How to Whole30 as a Teacher

I am an educator. It’s in my blood. It doesn’t seem to matter what I am doing because all of life seems to come back to learning and applying knowledge. Whole30 has been no different!

I am also a wife, mom to six kiddos (age range spanning 16 years – which means I will forever have teenagers – Lord help me!). I am a caretaker and as a school administrator in a large urban district working with at-risk students and families. I often do a fantastic job of taking care of everyone else, often at the expense of myself. But, my first Whole30 round in January 2018 changed all of that!

When you work in education, your entire world can be broken down into minutes and acronyms. You spend hours in PLCs learning about how PBL, RTI and MTSS are going to change your world. You work with students who are ADHA, ASD, EBD/LD or OHI and are tasked to create learning environments that are inclusive and differentiated to each individual, unique need. You debate if phonics or whole language is better and then agree on balanced literacy. The hours are of your day are full during the school year and your summer vacation is typically spent regrouping and preparing for the year ahead.

To be successful on Whole30, I focused in and fit it into my world….so let me share my Top 5 Tips for Educators in acronyms just for you!

1. MPLYLP – Meal Plan Like You Lesson Plan (Write it down)
Think about Whole30 in the same way you think about your lesson plans! Pull recipes, make grocery lists, shop and organize your food. I know I need breakfast ready for a quick reheat in the morning. Lunches need to be packed the night before so I can grab and go. I plan and make sure dinner is ready and available. Grab emergency items for when you are extra hungry or need a little something to make it through that afternoon staff meeting! Everything you pre-plan for the week sets you up for success during the day.

2. POW – Prep on Weekends (Don’t fail to prep)
I prep on Saturdays. I grocery shop first thing in the morning and then prep it when I get home. I roast or air fry veggies because roasted veggies are just as yummy cold as they are reheated. Poaching chicken ensures I have a quick protein to add to any meal and I make sure I have hard-boiled eggs on hand. I toss together things like Egg Roll in a Bowl or make easy soups packed with veggies. I keep big meals for the weekend when I have time to BBQ. Snack size bags work great for veggies or meat sticks. Portioning out food makes it ready to go because then there is no excuse.

3. FIP – Find Your Posse
Find your people and support each other. Most people are intrigued with my Whole30 meals and support me if I share my reasoning behind it. Yes, to some it sounds crazy, but people will still cheer you on. Find those people and hang on to them!

4. H3 – Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate (keep those fluids coming)

Water, LaCroix, Hot Tea, Iced Tea, Coffee – whatever it is, grab it! This keeps you going more than you know and is the easiest thing to keep in hand in the classroom or hallway. Buy a fun bottle or insulated cup and keep it filled. This helps regulate your hunger as well.

5. KISS – Keep it Simple Sister/Sir (cold meals, no reheating, grab and go)
Simplicity is key! When I first started, I was making condiments and fancy dishes. Now, the lazy deviled egg is the way to go. I know when I am home, having my tools close at hand makes my time more efficient. Cleaning out my fridge so I don’t have to think about what I am grabbing and if it is compliant is the best.

Following these few steps has made it possible for me to be successful during some of the most difficult times of the year. They also hold me accountable during breaks and summer vacation when the change in routine throws things off. Staying focused through the end will ensure your success and a long string of NSVs!

Here’s to summer vacation, fellow educators…!

Getting Saucy at The New Primal

One of the best parts of my recent trip to Charleston was the chance to hang out – and eat lunch – at the headquarters of Whole30 Approved superstar partner The New Primal.

As you may already know (because I screamed it from the rooftops last year!), I was one of The New Primal’s 2018 Whole30 Coaching Scholarship winners. Becoming a Whole30 Certified Coach and being able to officially share my passion for Whole30 with the world is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me!

Beyond loving them for the scholarship, The New Primal makes INCREDIBLE Whole30 Approved items, ranging from sauces to marinades to beef thins to salad dressings. Their products are true game changers in helping to get fast and delicious Whole30 meals on the table. (As a reminder, we have a generous group discount of 25 percent off online orders with the code “WHOLE30FACEBOOK” at checkout.

So, when I booked my trip to Charleston, I immediately got in touch with my friends at The New Primal. They invited me to join them for their monthly lunch series, which is part of their effort to have people “return to the table” and connect over healthy food and good conversation. I eagerly accepted!

