Life After Whole30

So I’ve been thinking all week about the upcoming Easter celebrations with my family (read=delicious food-centric southern family get togethers) and how I’m going to manage to stick to my healthy eating. We are two weeks post Whole30 and I’m trying to navigate the freedom from hardcore Whole30 while maintaining the overall guidelines in my daily life. After all, I still have a goal to reach and don’t want to undo the work I’ve put in so far. The truth of the matter is, until new habits become your new normal, eating in “real life” is hard. At least for me it is. All or nothing rules are so much easier to follow. Don’t eat this. Do eat that.  Deciding what to reintroduce back into your diet, how much you can tolerate without physical impairment or emotionally losing it (bingeing) and managing daily temptation is not easy stuff. It doesn’t help that there’s a cake in my line of sight at work and two boxes of cupcakes around the corner either. Sigh…..

There are a few things I have decided:

  1. Eating ketchup and sometimes even barbecue sauce from a restaurant is not the added sugar end of the world. I’ve still been making my own at home, but I’m not going to be restrictive to that level if we choose to eat out.
  2. I’m going back to my local store’s organic bacon. Yes, it still has a tiny bit of added sugar, but we really don’t eat that much bacon for me to feel like it’s a concern and it’s half the price with twice the volume of sugar-free bacon. It IS free of nitrates however, which I feel is the biggie when it comes to processed meats.
  3. I’ve been adding coconut sugar to my coconut milk coffee creamer. It’s a very small amount – so small I’m wondering if it’s even worth it – but I don’t feel bad about it and I may not even add it next week when I make a fresh batch.
  4. I’m going to eat sushi rolls containing rice when we go out for my son’s birthday to his favorite sushi/hibachi place and not feel bad about it.

It’s all a balancing act, but what I’m starting to realize is that you have to find what food lifestyle works for you and your goals. I still have weight to lose so it’s not worth it to me to bring grains and sugar back into my diet. Being at risk for Type II diabetes also makes them worth giving up. I can’t say that I’ll go the rest of my life without ever having pasta or tiramisu again though. You still have to live life.

What this journey has and continues to teach me, however, is to make better decisions. Make intentional decisions. Pasta or a traditional dessert will only be a very special treat, must really be good enough to be worth it and even then, I’ll still go for a smaller portion. I’ve learned by trial and error that potato chips are TRULY a food-with-no-breaks for me and so I’m better off just avoiding them altogether. (Case in point – Feeling mighty with self-control and all this new food awareness I tried to eat just one this weekend when my husband had them out and ended up finishing off what was left of the bag by the next day. FAIL!) Clearly I still have some psychological ties to break when it comes to chips.

But the point is, I’m learning and I’m being intentional in my thought process regarding what I eat. It does take effort to change your habits and no, it’s not always easy. It’s taken me 6 weeks to finally speed up my food prep process. I still sometimes struggle with wanting something sweet after dinner. But I’m hopeful that the longer we pursue this way of eating, the easier it will become.  It truly is a lifestyle change and that doesn’t happen overnight.   Those carrot cake cupcakes aren’t doing me any favors today though. 🙂

I’ll let you know how the family dinners go and I wish you luck on your food journey as well! Until next time.

Whole 30 Results are in!

finished-the-w30-fb-coverWell my husband and I made it through our first Whole30 challenge and sweet baby Jesus it worked!! Before we started this journey, we were both tired, feeling out of shape and had started to recognize some issues with food. Sugar cravings were a big issue and food cravings in general started to be a routine thing. This was true for me particularly as I was coming off a pregnancy. (Need I say more about cravings?) We had also noticed some sensitivity issues like stomach troubles after eating dairy, blood sugar highs and lows (to the extent of getting shaky) and the daily afternoon energy crash. Sound familiar?

We dabbled in eating Paleo for the last year but never really made a full commitment. Who wants to give up all that? We try to make good food choices and surely we can exercise our way into our skinny clothes, right? But that was not happening. I had just had a baby, we spent 7 weeks traveling back and forth to the hospital in another town where our son was in the NICU as a preemie, ate out all the time because we were never home, then once we did get the baby home we were adjusting to life with a newborn and everything that brings……we had a lot going on. With no energy to exercise, I felt, as my friend Amber likes to say, like a busted can of biscuits in my clothes. You know what I’m talking about. Your pants slide down while your fat pops out the top. I may have even popped a seam or two but we won’t talk about that. Either way it wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t where I wanted to be. Enter Whole30.

