Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Surviving Social


Choosing a 30 day timeframe in which to tackle the Whole30 program proved to be difficult.  At every turn I found something on my calendar that put a wee hitch in how I was going to pull this off.  Being on a strict diet can really mess with social time!  I promptly decided there’s never a ‘good’ time to do these things and opted to just deal with the situations as they came.


Within the first week of my Whole30 I attended a volunteer event with my coworkers.  For the most part it was no big deal… I brought my own coffee with coconut milk, passed on the free cookies, and made sure I ate a good breakfast before I went.

The trouble came when the gang invited me to join them for lunch afterwards.  I initially said no thanks but to be honest, I really wanted to go!  This was my first event with these girls and part of the fun of these things is the social aspect.  So I changed my mind and tagged along to the local burger bistro and hoped for the best.

I found that I could order a plain burger on a bed of lettuce, asked them to cook mine in a dry pan because they used canola oil (which is not W30 compliant) and ordered a side salad with lemon wedges.  Sure, it was about the most boring meal on the planet, but I was there for company and it was really fun.  I’m glad I went and proud of myself for sticking to the W30 rules!


That same weekend Michael decided he’d like to host an impromptu family BBQ.  Not wanting to rain on the parade (like the weather did on our day!) I put on my thinking cap and came up with options that I could eat that everyone else would enjoy.

Believe it or not, Costco came through for me!  I found some really great frozen burgers with no crazy additives, chicken breasts, Wholly Guacamole, and a huge shrimp tray.  I bought a fruit platter and a carton of strawberries, which I turned into a huge fruit salad and picked up the ingredients to make a really fun bigass salad.


{Mixed leafy greens, sliced Gala apple, red onion, fresh basil, roasted beets and carrots, tossed with just olive oil, lemon juice and salt & pepper.  I also crisped up some whole pecans in some coconut oil to throw on at the end.}

There was homemade potato salad and other yummy BBQ favourites on the buffet but I was totally happy with my W30 meal.  Filling and delish!


The following weekend I hosted Girl’s Night at my place.  Oh sure!  A hostess who tells you she can’t eat the usual bags of licorice, brie and baguette, or share in the bottles of wine.  Good times, eh?

Well, my girls were super supportive and rallied with no problems at all.  We feasted on homemade guacamole, devilled eggs with homemade olive oil mayo, cold shrimp, apple chips, fresh veggies and a creamy cashew dip I put together.  While they all sipped on wine, I killed a bottle of Perrier.  :)


The very next day the sun was shining so Michael hosted another family BBQ.  Thankfully there were still the compliant burgers and grilled chicken, and this time I loaded up on more salad, grilled zucchini and sliced avocado.  Second time around was easy!

Not to say that I didn’t really want to partake in the other things, because sometimes I really did wish I could have a glass of wine or an ice cold beer… but I knew it was just 30 days and I really only wanted these things because I couldn’t have them.  Well, screw you cravings.  I know what you’re all about!  You can’t beat me! 


Even my Mama got sucked into my Whole30 since it overlapped Mother’s Day.  I always head to my hometown to spend Mother’s Day with her, and we have a tradition of going out for a steak and seafood dinner.  This year she agreed to postpone and instead I cooked us a lovely dinner at home.  Chicken, baked yams and asparagus.

The next morning I wanted to make sure she still got a tasty brunch, so I tried my hand at the Salmon Cakes from It Starts with Food (yummy!), topped with over easy eggs, and served with wilted spinach and sliced avocado.  Mom was happy, so I was happy!

So, the point is, it can be done.  Just like the rest of this diet lifestyle, it requires a lot more thought and preparation that most of us are used to…but it comes together and everything works out just fine. 

In the end, these social situations are really about the people and not the food anyway, right?!  A good lesson for all of us.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Template

How do I know how much to eat during Whole30?

Well, wouldn’t you know they thought of that!  After the first few days of adjustment, it’s really not that tricky.  It is recommended that you eat only your three main meals per day, and add in pre-workout snacks if you need them, and post-workout snacks to help start the recovery process.


{grilled pork loin with Dijon, served with steamed asparagus and mashed rutabagas and carrots with clarified butter}

The template is simple.

1. Add protein about the size of your palm (yes, everybody’s palm size is different…but your palm fits your body!)… whether it be a chicken breast, a couple of eggs, or a can of tuna.  I erred on the larger side when unsure.


