Tuesday, February 9, 2016


Chocolate is good for my heart, my mind, and would certainly be good for my soul if I believed I had one! This afternoon I had the distinct pleasure of savoring a single nugget of dark chocolate, which is a pleasure I've not enjoyed since the beginning of the new year. Upon reflection, this seems an unreasonable amount of time to have gone without the savoring of quality chocolate.

Since I have been slowly reintroducing food groups (such as legumes, non-gluten grains, gluten grains, dairy products, and added sugars) since completing my Whole30 Challenge, I have thoroughly enjoyed tasting edamame, peanut butter, oats, and quinoa after nearly two months without them (I spent most of December eating mostly Whole30 compliant, in preparation for my strict Whole30 during the month of January).

They truly pale in comparison, however, with those purely simple two bites of dark chocolate. It's not the sort of chocolate that could be over-consumed or abused. I didn't want the first chocolate I enjoyed post-Whole30 to be something like M&Ms, as fond as I typically am of those. This was the type of tiny morsel that one might enjoy with a quality glass of wine periodically - not something you want in your daily diet, because it's just too rich and delicious.

When I was young, my older sister and younger brother and I would love to watch our favorite VHS tapes over and over, sometimes even playing them again directly after rewinding them. One day, our father came home with a new movie that he personally loved, called 'Hook,' and he set down an immediate rule that this film, unlike others that we loved, could only be watched once every year. This way, he was sure to never get sick of it (and we were doomed to age in ever-increasing anticipation of the next time we could watch 'Hook'). I think often of this great life-lesson he gave us, that some of life's pleasures should not be daily occurrences - they lose their value.

When I treasure something now, such as a warm bath with lavender scrub, I remember that I'll enjoy it even more if it's a reward following a difficult work-out session or particularly grueling day of teaching. And now that my Whole30 Challenge is complete, I'll consider setting up a little side table with wine and chocolate!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Whole30 Reintroduction Week 1

I haven't been doing the re-introduction phase exactly the way outlined in "It Starts With Food," but I have been following their general idea of introducing one type of food at a time, and then taking a couple of days to eat strictly Whole30, as I determine how that particular group of foods react in my body.

I began with legumes, because I missed them the most! Even up to a couple of weeks into January, I still thought I would miss dairy products and added sugars the most, but as the month went on and I noticed how great I felt without them, I wanted them less and less. Hooray for that! My doctor was very pleased with this, as well as the 15 pounds total I lost that month - wow! More than I anticipated losing, for sure. She recommended waiting to reintroduce dairy products in small amounts for at least a couple more weeks, as she thinks they could be contributing to my ongoing headaches, and I am in this unique position currently where I haven't had them in my system for over a month. So I only reintroduced legumes - mmmmm! Edamame! Peanut butter with my apples and hummus with my veggies were amazing additions to my meals, as well.

Instead of having a bit of legumes with each meal for one day, then going back to the strict Whole30 for two, I included small amounts of legumes with my meals for two and a half/three days, then did the strict Whole30 for two. After the first day, I hadn't noticed anything different, so I wanted to lengthen that reintroduction phase, without going overboard on quantity. So I only included a little bit, but with each meal, and after a couple of days I felt more aware of how that addition was affecting me. Really - it only gave me a bit of gas, and doesn't that happen any time anyone eats beans? I don't really mind that, as long as I don't eat them right before an important social event! I did notice I broke out with one tiny zit near my nose (when I hadn't had any breakouts during the Whole30 at all - amazing, btw), so maybe I'll limit soy products, but not too strictly.

The next group I've reintroduced so far has been non-gluten grains (corn, oats, quinoa, rice). This one I did only reintroduce for 1 night and one day (4 meals total) because by the end of the full day, I was noticing some slightly painful indigestion. I had a can of corn split between two meals, 1/2 a can in the evening then the other half for lunch the next day. Also a bowl of steel-cut oats with ghee, raisins, and cinnamon for breakfast. So by the end of that day I felt like the gas/indigestion was different than it had been with the legumes, but it mostly seemed to be because my body was saying, "Oh, I haven't eaten these things in a while. It's going to take me a minute to process them." I do think I will keep oats, quinoa, rice, and corn in my diet, but again, like soy, maybe in smaller quantities. They didn't bother me enough to cut them out entirely, that's for sure! None of the sharp stomach pains lasted long at all, and I didn't break out either.

