So many of us feel like we struggle with our weight. We search for diets and end up getting frustrated with them because the rules are hard to follow or they simply don’t work because there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution.
A while back I discovered a great, easy to use program called Whole30. It explains, step by step, how you can find the diet program that works for you.
There’s a lot of people out there whose diet is making them sick. Maybe your friends can eat grains, but you can’t. Whole30 is designed to help you find exactly what YOU need.
This system is one that felt so good I took it way past the 30-day mark.
But the woman behind it is even more incredible.
Melissa Hartwig founded Whole30 with her ex husband. In fact, they wrote the book and went on tour together while they were separated.
What drove her to health and nutrition was a life of drug addiction. She had a hard time coping with the sexual abuse of her past and the reactions she got from people when she was open about it.
After rehab, and a relapse, she discovered fitness, health and nutrition. She went through drastic changes to help her life, her environment, and all of the people around her.
Since then she’s been helping other people become healthy, fit and happy with themselves so they can feel confident enough to achieve the things they want in life.
Discover all of that and much more, on Episode 571.
Lewis Howes: This is episode number 571 with New York Times bestelling author, and creator of “The Whole30”, Melissa Hartwig.
Welcome to The School of Greatness. My name is Lewis Howes, former pro-athlete turned lifestyle entrepreneur and each week we bring you an inspiring person or message to help you discover how to unlock your inner greatness. Thanks for spending some time with me today. Now, let the class begin.
Bernard Williams said, “Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.”
Ah! We’ve got a great one today with Melissa Hartwig, who is a certified sports nutritionist, who also specialises in helping people change their relationship with food and create lifelong healthy habits. She is the co-creator of the original Whole30 Program, a four-time New York Times best-selling author, and she has been featured by Dr Oz, Good Morning America, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Detail Shape, Outside Self and ranked number 27 on the Top 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness in 2017.
She has also presented more than 150 health and nutrition seminars worldwide, and is a prominent keynote speaker on social media, on branding, health trends and entrepreneurship. And her new book, The Whole30 Day by Day – Your Daily Guide to Whole30 Success, is out now. Now this book has been transformational for my life, and all these people who have gone through this program with me, it’s been blowing my mind, the results they’re getting. So make sure you guys check that out.
And what we’ll cover today, is Melissa’s journey into and out of drug addiction, and how she got clean. Also, how a growth mindset can help you let go of bad, negative, toxic, habits. The experience of doing a book tour with her ex-husband while they were separated, and no-one even knew, what that was like, this was an interesting conversation.
Also, the healthy way to get through a break-up, even when it’s not a marriage, but also if it is a marriage. And also, what works to build a successful, connected, online community. Melissa’s built a massive community online, of raving fans, that buy anything that she sells. So, this is a powerful one, guys. So, make sure to share with your friends. Take a screenshot right now and post it on your Instagram Story, lewishowes.com/571, link that up and tag Melissa Hartwig to let both of us know that you’re listening so we can connect to you over on Instagram or Twitter.
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Once again, I’m very excited about our guest today. It’s none other than the one and only Melissa Hartwig!
Welcome back, everyone to The School of Greatness podcast! We have Melissa Hartwig in the house. Good to see you!
Melissa Hartwig: Hey! So good to see you too!
Lewis Howes: Thank you so much for being here.
Melissa Hartwig: Thanks for having me. I’m excited!
Lewis Howes: You’re my first interview that I’ve done in a few weeks, because I’ve been on my book tour. So, I’m finally back home in the studio. It feels good to be back and connecting with someone. So, I’m very excited about this interview, because you’re the co-creator of Whole30 Program, which I started, I think a year ago, I can’t remember if it was a year ago or eight months ago. My girlfriend, Jan, told me we should check this out, and I was, like, “Man! I have to give up so much!”
But I did! And I looked the best and felt the best I’ve ever felt. I remember having a photoshoot, a week and a half into it, and those photo’s were, you know, I just looked so lean and healthy and clear, and I was, like, “Wow! This is amazing!” And I remember when I went to Whole Foods to look for foods, I saw “Whole30” stamped on the bacon. And I was, like, “Wow! This person must have really created something if the food industry is getting behind it, putting lables on their food and packaging.” So, congrats on everything.
Melissa Hartwig: Thank you!
Lewis Howes: You’ve sold, what? Two million copies, no a million copies…
Melissa Hartwig: Just a million. You can put it out there, though, for two.
Lewis Howes: You’ll get to two! So to make a million copies in two years, is what I meant to say. And you’ve got a new book coming out, called The Whole30 Day-by-day – Your Daily Guide To Whole30 Success. Now, how is that different than The Whole30.
Melissa Hartwig: So, The Whole30 is like your go-to, practical application and how to do the program. So it’s for people who want to go in and they need all the help that they can get with planning and preparing. We teach them how to cook, so how to grill a chicken breast, how to grill some vegetables, all the basics, and then give them a bunch of recipes. So, it’s kind of like your step-by-step, like, “This is how to do the program.”
Lewis Howes: The Whole30.
Melissa Hartwig: Exactly, yeah. But what I’ve learned along the way by watching hundreds and thousands of people go through it, is that people want as much help as they can get, especially around food, because food is so emotional. So, Whole30 Day-by-day is essentially the last two and a half years of me watching people go through the program, observing what they experience on any given day, and figuring out how to support them on that specific day.
So, it’s like part field manual, part guided reflection. It’s motivation and support and tips and tricks and habit research and a testimony all related to that day, for all thirty days of the program. And then there’s some guided reflection, because the more closely connected you stay to the process, the better chance you have of making that habit stick. So it’s kind of like your field manual, your companion to The Whole30 book.
Lewis Howes: Now, you started this program in 2009, correct?
Melissa Hartwig: Yeah.
Lewis Howes: Why did you wait, like, six years to come out with the book?
Melissa Hartwig: Well, the first book, It Starts With Food, came out in 2012, so three years. And “It Starts With Food” is kind of like the science behind the program. The why. So if you’re a Gretchen Rubin questioner and you want to know why you’re doing what you’re doing and have to understand the science behind it, that’s the book you start with. But it took three years for that book to come out, because we were just making the program good.
