Why I Became a Whole30 Coach

Up until a year ago, my go-to response to “How are you?” was “I’m so tired.”

Feeling tired had been running my life. I’d nap instead of work on my business, stay at home solo while my husband Dan was with people I love, and quite literally would be brought to tears regularly from the frustration and level of fatigue. And to be honest, a layer of shame had surfaced. I was embarrassed to keep using being tired as a scapegoat, not understanding why I felt the way I did, and I didn’t have the words to describe my state.

My fatigue dates back to my high school years, if not earlier. My mom would pick me up from swim practice and practically have to scrape me off the sidewalk to get in the car. I slept through classes and could nap on demand.

Year after year, we would visit our PCP (primary care physician), desperately seeking answers. Maybe my periods were too heavy and I needed iron? True, and not the root of the cause. Was it my heart? Scary, and no. Was it my sleep? It had to be my sleep! I was waking up and feeling the worst first thing in the morning, so obviously it was sleep… nope.

As I entered adulthood and started my first jobs, the struggle was so real. My 3 years working for Lululemon were some of the most challenging, energetically. I wanted so badly to be in with the crew, doing two-a-days, being obsessed with sweat and hard workouts, yet I found myself barely able to get through my shifts, much less teach or practice afterward. Again, the shame showed up. What was wrong with me? I was a “healthy” 26-year-old yoga teacher yet everyday was the equivalent of the worst hangover.

The Diagnosis

Around 2013, my parents generously paid for an extensive appointment with a naturopath/functional medicine doctor. She ran labs I’d never heard of, and more importantly, asked me questions no one had ever asked me.

“Where are you giving away your energy?”

“With who, and where should you be spending more of your time?”

Let me just paint you a picture of my life then. I was certified as a power yoga instructor, teaching 4-6 classes a week in a 95-degree room, on top of which I was practicing 4-6 times a week in said room, all while being a manager of a retail store where my job was to serve and take care of customers and my team. *huge red flag*

I’d never considered these questions. More on that later.

Back to the naturopath. I take home a box full of cotton swabs to suck on to measure my cortisol levels over 24 hours (this is the “gold standard” test and considered the most accurate). And the results are eye-opening, baffling, infuriating, and freeing all at the same time.

A healthy person wakes with high levels or cortisol, like a full tank of gas, which slowly decreases throughout the day and picks up a bit in late afternoon. It is replenished over night and so the cycle goes. My cortisol at rising was FLAT. And during the afternoon…FLAT. And at night? You guessed it…FLAT.

The Diagnosis: Stage 3 Adrenal Failure and early signs of Leaky Gut.

I was thrilled to have an answer, and honestly, also pissed. Pissed that it had taken this long to find this simple test and a doctor willing to ask the right questions. Pissed that I’d spent 10+ years of my life feeling like utter shit. And pissed at what it would take to feel better.

“It’s not until the impact is greater than the payoff that we make a change.”

If I’m being totally straight with you, I didn’t do anything about it for over two years. I was too attached to my job, to my teaching, and didn’t have the financial means to sustain the recommended supplements. Like with all important choices, it’s not until the impact is greater than the payoff that we make a change.

Fast forward to 2016 – I have my own business, work my own hours, and teach and practice a style of yoga which supports me – my husband and I embark on our first Whole30. I found it so intriguing that I repeated the program later that year and twice more in 2017. I experienced all sorts of, what Whole30 calls, non-scale victories: reduced cravings, clearer skin, increased focus and drive, passion for cooking, etc.

But my energy didn’t budge and I was sourly disappointed.

I decided to give it one more go being solely focused on finding the root of my energy problems. This time I’d leave out eggs and a group of foods called night shades and permanently give up alcohol. I had read Food Freedom Forever, and just like my experience with the naturopath, this was the first time someone had recommended this route for people suffering from chronic fatigue and inflammation.

This was the golden ticket. For the first time in my life, I experienced some stabilization in my energy levels, quality of sleep, and digestion.

Let me emphasize that all during this time I had been taking adrenal support supplements and working really hard at creating new boundaries. I’ve created a life where I get to work from home; sleep as much and as early as I need; I limit my on-screen work time; I practice non-heated yoga; and I am much more careful about giving my energy away freely. All of this combined was the game-changer.

So here we are, my friends. It is 2018. After close to 20 years of feeling like I’d been hit by a bus every day, I’m finding myself and what “normal” feels like for me.

Are my energy levels at a 10? No way. This is a process and it’ll take time. But, I am consistently at a 6 or 7 compared to 0 – and have gathered the most valuable information on how to take care of myself and keep trekking toward full stabilization.

It was the easiest and hardest decision to fully choose me. I have so much I want to share with this world and want to feel amazing as I do it! So I keep on…

I know there are so many people like me, who are searching for help, answers, a simple “me, too”, accountability, and support – this is why I became a Certified Whole30 Coach. For me, doing an experiment on myself through the structure of the Whole30 worked, and it was work. I’m so grateful to this program and what it has given me and am so committed to making a difference for others.

Learn more about Cristina here. She can be reached by email at cristina@cristinahouston.com and you can follow her on Instagram @CRISTINA_HOUSTON.

Q+A with Cristina

Do you still eat Whole30 and/or in a certain way?

Yes. I continue to eliminate eggs, nightshades and alcohol completely. I also take Vitamin C and adrenal support supplements.

What other self-care practices have you put in place that’s making a difference?

