Hypocritical… or human?

While on vacation in Mexico, we posted the following status update on our Facebook page:  “Whole9 is grilling fresh mahi, making a giant batch of guac and kicking our heels up with some hand-made corn tortillas.”   This was kind of a boring update, so imagine our surprise when almost 40 comments rolled in!  (We’ve included a smattering of them here.)

We felt like this was an interesting subject for a post, given it’s not the first time this has come up.  (We once admitted consuming some Nutella-stuffed French toast to a workshop crowd.  The looks of shock and horror on our audience’s faces made us wonder if we actually said we ate a deep-fried kitten for breakfast.)  We’ll first say that we do hold ourselves to a higher nutritional standard than we expect from our clients.  For one, we just feel better on a super-squeaky-clean diet.  Two, we think we should hold ourselves to a higher standard, given our leadership role within the community.  But does that mean we have to be Food Robots, never eating off plan (or worse, doing it but never admitting it in public)?   Some may say we’re hypocritical for advocating the values of the Whole30 while eating the occasional corn tortilla or piece of French toast.  We’d like to think we’re simply human, and doing a good job of actually practicing what we preach. So how DO you feel when you “catch” your nutrition educators eating less-than-healthy foods?

It’s not the Whole365

For those who are new(er) to the site, introduced through our most recent Whole30 program, it might be easy to believe that we are, in fact, food robots.  The Whole30 program has been described as “militant” (among other things), and we agree it’s the strictest program we’ve seen in the realm of Paleo 30 day challenges.  But please, do not confuse the Whole30 with Whole9. The Whole30 is a short term (30 day) program we roll out 2-3 times a year.  It’s designed to be a nutritional “reset” to help people get their metabolisms back on track, banish their sugar demons back into the darkness, and figure out once and for all the way the food they are eating is actually affecting them.  But please note – it’s the  Whole30, NOT the Whole365.  And while there have been folks who have taken their program out an extra month or two, we don’t encourage anyone to stick with the Whole30 every single day… and we don’t live the Whole30 all the time, either.

Eating Dirty

If you haven’t read everything we’ve ever written (and we’ve written a lot), it may have been easy to miss the posts where we encourage you to employ what you learned during your Whole30 program as part of a healthy, happy, balanced and sustainable lifestyle.  We want you to turn our program into life-long practices, which means you’re going to go off the rails from time to time.  And… we think you should!   Passing on Mom’s chocolate chip cookies, your own wedding cake or a fresh, hand-made corn tortilla in Mexico doesn’t sound very happy, balanced or sustainable to us… but hoovering every sweet treat you come across doesn’t sound very healthy, either.  We believe there is a perfect middle ground, which leans way to the side of healthy while still allowing you to enjoy the foods you really, truly love. And we help you figure  out what that looks like for you in all of our nutrition workshops, with our consulting clients, and in a number of long-established, published posts.

  • That Covert Yogurt.  From October 2009 – a reminder that food is sneaky, and how to keep post-Whole30 “treats” in perspective.

    Is that (insert food here) really worth it?

    Hopefully, you now understand that Whole9 is NOT Whole30 – 24/7, and you’ve read more about our philosophy on eating as healthy as you can in a sustainable, balanced fashion.  But here’s what we think is the most awesome thing about our program.  WE don’t decide for YOU what food may or may not be “worth it”. In addition, understand that “worth it” has nothing to do with how “bad” the food may be. YOU, as big boys and girls, are going to have to do your nutritional off-roading all by yourselves.  If corn tortillas or French toast aren’t your thing, then skip ’em.   If your favorite food in the whole world is dark chocolate or hummus, then that becomes your indulgence.  If you prefer tequila shots or a McDonald’s cheeseburger and fries, then those are your things.  We’re not here to tell you whether a food is worth it, or that it’s “too unhealthy” of a treat to even consider eating.  We just try to provide guidelines for helping you  determine how, when, why and how often to indulge… and when you should just take a pass.  And isn’t that the way it should be?  (To clarify your own positions on “worth it” and “not”, consider completing your own version of our official Healthy/F-Off scale.)

