In this inspiring interview, Whole30 co-founder Melissa Hartwig shares her clean eating tips and tricks, favorite real food products and healthy living advice.
Welcome back to the In Her Shoes series, where we share inspiring interviews with influential experts in health, nutrition and lifestyle.
Whenever I meet healthy, beautiful, successful women, I’m always dying to know what it’s like to walk in their shoes. What do they eat? What products do they use? What’s their routine? I’m obsessed with other peoples’ stories and love sharing uplifting women with y’all!
Today we’re chatting with Melissa Hartwig, co-creator of the original Whole30 program and New York Times best-selling author of It Starts With Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways, The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom, The Whole30 Cookbook, and Food Freedom Forever: Letting Go of Bad Habits, Guilt, and Anxiety Around Food.
For the uninitiated, Whole30 is a food program similar to an elimination diet (it’s also very similar to the Paleo diet). For 30 days, you cut out all grains (including whole grains and corn), legumes (including peas, beans and soy), dairy, sugar (including natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup) and alcohol, and then slowly add each back in to see how your body responds.
As some of you who’ve been around a while might remember, I completed a SUPER SUCCESSFUL Whole30 program in January 2016, and became obsessed with learning from Melissa immediately upon reading It Starts With Food, easily one of the most eye-opening and life-changing books I’ve read.
RELATED: 15 THINGS I LEARNED FROM WHOLE30
GETTING TO KNOW MELISSA HARTWIG OF WHOLE30
A Certified Sports Nutritionist, Melissa specializes in helping people change their relationship with food and create life-long, healthy habits.
This is what I love about Melissa so much–it’s not just that Whole30 is brilliant for identifying food intolerances/sensitivities and emotional issues, or that Whole30 is an amazing way to debloat, lose weight, supercharge your healing and feel AMAZING. No, my love for Melissa goes much deeper than that.
The way she is able to present credible, science-backed information about nutrition and digestion in a fun, easy-to-understand and inspiring manner is incredible. Couple that with her no-nonsense approach to eating and establishing healthy habits for life, and I think you’ll find one of the most powerful voices in food today.
Perhaps best of all, I love that Melissa recognizes that not all bodies are created equal, and encourages individuals to find a way of eating that is best for their unique anatomy. She doesn’t say nobody ever should ever drink milk. She encourages you to test how your body reacts to dairy and make a personal decision based on your incredibly specific experience.
Melissa’s approach puts YOU in control so that food can finally stop controlling you. Now that’s something to celebrate!
Needless to say, I couldn’t be more excited that Melissa is here with Root + Revel–I know that you’re going to get so much value out of her story!
So let’s do this; let’s take a peek at what it’s like to spend a day walking in Melissa Hartwig’s shoes.
WHAT ARE THE FIRST 30 MINUTES OF YOUR DAY LIKE?
If I have my son, I wake up with him and we play for an hour, then have breakfast together before I go to the gym. If not, I wake, dress, and head straight to the gym (or out for a hike or park workout). After I train, I get a decaf Americano, have a car dance party, then head home for breakfast. Everyone in my life knows I don’t start work until 10 A.M., because the morning routine is sacred.
WHAT’S YOUR TYPICAL BREAKFAST?
I’m a creature of routine, so I tend to eat the same things all the time. Breakfast is usually three eggs (poached, fried, or scrambled), a side of leftover veggies, half an avocado, cover the whole thing in hot sauce. Or a frittata (which I whip up on Mondays and eat throughout the week), also covered in hot sauce. I’ve also been known to have burgers or a big salad for breakfast—I’m not picky about which foods I eat when.
ARE YOU A TEA OR COFFEE DRINKER?
I drink decaf Americanos (I don’t drink caffeine, ever), and a huge variety of herbal teas. I switched to decaf only about seven years ago. I’m really sensitive to caffeine, and after a few Whole30-ish eliminations and re-introductions, decided my energy, sleep, mood, and general happiness would be better if I successfully gave it up.
The transition was tough, but now I’m really happy I did it, and my energy and sleep have never been better. I mix a scoop of Vital Proteins collagen and add a splash of nutpods to my coffee in the AM.
Editor’s Note: Nutpods do contain less than 2% of acacia gum, sunflower lecithin, dipotassium phosphate and gellan gum. Here’s Melissa’s take on these additives: A tiny portion of the population might be sensitive to the vegetable gums and emulsifiers, but nearly everyone should do just fine with them, and there’s nothing in any of these that the literature or my clinical experience have shown will make you less healthy. The lesson is that not all additives are problematic or unhealthy! There are also some scary-sounding additives that are really not that scary when you dig in. For example, dipotassium phosphate is an emulsifier extracted from animal bones (or phosphate rock), and even the Environmental Working Group says there is enough data on this additive to consider it safe.