One word: boundaries. This has been the most confronting yet impactful practice. I shut down my work by 6pm at the latest. I sleep with my phone on airplane mode. I stopped practicing and teaching hot yoga, and now practice and teach in a way that nourishes me. I spend time with those who fill me up. And I limit my giving of energy freely.

How can I find out if I’m dealing with adrenal failure?

Find a functional medicine doctor and/or dietitian you trust, and have them order labs. Adrenal fatigue is multi-factoral and one blood test won’t cut it.

Do you miss eggs, tomatoes, alcohol, etc?

Not at all. Once I realized how detrimental these were to my energy, the choice was easy. I also do most of the cooking, so I’m in control of what we’re eating. I’m straight with my family and friends about alcohol and have found plenty of other ways to connect.


Resources
Dr. Will Cole – Functional Medicine Doctor, Podcast

Dr. Kay Corpus – Integrative + Functional Medicine Doctor

Ali Miller, RD – Integrative + Functional Medicine Dietician

The Whole30 – Program website

Working Nightshift + Sticking to the Plan

Working night shift is NOT easy. I’ve heard others say:

“Nightshift takes years off your life.”

“Working night shift is equivalent to smoking cigarettes.” (That one cracks me up!)

“I’ve gained so much weight since I’ve been on night shift.”

“My depression has been so bad since I’ve been on nights.”

There could be truth to many of these statements. I’ve personally seen my friends struggle mentally and physically on night shift. Shoot, I was never a night person myself. I truly am a morning person at heart.

I started working night shift at the beginning of nursing school to help me make a little bit more money and to help me schedule my clinical days and class time better. I had to work full time during nursing school. I had no choice – I didn’t have the option of living at home and having no bills. Once I got my first nursing job, night shift was where you had to start because day shift positions were taken by the more senior people at work.

Once I moved back to Michigan and was hired into my second nursing job, the only schedule available for new staff was rotating shifts. Fit all the above quotes into the rotating schedule lifestyle because they all stand true! Rotating shift was probably the worst schedule I’ve had – and I did it for a year. After a year, I had the opportunity to go to straight nights (again, day shift is not available unless you’ve worked there for at least 5 years) and so I chose to do that.

Believe it or not, it has been so much better than rotating and I feel much more normal than when I was switching back and forth from day to night.

Working nights is still hard. The hardest part when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle is that the shift CAN be quieter (NOT always, especially when you have a very sick or an extremely delirious patient!). The increased downtime creates signals in your brain that just say eat, eat all the snacks, eat some more, and just taste some things. This is how the pounds can easily add on – and it gets worse if you aren’t getting enough sleep!

Being healthy and on nights is 100% possible and 100% in your control!

Here are the things that I do to keep healthy while working nights as a nurse:

  1. Meal plan! Write a weekly plan of your meals and snacks and grocery shop to last during your stretch of work shifts.

  2. Meal Prep! Cook food ahead of time so in between shifts you just pack it into a container and go!

  3. Pack extra snacks that are healthy in case of emergency hunger moments or when there are a ton of unhealthy options in the break room! That way you can always grab your healthy snack to eat while everyone else is eating as well. RXBARS, fruit, almond butter, and nuts are my favorite snacks

  4. SAY NO! You do not have to give into temptation if you don’t want to. Eat your yummy food you brought. It’s not that big of a deal.

  5. Drink plenty of water! This is super important and even I need to remind myself regularly to do this!

  6. Have black out curtains to allow for substantial rest during the day.

  7. Keep your phone on silent during the day – No interruptions! You don’t call your friends and family at 1am, you do not need to be bothered at 1pm.

To my fellow nurses out there stuck on night shift and feeling unhealthy, turn the stigma around. You have full control over how you feel and the health of your body. Don’t make your schedule be the reason! Instead, make a plan using some of the tips I shared above and even add some of your own.

If there is something you do that I didn’t mention, please share it with me in the comments. I’d love to hear it!


ABOUT FELICIA: I’m Felicia but most people call me Fee! I am a registered nurse born and raised in Michigan and a longtime health advocate. In 2012, I did my first Whole30. It wasn’t until being diagnosed with PCOS in 2016 that I began to understand the benefits of Whole30 to my health and how much I really needed to incorporate this way of eating into my everyday life. Living a life of Food Freedom has been the best thing I’ve ever done for my physical and mental health. Follow me on Instagram @balancedfee, check out my blog at www.balancedfee.com and read more about my Whole 30 story here.

Top 5 Tips for Whole30 Success

The Dallas Duo believes these 5 tips are critical to the success of your next Whole30. We’re bringing you top recommendations for not-failing, and absolutely succeeding with all the Tiger Blood possible over the next 30 days. Let’s get to it!

Don’t just try to wing it. Although every meal doesn’t need to be planned out with rigid guidelines, there always needs to be buildable options around. If we know there’s a chance we won’t have dinner prepped or we have the potential to go extra-long between meals, we strategically plan ahead.

Because — Bars aren’t meant to fill your poor planning gaps. They’re meant for emergencies. The focus of Whole30 is on WHOLE food. The condensed concentrated versions of whole food; LARA, RX, and other bars really don’t benefit you unless it’s an emergency. (Emergencies might include: long plane layovers with no access to fresh food, being stuck in a snowstorm, stranded on a long hike where you forgot to pack other food, stuck in extreme rush hour traffic.)

Avoid telling the whole word about your Whole30. Your friends, specifically the ones who will support your endeavors should know every detail. However, there’s bound to be some shade throwers. For that reason, we recommend keeping your tribe focused on quality not quantity.

