The world of weight loss can be an overwhelming and confusing place. It seems like every day a new super supplement or quick fix diet is popping up promising to help you quickly shed unwanted weight.
While the ideal approach to weight loss is to aim for 1-2 pounds a week using a well-balanced diet and regular exercise, the temptation to subscribe to the next popular craze can be too much to ignore.
So, each month, we’re examining a different diet—diving into the science behind it, the pros, the cons—and letting you decide whether or not it’s worth trying.
This month we’re going to take a closer look at the Whole30 program. This 30-day, nutrition-focused diet makeover was originally created by Melissa Hartwig in 2009. What started as a simple blog post quickly exploded into a phenomenon that now includes a book, website, meal plan and so much more.
This popular program has an extensive “no” list that details all the foods to avoid during your 30-day cleanse, from sugar, to beans, to carrageenan and everything in between. The “yes” list is much briefer and encourages you to eat whole, unprocessed foods. One of the toughest rules this diet enforces is a strict forbiddance from stepping on the scale.
So, is there something to this popular program or is it just another fad? Let’s take a closer look.
Unlike some other diets we’ve dived deeper into, there isn’t as much of a focus on biochemistry with this one. The rules restrict sugar and food additives, which eliminates a lot of junk from your diet. In addition to getting rid of processed ingredients, it restricts dairy, legumes, grains, and alcohol. All of that restricting encourages increased intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, which tend to be low in calories, and high in vitamins and minerals.
Furthermore, fresh produce is full of phytonutrients, which are colorful micronutrients that contain lots of anti-inflammatory antioxidants. For example, why are tomatoes red? Lycopene, a red pigment, causes the bright color and provides healing benefits and can help prevent cancer. Why are blueberries blue? Mainly due to the high prevalence of anthocyanins, which cause a purplish-blue hue and have been closely associated with reducing cholesterol and improving heart health. So by eliminating refined sugar, which is related to inflammation, and increasing the amount of anti-inflammatory foods you eat, you can experience reduced pain and improved gut health.
The best part about this diet is that it gets you focused on eating real foods and truly paying attention to all of the foods you are consuming. With such strict requirements for eliminating all types of foods, you are forced to flip over your products and packages and discover the myriad of things listed on the ingredients label.
Increasing food consumption awareness is bound to hold you more accountable and help you reduce the amount of high-calorie, low-nutrient foods you are consuming on a regular basis. This approach is likely to produce weight loss strictly because you start paying attention to nutrition more. Plus, staying off the scale is always helpful in overcoming our obsession with weight. Overall wellness should be focused on how you feel, including increased energy levels, or higher levels of happiness, and not solely concerned with the number on a scale.
All of the restrictions can add up. This diet only asks you to commit for 30 days, but what happens after that? Typically we find that when we forbid ourselves from having something, we only crave it more. When the 30 days have passed, what’s stopping you from binging on all of the things you’ve been missing?
Additionally, eliminating foods like legumes, dairy, and grains can prevent you from getting healthy nutrients those foods have to offer. Dairy is full of calcium and vitamin D, which promote strong, healthy bones. Legumes have a good amount of fiber, which promotes gut regularity, and grains are an important and necessary part of any well-balanced diet. A more sensible approach would be to incorporate all foods in moderation.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which approach to nutrition is right for you. Consulting with your doctor and/or a registered dietitian can also help you find the healthiest, safest ways to lose weight and eat better. Check back next month when we take a closer look at the Paleo diet.