Lunch was awesome…starting with the company! I got to see Jason, Melissa, and David from The New Primal, who I had met at the Whole30 Coach Summit in Utah last August. And I met Meredith and Carson, other members of TNP team along with Valerie Skinner from Whole30 Approved Personal Chef Service Thyme & Joy who I’ve been following on Instagram for a while! Val cooks the monthly meal for The New Primal team lunch – More on the food below!

Each month, The New Primal invites other local friends and community members so there were also a few more new faces at lunch for me to meet.

Now, onto the food! Val prepared a Caribbean Themed Lunch, featuring The New Primal products. On the menu: Jerk Chicken Breast, Island Tahini Sriracha Coleslaw, Caribbean Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Plantain Chips (hello, Food Freedom!) and Island Punch. There was also LaCroix galore, of course. Everything was DELICIOUS!

During lunch, I had the chance to ask Jason questions about the behind-the-scenes of running a business (it takes a lot of hard work and way more money than I imagined!) and get a little scoop on some new soon-to-be-released products. Are you sitting down? Later this year, The New Primal will release seasoning mixes, coconut aminos, and wasabi coconut aminos!

Once you catch your breath, I have more good news. Also in the works: Whole30 Approved meat sticks (they are reformatting their current recipe by removing the honey) and Whole30 compliant ketchup!

So, now you’ll basically be able to build your entire meal – from spices to finishing sauce — using The New Primal products. I don’t know about you, but I am doing a serious happy dance!

Before I left, Melissa loaded me with some sauces (including my two favorites – Medium Buffalo and Classic BBQ, beef thins, and super cool TNPswag. She also gave me some of their Snack Mates for my daughter. (Note: These are not Whole30 compliant due to honey but a great Paleo choice.)

And of course, we had to snap a group shot and a Boomerang video. Because if it’s not on Instagram then it didn’t really happen!

All in all, it was a lovely lunch and a great time connecting with one of my favorite Whole30 brands. I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it on repeat: The New Primal team members are some of the nicest people I have ever met.

Their products and customer service are top-notch, and they believe in Whole30 and this lifestyle wholeheartedly. And they believed in me as a coach – and for that, I will be forever grateful.

Have you tried The New Primal products? Which ones are your favorite?

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?

Move It Monday: Let's Get Moving

You’ve rocked your Whole30 and are eating veggies and healthy foods left and right. What about exercise? No time? I have a list as long as my arm about why I couldn’t do any exercise. Realistically, with two young children, a full-time job, and a husband with crazy work hours, I’m not going to get out of the door and set foot into a gym. It’s not happening. Me + Gym = NO!

I’ve wanted to get moving and do something but kept putting it off. It’s so easy when you’re super busy. I mean, the amount of time we spend cooking and cleaning the kitchen alone is a feat itself on Whole30! That’s gotta burn a calorie or two, right? Time was my first excuse.

My second excuse is that I’ve always been self-conscious exercising. It’s not particularly motivating when you need a ‘system’ to hold the girls in and they’re packed in like a uniboob, your back isn’t feeling great, and you can’t find a shirt that doesn’t hang like a potato sack. Oh, the list goes on. During my last annual physical, I asked my doctor about a breast reduction and she said I’d definitely qualify and that my insurance would cover it. WHAT? Really?

I went in and got the consult with the surgeon and the date was set. The surgery went well and the recovery was easy. Fast forward six and a half weeks later and I’m a C cup. A very happy C cup! Do you know how much they took out? 2 lbs. on one side and 2.5lbs. on the other. Yeah, that’s how much extra weight I was carrying in my chest area–no wonder exercising wasn’t fun. I feel like a new person. That tired lower back pain is gone–I didn’t even realize how much this was affecting my back. I want to move!

So, my second excuse is gone. My first excuse, time, is what I needed to figure out. After thinking a lot about it, I realized that I could carve out 30 minutes a day somewhere in my day. Obviously, that means I’m not leaving the house to exercise right now. I found some videos and have been working out at home. Some days my six year old daughter is my workout buddy. She’s quite keen on exercising with me–so, climbing on my back while I was doing a move today wasn’t in the video, but hey, we were laughing and the time flew by. Sometimes you just have to roll with it and get it done.

