As I got more and more into my Whole30 journey, I collected new blogs, Instagram accounts, and cookbooks that served as great resources when I needed inspiration. I thought I’d share some of them here.
Against All Grain: Danielle Walker makes amazing recipes. I have two of her books, Celebrations and Against All Grain, and I like looking through both for new meals to try. I use her recipe for nut milk, which is super simple and delicious!
Shut the Kale Up: Her Instagram is more in-depth than her website, but she is generally just so cool. Her bowls are drool-worthy and her son is adorable. She has lots of cool wisdom to share, and is very real about her lifestyle and how personalized everyone’s lifestyle should be.
Minimalist Baker: Dana makes recipes that are fast, easy, and amazing. Her vegan parmesan cheese is something I’ve been wanting to try for a while, and her baked goods are allergy friendly and always look scrumptious. I’ve made a variation of her vegan cheese several times. Cashews make amazing dairy replacement products, who knew!?
The other things I use all the time for recipe inspiration are the Whole30 Cookbook and the original Whole30 book. I’ve recommended both to friends and family members and everyone loves them. The recipes are simple, easy, and usually all the ingredients are things people have on hand. I highly recommend them – even if you aren’t doing a Whole30 anytime soon, or ever.
Hope you enjoy these resources! Message or comment if you’ve found some hidden gems that I haven’t.
In my post on Food and Feelings last time, I talked about my meltdown of a couple of weeks ago, when things just seemed so hard. After that, I was given the green light to add some things that I’d taken out – Thai food (no soy, though), rice, maybe quinoa or other gluten free grains, and mayyyybe paleo sweeteners, like honey and maple syrup.
For the first week, this went okay. I accidentally ate soy sauce because there was free octopus salad at my favorite sushi bar. Cue hand hives. It happened about ten minutes post-consumption: tiny red, itchy spots under my skin. Cue feelings of guilt, frustration, and general angst about the unfairness of it all.
In the following two weeks, my forays out of the Whole30 guidelines included rice cakes, almond flour crackers from Simple Mills (this was really made with all compliant ingredients, but is an SWYPO situation), and coconut butter cups from Eating Evolved (coconut sugar). I also had half a girl scout cookie, and…I think that’s it. Until last weekend.
It was my friend’s going away party. I was prepared with compliantly roasted chips and paleo chili. I swung by Trader Joe’s to pick up some gin and carbonated water – the first alcohol I’d have in 2017. When I arrived, I spontaneously decided that this would be a YOLO night. No more worrying about ingredients, no more label-reading or sticking just to what I knew I could consume without repercussions. So, throughout the evening, I consumed: dark chocolate peanut butter cups, gin and soda water, tequila, tomato (in the chili), and a slice of cake.
It doesn’t sound like much. It didn’t feel like much. But, the next morning, I instantly decided: NOT worth it.
Melissa Hartwig, in Food Freedom Forever, promotes a really great system for enacting the “food freedom” that comes post-Whole30. True food freedom is all about making very mindful choices and critically thinking about what you put into your body.
For example – you will not suddenly want to eat more cake when it’s your birthday. Your body doesn’t know it’s your birthday. If you see some amazing treat, Melissa challenges you to decide, with thorough and conscientious thinking, whether that treat is “worth it.” In other words: armed with the information that Whole30 gave you about how that will affect your body, what is the best course of action? It’s sometimes to eat it… and sometimes, it’s to not eat it.
My first mistake was the gin. I had maybe two drinks of it, but it impacted my ability to make mindful choices for the rest of the evening. My other mistake was deciding to throw the rules out the window. I could have had a few peanut butter cups and been satisfied. But, because I was eating “whatever,” I had to try everything.
Why wasn’t it worth it? For the whole day afterward, I was in bed with a variety of symptoms: stomach distress, a massive headache, fatigue, bloating, and suddenly worsened eczema. I was angsty and irascible. On Sunday, I had a glass of wine with friends. Not only is alcohol not great because it annihilates gut bacteria, but I am also sensitive to grapes, sugar and brewing yeast; this did not go well either. Going back to work on Monday was the worst. I slept poorly for a few days in a row, waking up stressed in the early morning. My mood was depressed; I was less patient and much less fun with the kids.
