Whole30 Cofounder Melissa Urban On How a Better Relationship With Food Can Improve Mental Health
The cofounder of the Whole30 plan is expanding the conversation to include the importance of mental health and the transformational power of movement.
Even though Whole30 started as an eating plan, there’s much more than just food on your blog, podcast, and Instagram feed. Was that a conscious choice?
It’s been a natural evolution, stemming from my own experience. Developing a healthy relationship with food and my body spilled over into other areas of my life, helping me tackle trauma, process stressful life events, develop self-care practices, and dive deeper into the issues my community also struggles with.
You’ve been very open about your recovery from drug addiction and other challenges, including single parenting and mental health issues. How come?
The best way I know to remove the stigma that often surrounds these issues is by dragging conversations into the light and giving them the respect, compassion, and support they deserve. By sharing openly, I hope to show people they don’t have to be ashamed and that seeking help is strong and brave.
You see Whole30 as a gateway to bigger things for people who practice it. What do you mean by that?
A person’s relationship with food is foundational to every other area of their life. If you feel like you’re in control of your food—not in an overly rigid, disordered way, but in an empowered, “I know I’m feeding myself well as an act of self-care” way—the confidence and energy that brings will spill over into every area of your life.
How can exercise and yoga impact people’s lives?
Any activity that involves moving your body can remind you of your power and give you something to focus on that isn’t just weight- or size-related. Can you lift more? Can you do it faster? Can you hold the pose longer? Can you enjoy the process and not just the results? Yoga in particular can be transformational—it teaches you that you are capable of so much more than you gave yourself credit for.
What do you think is missing when we talk about wellness?
Mental health is often omitted from the equation, and I am a big believer in therapy. There are some things that are just too big to unpack by yourself—and no amount of keto meals or CrossFit sessions is going to take the place of getting in touch with our feelings and processing past hurts.
Your latest cookbook, Whole30 Friends & Family, is about how to practice Whole30 during social occasions like holidays and parties. Why was that important to you?
Even with all the resources we offer and recipes available, people still said it was hard to socialize on the program. We want you to be social on the Whole30 and prove to yourself that you can still have fun, make memories, and celebrate traditions even without cake on your plate or wine in your glass. And that’s a life lesson that sticks. It helps people entertain, host, or attend social events in a way that feels effortless.
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