We wanted to get it in people’s hands and see how it did, and see how we could support them, and we weren’t thinking about selling books, we were just thinking about how many people can we reach.
Lewis Howes: Interesting. Okay, and then you decided to come out with Whole30. Why did you come out with the book at that time?
Melissa Hartwig: So, in 2012 we wrote, “It Starts With Food,” and it explained a bit about The Whole30, how to do the program, some of the science behind it, and we were, like, “Okay, phew! This is it! You can do the Whole30 and we’re going to be able to talk about other stuff.” You know, we can talk about exercise, we can talk about sleep, whatever we’re interested in.
And then everyone who read, “It Starts With Food” was like, “This is awesome, I love knowing the science…”
Lewis Howes: Now show me how to do the Whole30.
Melissa Hartwig: Exactly, yes! And we were like, “Ah! People need way more information!” So that’s where… Everything I’ve ever written is because the community has said, “I need this to be successful.” And I’m like, “Okay, I can write that for you. Cool.” So that’s where The Whole30 came from. It was people saying, “Okay, cool. But tell me exactly what to do.”
Lewis Howes: Right. Now, did you expect it to be as big as it is?
Melissa Hartwig: No, of course not.
Lewis Howes: You were like, “People are going to love this, it’s going to be amazing! It’s going to be bigger than Paleo…
Melissa Hartwig: Oh, goodness, no! I mean, I knew it was a good program because we had a lot of people coming back, reporting really similar, remarkable results and I had remarkable results, so I knew it was good. But, no, of course not. You never think about writing a book or having it grow or seeing your logo on bacon at Whole Foods.
Lewis Howes: It’s crazy, hey? How many food products is your logo on that you’re aware of?
Melissa Hartwig: I feel like we’ve about maybe seventy or eighty who are Whole30 approved partners.
Lewis Howes: No way!
Melissa Hartwig: Oh, yeah.
Lewis Howes: Who have your logo on their food?
Melissa Hartwig: It’s really crazy, yeah.
Lewis Howes: Seventy partners. On packaging.
Melissa Hartwig: No, I don’t think everybody has it on their packaging, but yeah, we’ve got some big brands in the works. And we’re really selective about who we choose to partner to, really selective.
Lewis Howes: Now, do they reach out to you, or do you reach out to them?
Melissa Hartwig: They reach out to us.
Lewis Howes: No way! They say, “Can we partner with you and say this is Whole30 approved?”
Melissa Hartwig: Yes.
Lewis Howes: Is it because they’re getting so many requests online or in their service box? It’s like, “Hey, is this Whole30 approved?”
Melissa Hartwig: I think so. We’re working with a really big brand right now, who just reformulated their bacon, so there was no sugar added. And I outreached to them, and said, “Did you do this with Whole30 in mind?” And they were like, “Yeah, we want to partner with you.” And it’s in the works. It’ll probably be out in January.
Lewis Howes: Holy cow!
Melissa Hartwig: Yeah! It’s like we’re changing things.
Lewis Howes: But I wonder if people are buying those products more.
Melissa Hartwig: Oh, yes! Of course they are!
Lewis Howes: Because it’s like, “I can’t have these other things, I can only have this.”
Melissa Hartwig: Yeah. Because here’s the thing: Whole30 is kind of the lowest common denominator. If you’re Paleo, if you’re primal, if you’re gluten free, if you’re dairy free; if it’s got a Whole30 lable on it, you know you can eat it. So, it’s sort of like, you get that stamp of approval and it opens up that food to a variety of different populations, not just people on Whole30.
Lewis Howes: Now, why did you get into this in the first place? Why did you search for food and healthy living in the first place?
Melissa Hartwig: Oh, okay. I wasn’t always super healthy and I kind of came to fitness and health, when I got out of rehab for drug addiction. So, I spent my college years basically high, for about four and a half years.
Lewis Howes: What type of high?
Melissa Hartwig: You know, I was an equal opportunity user. I didn’t have a drug of choice, which I think is unusual, according to my rehab intake counsellor. I only dated drug dealers for like, three years, and they had access to a lot of things, and so I basically did everything I could get my hands on.
Lewis Howes: Where’d you go to school?
Melissa Hartwig: I got really lucky. University of New Hampshire.
Lewis Howes: Lot of drug dealers up in New Hampshire?
Melissa Hartwig: I mean, there are drug dealers everywhere, and I could find them, wherever I was.
Lewis Howes: What was the draw to dating drug dealers?
Melissa Hartwig: When I found drugs, it was like the thing I was missing, or looking for to help me run away from some stuff that I wasn’t dealing with, and having access to that all the time, just basically kept me oblivious.
Lewis Howes: Right. What were those things you were running from?
Melissa Hartwig: It all started when I was a teenager and experienced some sexual abuse by someone who was really close to me. And, it was a lot of manipulation, and it was my first experience with sex, and I was really young, and it was someone that was supposed to be trustworthy and I didn’t tell anyone for a really long time, and when I finally started telling people, they didn’t handle it super well, and I felt really abandoned… Yeah, it’s like this whole big thing.
Lewis Howes: How did they not handle it right? They just made you wrong?
Melissa Hartwig: A little bit. I feel like some of the people who were the closest to me, who should have taken care of me, were so overwhelmed by what to do with this information, that they just chose to pretend it didn’t exist, which left me feeling really abandoned. And so, I was very young, I wasn’t self-aware at all. I didn’t really know what to do with this information, and so I was looking for something to not keep me here.
I tried drinking, and that didn’t work. I didn’t like it. I tried not controlling other things in my life, and when I found drugs, I was like, “Oh, okay, cool. This is what I do now.”
Lewis Howes: Wow. You started when you were like, seventeen, eighteen?
Melissa Hartwig: No, I didn’t tell anyone about the abuse until I was about eighteen, and I didn’t start taking drugs until my freshman year of college, so I was about nineteen, and I picked it up fast.
Lewis Howes: What gave you the courage to even tell someone? Because I never had the courage to tell anyone.
Melissa Hartwig: Yeah. I’ve read your story. It was necessity. This was a person who was in my life. He was very close with my family.
Lewis Howes: It wasn’t a family member, but close to them?
