Podcast 52: Ask, “What Happens If I Ignore This?” a Conversation with Whole30’s Melissa Hartwig, and Elizabeth Talks Reality TV.

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Update: In episode 14 and elsewhere, Elizabeth has spoken about her love of mugs, and for that reason, we decided to do a Happier mug! If you want to order one for yourself, order one here (scroll down). We’re very excited about these!

Try This at Home: Ask yourself, “What would happen if I ignore this?” I give credit for this terrific question to my friend, the brilliant Michael Melcher (I can’t resist giving a plug for his book, The Creative Lawyer: A Practical Guide to Authentic Professional Satisfaction, which is an invaluable resource about achieving career happiness as a lawyer.) If you want to read about our group MGM, I talk about it in The Happiness Project.
Melissa Hartwig on Happier PodcastInterview: Melissa Hartwig. Melissa is co-creator of the Whole30 program, which, for many people, is a super-powerful tool for changing eating habits. Melissa describes the program as “pushing the re-set button with your health, your habits, and your relationship with food” — for 30 days, you eliminate foods that many people have trouble with.  We talk about the difference between Abstainers and Moderators here and in episode 2; we also talk about the Four Tendencies here and in episode 43.

Gretchen’s Demerit: Let’s just say I didn’t deal well with Jamie’s desire to get a new duvet cover for our bed. I mention being an under-buyer.

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth gives gold stars to her favorite reality-TV-related podcasts: Emma Gray and Claire Fallon’s Here to Make Friends: A Bachelor Recap Show; Casey Wilson and Danielle Schneider’s Bitch Sesh: A Real Housewives Breakdown; and Heather Dubrow’s World.

1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Guest: Melissa Hartwig of the Whole30


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  • RethinkHappy

    I like this question. It makes you think, and helps you prioritize!

    • gretchenrubin

      Great to hear that it struck a chord with you!

  • Lejla

    The diet that you are talking about is very similar to Paleo diet. I like that they put some kind of time frame of one month. I will definitely implement it.

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  • Jiru

    For Elizabeth – The Bachelor is my sport as well! I can’t talk about it with any of my friends, so I really enjoy listening to other people discussing it via podcasts. “Here to Make Friends”, which you mentioned, is my favorite, and I also enjoy “Rose Buddies” (a couple discussing each episode), “The Bachelor Pod” and “Accept These Bros”- just in case you find yourself with nothing to listen to on your commute! 🙂

  • David LaFerney

    Life is too short for marital drama over a bed spread – but it did make me happier, because my lovely wife would never give me such grief. I’m so freaking lucky. Just stand back and contemplate on the brevity of life and the big picture for a moment.

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  • I didn’t care for this interview… Whole30 sounds extreme. Crying in a restaurant is not my idea of being happier. I’d like to hear more interviews about work/life balance and productivity rather than dieting.

    • Mary Muller

      You should really read the whole30 concept before you slam it… it is has made myself and several of the people I know happier! It is extreme but so are our sugar hungry, carb stuffing lives. I knew this diet was for real when on day two and three of the first time I did Whole30, I had the biggest hangover, I have ever felt in my life! This was from all the sugar and carbs leaving my body… I really could not believe it! Sugar is such a drug and if people would take a chance and try to the Whole30 way, they would be happier!

  • Chava1997

    the kimberly diaries was being kind when she said she didn’t care for this program. I hated it. Melissa Hartwig’s Whole30 program is just another extreme, subjective, scientifically unsubstantiated program to perpetuate our dysfunction and unease with food. I’ve heard sugar, alcohol, grains and dairy demonized at one time or another – but legumes? What did they ever do to attract haters? I get it – if you have a problem with drinking or eating too much sugar, you want to get a handle on it, and in that case, Gretchen’s advice to identify whether you are an abstainer or a moderator makes sense. But when people are dying of malnutrition, I’m embarrassed to be listening to a program where people are discussing a program to identify whether any of the food that I am lucky enough to eat might be giving me gas, joint pain, or blemishes.