I learned about the Whole30 searching for recipes within the “Paleo” community. I saw the name brought up a lot but didn’t really know what it was so one day I decided to do some exploring and visited the plan website. I read through the basics, liked the approach and decided I could and should give it a try. I really liked that they addressed the psychology of food, not just food choices. Real change is all about behavior modification and I knew that.

Fortunately, I didn’t have too difficult a time transitioning into the Whole30 guidelines because I had already tackled giving up dairy, due to a nursing baby with a milk sensitivity. THAT was really hard for me. I mourned cheese. I still miss cheese. And though I didn’t think I ate a lot of sugar, sugar cravings plagued me well into week 3 and especially during my sister’s baby shower on day 27. I wanted to binge on the homemade chocolate chip cookies. Like I-wonder-how-many-I-could-eat-before-I-got-sick binge. I even took some home to have on day 31.

What I found at the end though, was that I didn’t really want the cookies. In fact, I gave them away.  As of today, I am down 7lbs, FOUR inches in my waist and 1 ½ inches on my hips. My husband lost twelve pounds. TWELVE!! And while I try not to get caught up on the numbers those results make me really happy! Even better though is how I feel. I feel REALLY GOOD. I’m not drained of energy after I eat something because I eat things that keep my blood sugar stable. I don’t feel bloated all the time or have swelling in my hands since I’ve reduced inflammation in my body and don’t eat foods that contribute to that.  Yes, I had sweetener (coconut sugar) in my coffee this morning, but I am content with 2 tablespoons to a whole JAR of my coconut milk creamer versus 2 or 3 or 4 tablespoons of table sugar or worse, artificial sugar in EACH of the lattes I used to have daily (not to mention the ADDED sugar in the milk they were made with).

As they say in the Whole30 book, It Starts with Food, the food you eat will either make you healthier or unhealthier. This new kind of healthy feels so good, I plan to keep going. I mean swimsuit season is right around the corner (aaagh!!) I know I still have work to do, though. I’m pretty sure my reaction to those cookies (a trigger food for me) was not healthy. I’m afraid to start reintroduction because I don’t want to spiral out of control back into my old habits. Figuring out my personal balance of what I should have in my diet and what should stay eliminated will take some time, but the journey and knowledge gained has been totally worth it.

So for anyone out there considering a Whole30 for yourself, I encourage you to try it and need to share a few tips I’ve learned.

  1. Read It Starts with Food first so you can get prepared. This is not something you can just jump into overnight. You need to read the book and you’ll need it a zillion times to refer back to.
  2. Food prep is essential. You HAVE to have good choices available or else it’s too easy and too convenient to cheat.
  3. Use the resources available in the book, the website and all over the internet because you will want some variety and recipe ideas after week 2. If you get bored with your food, you’ll be more likely to quit.
  4. Spend $15 and get the daily email. It is FULL of great info, perfectly timed for what you will experience and provides lots of encouragement.
  5. Expect to totally change how you grocery shop and what you spend your money on. If you’re like us, you’ll need way more protein than you realize. Buy it first, then veggies, then fats.
  6. How and if you go totally organic will take some thought. It’s not a requirement of the plan, but as you get more educated about food, you’ll probably want to. For us, however, it’s been a hard transition not for lack of desire, but because it can be expensive. I’m still figuring this one out. What I’m seeing preliminarily is if you can put the money out up front in a crop share and purchasing meat in bulk, you can potentially save a lot of money throughout the year, but we have yet to make that leap. Look at your options and decide what’s best for your family. If you can’t afford all organic, do the best with what you have. Start with eliminating the dirty dozen in produce and if that’s all you can do, so be it. You’ll still reap major benefits from cutting out so much other bad stuff from your diet.
  7. Last but not least, when they say you’ll start thinking of breakfast differently, it’s true. You can only have so many scrambled eggs, frittatas & egg casseroles. This morning for breakfast I had a piece of grilled chicken, a grapefruit & my coffee with coconut milk creamer and was totally ok with that. Breakfast does not have to equal typical breakfast food and by week 4, you won’t want it to.