Melissa Hartwig: It was a family member. He would just continue to act like nothing was wrong, and I would just be expected to do things, and he showed up at my house one day to pick me up to go for a drive, and I basically freaked out and my dad was home, and I told my dad.
Lewis Howes: No way!
Melissa Hartwig: Yeah. I just… I couldn’t…
Lewis Howes: With him there?
Melissa Hartwig: Yeah. Well, I don’t really remember if he was there, or if I sent him away, but I remember I had this giant freak out and kind of told them and then it was this whole big mess.
Lewis Howes: Your dad was closer to the person, probably.
Melissa Hartwig: Yeah. My dad was… My dad almost killed him. I mean, it was… yeah.
Lewis Howes: How did that make you feel? That he kind of stood up for you that way?
Melissa Hartwig: Yeah, you know, it’s funny, because I’ve had conversations with my dad after the fact, and it’s interesting reconciling what I remember as a teenager, with hearing his story now. I’m almost seeing it from two different viewpoints, like, sixteen-year-old Melissa and adult Melissa. And I think, at the time, I didn’t realise what was going on behind the scenes with how my parents were choosing to handle it, and stuff.
All I knew was that something went horribly wrong and I didn’t know what to think about it and I didn’t know how to handle it and it was probably my fault in some way. And so, I don’t think I was even aware of how it was being handled. I just know I felt really lost. I’ve literally never talked about that before.
Lewis Howes: Wow. Did you ever talk about it more with your dad?
Melissa Hartwig: Yeah, yeah. I talk with him quite a bit about it now, very openly. And I feel really good about it, he’s been incredibly supportive.
Lewis Howes: That’s good.
Melissa Hartwig: Yes, it’s really good.
Lewis Howes: But other people in your family weren’t supporting you, is that what you’re saying?
Melissa Hartwig: Family dynamics are really hard. I’ll just be diplomatic about that and it can be really hard when you take a look at something like that. When you really look at it, you have to accept a whole lot of information about what was going on at that time, and the way you reacted and the truths that you learned as a kid. And it’s complicated.
I will say, everyone did the best they could. I truly believe that. I really think they did the best they could. And I am a parent now, and I think about how I would handle that situation, and it’s like, you just don’t know! It’s unfathomable.
Lewis Howes: It’s crazy, right?
Melissa Hartwig: It is.
Lewis Howes: One in four women, one in six men are sexually abused. It’s crazy.
Melissa Hartwig: Yeah, it is.
Lewis Howes: I feel like, I was having a conversation the other day with someone, that they will never have a babysitter. They’re only going to have the grandmother, or a family member, but even then, it’s like, who knows, you never know!
Melissa Hartwig: I know, you never know. And that’s the hardest part. I don’t expect anyone to have been able to… You can’t see something like this coming. After that event I became kind of a wild child. I was a good kid, I studied super hard, got straight A’s, read my books, did what I was supposed to do and then things kind of started going wrong. I was sneaking out of the house and lying to my parents and in retrospect, if I have a kid and something like that happens, you have to ask, “Why the shift?” But, yeah, hindsight, right? Hindsight. People, they did they best they could with what they had.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. Wow. Okay, so you went after school, you found drugs, felt the feeling you were looking for and when did you realise, “I have a problem,” or “This isn’t working for me. This is not what I want to do any more.”?
Melissa Hartwig: Yeah, you do this thing to take you away from this other thing.
Lewis Howes: Uh-huh. One addiction to another addiction.
Melissa Hartwig: Yup. And then this thing becomes a problem, and then you’re like, “Ah crap, now I have two problems,” right? So I ended up having to drop out of school because I wasn’t doing well. I moved down to Virginia to live with my dad for a little while, until my behaviour down there became so erratic, because I found a drug dealer in Virginia too.
Lewis Howes: No way.
Melissa Hartwig: Of course I did. My behaviour down there became very erratic so I moved back home with my mom and I kind of ping-ponged around and my mom had a new husband at the time who was like, “You know your daughter’s on drugs, right?” And my mom had no experience with this, and was like, “No way! That can’t be possible.” You know?
And eventually the wheels started to come off my bus in a very serious way, and I had a boyfriend I was living with at the time, who, bless him…
Lewis Howes: Drug dealer?
Melissa Hartwig: Nope! Not a drug dealer! The guy that I picked up, the good guy, the good guy!
Lewis Howes: And you made him wrong for everything, probably, didn’t you?
Melissa Hartwig: I don’t think I took very good care of him at the end. I don’t think so. But he took good care of me, and there was one night when he just said to me, “I’m going to get you help tonight, or I’m leaving,” and he did. He called and they had a bed for me and we literally went, like, in an hour I was in the rehab facility.
Lewis Howes: That’s nice of him.
Melissa Hartwig: My favourite ex-boyfriend.
Lewis Howes: That’s great, that he stood for you. And then what happened after that?
Melissa Hartwig: Went to rehab, got clean.
Lewis Howes: How long did that take? Thirty days?
Melissa Hartwig: You’re inpatient for four weeks and then outpatient for a month or two. I started working with a really great therapist who I worked with until two or three years ago. We’re talking many, many years of me working with this guy, who really helped me get through the abuse and helped me unpack all of that stuff.
I was clean for a year, and then relapsed for a month or so, and then pulled myself out of my hole, and said, “Okay…”
Lewis Howes: By yourself?
Melissa Hartwig: Yeah, yeah.
Lewis Howes: You realised, “This is not a part of me.”
Melissa Hartwig: Yeah, this is not okay.
Lewis Howes: What type of drugs are we talking here?
Melissa Hartwig: I did a lot of… I never shot up, and I never smoked crack. Those were the two. I did a lot of heroin, I did a lot of ecstasy, did a lot of hallucinogens, smoked pot, lot of pills, basically whatever. But it was when I got clean for the final time, which was, like, 2000, that I found fitness and nutrition and…
Lewis Howes: Healthy addiction, right?
Melissa Hartwig: Maybe for a little while, like, over exercise, but that modulated itself really quickly. I just felt like I had to change everything about me and my life, to stay clean. I had to get new friends, I got rid of clothes, I stopped listening to certain music, I moved, I started going to the gym, I made new girl friends.
My goal was basically to tell people about my addiction story and have them be like, “What? I can’t picture that!” That was what I wanted. To remove myself so far from that situation.
