OPINION: Try the Whole30 diet

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The Whole30 beginning

What once started off as a trend, the Whole30 hit the East Coast and slowly made its way to the Midwest and the rest of the country. Whole30 is a reset plan where people remove all carbs, sugar, grains, dairy, soy and dare I say it … alcohol, from their lives for 30 days.

After the 30 days, people are encouraged to slowly reintroduce foods that they used to eat to see what kind of effect it has on their overall health. Melissa and Dallas Hartwig founded the program in 2009.

“Millions have successfully completed the program with life changing results,” their website said.

While Whole30 has an entire website, plus an Instagram feed that overflows with testimonials, over the past few months the program has received loads of backlash as being labeled a “trend diet” and one of the worst diets people can use.

Some of that criticism has come from large sources such as Time magazine and in 2017, U.S. News and World Report ranked the diet last out of the 38 diets included in the report.

While Time applauded Whole30’s idea of cutting out excess sugar and carbs from a diet, David Katz, founding director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center, refers to Whole30 as a “standard ‘go on a diet’ salesmanship.”

Hartwig responds

After reaching out to Melissa Hartwig herself, I was able to get an email response from her about how she feels about critics of the diet.

“Writing things like ‘the Whole30 isn’t sustainable’ or, ‘It’s unhealthy to eliminate entire food groups’ (it’s a short-term elimination diet, the gold standard for identifying food sensitivities) tells me you didn’t try that hard to understand the program in the first place,” Hartwig said.

Hartwig went on to say that she sees no need to prove the program. She has written three books on the reset program and has had “endorsements from countless medical doctors and registered dietitians, and more than 400 scientific references for the scientific background of the program.”

With over 400 scientific references, it might seem strange that this diet is so controversial. It is mainly due to a lack of research of the program or a simple misunderstanding of what the program sets out to achieve. Hartwig clearly and consistently states that the reset program is not sustainable long-term, but a way for people to cleanse their digestive palate and then reintroduce foods to see how certain foods affect their body.

Experts wanted

Linda Yarrow, assistant professor of food, nutrition, dietetics and health at Kansas State and a registered dietician, offered some positives and negatives about Whole30.

“It’s a food elimination diet,” Yarrow said. “I cannot support and promote any diet that asks us to restrict certain food groups.”

An example she gives is that Whole30 asks people to restrict whole grains because they have an inflammatory affect on the body. While Yarrow agrees that reducing simple carbohydrates is a great way to help inflammation in the body go down, she disagrees with eliminating whole grains altogether.

“We have study after study after study over years that show that whole grains actually reduce whole body inflammation,” Yarrow said.

Another complaint about Whole30 is there are no good guidelines for when the 30 days are up, to which Hartwig says there is a book completely dedicated to life after Whole30.

“Who reads the book?” Yarrow asked.

Actually, quite a few people. Hartwig’s second book, “Whole30,” is No. 5 on the New York Times best-selling list under the food and diet category.

Personally speaking

I can personally attest to the program and the changes it has made in my life, as I’ve lost 50 pounds over the span of four-30 day resets in the past year. When on the reset, I had increased levels of energy, better sleep and an abundance of new self-confidence. And yes, I read the book.

Kayla Boltz, a sophomore in social work, had not heard of the Whole30 until recently. Her family has a history of Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory digestive disease, and she thinks a reset like this could help.

“Oh definitely, (a diet change) it’s something I need to do,” Boltz said. “I’m a college kid, I eat a lot of fast food, a lot of carbs, something quick you can throw in the oven.”

Boltz said she would try doing a Whole30, but would not know if she could succeed in doing the full 30 days.

With the right education, and knowing what Whole30 is about, anyone can be successful in trying the Whole30 reset. But, don’t take it from me, take it from the millions of testimonials you can find on Whole30.com.

Andrea Dizmang is a senior in mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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