This afternoon I was lucky enough to have lunch with a wonderful friend who has been so supportive of my Whole30, even though she wasn't doing the program - she's one of the few people who made me breakfast (eggs & veggies & tea) one of the mornings during the month I was on it! So this was the first time I've eaten at a restaurant while trying to follow the plan, and it went really well! We went to Mimi's Cafe and I ordered the "Bacon & Blue Cheese Salad" - with no bacon or blue cheese! - which really made me laugh with the irony. It was a mixed green salad with walnuts, dried cranberries, tomatoes, and sliced strawberries, which didn't make me feel deprived at all without the meat (because I don't know from where they source their bacon) or dairy (because I'm not ready to reintroduce that yet). I asked for the "balsamic vinaigrette" on the side, and did allow myself to add a small drizzle of that, even though there were likely added sugars in it. So far this month, I don't think I've had anything with added sugars, but the Whole30 plan says that some added sugars will likely be in some of the things you start reintroducing, in small amounts, and that's alright. 

The next item I reintroduce will be one that the Whole30 plan says is optional - and it certainly will have some added sugar content - alcohol! I'm planning to have just one glass of red wine on Thursday evening, at an event with the Humanists of Utah, and one more on Friday evening, at an event with the Unitarians. I haven't had even a sip of alcohol this entire year so far! And really, I only had wine once or twice during December, as well. So I am looking forward to it, since I really enjoy having a bit to drink socially.

And there you have it! Overall I'm guessing I will still continue losing weight this month, because I have added 10,000 daily steps of walking & running to my daily routine, which I wasn't consistently doing while on the Whole30. I'm still keeping up the good habits of planning my meals, and taking time to prepare and eat them mindfully.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Whole30 Done!

Well, today was Day 30 of my Whole30 Challenge ... and I made it! Compliant the whole way through. I didn't have the "magic" kick in until just this past week (extra energy & less severe headaches), which felt a bit discouraging - but the food was delicious and nutritious the whole way through, so it was worth the wait! Between the third and fourth week, I noticed my wedding ring was feeling looser and sliding around on my ring finger, and then the fourth and final week was when I finally noticed the most changes in how my clothes are fitting, and in the girth of my legs! They seem so much thinner.

I am feeling very excited to take my "after-photos," and step onto the scale, in the morning! I'm guessing that I'm back to the weight I was at when I met my lovely wife ... which makes me feel about 8 years younger, since I met her that long ago. Isn't it strange how so many of us tend to gain weight while in stable relationships? Then, there comes a time in said relationships when we realize we're just going to go on gaining like this indefinitely, or we can team up together to encourage each other to be more healthy and active again! I'm feeling very grateful to have come to the latter conclusion with my girl.

This coming month will be one of focused daily exercise for us, as we try to build on the habits we have been implementing of cooking healthy food for ourselves three times a day. Kristen's got a head start on walking/running 10,000+ steps every day for the past week or two, while I have just been trying to make it past 5,000 a day ... today is actually the very first day over 10,000 for me! So as February begins, I'm going to be aiming for 10,000 a day as well.

Tomorrow is the first day of my reintroduction phase, which is the day I reintroduce legumes & beans! I purchased some delicious hummus from Laziz at this morning's Winter Market at the Rio Grande Depot downtown, and I'm looking forward to having edamame as well, and perhaps a vegetarian chile for dinner. Then it's back to Whole30 compliance for two days, then on February 3rd I'll be reintroducing some dairy products ... yogurt, possibly cheese, and sour cream. After that, I'll probably reintroduce grains, but for most of the month I'll be eating Whole30 compliant except with the vegetarian recommendations (which include legumes and some dairy).

