Health

What I Eat on Whole30

When I talk to people about Whole30, the question I get asked the most is, “What do you eat?” As I stated in the previous post, I am currently in the middle of my second official program. I completed Whole30 for the first time in 2017, and I’ve grown immensely as a home chef and as an expert in the guidelines since then. Cooking real food requires a lot of preparation and cleanup in the kitchen, but my efforts have paid me back tenfold.

I start my mornings with a smoothie consisting of unsweetened almond milk, frozen black cherries and blueberries, kale or spinach, and collagen peptides. Although smoothies aren’t encouraged on the Whole30 program, I’ve decided to keep them in my diet. Your brain registers that you are full when you chew your food, and that’s how you know to stop eating. The Whole30 team argues the following: When you drink your meal, your brain isn’t getting the feedback it needs to tell your body that it’s had enough of what it needs. I don’t consider my smoothie to be a meal, and if you are going to fall prey to consuming it as such, perhaps you should steer clear. Don’t use fruit juice for the base or you’ll have prediabetes in no time. Too much sugar (even the natural kind) isn’t ideal.

The base for my midday salad usually consists of romaine lettuce, spinach, and spring mix. After chopping and washing the lettuce, I spin it dry. The spinach and spring mix that I purchase from Trader Joe’s is pre-washed. After establishing the base, I move on to add-ins, such as red peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes (seeds removed), olives, hard-boiled eggs, and roasted beets and Brussels sprouts (cooled). I favor walnuts and pumpkin seeds as garnish. For the main protein source, I usually opt for either baked salmon, warmed sardines, tuna fish, or an omelette with an avocado on the side. If I have an omelette, I’ll refrain from adding boiled eggs to the salad bowl. But, when I make chicken salad for lunch, I’ll add it directly to the bowl of leafy greens and forgo the dressing.

Brands to consider for dressings, marinades, and sauces include Tessemae’s, Primal Kitchen, and Whole30. Out of the three aforementioned brands, I’ve only ever tried Tessemae’s products. I’ve been making my own mayo, garlic aioli, and ketchup lately. I also made this ranch dressing that got my husband’s stamp of approval.

Dinner at my house usually consists of a protein source and one or two sides of steamed or baked vegetables. Carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli are our three most common sides. Sometimes we’ll have air-fried yucca with garlic aioli or air-fried sweet potatoes topped with cinnamon as a second side. Proteins that commonly appear at our dinner table: burgers wrapped in lettuce, chicken thighs, BBQ drumsticks, and salmon. No matter the meal, sparkling water has a permanent place at the table.

The grapefruit Sprindrift and the coconut La Croix are real treats. I’ll also drop essential oils into a can of unflavored water from Trader Joe’s. Other treats include apples with almond butter, dates, and warmed RXBARs. If you’re going to misuse RXBARs, don’t buy them. But, the brand’s delicious vanilla almond butter should not be overlooked. Two handfuls of roasted walnuts, almonds, pistachios, or cashews helps to keep hunger at bay too. Fruit and raw vegetables are also ideal snacks.

I often look for new Whole30-compliant recipes on Pinterest, but improvising in the kitchen is satisfying too. Whole30 continues to encourage my cooking creativity and nourish my health, which is why I generally adhere to the rules when I’m not officially on the program. Imagine all of the benefits you could reap from this life-changing opportunity. Are you ready for a change?

Works Sighted

Lettuce wrap: bacon (although, not a diet staple), roasted turkey breast, boiled eggs, and garlic aioli

An Introduction to Whole30

I first mentioned Whole30 in “5 Things You Can Do to Improve Your Health Right Now.” I’d hoped that the post would pique your interest in the program, but in case it did not, allow me to try again. I am currently in the middle of my second Whole30, but I’ll backtrack to my first one. It was April 2017 when I decided to give myself this experience as a birthday present.

I was a novice home chef and had been dabbling heavily in baking. If you are what you eat, I was banana bread, Levain-style cookies, gâteau au yaourt, catered office food, boxed products from Trader Joe’s, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (specifically half baked, milk & cookies, and chocolate fudge brownie). I ate salads and steamed vegetables but not in quantities that would counteract the toxins I was consuming. I suffered from plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammation that occurs in the tissue on the bottom of the foot. The topic of steroid injections came up in the conversation I had with my doctor regarding the issue, and I wasn’t enthusiastic about pursuing it as a supposed cure. I was about to discover that sugar was an inflammatory food.

