A Primer on the Whole 30 Challenge

The Whole30 Program, created by Whole9After listening a lot to Robb Wolf and on some advice of a few good friends, my wife and I started what is called Whole 30.

She hadn’t been doing slow-carb with me because she loves bread too much, but after I had mentioned how it helps a lot of people to take grains out, she was on board for Whole 30. But only because she can eat fruit.

What is Whole 30?

I had initially heard about Whole 30 from a few people on Twitter who I had started following as 4HB folk. Apart from 4HB, a lot of people talk about “detoxing” in terms of nutrition. The more I listened to Robb, the more I realized that a clean diet is a “detox”.

Whole 30 is essentially the most extreme Paleo diet I’ve ever seen because it’s so clean. Once again, I hesitate to use the word “diet” because I don’t want you to think Jenny Craig or Slim-Fast. Think of it in terms of food you eat, not losing weight.

Heal your gut

Most of us are probably walking around sick without realizing it. Well, we who have started slow-carb realize it because we know how much better we feel without grains. But with the cheat days we still aren’t giving our guts time to heal.

Most of the stuff people “normally” eat are gut irritants. They don’t want to be broken down, so they fight back while you digest them. Among these foods are grains and dairy (with a precious few exceptions in dairy, it seems). So most of us are walking around with inflamed bowels without realizing it.

The problem with having an irritated gut is that you can’t absorb nutrients properly. Once you give your gut time to heal, your food becomes even better for you.

A temporary elimination

So to give yourself time to heal, for 30 days you eliminate grains, dairy, and added sugar from your diet. The evidence is compelling against them, and you simply don’t know how they negatively affect you unless you take them out.

So what can you eat? From the Whole30 site:

Eat real food – meat, fish, eggs, tons of vegetables, some fruit, and plenty of good fats. Eat foods with very few ingredients, all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they’re natural and unprocessed.

Sounds like the most healthy way to eat to me. Pro tip: grocery shopping is easier. There are only two places you need to go: produce and meat. That helps keep you away from temptation!

Why no legumes?

Those on 4HB will notice that you can’t eat legumes on Paleo. The reason is a protein called lectin. Grains have it and I think dairy has it too.

Lectins are gut irritants that we’re trying to avoid when giving our bellies some TLC. Therefore, no beans. I shall miss my lentils…

You may not even know you need it

Like I said most of us don’t even realize that we have problems. I know for myself once I took grains out of the picture my reflux went away, and I was on the verge of going to a doctor to get some meds for that. Who knows what issues you have that can be fixed by changing your diet?!

There have also been hundreds (maybe thousands?) of reports of improvements in energy, arthritis, brain function, autism, and even schizophrenia by removing grains from your diet.

The nagging question on my mind since first hearing about it was this:
“What do I have to lose?”

Worst case scenario: I don’t get to cheat for a few weeks. I can’t even imagine the best case.

You can read more about Whole 30 here.

For those of you on a paleo diet: what’s your best tip to my wife and I (and anyone interested) to help us stick to the program?


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  1. Paleo is so close to scd you won’t have any issues. Just be prepared same as scd.

    If people give you a hard time about grains, tell them you found out you have a gluten allergy, it’s not a lie.

  2. Great post! My wife and I (and our 1 and 3 year old girls) have been tweaking our Paleo diet for the past few months. You did a great job succinctly summarizing the point of the Whole30 as well as the good/bad foods. After doing it, don’t you just want EVERYONE to try it too?? Too bad not many people want to make a small sacrifice to heal themselves.

    • Jason, I am right there with you. I want my whole family involved! 🙂 It was a hard sell to get my wife involved, but since she’s a Spanish speaker I was able to send her to Consuelo Werner’s Spanish blog (http://www.consuelowerner.com) and she was on board. I think she mostly did it for me, because I’ve got a lot to lose. But now that we took a break from it after the 30 days were over, we both realized we like a more paleo diet anyway. So now she’s in for the long haul. 😉

      I like that you have your kids involved. I am trying to get my sister to try it, mostly to see the affect it can have on my autistic nephew. She thinks she won’t be able to get the kids to eat anything, and I think she’s just misinformed!


  3. I spent years on proton pump inhibiters because of acid reflux. I didn’t know that those prevent absorption of calcium until I got my first DEXA scan at 50, which showed osteoporosis. As someone with no risk factors, it was quite a shock. My new doctor believes in the gluten connection, and I’ve been reflux free (unless I cheat) with no meds for over a year now. Still trying to stop the osteoporosis, however, which is quite a battle. Interesting about the beans and legumes. I have protein absorption problems, too, so maybe it’s time to try this.

    • I would completely endorse that, if that means anything. 🙂

      Check out robbwolf.com and do some searching for osteoperosis and reflux. It’s no shock to me that going gluten free got rid of your reflux. I’m trying to get my dad to go gluten free to help with his dysphagia. I am pretty sure I’ve heard Robb talk about osteoperosis. Reason being is like you said: once your gut lining is healed, you can properly absorb nutrients and your body can heal things.

      Give it a shot! It would be awesome to follow up with you in several months to see if anything’s been reversed.


    • If you are having trouble absorbing protein or calcium absorption, I would try cod liver oil. It helps vitamins get into your system better than just taking the vitamins yourself.

  4. What are your thoughts on raw milk? I’ve noticed a huge difference in my post-workout recovery since I’ve incorporated it and I’d hate to go backwards in my training & recovery.

    • I’d love to try raw milk, but I can’t get it here. If you’ve seen a big difference and you don’t have a problem digesting it, I say keep it up!

  5. I’ve been on paleo off and on for about a year now. My advice is to not stop, and to keep it up. What tends to happen when you get off of paleo is your body gets used to being healthy and happy, if you get off of it you can experience some not too happy symptoms. I had the wonderful symptom of complete nauseousness almost daily for a year (not pregnant). Another issue I found is that your body may not react to it the same way it did when you did it the first time. I lost about 10 pounds in the first month, it just fell off when I first began paleo (no counting calories, barely exercising). When I started paleo over again, I actually gained a lot more weight and I already was at a heavy point. I now have to count my calories, and do a lot more exercise, to lose what I lost effortlessly. Don’t go back, have cheat days, but not cheat months, it is not worth it.

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