I’ve been hearing a lot about Whole30 recently. It’s a food plan that is basically an elimination diet; but it’s become so popular in the US there are products in supermarkets labelled as #whole30approved. When it comes to optimising your eating for health or managing long-term illness, elimination diets are the go-to option. And that’s down to it’s key principles of:
- Cut out anything that could be a potential irritant - sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, preservatives and in some cases even nightshades (though these are allowed in Whole30)
- Maintain this for a meaningful period of time - the minimum would be a month but if you have a long-term illness you should consider going for longer
- Reintroduce the irritant food groups one by one - this allows you to understand exactly how your body responds to each food group and you can therefore tailor your eating thereafter accordingly
This is exactly what the Whole30 food plan is all about except that it’s well-branded and has gone viral. That would be underselling it though. There are some really interesting psychological points to consider about Whole30:
1) It is a food plan and not a diet
The thought of a diet is restrictive; however a food plan is a lifestyle. This is why at Hippocrates Lounge we talk about how you eat not the diet you choose
2) They do not allow replication of baked goods nor smoothies
Substituting healthy ingredients into your cravings is something I have encouraged for a while; it definitely has a role but only after you have understood the impact of individual food groups on your body. If you have pancakes that are compliant with the food plan, psychologically you do yourself no favours because the pancake craving is ongoing and your body’s satiety signals reflect that. Similarly with smoothies, your body’s satiety signals respond as if you have had a drink rather than hearty, fibrous vegetables and fruit.
3) There is a whole community providing a raft of resources
This is so powerful. These interventions can feel so lonely, especially when you go out to events or with friends and you refuse to drink or eat because you’re on a food plan. There is a huge Whole30 community though, and so not only do they provide lots of practical tips on how to manage Whole30 during say, business or travel, they also act as a sounding board through their forums.
Through an elimination programme like Whole30 there is potential to stabilise your energy and blood sugar levels; improve your gut health, skin, allergies or even chronic pain; and who knows, there is even scope to reverse long-term illness if you maintain it long enough. Moreover, you can redefine your relationship with food so that it becomes ingrained in you to make healthier food choices day-to-day, tailored to your body.
For those of you who are on the fence reading this then just remember that there are so many harder things in life to deal with than this; it’s only for 30 days; and it could dramatically improve your life.