Whole30: Misconceptions and Concerns


There are many misconceptions about what a paleo/Whole30 diet means – and those misconceptions can lead to your friends, family members, and coworkers expressing genuine concern about your new, “drastic” diet. Here are a few points I run into each time I restart paleo (and how to quell them):

Eliminating entire food groups means you won’t get the proper nutrients!

It is true that a paleo diet eliminates entire food groups – grains, alcohol, soy, dairy, processed foods, sugar, and legumes (in the most strict versions). First and foremost, let’s be real – you don’t need alcohol, soy, processed foods, or sugar to get all of your dietary needs. In fact, you’d almost certainly be better off without three of those four items.

So what about dairy and legumes? Will we suffer from a lack of calcium and other nutrients? To put it simply: no. When I go paleo, I eat a huge variety of produce and meats – much moreso than many other people. Sardines, kale, broccoli, spinach, and many other non-dairy food sources provide plenty of calcium; I’m going to eat all of those things this week and in the weeks following. In other words, there’s more than one way to get the right amount of nutrients.

You can’t go out to eat with people anymore – are you going to become a hermit?

I’ve never been to a restaurant where I couldn’t find something to eat, and I’ve done paleo/Whole30 off and on since early 2013. If a restaurant has vegetables, eggs, meat, or fruit – you can eat there. Even fast casual restaurants are generally more than happy to provide you with vinegar or olive oil for a salad. To put it bluntly, if your friends are annoyed that you ask for vegetables in place of bread or rice, that’s a them problem and not a you problem. It’s no more annoying to make that small request than to ask for an extra side of something or to remove a topping from a burger.

This does, however, mean you can’t complain about eating clean while you’re out with your friends. You’re choosing this lifestyle, and you’re going to reap the benefits — don’t whine. No one likes a whiner, bro.

But you’re already so thin! Why are you dieting?

Weight loss isn’t the only reason why people choose a paleo lifestyle — the benefits go far beyond that (and in fact, some people gain weight while on paleo). I’ve personally experienced: more energy spread evenly from wake-up to bed time (no need for an alarm), clearer skin, more tone and definition in the abdominal and arms regions, an overall better mood, feeling healthier, and a lower monthly grocery bill (yes, it’s possible). When people remark on my weight and apparent lack of need for a “diet,” I just say, “I’m doing this for fitness and health,” and leave it at that.

You won’t be able to maintain this. Diets are stupid.

There are many variations of the above, but they all come back to one thing: negativity. First, the Whole30 is not meant to last a lifetime — it’s to eliminate foods that may affect you negatively and then reintroduce them slowly to observe effects and manage accordingly. Second, many people do live a completely paleo lifestyle 365 days a year. Third, people who say this type of thing generally say it due to their own insecurity regarding food, health, and fitness. Ignore this one entirely and be a living testament to your own dedication to health.

One little cheat won’t hurt…

Except it will. In order for the Whole30 to have the best possible health effects, you need to be strictly compliant for 30 days. That’s barely more than 4 weeks — you can make it. Don’t let this comment mess up all of the hard work and planning you’ve put into this lifestyle change!

It’s all meat! You’re not meant to eat this much meat!

This is one of the most common concerned exclamations I receive regarding paleo. It’s simply not true. My meals consist of a palm-sized portion of lean meat and a huge amount of vegetables. In fact, not all of my meals even contain meat — many are egg-based or feature nuts like almonds or walnuts instead. I agree that eating meat as the main part of your diet would be cause for concern, but people who believe that this is what paleo is all about have simply not looked at a typical paleo meal plan.

Aren’t you hungry all the time?

Nope. The amount of protein, fiber, and fats I’m eating actually break down pretty slowly. Today at noon, I ate a couple of eggs with an avocado, grapes, and a sweet potato. I’m still feeling pretty satiated. I also tend to eat much more on a paleo diet than if I were just left to my own devices. When I’m not on paleo, sometimes I’ll just eat olives or cheese for dinner – not exactly a paragon of health. When I’m on paleo, I plan my meals much more carefully to make sure I’m getting the correct amount of nutrients; the increased planning leads to full meals, not just snack-meals as an afterthought.

You’re just doing this because it’s trendy.

Not entirely untrue – I probably heard of paleo because it’s trendy and gaining so much popularity. However, I’ve continued completing Whole30s because of the results I see each time. If it didn’t work, I wouldn’t have kept doing it over and over since 2013.

Oh, this is just like Atkins.

Paleo and Atkins do share similarities in that they restrict gluten/grains. However, Atkins is much more carb-focused and allows unlimited amounts of things like cheese and other super-fatty foods. Paleo is more about balance and focusing your diet on produce and lean meats (with a huge emphasis on produce).

So… what can and can’t you eat?

Choose to eat:
Lean meats
Natural oils (coconut, olive; there are others, but I choose not to use those)

Choose not to eat:
Grains & gluten (corn, rice, quinoa, rye, barley, wheat – it all makes the no list)
Legumes (though some paleo peeps do eat legumes)
Processed foods (Personally, this includes anything paleo-approved but processed; I don’t do paleo wraps, anything pre-made and frozen, etc. If I’m going to eat clean, damn it, I’m going to go as close to natural for all foods as possible!)
Sugar from sources other than produce or naturally occurring (some people eat agave, stevia, honey, or dark chocolate – I cut it all out)
Oils aside from the ones listed above

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