Outside of this new study, I haven’t found the evidence for the low-carb diet compelling. But maybe I’m too biased by my love of pasta, bread, and cake — and my personal experiences failing to restrict my carb intake — to fully embrace low-carb living. (In fact, my losing weight over the long term coincided with eating more carbs than ever before.)
Sex With Your Pants On (SWYPO) is a term used to describe the idea of recreating treats such as pancakes, brownies, or pizza with Whole30 ingredients, and is strongly cautioned against. The Hartwigs feel that if you’re trying to recreate a pizza made out of cauliflower crust in order to scratch a craving itch, then you’re kind of missing the point. To quote the Whole30 website, “You can tell yourself it’s okay, it’s still pretty good, you’re totally satisfied … but that’s kind of a lie. Because you know exactly how good pants-less sex feels.”
As far as food goes, you’re simply going to eat a lot of fresh, good-quality eats and ditch the processed stuff. Beyond that, you’re removing all grains, dairy, soy, legumes, sugar, artificial sweeteners, and alcohol from your diet. All of these foods (especially in excess), according to the authors, have been linked to systemic inflammation, hormonal imbalance, gut issues, and more. The idea is to remove the stressors from your body and give it the nourishment and time to heal itself it needs. This means less inflammation, a healthy metabolism, hormonal harmony, a happy gut, clearer skin, and improved energy! Sounds good to me. (Although if we’re honest, I panicked a bit when I realized no cheese would hit my lips for a full month.)
Even if you try to eat homemade as much as possible, unavoidable situations—like a client dinner—are bound to pop up. When that happens, follow these healthy dining out tips. Scope out the menu or call the restaurant ahead of time to figure out what you can order. Or, if it's a situation where people are less likely to notice that you're not nibbling (like a cocktail party), just eat before you go and sip something Whole30-approved that could pass for a mixed drink, like seltzer with lime.
But critics argue that the unlimited amount of red meat the paleo diet allows may have an adverse effect on heart health in people with diabetes, as research links eating red meat in excess to poor heart health. (11) If you have diabetes and don’t moderate your red-meat intake, this could be a big problem, as people with diabetes are 2 times as likely to die of heart disease as people who do not have diabetes. (12)
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Your only job during the Whole30 is to focus on making good food choices. You don’t need to weigh or measure, you don’t need to count calories, you don’t need to purchase everything organic, grass-fed, pastured, or local. Just figure out how to stick to the Whole30 rules in any setting, around every special circumstance, under any amount of stress… for 30 straight days. Your only job? Eat. Good. Food.
Knowing what to eat is part of it, but following this fairly restrictive lifestyle in a modern environment surrounded by cookies and candy and bagels and pasta is really difficult! Factor in the “carb flu” you might go through in the first few weeks (as your body gets weaned off of carbohydrate fuel and habits), and most people give up on the Paleo diet long before it creates lasting change!
I often get caught up in focusing on numbers and scales, so I decided not to officially weigh myself before or after Whole30. But I can attest that everything about my body just felt better. I know saying something like "I lost eleven pounds" would sound much more convincing, but I could see that my stomach was slimmer, as was my face (which is awkwardly the first place I gain weight).
First, I’d just like to acknowledge that I’m not a nutritionist or a healthcare professional. The opinions I share here are simply my own experiences and thoughts while trying this program. I also acknowledge that the topics of healthy eating, dieting, and illness are very personal, and what might work for me, might not work for someone else. We are all unique.
We want you to be a part of our community. We want you to take this seriously, and see amazing results in unexpected areas. We want you to look, feel, and live better than you have in years—or maybe ever. We want you to find lasting food freedom. Even if you don’t believe this will actually change your life, if you’re willing to give it 30 short days, DO IT. It is that important. We believe in it that much. It changed our lives, and we want it to change yours too.
In general, a low-carb diet focuses on proteins, including meat, poultry, fish and eggs, and some nonstarchy vegetables. A low-carb diet generally excludes or limits most grains, legumes, fruits, breads, sweets, pastas and starchy vegetables, and sometimes nuts and seeds. Some low-carb diet plans allow small amounts of certain fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
A crucial difference between different kinds of carbohydrates is how rapidly they're broken down and absorbed into the blood stream, and how "sharp" a spike in blood sugar one experiences after eating them. The glycemic index is one (popular) attempt to quantify this. The glycemic index of a particular foodstuff is calculated by making test subjects eat an amount of the foodstuff that contains 50 grams of total carbohydrate; the subjects' blood glucose is then measured at regular intervals over the next two hours, and the glycemic index is derived from the size of the response curve. Unfortunately, the glycemic index isn't scaled for a reasonable portion size; measuring the G.I. of carrots, for example, requires the test subject to eat a pound and a half of carrots. A more sane quantity, called the glycemic load, is scaled for portion size, but glycemic load data are much more difficult to come by than glycemic index data.
We cannot time travel and join our Paleo ancestors by the campfire as they prepare to eat; likewise, shards of ancient pottery and fossilized teeth can tell us only so much. If we compare the diets of so-called modern hunter-gatherers, however, we see just how difficult it is to find meaningful commonalities and extract useful dietary guidelines from their disparate lives (see infographic). Which hunter–gatherer tribe are we supposed to mimic, exactly? How do we reconcile the Inuit diet—mostly the flesh of sea mammals—with the more varied plant and land animal diet of the Hadza or !Kung? Chucking the many different hunter–gather diets into a blender to come up with some kind of quintessential smoothie is a little ridiculous. "Too often modern health problems are portrayed as the result of eating 'bad' foods that are departures from the natural human diet…This is a fundamentally flawed approach to assessing human nutritional needs," Leonard wrote. "Our species was not designed to subsist on a single, optimal diet. What is remarkable about human beings is the extraordinary variety of what we eat. We have been able to thrive in almost every ecosystem on the Earth, consuming diets ranging from almost all animal foods among populations of the Arctic to primarily tubers and cereal grains among populations in the high Andes.”
If you were to eat an unlimited amount of red meat (which the paleo diet technically allows), you may see your heart health suffer. While experts applaud the omission of packaged and processed foods like cake, cookies, chips, and candy — which are well known to be bad for your ticker — they’re not crazy about the fact that paleo doesn’t allow you to eat whole grains, legumes, and most dairy. Whole grains in particular have been linked with better cholesterol levels, as well as a reduced risk of stroke, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. (13) These are all comorbidities of heart disease. (14)