The problem food
“I’m not here to be the Whole30 police but ….”
- Erin – Whole9
If you hang around my blog you know I am verrrry into Whole30. I write about it all the time (and this is not even a food blog!) I taste and test Whole30 recipes, I invent my own recipes, I read other people’s stuff, write my own stuff and do a lot of thinking and sharing in general about it. I actively promote the program to anyone who will listen to me or read me, I heartily and regularly recommend the Whole30 website and the Hartwig’s book.
I’ve been writing about my experience of the program for a fair while now, a year and a half maybe? I did my first Whole30 in Jan-Feb2012. Since then I have done another Whole30, a Whole45 and am cruising into my 4th (Whole60), for a total of about 165/365 days Whole30-ing.
I’m a passionate Whole30 convert. I’ve written about this before. The whys and hows of it. Because I literally feel Whole30 restored my health, I will probably keep writing about it. How I feel about Whole30 on my 4th go round, is not how I felt about it the 1st or even 2nd go. What I am looking for from it has changed. How I approach it today is not quite the same either.
This has now gotten me into a bit of trouble.
Yesterday I had a post reply left for me in response to a recipe that I had probably, in hindsight, assigned a bad name to. I called it Whole30 Compliant Practically Perfect Pancakes. You can read the post if it floats your boat. Erin from Whole9 popped in to say:
I just need to point out that there are NO Whole30 compliant pancakes. I’m not here to be the Whole30 police…I just want to make sure that folks coming to visit your blog understand that paleo-fying pancakes and other similar foods/desserts is not part of the Whole30 program. It can get confusing sometimes, for sure. Here is the official word from Dallas and Melissa on that from our “Can I Have…” guide (http://whole9life.com/2013/06/the-official-can-i-have-guide-to-the-whole30/):
Pancakes in any form do not encourage success with the Whole30 program. Reaching your health goals depends on committing to both the rules and the spirit and intention of the program. The Whole30 is designed to change your relationship with food, first and foremost. And the psychological impact of eating pancakes as part of your healthy eating, life-changing plan cannot be ignored.
Eating eggs, a banana, and some olive oil is not the same as combining those ingredients into a pancake. There are studies that show that how your brain perceives the food influences satiation. This is often cited with liquid food (smoothies or shakes, as we reference in the back of It Starts With Food), but experientially we see this with whole foods as well, depending on how they are combined. Pancakes bring up a totally different psychological response than frying some eggs and eating a banana. And it’s that psychological response that we are trying to target with the program.
You may not have an affinity for pancakes, but we find that most people who complete our program do best without any of these comfort/trigger/reminiscent-of-the-SAD-stuff-you-used-to-eat foods. So, because we need to create one program that applies to as many people as possible, we rule these Paleo recreations out. In our vast experience, this sets everyone up for the best Whole30success possible. And, of course, what you choose to do after your 30 days are up is entirely up to you.
So there you have it. Mea Culpa and naughty me. But whilst I may have been sent to the naughty chair I am actually not pouting like the little girl in the chair over there, because it’s true. According to Melissa and Dallas Hartwig, eating pancakes whilst on Whole30 is like “having sex with your pants on”. I of course know this and had linked directly to the Whole30 SWYPO explanation page in my post.
Still, it was naughty to name them ”Whole30 compliant” because someone, who doesn’t read my blog, who doesn’t actually know I have written multiple posts about this very subject [such as Whole30 Desserts = SWYPO – Sex With Your Pants On or Those Jeans and Back To Whole30] across my Whole30-ing experience, would not know, that I know … you know? And someone who didn’t spend time to educate themselves before they started Whole30, who hadn’t seen the Whole30 website or read It Starts With Food … who was too lazy to click the SWYPO link I suppied in the actual problem post, might also not know about SWYPO and they may in fact read my recipe and get busy with my allegedly Whole30 compliant pancakes, falsely confident that they were ok.
In response, I have changed the name of those pancakes to SWYPO Practically Perfect Pancakes and further emphasized in the body of the post that whilst the ingredients may be perfectly acceptable Whole30 ingredients, they are no longer compliant once they are magic’d into pancakes.
The thing is, this trip to the naughty chair has raised a rather niggling issue that has been floating around in my head for quite some time and brought it to the front of my mind. Why is it exactly, that I am doing another Whole30?
You see the purpose of a Whole30 is to:
Cut out all the psychologically unhealthy, hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, inflammatory food groups for a full 30 days. Let your body heal and recover from whatever effects those foods may be causing. Push the “reset” button with your metabolism, systemic inflammation, and the downstream effects of the food choices you’ve been making. Learn once and for all how the foods you’ve been eating are actually affecting your day to day life, and your long term health.
It’s a GREAT goal, a life saving, and then life enhancing goal. Before I started Whole30 I had been diagnosed with a series of autoimmune problems including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, adrenal fatigue, lupus and ceiliac disease. I spent a lot of time stripping gluten from my diet. Next I stripped sugar. By that time I was eating paleo. I had already spent heaps of time exploring and cleaning up my diet. Whole30 was about exploring my relationship to food and further tweaking my diet to see if I could find additional inflammatory foods that were making me unwell. Whole30 transitioned me from pretty clean, to squeaky clean.
