Instagram followers are flooding the site with photos of their success on the Whole30 program, raising concerns among some experts.
You can change your life in 30 days.
That’s the declaration being made on social media these days by some people who have weight loss success stories to tell.
In particular, Instagram is flooded with more than 1 million photos of people who have discovered healthier lifestyles through the Whole30 program.
The pictures of the food and, more so the bodies, are inspirational in some corners.
For others, including the co-founder of Whole30, there is concern that a quick-fix message is being floated via the internet to people who have problems losing weight or controlling what they eat.
“Social media is not always a true indication of how people are doing,” Susan Weiner, a registered dietitian-nutritionist, told Healthline.
The Whole30 program was created by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig and launched in April 2009.
Under the program, people sign up for one of four different tracks, depending on what they are trying to accomplish.
For 30 days, participants give up certain food groups that may be having a negative impact on their health.
Those substances include sugar, grains, legumes, and dairy. No alcohol, including wine, is allowed in those four weeks.
Participants are allowed to eat meat, eggs, vegetables, some fruits, and some “good fats.”
They are told not to weigh themselves during those 30 days.
Melissa Hartwig told Healthline this first month allows people to “reset” their bodies.
Afterward, the forbidden foods are slowly reintroduced at different intervals to “see what happens.”
“What you arrive at is the perfect diet for you,” she said.
Whole30, she adds, is not a weight loss program. It’s a “health-focused approach” to life.
Hartwig said they first noticed the attention Whole30 was getting on Instagram about a year and a half ago.
Today, there are 1.2 million Instagram photos tagged with “#whole30.”
Many post photos of the foods they are eating. Others post the standard “before” and “after” photos as they lose weight.
Hartwig said they try to keep the messages within that social media world focused on “non-scale victories” such as people’s energy levels and fitness performances.
She said the postings could be a source of inspiration for people.
“When you undertake a lifestyle change, you need support,” she said.
Hartwig admits that they can’t control all the images and messages sent out attached to their product and that does bother her.
“We do our best to control the messaging,” she said.
Others also see some concerns whenever social media is the channel for a diet or fitness program.
Weiner said social media can provide support, but it can also present an unachievable standard.
“Social media can be difficult for people,” she said. “People only post the good things. It can be discouraging for people who think, ‘How come things are going so well for them.’”
Susan Rappaport struggled for decades with dieting, eventually developing an eating disorder.
She ultimately found her lifestyle balance in fitness, not dieting, and formed NuYu Revolution to help others.
“My goal is to wipe diets from the planet,” Rappaport told Healthline.
Her problem with Whole30 or any other food-based programs is that they are “based on following a program” and they focus on food.
She notes that 85 percent of diet attempts eventually fail, but generally you only hear from people when they’re succeeding.
“You don’t find people posting, ‘Hey, I gained back those 30 pounds,’” she said.
She said all the Instagram and Facebook photos could be discouraging.
“People don’t know who else is failing,” Rappaport said.
Hartwig isn’t necessarily in agreement. She said they try to stress the long haul of commitment with their clients.
“We emphasize it’s a long-term, slow process to a lifestyle fix,” she said.
The Instagram phenomenon comes as stories have appeared about the weight problems experienced by former contestants on the television show, “The Biggest Loser.”
Many of these folks lost 200 or more pounds while the program documented their life struggle.
During the years after the show, however, many of these participants have gained most of their weight back, according to a story in The New York Times.
Experts told The Times that part of the problem is the human body’s metabolism.
They said after a person loses significant weight, the body goes into protection mode and slows down the metabolism to burn fewer calories. It’s a prehistoric reflex to food shortages and winter months.
The problem for the TV contestants is that slow metabolism appears to continue even after they gain back weight.
Weiner said the show is an “unrealistic world” that doesn’t present the aftereffects of dramatic weight loss.
“I’m not at all surprised,” said Weiner. “How depressing for these people. It’s a complete disservice to them.”