I never been on a diet ever. That's not to say that I didn't have my own personal issues with weight and food. My weakness are chocolate chip cookies and comfort Filipino food. I just never understood diets and frankly never felt motivated enough to completely change the way I ate. I love to eat, I love to cook and eating low carbs or just proteins didn't make sense to me. In "Whole30 Food Freedom Forever", Melissa Hartwig talks about the fact that diets are meant to be temporary. They are meant to be done short-term which results in food fatigue and in short-term results leading to yo-yo dieting. When you first think of a diet, it automatically means restriction and that in itself is the problem with diets. It already begins with a negative connotation.
Melissa (we are on a first name basis here) never mentions in any of her books that Whole30 is not a diet, it is in fact a reset and that in itself is a very powerful message to the mind and the psyche. Whole30 has also never focused on weight, but about non-scale victories like energy level, body swelling, cravings, etc. You can find more examples here. Whole30 is focused on eating good food free from soy, dairy, alcohol, legumes, grains and any kind of sweeteners. While those sound like restrictions, "It Starts with Food," goes into an in depth scientific analysis on how those food items affect your body down to the cellular level. A fascinating read for those wanting to understand the whys behind the Whole30 choices.
For me, I started out doing paleo a few times as part of a Crossfit regimen. It was an eye opening experience as it taught me really the value of reading labels. It also taught me that I didn't need as much food as I thought to live and exercise. I continued to paleofy desserts, but in the end it never tasted as good as the real things. Being on Whole30 was a new experience. It was less about restrictions but more about really understanding what your body needs. We live in a world of over consumption. From, food to information to stress, we are constantly being bombarded with things to eat, buy and use. Whole30 for me became less about food, but more about relationships, rituals, and expectations. Melissa goes into all of this in the new book "Whole30 Food Freedom Forever." One of the main things I liked about the book is at how honestly she positions a lot of the reasons why we have the habits that we do. The book is an easy read and written in the same voice as what you've come to expect from Melissa on Instagram or Snapchat.
For many of us, food and family go hand in hand. For us Filipinos, parents and grandparents do not ask you how you are, but instead ask if you have eaten? That is a show of love. In any Filipino household, you will always be offered something to eat and drink. In other cultures, it's also very similar. This affection via food can sometimes be a downfall for many trying to pursue a healthier lifestyle. Instead Melissa takes an excellent approach with a lot of actionable advice on how to deal with family, friends, co-workers and anyone else you have a relationship with regarding your Whole30 and your quest for a healthier lifestyle. She talks about some of the common pitfalls when speaking about your new lifestyle and offers advice that don't disregard their love for you, but that love shouldn't depend on food.
Another common area that Melissa looks into and provides advice is your own rituals and habits. For me, this was a 3pm coffee and cookie with a co-worker. It was time that I needed to get away from my desk and time for me to catch-up, but what I came to realize when 3pm came during my Whole30 was that the coffee and cookie were not necessary for our 3pm get-together. Instead, walking around the block and talking was enough for me to release some stress and eliminate caffeine and sugar. When you look at your days, you will find there are many more rituals that involve food. It could be that early morning Dunkin run or a sit down with cereal. Even Melissa states it's possible to have a birthday without eating cake. You can still partake in the ritual, but perhaps the food is not necessary for you to enjoy yourself.
Diets in themselves are routed in self-fulfilling failure. Diet expectations are short-term and therefore cannot be sustained for the rest of your life. A few of them can also be so extreme asking you take on a completely different set of food products that it does not remain sustainable in the long-term. On the flip side, those around you may have also been conditioned to not expect success from diets and therefore do not provide the right support. When doing a Whole30 and any resets after that, expectations should be clear from the get go. Expectations of yourself and expectations you have of others. Be upfront and honest with what you need of your support group to reduce confusion and hurt feelings as you embark on this journey.
You Are A Mirror
When you start taking on new habits, you ultimately make people question their own current habits. Everyone has to come into their own before they themselves can make changes. Melissa asks you not to push our new lifestyle on others, but offer enough personal anecdotes of how you are feeling with or without certain foods. By sharing your personal results, you put the focus back on yourself and less on them. This will remove some hostility and some guilt. Let them come to you when they are ready and be ready to share what you have learned.
It's Not Whole30 Forever
One thing that I will also say is that Food Freedom is not doing Whole30 forever. It's understanding that you now have choices. It's knowing that whenever you want, you can do resets along the way to clear out your system of past bad food choices.
In the end, Food Freedom is really about you and your choices. By this time in your food journey, you should be aware of how certain foods make you feel. This is the heart of what Melissa wants us all to do. To question if certain foods are really "Worth it." Is it worth the bloat, the nausea, the swelling hands, the headache? She also asks us to really be mindful about the way we consume. Food should be savored. Food should provide good long lasting energy. It's hard to enjoy good food when you are rushing from one place to another or if you don't know how much work it takes to make a dish. When you start cooking more, you appreciate more of what it takes to make a great, healthy and delicious meal. I encourage you to read the "Whole30 Food Freedom" book. It's a good reference book as you continue the healthier lifestyle.
I will say with full disclosure that I am a fan of Melissa Hartwig. I've done Whole30 twice now and generally eat only meats and vegetables. I've learned that a treat is a treat and should be rare and savored. I still paleofy desserts here and there, but have learned that if I want ice cream and am willing to put up with some stomach uneasiness, I don't want just any ordinary ice ream, it has to be fresh ice cream made locally or by Grom in New York City. It may mean I have ice cream once a month or once every few months, but it's something I have learned to appreciate. By all means, I am not there in the Food Freedom journey, but everyday I am learning, making mistakes and resetting. I still have a long way to go, but happy to have found a very encouraging and practical book to keep me going.