It has honestly been a major challenge for me to consume as much animal protein as I have been every day during this challenge. I typically eat a mostly vegetarian diet, and this way of eating is expensive for me, because I can only consume animal proteins that are as 'clean' (clear of antibiotics, added hormones, etc), grass-fed, organic, cage-free, free-range, and/or as ethically raised and killed as possible. I have seen too many documentaries about how animals are typically treated prior to slaughter in America, and I just can't bring myself to consume anything that unethically handled - to financially support that kind of behavior on the part of the companies that engage in those practices.

I do consider myself an omnivore ... I do truly enjoy a high-quality cut of steak once in a while, and even bacon ... but I just have a really hard time consuming meat (even the wide variety I've had this past month) every single day! So I am really looking forward to seeing if I can get to my target weight goal within the next few months by continuing some of what I've learned on this Whole30, and implementing a few other things that are going to be great for me personally. It's all about listening to your body! And I think the Whole30 has actually done a great job, for me, of helping me to get into that listening mode.

Thanks for following this journey with me! I'd love to hear about your health-related plans for this coming month (and year), as well!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Whole30 Day 24

There is one way that family/friends can support your Whole30 that I hadn't thought of before I did this. I thought that the most helpful thing would be to plan potluck meals with friends periodically throughout the month, so we would have events to look forward to, as well as social interaction outside our home. I'm not well-versed enough in all the questions one must ask at restaurants when/if you eat out during your Whole30, so potlucks with supportive friends are the way to go!

When I got through week 2, my Mom asked how it was going, and when I told her I "hadn't cracked," and was still having a great Whole30, she was so impressed that she offered to make me a meal one day this past week! That was so kind of her, because one less meal to prep is always valuable, especially since I've been starting a new part-time job this month. It turned out though, that when we arrived at the day she had planned to bring over a meal, I was feeling completely exhausted and worn out - so I called and asked if she might be willing to help me clean our apartment instead of prepare a meal! She accepted, and spent around 3 hours cleaning with me (and brought my two younger siblings to help, too) and honestly it was the most amazing thing she could possibly have done.

It's intense, keeping up with housecleaning! For anyone, I think that's the case ... there are always more interesting things to do, in my opinion. However, living in a clean space is one of the most relaxing, refreshing feelings on earth. So keeping up on it regularly is ideal, but when I started this year with what felt like a million new things (starting a new semester at the school I teach at - along with all the lesson planning, grading, and project management that comes with that; starting a new part-time job at the City Library, 18 hours a week; preparing and cooking 3 meals every day, and packing some to take wherever I was heading; meditating 10 minutes every evening before bed; trying to find time to exercise 30 minutes every day I wasn't feeling a cold coming on; etc.) I really got behind on that daily upkeep. Dishes and laundry were about all I felt like I could handle - because there are a LOT of dishes to clean when doing the Whole30!

But today, I was able to wake up to cleaned & vacuumed floors, as well as counters, the stove-top, and microwave all ready for more delicious meal prep. It took so much of a weight off my shoulders for the weekend and upcoming week, I just don't know how to thank her enough! So if any of you have an amazing Mom, and you're thinking of doing this Whole30 thing ... you might want to ask if she'd be willing to offer a few hours of housecleaning as a half-way point reward, to give you that extra boost to get you through! I feel so re-energized and excited about cooking (and even cleaning) now that the deep-cleaning stuff has been done ... vacuuming the couches from cat fur, washing walls, dusting, etc.

On the food side of things, this week has gone by really quickly, and I've tended to be so busy with work that I've eaten everything I've made before I could slow down and take a photo. But here is one yummy side that K made, that's been delicious for leftovers as well:

Cauliflower Mash with Slivered Almonds

There have been so many ways I've been enjoying extra veggies in my diet, and another one that's really helped me get through the work days has been this awesome Costco find, Chunky Guacamole (blogger is being difficult and not allowing a photo of this one) . . . delightful little cups that came in a pack of around 10 or 15, but are the perfect serving size for dipping all sorts of chopped veggies. I've been enjoying sandwich bags full of broccoli, celery, carrots, sugar snap peas, and more every day! It's really helped me to cut out a serving or two of fruit, because the veggies are so appealing with this tomato + avocado + onion dip.