Grab a DVD from Target. Got Amazon Prime? You can get free fitness videos there. Search online–there are plenty of online fitness plans. If you don’t want to do videos, just get moving. Park a little further away from the store (possibly when getting a workout DVD at Target!), take a walk on your lunch break, or take the stairs. Making little changes add up over time. You’ve put so much time in fueling your body with good food–you are ready to move!

What are you doing to get moving?

Five Ways Being Selfish Makes Me a Better Person

Being described as “selfish” is usually considered a negative character flaw… and sometimes it is. There are certain times and relationships where it is appropriate and even necessary to put others’ needs before our own. In close, loving relationships such as with a spouse or our children it is better to be selfless most of the time. However, even then, we must draw the line and do what’s best for ourselves.

It seems especially hard for women to put ourselves first. We’ll wear ourselves out trying to be everything to everyone. We feel guilty about saying, “no” even when we should.

I’ve decided that starting now, I’m going to be unapologetically SELFISH. Here are five ways that being selfish is good for us and the people that matter in our lives.

1. I am more productive when I have fewer things on my “to do list.”
I’m all about creating a list of tasks that need to be done. But when that list is a mile long, I feel overwhelmed and anxious. So, I’ll prioritize what’s important, delegate the rest, and say, “no” to everything else.

2. When it comes to social activities, I’ll only commit to things I really want to do whenever possible.
There’s no worse feeling than agreeing to attend an event and regretting it on the day of when you don’t want to go. Save yourself and the host the trouble and politely decline the invitation from the beginning.

3. I will put my marriage/family first.
Yes, that is being selfish because my family is important to me. I don’t have children, but that doesn’t mean I have lots of free time. I love my husband and spending time with him. So, when it’s family time, everything else can wait.

4. Work-life balance is necessary.
I will work a regularly scheduled work day that includes breaks, time off, and vacation. I am not available 24/7/365 even if you see me on social media.

5. Taking care of myself is my number one priority. Body, mind, and soul.
It’s impossible to put my best foot forward in any area of my life if I’m not taking care of myself. What that means to me is getting proper rest, being physically active, eating nutrition meals, taking supplements, and getting regular check-ups. I’ll also keep my mind sharp and feed my soul by doing things that I enjoy and things that help me grow.

When we’re our best selves, everyone benefits. It’s OK to say, “no” without explaining yourself. Be selfish and feel good about it.

Here are a few of my favorite things to do for myself:

  • Sleeping in or taking a nap

  • Listening to music

  • At-home spa treatments

  • Reading

  • Quality time with my husband

  • Going to the park

  • Writing hand-written letters and postcards

  • Browsing in stores

  • Treating myself at a coffee shop

  • Quiet time alone

What things do you enjoy doing for yourself?

Jennifer Amoako is a proud military wife and a Whole30 Certified Coach specializing in holistic wellness. Her mission is to change the perception of what “healthy” looks like. Jennifer currently lives in the Washington, D.C. area with her husband.

You can follow her on Instagram @ajenniferyourthoughts and online at www.ajenniferyourthoughts.com.

Treat Yo' Self – Rewarding Yourself On Whole30

Finishing a round of Whole30 is an accomplishment. Think of all the things that went into your round. You had to plan. You spent more time shopping because you’re a label ninja and read everything. You did an endless amount of dishes. You made 90 compliant meals. Yeah, it’s a lot.

So, what do you do after a round to celebrate? There’s ice cream, pizza, wine, and all things sweet and boozy. It’s a trap. Don’t do it!

You may be quite use to rewarding yourself with a sugary treat after being successful. And, this is hard part, you need to find some non-food rewards.

After many rounds, this is one of my favourite parts. I think long and hard about what I want to do for myself. I seriously almost adopted a cat the last time. I already have a dog and a cat so it would’ve been in good company but decided against it for the time being.

I asked our Facebook members what they did to reward themselves and got all sorts of great ideas. Here’s some food for thought for you:

Styling

  • Clothes–maybe even smaller clothes! New bras. Jeans. Jackets.

  • Shoes

  • Jewelry–one of our member said that she rewards herself every round with a mantra band. I love that idea!

  • A Stitch Fix–I love getting these. I mean, who doesn’t love a box of clothing that gets dropped off on your doorstep?)

Pampering

  • Spa Day

  • Mani/Pedi

  • Facial

  • Massage

  • Bubble bath with candles / Epsom salt bath

  • Facial cream

Healthy Lifestyle

  • Workout clothes

  • Sneakers

  • Leather kickboxing gloves–this beats a pizza any day!

