Our Whole30® forum moderators are truly amazing folks. They volunteer their time and employ their deep Whole30 knowledge and experience to answer questions, lend support, and generally make the Forum a great place to come and chat with like-minded people who want to improve their health and well-being.
Dependence on the Food-Log
Hanging out on the forum day-in and day-out allows our moderators to recognize trends and patterns in participants’ behavior, and recently, one particular trend caught our attention – participants stuck (dependent, almost) on tracking and logging their food intake, and reliant on the computerized “analysis” to tell them how successful their efforts have been. Here are a few examples of posts from our forum:
“I’m new to the Whole30. I love the food and I feel great, but I’m really afraid that I’m consuming too many calories and too much fat. I know Dallas and Melissa say not to worry about these things, but I’ve been tracking my food for the past 4 years so I logged everything I ate today in Myfitnesspal. This is way more calories and fat than I’m used to. I’m freaking out! Help!”
“I know I don’t need to count calories, but should I track what I’m eating so I can get a better handle on what works well for my body? Or just follow the plan and leave that part out to keep it simple?”
“How can I be sure I will lose weight during this process? Should I limit my fruit and nut intake to one serving a day? Should I track my foods? My CrossFit box had me tracking on a 30 day Paleo challenge I did last year.”
“I’m wondering if anyone else monitors their caloric intake while they are doing the Whole30? I’m trying to figure out what is happening here… I have been tracking what I eat on My Fitness Pal… I have not eaten much more than half of my (allotted) 1,400 calories.”
And for your reading enjoyment, here are our initial thoughts on this trend, as best expressed by our resident tough-love master, forum moderator, and Whole9 Envoy Tom Denham:
“[Begin rant] I wish that those calorie tracking websites and apps would blow up. What nasty, insidious brainwashing tools! I am going to recommend that the next version of the Whole30 explicitly says, ‘Do not track your food with Myftinesspal, Fitday, MyPlate etc.’. The information you get from such counting programs encourages you to ignore your body and conform to false standards. Now stop using Myfitnesspal and stop counting calories. It makes you nuts, stresses you out, and does nothing to improve your health. [End rant]”
Did we mention we love Tom?
Of course, there’s more to this story than Tom’s rant. We understand why so many coming from Weight Watchers or some other form of “traditional” dieting would think tracking, weighing, measuring, and analyzing is a necessary part of losing weight and getting healthy.
But we’re here to say hell no, it ain’t.
Journaling vs. Getting Stuck in the Numbers
In the past, you’ve probably heard us say that it’s a good idea to keep a journal during your Whole30. But just to make things crystal clear…your Whole30 journal should be for pretty much anything but calorie and macronutrient measuring and tracking. Log your favorite recipes, evaluate your place in the Whole30 Timeline, solidify your goals and achievements, analyze what’s going well, what could be better, and what you’re going to do tomorrow. But skip the weighing, measuring, and your focus on the “should.” Why, you ask?
Because the Whole30 is about you creating a new relationship with food.
Because counting calories tells you absolutely nothing about how your body feels when you fill it with vibrant, nutrient-dense, satiating meat, vegetables, fruits, and good fats.
Because, like stepping on the scale, tracking calories and fat is ultimately keeping you from listening to your own internal cues that help you intuitively know which foods are making you more healthy, and which are making you less healthy.
Because you’ve been dieting your whole life, under-eating on purpose, and have a completely skewed view of exactly what you need to thrive.
Because mainstream media and society have been filling your head with lies for your entire life, telling you “success” comes from obsessive attention to calories, and restricting just a little bit more every year, every day, every meal.
Because tracking every single bite of food you eat is profoundly destructive to your self-image, your relationship with food, and your mental health.
Getting the picture?
Is This Making Me Healthier?
If you need a little more convincing, don’t just take our word for it. Blogger Monica from Monica’s Nest put it perfectly when she said:
I always focused on calorie counting for my weight loss/health goals, using things like Myfitnesspal to count calories/points. Did I have success? Marginally. I would lose some weight, but I didn’t keep it off. I was focusing less on eating whole foods and more on fitting into my calorie or points goal for the day. I found that calorie counting isn’t sustainable for me. I would always be hungry and would end up asking the question ‘Can I fit this into my calorie/point allowance’ instead of ‘Is this going to make me healthier?’ or ‘How will this make me feel?’
Enter the Whole30. I’ve learned how to regulate what I’m eating WITHOUT calorie counting – and it’s taken so much stress out of my day. It’s incredibly liberating to go from feeling hopeless to realizing that you found a way of eating that keeps you full and comfortable without calorie counting that makes the weight fall off like it was never there.
So can we all just agree to step away from the food-logging apps, please?
Of course, you may be feeling a little lost without your daily calories, points, or macros. So here are our best expert recommendations for stepping away from the food log, and investing yourself in the Whole30 process.
From Melissa: “Journaling your food, cravings, moods, and noticeable changes is a wonderful process, from an accountability, motivational, and awareness perspective. But I really, really, strongly dislike services like MyFitnessPal.com or PaleoTrack.com that count, measure, and spit out ‘analysis’ about your overall diet and success.
The point of the Whole30 is to change your relationship with food, heal the gut, reduce systemic inflammation, restore a healthy metabolism. Sites like these keep you focused on numbers that, truthfully, don’t mean a darn thing in terms of any of those health metrics. You don’t need to worry about calories, 6:3 ratio, fiber grams, or any such nonsense during your program, and you certainly don’t need a computerized system passing judgment about whether you’re ‘strict paleo’ or not!
During your Whole30, focus on Good Food, the mealtime experience, your body’s signals, your emotional relationship with food, and the changes you are seeing on a day-to-day basis. If you choose to track your food after your Whole30, that’s entirely up to you… but there’s a reason that tracking/logging/weighing/measuring made our top five list of most common errors for first-time Whole30′ers.”
From Renee Lee: “While I appreciate needing to make sure that you aren’t under-eating, continuing to track intake is going to be a roadblock into your healthy food relationship quest. I’m not saying you can’t get there while tracking, it’s just going to be harder. It Starts With Food includes a meal planning template/guidelines for a reason; to free yourself from logging and tracking while ensuring that you’re eating enough. I encourage you to follow that instead.”
From Johnny Malangone: “I call weighing and measuring and tracking the ‘dark place’ of health and nutrition. I’ve gone through periods of what basically amount to eating disorders, where I was hyper-focused on tracking to a point of it totally disrupting my life and enjoyment of food… which is stress I don’t need!”
So follow our meal planning template. Choose Good Foods from our Whole30 shopping list. And then… relax, and pay attention to the signals your body is sending you. After a few weeks of eating Good Food, you’ll be able to use energy levels, hunger, cravings, mood, and athletic performance to help you figure out whether you’re eating enough, or need to eat more. Remember, your body knows far more about how much you need to eat than any calculator you find on the internet.
Embrace the full Whole30 experience. Know that you have taken the first step towards changing the way you eat for the rest of your life. And, hopefully, eventually, you will come to believe (as we do) that counting, tracking, weighing, or measuring has no place in a healthy, nourishing, sustainable relationship with food.