Unless this is your first time reading my blog (welcome!) or your first time in a while (welcome back!), you probably know that I’m doing my first Whole30 this month. Like any change, it has had some challenges, but definitely not as many as I expected! Part of this may be that my husband has been off work, and then we got “snowed in,” and he got snow days off. We’ve mostly been hanging out at home, doing stuff here, save one day when we trekked out for a couple errands. So it’s not like we’ve been surrounded by tempting food constantly. However, it has been challenging to make sure each meal follows the Whole30 meal template and that it’s still delicious and filling. It takes some time to cook everything, but it helps that we don’t have anywhere to be this week. Over the weekend, I plan on prepping some heat and eat breakfasts to make mornings faster.
But, back to this book review. One of the books I read this week for my #findinglandbookshelfchallenge was It Starts With Food, written by the Whole30 founders, Melissa and Dallas Hartwig. This book details their research and thought process behind the Whole30 program. They explain the why and how of the Whole30, and help you understand how to get started with it. There is even a chapter for vegans and vegetarians! They end the book with an explanation of the reintroduction process, and also have a couple of appendices with meal plans and recipes.
Overall, I found this book to be informative and helpful. It really helped me visualize the “why” behind the Whole30 rules. It also gave me an extra push of motivation and excitement for the Whole30 and beyond. I enjoyed reading the testimonies and seeing how lives have been changed through this program. I will admit: a lot of this is stuff I “already knew.” However, I haven’t really ever consistently put it into practice. I’ve had some short term spurts with whole, clean eating, but nothing that really lasted. I think a big part of this was my mindset. I have always been focused on losing weight. Always. It hasn’t always necessarily been about simply being healthy. Now, these two are not mutually exclusive. But they don’t go together as perfectly as you might think. You can be skinny without being healthy, and you can be healthy without being a size 2. I do believe that if you are consistently eating well, exercising enough, and not ever losing weight or seeing any change in your body composition in the long term, you may have something else going on. But, once again, I digress haha.
There were a few things I disagreed with, or thought “well, kind of, but not really” when I read them. The chapters where they lay out their “good food standards” are fantastic. But, then they delve into a bunch of food groups like grains, legumes, dairy, and sugar, explaining why they believe these types of food are bad news bears. Now, to give the Hartwigs credit, I think these chapters are often misread, misunderstood, or read on their own without the context of the entire book or the purpose of the Whole30 program. It’s very easy to read these chapters and think Dallas and Melissa are demonizing sugar and bread, and scaring you into never ever eating them again lest you never get truly healthy. So what do I disagree with? The permanent removal of a type of food unnecessarily.
If they are reading this review (although, I doubt they every will! haha), I want to be clear: I do not think they advocate for this. If you read It Starts With Food the entire way through, I think you’ll agree with me. Eating dessert sometimes won’t kill you, and if you can handle bread, great! However, reading the first half, it is very easy to think that Melissa and Dallas think quinoa and cheese are the devil, and how dare you ever think of eating a peanut butter cup ever again. Study after study and detail after detail is listed concerning how these foods can mess with your body. But, as the Hartwigs themselves point out, for each study saying peanuts are bad, there’s another saying they’re the best thing that could ever happen to you.
So, what’s the point? Why talk about what dairy might be doing to you or how grains could be ripping your intestines apart? Because they might be doing just that. And this is the whole point of the Whole30: it is a self-experiment, to help you find out what could be hindering your health, digestion, energy levels, and so much more. The Whole30 is a temporary elimination diet, designed partly to help you figure out which foods could be unwittingly causing you harm and partly to help you reset your food habits and mindset.
The goal in doing the Whole30 is to figure what foods are best for you, and what makes you feel better in the long run. This isn’t one of those hippy, “do what makes you feel good, whatever your heart says to do.” This is about health. This is about putting into your body what will help make it healthy and functioning well. Not about demonizing sugar or tossing the grains in the trash. Simply about what foods work best for your body. And that’s what I loved about It Starts With Food – because, really, it does.