Whole30 is a program in which men and women of all ages follow a diet that is supposedly “wholesome” for a consecutive 30 days.
- Creates intolerances
- Minimal direct customer support
- Eliminate several food groups at once
- Extensive amount of time
Ratings in depth
- Scientific Backing
- Customer Reviews
- Customer Support
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Must say, putting a month into a program seems like much more of a commitment than the week-long fad diets that some are willing to purchase. The Whole30 program is a 30-day plan that was created by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig in 2009. In their autobiographies they both claim to be Certified Sports Nutritionists. However, where did they achieve these certifications? Did they simply have to pay an online certification fee or did they go through extensive credible courses?
This is a program in which you eliminate several of the most common food groups and ingredients in hopes of giving your body a chance to restart. Elimination diets tend to raise a lot of skepticism. Our bodies function to their full potential when we consume the proper nutrients and uphold a balanced diet. Entirely cutting out food groups such as dairy, grains, and legumes does not create balance, instead in many cases it can create a depletion of critical nutrients. The Whole30 program hit the market as a book by the name of The Whole30: The 30 Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom that is priced at about $30 and is sold all over the web. Aside from the book, there are several PDF’s and downloads available to anyone interested on Whole30.com.
In following the Whole30 diet program, the founders claim that you will cut cravings, change the way you think about food, change your habits, etc. They also claim that it can largely affect your health in a beneficial manner. There are stories featured on the website in which there is some truth behind these claims. However, if you do not fully follow the 30 days of elimination then their claims do not hold true and they make you very aware of that. You might as well have just not even started it at all.
In order for your body to fully be restarted in the way that this is supposed to be designed to help you do, you are forbidden to get off track. Even a bite of something that is not permitted will have you back at Day 1 of this month long challenge. Do we really want to spend an entire month depriving ourselves of common food categories that are not even scientifically proven to be of any harm to our bodies in the first place?
Does Whole30 Have Scientific Backing?
There is no scientific evidence to prove that an elimination diet or “modified paleo” diet is healthy for you. In taking a look at the testimonials featured on the site itself, you will come across a list of medical professionals and their comments on the program. If I can offer you any advice it would be to observe the backgrounds of these doctors and understand that their title does not automatically give them credibility to deem a program such as this, successful or not. Doctors from avenues of family practice all the way to a spinal surgeon may give the program a thumbs up, but they are not certified nutritionists or dietitians, therefore their word is just as reliable in this field as your very own.
Aside from the absence of peer-reviewed articles and scientific backing on this program, the developers’ credentials themselves are questionable. As I mentioned earlier, both Melissa and Dallas Hartwig have a title as certified sports nutritionists. This is closer to what we are looking for when looking for credibility, but the certification has absolutely no meaning if we are not informed on where they allegedly achieved these certifications. Melissa Hartwig who is the head of Whole30 has her CISSN. This is a credential from the International Society of Sports Nutrition that can be obtained online by anyone looking to pursue expertise and give advice in sports exercise and nutrition (you can have a 4 year degree in a completely different subject and still be eligible). If you are anything like me, you are probably confused as to why this knowledge of sports medicine is so pertinent to a diet plan that is primarily focused on the foods you consume (because it is not relevant)… As a matter of fact, exercise does not even have a role in the Whole30 program. All in all, such certifications may be valid but they do not give this program the rational foundation and scientific backing that it should have.
Is Whole30 Effective?
Naturally, if you begin to eliminate foods that contain unhealthy ingredients for a consecutive 30 days, your body will begin to shed pounds. You will lose weight as your body undergoes the cleansing process because you are forbidden to consume any foods that may cause the slightest effect on your body and it’s natural processes. But is it really necessary to remove an overwhelming amount of food categories (both healthy and unhealthy) to shed pounds?
This program has been around for about 7 years now (amongst several similar programs) and there has yet to be a scientific study done that proves elimination diets to be effective. Don’t you think that if there was a sufficient amount of help rather than harm in participating in a routine like this we would have proven evidence?
Clients that have tried this program and claim that it works may have found it effective due to the initial weight loss from the shock of being so restrictive and abruptly altering your eating habits. However, this effectiveness is very temporary and not even guaranteed.
What are Whole30 Side Effects?
In doing my research, there are definitely some high risk side effects that arise when you extract so many types of foods from your normal diet at one given time. The common side effects include fatigue and headaches as your body adjusts, but more importantly the lasting damage an elimination diet can create is what you do not want to face. A customer wrote a personal message to the “Dear Melissa” board that reads:
“Now, however, I’m struggling with re-entry. It feels like every time I try a non-Whole30 food, I get bad stomach pain—the only food that hasn’t done this is rice. Kristin, Westchester, PA .
This disadvantage is indeed a very daunting side effect. Unlike trying a food again for the first time in a while and having a weird reaction, developing an entire food group intolerance is at risk. As certified nutritionist, Keri Glassman, shares “I like people to be strict for four to seven days to give them a jump-start and reset the behaviors…But 30 days is a long time and can be very restrictive, especially if you have to start over.” That being said, why would you challenge yourself with such a concentrated diet for an entire thirty days to not even be certain that you will not endure more harm than help in the end?
The Whole30 website offers support to their clients in a few ways. They specify that it is best to reach them at [email protected] for testimonials, having the Hartwigs come speak at an event, media inquiries, etc. However, if you are an individual seeking more information, they do not recommend that you use this address for your questions regarding the program because they get a large number of emails and may not return the personal inquiries in a timely manner (hey, at least they warn you). You click on the link that reads, “I need support during my Whole30” and they send you directly to a Google search engine (not a fan of this initial approach, it seems lazy). The next direction they send you in is to the forum in which there are moderators and a community of participants that raise concerns. If you do not find what you are looking for there, they recommend seeking support are their social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Lastly, for more sensitive and personal questions there is a “Dear Melissa” page. This where clients can write their questions and concerns in a form, submit it to Melissa (the co-founder), and she will respond in a Newspaper column type of fashion. Take your pick with the offered support, but unfortunately they fail to provide a phone number, which is always my go-to!
Whole30 is said to be a nutritional “reset” program to assist you in cutting out any bad or toxic foods and start anew. After in-depth research I have come to the conclusion that this program is too risky. Eliminating main food groups including any kind of sugar or artificial sugar, alcohol of any kind, grains, legumes, dairy, etc. for such an extensive period of time can be extremely harmful. Not only is it very challenging and impractical, but the minute you indulge in a bite of something that must be avoided or is not Whole30 approved, you must start all over or you will not reap the benefits this program claims to provide. After taking a closer look at the credentials and the lack of proven scientific studies behind the foundation of this program, it does not suffice. If you are looking to replenish your body, have youthful complexion and energy, rid your body of bloating, and ultimately kiss those unwanted pounds goodbye, I suggest you look into another program.
- “About Certification.” Institute for Functional Medicine. N.p., n.d. Web.
- Antonio, Jose, Marc Gann, Douglas Kalman, Frank Katch, Susan Kleiner, Richard Kreider, and Darryn Willoughby. “ISSN Roundtable: FAQs About the ISSN.”Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. BioMed Central, 2005. Web.
- Cahn, Megan. “Why the Whole30 Diet Is Taking Over Instagram.” ELLE. N.p., 2014. Web.
- “Does the Whole30 Diet Really Work?” LiveScience. TechMedia Network, n.d. Web.
- “The Whole30® Program.” The Whole30 Program. Web.