September 17, 2012 by Darlene McC
Western culture has made “food” really confusing. The grocery store, the place where we’re supposed to go and buy food, is full of things that can barely be described as edible (in my opinion, are not actually food). Few of us cook any more, and those of us that do assume that using ‘low-fat’- ‘no-fat’-“whole grain”-gluten free-probiotic-organic-whatever ingredients auto-magically makes what we eat healthy; right!? Because isn’t that what Dr Oz said a few weeks ago? That I can just cut calories and I’ll be okay? But then someone else… maybe your friend from work?… they said that fat doesn’t make you fat… but how would they know?
I’m with you! Many people expect to ask their trainers about their nutrition and get a straight forward and well-informed response. It’s frustrating for us because that’s not really what we’re qualified to do; but nutrition is essential for meeting fitness goals so how can we not? For about a year I’ve felt like my nutrition (I hate the word ‘diet’ for anything other than short-term fasting) has been lacking. Through the stress of a career change and a major life overhaul I’ve been sugar bingeing and cheese loving to survive. I’ve felt inflammation and a general icky feeling creep back in. So last week as I was browsing the local book store I stumbled on It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. I was intrigued; I’ve toyed with the idea of a whole food based diet, but didn’t have a framework for it that I liked. I bought it on a whim, not really knowing what I’m getting myself into.
The first thing I really liked about it was the scientific research and how carefully it’s referenced. I have felt in the past that I’m reading some lay-persons manifesto; but this feels legit. They also have a general formula that I whole-heartedly agree with:
Scientific Research + Clinical Experience + Self-Experimentation
They’ll tell you what science and their own research has said; you use that information to reset your own body; then, when you’re better, you use that information to test things out for yourself.
Science is my home girl. They had me at research.
The entire book and the plan included are based around one core concept that tough-loves its way in: Food either makes you more healthy or less healthy. Eat the former, not the later. Sounds easy, right? We’ll see…
So what’s a Whole30? 30 straight days of food that adhere to 4 simple, but powerful, rules. The Hartwig’s call them the Good Food Standards:
The food that we eat should:
1. Promote a healthy psychological response.
2. Promote a healthy hormonal response.
3. Support a healthy gut.
4. Support immune function and minimize inflammation.
– It Starts With Food
They call it a Whole30, but explain later on that your body may need more time to heal than 30 days. It could be a Whole45 or maybe even a Whole60. And this isn’t some mystic “colon cleanse” where you’re sipping juice; this is a scientifically supported nutritional system. Every recommendation they’re making is based on a chapter in the book where they detail the psychological, hormonal, digestive, or immune response that you’re looking to avoid if that’s a food you are sensitive to. This is what I said I wanted…
…Be Careful What You Wish For
I am unquestionably excited to have found this for a book I bought on a whim. Screw points, screw counting calories, I don’t care about weight loss. I want to fix my hormonal and digestive balances so I can sleep better, wake up refreshed, “move” regularly (if you get my drift), and not get sick as much. I also want to learn how to eat well so when I have kids in a few years they’re raised in an environment that knows what good food really is.
So here’s the starting point:
Yes: Eat foods that make me more healthy: meat, seafood, and eggs, lots of veggies, a bit of fruit, and healthy fats.
No: Added sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, or white potatoes (when I told my co-workers this one none of them could believe beans was on the list! A room full of trainers aghast at the idea of omitting black beans for a month).
No: Attempts to recreate foods I’m psychologically dependent on with “approved” ingredients.
No: Weighing myself or measuring for this month.
That’s it. The simple core. Every meal starts with an old favorite phrase of mine: “What’s my vegetable, what’s my protein?”. From there I make sure I have a healthy fat source and I only eat 3 meals a day (4 if I’m working out).
Today is day 1, and I’m planning to share periodic updates. I wonder if I’m missing foods specifically because I can not have them; but I’ve tried to stock up on things I like to be ready for this week. It should be interesting to see when the sugar craving hits, because it’s been bad for months and I can’t imagine it’s going to disappear overnight. I’m also adding this to The List for 50 points. It’s going to be hard, but it’s going to be good for me too. There’s a stew in the crock-pot for later, and if nothing else this experiment is going to encourage me to cook a lot more. That can’t be a bad thing, right?