Consider yourself fully assured - there really are myriad products and ingredients out there, readily available at your fingertips, with minimal/no processing, all-natural goodness, and no added sugars! Bonus: they are the tastiest.

Ah-ha! And lastly, for the past few days my wedding ring has been fitting slightly looser on my finger. I'm really starting to get hyped up for stepping on the scale at the end of my 30 days. Or 45, if these persistent headaches and sinusitis haven't yet gone away! I've already come this far . . . what's two more weeks? We'll see.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Whole30 Day 19

It's Day 19 and today is the second day I've woken up without a sore throat! I still am a bit congested, but I have been able to go running three times this past week, and I think my body is appreciating the increase in exercise. I hope it helps speed the healing process.

I didn't sleep too well last night, compared to most nights, because I had to wake up for multiple bathroom breaks. Today I'm trying to drink plenty of water throughout the daytime, so I won't be drinking any before bed. I typically enjoy my rooibos tea before bed, but that's not working out so well anymore! I'd much prefer to sleep through the night.

Thus far, I haven't experienced the "Tiger Blood" or "Magic" that Whole30 devotees rave about kicking in around week 2 or 3. And for how well Week 1 went, I must admit that around the half-way point of Day 14/15, I was feeling pretty irritated and discouraged that my congestion, sinusitis, and headaches hadn't seen any improvement. But I'm certainly not about to let 2+ weeks of elimination go to waste ... I still want to see what 30+ days of elimination brings. 

It just so happened that I had an appointment with my General Practitioner on the 31st of December (the day before I began the Whole30) and I have a follow-up appointment with her on the 1st of February (the day after my Whole30 is officially finished and I'll be starting to 'reintroduce' certain foods slowly, to see how they affect me). I'm certainly glad I'll have this follow-up, because my scale was not working properly (hence why I decided to destroy it and buy a new one when this thing is over), so now I know I'll have an accurate record from my doctor's office of how much I weighed on the 31st of December, compared to the 1st of February, with all these changes I'm tracking in between. In addition to the Whole30, which my doctor did say was an awesome plan, she prescribed 10 minutes of daily meditation and 30 minutes of daily exercise, any intensity. I haven't done the exercise every day, because I had a pretty bad cold and was worried about getting sicker and not being able to go to work. But I have been doing the 10 minutes mindfulness meditations every day, and noticing a lot of benefit from that! I am looking forward to seeing how much noticeably/measurably changes over the course of this month.

One of the Whole30 related goals I made at the beginning of the month was that I would make prepare-ahead meals every weekend, to keep a good variety of options available for breakfasts and lunches during the weeks. I didn't want to experience the same food boredom as I had during my last Whole30 attempt, and be stuck feeling like I 'had' to eat fried eggs with veggies every morning, because I knew I would just get so sick of the same thing that I would either refuse to eat, or eat too much fruit instead. It helps to be honest with yourself, and know your habits and areas of stubbornness! I'm not opposed to eggs or veggies at all, I just need variety in my diet - so preparing the eggs and veggies many different ways is key. 

Yesterday, I searched for some ideas for Freezer Meals, that can be prepared all at once and proportioned out for quick-fixes, and I found this wonderful recipe! I changed it up a bit, by using 1/2 lb. ground beef and 1/2 lb. ground turkey, but the spice blend was wonderful just as-is. We mixed in the 1 cup of chopped broccoli, put that mix in the muffin tins, and poured the egg mixture over them as directed - but the egg mixture didn't seem to go quite as far as the meat mixture. So we ended up chopping up much more broccoli to stretch the leftover 'sausage,' then whipping up another 8 eggs, coconut milk, and coconut oil for a double batch! The second round was much heavier on the veggie side ... but both are delicious! They're supposed to re-heat well - two of them at 50% microwave power for a minute and a half will be a perfect on-the-go breakfast option.