Be realistic about the next 45 days. (Yes, don’t forget reintroduction!). Modify your social calendar as needed. Going to a concert? You better believe there’s a LaCroix, snacks, and a sassy sober attitude in tow. Prepare your talk tracks for social outings with friends. No one wants to hang around the chronic dieter with a poor attitude or, worse the party pooper. This is your time to shine and be a Whole30 billboard. You’re eating well, feeling well, and can still rock your social life; well, aren’t you amazing?!

Accept the ugly and simple meals. There’s a whole lot of Whole30 meal FOMO on Instagram. It’s there to entice you, not enrage you! 20 ingredient recipes that will require 3 different grocery trips? NO! During our first Whole30, we ate meals like a spinach, sweet potato, egg, and cashew butter scramble almost every day. Sometimes, we would exchange the nut butter for avocado. It looked like poop and sometimes, we served it in a paper cup so we could tote it to work! We loved that ugly meal, even if Instagram didn’t.

Do life. If you were to take an hour for each meal, eat 3-4 times per day, and meal prep for 2 hours each week, Whole30 would still only affect 17 percent of your day. All of your time and effort shouldn’t be spent on food shopping, food prep, and the consumption of food. Fill the rest of your time with things you enjoy doing! Find activities that aren’t centered around food. Read, paint, work, get a manicure, shop, walk, knit, schedule a coffee date, see a movie, travel, cuddle a baby or a puppy, volunteer; just stay busy!


About the Dallas Duo

Andrea and Whitney created the Whole30 Dallas Duo after realizing how much more attainable healthy living was when surrounded by a similar-minded supportive community. After multiple Whole30 rounds, they share in their own Food Freedom together! When they’re not hosting meet & greets, lectures, and leading a coaching group you’ll find them both giggling over almond milk americanos during the day (they’re both former baristas!) a topo-tequila on holiday, and running intervals on the woodway treadmill.

Andrea is the creator and editor of the lifestyle blog, Loubies and Lulu. She credits Whole30 with transforming her relationship with food and helping her find true Food Freedom. Through her blog, she shares Whole30 tips/strategies/experiences, along with fitness and style inspiration.

Whitney is a holistic nutritionist; she’s a real food master and loves whole vegetables along with pronounceable and minimally modified ingredients that fill the stomach and satiate the soul! Her practice is currently accepting local and distance patients.

Purging Your Kitchen And Mind Before Your Round

You’ve read the book and are ready and raring to go. Put the brakes on a moment and take some time to PURGE! Your kitchen and your mind can use a little attention before you get started.

KITCHEN

I got in the habit at the beginning of a round to do a purge and get myself set up ahead of time. Here are six things you can do to get ready:

  • Set Aside Fridge Space for Compliant Items Clean out a little space in your fridge for your Whole30 items. I take one of the shelves inside of the fridge door…ok, two shelves. Put ALL your Whole30 sauces, dressings, olives, etc. there.

  • Organize your fridge I know, I know–this is a dreaded task but let’s get things off to a good start. You can pick away at this! When you share a kitchen with roommates or family, things can easily get mixed up and you don’t want to accidentally grab that non-compliant mustard! And, you might not want to share your fancy-shmancy compliant bacon that you paid way too much money for!

  • Sort Your Spices They might not seem like something that would have extra stuff in them but there’s been more than one occasion that we’ve seen somebody ruin their Whole30 from not reading the labels. If you have the space, separate your compliant spices or homemade spices blends (read this post for ideas here) . If you don’t have the space, grab a package of sticky coloured dots and put them on the jars of spices that are compliant.

  • Set Aside Shelf Space for Compliant Pantry Items The first few rounds I was always pawing through my shelves to find what I was looking for. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to set aside a space for my Whole30 pantry items. Now, everything is in one place and it makes it A LOT EASIER to see what I have on hand to make meals with. If you’re short on extra space, dump it all in a basket–it’s gotta go somewhere anyway so might as well be together.

  • Stock Up or Make Compliant Items After all this organizing, you need something to put in these Whole30 spaces in your kitchen. Check out our Premade vs. Homemade: Getting Ready For A Whole30 Round post. You want to hit the ground running on Day1 and not worry about where things are or what you’re cooking.

  • Get Rid of Temptation Do you think that you’re going to feel the call of those Oreos sitting in your bottom shelf? Ditch them! Hide Them! Take them out into your yard and burn them! OK, maybe don’t burn anything but do set yourself up for success by removing food that might get you in trouble.

MIND

Have you heard about the hangover days? Carb flu? Yeah, they’re not fun. Good news though, not everyone will get it. Chances are if you were eating well beforehand that you’ll be fine. I was eating pretty awful before my first round and had a couple of rough days in the beginning. Here are six small changes that you can make before your round to ease into Day1 nicely.

  • Start Cutting Down On Sugar Passing up desserts is the obvious choice but you’ll be amazed at what sugar gets sneaked into. Many premade rotisserie chickens usually have brown sugar in it so be sure to read your labels. Start reading labels on everything and make better choices ahead of your round.

  • Go Dairy Free With Your Coffee The idea of not having coffee with cream and sugar in it to kick off your morning can be awfully daunting. Luckily, there are some great alternatives. You can make almond and cashew milk or dairy-free creamers like nutpods, which is almonds and coconut milk. I’m obsessed with nutpods and it tastes better than cream in my opinion. Click here to read more about coffee while on Whole30. You can get 15% off on nutpods on their website using the discount code jujuswhole30

  • Add More Veggies To Your Meals There’s no way around it—you are going to be eating A LOT of veggies in your thirty days. Go into the produce section of your supermarket with a brand new outlook and take stock of all that you can choose from. Then, choose it! Pile those veggies on your plate ahead of your round. If you’re not a great cook or a picky eater, this is a wonderful time because by Day30, you’ll be a force in the kitchen. Check out our Pinterest page for recipe ideas.

