One Diet Does Not Fit All

  (illustration by Nathaniel Hertzler) Many new diets have been gaining popularity as people of all ages are attempting to become more conscientious of their food intake. Modern day doctors, food scientists, and nutritionists believe that exhaustion, pain, energy, and appearance are often linked to diet. This idea has sparked the start of an era […]

(illustration by Nathaniel Hertzler)

Many new diets have been gaining popularity as people of all ages are attempting to become more conscientious of their food intake. Modern day doctors, food scientists, and nutritionists believe that exhaustion, pain, energy, and appearance are often linked to diet. This idea has sparked the start of an era full of all-natural grocery stores lining our streets, apps for tracking daily food consumption, and the evolution of restricted diets.

Ten years ago you would have rarely heard of going paleo, the juice cleanse, the Keto Diet, or the Whole30. Today you see these names for restrictive eating advertised all over the media, in stores, and talked about in daily life. A proper analogy to describe these trends would be to the lemmings. Lemmings are animals who copy the actions of one another and act as a pack. We see one person try a new way of eating and the rest of their friends join right in. But are these diets actually healthy or are they just hype that causes the start of the next eating epidemic?

I talked to some Christian Brothers students who have tested out some of these new ways of eating, specifically the Whole30 which is a current trend on campus. The Whole30 is a 30 day eating challenge restricting all dairy, grain, processed sugar, and legumes. In a nutshell, you can eat fruit, veggies, non-GMO meat, some nuts, and potatoes. Trust me — it is not easy.

Haley Strack (‘19), better known as the queen of the Whole30, has been dedicating most of the past two years to restrictive, mindful eating and has consistently lasted all thirty days of the diet without any “cheats.”

“I started doing the Whole30 my sophomore year after I just had a surgery and was trying to get healthy as I was not working out,” Haley explains. “But I did not realize how much I would change because of this.”

Haley now is dairy and grain free as eating these foods make her feel awful after doing the Whole30.

“I would encourage everyone to try clean eating even for just a week and see how much your body changes,” Haley shares. “You will feel better when you workout, you will sleep better, you will have more energy during the day.”

But there are many negative opinions regarding the perception of the Whole30, as some view it as an unhealthy diet in disguise that leads to eating disorders and body image issues.

“If you are doing the Whole30 to diet you are doing it wrong — it is not a weight loss method. Our society is so caught up in a culture that encourages us to eat processed food,” Haley shares. “The Whole30 is a great option for anyone who sometimes has an upset stomach or is always tired to see if food can help them like it has for me.”

When I did the Whole30, I noticed significant improvement in my energy levels, especially during intense exercise and when I focused in school. Although Haley is the original Whole30 supporter among CB students, her actions have not gone without notice in the CB community. Katie Gergen (‘20) followed her close friend Haley Strack’s footsteps in hopping on this trend. She is currently on her second time going through the Whole30 as she loved the way she felt for after finishing the first time. Katie is currently on day 53 and is going for the Whole60.

“Everybody starts a diet to lose weight, but for a while I have been wanting to start cleansing my body,”  Katie shares. “When I did the Whole30, my skin got super clear, my body felt more energized, and I started to thin out. I noticed that throughout the day I had a lot more energy.”

One of the complaints of those opposed to the Whole30 is constantly feeling hungry. When I tried the Whole30, I felt like I was never full no matter how much I ate. I asked Katie how she can eat a restricted diet and still feel satisfied throughout the day.

“I play lacrosse and am burning a lot of calories, so I eat a lot of fruit and meat throughout the day and still get full,” she explained.

Although Katie has loved the way the Whole30 has made her feel, she says that she would only recommend the diet to someone if they are dedicated and really want to make a change because it is extremely challenging and restrictive. Although it has been almost 60 days, Katie does not plan on abandoning the Whole30 quite yet.

“I am going to keep doing the Whole30 until I am happy with where my body is” she shares. “Then I am going to do a modified diet where I stay aware of what I eat and read labels on everything.”

As a varsity athlete who seeks to stay in peak physical shape, Ari Castillo (‘19) also attempted the Whole30. But after three days, she put her foot down — the Whole30 is not for her.

“I decided to try Whole30 because I wasn’t feeling amazing about all the junk food I eat. I wanted to try and see if eating better would make me feel better emotionally and physically” Ari shares. “I didn’t like it at all because I never felt full. I was eating a lot and all the things I was able to eat, but I wasn’t feeling any better than I did before. I also noticed I was grumpy because I was always hungry.”

I asked Ari if she prefers a lifestyle of mostly healthy eating opposed to a month of extremely restrictive eating.

“I think a healthy lifestyle is better because you aren’t restricting yourself from your cravings, but you are still doing something that is good for your body,” Ari believes. “By eating healthy and not telling yourself no all the time, you are happy with what you are doing for yourself. It feels like more of an accomplishment to eat healthy rather than a punishment.”

Ari is standing proof that not everyone has the life-changing experience that the Whole30 claims to provide. Like Ari, Annemarie Barbour (‘19) is not fond of the new obsession with Whole30 around the Christian Brothers campus and in our modern society. After trying the Whole30 a few years ago before it gained so much attention, Annemarie already had some issues with the diet.

“I didn’t like that there were plenty of healthy foods that I wasn’t allowed to eat just because I had to follow this strict regimen,” Annemarie says. “It made me feel bad for eating junk foods, even if it was just once in a while. It definitely put negative thoughts about my body image in my head, and I was much happier when I was eating the things I wanted.”

Annemarie sheds light on a critical aspect of dieting that many disregard: the mental and emotional impacts on those who participate in them.

“I think the Whole30 has the possibility to affect those who are on it in negative ways. When taken out of control, diets like this can lead to food disorders and excessive loss of weight,” she shares. “It can take as little as those 30 days to go from a healthy weight zone to an unhealthy one. It is sad, but also a mindset that people have trouble getting out of. I think completely staying away from the Whole30 is a much better option than getting brainwashed and sucked into the image it creates.”

Annemarie has seen first hand the detrimental affects eating programs like the whole30 can have on people. It is so easy to get caught up in looking good and throw your mental health down the drain. However Annemarie does admit that she believes the Whole30 can be beneficial if a person is interested in “cleansing” themselves or loosely cutting out specific foods for a short period of time.

“The whole 30 should not be used as a weight loss method or something that results in any discomfort on a daily basis,” she explains. “Do it for you because you feel good, not in an attempt to conform to society or change your body in a negative way.”

These diets are all about having the right intentions and not losing sight of yourself throughout the process.The Whole30 has become one of the favorites among young people of the surge of whole foods diets in this day an age. Such extreme eating regimens like these are changing people’s lives for the better. However, they certainly are not the answer for everyone seeking a healthier lifestyle. Everyone has unique physical and emotional characteristics that must be considered before diving into something as intense as the Whole30.

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