Vacation 2019 Food Freedom

Earlier this year, I completed my ninth (?) round of Whole30 – a Whole62. It helped me get back to feeling great after a holiday season filled with some sugar, alcohol, and miscellaneous treats. Coming off of the round, I transitioned into a Slow Roll reintroduction, really being mindful in my decisions to eat things that could potentially – to quote Melissa – “mess me up.”

I added back a little sugar (in sauces or commercially-made mayonnaise) and one day, tried a handful of chocolate chips melted on a banana. The chocolate was just so-so and didn’t really feel worth it in the end as my stomach felt a little off and my head felt cloudy the next morning. I also had some Trader Joe’s cauliflower gnocchi, which have compliant ingredients but are not Whole30 due to the SWYPO factor, and I could really take them or leave them.

My reintroduction purposely did NOT include alcohol. I’ve decided that for now (whatever that means), alcohol is not something I need. I much prefer coffee and I look forward to my quiet early mornings when I work and write with a cup of coffee by my side. Alcohol sometimes would get in the way of those early mornings, and right now, isn’t worth it for me.

Fast forward a few weeks: It was time for my annual vacation to Charleston. For the past four years, my daughter and I have gone to this incredible city to visit my parents, who spend the month of March in downtown Charleston.

I was ready to flex my Food Freedom muscles and here’s how I handled my vacation…

Note: My parents rent a house and I have access to a full kitchen. I also have incredibly supportive parents, which is not lost on me.

  • Before my trip, I ordered some of my favorite Whole30 staples from Thrive Market and had them shipped to my parents’ rental house. I made sure I had The New Primal Mustard BBQ sauce, Primal Kitchen ketchup, Fourth & Heart ghee, Thrive Market almond flour, Primal Palate Meat & Potatoes seasoning, and more. This was a game changer and meant I had some basics on hand when I arrived.

  • In my suitcase, I packed a few other favorites including Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel seasoning blend, nutpods, raw cashews, travel packs of collagen peptides, Trader Joe’s Mixed Nut Butter, and Chomps. I also gave my mom a shopping list of a few things to buy, including GT’s kombucha, LaCroix, Whole30 compliant bacon (She picked up Applegate Turkey Bacon), sweet potatoes, eggs, avocado, mixed greens, and ground beef.

  • In the airport on the way to Charleston, our flight was a little delayed so my daughter and I got lunch. I got a burger salad from local chain Wahlburgers and asked them to hold the cheese. I did enjoy the homemade pickles and special sauce, both of which I am sure included sugar. I didn’t stress and enjoyed.

  • The first night in Charleston, I made four beef patties for myself and had one for dinner on a big pile of greens with roasted veggies, avocado, Primal Kitchen ketchup, and The New Primal Mustard BBQ. We also made some roasted vegetables and two batches of my favorite crispy veggies (based on this recipe from Low Carb Yum, using nutritional yeast instead of parmesan cheese.) I ate the rest of the burgers during our stay, rotating with eggs and bacon for breakfasts/lunches. I added veggies to each meal and fresh fruit/nut butter when I needed it.

  • We had one dinner out (my daughter is in an anti-restaurant stage) and I ordered grilled salmon, grilled asparagus and French Fries! They were delish and oh so worth it! I brought my own ketchup and Mustard BBQ sauce and it was nice to have a night off from cooking!

  • One day, I ate one lunch at The New Primal’s HQ during my visit there – blog post on that coming soon! The meal was amazing and made by Whole30 Approved Chef Valerie Skinner of Thyme & Joy. Everything was Whole30 compliant except for the plantain chips – which I enjoy in my Food Freedom without any consequence. Speaking of chips, I also had some Terra sweet potato chips from the plane – just potatoes and oil. These work in my Food Freedom – I can eat, enjoy and move on!

  • The last night we ordered dinner in and I got an ahi tuna salad – hold the wonton chips. The salad had oranges, greens, and cashews. I used a little bit of the dressing and the wasabi sauce that came with it – and called it a day.

