Are you familiar with the Whole 30 program? A Whole 30 is 30 days of eating “clean” paleo: no grains, legumes, dairy, sugar, alcohol, additives like MSG or sulfites, white potatoes, or “paleo” dessert or junk food. Perhaps unsurprisingly, some folks find this a challenge.
Similarly unsurprisingly, the Whole 30 developers find the concept of “moderation” (the fave of garden-variety RDs everywhere) very problematic for their “clean” eating approach. So they just want you to Please Stop Saying “Everything in Moderation.”
Not everyone agrees. Here’s Evelyn’s (aka CarbSane) take:
NO food can possibly be as unhealthy as perpetuating this EATING DISORDER. This article reads like some sick mix of pro-ana and religious cult.
Which of course led to your typical back and forth, leading Melissa Hartwig (who created the Whole 30 program with her husband) to brush off some of the commenters:
I won’t speak for Evelyn, but I don’t believe that “Paleo/Whole30/Primal is an eating disorder.” For one, those are three (or more) different diets! Secondly, I don’t think everyone on a paleo diet has an eating disorder, but some folks do have trouble. So I really wish that the hard-core Paleo-TM folks would consider that their diets might lead to or exacerbate eating problems (and not just for ED folks).
Yes Virginia, this IS a restrictive diet
Here’s the thing. No matter how you slice it, avoiding entire food groups (grains, dairy, legumes) is very restrictive. It’s a challenge from an eating perspective and it’s a challenge from a social perspective. It’s all fine and good if you have the commitment of a Dallas or Melissa Hartwig, or if you have a medical condition, like celiac’s that warrants such restriction.
But if you don’t, then what? Doing a Whole 30 may make sense to see whether or not you have a medical issue, but if not, it could possibly lead to over-swinging the pendulum when you stop. I was a bit bummed reading Kay’s comment defending the program (emphasis mine):
So… eating whatever the heck you want, whenever you want, is healthy as well? I’m not completely on-board with this article, but I’ve done a Whole 30 and it made a TREMENDOUS difference in how I felt and looked. I lost 7 pounds, and several inches. I’m planning on doing another one in September, because when I quit following Paleo guidelines, and started eating sugar and carbs again, I gained everything back plus more.
Kay probably figures that she failed … after all, she’s the one who “quit.” But maybe it was the diet that failed Kay. The HAES folks would point out that this “lose, then gain back all plus more” is a hallmark of dieting. Maybe we’re not all cut out to do such restrictive diets.
A healthy diet, but not a panacea
That said, I tend to agree with the paleo folks who say Paleo/Primal diet is a healthy one. Nutrient-dense real food? What’s not to like? But we don’t just eat for nutrients. I also think there are good reasons to do elimination diets (I did one myself a while back). If you’re testing for sensitivities or allergies to specific foods, then you’ll get misleading results if you include those foods during the test period. And of course, if you’re someone who has trigger food issues and avoiding them helps, then keep on keeping on!
But setting the act of eating up as a false dilemma of black/white, either/or, clean/fail may be problematic for a lot of folks.
Fortunately there are alternatives. One option may be something like what Alta describes in For the Love of Food. Or maybe it’s something like Tim Ferriss’ Slow-Carb Diet with its one day off a week. Or it could be taking Darya Rose’s real food “not like a dieter, but like a foodist” approach.
If you need or want to eliminate all grains, all legumes, all dairy, all sugar, then you should do so. But there is a growing community that will support you if you don’t want to or if you have trouble doing so.
One size does NOT fit all.