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.