  • Make Some Proteins Or Meals To Freeze When you come home at the end of a long day, the last thing you might want to do is cook yet another meal. More cooking? Ugh. I always have stuff tucked away in my freezer that I can grab and heat up. You don’t want to be stuck in a panic with nothing to eat so do yourself a favour and freezer something. There have been times where a frozen hamburger patty that I made a few weeks prior saves my day!

  • Cut down on Alcohol Use to having a glass of wine with your supper? Try putting something else in that wine glass…have you tried Kombucha? Sparkling water?

  • Take Stock Of Social Events During Your Round Chances are you probably have at least ONE social situation to navigate through during your round where you’ll be by a mountain of sugary treats, alcohol, pastries, and more. Start to figure out how you’re going to navigate these situations.

Take the rest of the week and work through this list of to-dos to get started. Small changes ahead of time will make a big difference! If you have any ideas, please feel free to email us at everydaywhole@gmail.com.

Reflections on the Whole30 Coach Summit

If you’ve been following my story, you know that earlier this year I won a Whole30 Coaching Scholarship from The New Primal and became an official Whole30 Certified Coach in June.

This has all been a dream come true for me as I have wanted to become a Whole30 Coach since, well, before Whole30 Coaches were a thing. I love to help people discover and execute the program that has literally helped me live my best life, and given me peace around eating after years of a tumultuous relationship with food.

The Coach Summit was the first annual gathering of Whole30 Coaches from around the world, and there were about 100 coaches in attendance. It was unreal – in so many ways.

We convened in gorgeous Park City, Utah, among the mountains. We stayed at the Grand Summit Lodge which was spacious and perfect for our group. We learned about branding and marketing and public relations and self-care and working with Whole30 companies and how to define boundaries as a Coach and when you share some of your life on social media.

We ate incredible Whole30 meals together and drank lots of LaCroix! We moved together and did outdoor workouts with Todd from TMAC Fitness.

We had the chance to meet and connect with Melissa Hartwig, Danielle Walker from Against All Grain, and the team from The New Primal – and so many more incredible experts who were there to help us take ourselves and our coaching to the next level.

So, what did I take away from my time in Utah?

  • Gratitude I think the #1 thing I came away with from the weekend is immense gratitude – for being here, right now, with this community. Like so many other people, I happened upon Whole30 by chance, a chance that changed my life. I am not typically a “woo woo” person but when I paused in various moments of this weekend (as Melissa Hartwig asked us to do) – looking at the sunrise, being on the top of a mountain, connecting with other people who have found hope and peace from Whole30, it was overwhelming. I am just so grateful to be part of this world, to be a Coach, and to be able to share my knowledge about Whole30 far and wide.

  • Purpose and Self Value Walking into the Summit, many Coaches (including myself) grappled with charging for Whole30 Coaching. Many of us have experienced people who push back that the program is free and available online – so why would they need a Coach? But, the Summit really cemented for me that my Coaching services are important and valuable and NECESSARY. As Melissa Hartwig said, we are the boots on the ground of the this program, working to help everyone find success on Whole30. We have so much to offer – personalized support, accountability, expertise, encouragement, troubleshooting tips, new recipes, and more! I love this post from one of my fellow coaches which outlines 11 awesome reasons to work with a Whole30 Certified Coach.

  • My Platform and My Voice There are a million ways to be a Whole30 Coach – and our Coaching community is super creative! Some of the Coaches focus on in-person individual clients, while others lead groups at a gym or at a workplace. Some of the Coaches partner up and work together. Others only work with virtual clients. My platform is Facebook! I plan to run small Coaching groups on Facebook throughout the year. This is my strength and rather than try to be everything to everyone, I am going to stay in my lane and focus on my abilities to lead effectively on Facebook. My voice is a mix of your Whole30 BFF (I’ve got your back EVERY DAY!), tough love, and knowledgeable support.

  • Whole30 is the Tie That Binds The Coaches in the room represented men and women from around the world. We each had a story, a reason for finding Whole30. I heard some of these stories and they were deep. Our collective backgrounds include grief, sadness, anxiety, eating disorders, illness, and so much more. We have walked different roads but our steps have all led us to Whole30. And that’s pretty amazing! It truly does start with food…and that was more evident than ever at the Summit.

  • Be Authentic Whatever you do, be yourself. Serve as a Coach from an authentic place, be true to who you are. It can be easy to compare yourself to other Coaches or random strangers on Instagram showing you their curated lives. You don’t have to be like them. Promote products and brands you truly love and use. Offer encouragement from your own struggles. Share your own passion for the parts of the program that really excite you. Be real. People will flock to you if you are authentic.

  • Self-care is important These days, self-care is a huge buzzword and it means different things to different people. In my case, it means setting boundaries and realizing that I can’t do EVERYTHING ALL OF THE TIME. Taking time to decompress is important. I tend to be go-go-go and while hustling every now and then is a good (and necessary) thing, overworking yourself and living without boundaries is not! I pledge to be a committed and dedicated Coach but I know that sometimes a response to a client or a post to Facebook can wait. As Melissa Hartwig reminded us, there’s no such thing as a social media emergency. Sometimes things can wait until later, or gasp, tomorrow. Spending time taking care of me and my daughter is important and should not be at the bottom of my “to-do” list as a Coach.