Lewis Howes: You changed your entire environment.
Melissa Hartwig: Yeah, I did. Growth mindset, right? I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s what I was doing. I was embracing this massive growth mindset.
Lewis Howes: That was 2000, so you got into fitness and nutrition. And when did you start to feel like, “Okay, I’m back on track to a normal lifestyle, or a fulfilling lifestyle.”
Melissa Hartwig: I don’t know that it was ever a moment. I just know that the farther along that I got, the more I felt really settled in my new life, the more I felt like I had really good coping mechanisms… I still have some buffers in place.
Lewis Howes: What does that mean?
Melissa Hartwig: I’m eighteen years from using drugs, I’m almost eighteen years clean, and I still won’t keep narcotics in my house. So, when I had my son, I had an emergency C-section, and they gave me pain pills, and I gave them to his dad, and I said, “You keep these, and you don’t tell me where they are. You only give them to me if you think I need them.” Right? Protective, just protective.
Lewis Howes: Smart. Otherwise you can go right back into…
Melissa Hartwig: I just want to create as much of a buffer between me and that behaviour as possible. But there was definitely a point where I was like, “Okay, I’m definitely a new person.” I can’t imagine, no matter how bad or crazy things get, that I would go back to that. And it took a few years.
Lewis Howes: And so, then you became a nutritionist, right?
Melissa Hartwig: Yes, sports nutritionist. I was running a crossfit gym, I was travelling with crossfit, coaching people in kettlebells.
Lewis Howes: You got into this before crossfit was big, right? Early stages?
Melissa Hartwig: Kind of like in the beginning, yeah. 2005, 2006, earlier stages, yeah.
Lewis Howes: Wow. A friend of mine, that I played college football with, won the Crossfit Games in the year 2008/2009. Graham Holmberg, I don’t know if you know him?
Melissa Hartwig: I don’t know him, yeah.
Lewis Howes: He was the guy before Rich Froning, and went on to win, like, however many in a row. So you got in early, into that community, and you created a crossfit gym. You must have been one of the first crossfit gyms right.
Melissa Hartwig: I was the second one in New Hampshire.
Lewis Howes: And after you became a sports nutritionist, were you trying to get clients as a sports nutritionist or was it more the gym thing?
Melissa Hartwig: I was just doing it part time. I had a nine-to-five job that I really liked. I had gone back to college, I had got my bachelor’s and I was working in this nine-to-five job that I liked and I was advancing and doing really well there, and I was just doing this gym stuff on the side.
I was training clients, which I loved, I was doing some nutrition consulting, just very casually which was based on my own experience and some of the research I was doing. Robb Wolf was kind of a mentor of mine, so when he had overflow clients, he’d kind of send them my way and I was working with them. It was great, yeah. I learned a lot.
And then I figured out the more I was doing with them with nutrition, the better results they got in the gym, and my area of interest was working with women in nutrition specifically, telling women it was okay for them to eat more, which was, I think, a new concept for a lot of them, even in the crossfit world at that point.
Lewis Howes: Eat more, but of certain things, right?
Melissa Hartwig: Yeah. Like, you don’t have to starve yourself.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. When I was in Whole30 I was eating pretty much everything, anything, all the time, because I was missing out on sugar… I was like, done!
Melissa Hartwig: Yeah, well, that’s that emotional relationship that I discovered early on too. Yeah.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, but then, after a while, you start to not need it as much. At the end of the thirty days, I actually think I went forty-five days. I was trying, like, after thirty days I decided I’m going to do another thirty, then I go to forty-five and then I started to cheat a little and then it was, like, “Ah…” But it was amazing, and it felt amazing.
Now, do you stay Whole30, 24/7, 365?
Melissa Hartwig: Of course not. That’s not the point.
Lewis Howes: What is the point?
Melissa Hartwig: So, we talk about the Whole30 and then living your food freedom. And food freedom is not me telling you what to eat 365 days a year. There is no one-size-fits-all diet, and all the exercise and diet gurus say this, right. There’s no one-size-fits-all, you have to figure it out for yourself, and then people are like, “Cool. How do I figure it out?” And The Whole30 is how you figure it out.
It’s you eliminate, you reintroduce, you compare your experience and then based on what you learn, you get to decide what’s worth it for you in life after, and that’s how you create the perfect diet for you.That’s what I’ve done. I bring back in, on a really regular basis, rice in my sushi, no big deal, hummus, no big deal, the occasional glass of white wine, no big deal, and then there’s stuff that I never eat, because I know it messes me up so bad that it’s just not worth it, and there’s in between: goat cheese, it’s the worst for me, for some reason. It makes my stomach so unhappy, but I don’t miss it, because it makes me feel like junk.
Lewis Howes: When I came back off The Whole30, I had a thing of hummus, and man, it messed me up.
Melissa Hartwig: Yeah, hummus can mess you up.
Lewis Howes: And then I was thinking, “Well, maybe it’s because I had the whole jug of hummus or maybe the pita bread that I had it on, or a combination of everything. Maybe it’s because of an empty stomach?”
Melissa Hartwig: Yes. And this is why reintroduction is so carefully structured, because we want you to learn as much as you can from the experiment, right. Bring stuff back in really carefully and then you can figure out, you know, that way you’re not asking yourself, “Is it the hummus or is it the pita bread?” You know for sure.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, I guess I didn’t do it the best way.
Melissa Hartwig: It’s fine, it’s fine, there are always opportunities…
Lewis Howes: But the thing is, so many people I talk to, who go on The Whole30, get great results. And it becomes like, a thing you can do together with friends. Me and my girlfriend did it together, my entertainment lawyer did it, and he got great results. It’s just spreading. It’s amazing.
I feel like this is different. There’s so many diet books out there, or nutrition books out there, but I feel like this is one that’s really sustainable for people. People get great results and they can always come back to it. Because it is just the whole foods. It’s vegetables and meat.
Melissa Hartwig: It’s really easy, all you’re doing is picking from the shopping list. You’re not counting calories and you’re not tracking, you’re not weighing and you’re not measuring and here are like, a thousand recipes you can pick from, and you can just put ingredient meals together if you want. And once you get the hang of it, it’s actually really pretty easy.