  • Fitness membership

  • Fit Bit — this is my reward for this round. A new fit bit–I just haven’t decided which one yet.

  • Smart bottle

  • Heart rate monitor

Kitchen

  • Kitchen gadget

  • Cookbook

  • Good coffee beans

Fun Stuff

  • Antique pyrex (I love the patterns!)

  • Special pens and a new journal

  • Books

  • Movies (sans popcorn)

  • Night out dancing

  • A Show

And, then there are some where the reward of good health is enough.

I hope this list gives you a few ideas on how to reward yourself after all your hard work. It takes a lot of grit and determination to do a round. Be kind and reward yourself for a job well done.

Got any other ideas? We’d love to hear them!

Going Off The Rails With Your Food Freedom?

Recently, I found myself coming back from a week at the beach with my family, which was amazing and rejuvenating – but I wasn’t feeling my Whole30 best. I did a pretty decent job while away to make some reasonably smart food freedom choices, but the last two days, in the heat of summer and wanting to feel all the feels of a week on the beach, I found myself face first in the ice cream and chocolate chip pancakes my kids were eating.

Mind you, this was a significantly better result than I would have experienced in the past, but still, my body wasn’t feeling its best. I was bloated and getting cranky.

Every time I find myself in a similar situation – somewhat off the rails – I find myself asking this question… Should I do a complete Whole30 round, a mini-reset or continue with mindful Food Freedom? Typically, I choose a new round of Whole30 or a mini-reset which gets me back on track. This time, after mulling it over, I decided I needed to just practice Food Freedom without the rigid barriers of a Whole30 round. Food Freedom takes a lot of practice, and although I think it would have been easier to jump into a round, I wanted to give myself a mindfulness challenge.

So here I am, continuing Food Freedom! I DEFINITELY am making a lot of great choices but am still making choices that I look back and go over and think, “Hmm, I know exactly what I was thinking, and I knew exactly what I was doing, but I totally made the wrong choice.” I found myself journaling how I felt afterwards, trying to commit to memory, the gross, tired, and “craving” feelings I felt after indulging in something I knew wasn’t going to agree with me. My sugar addiction side was screaming that I “absolutely NEEDED to have that relatively disgusting donut that for some reason had to be consumed right then to make me feel better about a rough morning.”

I am hoping that journaling why and the feelings I experienced, both physically and mentally, would hopefully help in making a better choice next time.

For me, I find the mental work in Food Freedom is much more challenging than resetting or doing a complete Whole30. I have done six rounds of Whole30 and at least six resets over the past two years –I have the food thing down pretty well! The mental side of why I eat what I eat, whether it is a conscious choice or just by habit/ unconscious choice is where I still need a lot of work.

The Food Freedom side of Whole30 is not a passive automatic process for me. My food issues: eating for comfort, to relieve stress or out of habit, and sugar addiction still need a lot of active work. Choosing to continue with Food Freedom instead of resetting this time has really given me the opportunity to actively make progress towards distancing myself from old habits that die hard and working through the emotions of why I eat what I eat.

Here are some tips on how to choose what to do when you have gone off the Whole30 rails:

  1. Look realistically at your food choices while NOT on a round. Are they ones that make you feel strong and healthy, so you can be the best version of yourself?

  2. If the answer is a hard NO, consider doing a full round of Whole30 to get yourself back on track.

  3. If your food choices are generally decent but you are having a difficult time maintaining what you want YOUR Food Freedom to look like, consider doing a mini-reset to get yourself back on track.

  4. If you are generally good with your food choices but find yourself walking the mental struggle food choice plank (and have the time and commitment to work on the mental food issues through journaling, mindfulness, or self-evaluation with critical honesty), then try just continuing your Food Freedom and see how you do.

  5. If all else fails, do a round of Whole30. It couldn’t hurt right?

Have you battled with this struggle of HOW to reign it in? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Slipping Back Into Bad Habits: How To Stop And Get Back On Track

You finished a round. You rocked it for 30 days, had some GREAT NSVs and may have lost some weight. You may or may not have done a reintro. You’re kind of happy (ok, really happy!) that you have no more dishes piling up, no more meal prepping, and no more detective work reading labels for hidden sugars.