  • During the week, we celebrated my mom’s birthday with cake and ice cream. Having store bought cake and ice cream didn’t seem particularly worth it to me because I know sugar makes me feel sick, cranky, and tired – so I passed and sipped some kombucha while my parents and daughter enjoyed.

  • My parents have a nightly glass of red wine. In the past, I would have wine with them some days but this year, it was easy to say no. I had my LaCroix and I was a happy camper!

  • I am an avid exerciser and I know I need my movement to feel focused, strong, and happy. I made sure to move each day and have some time for myself. Three of the mornings I went for a run (and threw in some push-ups and burpees for good measure) and our final morning there, I did a TMAC Fitness yoga workout on my laptop.

  • Lastly, the biggest gift to myself on this trip was SLEEP. I slept more than I have in a long time – and boy, did it feel good! I went to bed early – there were no school lunches to pack or things to do after my daughter went to bed. It was nice to take a little break from the hustle and bustle of the daily grind and I made sure to make sleep a priority.

As I wrote last year in a similar post, this was not a gourmet vacation focused on the incredible food scene of Charleston. It was a chance to rest and recharge for a few days – and despite a few 5-year-old tantrums, it served its purpose. Did it take a little extra work? Of course. But most things that are worth it, do!

In this season of my life, this is my vacation Food Freedom. Will it change and shift in the future? Of course. If this had been a girls’ weekend or a trip for work, things might have been different. For now, I used the tools I’ve learned from my multiple rounds of Whole30 and my past experience with Food Freedom to create a plan that worked for me.

And what did I do at the airport while waiting for our flight home? Meal plan, of course! Onward to a new week at home, filled with a renewed spirit and another notch in my Food Freedom belt.

How do you handle vacations on Whole30 or in your Food Freedom? Do you have strategies to help you enjoy while still feeling your best?

Whole30 Day 30…now what?

Congrats! You’ve finished your Whole30! You’ve checked off a whole bunch of Non-Scale Victories, you feel amazing, and hey, maybe you’ve even lost a few pounds along the way. Your skin is glowing, your thinking is clear, and you’re sleeping like a baby.

Day 30 comes with a ton of emotions: You’re happy, joyful, proud, and feeling so accomplished, as you should! But is also brings fear and a sense of uneasiness – what’s going to happen now? Will I fall face first into a meal of nachos and ice cream? How do I keep up this good feeling forever? Will I fail?

As we’ve mentioned many times (and as you have read in your Whole30 book and on the Whole30 website), Day 31 is not meant to be a free-for-all in terms of eating. Doing that really defeats the purpose of the 30-day reset you’ve just completed. You will have NO idea which foods affect you and how. You will have NO data to create your Food Freedom, and chances are you are both going to feel terrible and slip back into old bad habits quickly.

Let’s NOT do, that, OK?

On Day 31, you will instead begin Whole30 reintroduction, which according to the Whole30 website is “your one opportunity to slowly, carefully, systematically reintroduce some of the off-plan foods you’ve been missing into the ‘clean’ environment you’ve created with the Whole30. Now is your chance to really evaluate how these foods make you feel in the context of a better relationship with food, improved metabolism, healthier digestive tract, and more balanced immune system.”

There are two ways to go about reintroduction – the fast track method or the slow roll method. Regardless of the one you choose, it’s important to remember that you are still going to be eating mostly Whole30 foods – you will just be adding back items you have removed during your round. This is not a free for all or an excuse to chow down on junk! A little tough love here, but I need to say it again!

During the fast track reintroduction, you “reintroduce ‘less healthy’ foods back into your diet one group at a time, while keeping the rest of your diet as Whole30-clean as possible. Think about it like a scientific trial, where your Whole30 is the control and the one food group you are trying to evaluate is the experimental group.” There’s a sample schedule fast track reintroduction schedule found here on the Whole30 website!

With this method, your 10-14 day reintroduction (depending on if you add in alcohol/separate out sugar), may be tough. As it says in the Whole30 book, “reintroducing so many off-plan foods in such a short period of time (especially when your system has been so happy without them) means your energy, sleep, mood, cravings, skin, digestion, and medical symptoms may all blow up at once.”

