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The book is called It Starts with Food, because, as they say in the intro "Whatever you are seeking--improvement in energy, mood, focus, sleep, athletic performance, symptoms, medical conditions, body composition or quality of starts with food."

The Whole30 program (30 days of eating the way they suggest) is available for free on their website ( Anyone can do it or read about it for free, without the book. What makes the book so excellent is it gives you all the additional information about why it works and how to utilize the information to help yourself succeed. It gives a backbone to this method of eating, and provides the science behind it. If you're not interested in the science, there is a whole lot of "coaching" to help you understand how your past choices led you to where you are today. It's not a diet or a method to lose weight (they even tell you not to weigh yourself, but the vast majority of people who try it lose weight).

The authors' tone is light and engaging--not a sciencey snore-fest that has you struggling to pay attention. They believe in "tough love" so they will lay it on the line for you.

My absolute favorite part of the whole book in on page 29. A brief excerpt (if it's allowed!):

You already know that fast food, junk food and sweets aren't good for you. You know you shouldn't eat them if you want to lose weight, get off your medication or be healthier. Yet you continue to eat them. You struggle with food cravings, bad habits, compulsions and addictions. You know you shouldn't but you feel compelled to eat these foods. Sometimes, you don't even want them, but you eat them anyway. And you have a hard time stopping. All of which makes you feel guilty and stressed--and more likely to comfort yourself with even more unhealthy food. We're here to tell you IT"S NOT YOUR FAULT. You are not lacking willpower. You are not lazy. And it's not your fault that you can't stop eating these foods."

That, by itself, shifted something for me. Reading, in bold, in the center of the page IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT--something finally clicked. It wasn't my fault.
Nevermind the "bad" foods, I have been "eating healthy", doing everything "right" the way "they" told me for the majority of my life. It didn't work. This book explained why. It gave me the tools to take my life back.

Notes on some of the other reviews/criticisms on (and I feel a need to comment on them because I always read the negative reviews to see the counterpoints):

This book has a ton of positive reviews--the reason being, it makes sense. When you read it, you get it. If you try a Whole 30 and you feel better, you will want to shout it from the rooftops (or the next best thing, an amazon review!)

It is well researched--it includes 21 pages of sources and references at the back.

Regarding "what people have eaten for thousands of years" or "that the French drink wine and that was never a problem for them! or "the Japanese have always eaten rice and they're fine!" There is a difference between SURVIVING and THRIVING. Yes, there are things that are edible that we can eat, and yes a lot of them have been eaten for a long, long time. But were we DESIGNED to eat them? Are they the BEST choice? Do they make us HEALTHIER or not? And, for every study that says milk is bad there will be another one that says milk is fine (or wine, or wheat, or corn or whatever). The point of the book and the program is TRY IT FOR YOURSELF. Do YOU feel better drinking wine? Then drink it! Do you feel terrible after ice cream? Don't eat it anymore. The point it to give your body 30 days to reset, to get back to basics, and then for you to be able to see which foods help you be a better you, and which foods make you feel crappy.

Regarding food being difficult to source or expensive--the food recommended is meat, fruit and vegetables. They do mention some condiments or alternative fat sources (coconut aminos, coconut oil) none of which seemed overly expensive, and all of which were available on amazon the last time I checked (and online from other sources in Canada).

Regarding this being a "fad" that the Europeans would laugh at--when has eating real, whole foods (meat, fruit, veg) ever been a fad? It is the most basic and original way of eating. It makes the most sense. When did eating "edible oil products" and "artificial sweeteners--now with added fiber and antioxidants!" become acceptable "foods?" I think the Europeans would laugh a lot more at that crap than at someone eating a steak with salad and a sweet potato.

If I had read this book a few years ago, I might not have been ready for it yet.
A lot of people who read it now might not be quite ready for it. You might not "buy in" to the information they are sharing with you because you're not ready to let go of your own wants/desires/habits/history/reasons/ideas regarding the food you eat.
The bottom line is everything you eat is going to make you more healthy or less healthy. The authors will share with you which food does what and why. And then provide you with a framework to try it out for 30 days and see how you feel. That's it.

A lot of people will come to this book from the world of Paleo (and if you did, good choice. My top 3 Paleo book recommendations are It Starts with Food, Primal Blueprint and Practical Paleo). And some may not. One of the smartest things about this book is that although it provides many "paleo" concepts, it is not telling you to be a caveman. You don't have to concern yourself with what is or isn't "Paleo." They say in the book "We are far more concerned with health than we are with history. We aren't recommending meat and vegetables because we think that's what our ancestors ate...we care about what is making us, here and now, more or less healthy. And we suspect that's what you care about, too."

30 days can seem "hard" or like a "long time" but honestly, once you do it, it goes by quickly. (And, as the authors say, "beating cancer is hard. Drinking your coffee black is. not. hard.")And the 30 day limitation, for me, was freeing because guess what? Those foods aren't going anywhere. After 30 days, they will still be there and if I want them, I can have them. But for 30 days, making myself say "no" allowed me to kick my sugar habit to the curb, and finally have a day where I didn't feel like I was on a rollercoaster of blood sugar, bloating, indigestion and fatigue.

