I bought my THIRD copy of It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig while attending their all day seminar in Honolulu yesterday. If you ever get the chance to go to their seminar – GO! Its a great experience. Not that there was anything earth-shaking or revolutionary said during the day, but some of the dots were connected and it was some dedicated time spent thinking about my dietary and lifestyle choices with some smart people.
My first impression was how stunningly beautiful and handsome Melissa and Dallas are. Good genetics, sure. But also clearly they are doing something right. Since I had taken a seat in the front row and spent the day a few feet away from them listening to them answer questions during breaks and chatting with them during lunch, they are also clearly beautiful on the inside as well and were consummate compassionate professionals throughout the day. It was weird to be on a different island and be recognized within the community – Dallas kept looking at me for a while trying to figure out where he’d seen me before – I suspect it was from Robb Wolf’s testimonial website and another Coach commented in a private conversation on how I had lost 200 pounds or something like that (no, not quite).
Some of you saw my notes from the seminar and were surprised – where’s the notes on the food, nutrients, and what to eat? They did cover that – a little bit – but the vast majority of the day was spent on discussing the philosophy behind and the framework for their Whole 30 program. I wouldn’t have lasted more than five minutes discussing food, nutrients, blocks, supplements, and the like, but understanding the biology and psychology behind food choices had me at my edge of the seat most of the day. Seriously, it was exactly what I needed. As they say, the things that get you from point A to point B may not be the things that get you from point B to point C. I needed to re-frame my food philosophy and Dallas and Melissa helped to do that.
So my takeaways from the Whole 9 Seminar – hopefully slightly more coherent than my jotting notes from my mobile device on the bus last night.
1. Its about the BIG PICTURE
The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close up. Getting OCD on your diet or exercise can be counterproductive. They are pieces to the whole – important pieces – but if the rest of your life factors are not correct you may be spinning your wheels. Dallas and Melissa talk about the nine factors that they believe, when properly balanced, will lead you to optimal health. I think I wrote the word STRESS about a hundred times yesterday and its something I need to address in my life.
2. Form follows Function
They don’t care a rip if you lose weight doing the Whole 30 program and they are right. They do care about getting you healthy. And form follows function – get healthy and everything starts falling back into place. Robb Wolf recommends giving your scale away to someone you dislike and chase performance goals. The Whole 30 program does not allow you to step on the scale for 30 days. I got an email last night from a person who found me from Robb’s website upset that she’d “only” lost 3 pounds in two weeks and that left her feeling “hopeless”. Whoa – that little device on the floor that tells you your relationship with gravity is also dictating your self-worth is kind of a pretty scary thought. We are all so much more than our packaging we come in and remembering that form follows function can clear some of that crazy making stuff.
3. The Lizard Wins
You cannot out-willpower, out-think, out-logic your body’s hormonal response to food. You can’t beat hormones, the lizard part of the brain is deeper and stronger than willpower. Caloric restriction will always lose. Give your body what it needs nutritionally (its about nutrition, not nurturing). If you feed yourself empty calories, you will keep eating chasing that nutrition. Our bodies are way smarter than we give them credit for and certainly way smarter than the chemist designing the new sweetener and hyper-stimulating food
4. Don’t OverCARBsume
I could have hugged Melissa when she said that when nutritionists tell you to “just listen to your body”that its pure bullshit. Your body lies. Particularly when you have been treating it poorly and screwing up all the signals that are supposed to be there with natural foods. ‘Food with no breaks’ that have no dense nutrition, no satiety factors, little fiber or water in them just have me eating the whole bag/container (i.e. its a processed carboliscious food). I’ve hardwired my brain to respond to “Hoover (vacuum) the whole thing” in a nice little habitual neurological loop. The more volatile your blood sugars are, the less good you feel and since I kind of fudged myself up on this one as a former pre-diabetic, my margin of err is even smaller than most.
5. Get Over the Internalized Fat-Phobia
Dallas and Melissa passed out a meal planning template which is also in the book that I must have skimmed when I read the book. Actually really reading their meal planning template, I had kind of a visceral kick to the gut – holy Batman – that’s a lot of fat. In my mind. Right now. I’d be perfectly happy (well until I quickly died from diabetes) eating nothing but carbohydrates the rest of my life, but eating that much fat horrified me just a bit. Me, of all people, has internalized fat phobia. Avocados are going to be making a comeback in my life.
6. Examine if Your Behaviors are Supporting Your Goals
This one resonated deeply with me and I am feeling a little like a stubborn two-year old stomping my good leg over it. There is no question that long, slow endurance running races do not support my long-term goals and I need to give them up. The cost/benefit and pain/reward doesn’t pencil out for me anymore. Its a tough one for me and I’m not quite ready to stop, but I’m getting closer. There are definitely other behaviors and goals that are misaligned, but having spent half of last week in pain, its the one that I thought about the most.
7.There are Plenty of Common Denominators
My vegan friends and I agree on far more on food than we disagree upon. The common denominators:
- Eat whole, real food
- Sugar is evil. Sweeteners are even worse.
- Your diet should be based mostly on vegetables. They estimated it at about 60% on veggies and encouraged them at EVERY meal.
- Animals should be treated with respect and humanely.
- Whole 30 removes dairy and considers it a food that makes you less healthy. I’m going to remove it for 30 days, but after the 30 days are over, I’ll re-evaluate it then. This is the food group that is a sticking point for me. I’m going to do it, but I make no promises long-term.
- Avoid consuming chemicals and frankenfoods.
- Eat to keep your good gut bacteria happy and plenty.
- You need to cook your own food and plan ahead to make your diet a success in less than ideal situations.
8. Stay Positive
Perception can equal fact in the brain. The brain cannot tell the difference between perceived stress and real stress – its both real whether it happens or not. Its the same with diet and being hard on yourself just takes one down a spiral that leads nowhere good. ” Using words like “fail”, “faileo”, or “cheat” to describe food choices only contributes to our societal moralization of food, and predisposes to diet-related guilt. Food choices are not moral choices – they are health choices. No guilt, only consequences.” -Melisa Hartwig. Mind your internal language.
9. Hit the Reset Every Now and Then
They make a point about the Whole 30 being a reset, being self-experimentation on what works for you, and that its not about it being the Whole 100. They do a Whole 3 or a Whole 7 when they come back from vacation just to get back on track. Dallas takes coffee vacations quarterly (another punch in a gut response there of noooo!) just to reset that little stimulant addiction. Its good to pay attention to take a step back and check-in with yourself again periodically.
I’m traveling for the next two weeks to the mainland, but once I return. Let the Whole 30 begin.