My thoughts on the popular, stricter version of the PALEO diet. Why it’s not for me, why I won’t be doing a Whole 30, and why I am not a fan of this dietary trend overall.
Lately it seems like everyone and their mother is either just starting or just ending a Whole 30 ‘challenge’. Maybe it’s the proximity to the holidays (people want to get on a new diet plan to preempt the indulgences of the season?) or the fact that people just like trying the latest trend. But I have to admit, the more and more people I see jumping on the Whole 30 bandwagon and recapping their experiences the more I am turned off by the whole program.
You all know my food philosophy, eat real, whole foods in moderation from ALL the food groups. It’s pretty simple, and it works for me. I feel like people’s concept of what constitutes a heathy diet has become to complicated in today’s society. Too many criteria, rules, restrictions, and considerations are being put on our diets. It all seems to be in an attempt to achieve the most perfect, pure diet….but frankly, I don’t think that’s possible. I am all for finding ‘what works for you’, but I don’t think we have to go to such extremes by cutting out whole food groups or constantly experimenting with the latest diet fad just because.
I am especially opposed to things that have no real scientific basis. Sure people feel better after 30 days of eating a certain way, but think about it, it’s mostly because people have reduced processed foods…not because of the specific food groups they cut out! Food groups like dairy, grains, legumes, FRUITS, etc. that have a wealth of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that are important to a healthy, diverse diet! And in addition we can’t overlook the fact that most people who promote the programs stand to gain a profit if the diets are successful. Anyone can come up with a new diet philosophy and market it to the masses! Just because it gains popularity doesn’t make it credible. I won’t be doing a Whole 30 challenge any time soon and I wanted to share some of the reasons Whole 30 is not for me…
Creates ‘off limit’ foods
Not only does the diet require that you cut out certain foods, but by the end of the challenge I find that a lot of people end up leaving those ‘off limits’ foods out of their diets when there is really no medical necessity to do so. Not to mention, most times people are cutting out foods that they ENJOY and that they don’t have problems with to begin with. For me personally, I love dairy, I love grains, I love legumes/beans, and I love being able to eat whatever fruits and veggies I like without restriction. All of these foods are healthy and FULL of great nutrition! They should be the least of your worries in terms of things to cut out or restrict. I know that the challenge is technically only 30 days, but from what I gather from people’s recaps, I get the sense that they are afraid to start eating Whole 30 unapproved foods again…like they feel the need to continue their streak or something.
Leaves no room for treats
What is life without the occasional treat, homemade baked good, or famous home cooked meal made by your mom?! Pretty sad if you ask me. Whole 30 emphasizes quelling cravings with the approved foods on the diet…but constantly squashing cravings not only leads to deprivation but also a major case of mental sadness as well. I would hate go through life feeling like some of my favorite foods were off-limits. Life isn’t about eating perfectly all the time…it’s about eating in a nourishing way. And that nourishment includes your body…and your soul. Squash and sweet potatoes can only be so ‘soul-filling’. 😉
I don’t eat red meat
Big issue right there! I’ve never been a fan and much prefer seafood, turkey, and chicken….or ya know, plant-based protein! When doing Whole 30 you’re supposed to incorporate red meats and a lot of protein from fattier meat products. I don’t see an issue with this if you like those type of meats. But one thing I find strange is that a lot of bloggers I see doing the challenge don’t actually end up incorporating red meat like the diet calls for. They tend to stick with lower calorie, lean meats…so doesn’t that sort of defeat the purpose? It’s actions like this that make me think their motivations for doing the challenge to begin with are merely as a means to justify restriction. If you’re really doing the challenge whole heartedly, it seems weird to be so adamant about not eating a certain fruit while on the other hand not incorporating some of the main components of the program!
I like flexibility
Let’s face it, life is tough enough as it is. My mind is constantly whirring around with a million thoughts. If I had to think about what foods I am ‘allowed’ or ‘not allowed’ to eat in addition to all of that, I think I’d go nuts (or even MORE nuts). And when you take into consideration social situations, going out to eat, special occasions, and the like…there would just be too much pre-planning, analyzing, and considering for me to do. We all have our quirks and different eating habits, but when a diet comes with as many restrictions as Whole 30 I feel like some of the enjoyment of eating and life in general is impeded upon. Plus, I like the idea of being able to enjoy foods from all areas of the food spectrum. To me it’s about balance….sometimes I like a protein filled baked good and other times I am all for a slice of my mom’s homemade pie. Sometimes I want kelp noodles and other times I want real whole wheat pasta. Sometimes I want a vegetarian alternative and other times I want the real, meat filled dish. My tastes and cravings change everyday, and I like being able to satisfy them at a moments notice without over thinking it.
