Having been a passionate advocate for the power of food for the last 15 years (initially the Zone diet now Paleo, or as I like to think ‘a human species appropriate diet’), the book title itself is enough to get me salivating.
It Starts With Food is AMAZING! Go read it.
Let me tell you why I love this book.
First, I am a nutritionist, and from this perspective I see this book as an exceptional tool for teaching people about nutrition (specifically nutrition that will change lives) in a way that is easy to understand and doable. Added to that, this book would inspire just about anyone to change their diet. I’m touched by the personal success stories that head each chapter.
Dallas and Melissa really got my attention from this bolded statement in Chapter 2:
“We are far more concerned with health than we are about history.”
YES! Isn’t this why many of us became so enthusiastic about ‘Paleo’ in the first place? NOT because we somehow felt good recreating a ‘caveman’ diet. NO – we love paleo because of how it makes us feel, and how it changed our health. It’s not eating a ‘caveman diet’ that worked, it is eating a human species appropriate diet, with its multiple health benefits.
How did It Starts With Food’s Whole30 eating template get designed? “We combined scientific research with clinical experience“ This is why the information in this book is so good, Melissa and Dallas have worked with thousands of real people; they understand the science of nutrition and how to apply it. They get how nutrition works for people both physiologically and psychologically, which in my experience, only comes from working with many people putting a diet plan into practice over time.
How does food affect your body? Dallas and Melissa answer this question with simple yet scientifically accurate explanations, examples and interesting analogies. What I particularly love are the distinctions used to decide whether a particular food is healthful to eat. These are called ‘Our good food standards’.
The food we eat should:
- Promote a healthy psychological response
- Promote a healthy hormonal response
- Support a healthy gut
- Support immune function and minimize inflammation
If we look at all the food we eat through this lens, it is very hard to see where one could go wrong when deciding whether or not a food is healthful for us as a human animal, and, as well a human individual. There are foods that none of us should eat as a species, however as individuals we each have different tolerances, and Achilles heels psychologically.
I particularly like chapter 4 “Your brain on food”. This explains brilliantly how modern processed foods are designed to maximally light up ancient reward centres in our brain, the ones that help us decide that a food will be safe and good for us to eat. By lighting up this reward centre, modern processed foods trick us into believing they are good for us, even when they are not. (IMO many food manufacturers have zero interest in our health, they are only interested in making money without acutely poisoning us)
I can’t think of anything this book leaves out. Chapter 5 covers the effect of food (and to some extent) lifestyle on hormones; insulin, glucagon, leptin and cortisol. Chapter 6 explains digestion and leaky gut, the importance of gut bacteria and how to maintain a healthy gut. Chapter 7 covers inflammation, particularly silent inflammation, the one you can’t feel, but can lead to a slow health degradation, and how diet contributes to this. Chapter 12 covers auto-immune disease.
Then we get to actual food, and how each food on the Whole30 is chosen. Each food we are to remove has its effect on our body detailed using the four ‘good food standards’. This concept is brilliant yet simple when applied to choosing foods. All the usual problem foods are covered; sweet stuff, bad oils, intoxicating stuff (alcohol), grains, legumes and dairy.
What you should eat and why, and importantly how much – is all covered from chapters 13 to 15, with answers to all questions that might jump into your mind as you go along. eg. ‘But what about cholesterol?’ Answered. ‘What about saturated fat?’ ‘Coffee?’ Answered. I emphasise the ‘how much’ because this is what every client asks me during a consultation. Most people do not know how much to eat, and the template outlined in ISWF is exactly the one that I have found works with pretty much everyone.
The Whole30, the strict, yet powerful 30 day elimination plan is explained in chapter 17 and 18. Chapter 21 shows how to fine tune this if you are a special case – you might have autoimmune disease, diabetes, or are an athlete or vegetarian.
Once you have finished your 30 day elimination, there are guidelines on how to add in foods and test them, and (very important) strategies for long-term success (Chapters 19 & 20)
Supplements are covered in chapter 22,. Lots of meal and food preparation ideas and recipes, plus a list of resources is in the appendix.
You can’t go wrong with “It Starts With Food”. It is thorough and sound, both the science and the practice of eating a diet that just might change your life in unexpected ways.
(Around a year ago, I did my own auto-immune Whole30, the difference it made to my health over and above a pretty clean paleo diet surprised me: My strict 30 day auto-immune alcohol free paleo diet, and Final thoughts on my 30 days of auto-immune paleo)