Melissa Hartwig is co-founder of the Whole30 program, and four-time New York Times bestselling author.

In today’s episode we dive into details about the Whole30, Melissa’s take on dieting, and she explains all about the lesson of the lamp.

Today’s guest is kind of a big deal.

Melissa Hartwig is a cofounder of the Whole30 program, a certified sports nutritionist specializing in helping people change their relationship with food, and a 4-time New York Times bestselling author.

In this interview, we will go into depth about the Whole30 program and Melissa’s two new books, a cookbook, “The Whole30 Fast & Easy Cookbook”, and a journal, “Whole30 Day by Day”.  

We will also dive into how she uses her personal social media to speak her truth and the lesson of the lamp.

On the Whole30:

The Whole30 is essentially pushing the reset button with your health, habits, and relationship with food.

It is not a diet, a weight loss plan, or quick fix.

It is about helping you figure out how the foods you eat affect your craving, metabolism, digestion, and immune system.

It’s a 30 day self experiment to figure out which foods work for you, so that you can create the perfect diet for you for the long term.

It’s an experiment in that it’s an individual journey.

The diet industry tends to have two modes of thought: either that food and diets are one-size-fits-all (eat this, don’t eat that and you should succeed) or that it’s not, that it is actually an individual need and experience.

But how do we know what we need as an individual?

And it’s really complicated.

So, Whole30 helps bridge that gap saying that it’s not one-size-fits-all, while giving the structure to help you figure out what works for your individual self in this 30 day experiment.

The Whole30 program gets some criticism that it’s a diet program, too.

People tend to think of “diet” as a caloric restriction program to focus on weight loss, relying heavily on will power, and then it just ends, leaving people primed for a rebound.

The Whole30 is different; it’s about changing our approach and connection to food.

On making the switch to the Whole 30:

Depending on health history, diet, activity, and stress levels, the experience of switching to the Whole30 will differ.

However, it is often a relatively big change, especially for the first 10 days.

During this period, there are physiological changes taking place (consuming less sugar and processed carbs, but more nutrient dense foods) as well as psychological changes (relying less on comfort foods).

These changes are hard, but often by week 2 most of these negative effects are over, and energy, mood, and self confidence are back up.

On guilt and shame and the Whole30:

There is so much guilt and shame attached to our food choices.

“Food is not a moral issue. You are not a good or bad person based on the food that you put on your plate”

The Whole30 supportive resources and community help motivate people from a place of understanding.

Finishing the program may take more than one try!

This is something new and hard, but there is a huge emphasis on support from the community.

On “Food Freedom Forever”:

This book, “Food Freedom Forever: Letting Go of Bad Habits, Guilt, and Anxiety Around Food”, is about how to keep up healthy habits.

After hearing community feedback on struggling to keep it up after the 30 days end, Melissa wrote this book to help turn healthy habits learned from the Whole30 into a lifestyle that works for you.

The struggle is almost all psychological, emotional, and habitual.

From research in habits, willpower and change, Melissa provides practical application of these skills.

In the example of this common dieting dialogue, “you need to just decide if this indulgence is worth it”, Melissa offers in the moment strategies on how to figure out if it is worth it for you.

It’s about changing your emotional relationship with food in a healthy way that will become integrated into your mindset over time.

The Whole30 actually started as a program for young, crossfitters and expanded into a much larger, more diverse community that needed a softer approach to changing your relationship with food.

It has been refined since, and the Whole30 program tells you exactly what to eat, what not to eat, provides guidelines on how much to eat, for a 30 days period.

People like the effective structure in this changing process.

Each step takes away some of the structure to help ease people out of the program and into their lives.

At the end there is a Reintroduction Period when old food groups are reintroduced, but you’re in charge, maintaining some of the structure.

Even afterwards, during Food Freedom, although it is on your own at that point, Whole30 provides a plan to integrate healthy habits into your life.

On how to make things work depending on your individual needs + the 4 tendencies:

The 4 tendencies come from Gretchen Rubin; you can hear her talk about them in her interview with the Feel Good Effect Podcast.

You often have to say the same piece of information 3 or 4 different ways until it clicks with whoever

“It’s in your best interest to learn how flex your personality and communication style so that you can effectively communicate with a variety of people”

There is language in the Whole30 for all 4 of the tendencies to structurally support all 4 types relating to habit.

  • Upholders just need to be given instructions and the Whole30 gives an explicit plan for upholders to follow.

  • Obligers need accountability, so the Whole30 has a range of coaches, forums, and social media buddies to help maintain this support.

  • Rebels often feel pressured, so the Whole30 language includes intentional pieces to lessen pressures.

