The Whole, Whole30
It's been a little over 2 weeks since hubby and I came off the Whole30 plan. To review, this is a trending diet, where for 30 straight days you eliminate all grains, of any kind, sugar of any kind, alcohol, legumes and dairy. You are essentially left with meat, fish, vegetables and fruit to eat. It is akin to the Paleo diet. And while the internet is full of recipes to recreate your "favorites" I decided to work with what I had; making regular food instead of "healthy" copycat recipes. This was extremely difficult. But I did start to get the hang of it. We mostly ate meat and potatoes.
The thing that surprised me the most - was this worked from a weight loss prospective. However, at no point during the 30 days did I feel healthier, have more energy, or sleep better. I have no visible skin issues that may have cleared up, and I don't have chronic pain. These are the things the program claims to possibly help eliminate. You're not supposed to step on a scale but since I had no other way to quantify the results, that's what I used.
I will also admit, and if you've been following along the blog you know, that I cheated, several times. The Whole30 plan claims this forces you to go back to Day 1. I didn't do that either. But I have a fundamental take on food that I don't think they do. First of all, I don't know anyone who has no special occasion to attend in any 30 day period. Life is not that boring for any of us.
The program encourages you to either eat before an event, skip eating altogether, or explain your temporary dietary restrictions and ask for something special. To me this is wrong on several levels. If you have been invited to a wedding, your dish has been paid for, if you don't eat it that is throwing away someone else's money and is rude. As an Italian-American, I was raised that if someone invites you to their home, and offers you food, it is rude to decline them because you are telling that person that their time and effort isn't worthy of you eating what they've prepared. And after having reviewed and worked with many restaurant chefs, I know that there is nothing more aggravating than someone who makes multiple order changes to a menu item, or who creates their own menu. They would rather you simply eat at home. (This does NOT apply to people who have a legitimate food allergy. Most chefs are prepared for this and happy to accommodate someone.) I can't imagine going through an entire 30 days without any of these incidents coming up. For me it was even more difficult as I could not stop working on the Cucina episodes, restaurant reviews and other food related things that are part of my job.
I also take issue with food group elimination diets. Everyone's body is different, and processes food differently. You have to take the time to listen to your body, but it will tell you what it needs and what it does not. I know for me, healthy fats, like avocados and nuts, will hold me over longer than a protein like chicken or beef. I know that I burn through carbs like a champ, and that I generally only eat whole grain products (pasta being the exception). If you are someone who does have a skin issue, chronic pain, or another on-going health issue; eliminating one group at a time may be helpful. If you eliminate all of them you'll never know what exactly is causing your inflammatory response. I would instead eliminate, dairy for example, for 30 days, see if your condition changes, and see if it gets worse when you re-introduce the food group into your diet. That way you can pinpoint the problem, and not feel so restricted.
I will say that if you are preparing for a big event - your own wedding day for example - and you are looking to lose a few pounds or a little pooch - this will work for you. Even with cheating occasionally. At the peak I lost just shy of 5 lbs or about 4% of my starting body weight. I also lost any bloating I had that was causing belly pooch. I also gained the weight back within a week of coming off the plan, so there's that. If you don't maintain this as a new way of eating and living, the results will not stay - which is part of everyone's frustration with any diet, ever. Now, if you are looking to begin a new healthy lifestyle - this may be a good place to start as a way to train your brain and body. I have found that I still find sweets to be very sweet. I find cheese to cause even more bloating and swelling than before (hello salt!). And things like milk, which always caused me discomfort, still do so.
Overall, I wouldn't recommend the diet. I found it unreasonable to maintain; frustrating for my family; and the results to not be worth while. Again, if you are looking for short-term results from a relatively short-term diet, this will work. But I prefer the calories in, calories out method for any otherwise healthy person who does not have a chronic condition possibly tied to food. If you do have a chronic condition, I recommend eliminating a single food group at a time, until positive results are achieved. And then understand that you must maintain that lifestyle in order to maintain the results.
*I am NOT a scientist, dietician, nutritionist or otherwise trained in the health field. This article is based on my personal experience and knowledge as a food writer.