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How to Reclaim Your Health — The Whole30 by Melissa Hartwig (BOOK NOTES)

The Whole30 (affiliate link)

About the Whole30

This book is not a dieting book. It is not about losing weight. It is about resetting your relationship with food and discovering which foods you are uniquely sensitive to. The idea of the program is to completely eliminate all potentially unhelpful foods from your diet for 30 days, then slowly and scientifically reintroducing them to see how your body reacts to them. The book includes information about what foods are problematic and why, as well as detailed Q&A, tips, recipes, and strategies to help make your Whole30 Experiment a success.


What is the Whole30?

  • If you have a condition (skin, digestive, allergies, chronic fatigue) that meds don’t help, that could be related to foods you eat
  • How do you know if those foods are affecting you? Eliminate them from your diet completely, let your body heal and recover. Reset your metabolism and the downstream effects of your food.
  • Psych benefits of the Whole30 may be more dramatic

Our Good Food Standards

  • Whole30 success depends on 100% elimination of “less healthy” foods for the 30 days
  • Whole30 is targeted toward unhealthy long-standing psych/emo relationships with food
  • Good foods: promote healthy psychological, hormonal response, healthy gut, immune function, and minimize inflammation
  • Over time, over consuming junk foods with no brakes conditions body to rely on sugar for energy instead of burning fats, also disrupts your body’s ability to manage blood sugar, hormones, etc = energy dips, hunger cravings, weight gain
  • One of the most important targets of the Whole30 program is your gut, the small intestine, where the most food is digested/absorbed
  • Some foods promote leaky gut, where toxins leak from intestines to bloodstream, triggering immune reaction and chronic inflammation
  • Systemic inflammation starts in the gut but symptoms can appear anywhere in the body
  • Chronic systemic inflammation is a little like being sick all the time when factors like food choices overload the system
  • Chronic systemic inflammation is the heart of a bunch of lifestyle-related diseases (allergies, asthma, heart disease, diabetes, etc)
  • Bad foods: added sugar, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, all grains (even whole grains), legumes (peanuts and soy too), and almost all dairy.
  • When you make yourself healtheir from the inside out, improved body composition, self-esteem, happiness follow, but it doesn’t work the other way around.

Foods that Make You Less Healthy

  • Added sugars, even from honey, agave, maple syrup, don’t contribute the to your overall health.
  • Added sugars promote overconsumption
  • There are no vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients you can’t get in quality veggies, fruits, meats, natural fats
  • Alcohol is neurotoxic and does NOT make you healthier, and it sets you up to make poor choices (like binging on bad foods)
  • Refined and whole grains (grains, wheat, oats, barley, corn, rice, millet, buckwheat, quinoa) promote overconsumption, creating hormonal/metabolic disruption
  • Grains also contain anti-nutrient phytates, phtyica cid that make minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc from the grains unavailable for your body
  • Legumes also contain fermentable carbs that can disrupt your gut bacteria and cause gas, bloating, cramps, pain
  • Dairy helps little mammals grow fast, but don’t do adult bodies good. High insulin levels promote unregulated cell growth (underlying cause of cancer).
  • There’s no morality in food, but no one knows what foods are bad for you until you eliminate and reintroduce them.
  • Commit to eliminating these foods for 30 days completely (not a slip or taste). At the end of 30 days, reintroduce the foods one at a time slowly, systematically.

The Whole30 Program Rules

  • All veggies except for corn, peas, and lima beans are allowed
  • Yes: eat meat, seafood, eggs, veggies, fruit, fats
  • No: sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairies, baked treats.
  • No: weighing yourself
  • Your cravings/habits don’t change if you recreate baked goods and treats with approved ingredients.
  • You must give the program a full 30 days, no slips or special occasions. One lick of a spoon, and you have to start over.
  • Don’t even consider the possibility of a slip. Eating is always a choice.

Getting Started with the Whole30


  • Even if you’re anxious to get started, don’t skip the planning process
  • Habit research shows: when people jump from contemplation straight to action, they’re less likely to see the change through because they did not prepare.
  • Give yourself 10 days after the Whole30 to reinclude foods, plan ahead for special events, give yourself 40 days before the special event to do your Whole 30
  • There’s never a perfect time to do the Whole30. Just pick a date and commit on paper. (Habit research shows paper commitment helps with success)


  • Whole30 is a radical lifestyle change and you need a support network
  • Whole30 is a lifestyle change, not a crash diet or weight loss plan
  • Share your current struggles, goals, and the ways you thtink the program will make you healthier/happier
  • When talking to people about the Whole30: lead with the things you will be eating, not the things you’re not eating.


  • This is a critical step! Clean all “bad” foods out of the house.
  • Hyperbolic discounting: people pay attention to what’s happening today but pay less attention to the future, and assume Future You have more free time, strength, capacity, willpower than you really do.
  • Don’t discount the future. Deal with junk food now because you are feeling strong so you have buffer space when things get tough
  • The average craving lasts 3–5 minutes, so resist/distract yourself for that long and you’ll be okay
  • Don’t expect family members to change their habits to accommodate you
  • Plan meals — the brain loves plans. 1920 Russian psych study: incomplete/interrupted tasks tend to stick around/distracting and stressing people. It takes focus off important things.
  • Don’t underestimate how different Whole30 diet will look from your current diet even if you are healthy now.
  • Make a detailed meal plan for 3–7 days.
  • Planning gives your brain a sense of completion.


