Why I love and Hate Whole30

Eat In Moderation

Today I read a great post  by Diana Rodgers that gave me some serious food for thought about moderation and food abstinence. Her contention was that moderation can be dangerous, and that for some, it can become especially difficult for to “just eat one bite”.  If you’ve ever tried to eat just one Pringles potato chip, you know she’s right. Hyperpalatability and even access to hyperpalatable foods can become a serious issue. It’s not because folks have no willpower, no, it’s that we are biologically designed to eat the whole can. Those assholes with their “Once You Pop, You Can’t Stop!” slogan were right!

And Diana suggests that we should pay attention to, and possibly avoid this “eat in moderation” paradigm. And, I think she had a solid point.  I’d venture to guess she’s right for the majority of folks. And, to this effect, that’s why she believes in the tenets of Whole30, and why she suggests that “Paleo Treats” are a terrible idea. She shares:

The more I work with people, the more I realized that people are looking for clear answers. Most people really like to hear, “eat this, don’t eat that”. This is why paleo works as a weight loss tool. The reason why people sometimes gain wait following their 30-day challenge is because 80/20 is very hard to self-regulate. I’ve noticed it quickly becomes 60/40, then 30/70.

Let me state for the record that I’ve done a Whole30, hell I’ve done a Whole365. I was as dogmatic as they came about the Paleo Diet when I first started in 2009. Unfortunately, I was also orthorexic and I avoided restaurants, parties, and anywhere else I was in danger of running into hyperpalatable foods. To an extent this was a good idea. But let me tell you, that shit was miserable

At that time, if I did decide to take “just one bite” I would devour an entire cake. This was bewildering to me, because I didn’t have this behavior of disordered eating before I went Paleo. Clearly, it wasn’t just because of the hyperpalatability. It took me some time to process, but I figured out that this behavior was triggered because I felt I was “lacking”, and I felt like I had been ‘good’ for so long that I deserved it. The entire pan. I was rewarding myself for a job well done. Like a kindergartener. Or a dog, perhaps. That’s the pathology. 

In the end, I was left feeling guilty. Is that healthy? 


On to the Whole30 Discussion

We’ve all seen this happen to someone after finishing a Whole30. People finish and think it’s time to celebrate because they completed the “challenge”. Challenge, indeed. But if you’re unable to sustain a Whole30 lifestyle for just 30 days without falling off the wagon in the highest fashion the next day, perhaps it’s time to take another look at incorporating this stringent, crash-course diet into a long-term lifestyle. 

We love sustainability.. Let’s talk about sustainability. 

Here’s what I’ve found to create sustainability, for me. Please note the emphasis on ” for me “. I have stuck with this diet now for the better part of the last 7 years, and I’ve been able to do so without going insane because I allow for things in my diet that don’t cause me to binge-eat the second I encounter them. I’m not on a challenge. I haven’t “earned” my “treats”.  They’re just there, waiting to be made or purchased whenever I want them. I don’t perseverate about all of the things I am missing and wishing that I had in my life. 

For me, this has worked tremendously. I am healthier now in mind, body, and spirit than I was when I abstained completely. Paleo Treats were my answer and I can tell you, unequivocally, this worked. For me. Food enjoyment is part, and has always been part, of my life. I’ve been told that “the point of “Paleo” is to fix your health, and the treats are not part of that solution.” I find that sentiment to be incredibly myopic. Doesn’t mental health count too when we’re discussing “Health” with a capital ‘H’? 


Account for Nuance or GTFO

Here’s where I start to lose my shit. It’s the broad-stroke generalizations that don’t allow for nuance and consideration for people like me that start to piss me off. The idea that we think its OK to hate on people choices, choices that they must make to allow them to make this diet sustainable for themselves. We have justified thinking it is OK to bash people for doing what they have to do to be happy, and survive. I didn’t ask for Celiac’s Disease. It happened to me. That doesn’t change the fact that I like cake, it just means that the ingredients in my cake must change to accommodate my new body. This isn’t an inherently unhealthy choice if it’s the choice that allows me to continue on a sustainable, life-long, healthier path. I’m the one figuring this out, and I don’t need anyone’s condescension here. 

I think it’s important for folks to figure this stuff out and find their own path. Beta test and beta test until the diet and results you want are dialed in. 