    • gretchenrubin

      This is a great example of how, in the end, we must choose what is right for US – our nature, our values – and our gut biome! There’s no one magical solution. For some people, this approach works very well, but it’s certainly not for everyone.

      • Chava1997

        This interview was problematic because it blurred the line between interviewing interesting guests about their personal strategies/hacks for handling unproductive habits (like Nir Eyal’s interesting approach to limiting his internet surfing) and promoting an arbitrary set of nutritional guidelines. There is certainly nothing unhealthy about the permissible paleo Whole30 diet: meat, seafood, eggs, tons of vegetables, some fruit, and plenty of good fats from fruits, oils, nuts and seeds. But there is also nothing unhealthy about the foods that don’t qualify as “good food choices” under the Whole30 program, including dairy, grains, legumes. And I say this in fondness — you risk diluting your own good brand when you give a platform to someone who suggests that they are.

        Interestingly, at the November 2015 Finding Common Ground gathering of the world’s top nutrition scientists. Dr. S. Boyd Eaton, father of the paleo diet, said that grains and legumes need not be avoided. You can find an interview with him here. http://nutritionovereasy.com/2015/11/the-new-paleolithic-prescription-an-interview-with-s-boyd-eaton/. The interview is conducted by Monica Reinagel, a responsible nutritionist, who unlike Melissa Hartwig, never tries to promote her personal preferences as nutritional gospel. Come to think of it, perhaps you should interview her to get more well-rounded information on overcoming food addictions.

  • Sylvia33

    The Whole 30 concept resonates with me as I know there ARE foods which cause me problems (a reaction of needing more once I ingest certain foods). There are many people who know there are foods that cause them problems but can’t abstain (such as high sugar foods or high fat/processed foods), or they can stop eating these foods for periods, but cannot stay stopped . For this however, there is Overeater’s Anonymous which is a 12 Step program of recovery from compulsive eating. It is my answer to staying stopped! I think it is sooo interesting that many of the foods mentioned are often problem-foods for compulsive eaters and are some of the foods that I abstain from because of the power of the 12 Steps! I could not stay stopped alone. Thank you for sharing about the physical reaction that certain foods can have in people.

  • Megan

    I may have already left this comment in another post, but I love that we can listen to the podcast right from your website! The only computer I use is my work computer so I can’t actually download anything, and it’s so handy to just listen to a podcast while taking a little break from work. I found you on Youtube too, which is also handy. Thanks! 🙂

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  • I find that when there is any type of ‘elimination’ act, the list of “what-not-to’s” are create an intimidating, unthinkable list. Give a list of what TO eat or whatever your list is, what TO DO, not so much the what NOT to do’s. This gives for a less stressful introduction and following to any type of change. I am a firm believer of this. However the ridiculous Whole30 program is just that – ridiculous. For those who can and do do it, great. Let’s be realistic though. I mean really.

  • melemone

    I loved the gold star this week – and was grinning like mad at Elizabeth’s rationalisation of her enjoyment as it’s exactly how I internally justify my reality TV appetite, my husband is a crazy (uk) football fan, and how is some guys kicking a ball any more important! I also, with the cynicism of a traffic cop believing the ‘just one light beer officer’ excuse, doubled Elizabeth’s conservative mention of it being a 4 hours’ habit; huh, as if that’s sufficient…! I am immediately if not sooner subscribing to two of the podcasts, rh fan of every state available!

  • Tara

    I appreciate that Gretchen and Elizabeth include interviews with people and topics that relate in many different ways to their core topics of happiness, habits, and human nature. The discussion about Whole30 was exploratory, not didactic, and I was immediately interested because I have been struggling to understand my body’s responses to food and this approach hit a chord. It was perfect timing for me to try it. I’m on Day 3 and feel much “better than before.” I’m eager to get to the Reintroduction phase in order to learn which foods were making me feel ill so that I can avoid or limit them in future. Not for everyone, just for me.
    I also appreciate that these women make themselves vulnerable by sharing the little daily challenges of life as well as more profound topics. It’s easy to sneer at any conversation that isn’t about war or world hunger; I think these sisters have plenty of perspective about what’s important.

