Since the creation of our Whole30 program in April 2009, we’ve cautioned against the Paleo-ification of desserts and “junk food.” In fact, this concept has been one of the cornerstones of the program, specifically requiring the elimination of Paleo brownies, pizza and pancakes for the duration of your Whole30.
On occasion, our position that Paleo-ified junk food is still junk food has made us unpopular. However, we know from experience that one of the fastest ways to negate the potential benefits of your Whole30 experience is to try to shove your old, unhealthy diet into a shiny new Paleo mold. And when it comes to the psychological hold certain foods have over us, the whole (pancake) is far more than just the sum of the parts (ingredients).
Today, we’ll share our thoughts on why Paleo pancakes, pizza, cookies and ice cream are not everyday food, and why you shouldn’t try to recreate junk food with “approved” ingredients during your Whole30. (If you’ve attended one of our Foundations of Nutrition workshops in the last year and a half, you’ve already heard this particular pitch.) It really comes down to just one thing – sex.
Let’s take Paleo pizza as one example. Generally made with an almond flour crust and lacking any sort of cheese, this is one way bread and dairy-avoiding folk can enjoy the concept without the bellyache. But here’s the issue. Have you had Paleo pizza? Yeah, that’s what we thought. Some recipes are pretty good, but it doesn’t exactly taste like the pizza you knew and loved. Case in point…
We want you to think about the best pizza you’ve ever had in your whole life. Picture the crust, light and crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside. Imagine heaps of cheese, just waiting to be stretched and gathered in as you take your first bite. Imagine the smell of it, the feel of a warm slice in your hand, that first. Amazing. Bite.
Now, compare the two.
That Paleo pizza may be pretty good, but be honest – it in no way compares to the best pizza you’ve ever had. And herein lies the problem. To use an analogy we can all (probably) understand, the Paleo-ification of poor food choices is a little bit like having sex with your pants on.
See, given the constructs of your Whole30 program, you’re stuck with Paleo pizza. There’s no gluten-laden crust, there’s no sugary tomato sauce, and there’s certainly no fresh mozzarella. And during your Whole30, eating Paleo pizza is just like having sex with your pants on. It’s good… but it’s not that good. You can tell yourself it’s okay, it’s still pretty good, you’re totally satisfied… but that’s kind of a lie. Because you know exactly how good pants-less sex feels.
And if you continue your Whole30 program eating Paleo pizza, Paleo ice cream and Paleo pancakes, well… all it makes you think about is how less-than-stellar this version is, and how delicious the other version would be. Just like… well, you know.
The problem is, if you continue to have sex with your pants on, it’s inevitable that at some point you’re gonna want to take your pants off. And during your Whole30, that spells trouble.
Create A New You
Do you really want to spend the entirety of your Whole30 obsessed with all the stuff you can’t have, and eating the same foods you’ve been eating all along? We sure don’t! If you come out of your program with the same habits, patterns and food choices you had when you started, what are your chances for long-term, life-changing success? After all, those very same habits, patterns and food choices are what got you into trouble in the first place!
Now, does this mean you can’t substitute a poor food choice with a healthier option? Of course not. To help you critically evaluate whether you’re attempting to engage in SWYPO, ask yourself this question. 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?
In the case of Paleo desserts, it’s a straight swap – you’re desperately trying to duplicate the sweet treats you know and love in a way that’s still technically Paleo. But if you’re looking for a sandwich substitute, and you decide to use a lettuce leaf or a coconut Pure Wrap, well, that’s a different story. Spaghetti squash for pasta, a portobello mushroom cap for a burger bun or egg and spinach “muffins” for traditional muffins are all examples of perfectly healthy and appropriate substitutions during your Whole30. (Another tip: If you’re subbing something unhealthy with vegetables or high-quality meat, that’s almost certainly a thumbs-up.)
In addition, context matters. For example, the amazing fried chicken in Paleo Comfort Foods is a perfectly appropriate (and delicious) dinner choice while on your Whole30. However, if you’re coming off a wicked addiction to KFC, perhaps Jules & Charles’ creation isn’t the best choice for you during your program. Make sense? So think critically about whether the food choices you are making during your Whoel30 fit the spirit and intention of the program, not just the technicality of the rules.
Abstinence. It’s Only 30 Days.
So… no sex with your pants on during the Whole30. Learn what to serve the kids on Friday night instead of Paleo pizza. Boost your nutrition by eating a fresh veggie scramble with eggs for breakfast instead of Paleo pancakes. And during your Whole30, don’t fool yourself into thinking that those Paleo brownies are holistically healthier for you than the Duncan Hines brownies you used to eat.
Use the Whole30 to change your habits, change your patterns, break unhealthy cravings and create a new, healthy relationship with food. You won’t be sorry, as those new habits and patterns will stay with you for the rest of your life. And when your Whole30 is over and you feel like kicking your heels up, use our Guide to Nutritional Off-Roading to help you decide when to choose a Paleo-ified option, and when to eat the real deal. Because at that point in the game, pants are optional.