With fast track, you reintroduce each food group separately (Whole30 recommends you start with gluten-free alcohol or legumes first, then non-gluten grains, dairy, and gluten-containing grains, leaving AT LEAST two days of Whole 30 eating in between reintroducing each food group.

With each food group, you take careful notes about how you feel. How is your digestion? Skin? Sleep? Thinking? Energy? Using data you collect from your reintroduction, you will begin to create your own Food Freedom – where “only you can decide what’s worth it for you.” More on Food Freedom below…

With the slow roll method, you don’t follow a set schedule or timeline of reintroduction. As it says in the Whole30 book, with slow roll, “you continue eating mostly Whole30 until something so special comes along that you decide you’re ready to indulge, and evaluate the effects.”

This does NOT mean going nuts with cake and ice cream or testing out wine by the bottle. You are only reintroducing foods you find irresistible, and you are only testing out “a small amount of off-plan food at once.” You may feel OK and that’s good news – but not permission to pig out. You need to take it slow and evaluate one thing at a time, on your own schedule.

Whole30 also offers another way to think about slow roll reintroduction: by allowing small amounts of sugar back into your diet in the forms of ketchup on a burger, salad dressing at a restaurant, or bacon cured in sugar. You are still eating by the standard Whole30 meal template but you are just relaxing it a bit on the added sugar rule. This gives you some additional flexibility to eat in restaurants, or at a friend’s house. But a word of caution here: If adding back certain sugars gets your Sugar Dragon roaring again, then perhaps it’s best to leave them out of your diet for the time being (or forever!)

I love this part of the book when it describes slow roll reintroduction as a marathon, or a lifelong process. This could not be more true!!! “Now that you have a baseline for looking and feeling your best (the Whole30), every time you eat a potentially less-healthy food, you should both savor it immensely and pay close attention to how it impacts you.”

The Whole30 book has an awesome Reintroduction FAQ section beginning on page 132. I highly recommend reading it – and reading it again.

At the end of the day, the reintroduction process is intended to help you create your own personal Food Freedom – a way of living in which you are in control over food (and not the other way around), deciding what is worth it, in what amount, and when. If you discover during reintroduction, for example, that dairy gives you terrible headaches – you can move forward in your life armed with that knowledge. If you decide one day to enjoy special ice cream, well, then you know what it likely to come.

In Food Freedom, you can be at peace with food, knowing that it’s not GOOD or BAD but some foods is more healthy/less disruptive to your body than others. There’s no dieting, no counting, or stressing – just living. And the best thing is that when things get shaky – and your decisions around food start to get a little wobbly – there is always Whole30 (or a shorter reset) to return to. This is a process, a journey, and it will likely take several rounds of Whole30 to get there. So, don’t give up!

If you don’t have a copy of Food Freedom Forever, I suggest you pick one up – either at your local library or on Amazon! It’s a great read and you will find yourself coming back to it time and again.

The Whole30 blog also has a round-up of some Food Freedom resources to help you along your way.

Since October 2015, I have done eight rounds of Whole30 – most have been 30 days but two have been longer (60 and 75 days) which I think were the keys to my success. This journey has been incredible – I am a former Weight Watchers leader and binge eater so feeling secure in my Food Freedom and feeding myself foods that help me feel my best has been life changing.

But I am human and once in a while, my Sugar Dragon starts to roar or I find myself enjoying wine a few too many nights in a row. So, what do I do? I DO NOT go back to the “might as well” mentality that I had back in my dieting days, aka “I might as well eat the whole cake because I had a slice.” Nope – I go right back to Whole30 (or a shorter reset, where I might eat Whole30 for 7 or 9 or 12 days, depending on what I need) and get myself refocused on healthy eating and feeling my best. As time has gone on, I live my Food Freedom for longer and longer stretches, and it becomes easier and easier.

This can be you, too. I promise. If you do the work, the reward will be worth it.

Are you doing Fast Track or Slow Roll reintroduction? Let us know what your plan is after the September Whole30!