Lewis Howes: Now I want to ask about, because you started this with your ex-husband, you started this program. Was it your idea, was it his idea?
Melissa Hartwig: He was the one who suggested it in the first place. He’s a physical therapist. He had been doing some research into dietary factors that impact rheumatoid arthritis, because his little sister had it already, and came across a paper of Loren Cordain, about lectins in certain foods, and as a physical therapist, he had had this shoulder injury that he just could not heal. And he removed some of these foods from his diet and his shoulder pain cleared up miraculously and never returned, which really got his attention.
Lewis Howes: What were those foods?
Melissa Hartwig: He was eating a lot of beans, he was eating a lot of oatmeal, he was eating a lot of grains, and that was the stuff he pulled out, and his shoulder pain got better.
Lewis Howes: Some people aren’t affected by that, right? They’re not affected by the grains or the..
Melissa Hartwig: Yeah. It affects different people in different ways to various degrees, and like you said…
Lewis Howes: Probably at different stages of your life, too.
Melissa Hartwig: That also could be, right, if you’re experiencing a lot of life stress and you’re chronically underslept and overtrained, then maybe those factors have more, right? So, that’s the point of self-experimentation, because there’s no one-size-fits-all. So, we got to a seminar of Robb Wolf where he was talking about Paleo, which was what Dallas had researched, and Robb was like, “Just try it for thirty days.” And that’s basically what Dallas proposed to me.
We were doing this really heavy Olympic lifting session and then we were sitting around afterward, and I was eating thin mints, I remember specifically, right out of the sleeve.
Lewis Howes: Thin mints! I could eat a whole box of thin mints! So good!
Melissa Hartwig: And he’s like, “We should do this 30 days squeaky clean.” And the thing that made me a really good drug addict, also makes me really good at taking on new habits, because I was like, “When do you want to start?” He’s like, “Now.” And I literally handed the thin mints to my friend, Zach, and I was like, “Cool, let’s go!” And we did, and that was the start of the very first Whole30.
Lewis Howes: Did you have it all figured out, like, “We’re not going to have this, this and this,” or was it kind of…
Melissa Hartwig: It was based loosely on the framework of a Paleo diet, but when I went back, so I blogged about it on my personal training blog back in 2009, and when I go back and read, it was super loosey goosey, like, “Don’t eat this, try to eat less sugar,” it wasn’t anywhere near, wasn’t super well defined.
Lewis Howes: But it still got great results?
Melissa Hartwig: It did! I got incredible results, but different results than what he did. His was almost more physical, mine were mostly helping me identify really unhealthy emotional relationship with food, and helping me change that in a really permanent and profound way.
Lewis Howes: Because I feel like when we have a structure, when we have guidelines, then we can be creative within those guidelines. In life and with food.
Melissa Hartwig: Yeah. I like that, yeah.
Lewis Howes: You know when you’re an artist, sometimes people say, “Paint me a painting,” it’s hard to be creative, but when you say, “Paint me a painting with red, black and green, and it has to have circular motions.” Then you can be creative and artistic with the structure and the context. And I think when I had the context and the structure of the Whole30, it made me be more creative of how I could make my food, things that I could order. Now, it limited me in some ways, but it gave me structure, and I think that structure creates discipline as well.
Melissa Hartwig: Yes! A lot of people find the rules of the program, which are very black and white, very on or off, freeing. Because, as you said, it takes some of the decision fatigue out of their way. It sort of eliminates the need to kind of like white-knuckle willpower your way out of every decision. We say, “No added sugar,” so when you pick up a label and you read it, you don’t have to think, “This is 2g of sugar. Is it too much? Is it not enough? Is it better, is it worse?” It’s just, “It’s sugar. Nope. It’s out!”
People find that very freeing, especially in the beginning, because when you’re trying to create a new habit, or change a habit, it’s like when I went to rehab. They stick you in a box and you’re isolated from the rest of the world, because in the beginning you’re really fragile. And it’s kind of similar. There’s a lot of addiction and recovery language built into the whole thing, which I didn’t even realise until kind of after the fact.
Lewis Howes: When did you get married? What year was that?
Melissa Hartwig: Oh my gosh…
Lewis Howes: You don’t remember?
Melissa Hartwig: I should remember… 2011? I think.
Lewis Howes: The book came out 2015.
Melissa Hartwig: Yeah, The Whole30 book, yeah.
Lewis Howes: And when did you get divorced?
Melissa Hartwig: We separated three years ago in October, and then the divorce took a year to finalise.
Lewis Howes: Before the book came out, you got divorced? You were separated?
Melissa Hartwig: Yeah.
Lewis Howes: Writing the book, that must have been interesting.
Melissa Hartwig: We separated before the book was written and had to…
Lewis Howes: And then you wrote the book together?
Melissa Hartwig: No, I wrote the book, but then we had to do a book tour together, when no-one knew that we were separated. Yeah, we did. And listen, we didn’t want anything to detract from the book. Our publishers had invested a lot in us. We wanted to make it about the book and the community, not about us personally, we never made it about us personally.
We came together and melded. He and I both did an incredible job, I feel like, we put it aside and we just…
Lewis Howes: Like, harmonised in this.
Melissa Hartwig: Yeah, we did. And I don’t think we were disingenuous about this, I think. We weren’t pretending to be this super happy couple…
Lewis Howes: Going in there holding hands.
Melissa Hartwig: Nope, but when it came time to go out and meet people and talk, we did a great job, and I’m really proud of us for doing that. But it was one of the hardest things ever I’ve had to do in my life.
Lewis Howes: You would think that maybe that would bring you guys back together, since you guys were able to do something together.
Melissa Hartwig: No, nobody was under that impression.
Lewis Howes: How was this for you, then, writing a book with a partner that you’re separating with and having whatever emotional challenges, you’re both having, I mean, he had his own emotional challenges about you, you had stuff about him, two sides to every story, I don’t even know what happened, that doesn’t matter, but how did you emotionally handle this, with your food nutrition during this time. Were you able to stay Whole30 approved essentially, or were you a mess inside with this emotional turmoil.
Melissa Hartwig: It was the most emotional and stressful period of my life. And I have…
Lewis Howes: You were pregnant, right?
