One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, Three Steps Forward

It sounds like a dance move, doesn’t it? Well, that’s me: always Dancin’ With Myself .

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.

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This stuff is pretty delicious, though…

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.

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.

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New haircuts do wonders for morale!

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 :). 

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, Three Steps Forward

Meal Prep Mastery: How to Avoid Food Boredom

Being prepared is allll about meal prepping.

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Classic Sunday prep sesh

 

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)
  • Bacon
  • 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.

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Sweet potatoes 2 ways: chips & fries

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!

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The delicious leftover remix

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!

Meal Prep Mastery: How to Avoid Food Boredom