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Whole30 elimination diet combines Paleo low carb weight loss with health boost

Get the skinny on the Whole 30 Diet.
Get the skinny on the Whole 30 Diet.
Victory Belt Publishing, Reprinted with Permission from the Publisher

The Whole30 diet has become one of the most popular weight loss plans, with those who have tried it revealing their impressive results. In an exclusive interview, creators Dallas and Melissa Hartwig offered their insights on the viral success of their book: "It Starts With Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways."

In addition to the book, they have developed a Web site with forums, shopping lists and more: http://whole30.com/.

Low carb diets are "a well-proven strategy to manage the symptoms of—and in some cases, reverse—diabetes. However, it’s important to distinguish between an intervention used to manage chronic illness and a sustainable strategy to support optimal health," says Melissa.

She points out that it's essential to consider quality over quantity. "It’s also a real mistake to talk about food just in terms of macronutrients. Eating a diet rich in sugar and refined grains is very different than a diet that includes lots of nutrient-dense starchy vegetables and in-season fruit, even though carbohydrate might contribute 50% of calories in both situations."

Paleo diets often are viewed as low carb. But the percentages and totals of protein, fat and carbohydrates vary, and Melissa does not agree with those who advocate combining ketogenic diets (which typically restrict carbohydrates to 20 grams or less) with the Whole30 diet.

"Including minimally-processed, nutrient-dense, and ideally seasonal foods on your everyday plate will naturally organically reduce your total carbohydrate intake, but for healthy people, it’s not necessary deliberately restrict carbohydrate intake beyond that. In fact, for people who regularly participate in intense exercise, severely restricting carbohydrate intake can actually harm your health," she said.

Dr. David Perlmutter's book "Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers" has created a controversy about whether dieters should eliminate all grains. Melissa and Dallas advise considering the relative benefits of grains versus other foods.

"While we believe there is no downside to ditching cereal altogether, there is danger in fingering one or two foods as the primary cause of chronic disease—and in fact, the research does not support this claim. Chronic diseases rarely have one cause, and rarely have one solution. That being said, grains (even the much-acclaimed whole grains) pale in comparison to vegetables and fruit as a source of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, and there are several different compounds found in most grains to which many people are sensitive or intolerant. Gluten is a much-discussed topic these days, but there are other components of grains (like FODMAPs) that even generally healthy people may do better without," they said.

Think that you might be able to tolerate grains? The Whole30 diet offers an elimination approach that can help you determine the answer.

"There is wide variety in how people tolerate grains, and the best way to determine how you respond is to do an elimination diet like our Whole30 program. You can supply all the health-promoting components of grains (yes, even fiber) by eating other foods, so why insist on eating a less nutritious option that may be negatively impacting your health?" Melissa asked.

Reflecting on their book's success, Dallas and Melissa take pride in what they provided to those seeking help with their health and weight loss.

"We are amazed by the miraculous life changes people regularly report as a result of our Whole30 program. The program impacts people’s lives in ways we never imagined—we hear from participants who cured their medical conditions, lifted their depression, strengthened their relationships, and boosted their self-confidence. We’re proud to have created a plan that perpetuates a healthy lifestyle in the truest sense, and what they often describe as “food freedom.” The Whole30 goes so far beyond weight loss, and we’re thrilled that Whole30 participants not only recognize that, but enthusiastically embrace it," they said.

As for those who feel that they can't follow the plan, the duo say: "What do you have to lose? You’re desperate for change. You’ve tried everything else. Nothing has worked. But the Whole30 has the potential to change your life in ways you’ve never imagined—and it only takes 30 days to see results."

And they quote the most famous line in the book: "This is not hard. Beating cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard."

Melissa suggests that dieters "just need to put this into perspective—yes, it’s going to be hard to give up all those foods you love for 30 days straight, but you’ve done harder things, and this is the most worthy cause of them all—the only body and the only life you’re given." Get more information about "It Starts with Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways" by clicking here.