    Hypocritical, or human?

    So here is our position, in a nutshell.  Do the Whole30 a few times a year to push your nutritional “reset” button.  Follow our helpful guidelines for “eating dirty”, and make your own educated, informed decisions about incorporating less-than-healthy foods based on what you’ve learned from your Whole30 experiences.   And continue to refine your own “worth it” determinations as you expand your knowledge of your own healthy eating habits.

    So, based on the above, what do you think?  Are your nutritional educators – all of us – hypocritical for not upholding their strictest standards 365 days a year… or are we simply human, enjoying all the benefits of our own Good Food programs in a happy, healthy, sustainable fashion?  Discuss.

    The controversial fish tacos. Mmmmm.

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    1. says

      Personally, I don’t trust robots, whether they’re food robots or otherwise.

      It’s refreshing to know that you’re humans just like me, and whether it’s an occasional corn tortilla wrapped around an otherwise Whole9 approved fish taco, or something even more controversial, I appreciate your willingness to share your knowledge and experiences with this great community.

      Keep on keepin’ on. And thank you.

    2. Cameron says

      “made us wonder if we actually said we ate a deep-fried kitten for breakfast.”

      Strictly speaking, deep-fried kitten would’ve probably been better for you than the french toast.

      Too many people love rules for the rules’ sake more than end that following those rules is intended to bring about. They derive benefit not from the results of their choices, but by the feelings of superiority and pride that result from being the best at following the rules.

    3. says

      For me, it’s important to have role models with realistic expectations of themselves and others. I love that Robb Wolf, Dallas, and Melissa (and Mel!) have real lives where they drink alcohol or eat corn tortillas from time to time.

    4. Renee says

      Totally baffling that people really expected y’all to be food robots. You’ve ALWAYS preached allowing yourself foods that are “worth it,” just not every day!

      Side note: You guys are NOT food nazis either. Is the whole30 strict? of course! It has to be! Any slipups during the whole30, and you’re really just wasting your time because you’re irritating your gut all over again. It’s 30 days of your life, to retrain the way you think about food for a lifetime. Not disallowing everything for the rest of your life.

    5. says

      The point of this lifestyle is to intuitively know what you can and cannot stomach – literally – and how to get yourself into a harmonious mental and physical place. That metaphorical “place” is different for everyone, but I’d say a delicious, locally handmade, traditional food like a corn tortilla (preferably cooked in lard) is just about the best. thing. ever. and does NOT detract from the overall message. In fact, it makes the message BETTER. Handle your life, optimize your health, but not at the expense of a rich, rare experience. We all need to learn the difference between stupid indulgence and appreciative enjoyment.

      It’s not like you had a stinkin’ Krispy Kreme dipped in hyrdogenated soybean oil.

    6. says

      Thats the exact philosophy I maintain, especially when trying to spread paleo awareness and acceptance.

      I maintain an extremely strict paleo diet. However, there are a few things that would just break it for me.

      1.) Coffee. I love it. I gave it up for the 30 day period, but after that, I still drink coffee every day.

      2.) Beer. Again, I love it. I haven’t drank normal beer since I started paleo about a year ago. But I do occasionally indulge in a gluten-free derivative.

      Other than that, nothing else is worth to me to deviate. But keeping those two gray areas in my diet makes it sustainable, applicable, and enjoyable. And I’m proud to say that I’ve eaten completely clean for the better part of year because of it, and the results speak for themselves.

    7. Matt F says

      Those fish tacos look awesome! And hand made hand-made corn tortillas?!?! Anyone who has listened to his podcast, knows that Robb Wolf would have been chowing down with you. Awesome cheat choice.

    8. Jules says

      Wow. Now I REALLY want fish tacos. Yum.

      Your post – as usual – spot on. When we were in my hometown (Philly) over the holidays, my husband posted on FBook that he was having a cheesesteak. Someone was quick to quip “that’s not paleo!!!” (imagining the shock and horror on that person’s face). Very much the corn tortilla reaction you experienced, very much the same explanation provided.

