The Truth About the Diet That's Sweeping Instagram

May 2nd 2016

Danielle DeCourcey

You've probably seen pictures of people trying the Whole30 diet on Instagram. There are plenty of before-and-after body shots of dieters who have tried this iteration of the Paleo Diet with the hashtags #whole30, #whole30challenge, and #whole30approved among others. The posts seem to promote the idea that Whole30 will help you lose weight.


A photo posted by @muscleandmangos on


A photo posted by Jen (@jlr1123) on

Some of the photos have emotional captions with an inspiring story of weight loss.

There's also plenty of photos of the food you can eat on the Whole30 plan.


A photo posted by Catherine (@cathswholelife) on


A photo posted by @wholenewnina on

But does it work, and what do you have to do to be on the diet?

ATTN: spoke to the co-creator of Whole30 Melissa Hartwig, a registered sports nutritionist, and she said that Whole30 is not meant to be a weight loss program but a way to "reset your health." So you may not be shirtless on Instagram with a before-and-after picture but Hartwig says you'll feel better.

Hartwig explained:

"There is no caloric restriction, no counting, weighing, measuring, and no pills, powders, or shakes. In fact, you're not even allowed to step on the scale for 30 days, to encourage you to pay attention to all of the other amazing changes that are happening to your energy, sleep, digestion, mood, chronic pain or fatigue, athletic performance, and cravings. That having been said, improving your blood sugar regulation and metabolism, healing your gut, and changing your relationship with food does promote safe, sustainable weight loss."

For 30 days you don't eat sugar, dairy, grains, or legumes, which are foods like peas, peanuts, beans, and sprouts. You can eat unprocessed meat, seafood, eggs, and most vegetables on the plan. Hartwig says that because of these restrictions, meal preparation is a necessity for success on this diet.

"Planning and preparation are key on the Whole30. Because you're eating real food for 30 days, you'll have to shop, chop, and meal prep. You'll want to get all the stuff that may prove tempting (like candy or chips) out of your house, make sure you have plenty of Whole30-compliant emergency food on hand for late nights at the office or getting stuck in traffic, and plan for any potentially stressful situations, like business travel or a birthday party."

Some critics of the diet say that those kinds of restrictions could lead to nutritional deficiencies, but Hartwig said the ban on these foods isn't meant to be permanent.

"We don't believe that any one food is 'good' or 'bad' universally. The point of the program is to discover how commonly problematic foods impact you."

However, not everyone agrees with the diet.

Katherine Tallmadge, a registered dietician and and author, told Live Science that the lack of legumes and dairy could damage the "good" bacteria in our stomachs. "This diet, which is heavy on meat, could actually damage the microbiome."

She also said that the diet is too restrictive. "Of course you're going to lose weight on a modified fast," she said.

Though Hartwig said that Whole30 is not a weight loss program, that doesn't meant that the people trying it aren't hoping for weight loss. And being on a restrictive diet can sometimes backfire when it's done because some people go back to old eating habits.

The New York Times wrote about the struggle contestants on the popular NBC weight loss show The Biggest Loser have gone through. Many of them lost almost 100 pounds on the show, but then gained it back in the following years.

However Hartwig is hopeful that people who try Whole30 will stick to a healthy eating plan after the 30 days is over.

"The most common mistake people make on the Whole30 is treating it like every other quick-fix diet. If you do into it thinking only about losing weight fast, you'll not only take the program to an unhealthy place, restricting calories, eliminating all fruit, or retaining your obsession with the scale, but you'll miss out on the other life-changing benefits the program has to offer."

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