There’s no need
I just don’t feel the need to experiment with my diet right now. I just did a ‘diet reset‘ and I am still getting back to normal after that. I eat real, whole foods from every food group and I feel great (most of the time). It’s true that some people do have real issues with certain foods (I am slowly finding out what foods don’t sit well with me), but if you’re not medically diagnosed (hence all the tests I’ve been getting done lately) and are other wise not experiencing issues with certain foods, why cut them out? Just to try it? Why?! I see more and more people cutting out foods that they actually enjoy just for the sake of being trendy or because they read an article that told them to! For everything in Whole 30 that makes negative claims against the ‘unapproved’ foods, you can find a million and one other pieces of research that say the exact opposite.
I AM A SNACK QUEEN
You’ve all seen my snack plates….they’re MEGA! Not only do I NEED to eat between meals, but I like to. It keeps my blood sugar level and makes me an overall happier person. Whole 30 advocates getting all your nutrients in at 3 main meals and not snacking in between them. I don’t know about you, but this would never work for me. My meals are well-balanced and HUGE in their own right, but I go through those nutrients pretty darn fast. Snacking is a necessity, in my opinion. It’s not something I think people should fear or feel guilty about doing. You should listen to your body and feed it when it needs nourishment, not according to certain scheduled eating times or a certain amount of meals.
(Wo)Man can’t exist on sweet potatoes and coconut oil alone
Of course I’m exaggerating a bit, but from what I’ve seen, the Whole 30 plan makes people stick with the same basic foods day in and day out for every single meal. I don’t know if this is just in the nature of the program itself or because people end up choosing the same few foods that seem safe to them….but either way, the people I’ve seen do Whole 30 seem to struggle with variety and mixing things up. To me variety really is the spice of life, and as much as I like sweet potatoes, squash, nuts, avocado, and turkey….I could not eat different combinations of those things for all my meals. I’d get sick of that pretty quickly and begin losing enjoyment in my meals. Oh and I don’t like coconut oil on its own…so I pretty much think the Whole 30 gods hate me due to that fact alone. 😉
I don’t like being an all or nothing person
Often times, I do carry this mindset in a lot of areas in my life and it’s actually something I’m trying to work on. So why would I do a challenge that forces me to adopt stringent rules in regards to my diet? If I’m going to ‘challenge’ myself with something, I want to go all in and give it my best. But frankly the idea of putting my diet to the test doesn’t appeal to me. I’d rather challenge myself physically or mentally or work on self-improvement and betterment than seeing how strict I can be with my food choices.
These are just some of the reasons that came into my mind when thinking about the Whole 30 program and whether I would ever do something like that. As I’ve said before, everyone is different. Maybe this type of eating can work for some of you! I don’t personally agree with the ‘science’ behind it and don’t see it as nutritionally superior to other ways of eating. But hey, we all have our own opinions! And these are just my opinions right now. I don’t know what the future holds and what direction my health journey will take, but for the present this is my perspective.
I think they key thing when considering diet is the intention behind your choices….are you doing things for health and real medical reasons or just to be trendy and jump on the latest fad? Do you really feel the need to cut out certain food groups or are you just changing up our diet as an excuse to restrict? Diets in general can be a slippery slope so it is important to be mindful of our choices and to make sure our number one priority is balance, treating our bodies with kindness, and fueling ourselves in the most appropriate way for our bodies.
As I mentioned above, I always come back to these simple ideals…eat whole, real foods from all the food groups in moderation. And ya know what? Don’t think so much. We all get so caught up in our heads and with over-analyzing that we forget that simplicity really is best. Eat with the carefree abandon you had as a kid. Eat when you’re hungry and eat for nourishment. That’s it.
Have you done or considered doing Whole 30?
What current food trends or fads do you disagree with?
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