In a world of diet boomeranging, Whole30 is doing way more harm than good.
I am vehemently against the Whole30 diet. Vehemently.
Every time I hear someone say they want to begin it, I restrain myself from having a very adult and NSFW hissy fit. No, really.
Like most diets, the Whole30 is a fad that will come and go. The website says it is a cure-all diet “designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract and balance your immune system.”
I’m going to go ahead and call BS on this one, and I don’t even have to try the diet to say that. And trust me, I will NEVER be trying this restrictive jumble of lies.
Here are some other claims listed on the Whole30 website:
“This will change your life.”
“It could, quite possibly, change the emotional relationship you have with food.”
We’ll unpack all of that, but first, here is what you CANNOT eat on Whole30: sugar, grains, dairy, legumes, alcohol, MSG, sulfite, carrageenan, baked goods, junk foods and treats. That’s a lot, but there’s even more within those categories.
Within sugar, you cannot have maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, coconut sugar, any artificial sweeteners or date syrup. (How the hell do you have anything yummy?) Under alcohol, it states that you cannot even use it for cooking and that you should refrain from tobacco (even though that’s not alcohol…).
Here’s a doozy: In grains, you cannot eat wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn (even though it is a veggie), rice, gluten-free things or starch products from the above. YIKES.
No legumes. That means beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils and peanuts. That’s right, no peanut butter either. Oh, and this also includes soy products like tofu, tempeh, edamame and soy sauce.
No dairy means no cheese, cream, milk, yogurt, kefir or ice cream.
And the “junk food”…don’t even get me started on that phrase. Actually, please do get me started. It’s a good rant. This means you can never eat pancakes, waffles, muffins, cookies, pizza, cereal, chips, fries and so on. I just wrote a book on all the things you cannot eat while on this “diet.”
Oh, and the best part, here is the mantra of the diet: “When in doubt, leave it out.”
It would have been a heck of a lot easier to state what you can eat: meat, fruit and veggies. That’s it.
So basically, you can eat air.
Aside from the laundry list of things you can’t eat (which I can sum up very easily: anything enjoyable), there are so many other issues with this trend.
It’s restrictive. It makes going to restaurants impossible. It basically means tossing out all your previously purchased food once you start. It eliminates all the food categories that give you the energy to function. It removes a huge amount of variety and vitamin sources.
Worst of all, it takes all the joy out of eating.
A huge problem with diets, in general, is the list of “cannot eat” foods. When your body cannot have something (meaning, you put it on a “bad” list), you cannot satisfy the cravings you have for these types of foods.
Craving something cold and soft? Something like ice cream? Too bad, it’s on the bad list. Better have some carrots instead. Because that totally fits the craving.
And what happens when you don’t satisfy a craving? You have it even more. Trust me, I know from experience. (I’m looking at you, anorexia.)
This diet is basically an eating disorder waiting to happen.
When I was deep into my eating disorder, I basically ate like this, only with the exception of dairy. At that time, a good ten years ago, a diet like this was called “Paleo” (and that one is BS, too). I lost weight, for sure, but I also felt like I had been repeatedly thrown against a wall. Even getting up required too much energy.
When you pull out TONS of food groups, you label those foods as bad and unhealthy. You restrict what you can eat. In no way, shape or form is this “food freedom.” It’s food hell. It’s purgatory. It’s literally anything but freedom.
Now, some people could do this and not end up with an eating disorder. But if there is even a little environmental or genetic vulnerability for an eating disorder, this would be a great catalyst for activating it.
As for changing the emotional relationship with food… see the above. If everything becomes off limits, any slip up in the diet would come with guilt, shame and anger.
That is NOT emotional freedom. So yeah, it will change your relationship with food. Badly.
Here’s another issue: When you remove things like grains and beans, you remove readily available sources of energy for your body. If you want to exercise, a great pre-workout snack is something starchy, like a granola bar, because it is easy for your body to digest and use as energy. If that source isn’t available, say goodbye to your energy and hello to a whole host of other problems.
When I didn’t have energy from starches, my body ate my muscles. Seriously. It started to eat itself. That is something I will never be able to fully recover from.
Any vegetarians out there? Well, not for long if you’re planning on trying Whole30. Go back and look at the do not eat list. All of the non-animal sources of protein are on there. No beans. No tofu. No peanut butter. Guess you are going to eat veggies, fruit and seeds for all of eternity. As a vegetarian myself, that sounds like hell, even loving fruit and veggies as much as I do.
Oh, and one last thing. Whole30 is continuing the horrible habit that calls food good and bad, healthy and unhealthy, clean and whole. Food does not have these values. To say a food is bad or good gives it a power it should never hold.
Food is nutrition. It is a source of energy. It is not good or bad.
All foods fit in moderation and balance. Our problems do not stem from eating a cupcake. Our problems come from eating a cupcake and then beating ourselves up over it, labeling it as bad and telling ourselves we’ve failed. A cupcake is not the enemy here. Society is.
Where is the intuitive eating trend?
Where is the diet that tells us to honor our body signals and what sounds good?
Where is the diet that DOESN’T label any food as good or bad?
Oh wait, that wouldn’t be a diet. That would be just eating, intuitively, honestly and in tune with your desires.
Stop contemplating eating air with Whole30. Do your body, brain and soul a favor and pick up intuitive eating.
That’s true “food freedom.”
This article was originally written for and posted on The Odyssey Online in Aspiring Journalism Professionals.