I have admired so many friends and colleagues over the past few years who have successfully completed a Whole30. I thought that there was NO WAY that I could ever be that disciplined and restrict my favorite foods, wine, and sweets for a month!! In fact, I started a few rounds over the years, but failed miserably after a week into it — of course coming up with the best excuses ever as to why I just could not continue.
After thoroughly enjoying the first half of 2018, I was finally ready to take control over my issues with food. I was desperately seeking the Food Freedom that so many have found through this journey and started my first REAL Whole30 on August 1.
I can’t tell you how many people asked me why I was doing Whole30?? The unsolicited comments included:
You already eat healthy…
You do not need to lose weight…
You do not have any real health issues…
Are you crazy!?…
Why would you give up alcohol for a month?…
So that means we won’t see you next month since you can’t hang out at night anymore? …
Can you at least cheat once?
And the list goes on and on and on, leaving me feeling somewhat guilty.
These questions challenged me to dig deep and gain a better understanding of why I was choosing to embark on this 30-day personal experiment and mental journey. Quite frankly, I fear failure, and this journey did seem rather daunting as I spent a week making the necessary preparations. I needed to be fully armed with answers so I wouldn’t feel guilty about telling friends why I was taking control of my eating for a month. The bigger issue was why in the heck was I feeling guilty??? What is wrong with simply telling people that I care about myself and I am doing this for ME so I can be a better mother, wife, and friend!?
I needed a mission statement for ME, words to repeat over and over in my mind, reminding myself WHY I was taking on Whole30. As each week progressed, my “why” seemed to change and become more refined. The initial goal wasn’t about losing weight or trying to fit into a dress for a special event. Fortunately, I don’t suffer from any major health issues. I already know how to read labels and prepare healthy, nutritionally balanced meals made from whole foods.
The ultimate goals were to uncover the origins of my emotional eating, take away my constant focus on food, practice/implement portion control, feel better about myself both mentally and physically, gain a more positive outlook on life, gain more energy, and improve quality of sleep. With school starting back after summer break, I wanted to be more present for my kids in the evening and not let the back-to-school stresses affect me.
I was craving a new routine, one full of structure both at home and at work. Weekly meal planning and meal prepping were brand new practices for me – I needed to do this so we didn’t end up a restaurant for dinner!
As my journey began, I started to come to terms with the fact that I have a REALLY unhealthy relationship with food and that I need to free myself from this trap. It is no real secret the I love food, especially GOOD food. I started cooking when I was in second grade and married a true foodie, who equally enjoys cooking and eating amazing meals.
For that matter, I decided to combine my passion for healthy lifestyles, food and cooking, co-founding Georgia Grinders nut butters in 2012 with my husband. The ultimate problem is that I am addicted to food and have trouble with portion control. I am an emotional eater and truly have no willpower when it comes to sweets – especially cake with an extraordinary amount of icing, gooey brownie, and ice cream. Especially after enjoying red wine and cheese! I have mastered turning any situation, either positive or negative, into a reason to celebrate or cope with food.
I have never lacked an appetite and exercise heavily as justification for indulging ALMOST.EVERY.SINGLE NIGHT. I guess this is my way of purging after binges. I can’t tell you how many times I have stuffed my face until my stomach feels like it is going to explode. The guilt starts setting in, I might take another bite or two, start complaining to my husband and finally go to bed feeling grouchy, though convinced that tomorrow will be my day to start over and quit torturing myself!
Fortunately, I inherited good genes, a fast metabolism and do not struggle with being overweight, but that certainly does not equate to being healthy, feeling energetic, or positive about my image. I have never been a calorie counter, nor have I been one to weigh myself. Working out genuinely fuels my soul, clears my mind, and makes me feel amazing. Going to exercise classes with friends will ALWAYS be a huge part of my life, though I want to get rid of the pressure to exercise daily and guilt that follows if I am not able to fit a work out in. I truly believe that this will take place once the binges stop and I find balance.
I successfully completed my first round of Whole30 with the support of a few friends who joined me on the journey. We shared recipes, exchanged meals, and kept each other motivated. While my husband and kids did not do Whole30, they were very supportive of my goals and kept me on track. The Whole30 Day By Day book was exactly what I needed and would highly recommend this book to anyone who is thinking about embarking on their first round. When I do a second round, I will most definitely pull it out again. Melissa nails each day to a science and often it felt as if she were reading my mind and had the perfect answer to my questions/complaints. Her motivation/tough love was just what I needed when I got sick of meal planning, meal prepping, and doing countless hours of dishes! When I got bored with the food, her obvious suggestion to find new recipes and flavors to incorporate into the routine were just the inspiration and reassurance I needed.
So, what did I notice during my 30-day experiment?
Food/ Cravings: My sugar and alcohol cravings were gone, which absolutely shocked me. Yes, there were plenty of nights that I would have loved to have enjoyed a glass of wine or a margarita on the patio with friends, but I really enjoyed waking up without a headache and extra pep in my step. I severely missed cheese and pizza though (SALT) and thoroughly enjoyed the Chicago deep dish pizza on my daughter’s birthday after completing the round. I honestly did not miss the sweets or chocolate that I previously devoured each night after dinner, simply because I got them out of the house and told myself that they were off limits! But let me tell you, my craving for SALT WAS REAL. It makes sense though, since so many processed foods are loaded with salt.
