What is it?
The Whole 30 progam promises to change the way you eat, feel and look in 30 days – 30 rather strict days. Strength and conditioning coaches and nutrition experts, Dallas and Melissa Hartwig are the brains behind Whole 30 which came about off the back of their book “It Starts With Food” (a must-read!). This nutritional program is designed to change your life in 30 days – think of it as a short-term nutritional reset which, according to the Hartwigs, is designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system. Sounds like something worth trying.
A lot unfortunately. After reading the list of what I couldn’t eat for 30 days, I seriously reconsidered my decision. How would I survive without peanut butter and smoothies? Prepare to surrender your peanut butter (even the natural ones), smoothies, raw chocolate and bowls of porridge. Whole 30 aims to change the way we think about food and substituting our vices for “cleaner” vices isn’t going to cut it. Also Whole 30’s opinion is that although “Paleo pancakes” and almond flour pizza crusts are certainly better than their less healthy counterparts, they aren’t actually providing our body with real nourishment. So prepare yourself, the list of banned substances is long –
* grains (including oats and quinoa)
* peanut butter (help!)
* all soy products including edamame beans, tofu and soy milks
* beans and pulses (that’s right no hummus)
* all sweeteners including honey, agave and stevia but fruits and fresh juice in small quantities are allowed
* all dairy products
* artificial colours, preservatives and flavourings
* protein powders
* processed foods including shop-bought nut “mylks”
* “clean” treats
In addition unlike some other diet/nutrition programs, Dallas and Melissa do not advocate cheat days – no “treats” whatsoever for 30 days. Yikes!
Natural, whole foods only. The Whole 30 diet is based on Paleo principles minus a few foods. It consists of eggs, good quality fish, chicken and red meat, loads of vegetables, nuts, seeds, some fruits such as seasonal berries, herbs and spices, coconut oil and olive oil. They don’t advocate vegetarianism and recommend veges try introducing a little animal protein into their diet. Also it should be noted that we aren’t talking overdosing on monster steaks and burgers here (this isn’t the Atkins). The Whole 30 guidelines state that a meal is based around a handful-sized portion of good quality protein plus lots of fresh vegetables.
As a once vegetarian, I have been slowly phasing fish and meat back into my life. However, the thought of being without my vege protein sources such as lentils, hummus and quinoa filled me with dread. But with the promise of clear skin, easy weight loss and an abundance of energy, I was persuaded to devote just 30 days to Dallas and Melissa.
And as I have now discovered their promises are anything but empty. Despite a first week of brownie and porridge filled dreams, for me the Whole 30 has been a transformational experience. I have given up morning peanut butter porridge for eggs and lunch and dinner are fish, chicken or meat with lots of vegetables as well as the obligatory avocado. My snacking habits have noticeably changed as I don’t get the mid-afternoon slump and sweet-something craving. If I am hungry, a small handful of almonds or walnuts hits the spot. Although I did succumb once or twice (ok, maybe three times) to the lure of chocolate (healthy version obviously), I certainly wasn’t experiencing the type of cravings I have had before.
My physical response to this new way of eating was awesome. I have never had so much energy, my nails turned into long talons in a few days and my skin, which is prone to spot breakouts, has never been so clear. I also lost about 2 kilograms. But what struck me most was the effect this program had on my mental wellbeing. I felt positive happy, less stressed and the usual pmt angry mood was noticeably absent.
Post-Whole 30 I intend to carry on with the basic principles of the program. I never want to infinitely deny myself raw chocolate and smoothies so instead they have been relegated to occasional-only. As a result of the positive health changes from my Whole 30 experience, backed up by Dallas and Melissa’s scientific and anecdotal evidence, I would recommend this program to anyone wanting to lose weight and transform the way they eat – goodbye faddy diets, hello glowing beauty.
words by Kathleen Fleming
image: Raw Vegan Blonde