Good luck to anyone starting a Whole30! Feel free to ask me any questions and I’ll keep you posted on our progress as we continue…..

 

Whole30 Week 3 Recap

We have made it to week 4 of our very first Whole30!!  No one has died.  There have been no hangry outbursts and I have been drinking my coffee without sweetener.  THAT is impressive, my friends.  I’m not necessarily feeling the “tiger blood” energy awesomeness yet but I blame that on a 5 month old baby and still having to be up until 11:30 for nursing/pumping.  (I’ll post more on my Whole30 & breastfeeding experience later but just a heads up to all you nursing moms out there, I’ve had continued success).

This process has been a great learning experience and one I’m grateful for.  And although this post is already feeling like some kind of good-bye, I don’t see this as our last week of a diet.  It seems more like a transition period into a new lifestyle.  I plan on continuing to eat and live this way.  But for now, let me fill you in on what’s been going on.  Week 3 brought about some interesting manifestations – can we say CRAVINGS?? I was warned about this in the Whole30 timeline and like clockwork, the sugar dragon reared its ugly head and my brain tried to stage a full on rebellion against my new healthy habits.  I can’t tell you how many times my husband and I have opened the Nutella jar just to take a whiff of that chocolately-hazelnutty-tastes good on everything but is not so good for you- deliciousness.  But alas….we just sigh a big sigh and like pouting children, put the lid back on and walk away.

Along with food cravings, a not so welcome monster also joined us last week – food boredom.   A known killer to many diets and healthy eating wanna-be’s, food boredom is a dangerous beast.  So I tried some new recipes to liven things up a bit, but sadly they were not as successful as I’d hoped.  Cauliflower “rice” is not rice.  It will never BE rice no matter how many sauces, seasonings, or magic spells I add to it.  And pork?  Unless it’s bacon, which I’m not even eating right now, I think we are gonna have to break up for a while.  We won’t even discuss scrambled eggs.

What has gone right?  Steak.  When all else fails, there is nothing better than a big juicy medium rare steak and that’s how we ended the week.  Yum.Yum. Yum again.  (Btw, I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that if you are a vegetarian, you probably will not survive the Whole30.  It’s built around quality animal protein and excludes legumes and grains, which are staples of a vegetarian diet.  Sorry!)  But for all you meat-eaters out there considering a Whole30, you can always fall back on a delicious piece of grilled, protein-rich meat!

image

That brings me back full circle to meal planning for week 4 where the cravings have subsided a bit and we are keeping things more simple.  I’m taking some basics and just altering them to fit Whole30.  Marinated grilled chicken, spaghetti with either spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles, buffalo chicken tenders….you get the idea.  As much as I love to cook and try new things it’s quite easy to overcomplicate this and therefore spend a ton of time in the kitchen.  That’s not sustainable for most working, busy families.  As soon as your cravings go away and you let go of the notion that you have to recreate all these things you can’t have or find something else to fill it’s place, you’ll realize this Whole30 thing doesn’t have to be that hard.  Quality meat + veggies + healthy fat = meal.

We got this.

Whole30 Week 2-Check! On to week 3

Well we are officially half way through our Whole30 challenge and it’s been a success! Even though you’re supposed to avoid the scales for the entire month and just focus on your overall health, I have weighed each week since I had committed to a weight loss challenge for prize money at my office. I’m happy to report that at the end of 2 weeks I’ve lost 6lbs!! (Insert happy dance here). And while I still have some baby weight left to go I feel confident this trend will continue, though I’m not totally hung up on the number. You do know that a number on a scale is not representative of health, right?? Healthy hormone levels, insulin response, cholesterol levels, inflammation level, body fat percentage – those are some good indicators of health. Your weight & corresponding Body Mass Index (BMI) is definitely a part of that, but focusing on the numbers alone can really give you a skewed representation of where you are physically. If you want to read more on that, go here: http://healthland.time.com/2013/08/26/why-bmi-isnt-the-best-measure-for-weight-or-health/

