Monday, July 1

Whole30 Part II: Introduction and Purpose

This is Part II in a six-week series on the Whole30.  In this post, we’re going to lay out an overview of the Whole30, and then dive into the purpose and intention of the program.   As a reminder, these posts are not meant to be in-depth dissertations, but rather high-level explanations.

In Part I, I outlined why I did my first Whole30 and extended a challenge:

It is my hope that by the end of this six-week series you will want to become your own scientific experiment and join Jessie and me as we do a Whole30 starting on August 1, 2013.  I’m convinced that if you stick with me on these posts, you’ll come to the conclusion that you owe it to yourself to at least give it a shot.  And at the bare minimum, after reading this series, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions about your diet.

Whole30 Overview

If you haven’t already, please take five minutes to read over the program as outlined here.

The Whole30 is basically an elimination diet with a Paleo premise.  An elimination diet is exactly how it sounds: eliminate foods that could potentially be causing negative impacts on your health.  By doing this, you can virtually pin-point if and where you have an intolerance or allergy.  The idea here is to entirely remove certain food groups from your eating, and then slowly begin re-introducing some of them.  If you “feel better” without the foods than you do with them, you know they're not contributing to better health.  Pretty simple and straight forward.

To “feel better” was intended to sound vague as it can have a multitude of meanings.  As I mentioned before, folks reap so many different physical and mental benefits.  By eliminating foods, you naturally have to bring others in.  Some refer to this as the “crowding out effect.”  By adding healthier, nutrient-dense foods to your plate, the less-healthy stuff tends to fall off.  The end result is a net positive change.


When I say the Whole30 has a "Paleo premise" I'm referring to the Paleo Diet.  I’m sure you’ve heard of it.  Much of the media has mocked the diet and deemed it a fad.  Paleo is short for Paleolithic, and refers to an era of human history that started about 2.5 million years ago.  Advocates of the diet argue that humans have evolved to eat a certain way – and we have drastically deviated from this in much recent time.  For hundreds of thousands of years we’ve been eating wild plants and animals, but newer “foods” have found their way into our diets since the advent of agriculture around the industrial revolution.  If you stop and think about this, it kind of makes sense, does it not? 

The fundamentals of the Whole30 are based off of Paleo principles.  This entails red meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, preferably eaten off of the bone around a fire and in a cave – a typical meal is bacon-wrapped bacon cooked in bacon grease.  Obviously I’m kidding, but you’d be surprised how many people perceive the diet that way.  In reality, it involves tons of vegetables and fruit, quality-sourced meat, fish, fowl, eggs, nuts, seeds and healthy fats.  Nutrient-dense, whole, un-processed foods.

The crew at Whole9 calls this out, and I find myself doing the same in many conversations:  whether or not something is “technically Paleo” is irrelevant, especially for the Whole30.  As an example, there’s a lot of scientific research that argues benefits of raw, grass-fed dairy.  Dairy isn’t Whole30-approved, but it’s still a wise decision to eliminate it for 30 days, slowly re-introduce it, and determine if it’s healthy for you.  Dairy falls into a gray area of the Paleo world, for reasons we’ll discuss in the future.

Lastly, notice how I’ve said 30 days, and not indefinitely.  The Whole30 isn’t called the WholeInfinity for a reason.  As I said, there’s a specific purpose for strictly eliminating food groups (and thus adding others in) for an extended period of time.  No one expects you to eat 100% Whole30 compliant for the rest of your life, so don’t freak out (see my previous post on our eating philosophy).  However, the expectation is made very clear that absolutely no cheating is allowed for 30 days. 

Why do a Whole30?

It’s at this point people will say: “I could totally do it if it wasn’t for the ___________.”  Some people think they can’t live without the sugar in their coffee, their bag of popcorn at the movie or their piece of chocolate after dinner.  The most common I hear among folks (especially my age) involves alcohol.  “I could definitely do the Whole30, no problem, but I couldn’t give up alcohol for 30 days.”  Note to all you bottle-poppin’ party-animals, the fact that you say you can’t or won’t give up alcohol for 30 days is clearly a good enough reason to do exactly that.  I mean honestly, does that sound like a healthy relationship with food? 

This program is hard in that the beginning truly forces you to break ties with less healthy foods and food-like products that you may have been leaning on way too much.  It becomes easy when you start to feel amazing.  To this day, I know exactly how it feels to thrive and I know what it’s like to just survive.  I prefer the former.  The Whole30 doesn’t require you to count calories or log your food, and you certainly don’t have to take some weird supplement or vitamin concoction.

If someone were to ask me “Why should I do a Whole30?” I could give them a slew of responses catered to their individual needs.  Or I could rattle off the usual suspects:  re-set your metabolism, fix your digestive system, ramp up your immune system, develop a healthier relationship with food, start burning fat, avoid afternoon energy crashes, sleep better, have sustained energy, clearer skin, recover from workouts quicker and minimize systemic inflammation.  Or I could sum it all up by saying: “You should do it to simply feel better.”  At that point the question needs to be flipped around to the person who initially asked.  “Why not do a Whole30?”

Thanks for sticking with me for these first two posts to tee it all up.  The next posts will be focusing more on the actual food and science.  I hope you have a blessed 4th of July and we'll see you back here next week.

Click here for Whole30 Part III.

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