The Whole 30

whole 30The Whole 30: The 30-day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom, by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig.

So Maeve mentioned a while back that she was doing something called a Whole 30. She said she felt amazing, better than she had in years as a result of adopting this way of eating. Curious, I went to do some recon and just as quickly wondered why on earth anyone would DO such a thing. After thinking about it a bit more and running it by my daughter, I figured it might not hurt for me to take a month and give my body a good long rest from eating junk of any kind. Besides, I had a race coming up (yes, I wear glasses!) and some extreme nutrition might be just the ticket to get me running a little better.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that this wildly popular book is just a more widely accepted version of the paleo diet. Been there, done that, not interested. But I kept thinking, “It’s just 30 days. Whaddya afraid of?”  What I was afraid of was 30 days without baking! So my oldest daughter and I split the cost of the book, and jumped in with both feet.*

I am always leery of claims of renewed health as soon as they gave up this or that food group. I’d never experienced such a thing and there are very few diet schemes I haven’t tried over the past 20 years since our twins were born. The one thing I’d never given up cold turkey however, was sugar. I felt amazing after the first week and I continued to feel better and better as the weeks went on.

So, the plan seems like a good one. What about the book? Meh. The writing was extremely preachy, which isn’t my style. While I fully appreciate that wisdom and superiority of a nutrition plan that sticks to food as God made it, there are things here that are so extreme they can set you up for failure. With no room for the occasional treat eating loses its fun. Food is fuel more than fun, and there’s a lot of good food for meativores such as myself to enjoy on this plan, but extreme rigidity turns me off.

Basically, there are a lot of things about this plan I’ve adopted as permanent habits. Drinking my coffee without cream or sweetener will never be among those things. for people who like bandwagons, this book could be either the best or worst things you ever run across. That said, I can’t really argue with the increased sense of well being (not to mention the 3 inches off my waist!) that I experienced from doing this plan about 80% of the way.

So while the literary me and the part of me that recoils from lifestyle trends is leery of recommending it, the part of me that laments the poor health of the average 40-something American woman can’t help but suggest it’s worth a look.

Grade: C+


31 thoughts on “The Whole 30

  1. Elspeth says:

    February was a very rough month for me. To say I didn’t take the best care of myself would be an understatement. So tomorrow I’m starting up a new Whole 30. I call it the lazy version but I’m sticking to it in just about every respect except for the coffee.

    Some things are sacred, dangit!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. hearthie says:

    They recommend Whole 30 at my box, at least for transitions. I’m not interested, but it’s good to know that someone other than the serious athletes can deal with this and find benefit.


  3. Elspeth says:

    You have to have something you can enjoy that falls outside of the rules or you won’t be inclined to stick it out when the 30 days are done.

    My first attempt to do the whole 30 got short circuited about 13 days in when crisis hit our family. Other things took precedence over the amount of planning and cooking required to strictly stick to the plan.

    However, I did find that I naturally chose to eat in line with the plan about 80% of the time even though I wasn’t technically doing The Whole 30.

    In the end, I think that’s the ultimate goal. Not to be so rigid that you can’t kick back and enjoy the occasional sandwich or dessert or party, but that these things are occasional treats in a nutritional life that is mostly comprised of whole, minimally processed foods.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Elspeth says:

    You sound the way I did at first Hearth. I am still not convinced that a strict paleo diet if for me. But 80/20 sounds about right and doable for me.


  5. Maeve says:

    Hey Girls!!!!! (waves madly)

    Know I’ve been a bit hermit-y, but sometimes ya just need to curl up with your blankie and suck your thumb, (NOT LITERALLY, YA KNOW, LOL).

    Anyhoo….. about the Whole30. First, I am absolutely NOT a paleo-ista in any way, shape, or form. I’m not anti grain, sugar, white potatoes, soy or dairy. I believe in bread. BUT, as I had mentioned to you, I was feeling terrible in so many ways and I needed to give myself a reset. Whole30 did that for me. It was like a vacation and it was one of the easiest things I’ve ever done. Will I do this for a lifetime? Not really – not in the strict sense; but I did lean a lot about my body and I made some great habits – like eating a good protein-based breakfast. I also ramped up my cooking skills and discovered a bunch of new recipes – so yay there, too.