On Wednesday, I talked to my doctor. She told me to go back to what I know works for me: Whole30 eating. After 14 days of that, I’m supposed to reintroduce a medical food she prescribed me for people with malabsorption. It has sugar in it, so I have to monitor my reaction and make sure it’s okay for me to consume. Round 3, Day 6.
I follow so many bloggers now who are Whole30, Paleo, health nutty clean eaters. They are often very inspiring, because they show me that it’s possible to get where I want to go. But sometimes, looking at their social media accounts makes me feel like they’ve achieved a perfection that I haven’t achieved yet (that cliché instagram probem). My life right now feels out of balance.
I think it’s important to hear from people in this stage, the struggle to back in balance: the stage where you don’t think it will ever happen, and it feels really hard, and you’re in the middle of this giant life change which exhausts your willpower muscles to a maximum.
But, in the back of my mind, I know that I’m on a right track. My diet right now includes so many nutrients, so much produce, and so much variety. I am getting better at combining simple ingredients to make varied and delicious meals, and I am really comfortable in the kitchen.
Prep mode strong
Meal for family!
Shepherd’s Pie: experiments in seasoning
People often express pity that I can’t eat all of the things. My external response is: yeah, it’s hard. My internal response is: but, it’s not worth it for me to eat like I used to. What I put in my body has too much physical, mental and emotional impact on me to ignore. It wasn’t always this way, and I hope it won’t always be this way, but for now I’m embracing my reality and thanking this experience for forcing me into a healthful and nourishing lifestyle.
On that note, I’m thinking of starting a project: developing my blog even more, as if it were my full-time job. If I were to write much more often, what do you want to hear? What do you like about my blog? What do you wish I did differently/more of? You can help by leaving a comment addressing any and all of these questions. Let’s learn and grow together :).
Meal prepping is the part of eating real food that takes the most activation energy, time, and is a huge deterrent for many people. It’s the part that took longest to learn, and sometimes I just can’t even, and I pull out a frozen meal or eat my “things that taste great with almond butter” plate (starring: plantain chips, carrots, and apples).
Speaking of frozen meals, I’ll launch right into it with tip #1:
When you make a lot of something, freeze two servings.
I can’t be the only one who gets tired of eating the same leftovers night after night. Before starting the Whole30, I got into a rhythm where I’d cook a compliant meal in a big batch on the weekend and freeze some servings in Ziploc bags, labeled with what it was. This prep definitely saved my butt on days when school was in session and I’d forgotten to buy more veggies (ratatouille time!), or if the weather was colder than usual and I didn’t feel like cold lunch (hello, butternut squash and sausage soup).
Since beginning the Whole30, whenever I make something and don’t feel like I’m going to eat it all by the time it goes bad, I stick it in a bag and freeze it. Getting bored with your food is the enemy of a great Whole30; prep will ensure that you don’t get tired of your meals!
On the weekend, or whenever you have more time than usual, make 2-3 proteins and a couple of veggie dishes.
I always make sure I have enough different things that I can eat them in various combinations for at least three days. Usually, I have a little time to run to the store on Wednesday or Thursday, but I try to only need veggies. Here’s an example of things I would prep on a weekend day:
Curried Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup (Whole30 Cookbook)
Homemade sausage or meatballs
Roasted brussels sprouts and broccoli (about 1 pack of each, pre-cut, from Trader Joe’s)
Roasted sweet potatoes (dicing these takes forever, so at least dice up a few potatoes when you’ve got the time)
Chicken thighs or whole shredded chicken
This menu would give me enough for a few different meal options. Maybe I’d have the homemade sausage with sweet potatoes for Monday breakfast, brussels and bacon for lunch and chicken thighs with soup for dinner. On Tuesday, I’d have bacon and broccoli for breakfast, a shredded chicken salad with greens for lunch, and sweet potatoes with meatballs for dinner. And so on, and so on.
