Review & Giveaway: It Starts With Food

A few weeks ago, I shared all the personal reasons I thought you should pre-order It Starts With Food, the must-have new book from Melissa and Dallas Hartwig, founders of the Whole30. Today, I want to tell you the concrete, have-nothing-to-do-with-the-fact-that-I-adore-them reasons you should absolutely, 100% read this book if you’re interested in having your best life possible.

I know! That’s a big wind up. But I’m not kidding! As the title suggests, feeling our best really does start with the food we eat at every meal. And as the book says in its whiz-bang of a kickoff:

The food you eat with makes you more healthy or less healthy… There is no food neutral; there is no food Switzerland—every single thing you put in your mouth is either making you more healthy or less healthy.

For people who’ve read the Whole9 blog, attended a seminar, or maybe even tackled a Whole30, the first question is probably, “Why should I read the book? I get it.”

I respectfully posit that you don’t “get” all of it — because this book is packed with new information. It’s like Melissa and Dallas read every research study available, then put their new knowledge through the meat grinder of their common sense approach, added the spice of their wicked-sharp sense of humor, and rolled out tasty little meatballs of information that are delicious and easy to digest.

A Quick Romp Through The Book

One of the things that I found most irresistible about the Whole30 when I started following Melissa  and Dallas’s guidelines in 2009 is that M&D were able to present their case in ways that made it impossible to say no. What they said was so reasonable — “Just try it and see how you feel. — there was no counter argument. Now imagine that case-building awesomeness for 300 pages. At each turn, M&D anticipate your concerns, your questions, your hangups, and they provide science, anecdotes, and encouragement to help you overcome your hesitations.

Starting with the Good Food Standards, the book progresses through the foods that make us less healthy, including the all-important how they make us less healthy— then moves into the good news: foods that make us more healthy. For paleo people, the food lists aren’t surprising, but the wealth of details about the why and how is eye-opening and, frankly, great affirmation for those of us already eating this way.

The second half of the book addresses pressing practical matters: meal planning, portion sizes, and the holy grail of kicking ass in the name of your own good health: the Whole30. But again, this is the Whole30 through a new lens, with lots of additional details about how you’ll feel during your Whole30 and why.

For those of use who are special, special snowflakes with past eating issues or health concerns, the chapters that deal with strategies for long-term success and special populations are especially helpful. If you’ve completed a Whole30 you know, when the “safety” of the rules ends, it can be even more challenging to remain true to those shiny new habits. The practical information in these chapters is dead-on.

5 Other Awesome Things About The Book

1. They understand the emotional side of the equation.
Food is more than nourishment for our bodies. We eat for all kinds of reasons: emotions, hormonal wonkiness, hunger. It Starts With Food respects the complicated relationship we have with food and addresses these “squishier” issues, along with the science. And while Melissa and Dallas are well-known (and well-loved) for their tough love approach to the Whole30, their book delivers the science with compassion:

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…. 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’re not lacking willpower. You are not lazy. And it’s not your fault that you can’t stop eating these foods.

No, they’re not giving us all a free pass to dive face first into a box of doughnuts, but this precursor to the explanation of why some foods are so difficult to resist, both physically and emotionally is brilliant stuff.

2. The info is rich; the design is playful.
This book is serious in the value it provides, but it’s fun in the way it delivers that value. Throughout the pages, sidebars, a funky font, and illustrations keep you moving and break up the information into bite-sized chunks — all without sacrificing the flow of the story. Melissa and Dallas weave a tale that makes the conclusion inevitable: this is the healthiest way to eat. But the journey to that conclusion is enjoyable and manageable.

3. Sass, baby. Sass.
A few sample subheads to show you that while the subject matter is vitally important, there’s no reason we can’t all have a good time while reading about how to take excellent care of ourselves:
— Prime Rib and Oreos
— Cranky Cookie
— Don’t Move My Cheese
— Coconut: The Other White Meat
— Lions and Tigers and Saturated Fats, Oh My! (This might be my favorite one ’cause I reference this line from The Wizard of Oz all the time!)

4. What To Expect
While it’s just a few pages in length, this section speaks volumes for helping new and repeat visitors to the Whole30 mentally prepare for what their bodies are going to do when some of their favorite foods disappear from their plates. Our bodies can be moody SOBs when we mess with their routines, and I think these passages about how the Whole30 will roll are pretty kickass.

5. The Meal Map
Yes, that’s right: I’m tooting my own horn. I’m immensely proud of the work that Melissa, Dallas, Dave, and I did together on the Meal Map. Providing a meal-by-meal plan for readers seemed very “anti” the philosophy of the Whole30 and paleo, but we didn’t want to leave people without some kind of meal guidance. The Meal Map evolved out of a desire to demonstrate how easy it can be to eat the right foods without resorting to either “Boring Grilled Chicken and Broccoli Syndrome” or overly-complicated recipes. The Meal Map combines basic cooking techniques with the “You Know How You Could Do That” approach in Well Fed. And I can tell you, friends, every one of those recipe ideas tastes just as good as Dave’s photos look.

Buy your copy of It Starts With Food now!

Additional Resources

As they’ve always done, Melissa and Dallas are also offering tons of free, helpful resources on their web site to supplement the book and to help people new to this way of eating; you can find them all on this page.

Quick-Start Guide
Grocery Shopping Guide
Good Meat Guide
Guide to Sneaky Sugars
Shopping List
Vegetarian/Vegan Shopping List
Pantry-Stocking Guide
Meal-Planning Template
Dining Out
Travel Guide
Guide to Nutritional Off-Roading

It Starts With Food & Well Fed Giveaway

Thanks to the generosity of Melissa and Dallas, we’re giving away two copies of It Starts With Food, and I’m kicking in two copies of Well Fed: Paleo Recipes For People Who Love To Eat. All but one dessert in Well Fed are Whole30-approved, so this is a real food prize pack guaranteed to make you and yours healthy and happy.

Deadline to enter: 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, June 19. I’ll announce the winner on June 20.

UPDATE 06/20/12: We have our winners, and they’d been notified via email. Thanks for playing along, everyone!

To  Enter: Post to the comments below and tell us the one food you wish would magically be one of those foods that makes more healthy. For me, it’s a tie between pepperoni pizza with extra cheese and Nacho Cheese Doritos. If only Doritos could magically have the nutritional profile of kale! (And oh, dear. Peanut butter. Just a jar and a spoon is all I need.)

If you want, you can stop there. Good luck!

BONUS Entries — each of these needs a SEPARATE comment below. If you don’t put each in a separate comment, you will only have one entry in the drawing.

1. Like me on Facebook – or let me know that you already like me – then post a new comment below.

2. Follow me on Twitter – or let me know that you already follow me – then post a new comment below. 

3. Like Whole9 on Facebook – or let me know that you already like them – then post a new comment below.

4. Follow Whole9 on Twitter – or let me know that you already follow them – then post a new comment below.

Buy your copy of It Starts With Food now!

Full disclosure: I received a free copy of It Starts With Food to review, and when you use the links above to buy It Starts With Food, I get a little kickback from Amazon as part of their affiliate program. Neither of these facts have influenced what I have to say about the book.

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