“Since April 2009, millions of people have successfully completed the Whole30 program with impressive and life-changing results.” It is one of the first sentences that can be read on the website of one of the diets of the moment — and thus we enter a world that promises to change lives in just 30 days.
We have already lost count of the number of diets that have appeared in recent times. Some simpler, others a bit bizarre, not forgetting those that are far from sensible. You’ve probably heard of intermittent fasting, the Keto diet, and the coffee diet — to name just a few — and maybe even tried following one of these eating plans.
However, the trend of the moment is different. Busy Philipps, from the series “Freaks and Geeks” and Emmy Rossum from “Shameless” are two of the celebrities who have shared and praised the formula the most. The Whole30 program became known in 2019 and in recent months has returned to the limelight thanks to social networks.
From the name, you can see that it has something to do with the number 30. These are the days needed to “transform your health, your habits and your emotional relationship with food”. The diet even has its own website, where they explain everything you can and cannot do, what to eat and how to follow it. As you would expect, reports of successful cases abound and neither do praises. Is it as beneficial and effective as they claim? NiT was looking for answers and it was the nutritionist Helena Cid from HeartGenetics who gave them.
“The Whole30 is much more than a weight loss program. Anyone focusing solely on body composition will ignore all the other dramatic, lifetime benefits this plan has to offer.” That’s why, among the several rules to follow, one of them dictates that you shouldn’t step on the scales or do any other form of body measurement for a month. Still, it is recommended to weigh yourself before and after the process.
The goal is that after 30 days, after so many changes, “you feel motivated to definitely change your meal plan”. For this, the Whole30 program is defined in two phases. The first 30 days are for elimination, followed by another ten days for reintroduction. “In the former, you eat meat, seafood and eggs; lots of vegetables and fruits; and natural, healthy fats.”
Proponents of the plan argue that eliminating the most common “inflammatory and gut-damaging food groups” for 30 consecutive days helps change body composition and has a positive impact on long-term health. During this period you will not be able to eat sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy and processed foods, as well as meat alternatives such as tofu or tempeh.
After a month, you enter phase two. “This is the fun part — where you can go back to eating the foods you avoided, one at a time, and compare your experience. It is during this process that you will discover the foods that can have a negative impact on your energy, sleep, mood, cravings, digestion and much more.
Simple enough, apparently. Nonetheless, this is not a diet “that easy to follow”, considers nutritionist Helena Cid. “It is very restrictive and what happens is that, after a short time, people end up giving up”, he begins by explaining to NiT.
No, there are no caloric restrictions, measurements, or obligation that everything be organic, and it even encourages the search for vegetable diversity — one of the few positive points pointed out by the nutrition specialist. However, “it is excessively rich in protein and requires a radical cut in carbohydrates”. This is because, by cutting back on foods commonly considered side dishes, “we end up increasing the amount of meat and fish”, but also “we need to discover more vegetable options so that we are not always eating the same thing”.
More risky than beneficial, “even those who manage to complete it end up gaining even more weight, because the body does not adapt”, explains the nutritionist. For Helena Cid, in addition to being “essential to have professional follow-up” before starting this process, it would also be important “to carry out a genetic test to understand which nutrients each body is lacking”.
“Nobody is like anybody else and what might work for one person might not work for another.” According to the professional, there are even those who have a genetic mutation responsible for binge eating, and for these carriers “this type of diet does not work”. “They may even be full of desire, but the cuts will only make them have difficulty controlling satiety and feel the need to eat quick satisfaction foods, that is, sweets.”
According to reports from people who have tried following the Whole30 that we can read on the site, the diet does not lead to sharp weight loss, but it can help reduce abdominal swelling and discomfort. The testimonials also refer to noticeable improvements in the appearance of the skin and in the quality of sleep.
In the first few weeks it is common to feel some side effects, “such as tiredness, headaches or stress”, they say on the website. In the long term, stresses nutritionist Helena Cid, it can also cause kidney or liver problems due to “the large protein intake”. Even though it can help those who suffer from diabetes or anemia, “it is necessary to make the correct adjustments in meals”, he emphasizes.
“The Whole30 program is famous for its ‘tough love’ [uma forma severa de mostrar carinho], but don’t be nervous — there’s more love than toughness. Many of you want to change your life, but are not sure if you can really do it. If you’ve spent your whole life on a diet without getting results, you’re skeptical and suspect that the Whole30 is really different. I swear it is.” The words are from Melissa Urban, the co-founder of Whole30, who never fails to appeal to experience.
Helena Cid, on the other hand, emphasizes that not everyone is prepared to do this diet and that, for this very reason, they should not blindly adopt it. “Or the organism is ready and the person follows everything in a very disciplined way”, or it will not work. “If you start this or another diet, the best thing is to ask for professional advice”, he reinforces again.
“It has been more than studied and proven that the Mediterranean diet has the healthiest pattern in the world”, he recalls. And he adds: “As much as new diets appear that become fashionable because of the famous, there is none like ours”. However, the professional recognizes that even the Mediterranean dietary pattern can — and should — be adapted to modern times. “One of the things we should pay more attention to is the doses. The Portuguese eat in large quantities,” she explains.
One way to change doses is to review the proportions of foods, decreasing the amount of some and increasing the amount of others. Vegetables can be a “good starting point”, since “we must increase their consumption”, he argues. Through them we guarantee the supply of fibers, vitamins and minerals. “It’s one thing to cut back on sugar, it’s another thing to radically eliminate carbohydrates, as happens at the Whole30”, concludes nutritionist Helena Cid.
And as we are in a time when it becomes difficult to resist sweets, if you can’t avoid them, it’s better to know which choices are less harmful. Click through the gallery and discover the chocolate custard creams you should avoid eating (and offering) this Christmas.