  • Prepare for obstacles. Have a plan. Make a list of obstacles and plans for what you’ll do in each case. Use “If/then” statements
  • Habits have 3 parts: cue, routine, reward.
  • Never weigh yourself on a scale during this time. Scale weights can go up and down rapidly due to time of day, water retention, etc.
  • Scale weights blind you to other real results of the Whole30 like energy, clear skin, mobility, etc
  • Do not let a scale number determine your self-worth
  • You can weigh yourself on Day 0 before the Whole30 and take body measurements (upper arms, chest, waist, hips, thighs) and take a before picture. Then no weighing for 30 days.

The Whole30 Timeline

  • Examining your emotional relationship with food and breaking childhood food habits is hard. Physically you’ve been off balance for 5–20 years by overconsuming foods.
  • With the Whole30, things may get worse before they get better.
  • Expect the following (approximate days)

Day 1: No big deal/what have I done?

  • You’re excited but a little nervous

Day 2–3: The hangover

  • you feel a little foggy, headache-y, fatigued, etc.
  • The amount this phase sucks is proportional to how much junk you consumed consistently before the program

Day 4–5: Kill all things

  • Everything will get on your nerves. Your brain isn’t happy without sweet, salty, fatty junk

Day 6–7: I just want a nap

  • Whole30 will increase your energy in the long run, but right now, your body is learning to change the type of energy it is using from sugars to fat.
  • Fat adaptation starts in a few days but takes a few weeks to ramp up, usually you’ll feel the switch inweek 2 and have consistent high energy morning, noon, night

Day 8–9: NO! My pants are TIGHTER!

  • Digestive enzymes are adjusting to your new intake of meat/veggies and less easy-access sugars, maybe causing bloating, coonstipation, diarrhea as your gut starts to heal and process new food efficiently.
  • This may be caused by FODMAPs from fruits and veggies: fermentable carbs and sugar alcohols are poorly absorbed and feed gut bacteria causing gas, bloating, inflammation. Also increased fiber will irritate your digestion for a while.

Days 10–11: the hardest days

  • The time when you are most likely to quit. The program is no longer new, you’ve experienced unpleasant milestones but have yet to experience any “magic”
  • Give yourself a reward that is not food. Ask yourself what foods you miss and why — miss reassurance? Want cheering up? Remember food cannot fill that void for you.

Day 12–15: I dream of junk food

  • You will feel better, but you might be dreaming of food you used to eat

Day 16–27: Tiger blood

  • You feel AWESOME.
  • If you don’t feel this way on days 16–27 remember you may have started with a medical condition, long history of unhealthy habits, and these results will take you longer.

Day 21 Interlude: I am so over this

  • Week 3 you experience food boredom, don’t know what else you can make or eat.
  • Keep going, there are many recipes and combinations.
  • You may also notice reverse in medical symptoms. This should go away in a week.

Day 22–25: The scale and mirror are calling

  • This is when you’re most likely to break the “no scale” rule. Don’t do it, you may reverse your momentum.

Day 28: 28 is as good as 30, right?

  • Don’t give up! 28 is not as good as 30.
  • Take your promise to yourself seriously. If you cop out now you’re telling yourself your own commitments are open to compromise.
  • That’s not true — you are worth your promise.

Day 29–30: It’s almost done what am I gonna eat now?

  • Relax, know that you know now how to take the habits you created into the real world.

Day 31: deep breathing

  • Get started on reintroduction protocols

Whole30: Reintroduction

  • 30 days is a great start, but you can’t always fix long habits or conditions in one month. You may benefit from adding 15–60 days to the program.
  • 2 types of reintroduction: Fast track and Slow roll.
  • If you don’t miss certain foods, don’t reintroduce them.
  • Treat this like a scientific experiment where Whoole30 is your control group, and each reintroductory food group is the experimental.

Fast track (10 days)

  • downside: you might feel bad for 2 weeks
  • Take 2 days of Whole30 eating between each reintroduction group at minimum
  • Day 1: evaluate legumes ONLY
  • Day 4 (or 7) evaluate non-gluten grains ONLY
  • Day 7 (or 10) evaluate dairy ONLY
  • Day 10 (or 13) evaluate gluten-containing grains ONLY

Slow Roll (lasts as long as you choose)

  • Eat Whole30 until you come across something truly special delicious and then evaluate effects
  • It’s a marathon, not a sprint: reintroduction is lifelong. Every time you eat a potential less-healthy food, savor it and pay attention to how it impacts you
  • Remember, the impact of some foods is cumulative. So pay attention to how foods affect you even after your reintroduction schedule. Pay attention to food dosage.
  • If you start to feel out of control with food again, go back on Whole30 as long as it takes to stabilize without delay.
  • This is most dangerous with the reintroduction of sugary foods
  • Take sugar/carb addiction seriously


