Whole 30: An Acupuncturist's Journey

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Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine are all about balance. So, it may seem a little odd that I have embarked on a Whole 30 Journey due to the fact that this program takes a pretty extreme stance on the do's and don'ts of eating. For those of you not familiar with Whole 30, it's a program based on the Paleo Diet. The following things are removed from the diet for 30 days: 

  • Grains: Yes, that means breads, muffins, pasta, pancakes, tortillas, and even rice
  • Legumes ( including soy)
  • Corn
  • Sugar (but of course you can have fruit)
  • Dairy
  • Alcohol
  • Additives such as MSG

So, what can you actually eat? You're allowed animal protein, vegetables, fruit, healthy fats (think avocados/coconut/clarified butter/olives/nuts). Basically, you are allowed 'whole' foods. The idea is that by committing to this way of eating for at least one month, you break unhealthy relationships with food. 'Sorry cheese, but we need to take a break. I need to start seeing other foods.'' :-)

By eliminating common food triggers, you help identify the food(s) that may be wreaking havoc on your health. People who have done the program rave about the improvements in sleep, digestion, and energy levels. Hormones become more balanced. Inflammation decreases. Autoimmune conditions improve. The list goes on and on....

I'm doing this for a few reasons:

  • If I'm going to recommend that some of my patients decrease/eliminate certain foods from their diet, and I'm going to tell them how 'do-able' it can be, then I better put up or shut up :-)  Am I going to recommend all my patients do Whole 30? Absolutely not. The entire basis of Chinese Medicine is to assess each patient individually and help find what will help them with their health goals.
  • I'll find new ways of grocery shopping/cooking/eating out so I am better able to guide my patients and my family. If my patients or family need (or want) to do something like this, I will be better equipped to give them guidance.
  • I'll personally experience the benefits of utilizing Chinese Medicine throughout the process. For example, based on my body type, and being that it's winter (a cold/damp season), you will not see me indulging in tons of cold/raw veggies. To learn more about what I mean by that you can see my previous post here. Of course, acupuncture helps the body in numerous ways. So, acu treatments are an added bonus. I know some acupuncturists will be surprised by the fact that I'm cutting all grains because we actually use some grains medicinally in Chinese herbalism and nutrition. This may not be everyone's cup of tea, and that's perfectly fine. 
  •  I want to experience the benefits to my own health and wellness. I know some items from the Whole 30 list aren't the best thing for me based on how I feel when I eat them. I've done versions of the Paleo and Primal Diets before, but I usually adhere to the 80/20 rule--be good 80% of the time so you can indulge 20% of the time. Let's be honest, there are times when my ratio is more 70/30 or 50/50 or the ratios are totally reversed.  It's time for me to see what happens when I'm 100% diligent about removing these foods from my diet for at least 1 month.

I was first introduced to the concept of The Paleo Diet back around 2006. My discovery of the Primal Diet was not far behind. At the time I was fortunate to work alongside a practitioner who recommended this way of eating to many of his patients, and I was able to witness the positive impact cutting processed foods (particularly grains) had on their health. I've witnessed the benefits of removing problem foods, and switching to a diet of clean foods, too many times to count. 

Am I saying everyone needs to cut out all grains? No. Am I saying beans and dairy are destroying everyone's body? No. What I'm saying is that for many people certain foods pose serious health problems. One of the main issue is that many people have no idea how much their food choices are impacting their health until they completely remove the item for a long enough period of time. 

Just To Be Clear

I definitely do NOT think this way of eating is necessarily right for everyone. I've seen far too many people get themselves into trouble by sticking to this way of eating...if done incorrectly.

What do I mean by that? Many people jump on the 'Paleo Bandwagon' to the extreme. They often drastically cut their carbohydrates (yes, even the healthy carbs) for prolonged periods of time. They do not get the amount of restorative sleep required to promote healthy hormone balance. They embark on rigorous exercise programs that may be simply way too extreme for their current state of health and/or they don't adjust food intake accordingly. They do not eat a well balanced version of the diet.  They ignore signs/symptoms if something is 'off'. And guess what happens? They crash, and sometimes they crash HARD. For women in particular, this can lead to hormonal havoc. 

What's So Great About Whole 30?

What I like is that the developers of the program (Dallas and Melissa Hartwig) are totally aware that this way of eating can be very extreme for some people. They advise people to get proper sleep, and they encourage people not to physically overdo it. This is why I very highly recommend reading their book 'It Starts With Food' (and no, I do not get anything by recommending it). This is not a weight loss diet. While most everyone probably does lose weight, the basis for their approach is about improving health, not your waistline. The book explains why certain foods are chosen for elimination. Essentially, they are removing foods that can lead to things such as inflammation, blood sugar issues, and intestinal issues.

Also, this is designed to be a temporary way of figuring out what your food triggers may be, and it allows for the re-introduction of foods after the 30 days are up. However, they do state that for some people the program may go longer before re-introduction occurs. 

I'm already several days into my experience on the program. While I won't be blogging daily here, I will try to give you updates at least halfway through my journey and at the end of the 30 days. I plan on including health tips and recipes. 

I will be sharing tidbits much more frequently on my Instagram account (@montoyamedicine) so be sure to follow me there. If you'd like a quick and easy list of the Whole 30 foods and the 'rules' you can check out their site Here.

Wishing you a Healthy and Happy New Year! 

The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional. The information and opinions presented are intended for educational purposes only and they are not intended to be medical advice. It is advised you contact your healthcare provider prior to starting any type of program or protocol, starting or stopping supplements/herbs/medications, making any major dietary changes, or beginning any new form of physical activity. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your health care provider before using products or protocols based on this content.

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Posted on January 7, 2016 and filed under nutrition.