Why Whole30?

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

I've been asked why I do Whole30 many times and the answer has always been different. I've done it for weight loss, for the simple challenge of it, for the sake of others, for my health. Now I do it for my own food freedom. I had done several rounds before I finally read Melissa Hartwig's books It Starts With Food and Food Freedom Forever which majorly helped me find my why.  If you're doing the Whole30 or even just thinking about it, I strongly recommend reading the books first.

Melissa Hartwig, the co-founder of Whole30, explains food freedom like this: "Food freedom is about indulging when it's worth it, passing when it isn't, and never feeling guilt or shame for doing either. It's about taking the morality out of food, and recognizing you are not a 'good' or 'bad' person based on what's on your plate. Food freedom doesn't mean that you're a perfect eater, however. It doesn't mean you always make the 'right' decision. It doesn't mean you always stay on track, and never fall back into old habits. Food freedom means that when you fall off course, you don't let it ruin your day (or your week), physically or emotionally. It means you always have a plan for returning to a place of healthy balance, gracefully."

Doing Whole30 is how I return to that place of balance. And if balance was ever needed, it's now after the perfectly wonderful, non-regrettable, drool-worthy deliciousness of the holidays. There's a lot of talk about diets this time of the year, so I thought it might be helpful to write about why I choose Whole30 as my form of reset and why it may help you too.

It's a reset, not a diet.
At its core, Whole30 is meant to be a reset, not a 365-day diet. For that reason, it is something that I can come back to whenever my eating habits start to derail. It's not a punishment or life sentence, but a simple way to get back to eating real food, re-evaluating my habits, and getting my sugar dragon back under control.

It's black and white.
The Whole30 rules are simple: avoid sugar, grains, dairy, legumes, and alcohol for 30 days. If something falls into those categories, don't eat (or drink) it. Studies have shown that black-and-white rules like this are actually easier for our brains to follow since they take the effort of decision-making out of it. Whole30 sets very clear guidelines for what to eat and what not to eat and makes the rules nonnegotiable. Melissa Hartwig addresses this in her books as well:

"Fuzzy terms like 'less,' 'more,' or 'better' ('I'll eat less cheese'; 'I'll be better about watching my sugar intake')...are hard for the brain to interpret, and require more energy and willpower to execute as the brain struggles to decide 'Less than what?' or 'Is this better?' Using definitive words like 'no' or 'only' or 'always' removes any opportunity for your brain to stage a rebellion in which it encourages you to treat yourself 'just this once,' thereby unraveling your reset."

It proves that I can live without a lot of things.
One of the most common remarks that people make when they hear me talk about the Whole30 is "I couldn't live without ______." (Fill-in-the-blank with a non-compliant Whole30 item of your choosing; usually it's cheese or beer.) Whole30 has helped me get rid of that mindset because as it turns out you won't actually die from a month without cheese. Besides, the Whole30 program isn't asking you to give up the things you love permanently. Instead, it shows you what life is like without that particular food and, after 30 days, gives you the choice to decide whether it's worth bringing it back or not. It's easy to say that you can't live without a certain food or beverage now, but once you realize how it's affecting your body and how you feel without it, you might change your mind. After doing my first Whole30, I realized that I didn't want or need soda. Other things, like pie, are still totally worth it to me and I continue to eat it during my food freedom.

It forces me to meal plan/prep and, most importantly, cook.
It's almost impossible to wing a Whole30 which forces me to get organized, grocery shop, and have a plan for the week. It's a whole lot of work, but it's worth it. Right now, I'm reading the book How We Eat With Our Eyes and Think With Our Stomach where authors Melanie Muhl and Diana Von Kopp write, "Food that is available with minimal effort will be eaten." This goes both ways - if healthy, real food is prepped and waiting in my fridge, then that is what I will eat. It's a lot of work to grocery shop, check for compliant ingredients, meal plan, cook, pack lunches, and wash the never-ending piles of dishes. It can be exhausting, but it can also be exhilarating knowing that it's possible to cook healthy food and un-do the cycle of unhealthy eating.

There's a point to it. 
Whole30 is not about torturing yourself simply because you think you should be on a diet. There's a point to eliminating legumes, dairy, grains, and sugar and Hartwig goes into great detail about this in the book It Starts With Food. (Read it!) Without understanding the point of why you're eliminating certain things, it just becomes a frustrating month of deprivation.

It works. 
The main reason I come back to Whole30 again and again is because it truly works. Whole30 focuses on non-scale victories (in fact, weighing yourself is against the rules) which I love because it makes me tune into what my body is saying versus what a number on the scale tells me. Yes, the sugar cravings can be intense and Day 10 is always the crappiest day no matter how many rounds I do, but when I follow the rules and commit to it, it works.

If you're interested in learning more about Whole30, here are a few resources I recommend. I'll continue updating this section in the future.

#whole30 hashtag on Instagram (P.S. Did you know you can follow hashtags now?!)

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