But, let me make this abundantly clear: EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT. Some people need those rules and strict guidelines to follow to make themselves happy. Some people won’t beta test for themselves.  I am simply not that person.  I hate rules.  And I hated having this weird psychological meltdown because I ate a whole pan of brownies.  Whole365, Whole30, Whole7 days was not going to cut it.  I love chocolate, and it has yet to do me dirty.  And trust me, when my diet is off, I KNOW IT


Why I love Whole30

Let me tell you why I love Whole30, and how I romanticize its existence: 

Whole30 lasts for only a month. If it’s your first foray into this diet, it is, hands down, THE thing to do. Not because I agree with all of the tenets (I don’t) but because it’s setting you up for experimentation in a way that I think is incredibly valuable. People, for the most part, see results. Results mean they are doing something right.  The positive response indicates this was a good idea. And, if necessary, they can do it a following month if that’s going to help them reach their goal. Progress is good. Feeling good is good. Further, cutting out the treats and baked goods for 30 days? Do it. See what happens. If you find that this is your magic bullet into happiness I have zero qualms with that. Zero. 

But if you begin feel bad, when you have psychological breakdowns over food, when you’re feeling guilty… These are all red flags that it’s time to experiment again and find your happy place. To some, that’s pizza on the weekends. To some, that’s paleoified cake. 

This is where I start seeing red, and where the Whole30 concepts and tenets start to encroach on me, and others, finding their happy place. Here’s what I find absolutely loathesome:


Why I Hate Whole30

Pretending that Whole30 is the end-all, be-all diet for everyone is fucking outrageous. And when folks  start parroting this Whole30 “SWYPO” shit begin to sanctimoniously talk shit on paleoified birthday cakes I’m ready to throat punch someone. Using the basic tenets of Whole30 as a means to bash people’s choices is insufferable.  If you like the rules, cool.  If you think raw honey is going to ruin your life because sugar, or that eating a lb of bacon everyday is perfectly fine because it doesn’t contain sugar, or you think counting calories is stupid, cool. But if you think you, or Melissa Hartwig— or anyone for that matter— has all of the nutrition facts and knowledge and has a better pulse on what is good for me than I do, expect to be checked. Hard

I hate fighting people on this, but I will fight people that won’t let me find my happiness in peace. I get that some people don’t want to eat cake and Paleo treats. If you don’t want to eat them, don’t eat them.  Problem solved.  Moreover, and this is a hard pill to swallow I know, but some of us don’t get sick eating this stuff, like some folks don’t get sick eating rice.  Nuance, folks. Know that you don’t know what you don’t know. Own THAT shit. 

Now, back to Diana’s point. Do I think “Paleo Treats” are good for everyone?  I don’t. Make no mistake about it. And perhaps they are a terrible idea for anyone who’s first coming to Paleo, because some people may see these hyperpalatable, paleoified treats, and they think they can gorge on them and suffer no consequences. And, after that, when the diet doesn’t work, they think Paleo just didn’t work for them.  Now I think that’s a fair charge.  That I will agree with.  Again, that’s a nod in the direction of eating clean, whole foods. It’s a nod in the direction of Whole30. That’s why Whole30 is, in fact, the optimal first step. I support that 100%. 

Whole30 is square one. Start there. I may not have believed that in the past, but I certainly see that now. Check me out in my flip-flopping awesomeness. 


Final Points:

•  Whole30 is a great first step. Eat whole foods, skip the paleoified treats, and so long as that is making you a happier and healthier person, do that.

•  Beware of the “eat in moderation” paradigm and recognize the signs when you need to be abstinent, whether it’s “Paleo Treats” or  bread when you have an autoimmune disease. Diana has a solid argument there. Taking just one bite isn’t going to work out especially if you binge afterward.

•  If you find the rules to work in your favor, stick to your rules.


If you Find that the Initial Guidelines do NOT Work: 

•  Change up your routine.

•  Experiment HARDER. Research HARDER. Maybe that means Paleo harder. Maybe that means carb harder. Maybe that means fat harder. Maybe that means oatmeal harder. Whatever the hell you do, find your sweet spot and figure out what works for YOU.

So, after reading this, if finding optimal means you stick to the Whole30 regimen, check out Whole30 Approved  and Paleo Approved products. Those programs are designed with you in mind. However, if your sustainable Paleo lifestyle looks like mine, check out some of the Certified Paleo product options available.  That program allows for all sorts of stuff, and it includes “Paleo Treats”. These products let me live a little.  Anyway, it works for me and who knows, it may work for you too. If it doesn’t, you may consider going back to square one.  

Just know that if you do, I won’t judge you for it.


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