Do you ever wake up feeling tired? Have a “sugar monster” that summons sugar cravings every day? Feel groggy after eating bread or grains? I did too, and I’m here to say that it may be time for you to try the Whole30 diet.
What is the Whole30 diet?
The Whole30 diet is designed to last 30 days, as the name suggests. Although some use it as a track to fat-loss, Whole30 isn’t designed to be a weight-loss diet. In fact, co-founder and CEO of Whole30 Melissa Urban prefers to avoid using the word “diet” at all. Instead, it’s more so designed to be a “reset” (Urban, 2020) to clear your body of inflammatory foods that might be causing GI distress, joint pain, immune dysfunction, and more (Urban, 2020). It’s also the key to squashing cravings for sugar, alcohol, bread, or other processed foods.
Similar to the Paleo diet yet designed to be short-term, the Whole30 encourages you to eat whole, unprocessed foods that are free from added sugar, gluten, dairy, and more. For a comprehensive list of foods that are and aren’t allowed, visit https://whole30.com/whole30-program-rules/.
What are the benefits?
According to Whole30 participant reports, “more than 95% of participants lose weight and improve their body composition without counting or restricting calories,” (Urban, 2020). Participants also report higher energy levels, less inflammation, fewer cravings, clearer skin, better sleep, and more beneficial effects (Urban, 2020).
Things to consider
After reading through the list of banned foods, you’re probably thinking man, this program is super restrictive. How does anyone go out to eat while doing this thing? You’re right - it is. And that’s why it only lasts one month: 1/12th of your year. While dining out on the Whole30 isn’t impossible, it can be very challenging. So strongly consider trying this reset when you have a stretch of 30 days where you don’t have a birthday, bachelorette party, or other big celebration that involves food. But here’s the thing - on Whole30, you should never be hungry. It’s not calorie-restrictive, it’s just restrictive of foods that could prove to be bad for your body.
After years of denying that dairy upsets my stomach, gluten gives me brain fog, and sugar cravings dictate my mood, I finally came to the realization that some of the Whole30 “banned foods” were controlling my life. I noticed especially in the last few months of 2022 that I was constantly craving bread, chocolate, and ice cream, and ping-ponging between eating something salty, something sweet, and repeating the cycle. I wanted what the Whole30er’s had: “food freedom” (Urban, 2020).
I’m happy to say that I (mostly) broke free from the carb and sugar cravings by the time I reached around 20 days on Whole30 (and yes, sometimes it takes that long). I realized that there are other things that I can have with my meal other than pasta or bread, or my beloved poppy seed bagels for breakfast. However, I did employ some “cheats” that I later realized (when I read the program rules more closely) are discouraged. Almond flour banana nut muffins and frozen fruit acai bowls, although technically compliant, just reinforce the idea of feeding that sweet tooth and the craving for bread-like treats.
I did learn, though, that traditional “breakfast foods” usually aren’t the best thing to have first thing in the morning. My perfect breakfast ended up being chicken sausage, sweet potato, and broccoli instead of pancakes with syrup.
In the end, the Whole30 can be a great step to breaking away from unhealthy and unwanted food habits. You may find freedom from joint pain, headaches, digestive issues, and energy depletion. If you like a challenge and want to experience a new and improved relationship with food, give this reset a try.
Urban, M. (2020, July 21). Discover the whole30. The Whole30® Program. Retrieved January 31, 2023, from https://whole30.com/discover/
Shannon McGoey, CPT is a personal trainer at Merritt Clubs Eldersburg.