      From the looks of things, you may have to make your next FBook status update of “we just had _____ (insert name of food and drink) – a Whole 9 eating dirty choice of ours!”

    9. Kim says

      I smiled when I saw on FB that you’d had tortillas. HOMEMADE tortillas, IN MEXICO. There couldn’t have been a better time (vacation!) or place (Where they are a native food) to have indulged. Come on, people, LOOK at these two! If anyone can “afford” a few handmade corn tortillas, it is Dallas and Melissa. I travel a lot, and I look at clean eating (Paleo) as a way of “training” for the times I am in Italy and can’t resist hand made pasta showered with truffles.

    10. Ruby says

      I had to chuckle when I read your comment on FB saying, it may be a sin to not eat homemade corn tortillas while in Mexico. I’m glad that you are human, because robots are untrustworthy. The fact that you do have your f-off scale gives you more credibility in my eyes. I don’t want to take advice from someone who says, “I’ve been strict Paleo since 2002,” or something crazy like that. You’re Human and are great “paleo” rolemodels for being just that. Keep it up :)

    11. says

      Fish tacos are on the Insanely Good Things Worth Living For list anyway; w/ homemade tortillas? And in Mexico? I’d have been disappointed if you didn’t eat them.

      I wasn’t surprised to see your choice, but I’ve also known you a while, eaten with you in person, and been to two of your workshops… and I suppose that affords me a slightly different perspective. I can see how some folks would get the idea that you’re 100% all the time, based on some of the articles here, but I’ve always seen you guys preach a lifestyle above all else, and a lifestyle has to be sustainable.

    12. says

      I was so happy to read this status update! I feel like people take Paleo as being a religion and we’ll all go to Paleo Hell if we don’t follow the rules everyday. Eating should not be a religion and we all deserve to indulge once in a while. It was refreshing to see you not living Whole-365!

    13. MWard says

      My reaction to your FB post was: “Wait, is corn okay now? Tacos are back on the menu, boys!!”

      I knew, though, that it was enjoying a vacation and a choice to partake. Perhaps some of the shock was that people hoped that corn was suddenly not harmful and then maybe felt a little chagrined, as I did, at realizing it was just “stocking up for good food.”

    14. says

      Haha. I’m drooling over those corn tortillas big time. Maybe everyone got pissy because we’re all doing Whole30’s for the new year and thus am about to eat the computer screen when we see fresh tortillas? Is that just me? Anyone? LOL.

    15. says

      I think Paleo eating will look a little different for everyone. Sure, there are the basic rules about what you should stay away from, but for example -those that have already reached their weight and fitness goals probably will indulge in this or that more often than someone starting out, trying to cut a significant amount of fat, build muscle, train for the CrossFit games, ect. Those individuals will probably be super-strict with eating. And we all have our guilty pleasures-that one thing that we will not give up! For me it is coffee w/ creamer. I drink 1 cup a day, still feel great (if I felt horrible then I probably would give it up) so that’s my “thing.” Everything else I consume is Paleo-approved. I am happy and I feel like this lifestyle is doable. I am seeing great results and have never felt more healthy! So I think, as long as you consume more Paleo-approved foods than not, you are doing MUCH better than the average American……in my opinion.

    16. says

      @Cameron, that is debatable, but at least the kitten would have had some decent protein.

      @CaveGirlEats, I do want to make one quick point. Whether we went off-plan with some corn tortillas or a Krispy Kreme donut doesn’t actually matter. It’s up to us (and all of you) to make the call on our own indulgences. Certainly a Krispy Kreme would have messed us up a whole lot more than the corn tortilla, but in the realm of what’s “worth it”, the healthier cheat vs. unhealthy cheat is just part of your own decision-making process.

      @Kim: We love your philosophy. We call it “putting money in the Good Food bank”, because when you go to Italy, you just know your account is going to be maxed out!

      Thanks to all for the comments – keep ‘em coming.


