A Interview with Dan Schawbel:
I spoke to Melissa Hartwig, author of bothThe Whole30 Fast & Easy Cookbook: 150 Simply Delicious Everyday Recipes for Your Whole30andThe Whole30 Day by Day: Your Daily Guide to Whole30 Success, about why the Whole30 movement has taken off, the daily food habits people should adopt to be healthier, how the food we eat impacts our productivity, what she’s learned from her journey and her best career advice.
Hartwig is the co-creator of the Whole30, a 30-day nutritional reset program that emphasizes whole foods. She is a Certified Sports Nutritionist who specializes in helping people change their relationship with food and create life-long, healthy habits. Hartwig has been featured on the Today Show, Dr. Oz, the Wall Street Journal, Outside, and SELF. She has presented more than 150 health and nutrition seminars worldwide and shares resources with, writes articles for, and provides support to more than 2 million people a month through theWhole30 websiteand social media feeds.
Dan Schawbel:There are a lot of health and nutrition blogs, books and companies out there but you have risen above them. Why do you think Whole30 caught on while others haven’t?
Melissa Hartwig:First, I think the Whole30 appeals to so many people because it’s not a weight loss program. People have been let down by the diet cycle so many times—the restriction and deprivation; the morality attached to foods the diet labels “bad;” and the guilt, shame, and stress when the weight they lost goes right back on. The Whole30 helps people change their health, habits, and relationship with food while offering a welcome reprieve from the scale.
In addition, joining the program connects you to the most engaged, supportive, welcoming community on the internet. Giving up foods to which you have a strong emotional or physiological attachment can be a scary prospect. The resources, support, and accountability people find on our website, forum, and social media helps them stay on track and retain their new, healthy habits long after their Whole30 is over.
Also, the entirety of the Whole30 has always been free. Like, free-free. You can find the program rules, tips for getting started, grocery shopping guide, our meal planning template, and a ton of other resources available on our website. So, there’s that.
Schawbel:What are some daily food habits that people should adopt to be healthier and to have more energy at work and at home?
Hartwig:The simple answer is, “Do the Whole30,” but if you’re not quite ready for that, start by eating a protein-centered Meal 1. Regular consumption of carb-heavy, sugar-laden breakfasts (even “healthy stuff” like fruit smoothies) quickly leads to energy crashes, fogginess, and “hanger.” Starting your day with a moderate serving of animal protein (ideally grass-fed, pastured, and organic), a healthy dose of natural fat, and some veggies and fruit is more satiating and helps keep blood sugar even, which improves concentration, energy, and generally makes you a more pleasant co-worker.
In general, avoid added sugar; this applies even to the “natural” stuff. Getting better at using fat (including body fat) as fuel happens when you stop relying on sugar for energy. This means you’ll have to start reading every label, because companies sneak sugar into foods you’d never expect. (You should really know what’s in the food you’re eating anyway.)
Finally, learn to cook. Like, real food—the stuff without labels. This is the first step in any healthy eating effort.
Schawbel:How does the food we eat impact our productivity and overall career/business success? What role do companies have in creating a healthier workforce?
Hartwig:Focus, attention span, memory, energy, and mood are all dramatically impacted by our diets. If the foods you’re eating are making you reliant on sugar for energy, sending you on a blood sugar roller coaster, disrupting your digestion, and firing up your immune system, there’s no area of “performance” (work or otherwise) that isn’t negatively affected. You’ll sleep worse, self-confidence drops, your pants are tighter, motivation declines, and maybe you experience skin issues, migraines, allergies, digestive distress, or chronic pain—all of which certainly affects your workday.
Aside from taking good care of your team (which should be reason enough alone), when a company not just offers but facilitates services and benefits designed to help their employees get healthier (above and beyond weight loss), it’s a win/win/win. Insurance costs and sick time goes down, employee morale and job satisfaction go up, productivity improves, and all of that makes the stockholders happy.
Schawbel:Since you started the Whole30 movement in 2009, what have been the biggest victories and disappointments? What are your plans for the future?
Hartwig:The biggest victories are the stories I read every single day from the people who have changed their lives with the program, but I’ve also seen some pretty surprising changes from the food industry in response to the Whole30 movement. Companies like Epic, Applegate, and Zupa Noma have changed their product ingredients specifically to comply with the Whole30 rules and serve our community—something that speaks to both the power of the brand and the general consumer’s demands for products with no added sugar and fewer additives.
I’ve yet to be disappointed by any aspect of the journey. Sure, there are times when I’m frustrated by a media outlet’s article slamming the “trendy Whole30 weight loss diet,” but I just keep my head down and look for ways to serve our community. I don’t have time to rebut every poorly researched piece I read about the program—I’m kinda busy helping millions of people literally change their lives.
In the coming year, the team will be developing and growing our group ofWhole30 Certified Coachesand creating a Whole30 app (it’s 2018, GET WITH IT WHOLE30). Personally, I’ll be developing one more Whole30 cookbook, starting my podcast, and traveling for book tour events, media, and speaking engagements.
Schawbel:What are your top three pieces of career advice?
- When it comes to advice like this, I’m all about offering specifics. First, create a morning routine, and make it your anchor. This practice helps you set the tone of your day, boosts your mood, and increases confidence, all of which will carry over into your workday. It doesn’t matter what you do as much as doing something consistently, but I’d highly recommend email and social media aren’t a part of the equation.
- Figure out when you’re the most productive, and do as much as you can to schedule your day accordingly. I work best from 10 AM (post-morning routine) until about 2 PM, so that’s when I write. After that, creativity and focus aren’t as strong, so I do other more rote tasks. You may not be able to arrange your whole day exactly as you like it, but if you know you tend to be distracted the first hour at your desk, schedule your presentation or brainstorm session later in the day.
- Learn to flex your communication style. To work effectively with teammates, direct your employees, and motivate change for your company, you have to speak to people the way they want to be spoken to. FYI, there is no room for your ego here, and yes, if people don’t like your communication style, it actually IS your problem. Taking a variety of personality tests (like the Myers-Briggs, FIRO-B, Enneagram, and DISC Assessment) helped me figure out who I was, how I prefer to interact with the world, and how I could better flex my preferences to relate to others.