I’ll wrap up here with another THANK YOU! Without you – this community – I would not be where I am in my personal Whole 30 journey, both as a participant and a Coach. I am immensely grateful to everyone for being so warm and compassionate in your support of me and the other group members.

Other Coaches and brands I met know that we have something special within our Facebook group and blog, and encouraged me to keep doing what we’re doing. So, thank you. Let’s keep going and bringing the Whole30 life to as many people as possible. You are worth it. They are worth it. We are worth it.

Thanks to Sarah Steffens (@sarahsteffens_personalchef) for the photos from the Whole30 Coach Summit. To see more Summit photos on Instagram, search #whole30coachsummit!

Two Friends, Sixty Days

Andrea – The honest round

I have wanted to do a whole 60 for about 6 months. My sugar dragon kept talking me out of it. It’s strange how she gets so chatty when it’s time to reign her in. So, after a day nothing like she was pre-whole 30 but not reigned in enough for my comfort, I decided to do a Whole60. I was chatting with the EveryDayWhole team about it and was looking at my calendar for a start date. I am going to a wedding in a week, followed by Mother’s Day. My sugar dragon was tapping me on the shoulder saying that starting before that would be silly, how can I possibly have fun at a wedding and have a perfect Mothers’ Day while being compliant. My rational side told me how dumb that was and BOOM, I took control of the reigns and started my Whole 60 that very same morning.

I remember some of the anxiety that used to build up to starting a round, but now, since the meals I eat are still compliant and it was more portion size, sugar dragon squashing, and snacking that I wanted to control, I was able to start right away. I needed this, otherwise my sugar dragon would have had a couple day to talk me out of it. She is a sneaky little beast.

Carla, my co-blogger, admin, and friend is taking this crazy ride with me. So here we go: 2 friends, 5 kids and a whole lot of Whole 60…

Intentions for this round:

  1. Work on portion control, especially when it comes to plated fats.

  2. Work on the sugar dragon. If she is roaring, then no fruit. Being mindful of the feeling of the sugar dragon and mindful of the fruit that goes in my mouth.

  3. Use mini meals when needed.

  4. Complete 60 days AND a re-intro (this has been a struggle)

Day 2: My sugar dragon was roaring this morning. All I wanted was fruit but one of my intentions this round is to really squash that sugar dragon. After multiple rounds my eating is generally much more mindful. Today I knew I was going to be going to a birthday party around lunch-time so I had a mini meal (HB egg, raw green beans and avocado) on the way. I felt great throughout the party, but I never really ate a true lunch afterwards and found myself to be hungry throughout the rest of the day. I ate a Whole 30 template dinner but found that I was hungry again around 9pm so had another mini meal. I’m looking forward to my sugar dragon calming down, so I don’t feel like I’m fighting the craving throughout the second half of the day.

Day 3: I woke up with a headache this morning and I don’t know if it was from poor sleep (our fire alarm went off in the middle of the night), a cold, or a little bit of detox.

Carla – The ‘You Need This’ Round.

Before my first round, I meticulously planned and prepped. I mentally organized dates and carefully executed new to me compliant recipes. I googled and created spreadsheets to get myself in order. This round came about 3 days ago while chatting with my Everyday Whole gals about life. Andrea mentioned she needed to do a round. ‘YES’ I replied, almost faster than I could think it, I typed it. She was starting that very morning and GAH! I had just had a cup with non-compliant creamer in it. My official day 1 would be the next day, and I could have used that as an excellent excuse to eat ALL THE THINGS, but I didn’t. I took one day to prep. I basically made dump ranch. Priorities, people.

I have some very specific intentions and goals for this round. I will share them with you in an effort to put them out there for accountability.

  • Create simple, delicious meals with out the stress. My ultimate goal is to not only be practicing Food Freedom, but also living it. For me this means to be making and choosing food that is easy and quick and second nature. Don’t get me wrong, I love the special whole 30 recipes, but this time around I want to choose simple.

  • I will not let the scale have power over me. I weighed a few days before I started, but I’m not even going to look at it for as long as I can. It does not define me.

  • I will move my body everyday, in whatever way I can that day. I have a 1 and almost 3 year old. This shouldn’t be hard.

  • I will tune into my satiety signals. For real. I was nursing the past 2 rounds and I was giving myself the leeway to have mini meals and I’ll be honest I’m not sure I always needed them. My goal for this round is to really practice mindfulness around my meals.

Day 1 was Saturday, May 5 (Yup! Cinco de Mayo!) but guess what?! I’m an adult and can have nachos and a margarita any day of the week I’d like and so, it was fine. My husband and I had already planned a date night and lined up babysitting (Thanks, Dad and Cath!) so we had a super romantic dinner at Chipotle where I had the only compliant option there, carnitas, with guac, the fresh salsa and salsa verde, extra lettuce and flipped it upside down to eat as a salad. I brought some movie theater snacks and we bought a bottle of water and enjoyed our movie. That was that. I was super proud of myself for finishing day 1 strong.