{prosciutto wrapped baked turkey breast over kale sautéed with coconut oil, served with steamed carrots}

2. Fill the rest of your plate with veggies (yup, plates are all different sizes, but I bet if you chose a dinner plate it will all work out for you!)… preferably a couple of different veggies with different nutrients.  I like to add something green, and something a little more carb dense like carrots or yams.


{spaghetti squash ‘fritter’ made with an egg, topped with an egg, served with yam roasted in coconut oil}

3. Add a good sized serving of healthy fat to your meal and call it a day.  To be helpful they do actually offer some idea of measurements for fats, since depending on what you chose the quantities can vary.  I’m partial to the ‘add half an avocado to your plate’ measurement!


{homemade turkey vegetable soup…the homemade broth counts towards the protein…drizzled with olive oil}


{bigass mixed salad with olives and olive oil, served with homemade meatballs and sautéed mushrooms}

Follow the template for every meal.  Try not to snack, but if you are starving chose some protein to fill the hole.  If eating eggs for breakfast every day is boring or unappealing to you then switch things up.  Nothing wrong with chicken for breakfast!


{grilled chicken breast topped with mango avocado salsa, with baked yam topped with coconut oil and almond silvers, and steamed asparagus}

As for fruit, it is recommended to only include it as part of a meal, not as a separate snack.  And never let it push something else off your plate.  I either incorporated it as part of the recipe, or would eat it right before or after my full meal.  This is to help keep the ‘sugar dragon’ or ‘snack monster’ at bay.  Many people, myself included, can unleash the dragon with just one orange or dried apricot.

Personally I found the template very useful.  I can say with certainty that after the first two days (while my body adjusted to the new plan) the only times that I actually got hungry were when I failed to plan and didn’t eat based on the template.  Too little steak on the plate = hungry.  Skimped on the fat in a meal = hungry.  Didn’t fill my plate with veg = hungry.

Don’t skimp on the good stuff!

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

What can you eat?

The biggest question I got throughout the Whole30 process was “well, what CAN you eat then?!”.  It does seem overwhelming to people when you say you are currently not eating any grains, dairy, legumes, soy, sugar, additives, corn, peas, potatoes or booze.  But there are tons of things you CAN eat…you just have to put some thought into it.

I thought I’d share a typical work day meal plan. 

Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs with onions, peppers, and spinach served over yam hash cooked in coconut oil and topped with kalmata olives or avocado.  grapefruit on the side.

Whole_30 Breakfast

Lunch:  grilled chicken breast, 1/2 a baked yam with cinnamon and coconut oil, sautéed kale topped with pecan pieces.


Pre-workout:  over easy egg with sliced avocado or a handful of natural almonds.


Dinner:  sautéed shredded Brussels sprouts cooked in clarified butter, roasted carrots and beets, pan seared wild salmon filet, all drizzled with olive oil.


On Friday evenings I would throw in Dessert for Michael and I:  chopped Altaulfo mango and sliced banana with whipped coconut milk and chopped almonds.


You’ll notice there is no photo for Post-Workout.  I struggled the most with this meal because I workout after work…so I’m really ready for dinner when I get home from the gym.  But the plan asks you to eat a portion of protein and a good carb right after your workout and this mini-meal shouldn’t replace a regular meal. So I would generally go for a hard boiled egg or a cold leftover chicken sausage and either some baked yam or some steamed carrots…really had to make sure I had some leftovers kicking around in the fridge. 

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Off to a Good Start


Once I read up on Whole30 and stopped by the mall on my lunch hour to grab the book It Starts With Food it really only took me 2 days to decide I was ready to tackle the program.  I spent a weekend talking it over with Michael, pounding back the best bacon cheeseburger of my life, writing out my first week’s meal plan, and buying Whole30 compliant groceries.

What’s compliant?

Well with no grains, no dairy, no legumes, no sugar, and no additives you’d think a meal plan would be easy.  Just slap some meat and veggies together and top it with healthy fat and Bob’s your uncle right?  Almost.  But not quite!  How do I make breakfast without a carton of store bought almond milk or my beloved oats?  Prep!!


Conveniently Monday morning was exactly the 15th of the month.  I don’t know about you but I always feel most motivated for these kinds of things on the 1st and the 15th, and the obvious Monday motivation helps too.
Day one went off pretty easily.  It was fun to have a proper hot breakfast at my desk, interesting trying canned coconut milk in my coffee, and refreshing to not hit a wall at 3pm.  I was in a good mood after work, which led to a particularly good yoga class that night and an almost decent night’s sleep.

