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What is Whole 30?

Updated: Feb 24, 2022

I've had several questions about what Whole30 is and lots of comments as I embarked on this nutrition/eating habits journey, so I thought I'd clarify a bit to explain why I've chosen to do Whole30. I've been eating Paleo since last March with the occasional grain thrown in. I had heard about Paleo several times from people, but never really considered trying it as I thought it was too restrictive, didn't jive with intuitive eating, and too meat heavy. When I started at IIN, I had heard so many dietary theories and kept questioning, "What's going to be my choice of diet? What do I feel best fits my body?" When I say diet, I don't mean program to lose weight, but I mean what foods I will put in my body.

When I first started at IIN, I was primarily concerned about losing weight. I had done diet after diet and was tired of the back and forth between cheat days, that led to weeks, and back at it on the next Monday again. I'm talking at least 15 years of this. It was time to come to peace with my body and do what I needed to fuel it. After listening to lecture after lecture, each doctor saying a similar message, I found out that the "crowding out method" and a plate heavy in plants is the best for us. As I reflected back on my childhood and how I would sneak into the kitchen to "taste" dinner being made, I realized I was always sampling the meat first- when hungry, meat was what I would go to or a jar of peanut butter. That meant something- I needed protein! Protein makes me feel full and it's what my body is craving. Vegetarianism was not in my future, but it doesn't mean I can't have a plate full of veggies and fruit.

As I looked at the never ending list of "diets" in our resource library, I found Paleo eating to be the most closely related to what I was looking for- heavy in plants, but inclusive of good meat. I thought I'd give it a try and I felt it helping my energy immediately. Without the added grains constantly and starches, I felt less bloated and less brain fog. I was amazed at how many recipes I could still make with healthier options- almond flour, coconut sugar, tapioca, etc. It was a new experiment to try and it would be fun playing with it. After 6 mos of affirming that Paleo felt right in my body, I wanted to take it a step further to understand food sensitivities and what makes my body feel the most nourished- why don't I try Whole30? I knew it was a trickier month-long lifestyle, but it felt like the right time. I knew Oct/November would be tricky since it's the month of Halloween, Diwali, Thanksgiving, and my son's first birthday. So many mentioned, "I don't know that this is the time for this." As I thought about it deeper, I knew it was exactly what I needed.

Whole30 is very much like Paleo in that you have no grains, no legumes, and no dairy. Your meat is organic, grass-fed so that you can give your body the best of the best. The main difference between Paleo and Whole30 is that you are not buying packaged "plan friendly" foods, nor are you recreating baked goods that follow Whole30 guidelines. So my Paleo pancakes on Friday would be out. That's probably been the trickiest part of this month so far is giving up some foods I had as a tradition on certain days of the week - mainly pancakes and pizza on Fridays. It didn't mean I couldn't make it for my family, especially kiddos. It just meant I'd have to be creative in my meals. So instead of cauliflower pizza, it's going to be pizza soup. The idea is to think of this as a reset. Once the body has 4 weeks to get rid of any toxins that could be leading to inflammation, bloat, skin breaking out, then you can slowly reintroduce foods to see the actual cause. I wanted to see if I had a sensitivity to grains, legumes, or dairy. I knew that Paleo cooking wasn't bothering me, but what about wine and beans and bread?

I have 12 more days left on Whole30 and then I start the hardest part- reintroduction. This will be a bit tricky as my Day 31 will be Thanksgiving Day. Luckily this year I am planning to do a Friendsgiving with my best friend and her family- very supportive of Whole30 as she's done it so many times. In fact I would not get through this time without her. Tip: If you are going to do Whole30 it's helpful to have a coach by your side, or at least a really dear friend who's done a few of them so that you can talk through any obstacles and have a cheerleader support you. My plan is to continue Whole30 a bit longer, but slowly introduce things through early December. This would be the "Slow Route" so that I can celebrate Thanksgiving and my son's birthday with at least 1 slice of cake.

The more I thought about the reintroduction, the more I've realized my "why" behind all this- it's not about the food! Yes, the food must be nutritional, but it's also about how you feel inside. For example, my son's birthday at the end of this month is so much more than just a cake- it's an anniversary of my time having an awakening and realizing more than ever I need to take care of myself to support this family. How can I celebrate that year long memory? I can do something to actually take care of myself and thank my son! Maybe it's going out on a hike together, dancing in the kitchen to our favorite songs, or playing campout or play kitchen with his sister. Am I going to have some cake with him- I mean, it's his first sugar experience...YES! But I am going to look at it with new eyes.

More to come on my Whole30 journey, as I still have a long way to go, but I hope that clarifies why I started Whole30, why I did it this time of year, and how it's so much more than a calorie-restriction diet. So when you ask someone on Whole30 to break their "diet" for a few days due to _______, think about all the work they would have to undo physically and emotionally just for that particular occasion. Instead, let them know you're glad they are doing this for themselves and can't wait to see what they learn.

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