Welcome to Dear Melissa, where I answer your questions about transitioning into or completing a Whole30, successfully sticking to your new Food Freedom habits, and figuring out how to make this lifestyle work in the real world. Today, we’re answering the #1 question on everyone’s mind, in a three-part format.
How do you eat?
This is probably the question we get the most often—but how do you eat? You ask us in seminars, reporters ask us during interviews, the cameraman from Good Morning America asked us, even, between takes.
Honestly, I’ve been hesitant to answer this question in detail. I promise, it’s not because I’m a closet vegan or secretly obsessed with Hostess products. It’s because I don’t want any one of you trying to eat the exact way I eat, assuming it’s going to be the healthiest for them. In fact, I’ll put it another way…
You should not eat what I eat.
Wait, what? Shouldn’t I be telling all of you to eat exactly what I eat, because I eat super-duper healthy? (And, spoiler alert, I do.) Uh, no, I should not be telling you to eat like I eat, because you’re not me. You don’t have my genetics, my food sensitivities, my taste buds, my cravings, my health history, my digestive tract, my life stressors, my gut bacteria, my skin, my metabolism, my activity levels, or my sleep patterns. You’re not me, so eating exactly like me is highly unlikely to work as well for you as it does for me.
That’s the whole point of the Whole30, remember. It’s a 30-day program designed to help YOU figure out how the food YOU’VE been eating has been affecting YOUR cravings, YOUR hormones, YOUR digestive tract, YOUR immune system. It’s a scientific experiment of one, and what you learn during the course of YOUR Whole30 will help you make educated, informed decisions in creating the diet that is the healthiest for YOU for the rest of YOUR life.
How many times can I capitalize the word ‘you’ before it gets obnoxious? I think I crossed that line four you’s ago. Sorry. But I’m trying to make a point here. I’m going to tell you exactly, specifically how I eat, but I eat this way only as the result of multiple Whole30’s (with many Whole10’s, Whole7’s and Whole3’s thrown in for good measure).
I’ve discovered the foods that make me healthier, the foods that make me less healthy, and which in the latter category are still worth it. I know how often, how much, how many days in a row I can indulge, I know the consequences of my choices, and thanks to what I’ve learned, I have such a healthy relationship with my food that I no longer spend even a moment in the throes of guilt, shame, or remorse. (Well, sometimes the consequences bring remorse, but I always learn from my mistakes.)
In the next article, I’m going to tell you exactly what I eat… but if you’re going to model anything on my behavior, model my dedication to learning as much as I can about food + me through the Whole30 program.
Do it at least a few times, because each and every time, you learn something new and valuable. Pay extra-careful attention to reintroduction, especially noting in later Whole30’s how foods subtly affect your mood, attitude, and emotions. Continually strive to improve your awareness as to how food is affecting you, and be willing to admit it if foods you thought were okay after your first Whole30 may no longer feel okay now, in the context of your improved state of health and awareness. And always know that if you fall back into old habits (which you’re likely to do after holidays, vacations, or stressful periods of time), you can (and should) always return to the Whole30, where you’ll pick up right where you left off.
Stay tuned for part two later this week, where I promise there will be no mention of Hostess, but Prosecco with a splash of St. Germain may be a special guest.
Best in health,
P.S. Want more? Read on to Part 2 of “Dear Melissa, How Do You Eat?”
Got a question for Melissa? Submit it using this handy form.
Remember, we aren’t answering questions about the Whole30 rules via this column (use the forum!), nor are we able to offer you specific advice about your medical issue, health condition, or body composition.
Melissa Hartwig is a Certified Sports Nutritionist and the author of the New York Times bestselling books It Starts With Food and The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom; and the upcoming Food Freedom Forever. She has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Details, Outside, SELF, and Shape as the co-founder of the Whole30 program. Melissa lives in Salt Lake City, UT.
Photo credit: Marie Carmel Photography