And I drink alcohol when it’s worth it and I’m out socializing; never at home. I’ve figured out that certain forms (red wine, beer, most mixed drinks) are basically never worth it, so I stick to white wine, tequila and soda, or a vodka martini when I do.
And I’ve figured out I can have two drinks over the course of an evening (with food, stretched out over many hours) and still feel just as awesome the next day. So, when it’s really worth it and I really want it, I do.
WHAT’S YOUR EXERCISE ROUTINE?
I prioritize gym and stretching time almost every day, but I also take yoga classes some afternoons, go for walks in my local park, and hike a ton (or snowshoe in the winter). I move my body in some capacity every single day; it’s my sanity.
I deemed 2016 the “year of strong and bendy” and shared my fitness routine and progress on my Instagram page under the #yearofstrongandbendy hashtag.
WHAT’S IN YOUR MEDICINE CABINET?
Nothing–I don’t take any supplements or prescriptions.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE ON-THE-GO SNACKS?
Meat sticks of any nature (EPIC bars, Wilde Bars, DNX Bars, Chomps Snack Sticks, and Wild Zora Bars are some of my favorites), and RxBars (egg white protein bars). It’s easy to find fruit, veggies, or healthy fats (like olives or nuts and seeds) on the go, but healthy protein is way harder. I always have a meat stick in my purse, always.
WHAT’S A TYPICAL LUNCH LIKE FOR YOU?
I love a good protein salad—either chicken, salmon, or tuna—mixed with a variety of veggies, fruit, herbs, spices, and nuts or seeds—over any kind of greens.
Changing up what’s in the salad keeps my taste buds happy, but the basic recipe is so simple and easy to grab and go.
Lately, I’m on a chicken salad kick—homemade mayo, lemon juice, dried local cherries, diced Granny Smith apples, celery, green onion, fresh parsley, and slivered almonds, with a little sea salt. I serve it over baby kale and sometimes dress it with a little Tessemae’s Balsamic.
WHEN YOU’RE GROCERY SHOPPING, WHAT INGREDIENTS DO YOU AVOID ON THE LABEL?
I eat the way I recommend in the Whole30 program. I stick to naturally raised and fed meat, seafood, and eggs; tons of vegetables and fruit, and natural, healthy fats. I don’t buy grains, dairy, or beans (aside from the occasional hummus)—my body is happier when I eat this way, and it supports my training goals perfectly.
I do allow a little sugar in my diet, though. It’s not the Whole365, and I have figured out a healthy balance of Whole30 foods and “off-plan” indulgences that work for me. I talk aaaaaall about exactly how I eat in Food Freedom Forever.
RELATED: 5 HEALTH BOOKS YOU NEED TO READ NOW
WHAT’S IN YOUR PANTRY?
LaCroix, Tessemae’s dressings and hot sauce, Primal Kitchen’s mayo and avocado oil, Tin Star Foods ghee, tomato paste and crushed tomatoes, coconut aminos, full-fat coconut milk in the can, canned salmon and tuna, Fatworks duck fat, and EPIC’s bone broth.
DINNER TIME! IF YOU’RE EATING OUT, WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR ON MENUS TO STAY HEALTHY?
I can find something healthy just about anywhere, but what I really look for is whether the menu is locally sourced, seasonally designed, and offers naturally raised and fed animal proteins (like grass-fed beef or pastured chicken). Places like that tend to have healthy side dishes and offerings in general, and I can feel good about where my food came from.
WHAT’S ON YOUR NIGHTSTAND?
I’m a voracious reader, plowing through at least two or three books a week. I usually have one non-fiction and a fiction book going at the same time, and I love biographies and books about habit, change, and willpower. I just finished The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman, and am reading Shoe Dog (the story of Phil Knight) next. I use the #melissareads hashtag on Instagram to share my favorite books.
BED TIME! WHAT’S YOUR NIGHTLY ROUTINE?
I’m in bed by 10 P.M. I get about 8-9 hours of sleep a night, and I wind down with a good book, always. I don’t watch TV or movies before bed and I try (unsuccessfully many nights) to stay off my phone, but I often text with friends before I start reading.
Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups, binge-watching Modern Family on Netflix, climbing into bed at 9 P.M. on a Friday night, anything by Justin Bieber, and I don’t even feel guilty about that last one.
FAVORITE HEALTHY INDULGENCE?
Massages. I get a 90-minute massage once a week, because recovery is more important to your overall fitness than what you actually do in the gym. My massages are not relaxing; it’s maintenance, and I’m committed.
FAVORITE PRODUCT THAT EVERYONE NEEDS TO TRY?
This is so hard, because I have so many! If I had to pick one, I’d actually pick two—nutpods coffee creamers (Whole30 Approved and a GAME-CHANGER), and Tessemae’s Buffalo Sauce, which I basically mainline for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
And that’s a wrap. HUGE thanks to Melissa Hartwig for sharing her story with us.
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