    17. says

      I had to laugh when I saw your post too. . . and the first thought that popped into my head was “Boy. . . I’m glad they didn’t see ME go off-plan when I was on vacation in Jamaica!”

      It’s funny, because as an Assistant CF Coach, and really the only “Paleo Pusher” at my CF, I know that people watch everything that I put in my mouth or my grocery cart. I live in a small TX town with 1 grocery store and a Walmart, and I swear I can’t go to either place EVER without running in to at least 1 member (and usually 2-3). On the very rare occasion (VERY RARE!!) that I have something in my cart that isn’t Paleo, I don’t really feel guilty when I run into a member and they see my “treat”.

      That’s because I make it clear to everyone that I eat Paleo 99.9% of the time, but I do occasionally indulge when I deem something to be “worth it”. You have to live life to it’s fullest, and no one can be a “food robot” 100% of the time! I choose eat “Paleo” because it makes me feel good. I have more energy, a better attitude, clearer skin, more strength & endurance, and smaller thighs/hips (hehehe!!) when I eat this way. And that makes me happy. But indulging a little bit on vacation and/or very special occasions ALSO makes me happy. As long as I don’t indulge to the point of undoing all of the “happiness & health” caused by eating “Paleo” the other 99.9% of the time, than it’s a win-win in my book!

    18. Lynn says

      Excellent post! Especially for those of us who struggle with eating disorders and RULES. I always say that the instant a new diet comes out stating that eating only Mexican or only Italian food for every meal is the way to go….that’ll be the day I won’t be able to eat either. ;) Struggling on the whole 30 (over-obsessing), so I am back to baby steps. But they are GREAT and I feel so much better. Smaller victories are easier for me than the giant steps.

      Thanks for keeping it real.

    19. says

      I thought your FB post was summarized by one word….VACATION!!

      Why do we as a community feel the need to expect so much more in others than we expect of ourselves. Are Mel and Dallas awesome….YES….are they superheros….NO….despite their charming good looks and witty Whole9isms they are just like any of us and that’s what makes them so great.

      Of course we ALL know that choosing to eat this way has improved our quality of life, but at the end of the day we still have 20, 30, 40 + years of environmental programming to work through and that just doesn’t go away overnight. Remember, it is a choice between what makes you more healthy versus less (aka the F-Off Scale). Is a cheat a cheat…NO…it is simply a less healthy choice. In fact, it should not even be called cheating because that just reinforces negative feedback in our relation to food. I mean does anyone honestly believe that tequila is “healthy” for you?! BUT that doesn’t stop us from sucking down NorCal Margaritas…HA!

      Besides I am pretty sure GROK put some pretty crappy things in his mouth back in the day from time to time…he just probably realized that eating rocks didn’t get him very far :)

      Okay…Rob rant over….

      Ps..You guys are the best and I hope you had an AMAZING time despite the corn tortilla poopy parade!

    20. Sandi says

      Great post. I read on your blog a long time ago about banking your good food habits so that you can withdraw from it on occasion to indulge and simply enjoy some delicious food. Life is both about finding balance and doing things that push you out of your comfort zone. That’s why doing the whole30 a few times a year is great because it does push challenge you out of your comfort zone. The rest of the time should be about balance and doing the best you can to maintain your optimum health which will always translate into the optimum version of yourself:)

    21. Tom R says

      A couple of points:

      1. Funny how the “F-off Scale” post only received 4 comments. One would think the reference to lots of maple syrup would indicate you guys ventured off the straight and narrow every now and then.

      2. Damn, that’s a lot of guac. Those should be called guac tacos with a little mahi mahi. They look like four little slices of heaven.

    22. Matt S says

      I truly admire those who are able to keep the bad stuff to a minimum without a lot of struggle.

      I’ve just started my first whole 30 (Day 4, but sadly the furthest I’ve ever gone). I honestly believe that some foods (especially refined sugar) are similar to alcohol in terms of their addictive qualities. Why else would people gorge themselves on them until they are sick and diseased?