The thing is that by the end of my second Whole30 I was crystal clear about about my relationship to food, my habits, food choices and triggers. I know what sets off an inflammatory response in my body. I also know exactly what I need to do to prevent that. Even when I am not Whole30-ing, I basically eat Whole30 except I will have an occassional drink (alcohol) and I might have a latte here or there. It’s not like I pack my healthy eating in and start eating crap. I remember before starting my first Whole30 I read somewhere that doing Whole30 could change my relationship to food and the way I eat for the rest of my life. I dare say it has.
So why do I need to do a Whole30, or promote that I am busy with a Whole30 when really, I am busy Whole30-ing more or less, all of the time?
It’s a conundrum.
I wrote a post awhile back about life after Whole30. I was contemplating why I get to feeling at loose ends when I complete a Whole30. Or why I feel guilty for enjoying something off the Whole30 menu – could be a glass of wine, or a latte, or a SWYPO recipe. I was questioning the restrictiveness. The purpose of such restriction. I don’t need an elimination diet. I don’t need to know how my body reacts to food. I don’t need to know about my habits. I KNOW these things. So why do I do a Whole30?
Doing Whole30 to me these days, this go round, TODAY even- means calling a cease fire on alcohol, the occassional lattes or sneaky bits of gluten that creep into my diet like for instance, when my best friend was recently here from Canada for 3 weeks. It means I get very conscious about what I put into my mouth and how my body feels. Doing a Whole30 for me now is like making a committment to be mindful, be present, to pay close attention to my body and health for 30 days. I don’t have to change my diet to follow Whole30 because my diet actually IS Whole30.
So should I be worried about SWYPO?
I have made a variety of things that are adaptations of things I like. Case in point, my favourite recipe is Whole30 Day 5 – Sweet Potato Hummus. Lets look at the Whole30 question proposed by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig Am I trying to exactly duplicate or recreate the poor food choice with “approved” ingredients, or am I merely looking for a healthier, more nutritious substitution for that food?
Well tell you what, that hummus recipe is most surely a direct replacement for my old snack favourite of regular hummus AND its a healthier more nutritious substitution for that old food I no longer eat and never will again.
Now, back to those pancakes … they too are a replacement for my old favourite Canadian pancakes AND they are also a healthier more nutritious substitution for an old food, I will never eat again. The whipped coconut cream, well, that’s a lot like dairy whipping cream isn’t it? And those berries are sweet and so is syrup. I have no intention of eating dairy based whipping cream or syrup any time in the future.
How about Melissa J’s Chocolate chili recipe I use and love? And how is that different than say these Whole9 members who are discussing eating another “adapted”chili recipe from the Whole9 message board? It’s legume free and that was the chili issue, and now, with this recipe its not an issue. Seems like a win to me. I’m never going to return to eating legumes.
How about every recipe under the sun more or less, which are all variations and adaptations of themes?
Where this debate really stood out for me was reading Dallas and Melissa weigh in about the use of cocoa on their post, The Great Cocoa Debate, which I read when I wanted to try Melissa J’s recipe. (Dallas won and I was pleased as while I understand what Melissa was speaking about because I am like that with dairy foods, I agreed with Dallas’ rationale).
The bottom line is only I know whether something I am preparing or eating is recreating a poor food choice and is a psychological crutch (unlikely to satisfy for long and very likely to lead to an encounter with the real thing) or if its a perfectly ACCEPTABLE way to incorporate the Whole30 ingredient guidelines into an every day eating program that has the flexibility to reinvent recipes and satisfy our desire for particular foods.
I plan to be eating compliantly within the Whole30 ingredient list for a long time to come. Deviating really doesn’t work for me or my health. But have to say I also plan to use those ingredients in any and every way possible to THOROUGHLY enjoy my food. This way of eating is not a life long prison sentence. I don’t need to punish myself or make things harder than they need to be. There are no brownie points (ha!) for being unduly restrictive, boring or uninspired. I don’t really feel the need to slip off the Whole30 ingredient list, and I am NOT worried about my sweet potato pancakes. No, I am not gonna run screaming for wheat flour and gooey syrup because I made sweet potato banana round things in pan.
I am uneasy with the Whole30 food policing around this issue. I TOTALLY GET and support Melissa and Dallas’ guidelines for people who are doing Whole30 for 30 days, or whatever designated time frame. Once you know however, you know. I don’t need to re-know that I have certain triggers – I know those triggers. I’m not eliminating foods on trial, I’ve eliminated them permanently. So on my 4th Whole30 I am not worried about those roundy sweet potato/banana “cakes”I cooked in a swirl of coconut oil in a pan. I think we have to think more broadly when we look to eat this way permanently.
I definitely don’t want to steer anyone wrong. I usually have a little caveat about that on my posts – this is what I think and what I am doing, I’m not telling you what you should do. I always link back to the Whole30 website so people can do their own reading and educate themselves from the source. After all, when it comes to Whole30 the only people I am really interested in hearing tell me how it is, is Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. So you know, I get it, I support it.
Maybe I stop calling what I do Whole30 … maybe I’ve achieved the intention of Whole30. Maybe I am post Whole30 and doing something else. Something that resembles sustainable, delicious, creative cooking and eating … that ironically, adheres to the Whole30 ingredient list.