The Whole9 FAQ

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Commonly Asked Questions about Whole9, The Whole30™ and a Paleo diet

What is the 9 in Whole9?


We talk a lot about nutrition on our site and in our seminars, but that’s just one aspect of our program. The ‘9’ in Whole9 comes from these 9 factors, which we believe are all important for optimal health. Our 9 Blog features all of our original articles, addressing various aspects of each of these factors (and a whole lot more.

Whole9 and Whole30 - what's the difference?

Whole9 is the name of our business, and our community. The Whole30 is our 30 day nutrition program, which has been changing the lives of tens of thousands of people since 2009. You can review the entire Whole30 program for free.

How is the Whole30 different from Paleo?

The Whole30 is based on a Paleo framework, but restricts some foods that might be considered “Paleo” in nature. (Of course, the exact definition of Paleo varies, based on who you ask.) The goal of the Whole30 is to eliminate all foods that may be having a negative psychological or physiological effect on how you look, feel and live. As such, some technically “Paleo” foods (like honey, or desserts made with almond flour) are ruled out for the duration of your program.

Why should I do the Whole30?

Because, as the program says, it will change your life. It will change the way you think about food, it will change your tastes, it will change your habits and your cravings. It could, quite possibly, change the emotional relationship you have with food, and with your body. It has the potential to change the way you eat for the rest of your life. We know this because we did it, and thousands of people have since done it, and it changed our lives (and their lives) in a very permanent fashion.

The Whole30 program has quietly led tens of thousands of people to improved quality of life and a healthier relationship with food – accompanied by stunning improvements in sleep, energy levels, attention span, mood and self-esteem. More significantly, many people have reported the “magical” elimination of a variety of symptoms, diseases and conditions – in just 30 days.

When should I start the Whole30?

We run “official” Whole30 programs three times a year – January 1st, July 1st, and mid-October (ending just before U.S. Thanksgiving). However, there are people starting the Whole30 every single day of the year, so there’s no need to wait! Visit http://whole30.com and select one of our “get started” tracks to learn more.

What kinds of symptoms and conditions improve with the Whole30?

The list is exhaustive, and seemingly endless. We’ve got success stories related to diabetes, asthma, allergies, migraines, high cholesterol, arthritis, fibromyalgia, Lyme disease and more. Visit our Whole30 A-Z page for testimonials classified by symptom, condition or disease.

Will I lose weight on my Whole30?

Before we answer this question, we need you to understand that the Whole30 isn’t a weight loss diet. This is a 30 day program designed to jump start optimal health for the rest of your life. Use the program to break old patterns, build new, healthy habits and push the reset button on your metabolism and inflammatory status. And take these 30 days to give yourself a much needed, long overdue, well-deserved break from your preoccupation with body weight and focus on health instead.

Here’s the good news: The Whole30 will improve your overall health, and that is almost always reflected in improving body composition. But it doesn’t work the other way around. You can achieve short-term weight loss by taking some drastic steps (like a super-low calorie diet plus two hours of cardio a day)… but that weight loss neither makes you healthier, nor is it sustainable long term. So trust us, and be patient. We’ll get you there the healthy way – the right way – in a manner that you’ll be able to maintain for the rest of your life.

Finally, some reassurance: In an ongoing poll of over 1,400 Whole30 participants, more than 96% of them lost weight during their first Whole30 without even thinking about weight loss. Be patient. Your (weight loss) time will come.

Do I need to exercise during my Whole30?

While we always encourage adding exercise or movement to your healthy eating routine, it’s not necessary to experience the health benefits of the Whole30. Food is the foundation of good health, so focus on changing your diet first and foremost. Of course, diet and exercising work synergistically – which will help you get to that health or weight loss goal that much faster.

However, that exercise doesn’t have to be “hard core” or “high intensity!” If you’re just getting started, going for long walks, bike rides or joining a low-intensity group exercise class are great places to start. If you can find a good strength coach in your area, picking up heavy stuff will help you build muscle and strengthen your bones. We also love kettlebell training for all abilities, as kettlebell training is both effective and easy to scale. Seek out a trained RKC certified instructor in your area to teach you the moves and help you develop a program that is right for you.

What happens when my Whole30 is over?

It’s not the Whole365, and at some point (whether that’s 30 days, 45, 60 or however long you choose), your Whole30 will come to an end. We’ve got details on what to expect during life after your Whole30, with lots of helpful resources to keep you on track in a sustainable fashion.