      Aside from weight loss, my biggest hope for the Whole 30 is to reduce/eliminate cravings for crappy “Food”. I’m still stuck in the worry that if/once I resume eating such foods I’ll resume the downward spiral that has been so frustrating over the past several years. For now, I’m deferring my worry to the end of the program.

      I’ve read blogs from people who permanently quit sugar. My favorite saying was that one woman quit because, “There’s no such thing as one oreo.”

    23. Steve says

      I think it depends on the person. The only time I should cheat is in a social situation where being super strict on my diet would just cause problems. Even in a social situation I need to keep it as clean as possible. If I do a planned cheat, I can go down hill real fast and need to fight to get clean again. I cannot have just one piece of candy, I need the whole bar and more and more and more. So for me, I need to be as clean as possible, but others may be able to handle a planned cheat.

      So maybe cheating is like a drunk falling off the wagon for some people?

    24. Trevor says

      I think a little cheat once and while is healthy. Mine seems to be ice cream. It appears most grains give me an autoimmune reaction. I’m not sure about corn. So I’ll pass on homemade cookies, and my future wedding cake but ice cream I don’t mine once and a while. I find a little rare cheat helps with staying on a healthy diet. You just feel like your not in shackle and chains. Although, getting rid of grains I feel much more alive any way.

    25. Trail Grrl says

      Fish tacos are the best! No good ones in OH though. We do have some great tacquerias that do the soft corn tortillas in lard on the griddle. Carne asado tacos loaded with onion and cilantro, and I always get avocado slices with mine. Chow down! Your body will let you know when to say when. Why go to Mexico if you aren’t going to eat and drink?

    26. Kelly says

      I hope you washed those tacos down with a vat of tequila!

      Seriously, I appreciate the sane approach you guys take to food, health, physical activity. Keep up the good work.

    27. Lauren G. - Whole9 EE says

      I feel like I’ve seen this before…like when you mentioned eating buttered popcorn! I really don’t get how people got the mistaken impression that you guys were on a Whole365. If they’d read the links you just re-posted (which you happen to refer to quite a bit!) I don’t think they would have been so misinformed.
      I do tend to feel some added pressure as a coach when people watch me eat something ‘bad’ or ‘non Whole30’. It’s like they’re seeing the Wizard of Paleo behind the curtain and I’ve just shattered all their dreams. Well, we’re human. And I like to think of my diet in terms of ‘quality of life’. I want to perform well athletically. This means I tend to eat pretty strict most of the year especially when I’m in Games spin-up mode. However, I live in Germany and have traveled to all sorts of different places in Europe the last 2 years and I don’t feel a single dose of guilt for indulging in freshly made gelato in Italy, Guinness straight from the tap at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, or a liter of Hefeweizen at Oktoberfest. These are rare opportunities that may not come up again. But once I’m back home, it’s back to business as usual, and I’m typically quite happy about it. I have a pretty small buffer for deviating off ‘non Whole30’ and the minute I cross that line I get sick real fast! My point being, we should eat in a way that’s best for US as individuals! Rock on Dallas and Melissa, you’re still my Whole9 superheroes!

    28. Mike says

      You were on vacation in Mexico….I don’t think that a cheat will kill you. It presents a realistic look at eating this way on a day to day basis for the rest of your life. You’re going to have moments when you eat something bad.

    29. Sarena says

      OK so glad you guys are having a great vacation and taking advantage of all the area has to offer.
      On the topic of the tortillas, I personally think what you do is great and hell, life offers us choices. As you guys so clearly say, we dont slip-up we chose what we want to eat.

      However, I chose not to eat many things and to eat a more purist way. However, for me it is a choice based in cold hard science. If I chose something that is “off-plan” it generally causes my blood sugar to elevate. This in turn leads me down the road to Type II for which I have the tendency. But this is my choice and not one I find restrictive either. Rather I do enjoy it…my veggies, protein and avocados, coconut products etc are awesome! I seriously love them as I love cooking and generally having FUN in the kitchen (evidenced by the hits I get on FB!).