Day 2 was Sunday and I woke up with a raging sinus headache. I got the boys up and changed and we went downstairs to play. I tried my best to hang in there, but really could not function, so ended up waking my husband to tag in and I went to “lie down for a bit”…or until 11:30 am. Let me tell you, it’s been YEARS since I’ve slept that late. Clearly, I needed it. I whipped up a quick breakfast of eggs over arugula, a small potato and cherry tomatoes with some guacamole. I had a cup of coffee with coconut and homemade almond milk. Lunch was some left over tandoori chicken we grilled the day before and cauliflower rice with salsa and some dump ranch. My sister came up for a visit and we made a cup of tea, played on the porch with the boys and she left just before dinner time. Because I was stricken down (DRAMA! HAHA.) with my headache this morning, we didn’t get out to go grocery shopping. Danger. Face palm. It’s day 2 and I’m already struggling. Well, friends, real life here. I suggested…I SUGGESTED my husband order a pizza for himself and the boys. Whhhhyyyyy? Because I like a challenge. I got myself a garden salad with extra lettuce and plopped a can of tuna on top with a generous helping of dump ranch and called it a day. A long, hard, but wonderful, day.

I gotta get my act together for this week, though. Real talk. I’m going to be honest here. It shouldn’t have been so hard to look at pizza and the fact that it was, confirms the fact that this was the right choice to start this round. I’m going to be so interested to see how this round (I’m going to try for 60 days…eeeeeeek!) is different from my past 2. Bring on the NSVs!

Journaling, Reflecting, And Being Honest About Your Whole 30

There are the rules, there are strong recommendations, and there is the spirit of the Whole 30 program. Think of the rules as the very bottom line. In order to do a true round of Whole 30, you must follow the rules. I am busy with my own life and raising 2 spirited toddler boys, so I’m not going to have time to come over and check on you, okay? So, I’ll assume you are following the rules.

There are also recommendations that are strongly encouraged for getting the most out of your 30 days; these are things like not snacking, eating your meals per the vegetable, protein and healthy fat template, keeping your fruit to 1-2 servings, saving Rx and Larabars for emergency situations, eating your food rather than sucking down fruit smoothies, and only buying organic and grassfed/finished meat. You can totally finish a round and stay 100% compliant, but the purpose of committing to this program isn’t just about the food. It is also about changing your habits, mindsets and behaviors around food, and to do that, you’re going to have to get honest with yourself.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve worked really hard at letting my ego go, accepting feedback, and reflecting on that to better myself. My first Whole 30 experience was a game changer when it came to reflecting on how I had been feeding myself. I had a whole lot of honesty to come face to face with. I had been pregnant or postpartum since September of 2014 and making a whole lot of excuses since way before then. I was pregnant! I was pregnant and working full time! I just had a baby! I was working full time and had a baby! You see the pattern… I have a full-blown sugar addiction and ice cream was often my reward or comfort when I deserved it or needed it. Not good, friends.

One might be shocked to know that I used to be a master level personal trainer and group exercise instructor. I worked out for a living, you guys. Even then, I had an ice cream ‘problem’. I just had the extra calories to spare because I was doing a ridiculous amount of moving my body. So, you see, my sugar dragon has been breathing fire for a long, long time. I just didn’t have a name for it then. Fast forward to September 2017, I was 5 months postpartum, recovering from a c-section delivery and ready to feel differently. The choices I had been making weren’t really working out for me anymore.

Let’s get to the point, shall we? I could have gone through my entire first round following the rules to a T. I could have refrained from eating all the things on the ‘NO’ list (legumes, sugar, alcohol, grains, soy, MSG…etc) and shoved cashew cookie larabars in my face, or eaten a bunch of red, ripe strawberries with coconut butter every night and still stayed completely compliant, but I wouldn’t have been addressing my deep rooted sugar issue or been honest with myself. My sugar dragon would be just as strong and firey (is firey a word?) as it was on Day 1.

I cut WAY back on my fruit intake for this very reason. It is delicious and healthy and totally allowed, but for me, personally, I needed to make sure I ate it earlier in the day and ALWAYS with a meal- as in, strawberries in my salad, clementine next to my eggs, with my meal. I don’t think I had fruit with dinner more than a handful of times because if I’m being honest, any sweet at the end of the day would make me think and want dessert and I wasn’t about to let those cravings destroy me. I wanted to not only be compliant, but I wanted to embrace the spirit of what Whole 30 is about and I wanted to be in a different place than when I began.

I love to write things down. In a world of technology, I love a fancy pen and a pretty journal. I write thoughts, observations, doodles, and list Non-Scale Victories as they come. Practicing a little mindfulness, I love to come up with a mantra for challenging days to remind myself that I am enough, I am strong and I am okay. You pick what works for you. My journal provides the space for me to remember why my health and my happiness is more important than making emotional food choices. I am able to record and reflect privately. Seeing my successes keeps me motivated and writing about the hard stuff helps me figure out how to move forward.

If you aren’t into the blank slate journal approach, consider Melissa Hartwig’s book Whole 30 Day by Day. It constantly comes up in our Facebook group as an amazing resource to keep you on track.

“It invites me daily to track what I eat and how I feel physically and emotionally. There have been light bulb moments from that and it also informs my choices going forward in the 30 days. As well, I can save it and look back as I do future rounds and compare my experiences.”

-Kim F.

“I love it because I can keep it with me and when I start feeling like I can’t do this I read the section I am on and realize all is normal. I also enjoy answering the questions each night. It keeps me accountable and makes me feel proud when I complete each day.”

-Michelle G.

“I used it, love it and continue to use it on subsequent rounds! 1. I read the next day info the night before to mentally prepare for the next day! 2. Writing things down every day (good and bad) helped me see my learning progress. It reminded me to find something good even on the worst days. 3. The notes and tips were spot on and very encouraging. 4. It’s is small enough to carry around, even when traveling. Keep that extra will power boost with me all the time. 5. Great for re- introduction too. Perfect place to keep copious notes. 6. Nice pocket reference!”