The purpose of the program is to eliminate all foods that could possibly cause undesirable reactions (allergic or otherwise) for 30 days. That way, you’ll be able to identify which foods in your diet are sabotaging your body and overall health. Granted, some people could be allergic to items that are acceptable to consume on the Whole30 program, but that won’t be the case for the majority of participants. The rules were simple to follow. (I highly recommend taking a look at them.) Added sugar, grains, dairy, legumes, and alcohol were on the no list. Eggs, ghee, vinegar, and salt were allowed. My diet consisted of chicken, beef, salmon, eggs, fruit, and a wide variety of vegetables. Coconut milk took the place of cow’s milk. I cooked with ghee and olive oil. I fell in love with almond butter; peanut butter took a back seat. I said goodbye to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, breaded chicken and fish from Trader Joe’s, biscotti, and office catering.

Without added sugar and grains (my two worst offenders), my body started to go into withdrawal. The inextinguishable cravings finally subsided after a few days. Then the magic happened. Whole30 presented me with an opportunity to focus on the types of food that would enhance my health, not subtract from it. I was working full-time, taking a writing course, and a year and a half into life as a wife. I didn’t have an abundance of free time, so I skipped post-work activities (like happy hours and the gym) to rush home and cook. At the end of the 30 day period, my biometric screening indicated that I was the healthiest I’d ever been.

I learned to read nutrition labels more closely. (One serving of Ben & Jerry’s chocolate fudge brownie ice cream contains 32g of added sugar, which is 64% of the recommended daily allowance.) My plantar fasciitis disappeared after I eliminated added sugar from my diet. I learned to cook real food, lost interest in the foods I’d cut out, and started to crave vegetables. I had more energy, a lower weight, decreased glucose level, and glowing skin. I took charge of what I ate and learned to say no thank you when offered foods that weren’t for me.

It wasn’t easy to navigate the wide world of options immediately after my first Whole30. I tried to adhere to The Paleo Diet full-time because it resembled Whole30 but with a few more liberties. I found myself floundering without the strict rules I’d become accustomed to. Making Paleo brownies twice a week defeated the purpose of going Paleo in the first place. Before I knew it, I was back to eating quite a bit of the foods from my pre-Whole30 lifestyle. But this time, I possessed the tools to dig myself out of the situation.

Nowadays, I generally adhere to the Whole30 guidelines in my day-to-day diet, but I also enjoy sitting down for dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, making non-compliant dishes, and ordering a pizza once in a while. Today is the 13th day of my second official Whole30 (much needed after the holiday season). Recently, I made mayonnaise, ketchup, and ranch dressing for the first time. With my unit on emulsification now complete, I suppose I can say that I’m an advanced home chef.

Works Sighted

Loft shirt (old); Warby Parker Durand glasses; The Whole30 Slow Cooker: 150 Totally Compliant Prep-and-Go Recipes for Your Whole30

Parka Weather

It is impossible to enjoy the weather if you do not dress for it. When the temperature reaches a degree that warrants a parka, it makes sense to wear one. (Puffer coats are also permitted.) You feel and look uncomfortable when you are cold, and that is not becoming.

When I wear my parka, I feel like a caterpillar in a freshly-spun cocoon: cosy and good spirited. I refuse to use inclement weather as an excuse to stay in, unless the weather is actually inclement. In the Mid-Atlantic states (or at least in PHL) we generally like to use the threat of snow as an excuse to close schools and nonessential businesses. However, things may look different this season due to the Covid work-from-home/study-from-home policies currently in place. Taking a walk every day is vital to maintaining good health. If you work from home, it may be the only opportunity you have to be active beyond your commute to the opposite end of the hallway.

You don’t become exempt from your daily walk just because winter has set in. You weren’t exempt from your commute when you were going into the office. If you prefer moderate weather, don’t worry. All of the seasons take their turn. For now, bundle up in your insulated, water-resistant coat and get moving. Count your steps if that works for you. Let’s not go downhill this winter unless we’re on a sled, tube, snowboard, or skis. In fact, a Christmas walk sounds gratifying.

Merry Christmas to you dear Reader. May you find health and happiness in 2021.

