My Healthy 2020

For Me, Whole30 Isn’t a Fad Diet. I’ve Done It 4 Times (and Counting!)

updated Apr 14, 2020
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Credit: Design: The Kitchn; Photo: Tim Mullin

“I wanted to truly change the way I felt about food and really feel better about myself,” explained Ali Mullin, a learning development specialist based in Illinois who has followed the Whole30 diet for 30 days once a year for four years. “That didn’t mean losing a ton of weight. It meant finding balance and feeling good about what I put into my body, and also allowing myself some indulgences.” Ultimately, Ali wanted to be at ease with her way of eating.

We talked to Ali about what she loves about Whole30, why she doesn’t believe in fad diets, and her best tips for getting started (hint: find a buddy!).

20 people, 20 stories of what healthy means for them in 2020.

My Healthy: Whole30

What does “healthy” mean to you?
Eating clean, being happy with your choices, and not restricting yourself all the time.

The term “clean eating” is a little bit subjective. What does it mean to you?
Eating clean is about truly understanding what you’re putting in your body. I eat nutrient-dense foods, good sources of fats and proteins, and nothing that’s been processed. 

What eating style helps you feel your healthiest?
I incorporate a lot of the principles of Whole30 into my life but I don’t do it 365 days a year — just once each year. I make a conscious decision to eat real, whole foods. That means, I eat fruits, vegetables, animal protein, potatoes, and ingredients that are not processed in anyway. I believe that fad diets are not forever diets. Cooking from scratch with awareness of what you are eating matters most and Whole30 has taught me that. 

Credit: Ali Mullin
Tomato and squash ratatouille.

What were your goals when you made this change?
I wanted to feel better physically and emotionally. And I wanted to be at ease with my way of eating, which means finding balance and feeling good about what I put into my body, and also allowing myself some indulgences. 

How did you make this change? What motivation pushed you on?
As I got older, I realized that my body didn’t feel great a lot of the time, due to stomach and digestive issues. I did research and talked to a friend who did Whole30. I learned that the goal of the Whole30 diet was to understand my personal food sensitivities by eliminating all the possible triggers and introducing them back in slowly and structurally. I also read It Starts With Food (by Dallas Hartwig and Melissa Hartwig) and learned a lot about gut bacteria, inflammation, and leaky gut. 

Feeling good emotionally and physically pushed me on. But having the knowledge of how certain foods impact me also motivated me to keep feeling good. And now I have a whole other reason to be healthy: a 12-week old baby. 

What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of learning how different foods make my body feel and being able to read labels to understand what I’m eating. I always loved to cook but I now have a bigger appreciation for knowing how certain foods will make me feel and embracing what is referred to as food freedom in the Whole30 community. Food freedom is not restricting yourself everyday, all day. It’s about truly having the freedom to eat what I want (if I deem it’s worth it) and not regretting the decision later.

Credit: Ali Mullin
Braised short ribs.

So what does keep you going? Lifestyle and habit changes are famously hard to make and keep. Do you have a secret?
My motivation is to feel good about myself in my own skin. Since I recently had my first child, my motivation is to set a good example for her as a healthy and happy woman. 

A secret to my Whole30 success is finding a Whole30 buddy. It is easier when you can support each other throughout the thirty days, sharing recipes, challenges, and successes. Having that buddy helps me make it through the month. 

What’s the one food you love the most?

If you were to recommend Whole30 to someone else, what is the most important piece of advice you would give them?
My first bit of advice would be to find your why and focus on that. Also, don’t be hard on yourself if you slip up. Any change takes time and it’s easiest to take it day by day.

Lastly, how you view what you are doing is so vital to success. I don’t see what I do as a diet and I don’t talk about what I don’t eat. Rather, I prefer to focus on all the wonderful, yummy foods I can and do eat.

Thank you, Ali! You can follow her @Aliweiksauce.

What Is Whole30? Start Here.

My Healthy 2020: 20 People, 20 Healthy Choices

Every January people make changes to improve their health. But which ones actually make a difference? We’re sharing the stories of 20 people who changed their lives for the better and stuck — thanks to choices that are individual, diverse, and sometimes wildly different from each other. Read their stories here throughout January. We hope they inspire your own journey to finding your own, unique, individual healthiest 2020.