What’s the 'Whole30 Diet' and why it is all the rage

A diet that asks a lot of you— but only for 30 days. And the benefits go beyond weight loss, and 30 days.

 |  4-minute read |   16-01-2019
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The middle of January is a time of reckoning. New Year resolutions, no matter how well begun, are coming undone.

If you are among the brave souls who are sticking to resolutions with no sign of flagging, God bless you. If, however, your faith and fervour are meeting failure, we are here to help you.

Research shows that the most common New Year resolutions are diet-related — ‘losing weight’, ‘eating healthier’, ‘getting in shape’. Research also shows that these are the resolutions most commonly broken.

Healthy eating and losing weight is the most commonly taken up — and broken — New Year resolution. Healthy eating and losing weight are the most commonly taken up — and broken — New Year resolutions. (Photo: Twitter)

But what if you had to stick to a diet only for 30 days?

And never once look at the weighing scale in that period?

It’s easier to get through difficult/unpleasant experiences if you know they are time-bound.

And this is where Whole30 diet steps in.

Here is a brief lowdown on what the diet is, why it’s so popular, and what you should expect from it.

What is Whole30

Whole30 is a diet plan for 30 days, where you totally give up on some food items. The giving up has to be absolute — if you cheat or slip up even once, you have to start over from Day One.

The foods you give up are not just linked to gaining weight, but a variety of issues: always feeling drained, random aches and pains, feeling bloated, unable to climb three flights of stairs without panting. 

So, what do you give up?

No added sugar: Natural, artificial, very expensive artificial-pretending-to-be-natural — everything goes.     

No grains: Roti, chawal, bread, dosa, uttapam, sabko vanakkam.

No dairy: No milk, no butter, no cheese.

For those 30 days, sugar is the enemy you most need to guard against. For those 30 days, sugar will be the enemy you most need to guard against. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

No legumes: Rajma, chhole, the sprouted beans you’ve been eating with a martyr’s glow on your face.

No alcohol, no tobacco: Resolutions of giving up smoking/drinking come muft muft muft.

But before you run away…

This is not as bad as many other diets.

You are allowed vegetables, fruits (yes, even if they are very sweet — only added sugar is banned), meat and eggs.

Indians here have special advantages — ghee is allowed, despite the ban on dairy products. And with the plethora of spices available to us, we don’t depend on cheesy spreads or sugary sauces to flavour our food.  

Why such absolute insistence on no cheating

The co-founder of the diet, Melissa Hartwig, insists it’s not a weight loss programme. Weight loss is one of the byproducts of the diet — what it is essentially supposed to do is “change your relationship with food”.

In less lofty terms, the diet is supposed to put you in control of your taste buds, rather than the other way round.

Indian spices will make sure your life is never too bland. Despite the deprivations, Indian spices will make sure you don't give up on the diet. Or on life.  (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The insistence on no cheating is because of this — you have to teach your brain to not give in to cravings. So even if you go for the healthy variety of desserts — say, unsweetened pancakes made of coconut flour — your brain is still getting the message that a dessert craving deserves to be satisfied.

The diet is supposed to make you overcome such frailties, so that even after the 30 days are over, you will be programmed to make healthier choices.

Benefits to expect

You will lose weight, yes, and look and feel a lot healthier.

People who have tried the diet say they felt more energised physically, and more fresh and alert mentally.

Also, they felt more in control of their choices. Sticking to the diet will mean attending parties and not having any food, going out with friends and not having alcohol — no, not even one sip, not even one tiny spoonful of cake.

This will mean heroic self-control and saying no to peer pressure — qualities that always come in handy in life.

Water in that glass will look just as cool. Water in that glass will look just as cool. (Photo: YouTube screengrab)

Another big benefit of the diet is learning to read products’ labels.

To make sure things you buy off the shelf don’t have added sugar, carrageenan, MSG, sulfites, you will need to read labels carefully. And what you will find will shock you — foods packaged as healthy are generally showered with sugar to make them tasty. Again, it's a habit that will stand you in good stead long after the 30 days are over.

Finally, and very importantly, the diet will put you in the habit of planning meals. You will put thought and effort into what you buy and how you cook it.

The lazy habit of ordering food from your phone is addictive — but believe us, giving it up and actually spending time in grocery stores and in the kitchen is refreshing, beneficial, and, beyond a time, entertaining.

So there — from today to Valentine’s Day, try the Whole30.

If you fail, well, there are 12 30-day months in a year.

Also read: I went off sugar entirely for a while. Here's what I learnt

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