    As a result of Whole30, I now: make my own hot Italian sausage; make batches of clarified butter for cooking; significantly reduced my salt intake; cut out almost all processed foods; discovered new ways of preparing veggies (both the ones we like and ones we haven’t cared for).

    Here’s the big one, though, I’m not afraid to eat when I’m hungry. It sounds stupid, I know, but I have an extremely complicated relationship with food and hunger and Whole30 changed a lot of that – actually reading the first book “It Starts with the Food” was hugely instrumental in helping change my thoughts AND FEELINS about eating.(Els, I highly recommend the book – email me if you want to borrow and I’ll ship it to you – the chapter dealing with “why you can’t eat unlimited prime rib but can polish off an entire box of Oreos” really was outstanding – I’ve learned more about the hows and whys of what my body does with food than I can tell you).

    I’m starting up another Whole30 round today because I can! I can do it and feel good – not hungry, not weak; not lightheaded from lack of calories; not sick to my stomach from lack of carbs.

    Whole30, for me, was not a lifestyle change per se; it was a vacation – and one I’m eternally grateful I took.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Elspeth says:

    Thanks for the additional review, Maevey! we have the book, and I agree that was a good chapter. I kind of knew a lot of this stuff, but I was so turned off by the thought of no grains (avid baking house here!!!) that I was hesitant to try it.

    All that said, I have enjoyed the varieties of vegetables at breakfast and the challenge of coming up with new ways to incorporate veggies into every meal. One of my favorite dishes is this one for breakfast:

    Bright Eyes (21) is a true foodie and a good cook. She makes this whole thing much easier for me to be honest. Don’t know that I would be able to stick it out without her splitting the cooking with me.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Maeve says:

    Yep, Els – I know exactly what you mean about the baking. That was a hard adjustment, but again, it was a 30-day break I was giving myself and once I framed it that way, well, it wasn’t so bad.

    I am married (gulp) to an extremely health-conscious man. EXTREMELY. Of course, he’s also addicted to pretty much everything I bake, so he was happy too when I took the plunge. He lost some weight and even the trainer he works with commented on how good he looks. It helps a lot to have your family on board with your efforts.

    I lost over 8lbs with no self-abuse (which is rather the key thing here). I didn’t exercise for a second. I didn’t count a calorie. I didn’t weigh or measure so much as a crumb. I just ate a ton of really good food when I was hungry and didn’t eat when I wasn’t. That’s pretty much it. I had a ton of fun with my cooking and even now I mentally adjust recipes to be “Whole30-compliant, LOL – it’s a profound change that took place in my head and I’m healthier for it (mentally and physically).

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Maeve says:

    Oh – and that recipe is on the menu for Saturday morning when I make a big breakfast – I’ll report on how it was received 🙂


  9. Booky McBookerson says:

    I think there may be something to wheat being not so great – modern wheat that is. Why is there so much celiacs now? You never used to hear of that. I’m sort of trying to eat less of that myself. I don’t need to lose weight but it’s that little belly pooch that gets on my nerves and I’d like to feel a bit more energetic than I often do. I’ve decided to be “trans-Asian” and eat more Asian food, lol. I like rice way better than pasta and potatoes for carb so…

    I mean, doesn’t this look like a great breakfast?

    I dislike sweet breakfasts – makes me feel ill and I’m hungry and tired an hour later. I do better on a bowl of miso soup than some crap cereal, and that’s mostly water. I tried making the omelette (tamagoyaki) from the above link and it was good, kids liked it, so why not. Where did we get the idea that breakfast is dessert? LOL Blech! I’ve always preferred savory breakfasts so that’s no problem at all for me, and that recipe you linked Elspeth looks like my kind of breakfast!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Booky McBookerson says:

    I successfully made Pad Thai for the first time tonight and everyone votes we have it again. Huzzah! This stuff is easier than you’d think so long as you can get ahold of the key ingredients. I must say that rice noodles don’t leave me feeling stuffed and sleepy the way wheat pasta does and I like that.