Food Freedom: Breaking Up With Oreos

I have done numerous rounds of Whole 30, numerous mini resets, and it took until recently to actively practice and understand the mindfulness of Food Freedom. Recently, I went on vacation to Savannah with my family. It’s a tradition we have done every Easter and typically means a lot of indulgence; cocktails starting by 5, delicious food, lots of sweets, and a fancy Easter brunch. Cue out of control eating…

This year was different. I was in the process of reading Food Freedom Forever by Melissa Hartwig. The pre-Whole 30 me would have chosen a different book and gone all out at every moment I could. This time, I chose differently.

I actively chose to practice Food Freedom this time. A couple times I fell hard. The most memorable learning experience was when I fell face first into some mini Oreo snack packs. As I was eating them, my FF voice was saying, “Why are you doing this? You just at a delicious compliant lunch and these are so small you can’t even taste the frosting.” At 3 mini bags I stopped. I felt disgusting and incredibly disappointed with myself. I actually talked myself through the situation and analyzed what happened.

My take away was: I can’t have Oreos. They are a food without breaks for me and they just aren’t worth it. I was feeling really anxious and didn’t realize it. I ate the Oreos to make myself feel better and rationalized it because the packages were small. I decided I needed to sit and feel gross for a moment, so I could remember how it felt, and then when the opportunity came, I went on a run. After my run and some “kid free me time”, my anxiety was calmed, I felt better, and I reminded myself that this was a learning experience.

I definitely spent a lot of time that week practicing Food Freedom. After the Oreo incident, I felt more in control. I often made better food choices and indulged when it was truly worth it. This is not to say that I didn’t make poor choices, thinking something was worth it when it wasn’t or doing something by sheer habit, but my mindfulness was front and center. I certainly understand that this is a lifelong exercise of practice, analysis and reset if needed, but I also see the light that these choices will become more routine and not as challenging down the road.

During vacation, I ate compliant breakfasts and lunches. My dinners were generally not compliant, but I made them as compliant as possible. I minimized snacking, had some desserts, some but very moderate alcohol and some dairy. My body started aching again, I was sluggish, tired and I had this underlying nagging headache on and off along with bloating and congestion. When I came home, I did a mini-reset. By Day 3, my energy was back up, the body aches were much better although not yet subsided and the headaches are gone.

Often times I hear about a fear to experience Food Freedom and to dip your toe back in the non-compliant pool. Food Freedom is all about contemplating whether or not its worth it to dip your toe in the water, waiting for a bit to see if it is truly worth it, being mindful about what dipping your toe might trigger and then making a choice. It’s not a bad thing. It’s a learning thing. We are conditioned to be slaves to a diet and not actually to be free in our food choices. If your choice doesn’t go as planned, circle back around, reset and make a different choice next time. It’s going through this process time and again that truly will set us free.


When I turned 30, I took a vacation with a friend to Europe to celebrate my third decade. We hit Spain and Portugal and had a blast – eating, drinking, and being very merry with the locals.

Fast forward 11 years. I am a 41-year-old mom of an almost 5-year-old. Vacation has a very different meaning these days.

I recently took my daughter away for a week to Charleston, where my parents were vacationing for a month in a rental house. I was less than two weeks past my Whole 75, and my Food Freedom to that point had included the consumption of ONE can of hard cider (split over two days!)

So, what did vacation mean for my Food Freedom? How did I handle being away from my own kitchen and normal routine while testing the waters of what felt “worth it” to eat?

Here’s how I set myself up for a successful time away (and I do recognize that much of this is possible only because I have incredibly supportive and helpful parents!)

  • I sent my Mom a shopping list of things to have for me in the house when we arrived. On the list: Eggs, avocado, coffee, tons of vegetables (which she roasted and had ready for me!), Aidell’s chicken sausage, coconut milk, coconut oil, nuts, salad fixings, and fruit.

