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Viral sensation Whole30 diet creator talks weight loss and Paleo inspiration

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Every so often, a diet becomes an overnight viral weight loss sensation. And while it's good for grabbing attention, it's not always so heart-warming when it comes to the fat-burning facts versus fiction about the diet itself. That's precisely what the creators of the Whole30 diet discovered when they found their whole foods plan, designed to battle disease and promote healthy weight loss, suddenly described in terms such as "extreme weight loss" and "high fat low carb ketogenic Paleo diet bootcamp." To set the record straight, we interviewed co-author and creator of the plan itself, Melissa Hartwig. The book: "It Starts with Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways" (click for details) has earned more than 1,000 five star reviews on Amazon - and we'll begin by saying that we agree with that rating after reading the beautifully written, thoughtful guide.

"This is frustrating for us, because we’ve worked so hard to create a program that is the antithesis of a quick-fix weight loss plan," declared Melissa about the inaccurate articles that have proliferated. "The Whole30 is the furthest thing from an extreme diet or a Paleo “boot camp.” In many places on our website and in our book 'It Starts With Food,' we make the very clear point that we’re targeting habit change and health improvements, not weight loss."

However, because of the way the diet is designed, "effortless weight loss" typically results, adds Melissa.

"The Whole30 program is a whole foods-based elimination diet designed to help people identify foods that are affecting them negatively, either physically or psychologically. We help people change their habits and tastes, eliminate cravings, and improve awareness as to which foods are negatively impacting how they look, feel, and live," she explained.

And the benefit for those who do want to shed pounds: They can do so while focusing on changing their attitude and approach to food rather than obsessing about counting calories or restricting carbohydrates.

Melissa is particularly concerned about the attention-grabbing headlines that describe the Whole30 diet as "extreme." In fact, as she points out, it's the reverse.

"As for the Whole30 being “extreme,” since when is it crazy to eat nutrient-dense, whole, unprocessed foods? (Your great-great grandparents wouldn’t have called this extreme—they would have just called it “eating food.”) In the land of 500-calorie HCG diets, five-day maple-syrup-and-cayenne “cleanses,” and people literally dying from consuming too much diet soda, I find it confusing how a plan based on eating meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and natural fats to satiety without the use of pills, powders, or shakes could be seen as anything but healthy," she noted.

What the diet involves: For 30 days, dieters avoid sugar, alcohol, grains (including corn and rice), legumes (including soy and peanuts), and most dairy products. The exclusions are not chosen to provide a boot camp-style regimen. Instead, those food groups are "potentially inflammatory," says Melissa. As a result of eliminating them, many readers find relief from problems such as "skin issues, digestive distress, chronic pain, or medical symptoms."

When it comes to her own inspiration, Melissa credits two Paleo diet gurus: Robb Wolf, author of "The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet" (click for details) and Mark Sisson, author of "The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram your genes for effortless weight loss, vibrant health, and boundless energy" and "Primal Blueprint Quick and Easy Meals: Delicious, Primal-approved meals you can make in under 30 minutes."

Calling Robb their mentor, Melissa notes that "his Paleo Solution Seminar and Paleo Solution book were some of the first practical application guides to Paleo eating, and his "try it for 30 days" approach formed the foundation of the original Whole30 program. We also love Mark Sisson of Mark's Daily Apple. His books spell out in a really fun way how to live a healthier lifestyle via diet, exercise, and play. Plus he lets you eat dark chocolate and drink red wine."

However, don't assume that the Whole30 is identical to the Paleo diet. Those who are vegetarians, for example, can benefit from the plan by using the special guidelines that the Whole30 provides specifically for them. "We have expanded our general recommendations to work within a vegetarian or vegan framework. We believe that including moderate amounts of animal protein is a healthy practice, but we also respect people’s individual choices. People can still implement many Whole30 principles alongside their vegetarian or vegan diet in a way that improves health while still honoring their self-imposed restrictions," states Melissa.

Bottom line: After reading numerous weight loss books and studying various diet plans, we whole-heartedly recommend the Whole30 diet book. Whether you want a fresh start on dieting, are seeking a way to improve your eating habits or want to benefit your entire body while shedding pounds, it's the best guide that we've read: "It Starts with Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways" (click for more information, including how to order).

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