Whole30: What is it and Why am I doing it?

If you’ve been around the blogging world for longer than a week, follow recent diet trends or really just don’t live under a rock, I’m sure you’ve heard about Whole30. So what is it?

Whole30 is a type of diet that restricts certain food groups for specific reasonings that are highly scientific, backed up by research, and have a significant amount of positive testimonials supporting the idea behind it. I don’t like calling it a diet, because I’m not doing it for a “diet-ing” purpose.. but we’ll get to why I’m doing it in a second.


From the book “It Starts With Food”, I learned so much about food and the nerd part in me loved the science-y stuff from it too. I also learned that Dallas Hartwig, the mastermind behind the idea, is a licensed physical therapists – sweet! I didn’t want to start this challenge without understanding why I was doing it and what good it could do for me, so I immediately snagged the book at the library and began researching blogs, articles and whatever I could find on it – believe me, there’s a ton out there.

The Whole30 program is very similar to the Paleo diet that is widespread amongst fitness fiends and the like, but it’s slightly different (and more strict). With this program, you remove all grains, legumes, soy, dairy, alcohol, sugars, and any other food groups and additives that the creators determined to have some sort of detrimental effect to our normal processing digestive system and overall body responses.

The Whole30 program focuses on four “Good Food Standards”:

  • Food should promote a healthy psychological response
  • Food should promote a health hormonal reponse
  • Food should support a healthy gut
  • Food should support immune function and minimize inflammation

There is a lot of research that the book uses to support all of the scientific facts throughout the pages, but I don’t want to delve way in to the science of it all. The basics of the program are to “eat foods that make you more healthy” and remove from your diet foods that are less healthy – grains, added sugars, alcohol, legumes and dairy.

The story that led to the creation of this program started with Dallas’ sister, who suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, a highly inflammatory disease of the joints. Additionally, Dallas was suffering from some shoulder inflammation and pain of an unknown cause. He began doing research on foods and inflammation and began changing the way he ate. Out of curiosity, research and trials, the Whole30 program was born – his shoulder pain disappeared and his sister’s symptoms diminished.

I know what you’re thinking (cause I was thinking it too..), how does food affect the body that much?! But after diving in to the science stuff, it all just made sense and was pretty cool to read about. If you’re interested in the science stuff, I definitely recommend checking out the book It Starts With Food – it’s eye opening and makes you think a little bit about what you’re putting in your body.

So basically: the Whole30 program is a type of diet that focuses on consuming good, whole foods. You have to look at the ingredient list of everything you’re picking up, checking for added sugars. You eat a ton of vegetables, a lot of animal proteins (beef, chicken, pork, bison, bacon, fish and other seafoods, eggs, and a whole bunch of others that I will never eat), a good amount of fruits, nuts and health fats like avocado and olives.

So Why Am I Doing it?

Like I said before, I didn’t want to do this without understanding the program first, so I was sure to do my research. I read so many crazy testimonials. I’m talking, people who took this challenge and no longer required blood pressure medications. People losing inches off their waist line effortlessly. Seasonal allergies being reduced significantly. Asthma sufferers with decreased symptoms. Cholesterol levels improved. Heartburn symptoms decreased. Common outcomes also included “better sleep, consistent energy, improved mood and increased athletic performance.” Additionally, people stated that that following their 30 days, they no longer craved sugar, had no trouble declining dessert, and didn’t feel the need to have something sweet every day.

After seeing all of these testimonials, I thought I would Google something: Whole30 and anxiety. And what did I find? Countless articles on how Whole30 improved symptoms of anxiety and panic disorders. If you’ve been around here for longer than a month, you’ll know that I suffer from anxiety that I generally have under control, but occasionally will have attacks. I immediately was intrigued and excited about the possibility of a simple alteration in my diet affecting my life in such a positive way.

So that’s reason one: hopes that it will even out my anxiety to a level that is manageable through my self-treatments (running, self-talk, etc.)

Reason two is probably the most obvious – I want to be healthier. I’ve been saying for years that I want to stop eating so much processed crap, but it’s so hard being in a demanding graduate program and not having time to plan snacks, meals, etc. Now I have some more time to meal plan and prepare foods, so why not? I’m at my heavier end of my normal weight right now, but I haven’t been feeling comfortable recently. (It could be the massive amount of alcohol I’ve been drinking in celebrations of my graduation – but that’s going to be slowing wayyyy down soon) So, now is the perfect time to make this change. I’m also in a wedding at the end of August that I would like to look my best for!

Reason three is that I want to challenge myself. It’s going to really hard, like really hard, for me to give up carbs. As a runner, I live on carbs – but I also know that I don’t NEED them like I eat them. I want to say that I pushed myself, challenged myself mentally and physically, and succeeded. I know there are so many other things that I could do to be healthy, and honestly I don’t eat terribly to begin with. But why not use this challenge as a way to kick start something new and just see what happens?

And that brings me to reason four: Why not? I’m interested to see how my body reacts when I reintroduce certain foods when I am finished with the Whole30. And seriously, it’s only 30 days. And the worst that can happen is that I see no changes in anything and I go back to my normal 80-20 (okay, 70-30), lifestyle. So why not?

So there ya go. I haven’t picked a definitive date of when I am starting – mainly because I’ve heard the first few days are rough with withdrawal symptoms and I don’t want to be in the middle of my first week of clinic with massive headaches, stomach issues and other unknown symptoms I may have. But no doubt, I’ll be keeping a log on here about my meals, my symptoms, how I’m feeling, etc. It will be within the next two weeks that I start, for sure!

Plan for the next few days: make a shopping list, make a food plan, and food prep a lot of crockpot and freezer meals that will be easy to access after long days at clinic. Let’s do it!


One thought on “Whole30: What is it and Why am I doing it?

  1. I think the Paleo diet is great. I am seeing and feeling the benefits of the diet for a long time now. Not only have I lost weight, but I feel much more energised, and much better in myself. I think the reason is that whilst the paleo diet may be a diet, I do actually eat much much varied food than I did previously. All I’ve done is taken out the stodge that my body finds hard to digest, and added more types of fruit, veg, and indeed meat.

    I’ve now actually taken an interest in cooking paleo meals, which I can guarentee is 100% better than throwing some ready meals in the oven like I used to.

    I’m a real foodie, and would not survive on any other diet, but Paleo has been very good for me. I’ve written about one of my favourite cookbooks: http://cookbook-reviews.net/review-the-paleo-grubs-book/

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