Works Sighted

J.Crew parka (old); J.Crew Martie pant; L.L. Bean boots

An Introduction to dōTERRA Essential Oils

I was first introduced to essential oils in March 2018 at a dōTERRA demonstration. My friend K., a natural party planner, hosted the event at her house. Guests were greeted by lemon-infused water and a rather pleasant scent emanating from the diffuser. An abundance of snacks, such as lavender muffins, soon followed. My friends and I spent the night on K.’s comfy sofa sampling the thoughtfully-prepared assortment and passing around bottles of wine. J., the product consultant, shared her testament with the group; the oils had helped her recover from numerous medical complications.

Twenty days after attending the demonstration, I purchased the family essentials kit along with individual bottles of lemongrass, thyme, cypress, and fractionated coconut oil. I hadn’t planned on making a purchase so soon, but I encountered a minor health hurdle that needed to be addressed. The oils contributed to the resolution of my issue. Initially, I’d spent a generous amount of time deciding which kit to buy, but the one I selected has proven itself quite essential over the years.

You may be wondering if there is a difference between dōTERRA essential oils and less-expensive ones manufactured by other companies. Allow me to clarify; you get what you pay for. dōTERRA essential oils are pure, which is why they are so versatile. I only use a few drops at a time due to their high potency. Although they have an expiration date, you probably won’t have to worry about that for a few years after placing your order. In this post, I’ll discuss my five most-used essential oils, all of which are included in the aforementioned kit, which, by the way, comes with a useful guide detailing all of the brand’s products.

Lemon / As I write this, I’m making a plan to replace my almost-depleted supply of lemon. I enjoy at least one can of chilled sparkling water every day, and I’ve been flavoring my cans of plain water with a drop of lemon essential oil. It’s cheaper than buying an excessive amount of Spindrift (which I still love but can’t afford to drink like champagne at the club).

Peppermint / When a family member gets a headache, I’ll break out the peppermint, dilute a drop with fractionated coconut oil, and rub it on their forehead. The pain dissipates with a tingling sensation. In the olden days of commuting to work, I’d pass out peppermint beadlets to my friends when they weren’t feeling their best.

Lavender / On nights when I can’t sleep, I fill my diffuser with water and add a few drops of lavender. The calming scent puts me to sleep.

DigestZen / This product is a blend of the following essential oils: anise seed, peppermint plant, ginger rhizome/root, caraway seed, coriander seed, tarragon plant, and fennel seed. When my stomach is upset, I diluted a drop or two of DigestZen in a cup of cool water. This concoction is best consumed at a sipping pace.

On Guard / This product is a blend of these essential oils: wild orange peel, clove bud, cinnamon leaf, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus leaf, and rosemary leaf/flower. It smells like autumn in a bottle. I diffuse this in the air during the day. The idea of boosting my immune system with minimal effort makes me very happy.

My Fitbit Alta HR

I bought my Fitbit Alta HR in September 2018. I have to say, our two years together have been quite productive. First and foremost, it helped me get the most out of my gym membership. I joined my current fitness center (now temporarily closed) in July 2017. Prior to wearing my Fitbit, I felt obligated to visit the gym every day and to maximize every workout to its fullest potential. That was too much pressure, so I hardly went at all.

After I started tracking my physical activity, I realized that every step I took improved my overall fitness. I initially set my goal to 10,000 steps (~4.25 miles) a day but raised it to 15,000 (~6.25 miles) one month later. The walks to and from the gym and on the treadmill were opportunities to get more steps. The thrill of meeting my daily goal incentivized me to take walks at every opportunity. Determined to see the victory rocket fly across the screen before midnight, I’d pace in my kitchen or hallway in the evening. (In fact, I’m pacing in my kitchen as I draft this post on my phone.)

My steps serve as the base of my daily physical activity. Unfortunately, I stopped using my Fitbit for about four months whilst getting acclimated to working from home. I’ve since recommitted. Oh, how I’ve missed its benefits: lower resting heart rate, pounds easily lost, and toning in unexpected places. I’ve started back up with a goal of 10,000 but anticipate aiming higher when the time is right.

5 Things You Can Do to Improve Your Health Right Now

Maintaining good health requires constant effort and can be tiring, which is why many people aren’t willing to put in the work. But, a life lived in good health is far more enjoyable than one lived in poor health. I’ve found that five actions in particular contribute to my overall wellbeing: eating well, drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, exercising, and making time for myself. In the perfect version of my life, I would complete each of these five items every day. But, in reality, I rarely check all the boxes on my list of healthy actions in a single day.

