Have you ever heard of a diet where you aren’t supposed to count calories or step on a scale the entire time? It’s a bit strange to think about with most people wanting to lose weight weighing themselves constantly, but that’s to be avoided on the Whole30 Diet. This program was designed by nutritionists Dallas and Melissa Hartwig of Utah, and the trend has been growing fast among dieters. Like some other popular diet programs, Whole30 has developed a culture about it on social media.
Since developing the diet, the Hartwigs have written a series of books about how to stick to the plan and use it for maximum effectiveness. So what is the Whole30 Diet, what is it all about and how do you lose weight without counting calories? We’ll break it down here in our review, and then you can decide if joining one of the latest crazes that is only seven years old is the right weight loss program for you.
The Food Groups of Whole30
Instead of focusing on foods that are lower in calories and promoting portion control, the Whole30 Diet focuses on cutting certain foods from your diet. The Whole30 developers say that cutting these food groups can lead to higher levels of energy, and a reduction in aches or pains, as well as other ailments that medication hasn’t worked on. Above all else, they claim that you can lose weight with Whole30, which is what brings most people in.
Even certain healthy foods are off limits with Whole30, as you are supposed to be focusing on whole foods. This is a strict diet that isn’t really for the faint of heart. Let’s take a look at the foods that you will be eating and which ones you will be avoiding with Whole30.
- Fruits (Not All)
Basically, if there aren’t a lot of ingredients, it’s a whole food. These are often unprocessed and don’t have a ton of additives (save for some cheaper meats and seafoods). Get used to eating these, because that’s all you’ll be eating for the entirety of the program.
- Sweets/Junk Food
The Whole30 Diet says that you should not even be trying to make your own versions of junk food using whole foods. While you can still roll up almonds into some vegetables and call it a “cookie,” they say you shouldn’t be trying to recreate sweets. Also, alcohol and tobacco are completely off limits, making this harder for some people than most. At least those that are lactose intolerant get a step up here since dairy is banned, so you’re already ahead of the curve in that regard.
- Clarified Butter
- Green Beans/Peas
- Fruit Juice (As a Sweetener)
These are foods that would normally fall in the ‘don’t eat’ category on Whole30, but are said to be more beneficial than harmful overall in the diet. Peas and green beans are the only legumes you can eat, and you can salt your foods if you want. Clarified butter is also the only dairy product on here as it is more filled with protein than dairy.
What’s on the Menu?
Using only the foods that you can have on the Whole30 list, you might be wondering what a sample menu looks like. Here is a simple two day breakdown to let you know what you’re in store for with Whole30.
- Breakfast – Scrambled Egg with Turkey Sausage and Garlic
- Lunch – Tuna Salad Wrapped with Lettuce
- Dinner – Shrimp on the Barbie and Mixed Vegetables
- Breakfast – Sweet Potato Hashbrowns with Apple Sausage
- Lunch – Chopped Salad with Avocado and Radish
- Dinner – Grilled Steak with Mushrooms, Sweet Potatoes and Vegetables
While the list sounded hard at first, sticking to these whole foods is actually fairly simple since they already make up a big part of the average diet. You could be tempted to add some things and may have to stave off your sweet tooth, but it can be done. You will be eating like this for 30 days, so it will get you into a habit after that amount of time.
Is Whole30 for Everyone?
As we said, those that are lactose intolerant will have an easier time with Whole30 than most people, but this is not the right plan for diabetics. If you have been struggling with willpower or are one of those dieters that likes to track your weight on a weekly (or even daily) basis, you might have a hard time getting through the 30 days. What makes this easier for some people is the lack of calorie counting, but many experts have said that’s a negative overall compared to most popular diets out there.
What to Know and Resources
The Whole30 Diet asks you to make a commitment, and follow it to the letter. If you slip up one day and so much as take a sip of alcohol or a bite out of a cookie, and you have to start back at the very beginning. The creators say that not sticking fully to the 30 days is selling yourself short, and claim that it’s not as hard as it sounds.
There are also plenty of resources available (as with most popular diets these days) with an online community, workshops and cookbooks available. However, the meal planning that Whole30 provides only allows for seven days instead of the entire 30. That’s because they don’t want you getting bored, as that can likely lead to a slip.
The best resource that Whole30 has available is a custom meal plan where you can arrange exactly what foods you want to eat or avoid, and they give you a shopping list and recipes fit for you so that you don’t get bored with the program. Unfortunately, that program is not free and has a few different plans. You can sign up for the $30 upfront package that costs $15 per month after that, the $49 plan for four months and $36 per four months after that and finally the $99 for a year package and $84 per year after that.
Whole30 has expanded to quite a large community, so there is chat support with meal preppers available and an app that lets you follow exactly what you need, so that you don’t have to bring paper to the grocery store. Portions can also be adjusted and makes things much easier (for a price). If you have the means and the commitment, that might be the way to go.
What’s the Catch?
While nutritionists are the ones that created the Whole30 system, there are other nutritionists and doctors that have been quite critical of the program. Where Whole30 gets its highest marks is in short term weight loss, since the program is only 30 days. While you are likely to see the weight drop (only weighing yourself before and after, of course), it might be hard to keep it off.
You can always restart the cycle if you are ready for another 30 day commitment, but those that get back into the bad habits once their month is up usually find themselves regaining the weight. This is especially true for those that don’t exercise, since working out is not a requirement with Whole30. You are also avoiding some foods that are considered to be very healthy, which has drawn some criticism.
Those that find themselves slip just once will probably continue with their 30 days, which isn’t in the nature of the program, making it one of the hardest to follow directly. The Whole30 Diet also rules out diabetics and isn’t advised for pregnant women, making it more exclusive than most popular diets.
Summing it Up
So, is the Whole30 Diet the right program for you? This is certainly one of those programs where trying to drop a few quick pounds could likely work out. If you’re looking for a lifestyle change where you can manage your weight long term and find increased health benefits, then you might want to avoid this one.
The positives come from the resources available and ready to eat meals at certain stores, but the negatives outweigh that for some people. One author that recently tried out the Whole30 program said that it was very hard to stick to, even cheating on her diet and continuing on. It eventually gets easier when you get used to Whole30, but getting through that first week or two is the hard part.
All in all, Whole30 has one of those passionate followings where people either love sticking to it or hate it with a passion from the outside. It can be a bit expensive to buy all of the resources and whole foods, as well. It’s also not the greatest weight loss program as it encourages you to focus on healthy foods instead of those low in calories. With that said, there are better weight loss programs out there.