Is Whole30 Right for You?
A few months ago I had the following email from Valerie:
I wanted to mention the couple of blog entries about your family’s experience with Whole30. That information was tucked away in the recesses of my mind; and then I read another blog (a young woman trying to lose weight—no one I know personally), and she mentioned Whole30.
In the spring I made a list of nagging physical issues, and then I read the info on the Whole30 website. Eventually I bought the two books to better understand the program. I figured if I could get through one week, I could get through 30 days. I asked the Lord to help me make a week of menus of compliant food I would actually eat. That prayer was answered, and I have not looked back! What a change that program has made in my life! I did the 30 days, and then I was very careful about reintroducing things. In fact, I’ve reintroduced very little. And because of my auto-immune disease issues, I’ve subtracted some things that I was eating (like eggs). But no problem! I’m not hungry; I don’t crave. The nagging issues have pretty much cleared up, and I’ve lost weight more easily than ever before in my life.
I thank you for blogging about your experience. And I thank the Lord for using that to give me direction for my life. I just gave away three big bags of “fat clothes.” I see myself eating Whole30ish for the rest of my life! I cannot imagine going back to the old way.
From what I’ve read and seen, Valerie’s experience is pretty common. Many people who do a Whole30 express that it permanently changes the way they eat. It fundamentally changes their relationship with food.
That has been my experience as well.
Since our first Whole30 in August of 2015, we have remained largely gluten and dairy free. I did allow myself to return to cream in my coffee, and we certainly indulge in bread or cheese on occasion. But overall, I don’t miss those things and I feel so much better without them.
We continue to build most of our meals using healthy protein, vegetables, and fruit. I continue to cook with olive oil and ghee. My new Whole30 cookbook includes so many wonderful recipes that I don’t have the common “boredom” complaint.
So why did we feel the need to do another Whole30 if so many of the pieces remained in place for us over the past 18 months?
Well, sugar is where I still struggle. After our first Whole30, my sweets consumption had gradually built back up. Then, especially over the holidays—the sugar crave was out of control. And I was definitely feeling the effects. Peter was in a similar boat. And so were our kids.
That’s the biggest reason we decided that Month 1 of our “Holiness Project” had to include a diet reset. And as I explained in an earlier post, we do believe that loving God with all of our strength involves feeding well this body He has given.
Because we knew how to do a Whole30 and it wasn’t too far from the way we’d been eating anyhow, it seemed like the logical choice for us.
However, I do know that the Whole30 isn’t for everyone. It isn’t a fix-all or a one-size-fits-all.
So today I thought I’d offer a few of my thoughts on how you can know if it’s right for you.
If you’re considering a Whole30, I think it’s important to, first of all, figure out the following:
You need to know your goals.
If you want to explore how the food you eat is connected to your mental and physical (and dare I say, spiritual?) health , then give the Whole30 a look.
If you are experiencing chronic inflammation and want to try a dietary remedy before moving to medication, then the Whole30 might be a great idea for you.
If you suspect that you might have a food allergy or sensitivity, and you want to clean out your gut and isolate the culprit, then the Whole30 could work for you.
If you wrestle with out-of-control food cravings and want to starve those cravings out, the Whole30 does just that.
If you truly want to change your unhealthy eating habits and develop a different relationship with food, then the Whole30 can deliver.
However, let’s be honest. If you aren’t interested in altering your diet for the long haul, why put yourself through this boot camp for thirty days—only to return to eating as normal? What would be the point?
Too, if you only want to lose weight, the Whole30 may not be for you. It’s a more comprehensive plan than that. It’s more involved than just cutting calories and reducing portion size. And while weight loss is a happy side effect for many people—it is not the program’s main goal.
This month, in fact, my husband Peter actually gained a bit of weight during the first couple of weeks. He admitted that he felt hungry too much of the time, so he often increased his portion size to compensate. As a result, last week he stopped his Whole30 and returned to his own weight loss regimen—something he knows works for him—since returning to his optimal weight is his main food goal right now. Again, Whole30 isn’t for everyone. And it doesn’t solve all issues, at all times. Know your goals.
The Whole30 is restrictive. Many would say, “very restrictive.”
It requires research. (I would highly recommend reading It Starts with Food before you begin.)
It requires more discipline and more effort than many other programs.
It requires a different sort of meal planning and grocery shopping and cooking routine than most of us are used to.
It makes eating out (very) difficult and packing meals a necessity.
Are you willing and able to make such a drastic overhaul to your eating routines and to your life? And is now the best time to do so?
The Whole30 isn’t built on a principle of moderation. It’s built on total elimination. And in order to achieve the benefits that the program promises, you have to be “all in.”
So if trying a Whole30 right now would only be a source of discouragement and shame—if it would only serve to make you miserable or further your frustration with food—if it’s more complicated and comprehensive than you’re able to commit to right now—then my two cents would be to look at other alternatives that might better meet your needs.
If you are doing a Whole30 this month, I’d love to hear how it’s going. Here or on facebook. I’ve had a couple of setbacks, so I’ll keep going into February.
Do you have any favorite resources?
This time around I discovered Charissa at “Physical Kitchness.” She offers a free Whole30 Meal Planning Guide. It has meal plans AND shopping lists AND recipes. So helpful!
If you’re not a Whole30 sort of person, what other healthy eating plans have worked for you?