  • The Whole30 is black and white. no slips, cheats, special occasions
  • Whole30 is not necessarily a low carb diet. Remember veggies and fruits have carbs too!
  • Habit research: average number of days for a new habit to stick is 66. But the harder the change, the longer it’ll take
  • After doing a Whole30, you can do some Whole7 or Whole10’s before or after a holiday/vacation
  • If you have a chronic condition, plan for a Whole30 that lasts longer than 30 days. Especially autoimmune conditions.
At some point you have to take the things you’ve learned on the program out into the real world and make your own decisions about what you think is “worth it” or not. If you never practice, anduse the rules of the Whole30 to make those decisions for you — you will never truly attain food freedom.
  • Chia and flax seeds are allowed, they are not in the same family as grains/legumes. Quinoa is not allowed.
  • You can take communion. God > Whole30
  • Dark chocolate is not allowed. Anything less than 100% cocoa is off.
  • Dates are okay, but be careful as they are close to candy. Don’t u se them as a treat.
  • Nightshades (bell peppers, eggplant, goji berries, bush tomato, hot peppers, potatoes, etc) can be inflammatory to some people. They are allowed for Whole30
  • Nutritional yeast is fine as long as it’s gluten free
  • NO PANCAKES IN ANY FORM becauuse it breaks the spirit of Whole30, which is intended to change your relationship with food.
  • How your brain perceives food influences satiation. Pancakes have a totally different psych response even if made of eggs and bananas than eggs and bananas separately.
  • Added salt is fine, since you took processed/packaged foods from your diet.
  • Tapioca is okay without wheat mixed in. But it has no nutrition and is all carbs.
  • Vanilla extract is not allowed because they contain alcohol/sugar alcohols.
  • Veggie oils allowed only if you have to. Avoid usually.
  • Fruit juice is okay in dishes, but don’t drink it. Juicing strips nutrients out of fruit, leaving sugar. You wouldn’t eat 8 oranges, but you would drink an 8-oz glass of orange juice. Not good.
  • Avoid smoothies too. Food that is drunk sends different satiety signal to brain than chewed food.
  • Tea: read labels. Some add non-compliant foods
  • Vegetable juice: don’t let it take the place of real veggies. Chewing and swallowing is better than drinking
  • Supplements aren’t required. But many can benefit from quality fish oil, Vitamin D3, magnesium and maybe enzymes, probiotics
  • Many over the counter meds arenot Whole30 compliant. Try to treat illnesses with natural methods but you decide. (For colds: Vitamin C, zinc, echinacea help)
  • No smoking! It can create cravings and inhibit your inhibitory mechanisms
  • Whole30 recommends eating breakfast. If you’re not hungry, your hormones are probably off.
  • How much fruit is too much? Depends. It’s natural to eat more fruit in the summer when it’s available and you’re more active. Don’t eat it for sugar cravings though. Start with 2 servings per day. Careful with dried fruits = nature’s candy.
  • Habit formation: best plans are detailed, but not too long-reaching and overwhelming. 3–7 day planning is best.
  • Plan your grocery shopping: during less crowded times, when bins are full and things are on sale
  • Prioritize spending on proteins and fruits/veggies you can’t peel. Frozen veggies are great too. Use herbs for flabor.
  • Nuts and seeds are an easy portable fat source, but easy to overconsume. Olives are good.
  • Don’t make “compliant” pancakes or pizza. Avoid foods that look like comfort foods.
  • Nut butter, dates, frozen grapes are fine unless you find yourself losing control over them.
  • Drink plenty of water, but not with meals, because that inhibits digestion by diluting stomach acid
  • Careful if you have a history of eating disorders. Whole30 may be too restrictive for you.
  • It’s easy for people onWhole30 to undereat (be careful if you are pregnant or nursing)
  • When including grains/beans in your diet, soak them 12–24 hours, rinse, boil for 15minutes to reduce anti-nutrient andinflammatory compounds. see (Weston A Price foundation on proper preparation of grains/legumes)
  • Vegans are at risk for Vitamin B12 deficiency, so be wary of that
  • If your sleep is disrupted, you might have blood sugar volatility
  • How to tell if you’re hungry or have a craving: “Am I hungry enough to eat steamed fish and broccoli?”
  • Don’t use nutrition to solve a lifestyle problem (financial/marital stress, etc).
  • If you are allergic to foods, rule of thumb: go one full year without exposure before considering reintroduction
  • When reintroducing foods, pay attention to digestion (cramping, heartburn?), energy/motivation, sleep, cravings, mood/psychology, behavior, skin, breathing (congestion?), pain/inflammation, medical conditions


See book


See book


  • After the Whole30 and reintroduction:
  1. Eat Whole30ish all the time
  2. Hit pause when something special or delicious shows up
  3. Eat it, savor it, then move on (Be mindful: When you notice the cookie is no longer as delicious, stop eating)
  4. If you get derailed, get back on the Whole30

Get your own copy of The Whole30 HERE (affiliate link)

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