My results were so clear and so noticeable that my parents, husband, brother in law and sister all started a Whole 30 after seeing my success. (My husband lost 25 lbs that slowly crept on and that he has been unable to lose through any other method, including p90x, tae Kwan do, running, weight watchers etc (and he didn't exercise while on W30) . He was a skeptic, didn't think he could give up lattes, thought the answer to everything was moderation and now Wow! He looks young and vibrant and healthy My Mom calls him the poster boy for W30!)

If someone said to you, try this and you will feel better a month from now would you do it?

Yes I lost weight. Yes I lost my sugar cravings. Yes I lost my joint paint and muscle tension. Yes I sleep better. Yes my skin looks brighter and more clear. Yes I am happier. Yes I have lost that "always hungry" feeling. Yes I have broken my bad habits. And it only took 30 days.
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on June 20, 2012
I felt compelled to write a review because this poor book has no reviews on You only need to take a quick peek to to see the overwhelming response to this amazing book. It's true, the Whole30 Will CHANGE YOUR LIFE. Melissa and Dallas take very important, interesting and compelling facts about nutrition and put them into plain language using colourful analogies and engaging writing. It's real nutrition for real people. What are you waiting for? I don't remember the last time I whipped through a book this quickly.

Go check out the 5 star reviews on the American site for more overwhelmingly positive feedback on It Starts With Food:
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on July 21, 2013
I purchased this for a princess I know in Canada. :)
My eating approach has been modified based on the book for 60 days, now. I cannot believe how good I feel.
Here is my review text from
I was a bit skeptical as I started reading the book. I think this was largely from the shock of reading how everyday foods can affect the body and mind. But now after 50 days of following their guidance, my life has changed. I am no longer a slave to food or that next meal/snack. Just as the book proclaimed, I now have a healthy relationship with food. I look forward to simple, well-prepared meals, that satisfy me and eliminate ALL between-meal snacking or cravings. It worked for me EXACTLY as they said it would. And with the elimination of Wheat and Dairy, here is the short list of what I experienced:
- Sleeping soundly, waking up READY to go
- Dark circles under eyes gone << a surprising result!
- Running/cycling faster and stronger
- Energy levels way up
- Excess body fat gone; clothes loosening way up
- Allergies gone
- Joint aches/pains gone
- Mood better; clearer thinking; no brain fog
- No need for between-meal snacks; late night snacking GONE
- No more bloating after meals
- No more craving for Wheat-based products!
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on July 12, 2016
I heard about this diet for about a year but I was really skeptical about if it would work. For the past 2 years I've had low energy, taking naps as often as I could. I couldn't lose weight and I felt old. I did the whole30 and I feel amazing. I have so much energy and I lost some much need weight. I can't thank you enough for giving me a lifestyle change that actually works. I feel like I have so much time because I'm not tired when I should be awake. The book is very easy to read with great explanations. Thank, thank you, thank you!
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on October 13, 2014
If you feel unhealthy but don't know how or where to start to make improvements in your life. This book is full of easy to understand, logical information and gives you the starting point you need. Following their instructions really did change my life. It all started with food.
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on November 4, 2015
AMAZING! This book changed the way I look at food. Even if you're not thinking of doing a Whole30 (which everyone should) it is a fantastic read full of great tips on food selection. I have tried many recipes & loved them all!!
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on March 24, 2014
I found reading the book made me really understand the issues of certain foods, and ultimately made me want to change my eating habits. It also made me believe I could, which I would have never believed I could give up my rice and not miss it and crave it. Not only do I rarely think about it, there are no other cravings either. I truly feel satisfied after eating. Today is my last day of the Whole30 challenge and I feel great. I also lost about 7 lbs which was never my goal of doing this, but definitely a nice bonus.
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on July 7, 2016
I am someone who needs to understand why doing something benefits me before I'll lock in. The information in this book is life changing. I committed to doing a Whole 30 and the results are amazing. I feel WAY better. I have kept 70% of the eating habits since March. Highly recommend this book.
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on April 11, 2013
I purchased this book last year, while researching the "paleo lifestyle", and I am seriously impressed with this book. It changed the way I look at food. Now I think of it as a fuel, not just a filler! I've been paleo since reading this book, and I've never felt better! Lost over 40 lbs in 3 months and have leveled off in terms of weight loss, but I have limitless energy and my skin looks incredible! A huge thank you to the Hartwigs! This book (and a few others) completely changed my life for the better.
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on January 14, 2013
No question that this is the best weight loss and paleo resource available now. It's not a list of instructions on losing weight, getting healthier, and improving sleep, but more so an explanation of "Why" you are eating/doing what you should be doing in order to succeed.

If you often fail at diets I HIGHLY recommend this book.

WARNING: This is not a diet it's a lifestyle. If you want something quick and dirty this is not the resource but if you truly want to improve your overall health and happiness look no further.
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