  11. Heather says:

    I once printed a whole 30 shopping list for reference. My sister was doing the program with a friend who lasted about two weeks; and I was curious.
    The “allowed” foods are all good, and there’s no danger of anyone starving, but I’d agree with you, that it is pretty (unnecessarily) restrictive.
    I’m all for clean, healthful eating, but sadly, I’d be at risk of making it my new religion…

    If you can do it and maintain a proper view of food, I’m happy to cheer you on 🙂
    Hopefully, your next round provides even more happy results!


  12. Elspeth says:

    I can take the good, of which there is much, and discard the bad. If I had to follow that plan to the letter I’d go nuts, LOL.

    By the way, it’s nice to “see” you Heather! Always good to know that people I’ve lost touch with are still alive adn well.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Elspeth says:

    Oh, and I am about 3/4 of the way there with you on the wheat. It’s definitely easier to minimize it than it is to eliminate it, so that has been my strategy. basically, no more than about 3 servings per week.

    You know (it’s in fact well known) that I needed to lose 20 pounds. I could actually stand to lose 25, but whatever.

    During February alone, I lost 13. The husband is imploring me to supplement the running with more weights for the sake of his favorite parts, and I didn’t even diet. I just did what a friend of mine calls a “lazy whole 30”. The biggest change by far was the infusion of veggies at meals from AM to PM, and the near elimination of flour. I gave myself a break for Friday Burger Night, and Sunday dessert (made a pound cake Sunday), but other than that, I’ve pretty much cut it out.

    Imagine my shock on 2/29 when I realized that I’d lost that much weight without dieting and counting every calorie. THAT is the beauty of the Whole 30 in my opinion.

    But I’m still having cream and stevia in my coffee, LOL. Sacred.


  14. Booky McBookerson says:

    A little of what you fancy does you good. 😉 I can’t be completely certain, but I doubt a bit of cream and stevia in coffee has ever killed anyone, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Robyn says:

    “Drinking my coffee without cream or sweetener …”


    I’m a faithful follower of Atkins/paleo/robyn’s-slightly-modified-version.

    (Elspeth: still reading The Egg and I. About 2/3 done. Tough women!)


  16. Bike Bubba says:

    Congrats on the weight loss–it’s been a proverb in diatetics/nutrition for decades that eliminating high energy foods can jump start one’s weight loss and health. Certainly it’s about the only way I know to keep weight off–I gain QUICKLY if I succumb to fast food, or even slow food with too much white flour.

    It’s also worth noting that a touch of resistance training, be it weights, bodyweight exercises, or whatever, not only builds muscle, but also causes them to burn more energy for about half a day AND enhances performance in endurance events–following SAM’s request is a hat trick in terms of fitness.


  17. hearthie says:

    Well. You still have to eat fewer calories than you burn, even if you lift and start burning more calories.

    And burning more calories = hungry.

    But I think I can promise you, E, that certain favorite parts will be well-curated by lifting. And it’s FUN.


  18. Elspeth says:

    I found that as soon as I cut out the dairy, grains and sugars I would routinely eat no more than 1000-1100 calories a day. Sounds good if I wasn’t running 3-4 days a week and doing light weight training 2-3.. So I had to make sure I woke up early enough to eat a banana before I went out at 5:30. Otherwise I wouldn’t have the energy I needed to fuel my run.

    I remember Cranberry telling me when I embarked on The Whole 30 that I was going to need to make sure I got enough calories to fuel my workouts. At first I sort of dismissed that (less calories could only be good right?) until I realized that I wasn’t eating enough.


  19. Maeve says:

    Oh I totally had no problem with the calories (hello potato; hello hamburgers).

    I’m watching things a bit more closely this time and trying to figure out what kind of exercise to do.


  20. Elspeth says:

    When I begin to suspect that I wasn’t eating enough to support the training I was doing for my race, I decided to do some closer counting. That’s when I realized I probably wasn’t eating enough.

    Before trying the whole 30, my problem was just the opposite.


  21. hearthie says:

    Almond butter (with fresh raspberries), bacon, anything cooked in bacon grease, bowl full of nuts, eggs, deviled eggs, steak, should I go on? And if potatoes are allowed? Oy. Just get out of my way. Can you say potatoes fried in bacon grease, with sliced steak on the top, with a side of eggs? Just a lovely morning’s breakfast… add some fresh salsa on the side if you need a vegetable…

    Liked by 1 person

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