I while back I made a brutally honest video about the ever popular Whole30 Plan. In summary, Whole30 is nothing more than a well-packaged, unnecessarily restrictive, arbitrarily conceived exercise in orthorexia. Pretty much the beneficiary of good marketing and some short-term success stories, it plays right into the desperation and quick-fix mentality that plagues the westernized dieting attitude.
I would say the two most common Whole30 defenses are
1. It’s only meant to be done for 30 days.
2. It’s about finding out what foods work best for you.
I’ve addressed both of these objections in the video, but on both counts there are different, less drastic methods to try instead of the trendy Whole30.
Let’s assume people ARE actually doing this to try and tease out allergies/intolerances (I feel as though most just want a quick “cleanse” type of system where they will see fast results, but I digress).
If there’s a suspected allergy/sensitivity/intolerance consider trying the following first;
1. Clean up your overall diet. Cut back on things you are overindulging in, get more movement, lift heavy things, eat more nutrient-dense foods, vegetables and optimal protein. Do this for several months and see how you feel. See if your idiopathic symptoms of fatigue, GI discomfort, headaches, mood etc changes.
Of course taking on new eating habits is simple, but not easy. Start slowly, build habits gradually. Set some goals but focus more on process goals, for example; Wake up a bit earlier to prepare healthy snacks/meals, plan a shop/shop/prep day (or 2 days), figure out some switches you can make throughout the day to include more nutrient dense foods such as vegetables, lean sources of protein, fruit and water.
Have plans and find ways to keep movement and healthy eating top of mind. Essentially focus on showing up… showing up to the gym 3 times per week, showing up in the kitchen to prepare meals. Showing up is 90+% of the battle. Simplicity and consistency will get you wins.
2. If you TRULY suspect an allergy/intolerance get an allergy pin prick test and/or undertake a medically supervised oral food challenge. An allergist can perform the procedure right in their office. It’s low cost and results are immediate. This way you will know for sure and not have to guess through elimination.
I’m a big fan of food logs/journals and it’s never a bad idea to keep a log of what you’re eating and when (if) you feel lousy after a meal (gastrointestinal upset). This can give you some insights as to what foods/combinations of foods may be causing issues.
3. If the above is inconclusive then try a less extreme partial elimination diet – cutting out 3-4 foods at a time for 3-4 weeks. For example.
For 3 weeks cut out; dairy, gluten, soy, eggs. Week 4 add back dairy… then every few days add back another; gluten, then soy, than eggs. Then go onto the next 4 foods etc. This way it’s not everything all at once and you don’t have to have to be the most intolerable human on the planet for a month.
4. If you really feel like you need to cut something out or do some form of a “re-set”, “cleanse” etc. Try one vice. Maybe it’s sugar, maybe it’s bread, maybe it’s alcohol. Try cutting it out for a predetermined amount of time. In Gretchin Rubin’s book “Better than Before” she categorizes some people as “moderators” and some as “abstainers” ie. Some people are better at moderating whereas others do better by simply cutting something out cold turkey. If you have more of an abstainers mentality, you may try just cutting something out completely to see if you can just do without it. Perhaps re-introduce the food after a 2 weeks, a month, 2 months – whatever you decide.
Take Home Message
Changing your relationship with food isn’t about a mass elimination, it’s about self-reflection, re-framing and gradually changing your narratives about food. A healthy relationship with food is one where you can enjoy all foods in moderation whilst restricting enough to achieve desired health. If you find yourself overeating certain foods, work on being more mindful of your consumption and learn how to reframe and change your narratives about eating.
At the end of the day, you will need to make changes – uncomfortable changes in some cases. If you’re feeling lousy, low on energy and otherwise having gut issues, speak to a doctor and then a Registered Dietitian. On your own, just try and make small, sustainable changes to your eating and exercise habits for an extended time. A mass elimination is neither necessary nor warranted in most cases.
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