The Ugly Truth About Whole 30

It’s my favorite time of year (cue the sarcasm); a time where everywhere we look there are posts reminding us all that we better be sure to start focusing on making ourselves smaller. Because losing weight seems to be the single most important thing we need to accomplish in 2018. How? By doing a detox, starting keto for the 7th time, or what seems to be the current trend: doing the Whole 30 program.

Diets have been proven not to work. They’ve been proven to be unsustainable and actually cause your metabolism to slow down while increasing your body’s natural set point as well as contribute to disordered eating. But so many people continue to be swayed by the $60 billion diet industry that continues to persuade us that dieting will work if you just have enough discipline.

And for those of you concerned that I’m promoting a lifestyle exclusively of doughnuts and french fries, let me clarify that I think it’s important to learn to nourish our bodies so that we feel our best without restricting any food groups. Learning to eat intuitvely by recognizing and responding to our body’s hunger and fullness cues while also allowing ourselves yummy desserts because they taste darn good is a lot healthier than lifelong yo yo dieting.truth about whole 30 diet

It seems that every other blogger I know has taken to starting off 2018 by doing Whole 30 and promoting it to their followers. Here is why I think it is extremely dangerous (and check out Dear Influencers: Stop Sharing Your Diet and Weight Loss Tips for a more generalized explanation of promoting any diet plan to an audience). And yes, this is an elimination diet even if the website would like to call it a program, reset, or any other more PC word.

Their black and white rules can lead to months or years of disordered eating and thinking down the line.  

I get that Whole 30 can be seductive. Their website gives you a promise that couldn’t be further from the truth: “It will restore a healthy emotional relationship with food, and with your body.” However, an eating plan that causes you to start fearing entire food groups while increasing feelings of guilt if you dare eat those off-limit foods is anything but healthy. And when we make foods off limits, it’s human nature to want them so much more. This often (and understandably) leads to a cycle of restricting and bingeing that can last way beyond those 30 days.

The Whole 30 website makes it clear that a single lick of a spoon or bite of pizza in those 30 days means you’ve failed the program and need to start over. As many of us have experienced, those slips cause us even more extreme guilt and shame; especially when Whole 30 website makes sure to tell you that following the plan isn’t hard unlike cancer or death of a loved one. How could you not feel like a failure if you do fail this ridiculous elimination diet?

Puts food in “good” and “bad” categories which leads to greater preoccupation of food later on.

They tell you that your only job is to make “good” food choices. So the assumption would be that the foods banned on this diet are bad. Although the media would like you to believe that sugar is the devil and is extremely addictive while grains and gluten may as well be poisonous, having dessert and letting eating be a pleasurable experience is not morally corrupt. Gluten has been touted as inflammatory and dangerous but the truth is unless you have Celiac Disease or an intolerance, grains have actually been proven to decrease inflammation and increase the good bacteria in your gut. Why would you eliminate a perfectly healthy food group for 30 days?

No one is saying to only eat doughnuts, rice, and bread but how can learning to be at peace with all kinds of food so that they don’t control you be a bad thing?? Unfortunately, once the 30 days are up, your cravings for other foods will not suddenly vanish. You might actually become more preoccupied with food and be drawn to those banned foods even more.

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There’s no science to back their claims.

Whole 30 eliminates entire food groups, calling them “problematic” without any research to back their claims up. Some of the foods completely eliminated are legumes, grains, dairy, and sugar. In reality, like I mentioned earlier, grains contain fiber which contribute to better gut health, controls blood sugar levels, and helps with digestion. Their rules make absolutely no sense and here are a couple of example:

Legumes are banned because of their high levels of phytates. But you know what also has phytates? Many plants including kale which actually has more levels of phytates than legumes! So why isn’t kale banned too? Again, their arbitrary rules make zero sense. Ghee/clarified butter is allowed but greek yogurt isn’t. Why have they decided that ghee is the special dairy product allowed while yougurt, which can be amazing for gut health, is not? Whole 30 bans quinoa, lentils, black beans and brown rice but allows for a diet filled with unlimited bacon. Makes sense, right? Oh wait, it’s the Atkin diets!

There is no need to reset your eating.

You’ve eaten to the point of feeling stuffed over the holidays? Slacked on exercising and wish you hadn’t? That still doesn’t mean you need to detox or reset even though the diet industry would like you to believe you do. If you have a liver and kidneys, your body will do it for you and the best thing you can do for yourself is resume balanced, normal eating without excluding entire food groups. A drastic reset can lead to an eventual crash while just getting back to your normal routine, although not as enticing, will be sustainable long term.

It’s unlikely that you can heal chronic conditions through the elimination of entire food groups. 

Whole 30 would like you to believe it can cure allergies, digestive issues, chronic pain, skin issues, and more. Magical! I can see how tempting it is to believe that you can control all these things by changing your diet. Sadly, there is no valid research to back up those claims. Actually, I know people who are now insulin resistant from cutting out carbohydrates and were not when they originally started Whole 30. If you’re suffering from a chronic illness and believe some of it might be food related, I’d suggest seeing a non diet dietician who can help you in a safer way.

Instead of starting the year with another drastic diet, let’s start the year with a reminder that you are absolutely not required to shrink your body to fit society’s narrow standards of beauty. You are worthy of love and acceptance as you are right now.