach you how to reward yourself in a healthy way, how to address your emotional connection with food, how to build healthy food habits (or break bad ones) or how to change your tastes to favor fresh, nutritious food. In fact, most encourage pre-packaged food, bars, shakes or powders, all of which move you even further away from a healthy relationship with food.
On The Whole30, there’s no caloric restriction or counting, measuring or tracking your food. You are never hungry. There’s one simple guideline to eating on The Whole30: Eat real food. By eating a combination of meat, seafood, eggs, veggies, some fruit, oils nuts and seeds, you’ll change your tastes, so by the end of the program you’ll have a new appreciation for the delicious flavors in fresh, healthy foods. You may even find some of your old treats less enjoyable, making it easier to say “no.”
3. Most diets offer little to no structured support, motivation, or accountability.
They simply give you a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” — and no preparation for reentering the “real world” when the diet ends. But they’ll promise you this is the one that will work. They’re based on the idea that once you lose 10 pounds, your tastes, dietary habits, and emotional relationship with food will be transformed and you’ll never go back to the same foods you’ve been eating for decades. Dream on.
The Whole30 offers a support network for length of the program, as well as ongoing support, tools, and written guidance for “life after your Whole30,” so you finish the program with a clear plan of how to incorporate everything you’ve learned into the rest of your life. You’ll finally feel back in control of your food choices, making you healthier from the inside-out.
Photo courtesy of the author
Melissa and Dallas Hartwig are the authors of The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom