Let's get one thing out in the open. At Nutrition WOD we despise the word diet as used in general conversation.
Diet is a hijacked word that used to mean "The kind of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eat."
In other words, your nutrition lifestyle. However, the second definition is the one we all actually associate with the word. "A special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons." For this reason, we rarely use the word diet in the first sense since most assume we are talking about the second. Instead, we prefer the term Nutrition Lifestyle because our entire purpose is to teach and not preach about what you should or should not eat. We have been active in fitness and nutrition for years and the one thing we can say without question or doubt is nutrition is a learning process. It takes time and failure and trials and more failure. But then again, anything worth actually doing follows a similar path.
Today.com released this list with Whole30 Diet at the bottom and there was another one written by a dietitian who wastes the readers time by bashing Whole30 as a diet. Why is this a problem? Because Whole30 is not a diet and here are our 5 reasons why:
1. Diets are focused on short term results like reducing weight.
Recently, we wrote a blog about why the scale is a bad tool for assessing health (here). So it always amazes us when so many diets still rely 100% on what a scale says at the end. Whole30 is an elimination style challenge that is meant to teach you something about your own food sensitivities. It has nothing to do with losing weight in the sense that it is a goal. Will you lose weight over the 30 days? Probably. But that has a lot more to do with eating much healthier during that time. Weight loss is just a nice consequence. It is not the goal.
2. Diets are just the same tired version of the same sales pitch.
How do most diet pitches start? By telling you what is wrong with you. This is a very common and very successful marketing tool on social media and beyond. You give the reader a problem they have, hit a pain point for them like being overweight, and then provide this amazing solution you just happen to be selling. For diets, the solution typically requires little work on your part and produces results quickly. These are two really big red flags. It is nothing new either. A sales technique Brian learned 20 years ago is called "Feel, Felt, Found". It works like this: (To the potential buyer) "I understand how you feel. Others have felt the same way. Here is what we have found." The first sentence shows empathy, the second shows that you are just like others out there, and the third one provides the solution. You can use it to sell cars, vacuums, and definitely diets.
In contract, Whole30 isn't trying to sell you a fast solution. or even suggest the path to success will be easy. Ever heard a diet try to sell you on the idea of it being hard, requiring effort, and not even promising weight loss at the end? We haven't either. Which is why we actually like Whole30. It is an honest approach to figuring out what will eventually become your nutrition lifestyle. No gimmicks or sleazy sales tactics are needed when you are just providing people with the truth and a clear path towards your goals.
3. Diets typically pinpoint one food group as the only problem.
At 38 years old, I have now lived through the low fat, low calorie, low carb, sugar free, and gluten free (hopefully over soon) crazes. In each instance, diets popped up assuring us all that if we only got rid of carbs or fat, we would watch the pounds melt away in a jiffy. Of course, the reason any of these diets show short-term success is they typically also require you to eat healthier overall. So while you are showing positive signs from not eating carbs, you are also probably making a lot of quality decisions in general, abstaining from desserts and sugary food, and probably making more of an effort to work out. After all, we want the diet to work and prove that our judgement was correct in following it. Here is the problem with all of it. No single food group is the ONLY offender or ONLY savior. Even Brian who has not eaten any added sugar for almost two years now will say that while severely cutting his total sugar consumption drastically has been a major positive lifestyle change, he also recognizes that with giving up all added sugar, he also gave us desserts, fast food, and processed food. Yes, added sugar was the glue that held the rest together, but we cannot fall in the trap of inferring causation from association.
Whole30 does identify several foods like grains, sugary foods, and dairy as possible issues. But there is nothing saying any of them will actually BE issues for you. Many people live very healthy lives eating grains. However, there is a chance you personally have a sensitivity to some of them. So unlike a diet that simply says to get rid or restrict them solely for weight loss purposes, Whole30 suggests taking them out of your diet for 30 days, letting your body relax, and then slowly reintroducing one type of grain at a time to see if you have any sensitivities. If you don't, great. If you do, well now you are a little smarter than you were 30 days ago and can make an educated decision to either eliminate that problem food completely or possibly to just reduce the use of it. See, it is all about becoming educated and making your own informed decisions about your health. It breaks the cycle of being dependent on any for-profit diet craze to tell you what is good and bad for you.
4. Diets prey on your weaknesses and insecurities.
Did you know that you cannot run an ad on Facebook that explicitly makes people feel bad about themselves? It is true. You cannot put an ad out that says something like "Do you feel fat today? Are you tired of looking at your friends and feeling ashamed? Are you depressed? Buy our new diet XYZ and we will change all of that for you in just 3 simple steps and help you be the talk of all of your friends. You barely have to get off the couch, you can still eat chocolate, and you won't have to throw out any of the food in your pantry." In fact, if you submit too many ad proposals to Facebook with these types of inflammatory words, they will shut down your page. Just look at Weight Watchers's Facebook page and you will see how they cleverly get around this. One recent ad simply said, "If not now, when? Join Oprah in making 2016 YOUR year." Unfortunately, life outside Facebook does not follow the same guidelines. One Weight Watcher's ad online has a picture of a pretty girl and says, "You can still have pizza. Without cheating." Wow. That is a great way to make somebody feel pretty bad every time they eat regular pizza. Thanks Weight Watchers. I feel great about myself now.
In contrast, Whole30 has shown year after year that they have no desire to get your attention by making you feel like less of a person. Up until this point, they have published two books that explain why you should want to follow their plan. However, there is nowhere to actually buy into the diet or buy Whole30 branded cookies. Here is a Facebook Post from November of 2013 that we think sums up their philosophy. Notice the words "life-long learning process" toward the end.
5. Diets typically come with multiple up-sells.
How many of us have bought into a diet in the past and ultimately spent way more buying that diet's specific products?
Not to beat up on Weight Watchers here, but they sell a ton of really bad food choices on their site and promote them as healthy. Everything from a Creamy Chocolate Smoothie Slim Pack with over 30 ingredients in its 7oz drink to a Chocolate Caramel Mini Bar with carrageenan and multiple added sugars. Both are listed at the top of the page as top sellers. I cannot imagine why? The problem with all of this is not that Weight Watchers wants to make money off of you. They are a business and that is sort of the point. We have no issue with that. What we do have a problem with is suggesting somehow that their food products are somehow a better alternative to making your own food at home with no preservatives.
Now, Whole30 is a company too. I am sure they would like to make a lot of money off of every visitor to their website. At present, the only way for them to do so is to sell their books and buy some t-shirts. Beyond that, I am sure they make money when other food companies like Epic Bars request to put the Whole30 label on their products, but that is to be expected with any business partnership. The only way we would have an issue with this is if a company could essentially buy the Whole30 stamp of approval without a proper vetting process. This is actually outlined on the site and prohibited. So while Whole30 may someday start selling their own branded food label, it hasn't happened in 7 years. If it was a diet, we believe their would have been a strong push earlier to capitalize on the fad. Anybody remember when Dr. Phil had the "You are an apple or a pear" diet? You could buy bars in Wal-Mart with the labels on them the day after he announced it. Wow. Talk about cashing in on celebrity status.
If you want to find out what foods really work for you and what foods don't, you first need to wipe the slate clean and start with a basic diet based on meat and fruit and vegetables. If you are not the trial and error kind of person, consider an MRT test by a LEAP Therapist. You can read about that process in a previous blog here. Until our next blog, let me leave you with one final thought.
Would you put your 5 year old daughter on Weight Watchers?
I mean, you would let them eat anything off the website.
How about Nutrisystem? No?
Now think about Whole30. Would you let your 5 year old eat home cooked meals consisting of meat, vegetables, and fruit in thousands of combinations for 30 days? We would. In fact, we have. We would never subject our daughter to a diet. We hope that with our guidance, she will actually never try a diet in her life. What we will gladly do is try and help her even at a young age find out if she has food sensitivities and then work to eliminate them from her life.