  • I packed my suitcase with what I call my “soldiers” – ghee, tons of spice blends, nutpods, sugar-free sunflower seed butter, compliant trail mix, dried meat bars (Chomps, and Wild Zora), an emergency RxBar, applesauce pouches, Safe Catch tuna, Soom Foods tahini, and almond butter packets.

  • I didn’t leave lunch in the airport on the way to Charleston to chance. I made sure I had a meat bar, some leftover potatoes, cantaloupe chunks and cashews. I did have some Terra vegetables chips on the plane – just vegetables and oil, no sugar or funky ingredients. I hadn’t had chips in forever and these were definitely in my Food Freedom.

  • Before I left for my trip, I researched some fitness studios where I could take classes during the week. For me, exercise helps keep me focused, calm, and on track – and without it, well, it’s not pretty. I ended up taking two different classes over the week – a hot power yoga class and a Sweat Therapy class, mash-up of barre, Tabata, pilates, and strength.

  • When I got to Charleston, I mapped out a 3-mile running route and while I was there, I ran three times. So overall, I got five workouts in during the week I was away – not bad!

  • In advance of my trip. I did some research on good food options for me in Charleston. I ended up having a to-go salad from Verde, which has many compliant and close-to-compliant (and perfect for my own personal Food Freedom) options and I grabbed a locally-made One Love kombucha (not compliant but again, a part of my Food Freedom.)

  • Thanks to a child who wasn’t in the mood for restaurants, we only ate out once during the week. We went to Five Loaves Café, and I chose a chicken cobb salad, hold the bleu cheese. I used a little of the dressing on the side but I was OK with that.

  • I cooked the rest of my meals and ate lots of vegetables, eggs, chicken sausage, burgers, fish and chicken. It wasn’t “exciting” vacation food but it kept me satisfied, happy, and feeling on track with my normal routine.

  • We celebrated my Mom’s birthday one night with store-bought cupcakes. Definitely NOT in my Food Freedom. I had some fruit with almond butter that evening instead.

  • My parents enjoy a nightly glass of wine, and on past vacations with them I have enjoyed a glass alongside them EVERY night. It was something to look forward to, and a way to unwind and relax – from the stress of being on vacation with your parents. 😊 This year, I really flexed my Food Freedom skills to decide when I wanted wine and how much I wanted. I ended up having a very small glass of red wine three of the nights I was on vacation. With two of the glasses, I felt fine the next morning but with one of them, I was dragging the next day. That glass has helped me think about how I want to approach drinking – I have not had any alcohol since I have been back and it’s giving me even more pause about if and how drinking fits into my life.

  • On the trip home, my daughter and I split a fruit cup in the airport while we waited for the plane. And while I was on the plane, I decided to test my Food Freedom again with…mini chocolate chip cookies. I am a former “Cookie Monster” so this is a big deal for me. I had not had a dessert in more than 3 months. So, I had two mini cookies from the package and then decided I was done. I had hit my “worth it” moment, and I didn’t mindlessly eat the rest of the bag.

  • And while I was traveling home, I pulled out my organizer and a pen – and started to meal plan. My first stop right from the airport: The supermarket. I was not going home to an empty fridge. I whipped up 40 Aprons egg roll in a bowl with spicy sauce and roasted sweet potato fries for my first meal back at home.

Was it a lot of work? Sort of. Was it a trip based around amazing local cuisine? Absolutely not. But, did I have a good time away? Yes!

I spent quality time with my family, got in more sleep than I’ve had in months, enjoyed some great workouts, hit the beach, and most importantly, felt strong, clear-minded, and relaxed.

Life was different when I was 30. At 41, taking a vacation from good habits is not part of my Food Freedom.

Food Freedom IRL And 5 Tips To Help You Stand Up When You Fall Down

There’s a reason it’s called practicing. My son just turned one and he’s not walking yet, but he often takes one hand off the coffee table and is trying so hard to balance…until he face plants. And then does it again. Kind of like how I have been managing to get through the month of March. Not only was my baby’s first birthday party this month, but I offered to host a good friend’s shower the weekend before and will be attending my dad’s birthday party this weekend coming up. There’s been gluten (pizza, bread and cake…oh, the cake…), dairy and sugar. So. Much. Sugar.