Further, allow me to step on my soap box for a moment…..The phrase, “you are what you eat,” is ringing even truer these days. If you want to feel good, eat food that’s good for you. Food is your life support. LITERALLY! So why have we been giving ourselves crap and then wondering why we have no energy or are overweight or have blood pressure or cholesterol problems? It’s an easy trap to fall into in our American lifestyle of convenience foods. I have definitely been there and done that!  Why else would I have gone looking for a diet? But as I educate myself more on food and how the simple act of food choice affects your health, I am fascinated. Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten that our bodies are miracle workers, designed to self-regulate and efficiently take care of all our needs, if we just give them the proper fuel. In other words, if we can stick to the basics and not be sucked in by the fake, over-processed, over-salted, over-sugared stuff that is marketed so heavily to us, good, whole, real food has the potential to heal you and put you back in balance. Amazing……Ok, enough of that for now.

So what did we eat this week? We finished out the week and weekend with some comfort food. In this process, I’ve done my best to choose recipes and fix meals that are still family friendly to fend off a full-out revolt from everyone in the house.  We’ve done a lot of turkey burgers since they are quick and easy.  Pair that with a baked or roast sweet potato, a dill pickle and toppings and you’ve got yourself a meal. For my son, if we aren’t doing some kind of potato with dinner, I’ll either fix him a potato of his own or whip up some rice to add to his plate. Those are the main starchy carbs he likes and thankfully they are easy additions to any meal. But most of the time, he just eats what we eat.

We also had dinner out, which was a nice change. I had a steak with sautéed mushrooms and a big salad with vinaigrette dressing. Yum!! I made a big pot of chili on Saturday along with some yummy chipotle peach chicken wings and capped off the weekend with some restaurant style chicken nuggets.  I modified the wings recipe to use the leftover chipotles I had in the fridge and peaches that needed to be used and loved that sweet-smokey-spicy combination.  While the chili and wings were family approved, the nuggets recipe was by far the weekend favorite.   Chicken nuggets as part of a healthy eating plan??  These are rolled in seasoned tapioca starch and fried in healthy coconut oil.  It’s not something I’d fix weekly, but they are definitely going in the rotation. So Good!

 

Paleo ChikFilA Style Nuggets

Paleo ChikFilA Style Nuggets

Berry-Jalapeno-Wings

Berry Jalapeno Wings from @healthfest; taken from the Best of @Whole30recipes

So, now we are on to week 3.  If I were to give you advice at this point based on my experience, I’d say use the resources available and create your own condiments and go for bulk sizing with meats.  It’s easier to cook a big roast or grill several chicken breasts or turkey burgers to have ready to go during the week.  It saves time and is also typically less expensive when purchasing.  (I made a trip to Costco this weekend specifically for that purpose).  As well, sauces and condiments can transform a basic cut of meat into so many different flavors .  They help give your food variety when you’re making more than one meal from the same protein source and if you’re like me, you need food variety.

On the menu for week 3 is some Asian style cuisine.  That’s one thing my husband and I have missed is Chinese and Thai food.  So I’m switching things up a bit and will be trying out some new recipes.  Look for a post mid-week to see how it goes.  Until then….

Whole30 Week 2 Update

We are over half way through week 2 in our Whole30 challenge and I feel really good about our progress so far. No cheats or slips whatsoever! When I put on my shirt this morning, it felt a bit looser. That’s a nice surprise 🙂 My skin doesn’t feel as dry and dare I say it…..the black coffee with real coconut milk is not so bad. It’s not the sweet, creamy latte I have always loved but I could see myself maintaining a version of this by adding a tiny bit of date paste to the mix for a touch of sweetness. And yes, you read that right – dates.

Dates are deliciously sweet and will probably become my new favorite natural sweetener, which is why I’m being very careful to heed the “be mindful of dried fruit” caution. When you aren’t eating any sugar at all, those things can be like crack!! I don’t think that falls under the “promotes a healthy psychological response” guideline when you take one bite and instantly begin daydreaming about all the possibilities of date-sweetened creations. One of the points of Whole30 is to get over your sugar cravings. That’s why you are discouraged from recreating treats with allowable, technically compliant ingredients. It kind of defeats the purpose, you know? So the paleo ice cream recipe and my wonderful lattes will have to wait a bit longer, but I’m ok with that.