You’ve slipped a little. Maybe you rewarded yourself the day after with a piece of cheesecake or a glass of wine. Maybe after that reward, you decided that a night out would be great and ate with abandon. You started to shop again in the processed food aisles at the grocery store because it’s convenient.

It’s slowly gotten to a point where you realize that you’ve slipped back into the bad habits that you broke while on your round. Panic ensues. You’ve fallen off the wagon and the wagon is now running over you again and again and again.

Time to take a look at these bad habits and how to get back on track.

Skipping Breakfast & Drinking Coffee First

Maybe you were never a big breakfast eater and had to work hard to get used to eating breakfast. Maybe you just want to run out the door without having to make breakfast–grabbing a bagel or a muffin on the go is so much more convenient.

Refocus: Take the extra 15 minutes when you’re getting ready for the day to get yourself off to a good start. Does this mean that you have to give up a bit of time to prep? Yes! Is it worth it? Yes! When I know I need to fly out of the door in the morning, I usually alternate between a few dishes that I can toss into a container, reheat, and go. Make a frittata or some chicken stuffed spaghetti squash! *BOOM*, done!

Eating When You’re Stressed

This is such an easy habit to fall into. We know that food can be a comfort–what’s not comforting about double chocolate ice cream with whipped cream after a horribly stressful day? Or, the doughnuts that are going to give you a break from your worries? Hey, when you’re stressed, the sugar dragon can try to wiggle it’s way in and be your BFF. I get this. I’ve been there. I’ll probably be there again at some point.

Refocus: Mindfulness. Yeah, yeah, I know. Easier said that done. You know why you’re eating–you’re stressed! Time to give yourself a pep talk and talk yourself out of it. You can do deep breathing. You can let the craving pass (give it 3-5 minutes!). My trick is to keep busy… Mani/Pedi time! Give yourself a facial. Take a long bath. Learn to knit! Seriously… it’s been shown by many sources (here’s one, for example) to help with anxiety and stress. In the end, find something to keep yourself busy with. Have a few ideas in your back pocket of what to do when you’re stressed and, remember, I’m here so email me instead of eating a large pizza! We can chat!

Snacking

I’m bored so I’m going to eat! Ever find yourself standing in front of the fridge with the door open wondering what you should eat? Are you really hungry? Think about it–would you eat a bowl of broccoli if it was in front of you? No? Then, you’re not really hungry–step away from the fridge.

Refocus: See the stress eating above! Time to find a hobby! It doesn’t matter if it’s whittling soap or playing FarmVille on your phone (not sure that’s an actually hobby but to each their own). Since you’re not longer standing in front of the fridge looking for food, take some time to think about what you enjoy or would enjoy doing–then go do it or learn how to do it! Fun fact–you can’t blog while eating!

Eating Out/The Quick Fix

Late getting back from work? Gotta get out the door super quick? We’re all busy–we tend to stretch ourselves too thin with commitments–I get that! I’m not talking about going to eat out with friends or on a date. I’m talking grabbing Mickey D’s Big Mac and fries (yes, I’ll supersize it because I’ll have a DIET Coke with it!). You were out of this habit on your round and you can do it again!

Refocus: Have a bag of nuts and some Chomps sticks in your glove compartment in the car. It’ll tide you over until you get home! Always make sure that you always have something in the freezer that you can take out and toss in the microwave (ex. meatballs, burgers, cauliflower rice, frozen peppers, etc.). This doesn’t have to add a lot of time to your already busy schedule–just double up on a recipe and freeze things in individual portion sizes. If you’re eating out because you’re bored, find some new recipes here!

What’s Your Kitchen Look Like

Has your kitchen gone from having healthy products to having more junk food and processed food in it? Yes? Are you buying treats for your family that you like more than them? Oreos anyone? Time to purge!

Refocus: If I start sliding a bit, I like to go back to basics and purge my kitchen and my mind. It feels GREAT! A clean slate. A new beginning. Take control of your kitchen!

So, if you’re feeling bummed out about your healthy habits sliding, make some tweaks and get back on track. If that Sugar Dragon is the one that running you over and over and over again with the wagon you fell off of, it might be time to do another round!

What did you do to stop slipping into some old bad habits after a round? We’d love to hear your tips!

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!

A Look Back at my August Whole30

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!

Mocktails:

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!