I’ve been asked from time to time (as recently as yesterday!) where to start: Whole30 or Paleo. Well, it really depends on what your goal is. If you want to get healthy, learn about how to eat foods that are whole, natural, and good for you, and possibly find out if you have any food allergies you’re unaware of, then Whole30 is the way to go. If you want to change to an eating plan (they’re known as diets) that you can live on for the rest of your life without suffering, starving, or counting calories, then Paleo is the way to go. Now (and follow me here) if you want to do what I did, and which I believe was the best way for me, then you would do a Whole30 and follow it with the Paleo diet. Why? I have a bunch of reasons why I did it for myself, and some of these may hold true for you, too.
- I wanted to cut myself off from sugar. I’ve heard from many people that sugar was the root of our weight problem in the US, so I did some reading and found that they were not only right, but our understating the evils of sugar and its effect on our brains, on our cravings, and on our overall health which includes heart disease, high cholesterol, and even cancer is only growing daily. I knew that I was (as most Americans are) addicted to the high sugar content in my foods, and I knew that a Whole30 would help me break the cycle. Yes, it was painful for the first week, but I haven’t looked back since (and it’s been over seven months).
- I wanted to learn to enjoy whole and natural foods again. Eating on a Whole30 is a new experience after a lifetime of eating anything and everything. Do I miss bread, pasta, and beans? You bet I do! But I’ve also learned to love things I never really enjoyed before: sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus. My ability to taste delicate flavors is something I never knew I had; the extreme sweetness of sugar dulls our taste to some of the most amazing flavors out there. No wonder so many kids don’t like broccoli; it’s actually quite delicious!
- I wondered if I had a food allergy I wasn’t aware of. It turns out that I don’t (at least that I know of), but it’s good to know. My wife, on the other hand, found that she has milk allergies. She’d been drinking milk her entire life and feels much better now without it.
- I wanted to realize health benefits and weight loss quickly. Doing a Whole30 can be a pretty dramatic change in one’s diet, and it certainly was for me. By going straight to a Whole30, I made a clean break with all foods that are bad.
- I wanted to create good habits. There are so many foods that you can make that are Paleo substitutes that one could almost eat anything they could eat before (even pasta, bread, and cakes!) while staying Paleo. The problem is that you need to change your eating mindset to stay way from the bad foods, and it’s hard to do when you’re substituting the bad foods with a healthier option of the same food. Case in point: desserts. Whole30 really emphasizes not eating desserts. They should be treats; something you do at special occasions or holidays, but not after every meal. Sherry and I have embraced this during our Whole30. Every now and then, we will reward ourselves for doing so well on our new eating plan by having a single almond cup (like a peanutbutter cup, but made with almond butter and chocolate sweetened with honey). Otherwise, we very, very rarely have dessert. We never have appetizers anymore, either.
With all that said, I know that Whole30 is hard. It’s extremely hard to get past the first week for many people. I had an easier time of it than Sherry did for no other reason than I have never been a snack food eater or much of a dessert eater, both things Sherry used to enjoy regularly. I also used to eat once or twice a day, but huge portions. This forced my body into a constant state of starvation which guaranteed that my body would store as much of the calories as possible whenever I ate. Now that I eat three times a day and my portions are smaller, my body seems to process the food better, and if my weight loss is any indication, I’m not storing as much, either.
What should you do? I would start with going to the Whole30 and Paleo websites and reading about them. If you are on the fence about doing a Whole30, I would say try it. If it gets too hard, you can always fall into a Paleo diet. If you want to ease into it, then maybe going Paleo first and then doing a Whole30 is the way to go. Either way, just going Paleo is great, and the benefits to you, your health, and your weight will be immense!