Meanwhile, back in Whole30 town, here’s a recap of what we’ve been eating this week and a few pics to go along:

Breakfast is still mostly eggs because they are cheap, easy and we like them. We also tried out a recipe from It Starts with Food that calls for ground pork, apple, cinnamon and nutmeg. We really liked it and it’s an easy dish to make in bulk and have ready for the week. Fat with breakfast has been mostly coconut milk in my coffee or avocado.

Most days lunch is just leftovers from dinner, which I don’t mind. It’s easier to fix a large portion at dinner and not have to prepare separate lunches. I did however, roast a bunch of chicken breasts on Sunday and had those ready to go if we needed protein for a meal. I also took a few of them and made chicken salad with homemade mayo (so easy & so very good!!). I will definitely do that again for next week.

I also made zucchini soup that I mentioned in my last post and it was delicious. Having a vegetable based soup ready to go in containers has been an easy way to ensure we’re getting in those required veggies, and it’s a good bang for your buck. For those reasons, I plan on making a soup each week to add to our meals. I’m thinking maybe tomato basil with spinach or butternut squash for next week. Yummm.

For dinner we’ve had the roast chicken with a big salad and soup, sautéed shrimp with baked potato and soup, but my favorite by far this week has been the Cuban vaca frita. Oh. My. Deliciousness. I slow roasted a London broil (but you could also use a roast) and then I shredded the meat and let in marinate in the cooking juices plus the juice of two limes. When it was dinner time, I gave it a quick fry in some coconut oil to crisp up the edges. I served it with some caramelized onions, fried plantains and my most favorite sauce ever – my Chipotle Orange sauce.  It was amazing. I will definitely be making it again soon.

Lime marinated vaca frita (fried beef) with caramelized onions & chipotle orange sauce.

Lime marinated vaca frita (fried beef) with caramelized onions & chipotle orange sauce.

Shrimp scampi with basil, baked potato topped with homemade ranch sauce & zucchinni soup

Shrimp scampi with basil, baked potato topped with homemade ranch sauce & zucchini soup

As my gift to you, I’m throwing in the recipe for my favorite sauce.  It’s ridiculously simple but has an amazing depth of flavor.  Do yourself a favor and make it today. I use it as a dipping sauce, marinade, salad dressing, or have been known to eat it straight from the jar! There’s lots of room to adjust the flavorings which is nice because you can tailor it to your own taste preference.  If you like it hotter add more chilies and/or cilantro. (just keep in mind it will get hotter the longer it sits).   If you like it sweeter, add more oranges.  Either way your taste buds will thank you!!

 Chipotle Orange Sauce 

I small can chipotles in adobo sauce

3-4 mandarin oranges, peeled & segmented plus some zest – OR –  1 small can mandarin slices in water, drained.

Extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp fresh Cilantro

Directions: Place one chipotle pepper plus one tbsp of adobo sauce in a blender or food processor.  Add mandarin oranges and cilantro.  Turn on blender or food processor and drizzle in olive oil until desired consistency.  Makes approximately 1 cup. Store in an air tight container and use within a week.

What have I learned so far? I still don’t seem to prep enough food. We have almost made it to the end of the week, but the recipes and meals I chose didn’t quite carry us through so I had to do some more cooking last night. Had I made a slightly larger portion of soup, chicken salad, and maybe larger portions of protein for dinner to ensure enough leftovers I think we would have made it through the entire week. I feel really good, however. No bloating or swelling, no digestive issues. I just feel good and I can’t wait to see where I am at the end of 30 days!

 

 

 

Week 1 of Whole30 is in the books!

I’m a little late getting started with my posts, but my husband and I have just finished our first week of Whole30.  Along with actually making it through the plan for 30 days my secondary goal is to document the process, recipes, etc. for those curious or thinking about doing their own Whole30.

For those of you not familiar with Whole30, do yourself a favor and check out www.whole30.com or better yet, get a copy of It Starts with Food by Dallas & Melissa Hartwig. Whole30 is a whole(aka REAL) foods-based eating plan that also addresses the psychology and other important yet often overlooked food responses such as gut and hormonal health. It Starts with Food is a great read and will change the way you look at food (or what you THINK is food!).