      Thanks for being there are teaching us that life MUST be FUN and then proving it to yourselves and the community at large!

    30. Patty - Whole9 EE says

      I saw that post and thought ruh rowh… here comes the sh*t storm!!! Not to have tortillas in Mexico is a crime! I’m so thankful for that whole colloquy – well put! I’ve come to a point where I expect some policing by others if they know I have indulged, yet the same policing by me as to what they are eating is not at all expected – or welcome. I’m dealing right now with a thousand and and one people asking me if my wedding food will be all Paleo – UM, IT’S MY WEDDING!!! Good on ya for bringing it to light, especially now where peeps are reigning in their nutrition.

    31. says

      Well, if you fried the kitten in tallow from a grass-fed cow, or coconut oil, and made sure it didn’t have any grain-ful coating on it, that wouldn’t be so bad, right?

    32. Amy says

      Love this site and Dallas and Melissa. Whole9 is such a great resource. I had to laugh when I read the FB comments. Some paleo adherents are starting to sound like vegans!

    33. Michelle Gordon says

      I appreciate your honesty! Thanks for just being ‘real’!!! You both are an incredible inspiration because of it! On day 5 of the whole30!! Feeling great, but I could not do it for 365 days! Thats for sure!! Thanks again!

    34. Lydia says

      This is the sort of thing that keeps my presence on the internet and involvement in online communities at a bare minimum. The fact that this is even worth discussing makes me irritated and invites despair for the emotional progress of humanity. Jee-zus, people. Get a life.

    35. Julie says

      Hey now. If you can’t enjoy hand made corn tortillas in Mexico (guilt-free), then I think you are missing the point. I am sure you guys enjoyed every bite. Mmmmmmmm.

    36. Jesse says

      Human! 100% fun, awesome human. I’d eat that meal in a heartbeat, and I don’t get what people get so worked up about. Unless they’re secretly guilting themselves by comparing their food behaviors to yours… and if so that’s something they need to work out in their relationship with food, and has nothing to do with you guys.

      Keep preaching the good food word! Haven’t been posting much but the last series of articles has been awesome. Hope everything’s going well for both of you!


    37. Lezlie says

      I have been following your blog for about 6 months and today I got the privilege to attend your workshop in Houston. I found it to be informative and I especially like the best, better, and good lists we were able to take with us to help us make our own informed decisions. Kudos for being authentic enough not to filter out your corn tortillas…I think it actually makes it easier to follow your advice. Thanks for all the good stuff…can’t wait for the parenting posts.

    38. ~cj says

      I think it’s great that you enjoyed your vacation! Of course you are human! No one can be perfectly compliant 100% of the time or well, it won’t end pretty ;) I hope that I can figure out how to indulge once in awhile without it becoming a week or a month……I’d say you all are perfect examples of how to LIVE! Thanks for all that you do.

    39. Kimberly says

      those tacos looks SO DELICIOUS…

      thanks for coming to houston! definitely enjoyed it :) and congrats on your news!

    40. Jill says

      The thing that shocks me the most is that you guys had fish tacos with lettuce, not shredded cabbage!!! You don’ know what you’re missin’! :-)

    41. says

      Wow – that’s crazy! I think it’d be one thing if you were chowing down on doritos & diet coke, but where’s the harm in real food, even if it’s not optimal, once in awhile? Ironically, I too enjoyed fresh homemade corn tortillas over the holidays. They were awesome, but definitely just once in awhile.

      Some of us paleo people are a little scary. Maybe they wouldn’t be so cranky if they would just let go once in awhile & enjoyed something that wasn’t “kosher.”

    42. hillary says

      First the fish tacos look delicious. Second, nothing wrong with an occasional splurge. Enjoy. Nobody wants to be around a robot.

    43. says

      This is great. So many people truly think it is a Whole 365. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this! I plan on linking this to my next blog post.

      Whole9 EE

    44. kelli says

      good for you! hope you enjoyed. it’s ok to ‘splurge’ once in a while and if that’s all you ‘splurge’ on, then you’re doing fine!