Usually, folks feel so good after their Whole30 they can’t imagine going back to their old habits! But eventually, less healthy foods creep back in, and you’ll probably realize that you’re not feeling as good as you could be. Not to worry – the Whole30 will always be there to help! If you find your old habits are creeping back in too much for your liking, jump back on the Whole30 for a week, a month or longer, until your cravings, tastes, energy levels and symptoms are back on track. Then, use what you’ve learned during that experience to continue your new habits in a healthy, sustainable way. The best part? Your new habits are easier to retain with practice.

Can I do a Whole30 while pregnant or breastfeeding?

We are not medical doctors, and we will always defer to your doctor’s advice if he/she says part of our program is not safe for you. But, that being said, we think that eating meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit and natural fats in a quantity that meets your nutritional needs sounds pretty safe, sane and healthy. And what’s healthy for you is healthy for your growing baby.

Michele Blackwell, an M.D. and Board Certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology, has this to say: “I have personally experienced the benefits of the Whole30 program, and I wholeheartedly recommend the Whole30 plan to my patients to optimize a woman’s health during pregnancy and lactation. The nutrient-dense foods recommended provide ample vitamins and minerals without the need for the standard prenatal supplement. Eating real food Whole9-style will also help regulate blood sugars, alleviating hypoglycemic spells common in pregnancy. In addition, the Whole30 will reduce the likelihood of gestational diabetes, excess pregnancy weight gain, and possibly macrosomia (large babies) and polyhydramnios (excess amniotic fluid).”

Is the Whole30 safe for kids?

Once again, we’re not pediatricians, but we believe the diet that is healthiest for us grown-ups is also healthiest for growing children. There isn’t a single nutrient in cereals, biscuits or formulas that can’t also be found in healthy meats, vegetables and fruits! Since your kids are working so hard to grow into adults, they need plenty of calories to support growth, activity, and normal physical and cognitive development.

But eating well isn’t just about getting adequate calories (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) – it’s the micronutrients that also contribute significantly to our health, and that of our children. One significant reason that fresh, unprocessed foods like meat, vegetables, fruit and good fats are so healthy for us is that these foods supply generous amounts of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients – the stuff that directly benefits your child’s health. Choosing foods that supply adequate calories and copious amounts of micronutrition is the “best-case scenario” for growing kids, from toddlers to teenagers.

Can I follow your recommendations as a vegetarian or vegan?

The eliminations of all animal products and inclusion of plant-based protein sources means you will likely not experience our program’s full benefits. That’s not to say, of course, that you couldn’t obtain some significant benefits from making some of the other changes we recommend, like subbing out grains and some legumes for fresh vegetables and fruits, and adding a lot of healthy fats to preserve muscle mass and sustain energy levels. Review our list of Vegetarian Paleo Resources for additional information.

Is it expensive to eat like this?

While eating nutrient-dense whole foods is more expensive than, say, fast food or microwave meals, we think there is no better financial cause on earth than your health, and the only body you’ll have in this lifetime. Furthermore, you don’t have to buy all your food at fancy health food stores, or purchase everything organic to eat healthfully. Read our Paleo Poor article to see our best tips for maximizing your grocery store budget, and make the commitment to prioritize your health over other non-essential expenditures.

Am I supposed to count calories? How will I know if I’m eating enough?

We don’t think weighing, measuring or tracking your intake facilitates a healthy, sustainable relationship with food. In addition, folks often override the signals their body is sending them (eat more!) because they get so stuck in the numbers (calories, blocks, grams or points). When you’re eating Good Food, you don’t have to track your intake. The nutrients in the foods we recommend, coupled with the healthy hormonal responses these foods promote, send accurate satiety signals to your brain to tell you when you’re hungry, and when you’ve eaten enough.

Your body knows how much you should be eating better than any calculator you pulled off the internet – and when you’ve been eating Good Food for a while, you can trust the signals your body is sending you. If you’re brand new to Paleo, use our meal planning template help you figure out portion sizes and meal frequency. After a few weeks, you can let your energy levels, hunger, mood and performance in the gym or in your sport help you decide whether you need to eat more.

How do you get enough calcium on a Paleo or Whole30 diet?

Review our What About Calcium article for a detailed explanation of building strong, healthy bones on a Paleo diet.

Should I be taking supplements on a Paleo or Whole30 diet?

We never require supplementation from our clients, and we never recommend pills, powders or shakes that make wild health claims, are so expensive they push real food off your plate, or contain ingredients that make you less healthy. However, there are some supplements naturally found in a healthy diet and lifestyle that many folks would benefit from adding to their routines, like fish oil, magnesium or vitamin D3. Review our Supplement Evaluation Checklist to see if your supplements meet our criteria, and work with a professional to ensure you’re taking the right stuff in the right amounts.