The plus side of this menu is that there’s only one or two real recipes (homemade meatballs/sausage, carrot soup); the rest of the prep is ripping and dumping for roasting (veggies) or slow cooking (whole chicken).
When you have no time, roast.
Roasting is Whole30 microwaving. It’s quick, super simple, and makes for delicious meals.
My favorite weeknight quick breakfast prep for the next few mornings is to slice up some Aidell’s Chicken and Apple Sausages (fully cooked, but I like to char ’em) and roast them on a big sheet pan with sweet potatoes or brussels sprouts for maybe 30 mins. Sometimes I’ll season them with curry and cumin, sometimes cinnamon, sometimes just salt and pepper and garlic powder, and it’s extra tasty when everything is cooked in olive oil.
Meats are always great roasted, as are root vegetables of any kind. I also like roasting kale until it’s super melt-in-my-mouth crispy. Yum.
Remix your leftovers.
Get some Tessemae’s in your life. They didn’t have Whole30 compliant condiments (that I was aware of) last time I did the Whole30, but these have changed my life. This past week, I had a big pan of roasted butternut squash chunks and kale from one dinner, plus some crispy turkey (from the Whole30 cookbook) from a different meal. I put them together and added some Tessemae’s mild buffalo sauce (also comes in HOT!) and it was an entirely different meal than either of the first two. I could’ve added spinach underneath and made it a salad by putting a dressing on top. Food is so versatile, especially when previously roasted!
Even if you don’t have jazzy condiments, make sure you eat foods in a variety of combinations. It will, again, help to avoid food boredom.
Why is food boredom an issue, again?
Here’s my experience: the moments when I start thinking about all the stuff I can’t eat and miss eating are the moments when I have to eat the same old thing for dinner as I ate for lunch, and I know exactly what flavors are coming and I’m just…well…bored. When I’ve whipped up something new and exciting, all I’m thinking about is how great it feels to cook and eat all the good stuff and know that it’s nourishing and healthful.
The single best thing you can do for yourself on a Whole30-type diet is to put some extra energy into preparation, so you’re excited to eat what you’re eating. Trust me, you will discover some delicious, nutritious stuff!
Sorry guys, I teach kids – Disney speaks my language.
Anyway, I am really serious about this golden rule. It served me well in Whole 30 Round 1, and has proved to be even more important in Whole30 Round 2.
How you prepare:
Examine your WHYs. This should happen in your decision-making process about whether or not to do an elimination diet in the first place. Why are you doing it? If you want to improve your general, overall health, make a list of some specific annoying health-related things that you want to get rid of. My naturopath told me, in our first meeting, “this is your space to be the biggest hypochondriac you’ve ever been. Name everything that’s wrong, and pretend we have a magic wand that can fix all of it.” Do this for yourself before your Whole30. Here were some of my issues that I hoped to fix:
Sleeping poorly – I kept waking up at 2:30, unable to fall back to sleep
Skin problems – hand eczema that would get inflamed after eating
Bloat – I always felt like I had air bubbles in my stomach
Anxiety and stress – whenever I’d get stressed, my body would panic. Stomach aches, sweats, and manic hyperfocus ensued, which was draining and counterproductive.
Headaches and fatigue
Extreme bouts of grouchiness, especially during the school day
Head fog – my head felt totally cloudy, like I couldn’t think clearly
Write down how you feel right now. This might be similar to your WHY list, but it will be a good thing to flip back to when you’re questioning if the diet worked for you, 30 days later.
Write down how you want to feel. You might discover some more WHYs in this process.
I also had in mind some specific habits I needed to break. I realized that after a stressful class, I always craved chocolate. I would eat too much of it, have a manic sugar high, then crash hard (and need more) an hour later. Ditto dessert after dinner. Ditto, really, sugar of any kind. So, that was one of my main goals: examine the craving and think about if I really needed it. Based on that, I’d either eat a balanced snack or wait until the next meal (if I wasn’t really hungry…about 75% of the time, it turns out). Think of some habits that aren’t serving you well. If you can’t think of any, you may discover some as you go along.