  • Questioners want to know “why”, so Melissa wrote an entire book, “It Starts With Food”, to provide the science behind why we do this.

On new things for the Whole30:

Melissa has two new books on their way out:

The Whole30 Fast & Easy Cookbook” is a cookbook with sheet pan, slow cooker, no cook, or simple cook recipes, great for gluten-free, dairy-free, reduced sugar, and soy-free diets, with whole food, healthy and satisfying meals.

After taking away so many foods for a program, sometimes it’s hard to imagine what’s left on the plate; this book helps open up your palette.

Whole30 Day by Day” is a day by day companion guide to your Whole30 experience.

After watching over 1 million people go through the Whole30 program, Melissa has good idea of what each day will look like.

This guide is part manual, part reflection, and every day has motivation, tips and tricks, resources, FAQ’s answered, and a guided reflection to help plan for the day.

“More closely connected you can stay to the growth mindset that comes with taking on a new habit, the more successful you’ll be long term”

Habit research is built into each of these daily steps to help make these habits stick.

Whole30 coaching is also a growing community.

When surveyed, Melissa found that 75% of the Whole30 community were doing it alone.

An online community doesn’t give in-person social support that studies show are so important in habit change.

Whole30 coaches are part of local communities, experts in Whole30 program, there to provide support and accountability to help finish the program.

On Melissa’s use of personal social media:

Even though she is the face of Whole30, their social media feed is exclusive to Whole30.

Melissa’s personal social media, which is self-run, is where she shares her other interests with people who want to connect with her.

On the lesson of the lamp:

The lesson of the lamp is meant to help people who are struggling with feeling like they are at the mercy of other people’s opinions.

For people who are really brought up by compliments but really dragged down by criticism.

If you look at a lamp, and you say “I don’t like that lamp”, it doesn’t say anything about the nature of the lamp.

It does, however, say something about how you are choosing to experience the lamp.

“When people offer personal opinions about you… it says nothing about you, it says everything about the way they are experiencing you”

When you know how you really are, it won’t weigh you down when you hear criticism.

Your own self acceptance is what is important.

Lesson of the lamp helps you remember: this isn’t about me it’s about them.

And it doesn’t matter what someone else thinks.

The second lesson of the lamp, is that you can’t build compliments into your self worth, either.

Criticisms aren’t about you, and compliments are the same way.

Self worth cannot be built on other people’s compliments, in the same way criticism can’t be either.

Think about it:

How are you going through your life?  

How are other people’s opinions affecting your overall opinion of yourself and your overall self worth?

On Melissa’s experience stepping into herself:

Melissa has been more open and candid on social media than in prior years.

Originally, she tried to present a perfect life on social media, although it didn’t match her reality.

After ending her marriage, she shed her online imposture and felt better about how she presented herself.

She wanted to take it to the next level, becoming slightly uncomfortable in her vulnerability.

Melissa uses instagram for “mini therapy sessions”, since she cant take it back after processing and posting online.

It’s good practice for sharing vulnerably.

“The more we can observe people that we admire being brave and stepping up and sharing really candidly, the more it empowers other people to find their voice and do the same thing”

Sometimes it’s hard to be real and vulnerable, but it’s also hard to pretend that something there isn’t.

On what’s next + how to connect with the Whole30

Melissa’s next adventure is a book tour.

She’s also continuing to grow and develop coaching communities, and (maybe!) in the early stages of developing a podcast with Gretchen Rubin.

“Whole30” is the name for everything social media (Visit the website for free resources!)

To connect with Melissa, she’s on Facebook but is most active on Instagram.

On what healthy really means:

“Being in a place where your inner integrity is in line with your outer actions.

So you feel like you are really… ‘belonging to yourself’.  

The things that are important to you are reflected in your actions, and the company you keep and the things you’re choosing to pursue, and that all of those things are coming back to you giving you even more health and vitality and joy”

Guest Information

Melissa Hartwig is a Certified Sports Nutritionist who specializes in helping people change their relationship with food and create life-long, healthy habits. 

She has been featured by Dr. Oz, Good Morning America, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Details, Shape, Outside, and SELF, and ranked #27 on Greatists Top 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness in 2017. 

Melissa has presented more than 150 health and nutrition seminars worldwide, and is a prominent keynote speaker on social media and branding, health trends, and entrepreneurship. 

Instagram: @melissahartwig @whole30recipes



It Starts With Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways

Food Freedom Forever: Letting Go of Bad Habits, Guilt, and Anxiety Around Food

Whole30 Day by Day

The Whole30 Fast & Easy Cookbook

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