I always have Whole 30 at the front of my mind in all these situations. I made sure we had veggie trays, salads, both green and fruit and have attempted to stick to the template knowing that there would be other choices available. However, like my son face planting in an attempt to stay vertical, I have fallen face first into celebratory treats that have left me feeling less than stellar. I will say, before Whole 30 occasions such as these would have sent me spiraling into guilt, defeat and I would throw my hands up as I shoved another *insert indulgence here* into my mouth. An enormous NSV (non-scale victory) for me is the self-reflection I can do and regrouping to change course. I am doing this as we speak and as I type. Here is how I will get back on track without needing to commit to another full 30 day round.

  1. Focus on meal to meal choices and attack minute to minute challenges rather than thinking long term If you are like me, you are ruminating on all the THINGS you just consumed that didn’t help you. (I see you left over lemon bars…) I only let myself think about the one meal I’m making and make sure I’m checking the veggie, protein, healthy fat boxes. It takes the pressure off. When a snack opportunity comes up, I tackle that then, and so on until I have completed a day of compliant, focused eating and build on it.

  2. Keep it super simple I NEED to have easy, tried and true options at my fingertips so I don’t get overwhelmed and just end up making toast for breakfast or eating my kids’ leftover Mac & Cheese. I literally throw some mixed greens on a plate, mix up some tuna salad and chop cold veggies some days to make it as easy as possible to eat things I know will keep me full and make me feel better. Now is not the time for me to be trying a new, fancy 17 step gourmet recipe with a ton of ingredients. *However, if that is something that helps you feel motivated and reignites your whole30 flame, GO FOR IT. I just like the KISS method in this moment.

  3. Create a contingency plan If my son doesn’t finish his delicious peanut butter and jelly, then I will wrap it up and put it in the fridge instead of leaving it out on the table where I will, most likely, take a bite. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are delicious, yo. I do this for most situations, especially snack attacks. My contingency for cravings is ALWAYS, ALWAYS to make a cup of tea. It takes a good 10 minutes to heat water, pour and steep and let it cool to drink and by that time I’m usually focused on the tea process rather than whatever has caught my eye.

  4. Be as kind to yourself as you would to a best friend Use positive self talk and change your mindset. You haven’t failed. Remind yourself this is part of the process. Nothing makes me feel more in control than when I get my act together after I’ve been out of control. For March has been a doozy of a month and because I’m still practicing Food Freedom, I’ve made some choices that probably were not worth it, but how would I know if I didn’t keep practicing. So, note to self: 5 sugar cookies in one day is too many and they aren’t special anymore. They are just more fire to fuel my raging sugar dragon.

  5. Phone a friend I have at least 3 good friends (besides my amazing admin team) that I can text or call anytime and geek out about whole 30 recipes, rounds or struggles. They keep me accountable and honest and I can brainstorm or vent and then move forward. If you don’t have people like this in your life, there are so many great resources on social media like out Whole 30 group or blogger/personalities on Instagram. It’s refreshing and inspiring to see what other people are doing.

  6. Do a mini reset If I can’t get this sugar BEAST tamed in the next day or so, I will probably decide to do a 5-10 day mini reset until I’m back to making better choices for myself with minimal struggle. We all know the struggle is REAL.

If you haven’t read Food Freedom Forever, I cannot recommend that book enough. It was eye opening to me about the process of achieving a healthy and balanced relationship with food and not feeling badly about the ups and downs it takes to get there. I hope your biggest take away is that it’s not the end of the world if you get off course. That’s just life. You are not a failure. I am not a failure. The success comes with making a game plan and choosing to get back in the game, back on the horse, or whatever other catch phrase you want to use. Let me know what else has worked for you. I’m totally open and interested in more suggestions, because chances are I’ll need to slay good ol’ sugar tooth again at some point. Some day, I’ll achieve total Food Freedom, but for now, I’ll keep holding onto the coffee table and get back up when I face plant again as I find my balance.