Prepare your space. Collect all of the non-compliant snacks and put them out of sight or give them away. I put all of my snacks on the porch and forgot about them. If you won’t forget about them, eat them all before you start or find someone who will. You will be happy you did this in week 2, when your resolve is fading.
Go to Costco. Here’s my list:
Tomato products (diced and paste) – read the label in case of added sugar
Applesauce (unsweetened, they sell Tree Top in packs of 2), and canned pineapple – both are sweet treats
Bone Broth – chicken or beef, read the label for non-compliant ingredients
Ghee and/or coconut oil (they sell HUGE jars)
Aidell’s chicken apple sausages (they sell packs big enough to freeze), or a compliant Italian one that they also have
Whole chickens (if you have the fridge and freezer space)
Chicken thighs or breasts to freeze
Dried fruit (they have sugar-free mangoes)
Nuts (walnuts and almonds are compliant, no icky oils)
Order compliant things from Amazon.
Nutpods (3-flavor variety pack)
EPIC, Rx, or Larabars for emergencies
Primal Kitchen Greek Dressing and Avocado Oil Mayo (contains egg)
Tessemae’s – look for the compliant ketchup, BBQ sauce, dressings and marinades, or buy the Whole30 starter kit. These will liven up your salads and protein servings even on the laziest days!
Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides – when added to coffee with some coconut oil, they make it creamy and satiating, plus they’re good for joint health and other things
Acquire, from anywhere (Trader Joe’s is awesome, though):
Coconut milk, cream, and flakes (Trader Joe’s has all of them)
Sweet potatoes and onions (from Costco for me)
Frozen mangoes, butternut squash
Riced broccoli (fresh) and riced cauliflower (fresh and frozen)
Ginger and garlic, herbs
Fresh fruits and veggies
Lacroix (SO GOOD) and Kombucha (Synergy is mostly sugar-free and has so many flavors)
Other helpful things:
Whole30 and Whole30 Cookbook – recipes, tips, tricks, and everything. Most stuff is also on www.whole30.com.
Follow @whole30 and @whole30recipes and @melissa_hartwig on Instagram. There, you will find a whole bunch of other people doing what you’re doing and loving it! It’s inspiring.
My second time around, I did most of these things before Day 1. If you’ve already started, you can still go get these super useful supplies! It’s never too late to shake up your Whole30 ingredients. Food boredom is real.
Lastly, keep a food journal. Maybe it’s pictures on your phone, maybe it’s that cute little notebook you’ve been wanting to buy…but get it, and track your progress. Record what you eat and how you feel. I’m still editing my system for this, because it can get tedious. But it’s well worth it when you can look back and see the progress you’ve made, and how much better you feel! It’s also a great resource if you decide you need a doctor’s help.
It seems like a lot, but preparation is SO key. Think of all this hard stuff now (maybe a weekend of work) making your life easier for the next month! If you get really advanced, you can make some Whole30 meals and freeze portions of them, too.
There are more layers to being prepared, but I’ll cover those next, with meal prep!
Does anyone have favorite clean food products? I’m always looking to add to my list. 🙂
Whole chicken, slow-cooked and shredded (carcass saved for bone broth)
Sweet potatoes and onions, roasted in EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil) with cumin, turmeric, ginger, garlic powder, salt and pepper
Butternut squash and carrot soup with Italian turkey sausage
Overnight chia pudding with almond butter, coconut milk, coconut flakes, and cacao nibs
Everything is packed in tupperware for portability and stacked in the fridge. It seems totally efficient – until I try to get something from the back of my shelf, and a mason jar and Kombucha bottle fall on my toes. It happened three times today…
Why, you ask? Why all the prep? Why spend my whole Sunday cooking?