Melissa Hartwig: No, we had had the baby at that point. Our kid was one. So, I mean, I was a new mom, but I have never been happier. I’ve done so much therapy, so much therapy, and all the therapy we did, over the course of our marriage, trying to make things work and individually, prepared me for this time period which was, “This is the most stressful event I could ever imagine going through, and I can still choose to be happy.” And I did! So, I did well. I focussed on my…
Lewis Howes: You didn’t break down and like, crumble.
Melissa Hartwig: No! I mean, no. Any time I had periods of either resentment or anger or frustration, they were very short-lived. I was able to really even process them and work my way through them. I was taking good care of myself, I was taking good care of my son, I had good relationships with my friends. It was one of the happiest periods of my life, which sounds so strange. But it was.
That was when I feel like my performance in the gym went up, and I started back at yoga again and all of this new stuff. Just, it’s hard, you know? When you’re trying so hard to make a relationship work, and we were both trying hard to make it work, you give up so many pieces of yourself, in an effort to kind of compromise and get this thing off the ground, and one it was clear that it wasn’t going to work, I felt like, “Okay, now it’s time to find me again.” And that felt good. It felt really good.
Lewis Howes: Now, so you guys were separated before the book you wrote. Why did you keep your last name? Before the book came out, why wouldn’t you change your name back?
Melissa Hartwig: So, I had an opportunity…
Lewis Howes: You had made a platform with it already?
Melissa Hartwig: Yeah, that was basically it. I had a conversation, and it seems so weird to say that my agent helped me decide whether I should change my name back to my maiden name after I divorced. But I had a conversation with her, saying, “Can I go back to,” my last name is Urban, “Can I go back to Urban?” and she was like, “Man, that’s a tough sell. Every book you’ve ever written is under Hartwig. All of the Whole30 stuff is under Hartwig. That’s how people know you.”
And I wasn’t so well known that, you know, I’m not Glenna Doyle, she can change her last name to whatever she wants, and people would know who she was, so I didn’t have that opportunity. And my son’s last name is Hartwig, so I don’t love it. I will say, I don’t love it.
Lewis Howes: You could change back now.
Melissa Hartwig: Maybe I could. Maybe I should have thought of that before the new book.
Lewis Howes: There’s still time, it’s not printed yet.
Melissa Hartwig: That’s true.
Lewis Howes: Wow. Interesting. Do you think, having control of your nutrition and your fitness has helped you emotionally navigate divorce and emotions and all that as well? And divorcing a human, but also divorcing a business. Because you had to do both, as I understand, right?
Melissa Hartwig: I did, yes, and the business was way harder. The business was very challenging. You know, personally I think we had both reconciled ourselves and that part was really easy, and the co-parenting is easy and all of that stuff. Yeah, it was tough.
Yes, in times of great stress I’m a huge fan of controlling the things you can control. And the things I could control were the food I put in my body, how much I slept, at least making concious decisions to go to bed early and sleep, you know? And at least get as much good sleep as I can, and exercise in a smart fashion. Not over-exercise, not beat myself up, not kill myself, but move my body in a way that felt good. So I did.
Lewis Howes: What advice would you give to women going through divorce, who have a tendency of emotional eating, as a challenge for themselves? Just in general life, and now they’re going through a divorce. Whether they are business partners or not, but the divorcing and going through this, what suggestions or strategies or tips would you have to give them?
Melissa Hartwig: Yeah, I think, for me, the thing that resonates the most is that people are reaching for food in these times and their emotional struggles, but they’re not… you don’t want a cookie, you’re looking for a connection, and I think people, especially at the end of a marriage, you’ve probably already isolated yourself a little bit from friends and family, because when your relationship’s not going well, it’s really hard to socialise and pretend like it is, or you don’t want to bring other people down with your issues, or they’ve been hearing about it for so long already.
So you tend to pull back anyway, so you’re missing out on these good person to person connections that can be so helpful with you processing and shifting, and instead you’re reaching for food. So, my advice, and what I tried to do with my own life, is just stay as connected as possible to people who really mattered.
And I shared really openly, and we weren’t always talking about my feelings or my divorce. Sometimes we were just going to a yoga class, or going for a walk, and that was great too. But not isolating and purposely forging those connections can be so helpful.
Lewis Howes: Who do you feel like does a better job with The Whole30? Men or women?
Melissa Hartwig: That’s tough. So, our audience is mostly women, and I think the diet industry is driven mostly by women. As much as I say The Whole30 is not a diet, that’s kind of where we fall. We connect with most of our readers via social media, and women are far more likely to engage over social on a concept like this.
I think what I hear from men is, “I actually did The Whole30, but I never blogged about it. I never social media’ed about it, you know, I never went on a forum and asked for support.” Men tend to do a bit better, maybe for two reasons. 1. They tend to lose weight faster, and that can be…
Lewis Howes: They do? Why is that?
Melissa Hartwig: They do, yeah. That can be for a number of reasons. They’ve got more muscle mass, testosterone, they tend to have, this is a very gross generality, but they maybe don’t have as much or as deep an emotional relationship with food as women do. I know men still have their emotional issues with food, but from what I’ve observed, they don’t tend to either run as deep or be as strong.
Lewis Howes: Why is that?
Melissa Hartwig: I don’t know, you tell me?
Lewis Howes: Well, I can throw down a box of doughnuts at any time. I can do it when I’m sad or emotionally distraught, or I can do it when I’m celebrating. It’s like, “Okay we just did this! Let’s get a box of doughnuts or some pizza!” So that’s the thing. And then here’s something, I just read this excerpt a couple of weeks ago, actually JJ Virgin brought this to my attention.
She showed me an article about, it’s about essentially gender nutritional habits. How for men, there’s a way and a style of eating that’s different than women, in general, where it’s competitive for men, where it’s like, “Oh, I can eat more than you.” You don’t see a lot of women doing food eating contests. It’s projecting your masculinity of like, “Oh, I can beat you at this as well.” I can be bigger or I can drink the beer faster than you, or do these things better than you.
Or, men do barbecues, so we’re all going have lots of meats and all those other things and women eat salads, or whatever. And they eat slower. So there’s like this gender kind of like…
Melissa Hartwig: I definitely don’t want to insinuate that guys don’t have an emotional relationship with food. I think, maybe, where I was going with this, is that women tend to be a little bit more mind screwed when it comes to food, because we’ve been fed the diet industry and the thinspiration our whole lives and that hasn’t been as directed towards men, I don’t think.