Ground Beef & Turkey 'Sausage,' Broccoli, & Egg Muffins

Another big-hit item this week was the The Sunshine Sauce - a simply divine dip, with sunflower seed butter, coconut milk, and a few other delicious surprises. It has a coco-nutty, thai kick and once it's thickened up in the fridge has a consistency similar to hummus. Delicious accompaniment to any chopped veggie! I can stand to eat celery sticks again, without my standard cream cheese & raisins!

Have any of you reading this been trying new recipes thus far into the new year? I'd love to hear about them in the comments! We're always looking for new, delightful things to add to our repertoire.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Whole30 Day 11

Turns out my predictions were correct (gratefully) - this Whole30 hasn't been nearly as difficult so far as my last attempt! We are already 1/3 of the way through the month, and it has been going by quickly. Starting in December to clear out non-compliant foods from my kitchen and my diet has honestly made all the difference. I've had plenty of ideas for delicious meal plans (and quick, on-the-go things to bring with me for lunches and when I'm away from home), and haven't been bored of anything I'm eating, because there's been so much healthy variety in my diet this past week.

Chopped-Almonds-and-Parsley over Greens with Almond-and-Coconut-Crusted Crab Cakes topped with Avocado Mayo

It's actually hard to decide whether my favorite meal of the week was the Crab Cakes & Greens, or the Lamb & Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie (with the side of Green Beans & Red Bell Peppers). How amazing is that, not being able to choose which of two amazing dishes was the best in one week? In a typical, pre-Whole30 week, I would be very lucky to have spent the time making even one amazing dish ... it was maybe more like once a month that I would have a really memorable, exciting meal. This whole week has been filled with them!

Sweet Potato & Roasted Lamb Shepherd's Pie with side of Green Beans, Sweet Onions & Red Bell Peppers sautéed in Coconut Oil

The Whole30 does not even feel like a diet. Although, I've never really been on 'a diet,' so I probably wouldn't know what they feel like. I've gone one-two months without things before (one month without dairy, a month & a half without sugar), but have never really calorie-counted or limited my food choices or daily caloric intake. During a few health challenges I've done during the past couple of years, I've tracked my calories in and exercise, but I've never deliberately limited them, trying to lose weight or anything. I've always felt that 'diets' aren't successful because they don't take into account the health of what you are eating ... they seem to be mostly about limiting portions. But it doesn't seem like 'limiting portions of cake or ice cream' is really as healthy a choice as not eating cake or ice cream as often! And I was certainly eating sweet treats very often ... hence the weight I've steadily gained over the past 10 years since my post-high-school metabolism really kicked into (or out of) high gear.

There are a few things I remember about my first Whole30 attempt. One was the food boredom - I got sick of eating the same things over and over again (especially fried eggs in the morning), because I didn't take the time to plan, prepare, experiment with new recipes, and research ideas for how to cook various cuts and types of meat & seafood. This past week, I haven't felt that way at all ... I've always got extra hard-boiled eggs available for on-the-go protein options and a different type of egg for breakfasts, plus I've made the Chicken, Sweet Potato, & Apple Hash a few times which is a super-satisfying 1st meal of the day and, even better, is excellent both hot and cold. I think I had fried eggs twice, so I haven't gotten sick of that yet.

Another thing I remember was this major drop in energy and need for what seemed like way too much sleep ... up to 12 - 14 hours. It really seemed extreme, and very difficult to get done the things I needed to during the days, because I was sleeping so, so much. So I'm happy to report that I haven't had that problem this week at all! In fact, I've been sleeping really well. It hasn't been as difficult to fall asleep (although I'm pretty sure that has more to do with the 10 min. guided meditations before bed that I've been doing, also since the 1st of January, than it does with what foods I'm eating). I could be wrong, though ... it's certainly possible that the healthy foods I'm eating are helping me fall asleep quicker and sleep through the night better. Even better, I've been able to excel at my first week of a new job, working three nights until 9:00 p.m., and still waking up refreshed and on time for my teaching position (for which I leave my house between 5:00 and 6:00 a.m.) twice a week.