-Sandra R.

Maybe you don’t want to write anything down, and that’s okay too, but I would encourage you to find time to think about the spirit of the program and make some changes to your Whole 30 so you really get the most out of it. Be honest with yourself. Are you snacking because you’re bored? Are you choosing an apple and nut butter instead of a mini meal? Are you going through the motions or are you doing the hard work to change what wasn’t working for you? Decide what you want out of your 30 days and then make it happen. You can.

It's Not About Weight Loss, But It Is…

There are plenty of us who are drawn to Whole30 with the promise of losing weight quickly. I’m not going to lie—that was what drew me in! Then, I got the book and starting thumbing through it and realized that there was so much more to it…but it was still mostly about weight loss, right???

I had been through the ringer before starting. I was at a pretty low point and felt so out of control, tired, mentally scattered so it was great timing that I found myself at a children’s birthday party with Judith who was happy drinking some seltzer water while the rest of us were eating cake (I will admit I looked at her and thought: “OK, whatever, Ms. Discipline over there drinking your water!”)

We got to talking about Whole30 — and she was pretty convincing. So, another mom and I decided to hop on board and give this Whole30 thing a try. What did we have to lose? Well, weight actually.

The weight melted off during the first round but I found some other pretty interesting things happening:

  • Mental clarity I was as sharp as a super sharp tack!

  • Less anxiety I’m not saying that everyone will have this but, for me, it was a big thing.

  • Energy, Energy, Energy! When you start scrubbing your kitchen down with a toothbrush, you know your tiger blood has arrived!

  • Woke Up Feeling Great Eating crap the day before and waking up feeling ‘ugh’ was something that was happening all too often so waking up and feeling like a million bucks was the best feeling.

I had it backwards though—one 30 day round wasn’t going to make me lose weight and keep it off. After the 30 days, I could go back to pizza, pop, and all things sugar and guess what would happen? The weight would creep back on and the ‘dieting’ cycle would continue.

I should have realized that changing my relationship with food was the key. Change that and the weight will follow along with so many non-scale victories that you won’t want to give up. I’m still a work in progress and have more weight to lose but I’m getting there and I can say that after a few rounds, eating like this is now a habit. I feel happy and not deprived of anything.

So, do yourself a favor if you’re looking at Whole30 for losing weight. Jump off the endless cycle of yo-yo dieting and quick-fix band wagons and change your relationship with food. Then, the weight will follow.

Look at yourself as more than a person who needs to lose weight. Look at yourself as someone who has a lot to gain! Trust in the program, it really works!

I Want To Do A Whole 30…Now What?

This is one of the most asked questions in our Whole 30 Facebook group. It is exciting, but it can also feel totally overwhelming to get all your ducks in a row to feel prepared for Day #1!

There are definitely some things you can do to feel like you are more in control and I want to share what was most helpful for ME before I took the leap into the land of Whole 30.

First, and most importantly, read and research!

Do your homework and be sure you know the rules and recommendations of the program. Everything is free online on www.whole30.com and in the books (It Starts with Food, Whole 30/Whole 30 Day by Day and Food Freedom Forever). There are so many amazing resources available to you. The Whole 30 website offers cheat sheets for sneaky sugars, approved and non-compliant additives, and a handy meal template that you can save to your phone. DO IT NOW. I will wait…OK! Now that you have that easily accessible, you can practice reading labels and make sure you know exactly what is #whole30approved and what will make you cry into your dump ranch when you realize you need to restart because you’ve been eating something with a form of sugar you thought was compliant.

Next, plan!

For me, this meant about 2 weeks of “practice.” I tested out compliant recipes, made batches of all the sauces and condiments I thought I’d want to use during my round, and started being more aware of what portion sizes helped me get to the next meal without snacking. This was critical information so I didn’t hit Day #1 and feel like my head was spinning.

Part 2 of was to consider my weekly meal plan.I love a good spreadsheet, so I made my own weekly meal-planning template, which outlined Meal #1 (breakfast), Meal #2 (lunch) and Meal #3 (dinner).Some people like to plan the entire month at a time, but I really feel more comfortable thinking about a week at a time.My suggestion is to use a combination of tried and true basic meals that check off the protein, veggie and healthy fat boxes, and some new, exciting recipes to keep the Whole 30 spark alive!

Pro Tip: plan for leftovers. Leftovers are life and awesome for a quick breakfast or no brainer lunch. Burgers for breakfast are amazing, you guys. I’m not joking.

Prepare your life, Get organized in the kitchen

Shop for the ingredients and pantry items you need and get ready for making compliant meals. Prep will look different for everyone. Prep day for most people is the weekend, but I do most of my food prep on Mondays. I have young kids and a husband who works long hours, so weekend is family time for me and my guys. I have nap times on Monday morning where I might make an egg bake, roast some veggies or prep meat for grilling that night. If you work out of the house, you might want to do more on Sunday. I know people spiralize a ton of veggies to have on hand, make a big batch of meatballs, cut raw veggies, make breakfast sausage patties to freeze for easy breakfasts, make mayo, ketchup or dump ranch, etc. You will learn what works best for you.

You also want to keep an eye on the Whole 30 calendar and remind yourself the tough parts are just a phase and it’s only 30 days. Get your ‘head in the game’ and be ready to be comfortable with being uncomfortable for a little while.