A year ago, and for years before that, I was not in great physical shape. I don’t mean I wasn’t exercising – on the contrary, I had gotten involved in Spin classes (at The Beautiful Bike, highly recommended), and was exercising hard. I mean that I was sleeping poorly, I had chronic allergies, I had eczema on my hands, and I had random and acute stomach pains. I constantly felt tired, bloated, and low on energy.
It turns out, I have Hashimoto’s Disease, which is an autoimmune disorder where my body attacks my thyroid with homemade antibodies. Thyroids regulate metabolism and hormones, which affect energy levels, skin, hair, the immune system, the body’s stress response…in short, they’re super important, and mine was just non-functional.
I went to a doctor and she prescribed me Levothyroxine, a synthetic thyroid hormone that replaces the hormone that my body isn’t producing enough of and balances out my system. She told me to get my blood tested again in a year, to make sure it was working.
Fast-forward to this fall, a year later, when I finally decided it was time to consult a Naturopath. I had already done a month of Whole30, in August, and had experienced such drastic results that I knew something more was wrong with my system. My new doctor tested my blood and discovered that my thyroid was way out of whack. Like 1300 antibodies when there should be 30. Not only that, she tested me for food sensitivities, and I reacted to so many things. (Lettuce, tomatoes, and radishes?? Grapes? Lemons? Yeast??And cane sugar.)
She told me: you’re going on an elimination diet, but not during the holidays. So I decided that I’d get a head start on my own with the January Whole30.
The Whole30 is not a diet. It’s a dietary reset. There are actually many different dietary resets out in the world these days (including things like The Elimination Diet, and the make-your-own reset options in Food Freedom Forever). The basic principle is thus:
Step 1: In the case of the Whole30, commit to eating real food. Nuts, meats, eggs, veggies, fruits. For 30 days. That’s it.
(In other words, eliminate: sweeteners, sugar, processed stuff, legumes, grains, and dairy.)
Step 2: Eat three meals a day. Eat as much food as you want. Each meal must include a protein and a healthy fat. Do not weigh yourself (this is a very important part of the program, which is not meant for weight loss). Watch your body and life dramatically change in so many non-scale ways.
Step 3: On Day 31, begin reintroducing your favorite foods, one by one, very slowly, until you know exactly what they do to your body – and which foods are still worth it.
So here I am, on Day 28.
And I feel fabulous.
I have no more insomnia. My stress and anxiety levels have drastically decreased. My athletic performance has improved. I realized how bloated I’d been (a major sign of chronic inflammation) when I put my rings on my fingers last week and they nearly fell off. I don’t have any more sugar crashes. I’m infinitely more patient with my students, and have a better sense of humor. My willpower muscle is super strong – I’ve been successfully getting up to work out at 5 in the morning, before work.
Beyond the emotional and physical, there are so many other Non-Scale Victories. I’ve learned how to cook new things (herb-crusted roasted salmon with broccoli, anyone?). I found new products that don’t have any sugar added to them – a major feat once I realized how many things do. I read all the labels. I truly feel satiated by my food. No more hanger, no more cravings, no more angst over what I ate that made my stomach hurt…it’s Food Freedom.
In fact, I’m doing so well that my doctor wants me to continue for another 30 days. Then, we’ll undertake a very deliberate and systematic reintroduction process. I’m so excited to see what other health benefits come out of the now Whole60.
I’ve decided to do a little blog series, for any friends who are interested and for my own personal records. I want to remember this journey, and I’m happy to share. Just to be clear, I don’t think everyone needs the Whole30. I do think everyone who does it will have their own crazy, unexpected victories.
I’ll be sharing my tips for success and my favorite Whole30 products, as well as some musings about why this program is so amazing and the psychological changes it has inspired. Follow along if it’s interesting – I figured that there are a ton of cool blogs and Instagram accounts and other resources out there, but sometimes the best resources are the people you actually know. I’m happy to be a resource for anyone looking to improve their health and establish those healthy habits for the long haul. You can hold me accountable for taking my own advice, too ;-).