Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Go the Whole30: It Starts With Food

One of my goals last month was to spend at least 30 minutes per day reading, and I had four books on my must-finish-before-August list.  (See how that went here.)  One of those books was...

It Starts With Food

I first heard of Dallas & Melissa Hartwig when they were guests on Robb Wolf's podcast, The Paleolithic Solution - Episode 26.  After that, I explored their website, whole9life.comwhich is full of useful guides, helpful forums, and interesting blog posts.  More recently, they were on Underground Wellness with host Sean Croxton. They've certainly been getting their fair share of the spotlight since their recent publication of It Starts With Food

It Starts With Food by Dallas & Melissa Hartwig

Another paleo-inspired nutrition book?  How could I not read it?  And I literally breezed through it.  It Starts With Food is very readable, targeted toward readers who are new to such a "radical" approach to eating.  They lay it out, plain and simple, and remind you that they understand your concerns, but they've got reasons you need to overcome them. They call eating these real foods the Whole30 (for 30 days to start).

The guiding assumption: "Food either makes you more healthy or less healthy."  By eating the "more healthy" foods and avoiding the "less healthy" foods, we're capable of reversing both small and serious medical conditions.  To do so, They propose a diet of primarily meat, eggs, and seafood, followed by vegetables and fruit, and healthy fats nuts and seeds.  But it's not only that -- "W don't just want to you to change the food on your plate--we want to change the way you eat it, too" (p. 183). Other tips include eating 3 meals a day, trying to not snack too much, eating at a table, and not eating in the hours before bed.  All good advice!

What sets this book apart?
  • Unlike the first paleo book I read (Loren Cordain's The Paleo Answer), this leaves the super science-y explanations and experiments out and gives you just what you need to know and understand, with metaphors that help the average Joe or Jane get an idea of what goes on in the body, specifically the gut.  They take you through how the body is supposed to function, how different foods affect these bodily functions, and what changes will help your body return to health.
  • Dallas & Melissa emphasize changing our psychological relationship with food.  This includes our emotional connections and rituals surrounding food, such as emotional eating.  They urge us to take even just 15 minutes to sit down to a meal.  Not to eat on the run or at our desk. We all have those 15 minutes to sit down and set mealtime apart.  They also address the biological influence of food on our brains.  Certain foods literally alter our brain chemistry, urging us to eat differently than we might otherwise intend to.  By avoiding those foods, we can re-set our physical, psychological relationship with food.
  • The Whole30--those 30 days where you eat squeaky clean, "re-setting" by avoiding all potential allergens (sort of like this)--is followed by a re-introduction phase.  After you remove all toxic foods and get your body back to health, you start eating the suspect foods again, one at a time, to see how you feel.  Basically, you make an experiment out of yourself, setting your body to base level and then testing one specific variable at a time to see which foods negatively impact your health. 
    • Note: They anticipate these foods not being great and you wanting to continue the Whole30, but this gives you the freedom to know that if you find a certain favorite food doesn't upset your body, then you can go back to eating it. 
  • The book concludes with some condition-specific recommendations (including both health concerns like autoimmunity and diabetes, as well as choices like vegan/vegetarian) and supplements, as well as meal-mapping guides and a few recipes. 

And that's a VERY brief synopsis of a detailed book.  If you're looking to learn more about why certain foods make us healthier and others don't, please read the book for yourself, or check out their website at  They've got tons of resources available to help with your own "Whole30".  Give it a try - you'll never know how well you can feel until you do.  And remember, at its simplest, it's all about eating real, whole foods. 

I sincerely recommend It Starts With Food for anyone new to this dietary lifestyle. It's full of information without being technical, and makes the science make sense.  And, it really all comes down to the title--whether you're after longevity, attempting weight loss, battling a chronic condition, improving athletic performance, or seeking general health--whatever it is, It Starts With Food


  1. That sounds really interesting! I'm not looking into going paleo, but it sounds like a good read either way. I always like to be informed and know about all the different kinds of ways people eat. I think it's so cool to learn about these kinds of different lifestyles :)

  2. Ive not read this yet either!!
    off to get the sample chapters.

  3. I would like to read this! I always give myself little 'challenges' to satiate the adventurous side of me so I want to go vegan for a week as well as Paleo. This book looks interesting!

  4. Interesting! Whether or not this is something you follow, it's always good to stay informed :) Thanks for sharing!

  5. sounds like my kinda book! i've actually heard good things about this book as well!

  6. I recently started following the Whole30 blog and love their ideas. I really like their approach of analyzing our relationship with food. I may have to read this...thanks for the GREAT review!

  7. I am really interested in this book, but I don't think i could follow their plan since it calls for no grains or legumes. For me that just feels too restrictive in an area of food.

  8. Although I'm vegan I love to hear/read about other options...especially when they focus on whole foods. Sounds like an excellent read.

  9. Sounds like a really interesting book. I'm not sure I'm interested in going Paleo, but it's something I've been wanting to know more about. I'll have to check this one out.

  10. Looks great - I'd love to learn more about the paleo lifestyle!

  11. I'm so curious about paleo so thank you for sharing this book. I've been thinking a lot lately about how to clean up my eating or at least change it so that I'm fueling my body better. As much as that has to do with actual intake of food, I think for me, the psychological relationship plays a huge part too.


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