A New Year brings in a new slate and extra motivation to tackle challenges, especially when it comes to health. Along with the usual health resolution suspects, like eat better and exercise, I’ve been seeing more and more resolutions to do Whole 30.
Wait, what the heck is Whole 30? Whole 30 is essentially a fad diet. It’s a plan you adopt for 30 days where you eat only certain foods while excluding others. The eating plan is marketed in a desirable way where you’re told to only eat “real” foods that are found in nature, non-processed, and nutritious.
That sounds pretty good, why are you being such a Debbie Downer? Ahem, glad you asked. While yes, encouraging consumption of nutrient-dense food is awesome, the problem is Whole 30 promises you benefits beyond which nutritious food can provide, while labeling certain foods as “off-limits.” Whole 30 promises to “change your life” by “removing aches and pains,” “giving you energy,””improving skin, digestive, and allergy conditions,” and more. The catch? All you got to do is eat these certain foods and completely remove dairy, legumes, grains, added sugar, alcohol, MSG, and more for the next 30 days.
What’s wrong with that? Completely removing foods from the diet teaches people to associate these foods as “bad” or “unhealthy.” These foods aren’t going away anytime soon, so avoidance isn’t a sustainable strategy. Instead, it’s best to teach people how to successfully include foods they want to eat in their diet, along with how to enjoy the more nutrient-dense foods. Sure, we can all eat less added sugar, but life would really, really suck if we never enjoyed foods with added sugars. In a healthy diet, there’s always room for a home-baked chocolate chip pumpkin muffin when you really want it. Foods should never be labeled as “off-limits.” Eating a varied diet provides good nutrition, while at the same time fulfills personal and cultural preferences. There’s a reason holidays have certain foods and you can expect certain dishes to show up at family gatherings. Food nourishes the body, as well as the soul. Plus, foods like dairy, legumes, and grains are great sources of certain nutrients.
But they said Whole 30 can change my life! I mean, food is pretty great and all, but making promises like that is misleading. Incentivizing people that Whole 30 can do things, like remove aches and pains, is not accurate, nor is it grounded in science. Someone, show me the research that says adopting Whole 30 will cure the ache in my back. True, people have reported feeling anecdotally better after doing Whole 30, but there’s so much we don’t know about these people, like their lifestyle before they adopted this way of eating, genetics, personality, and more. Also, the placebo effect is alive and well.
Okay…so now what do I do about being healthier this year? Glad you asked! Here are some ideas for sustainable health improvements:
1. Eat more vegetables: Add in vegetable side dishes with dinner, sneak veggies into omelets, look for veggie-packed recipes for inspiration, always leave the grocery store with a few different veggies in your basket (that you like!), try new ways of prepping veggies to see what you enjoy (i.e. roast, steam, stir-fry, spiralize, etc.), test out a new veggie each month, and more. Keep track of how many cups of vegetables you eat a day and aim for the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendation of 2.5 cups daily.
2. Adopt Meatless Monday: Going meatless at least one day a week will help lower your saturated fat intake, as well as encourage you to be creative with vegetarian dishes. You may even discover a new dish that becomes a staple in your diet. Plus, decreasing meat intake helps contribute to environmental sustainability, since meat production uses a whole lot of energy.
3. De-Plug: Commit to a “no electronics” rule during meals (or at least during 1 meal a day). Forgoing technology while you eat minimizes distractions, so you pay more attention to hunger and fullness cues. Eating while doing a stressful task, like checking the never-ending emails, stimulates the “flight-or-fight” response, which interferes with eating (i.e. overeating, under-eating, upset stomach, etc.). Food is one of the best parts of life. Enjoy each bite.
4. Move More: Want to be more active? Set a concrete goal, like workout 3 times a week, and schedule it in your calendar. Need fitness motivation? Try a new exercise class/workout or bring along a buddy!
What are your thoughts on diets, like Whole 30?