Note: The Whole30 is contra-indicated for those with a history of eating disorders. If this is your context, please do not take on the program unless approved by and under the direct supervision of a trained therapist—and even then, follow all of their recommendations with respect to the program’s structure and rules. This message is not intended for those with a history of disordered eating, diagnosed or otherwise. Always check with your health care practitioner before beginning any new diet or lifestyle program.
Will I lose weight on the Whole30?
This is a tricky topic for us, but I’m going to do my best to explain my position and answer your question.
First, I believe that what you choose to do with your body is your business, not mine. You can want to lose weight, gain weight, stay the exact same weight, or not care about your weight at all, and I will support your right to do as you please with the body you have been given.
Second, I also believe purposeful weight loss dieting can be incredibly damaging, both physically and psychologically. The mindset and belief system that we’re indoctrinated into when we radically cut calories, equate health with thinness, and rely on the scale for our worth and value has given many of us an unhealthy relationship with food and our bodies. That might be why you’re here, in fact—because you’re looking for an alternative to this mindset, hoping to get off the yo-yo diet roller coaster.
But you still want to lose weight. I know that because you’re asking me about it. So here’s where I marry our philosophy with honoring your question and desire for your own body.
The Whole30 is not a weight loss program; I can’t emphasize that enough. You don’t count, track, or cut calories. You’re eating protein, fat, and carbohydrates with every meal. You don’t skip meals. You eat to satiety. You’re never hungry. You won’t be stepping on a scale. You won’t see bikini-clad before-and-afters or sensational weight loss testimonials on our pages.
What you will see are people just like you, who were tired of being told their worth and value depends on the number on the scale. People who wanted more than just weight loss—they wanted more energy, better sleep, fewer cravings, and more self-confidence. They wanted off the roller coaster, and wanted to join a community of growth-minded people just like them, changing their life one day at a time. They wanted something different. And I’m betting you do, too.
But to get something different, you have to do things differently. Which means leaving your weight loss focus behind when you come into our community. I know you want to lose weight. I’m not telling you to change that. I’m just asking you to give yourself a short, well-deserved break from thinking about it while you’re on the Whole30.
Set it aside for 30 short days. Tell yourself, “I’m taking a month off from worrying about my bodyweight. I’m going to spend this time learning how the foods I’ve been eating are impacting me, creating new healthy habits that will serve me the rest of my life. I’m going to address my emotional relationship with food, finding other ways to relieve anxiety, self-sooth, and manage stress. I’m going to make new like-minded friends, and lean on them for support and encouragement. I’m going to purposefully seek victories that have nothing to do with the scale. And when the weight loss mentality I’ve had for so long creeps into the program (what if you ate a little less, maybe one peek at the scale…), I’m going to gently acknowledge it, then say, ‘this is not that,’ and remind myself why I’m here.”
You’ve done it your way for years, maybe decades. And it’s never worked the way you want it to. You want MORE, and weight loss diets are never going to get you there. But maybe the Whole30 can. It certainly has, for millions of people just like you. But to find out, you have to do it my way.
The worst thing that will happen is you’ll eat really tasty, whole, nutritious food for 30 days, and nothing will change. You’ll look the same, feel the same, and have taken nothing from the experience other than some delicious recipes. (Spoiler: This is highly unlikely.)
The best thing that will happen is you’ll join the millions of people who have finished the program over the last ten years saying, “That really did change my life!” You’ll walk out with a new mindset, new habits, new kitchen skills, and a newfound sense of self. You’ll know how to nourish yourself for maximum energy, restful sleep, clear skin, and humming digestion. Maybe your aches and pains will disappear, your migraines will ease, or your skin clears up. Your cravings have never been more manageable! You’ll learn new ways to manage stress, no longer automatically turning to sugar, alcohol, or carbs to numb. You can finally listen to the signals your body is sending you—I’m hungry, I’m full. And real, whole food will taste more delicious than you ever realized, in part because you prepared it yourself from a place of self-love.
Above all, you’ll be more confident, and that confidence will spill over into every area of your life, because how show up for yourself in the Whole30 is how you show up for yourself everywhere. And you’ll finally feel empowered to create your own perfect, sustainable plan for true, lasting Food Freedom.
That’s a pretty good trade-off, if I do say so myself.
So, back to your question… will you lose weight on the Whole30? Many do, even without counting or cutting calories. I don’t know if you will, to be honest. But if you end up with all of those non-scale victories I just listed… does it matter as much what the number on the scale says? Really think about that. Imagine what it would feel like to have achieved ALL of those life improvements. Is there anything the scale could add to that conversation? Anything at all?
If you say no, then hallelujah! You’re picking up what I’m putting down, and you’re ready to start your Whole30 journey. If you say, “Yes, it still really matters to me,” I honor that. I do. And also, I am still asking you to do it my way for one short month.
Give me 30 days. Take a vacation from thinking about your bodyweight. Let us help you focus on all of the other magical things that can change when you change the food on your plate. Let our community support you, hold you accountable, lift you up, and cheer you on.
You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. Trust that voice inside your head that says, “There has to be another way.” There is. Trust me, and join us.
Got a question for Melissa? Submit it here.
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 Urban is a Certified Sports Nutritionist, and a 5-time New York Times bestselling author (It Starts With Food; The Whole30; Food Freedom Forever; The Whole30 Cookbook; The Whole30 Day by Day; and The Whole30 Fast and Easy Cookbook). She has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Forbes, CNBC, 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