  • Rachel Stansberry

    Well I’ve just been thinking about the duvet cover. I think if my husband noticed the problem and then went out and bought something to solve the problem, I would put it on my bed. Then every time I would look at it I would be reminded that not everything has to match and something about this thing spoke to someone I love. Just a thought! Keep up the good work gals!

  • Tana

    I found it very intriguing when I saw Mellisa Hartwig was going to be on the Podcast. I wish you had asked her which of the 4 types she falls into. My husband and I did Whole30 once, and while it showed me that I can do without certain things, I still am not sure that abstaining is easier than moderation for me. Since doing Whole30 I gravitate more away from sugar and dairy and grain, but I don’t completely eliminate it as the diet made me feel just as “bad” as I do otherwise, just in a different way (I need more carbs to sustain energy levels, though my energy levels were far more steady on Whole30 and thus I try to eliminate sugar). I am a Questioner and had to modify Whole30 about a week into it, but my husband completed it exactly as directed (he is obviously not a Questioner). Ultimately I think diets like this are great BUT everyone has to come up with their own guidelines as to what they can tolerate, and mine would not include worrying about trace amounts of sugar in ketchup, thank you very much. Whole30 is a good starting point but not the final word. I still wish you had asked her which of the 4 types she is, though. Did I miss that?

    • gretchenrubin

      Yes, she did say that she is an Upholder and also an Abstainer.

      • Tana

        And do you think that the more extreme the rules, the happier the Upholder? This would be a prime example of that, which I’ve suspected since I first heard of the diet. Upholders like external rules to live by and the more external rules to follow, the happier it makes them, though I know you are an Upholder and have learned to be careful about how many rules you adopt. Maybe her crying over the ketchup in a restaurant would be an example of taking on too many rules and thus driving oneself crazy.

        As for the Abstaining vs Moderation thing – I see the value of not having certain things around and thus not having to constantly say no to them. At the same time, saying a firm no to things makes me want them even more (an oft repeated moan of dieters everywhere). So I find myself moderating – I don’t keep cereal at home, but if I’m staying at a hotel I enjoy it as a fun treat. But is that really moderating? Or is it Abstaining with specific exceptions? LOL

  • Just had to tell you that you’ve got a little fan at my house! I said, “lets turn something on while we fold this laundry.” I was going to put something else on, but my 2-year-old said, “stamps dot com slash happier??” LOL So we listened to the podcast. Obviously the advertising is working. 😀 😀

    • gretchenrubin

      It makes me so HAPPY to hear that. And how hilarious about Stamps.com!

  • Etta

    I wish I had the advise of your “try this at home” earlier. I have been having a tumultous relationship with a collague at work – we were both guilty – and I have been considering leaving the Company. And I think if I used the strategy of just ignoring some issues we could have become good friends. She passed away on Sunday due to complications during an operation and I have been left behind with a lot of guilt. I will however implement this theory in my life henceforth.

  • What happens if I ignore this? Same idea in these things: 1. Pick your battles, 2. Mattnew 6:34 says not to borrow trouble from tomorrow because tomorrow has enough trouble of its own. 3. My 4th grade teacher said “never trouble trouble ’til trouble troubles you”.

  • Petra

    “What would happen if I ignored this?” has become a common question in our house. Thank you!!

    • gretchenrubin


  • Jen McCormack

    I liked hearing the interview with Melissa Hartwig, but probably not for the reasons she’d like: it convinced me that the Whole30 wasn’t for me. Sorry Gretchen but the whole episode made both you and Melissa sound less happy than stressed and trying too hard to be in control.

    Also I had the same thoughts as other commenters: legumes? really? I don’t know Ms. Hartwig’s qualifications as a nutritionist , time to look that up.

  • michellethoms

    This weeks try this at home tip really resonated with me. I find myself telling my daughters “no” about things that don’t really matter. Doing this leaves me with the feeling that all I did all day was say “no” and yell at my girls. That is not what I want to remember about my day, and it is REALLY not what I want my girls to remember about their days with me! I’m starting this today!!!

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific! good luck!