Come up with an emergency meal plan

Know what you have in your fridge that can come together quickly for those nights that you are just tapped or those mornings where you woke up 15 minutes later than you should have. (I highly suggest hard-boiled eggs! They are super portable and filling.) I always make sure to buy a couple cans of compliant tuna or a package compliant of hot dogs or chicken sausage — and not put it in the weekly meal plan so it’s available just in case.

Rally for support

Find your people – either in real life, or online. It’s fun to have an in-person accountability buddy, someone you can call or message when you are feeling stuck, but I realize that’s not always an option for everyone. There are lots of social media support options. I happen to know a really fantastic Facebook group you could be a part of. WINK WINK. With a group of more than 40,000 members, there is bound to be someone doing a round while you are and we will always be there if you need support (or a little tough love!) to ensure you have the very best possible results. I also highly recommend following Melissa Hartwig and Whole30 on Instagram and Facebook. Program updates and useful information is always shared through those accounts.

Finally, pick a date and watch the NSV (Non-Scale Victory) list grow

I promise if you do me a favor and stay present just one day at a time, you will be amazed by the end of your 30 days. We hear a lot of ‘Nothing is happening! I’m on day 9/15/20!’ As Melissa Hartwig says ALL the time, ‘it’s a 30-day program so don’t be so focused on the destination that you discount the journey’.

You are going to nail this. You are ready. You are a ROCKSTAR! Put in the work, and the payoff is going to make you so proud.

I can still remember the pride I felt after finishing my first round. Everything changed. My eyes opened to the continued work I needed to do, but I knew it was just the beginning of the rest of my life. It totally sounds dramatic, but I assure you, on Day #31 you’ll come back to this post and say you get it now. I can’t wait to read that comment.

I Like Big Breakfasts And I Cannot Lie!

Let’s talk about size. It matters. Size matters. Meal size, that is. People say it doesn’t, but we all know it does. While it is not an official rule, a very strong recommendation of the Whole 30 program is to be eating three solid meals following the meal template (vegetables, protein, healthy fat) and avoid snacking. If the goal is to maximize your results, really follow not just the rules but also the spirit of the program and tune into the reasons you are mindlessly put food in your face hole, you want to cut the snacking. In order to do this successfully, it takes some mental strength, but also you need to eat meals that are big enough to keep you full and satisfied. Here are my thoughts on how to make your plates the right size to carry you through until the next meal.

  • Use dinner plates It will be a tough mind shift from limiting your portions. When I used to snack, I would always limit myself to a small plate. I thought I would trick myself into being full by filling it and could convince myself it was so much food. SPOILER ALERT. It wasn’t. And then I was hungry again in two hours. Now that you are eating a LARGE portion of nutrient dense, whole foods, you will need to eat more. I always fill my plate with leafy green veggies first.

  • Add starchy vegetables You are allowed to eat potatoes. Sooooo…unless you have issues with nightshades, please eat some potatoes. Roasted, baked, hash, shredded, spiralize, riced, whatever, but just try them. Sometimes people have weight loss too prioritized that they are miserable on their Whole30 round that miss out on feeling good because they are hungry all the time. Don’t be hungry! Eat carrots, squash, plantains, and potatoes and find new ways to prepare them. They will be an awesome compliment to your meal, keep you feeling full and give you energy.

  • Add FAT There are SO MANY types of healthy fat to add to your meal beyond what you are cooking with. You can have oil based dressings, mayo, coconut milk, shredded coconut, avocado, olives, nuts, nut butter, ghee, marinated onions, pesto; there are so many! Sometimes I even use two or three kinds of healthy fat in a meal and I can make it as long as five hours between meals. For example, I love having half an avocado, dump ranch over a salad, and slice a few olives in my salad. BOOM. Healthy FAT!

  • Eat enough protein The meal template says to have one to two palm size portions. Don’t be afraid to eat two if you are hungry. One of my FAVORITE parts of this program is that I don’t need to weigh or measure my food. I just take a look at my hand and guestimate my protein size. It’s pretty handy. If you’re eating eggs, the guide is to eat as many as you can hold in one hand. For me that’s three or four. I have figured out that the right number for breakfast is usually two if I’m having another source of protein, like homemade turkey sausage patties or a chicken apple sausage. I go for three if I’m only having eggs over a huge amount of greens and something else.

Here’s the thing, friends. There isn’t a one-size fits all answer for portions. You will have to play around with your meal sizes to figure out what the winning plate size looks like for you. If you’re an athlete, workout regularly, or have another situation that requires more than three meals, you know what you need. Some people can’t do a big breakfast because they can’t eat much in the morning. I can’t help you there. (Actually, we can help you, but that’s a different post…) I seriously LOVE breakfast. I love breakfast foods and need to have a big hearty breakfast to set me up for success for the day. I tend to try and taper my meals with my smallest being usually at dinner. Although, let’s be honest. I still eat a large plate of veggies, protein, and healthy fat so I’m not wandering aimlessly around the kitchen an hour after dinner ready to fall face first into the jar of almond butter with a spoon. Don’t judge. We’ve all been there.

Like most things with Whole 30, you have some personal responsibility to be honest about what’s working and what isn’t. It’s totally personal, but if you are feeling like you are struggling in between meals, tweak it! Be honest about if you are always looking for compliant snacks or reaching for your “emergency” foods in not-so-emergency situations. Whole 30 is about compliance, but also mindfulness so, for me snacking is something I really try to eliminate as a habit. In order to do that, I make sure to eat bigger meals. Don’t be afraid to eat more if you are hungry, because we all know portion size matters.