The next day I learned a few things about making a drastic diet change
though.  My body told me loud and clear that it noticed what was going on! 
I found myself to be quite hungry most of the day, even though I ate a similar menu as the day before.  I went to the gym as usual, but after 20 minutes of cardio and only about 5 minutes of strength training I got lightheaded, which scared me so I packed it in and came home.  I thought I had fuelled myself OK but apparently my body disagreed.


After that experience I paid a bit closer attention to each meal and made sure to follow the guidelines about pre-workout mini-meals.  I was so used to just throwing down some toast and pb before the gym that it took a few tries before I learned that a boiled egg and handful of almonds was my best Whole30 fuel choice. 

Talk about retraining the brain.  Man, reaching for carbs really just is a way of life isn’t it?!

For the rest of the week things went well.  I managed a couple of good workouts with no problems, I really didn’t have any off-program cravings, and started to notice that I was sleeping more soundly.  I was still waiting for the crazy dreams I’d read about!  Overall I was super happy with my choice to try Whole30 and very proud of myself for getting through the first work week. 

Whole30 Compliant Tasty Discovery:  Clarified Butter!


Skip the milk solids and make some clarified butter.  Wouldn’t you just immediately sign up for any ‘diet’ that said ‘go ahead and cook a meal or three in melted glorious buttery deliciousness’.  So fun.  So deeelish.
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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Good Food Adventure

Years ago, before I ever started this blog, I dieted.  Actually dieted.  None of this ‘chose a better lifestyle’ or ‘pick a new food way of life’ stuff…but went out of my way to diet to lose weight.  At the time, it was the best thing for me and it worked.  I stayed with it after I lost my 24 pounds and learned to work some of those diet ideas into a more balanced menu for myself.  I eventually became the girl behind Embracing Balance and happily went along balancing healthy foods with indulgent foods and enjoying every bite while maintaining my happy weight.

At some point a few years ago that balanced lifestyle stopped working.  I gained back 15 pounds gradually, focused a little too much on cheeseburgers and a lot too little on portion control. No surprise that those pounds just hung on for dear life.

You’ve all seen me get back on the healthy eating and workout bandwagons a few times since this all happened, but doing it multiple times hasn’t done anything for me.  I would make it a few days with clean eats then decide a cheat day or three won’t hurt.  Then I kick the scale when it doesn’t move.  And console myself with Cheezies when my old pants still don’t fit.
Guess what?  I’m human.  I need to pick myself up, dust myself off, rethink things, and make new choices.  And sometimes I need to do it over and over and over again.  This time, I woke up and decided that the thing to do was try another diet.  An actual diet.  With rules, guidelines, and restrictions.  Something I could really work at and be proud of.

The problem was that the diets of yesteryear don’t fit my food beliefs anymore.  I’m not going to turn to no-fat yogurts, 100 calorie snack packs, and diet soda this time.  I want to eat real food.  I want to eat a lot of real food. 

This is how I found Whole30.  It’s all about real, good food.  Sure, it’s not meant to be used as a ‘diet’ per se but the handy side effect of regulating meals and eating a specific assortment of foods can be weight loss.  Plus, it’s something that can work even after the weight loss portion is achieved.  It’s good food for life.  

To start I decided I needed to be as strict with myself as possible which is part of why I opted to try Whole30.  30 days of eating by the rules. 

Eat real food – meat, seafood, eggs, tons of vegetables, some fruit, and plenty of good fats from fruits, oils, nuts and seeds. Eat foods with very few ingredients, all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they’re totally natural and unprocessed.”

No sugar, no booze, no dairy, no grains, no legumes, no additives, no spuds.

I know it sounds like a lot, and it is…but with a great book and a website full of guidelines, support and recipes I was ready to get on board.

As an added bonus, it’s basically an elimination diet…so the option of finding out what foods cause me gastric grief, joint pain, body aches, or anything else was what really sold me.  I never knew legumes could cause body aches…and guess what I eat a ton of?  Yeah…damn you chick peas, black beans, and peanut butter.

At the very least I knew that is was 30 days I could be proud of.  A personal challenge if you will.  Even if I didn’t shed a pound, or jumped face first into a bucket of ice cream after 30 days, it’s still a month to be proud of.

So the next round of blog posts will review how my Whole30 went down.  I finished a week ago and have a head full of thoughts swirling around that I have decided to share.  If you have any questions, please throw them out and I will attempt to address them as I go along.
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