30 Days to Better Health: Why I'm Doing the Whole30 this January
This month I’m saying goodbye to my beloved soy lattes, and my fav red wine + The Bachelor ritual. Why am I doing this? Well, it’s all in the name of better awareness around health, habits and nutrition.
When I first heard about the Whole30 about 2 years ago, I have to admit that I was skeptical about the program. My sister decided to try the Whole30 about 2 years ago and she loved it. I watched her meticulously meal prep and cook week after week (it looked exhausting).
My sister tried explaining the rules to me, and I even dismissed the program as simply a “restrictive diet”-and in my book, diet is a dirty word. However, after the program ended she raved about how great she felt, and how she had a much better foundational understanding of nutrition and health.
So what is the Whole30?
First, the Whole30 is not a diet (but you can lose weight on the program). Some people do the program to lose weight, but it's really about so much more. The Whole30 is a 30 day elimination program or reset where you eliminate all foods that could cause inflammation and health issues in many people. The 30 day program is essentially really clean Paleo, except without the Paleo pancakes or any processed foods.
If you are doing the program with the goal to lose weight, Melissa Hartwig outlines helpful meal planning tips and suggestions that you can follow if that is your main goal. There is no calorie counting or strict serving size measuring in this program. Once you know what to eat, the focus is on eating enough of the right foods with ideals proportions of protein, fat, and carbs. However, if you want to lose weight, we recommend doing a little homework and finding out what ratios will work best for you.
What is off limits?
Dairy, gluten, grains, legumes (beans), soy, sugar, alcohol, artificial sweeteners ( and most natural sweeteners including stevia), artificial preservatives, basically anything processed/packaged and all harmful additives like MSG.
What do you eat?
Vegetables, some fruit, meat and seafood, nuts, healthy fats like avocado and coconut oil. (There are Whole30 options for vegans and vegetarians)
These are just the basic guidelines, but the main goal of the program is to find out which foods are negatively impacting your health, mood, and energy levels by focusing on eating optimally and eliminating the foods that could potentially be harming your health. After the 30 days is up, you are encouraged to slowly reintroduce the foods you cut out and figure out which foods make you feel good, and which ones make you feel blah.
Why I decided to do it
A lot of people have been asking me why I decided to do the Whole30 because I already have pretty good eating habits and love to exercise (but don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer in balance. Aka gotta have my red wine and dark chocolate sometimes).
Here are just a few reasons why I decided to do it:
Information Overload in 2016
Because I developed a more serious interest in nutrition and health over the past several years, I read A LOT of articles and books about nutrition in 2016. Honestly, last year I often felt confused and conflicted about what approach is best (e.g. plant-based, paleo, vegan, etc.). There are a LOT of philosophies out there and Information Overload is real.
I’m not a fan of the idea that there is a “one size fits all” approach to food, and optimal nutrition because that is such a personal choice that depends on each person's unique health goals and current lifestyle. This idea is what really changed how I felt about the Whole30, and ultimately made me decide to do it. The program is all about finding what works for YOU, and then creating a personal nutrition plan based on your own results.
The concepts are backed by science
There are several books about the Whole30 program: The Whole30 (if you only buy one book, get this one), The Whole30 Cookbook, Food Freedom Forever, and It Starts With Food. If you want to learn more about why the program is structured the way it is, It Starts With Food describes the philosophies behind the program more in-depth.
Energy + Focus
If you Google “Whole30 testimonials” you can read about how many people have seen improvements in major health conditions, lost weight, and so much more after the Whole30. I really started paying attention when I read about the people who saw major improvements in energy and mental focus after completing the program.
I started eating mainly Paleo about 2 months ago, and immediately noticed that this type of eating helped my energy levels and focus tremendously.
But then the holidays came around, and after some indulging I was ready to jump start the year with setting good intentions, and develop better habits around nutrition and food.
I also decided to use the program as an opportunity to cut back on caffeine and reset my natural energy levels. I realized that I’ve been drinking coffee for nearly 10 years, and it was becoming “a crutch to prop up my energy levels” as the Whole30 founders would say.
And let me tell you about how big this is because I seriously LOVE coffee. And coffee is even allowed on the Whole30 (but without all of the fun flavored coffee creamer )but I started to realize that it is having some negative effects on my health and wanted to change that. So I decided to focus on quality over quantity. I’m drinking only Bulletproof Coffee occasionally (more on this later!), limiting how much regular coffee I drink, and drinking more tea instead while on the Whole30.
Melissa Hartwig, the founder of the Whole30, is a Certified Sports Nutritionist. I love that there is a lot of information in the Whole 30 books and resources about learning how to structure meals pre and post exercise. This download is a great resource for learning more about meal planning and proper nutrition for when you exercise.
I’m looking forward to learning a lot this month, and hopefully brushing up on my cooking skills (Not going to lie to you: this program requires A LOT of cooking). My mom and sister are doing the program with me, and I would definitely encourage doing the Whole30 with someone else. It’s so much easier when you have support and people around you who understand what you are doing. And the help with cooking and meal prepping doesn't hurt either.
We will have a few more posts about the Whole30 coming over the next month! What are your thoughts on the Whole30? Do you have any tips or success stories to share? Let us know!
Note: this post is written by ZELO Fit Contributor, Mercey Livingston and is not sponsored by the Whole30.