So, you know, we’ve got the Cosmo magazines and all the glamours and all the other stuff. And the media and the diet industry telling us that we’re not skinny enough, and we’re not toned enough and whatever. So, you add that to an emotional relationship with food and that can be really challenging.
Lewis Howes: What advice do you have for women who are emotional eaters in general? How to separate themselves from that, how to navigate it, or accept it? I mean, what’s even the best way to go about it?
Melissa Hartwig: So, part of it is biological, right? So, under periods of chronic stress, we crave sugar. It is biological. It is what happens in our system with our hormones when we are under stress and our body thinks that we need to run from the tiger, or fend off the attack, and we want quick and easy energy. That’s a very simplistic overview, but part of it is biological. So there’s almost a piece of that that can be really freeing for people.
Like, “Okay, you’re going through a really difficult divorce, and finances are tight and you’re not sure where you’re going to live. Of course you’re craving sugar. Of course.” Right? So that’s expected. And so, that can be almost comforting for people.
Lewis Howes: Just the awareness of that, just understanding it.
Melissa Hartwig: I think so, yeah. Just understanding what’s going on behind the scenes can make you feel less crazy. I don’t want this, but why I am I craving it? Once I start eating it, I can’t stop. I think for some people, if your emotional relationship with food isn’t to the point where you would consider yourself addicted, or you’re not eating specifically as a result of some kind of unresolved trauma or issue, maybe doing a reset like The Whole30 can help.
Where you’re pulling this stuff out of your diet and physiologically, and psychologically, we are giving you a reset, from these foods that are making you crave and over-consume and get you stuck in this.
Lewis Howes: That way you have better habits afterwards. Do it for thirty days and then you’re not craving as much.
Melissa Hartwig: Yes, and that works really well for some people. For others, I say, “You got to go talk to someone.” It’s about the food, but it’s not about the food. It’s about all of the stuff that’s coming underneath and behind the food and you need to look at that. That is sending you to the food.
Lewis Howes: Right. You need to release it. You need to connect about it in a different way.
Melissa Hartwig: Yeah, and I’m a huge fan of therapy. Any modality that happens to work for you. A lot of these things are too big to unpack yourself. Too big.
Lewis Howes: What else are you excited about in your life right now?
Melissa Hartwig: My son’s amazing. He’s four-and-a-half and super fun! He has his own great little personality and he is just getting to the age where I’m doing stuff with him, instead of just toting him along everywhere. Which is cool. So he gets to tell me what he wants to do on a weekend and he loves to be outside and hiking with me and stuff, so that’s good.
I have such an awesome network of friends right now. Guys and girls, which is cool. I never had girl friends growing up.
Lewis Howes: Really? The lone girl?
Melissa Hartwig: Yeah, I don’t know, no, I think maybe I had some defence mechanisms and now I like sharing with my girl friends. We sit down and we just get into it, so that feels really good. I’m travelling a ton. I love what I do for work, so much, I love it.
Lewis Howes: That’s awesome. Helping people.
Melissa Hartwig: All of it, all of it, creating resources, meeting them, hearing their stories, like, “What do you need? What can I do for you? Let me help.” I love it so much! It’s super fulfilling.
Lewis Howes: What would you say is missing for you?
Melissa Hartwig: A solid personal life. A relationship. It’s kind of the excuse that feeds it. I’ve been in this period of work hustle, where work is going really well and I’ve been writing books like crazy.
Lewis Howes: It’s your fifth book now?
Melissa Hartwig: This is my, it’ll be my sixth, but it’s the second year that I will put out two books in a row. It’s crazy. I didn’t, and I don’t have much to do with the cookbooks, but still. So, work is going really well, so I’m focussing on work and I also love my kid and I sleep really well, and I’m at the gym all the time and I do yoga all the time and stuff, and then I date someone and then it’s like, “You’re kind of hard to date,” because I’m not around and I travel so much. And so, it’s easy to say, “Well, I’ll just put that off for a little while. Except, I have been saying that for a little while.
So, you know, maintaining personal relationships can be tough for a number of reasons. I think that’s what’s missing.
Lewis Howes: What’s it going to take for you to bring that into your life?
Melissa Hartwig: Some pretty conscious pulling back of what I do for work. Some pretty conscious, like, “This could be a good opportunity, but I’m going to pass on it for now and really focus on my connecting in my relationships.
Lewis Howes: Well, do you think if you found someone that was worth pulling back for, you would?
Melissa Hartwig: Maybe, yeah, maybe. That’s a good way of looking at it, too. Let’s just put it this way. For the first time in a long time, I’m tossing it out there. Like, “Okay, universe, I’m kind of ready for this.” Yeah, I’m ready for something that’s a little more connected and a little more serious. It’s been three years. I took the first year and a half and I didn’t really date at all, because I felt like I needed that space for me and that was great. But yeah, I think I’m ready for it.
Lewis Howes: That’s cool. Awesome. What have you learned about building an online community around this topic? Because I think there are a lot of people who are experts or nutritionists, or just in general, coaches helping other people, but you’ve built a great community, with different groups on Facebook and social media, your website. What would you say has been helpful for you in navigating that and cultivating that?
Melissa Hartwig: I think it’s two things. I think number one, it is serving them. And I stay incredibly engaged with my community. Me, directly.
Lewis Howes: So much time, right?
Melissa Hartwig: It is so much time.
Lewis Howes: I have the same thing, one by one replying to so many people.
Melissa Hartwig: And it’s the most important part of my job. It is how you build connection, it’s how you build loyalty, it’s how you get great ideas for your business, when somebody says, “Oh, you should have this person on your podcast,” and if ten other people chime in you’re like, “Oh, they weren’t on my radar, but I should.”
And then you’re serving them and it’s good for you and it’s good for them and it’s like, serve your community, cultivate the community. If you do that, everything else will follow. I have people now who are fiercely loyal to the program, who, I write a book, and they’re like, “I’ll buy it. I don’t need it, but I’ll buy it.” Because they want to support you. And it’s because I’m not trying to sell them stuff, I’m just serving them.