The third thing I remember was this awful crankiness ... I'm not usually a cranky or unpleasant person, but I remember feeling really stressed out (about not knowing what/when I was going to eat next, and/or how long it would take to prepare) and irritable most every day. This had to do with feeling exhausted and still having to go about my days like a normal human, of course, but also just felt weird, because I was so down-spirited and crabby. From what I've read now, it seems that my body was crashing from lack of sugar, which was the energy source it was used to surviving on, and hadn't yet switched (noticeably) to burning fat instead.

This time around, I haven't felt the severe lack of energy or the crankiness, so I'm doing much better overall. I have come down with some cold symptoms, but I'd had a flu and a cold during December, so that just seems to be from the time of year and being around other people who are sick, as opposed to how I'm eating. So ironically, one of the things I've been missing most so far has been throat lozenges! I've been enjoying chamomile teas instead, which are also quite soothing to my sore throat.

I have noticed that my clothes have been fitting a bit looser, but haven't noticed any significant changes in my psoriasis, complexion, congestion, or headaches diminishing, which are all reasons I decided to take on the Whole30 challenge. No doctor has ever been able to tell me why my head constantly aches ... perhaps the daily mindfulness meditations will help with that as well, but I'm really hoping that one of these days soon, I'll notice some relief from them. I was guessing that all the added sugars and dairy in my diet would be contributing to the headaches and congestion/sinusitis.

I'll keep you posted on what I learn!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Whole30 Day 1

For about the next month, this blog will be where I share & track my progress through the Whole30 Challenge -- I won't be posting every day (because I have to work, work out, live life, etc.) but when I do post, I'll let you know which day I'm on and how the Whole30 is affecting me.

I guarantee it will be affecting me greatly, because I will be eating only compliant meats, seafood, veggies, fruit, nuts, and seasonings -- no grains, legumes, dairy, or added sugars for 30 days! Which is most of what I typically eat, to be honest. So it's a huge change in shopping habits, meal planning, and habit forming. I've been drooling over delicious recipes with things I never make, like zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash, and various cuts of meat, for the past month, getting myself geared up for all the many veggies and protein meals I'll be preparing in the coming month -- like this one I made last week!

Whole30 Compliant Meatballs with Homemade Marinara Sauce over a bed of Zucchini Noodles

Please feel free to follow me along this journey -- and to post your questions, comments, concerns, etc. I've committed to do this for 30 full days, because of a few incessant/recurring health issues that I'm fed up with in my day-to-day life. Namely, sinusitis, psoriasis, and headaches. So if, at the end of this experiment, I am no longer suffering from even one of those things, I'll be thrilled! And ready to slowly, methodically reintroduce healthy items back into my diet, such as oats, quinoa, plain yogurt, etc ... one at a time, to see if any of them were causing any of these things. My guess -- it's the added sugars and artificial sweeteners! But, we'll see. Could be any number of things, or a mix.

As for Day 1, which is drawing to a close, I've had some delicious foods using up some leftover roast lamb I made earlier this week, as well as a refreshing potato-ginger soup. Let me know if you're interested in recipe-sharing! I can post recipes in the comments, if anyone would like to try out some of these foods. They're really very simple, using the most basic ingredients, because this way of eating is all about appreciating the most natural foods, in their most natural forms.

Mostly, I'm feeling more excited than nervous, because I've read The Whole30, and am about halfway through It Starts With Food; in the last month I've made lists upon lists of meals that look simple and delicious; my wife and I have stocked our kitchen with compliant ingredients to pull out and use in the coming days; and I even exercised for half an hour today, and my energy levels are still feeling great.

So for Day 1, check! I followed my goals, and feel ready for tomorrow. Thanks for your encouragement!