The meal planning is simple. QUALITY MEAT + VEGGIES+ FAT (+ compliant spices & sauces) = MEAL. We also have a couple of servings of fruit each day. That’s it.   Real food. No junk. 30 days. We can do this, right?

Week 1 has been transitional so there’s still a bit of a learning curve. I haven’t been the best at taking pictures and documenting, but I have high hopes that next week we will be settled into a nice groove. That being said, here’s a quick recap of what we’ve been eating so far:

Breakfast has been basically the same so far – 4-5 scrambled eggs with chives, salt & pepper, a piece of fruit, and almonds or a half avocado. This weekend when I had some extra time, I sautéed up some prosciutto and added to the mix. YUM.  To get in the necessary fat I’ve also added coconut milk to my black coffee. (REAL coconut milk from the can – the boxed stuff is not compliant; again, read It Starts with Food to find out why). Lacking? Veggies and more time in the am. Must do better!20150222_091524

Lunch – Lunch has been a BIG salad (dinner plate big) with grilled chicken, ½ diced avocado, cucumber & homemade vinaigrette; grilled turkey burgers with avocado and a salad or leftover ground turkey marinara over a sweet potato with a salad, green olives and homemade ranch dressing. I also tried the No Fuss Salmon cakes recipe in the book and it was delicious!20150219_103122

Dinner – One night I broke out my handy vegetable spiralizer and made zucchini noodles and some marinara with ground turkey. I had to make my own because all the jarred kinds at my local grocery had added sugar. It’s not the best picture but here’s how it turned out.FB_IMG_1424447212299

Side note: I’m still working on veggie noodle technique. If you cook them too long, their water releases and they get soupy. Not good for your sauces or their overall texture. Next time I will check Pinterest or the web before cooking. Spiralizing veggies is a big thing these days and there are some amazing looking creations out there!

On a busier night dinner was easy roast chicken in the crock pot along with some oven roasted veggies.  From the leftovers I made yummy and health-rich bone broth that I have since used in other recipes.   I love to cook and try new recipes so we also tried some chili, plantain nachos, pork chops and I made homemade ketchup. There are TONS of resources available for anyone wanting to try Whole30 so there are no excuses for food boredom!

20150220_211500

Plantain nachos with seasoned ground turkey, lettuce, tomato, avocado & cilantro

20150222_204530

Turkey burgers on lettuce with sweet & red potato fries, homemade ketchup, mustard, dill pickle & avocado slices.

 

Pork chop with roasted potatoes and a balsamic rosemary pan sauce.

Pork chop with roasted potatoes and a balsamic rosemary pan sauce.

Lessons learned this week?  Food prep is ESSENTIAL.  If you are not organized and prepared, 1)it will be hard to make good food choices on the fly and 2)  you won’t find nearly enough to eat.  Also, of all things I craved suprisingly it was a soda….and I only drank maybe one soda a week before.  Thankfully I read a post from another Whole30 guru that suggested trying club soda with some sliced lemon and lime and found this to be a great way to break up the water monotany.

That being said, I spent yesterday afternoon getting us ready for week 2.  I roasted chicken breasts, made a dipping sauce for the turkey breast I’m roasting later this week, made ketchup, blended up some coconut milk for coffee, made my FAVORITE chipotle orange sauce (which I will share later this week) to go with our cuban beef later this week,  made a zucchini soup for a quick veggie addition to meals, stole a few of the roast chicken breasts for chicken salad, made a yummy morning protein mix of ground pork, apple, cinnamon and nutmeg for some breakfast variety and made sure to put any meat items in the fridge that needed to thaw for this week’s dinner.  Finally, I prepackaged as much as I could in containers for quick grab and go lunches and tried to organize all that in the fridge.  It sounds like a lot of work, but taking a few hours on the weekend to do all this will save you so much time during the week.  I promise!

All in all, we rocked it in week one.  And while I am feeling great about that I am also feeling some of the week 1 side effects mentioned in the Whole30 plan, specifically – tiredness.  (And if you ask my husband – crankiness too.  But we’ll pretend he didn’t say that).  They say your energy level will change around days 7-11, so I’ll let you know how that goes.   I plan on being more vigilant with my posts this week as I’m feeling well prepared and very excited.  Here’s to another week of being Whole30 compliant!