But I think the more important thing is that behind the community, or the marketing, or whatever your social media is, you have to have a product that’s really good. And I think a lot of people overlook that. You know, you can have the flashy marketing campaign, I mean, this is me telling you this, I feel silly even… but you know what I’m saying.
You can have the best smoke and mirrors and show and have the prettiest Instagram feed, but if, at the heart you don’t have something that actually gives people what they need and what they want and what works for them, then, like they’re not going to stick around, and the point is to cultivate a loyal following, not just a flash in the pan sort of followers.
Lewis Howes: Right. It starts with the product.
Melissa Hartwig: It does.
Lewis Howes: And then it’s engagement. Listening to what they want, and serving them.
Melissa Hartwig: Yeah. So, it’s slower, and it’s not as sexy, and you maybe don’t have these giant gains and maybe you’re not getting all of these major offers to promote sponsored stuff on your… But I’m not a huge fan of that, I’m really not. I like to keep it really up and ticking first of all.
Lewis Howes: What would you say is your greatest gift?
Melissa Hartwig: Oh! I’m really good at speaking to people the way they want to be spoken to. Meaning, I can take a message, and within, not a very long period of time, I can figure out whether you need that message delivered tough-love style, or cheerleader style, or seancey style. I’ve cultivated that, I’m good at that, which is really helpful when you’re trying to inspire change. Yeah, I’m pretty good at that.
Lewis Howes: And your biggest weakness?
Melissa Hartwig: Really, I tend to be a little dogmatic, especially in the beginning. Again, I’m very black or white, I’m very on or off. It’s taken me a long time to cultivate a sense of nuance and context and empathy is something that I’ve had to work at and teach myself, and I still struggle and sometimes fail, but I’m not afraid to say, “I was wrong, here’s where I was wrong, sorry about that, here’s how I’m going to do better in the future.” I’m not afraid to do that.
Lewis Howes: That’s great! Okay! Final few questions, I just call it The Three Truths. So, this is the last day for you, many years from now, but all of your content is erased from history. And so there’s no information that you shared available any more. And you’ve got a piece of paper and a pen to write down three things you know to be true about all your experiences, the lessons you would leave behind. What would you say are your three truths?
Melissa Hartwig: Oh. Love yourself. Love everyone. And those would be the only two, I think. Just love. More love. That’s it.
Lewis Howes: Okay, cool! Cool. What are you most grateful for in life?
Melissa Hartwig: I’m the most grateful to be able to spend my days doing something that I love to do so much. This work. I feel like I have found my life’s calling. This is what God put me here to do. I can’t think of anything I could be more grateful for than that. Obviously my son and my family, but that, the fact that I’m living my purpose, yeah.
Lewis Howes: That’s great. I want to acknowledge you for a moment, Melissa, for your ability to transform your habits and get out of a dark place, because I think, for some people, it’s hard to get out of that, once you’ve been addicted, once you’ve been in that space, it’s really easy to keep going down that path.
So, for you to get yourself out of there, and have someone stand for you and for you to listen to that person, and then to continue to make your life about transformation for others, that’s really inspiring and powerful. So, I want to acknowledge you for that.
Melissa Hartwig: Thank you!
Lewis Howes: Of course. The new book, is called, The Whole30 Day-by-day – Your Daily Guide to Whole30 Success. It’s out now, when this comes out. You guys can get it online. What’s the website as well?
Melissa Hartwig: whole30.com
Lewis Howes: whole30.com, @melissahartwig, make sure to check around on social media, get the book. I’ve done the program, it’s amazing, so I highly recommend it and it’s by far the best results I’ve got so far. I mean, I tried Paleo, I tried all these things, but Whole30 felt like it was something I could continue to do, and want to come back to do.
Melissa Hartwig: That makes me so happy!
Lewis Howes: Yeah! So, I recommend it. With so much out there in the nutrition space, that it’s just hard to… Just, something seems to come out new every day, right? I feel like this is something that’s really sustainable. Because it’s the best foods that you’re supposed to be eating, so I highly recommend you guys check it out: whole30.com. You can learn more about it there.
The final question is: What is your definition of greatness?
Melissa Hartwig: Ooh! I think my definition of greatness is: Showing up as yourself. Period. That’s it. Whether I’m interviewing with you, or whether I’m at home with my kid, or whether I’m speaking in front of four hundred people, am I showing up as me? Am I just Melissa right now. That’s pretty great.
Lewis Howes: Melissa, thank you so much, appreciate you!
Melissa Hartwig: You’re welcome! Sure!
Lewis Howes: There you have it, my friends, I hope you enjoyed this one, and if you did, make sure to share it with your friends. Let me know what you thought of this. Tweet me @lewishowes. If you go to the show notes you can watch the full video interview at lewishowes.com/571. All the resources, information about Melissa’s new book. Again, make sure to pick up a copy of that, it’s going to be powerful for you going into the new year.
I highly recommend trying the Whole30. Every time I do it, I get transformation results. So, check out the new book, tag Melissa over on Instagram Stories, Twitter, Facebook, all the good stuff, share this out with your friends who you think might find this inspiring and helpful as well. Someone who’s gone through divorce, someone who’s gone through addiction and overcome it, someone who is launching a business, someone who is looking to get healthy.
All these things are added in this one. So, make sure to check it out. Also, again, thank you to our sponsor today, which is Four Sigmatic. If you want to have the most delicious mushroom and superfood drink out there, then make sure to check out Four Sigmatic.
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As always, you were born for a reason. You were born and put on this Earth for a purpose, a mission. You’re at a season in your life right now where you may know what that mission is or you may have zero clue what it is. It’s your moment to figure out what it is and to take action towards it.
And if you already know what it is, then you know, now is the time to step it up. As the year finishes, it’s time to get clear on what you’re going to create next year, and how you’re going build this momentum into next year. So, get clear on your vision, for what you want in your life, for your health, your relationships, your finances, your career, your spirituality, your play.
Get clear. Write these things down and start taking action on a game plan. That’s how you’re going to take this to the next level next year. And as Bernard Williams said, “Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.” Remember how resilient you are. You might have gone through some crazy things this year, but you are one resilient mother-f’er.
You got this, and you know what time it is: It’s time to do something great!