Well Being: Overall, I felt really good and had positive outlook throughout the 30 days. Unfortunately, I never experienced the improved quality of sleep that so many report. In fact, my sleep quality declined and I had many nights where I woke up at 3 am and never went back to sleep. I must disclose that I have suffered from insomnia for a large portion of my life, but I was quite surprised that this particular month was sub-par in the sleep department. The good news is that I did not feel guilty when missing my cherished work outs after a night of no sleep because I was not bingeing on sweets!! This was a monumental discovery for me and very liberating.
Despite my lack of sleep, overall, I felt more energetic, was extremely productive and conquered one of the most stressful times during the life of Georgia Grinders without alcohol or sweets! It is with pride that I checked the box of completion at the end of each day, keeping me motivated and positive. At the halfway point, quite a few people commented that I looked toned and my skin appeared to be clearer. I personally felt less bloated, swollen and puffy, even noticing a few abs and that my clothes seemed to be fitting better. Talk about motivation to keep moving forward!! Food boredom definitely struck during week 3, which inspired me to seek out new recipes and flavors, per Melissa’s on-point suggestion. The last week seemed to go a little slower and oddly enough, I got one of the worst migraines ever. This still perplexes me??
Re-Introduction: I am rather disappointed to report that re-introduction did not go as planned, which is why I have had such a challenging time writing my story. I feel like I have failed, even though I just completed my first Whole30 and learned so much about my personal struggles with food. Re-introduction IS SO IMPORTANT and I wish I spent more time focusing on the 2-3 weeks after my Whole30 and not just on the 30-day journey. This re-introduction phase failure has turned out to be the best thing that could have happened though, as it has become crystal clear that the Whole30 lifestyle is something that I need to follow until I can successfully practice moderation. I am very black-and-white and do not thrive in the gray zone. I need rules to follow, but occasionally bend. Clearly it makes sense for me to avoid my trigger foods and keep them out of the house, otherwise these trigger foods will haunt and lure me in like a demon. Meal prepping is something that I have NEVER done until now and will most definitely carve out time each week to meal prep so that I will always have healthy meals available. This will prevent me from reaching for the snack foods when the hunger pains, boredom or stress strike, ultimately preventing me from bingeing on the random stuff in my pantry….even if it is 100% compliant and then feeling guilty.
Moving Forward: I will most definitely make the time to meal prep Whole30 compliant meals for the week to keep me on track. I plan to limit alcohol consumption to the weekends/special events, since that glass of wine or two ultimately leads me to make poor food choices and binge. I plan to keep my trigger foods out of the house, but I will never deny myself what I enjoy on special occasions! I need to move out of the kitchen when the urge to binge strikes and find something to distract me…like, take the dog on a walk, play with my kids or simply sit and breathe. I plan to start journaling what causes me to binge so I potentially identify patterns/ trends and ultimately find true food freedom. It will probably take another round or two of Whole30 with proper re-introduction to discover this phenomenon, but I am hopeful and encouraged by what I experienced after this first round.
And of course, Georgia Grinders kept me fueled and satiated throughout my Whole30 journey. Nut butters are one of the most versatile pantry staples and can be incorporated into just about every meal of the day, while appealing to people of all ages. With no added sugar or oil, Georgia Grinders has four Whole30Approved products- Original & Salt Free Almond Butter, Cashew Butter and Pecan Butter. I absolutely love creating sauces and dressings with nut butters to pair with chicken, fish, grilled veggies, salads and zoodles.
Asian inspired flavors tend to pair well with nut butters, so I typically throw almond or cashew butter, garlic, fresh ginger, red pepper flakes, curry powder, coconut aminos, fresh squeezed lime juice and fresh squeezed orange juice into my Vitamix and blend with bone broth until desired consistency is reached. Less bone broth for a dipping sauce and more for a salad dressing. See my recipe below if you want to give this sauce a try!
In addition to making sauces and dressings, the Pecan Butter is fantastic drizzled over roasted sweet potatoes with chipotle/red pepper and of course, sweet potato toast topped with nut butters also became weekly staple.
Here are some of my favorite Whole 30 meals, with photos:
Italian Shrimp/mussel Salad with avocado oil and Italian seasonings (parsley, sage, oregano, basil)- again, more herbs from my garden.
Smoked Chicken Wings with Asian Sauce / Whole30 Ranch and Kebobs grilled on the Big Green Egg- fortunately my husband LOVES to grill!
Burgers with sweet potato buns
Seared tuna with roasted broccoli and Asian salad with almond butter dressing
Of course, I NEVER left home without a 3 oz. re-sealable travel pouch of Georgia Grinders Almond Butter!
My new coffee obsession:
Collagen and coconut oil blended in coffee each morning… sometimes with nutpods!
Kombucha mixed with LaCroix served in a wine glass so I would feel fancy!
Jaime’s Asian-Inspired Nut Butter Sauce Recipe:
1/3 cup almond butter or cashew butter
2-3 tablespoons coconut aminos
2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon of lime juice
1 teaspoon curry powder
5 garlic cloves minced
1 tablespoon compliant sriracha
1 teaspoon fresh ginger
1/4 bone broth (more or less, depending on desired thickness)
Throw in the Vitamix and blend on high until smooth. Add more bone broth, depending on desired consistency. Great for dressings, sauces for zoodles, dipping sauce for chicken, fish, veggies, etc. The possibilities with this sauce are endless!