On occasion, I eat pizza. Sometimes, the day closes and I haven’t consumed an adequate amount of water. Sometimes, I go to bed at a ridiculous hour. Now that the gym is closed (for the sake of social-distancing), I don’t exercise as much as I once did. Sometimes, I am so busy that I go too long without making time for myself. Maintaining good health is an intricate operation, and I’ve been able to maintain it because I make, more often than not, an honest effort within these five categories. All that effort adds up to measurable results.

Eating Well

I have been constantly acquiring new knowledge over the years about what it means to eat well, but it wasn’t until I completed the Whole30 program for the first time that I really knew what this meant. The basic premise of the program is to cut out certain types of foods—grains, added sugar, alcohol, dairy, and legumes—for 30 days to purge impurities from your body. At the end of the program, you are free to add the foods you’ve been abstaining from back into your system (gradually and at your own discretion). The point is to discover which foods are detrimental to your health. I knew that I had a low tolerance for grains, but I wasn’t aware of the damage sugar was wreaking on my body until my Whole30 journey. I also didn’t know that sugar is used unnecessarily as an ingredient in everything—at least in the U.S. Please read your nutrition labels! Even though I make exceptions for special occasions, the principles of the Whole30 program guide my everyday eating habits (no grains, added sugar, alcohol, dairy, or legumes).

While I recommend that everyone try Whole30 at least once, you don’t have to make a drastic commitment in order to jumpstart healthier eating habits. Comb through the Whole30 rules for inspirational bits of information. Shop on the outer perimeter of the supermarket where the refrigerated items are located. Don’t keep anything you know to be unhealthy (examples: soda, chips and sweets) in the house. If you have to buy juice, it should be real fruit juice. Try mixing it with water, and be conscious of how much you are drinking. Better health begins with knowing exactly what you are consuming.

Drinking Enough Water

I drink tap water that has been filtered through a Brita and chilled. Sometimes, I put fruit in it, but I also enjoy it unflavored from the pitcher. I’m also very fond of sparkling water. Perrier, LaCroix, Trader Joe’s, and Spindrift (which counts as my daily dessert) are my go-to brands.

It is easy for me to stay hydrated, not only because I have a variety of water to choose from, but because I own two reliable BPA-free water bottles. I only buy overpriced bottled water in the street if it is an absolute emergency. I’d rather save my money and transport water from home. If I need my water to stay cool for a prolonged period of time and don’t mind carrying the extra weight of the container, I opt for my 25 oz. S’well bottle. It keeps liquids cold or hot for many hours.

When I prefer a lightweight option, I bring my 32 oz. Nalgene bottle. The Nalgene doesn’t have insulation capabilities, so I have a small window of opportunity to consume the water before it reaches room temperature. But, it’s practically weightless when empty. If you are going on a journey where water isn’t readily available, don’t forget to bring it with you. Dehydration is dangerous, but it can be prevented.

The amount of water that one should drink varies from person to person and is influenced by a number of factors, such as weight and physical activity. While it is possible to drink too much, this has never been a personal concern of mine. I suspect that most people have a problem with not drinking enough rather than a problem with overhydrating. I aim for 8 cups of Brita-filtered water a day, but that goal doesn’t include sparkling water or other liquids. Thus, my water intake is actually a bit higher, especially on workout days.

Getting Enough Sleep

I often struggle with going to bed at a decent time. After our daily dinners, I usually rest on the sofa before carrying on with the rest of the evening chores. But, sometimes this ‘break’ extends into hours of the night. This means that I start completing my unfinished work at a time when I should be sleeping. After discussing my plight with my friends, we concluded the following: Don’t sit down; if you sit down, you’re in trouble. Now that I’ve realized that taking a break after dinner leads me down a sleepless path, I try to reserve my downtime until after I’ve gotten ready for bed. You won’t be able to solve the problem of not getting enough sleep unless you’ve uncovered the root of the issue. If you can relate to this problem, I suggest that you strategize (perhaps with friends) for ways in which you can do better.

Exercising

Sometimes, I’m really diligent about exercising, and sometimes, I’m not. I hired a personal trainer a few years ago, and even when I am the least motivated to exercise, she remains a motivational constant in my life. At the moment, we are conducting our training sessions online, which has worked out brilliantly. If you know that you will not exercise unless someone motivates you, perhaps you should hire a trainer. If you aren’t ready to do that, there are plenty of resources available for free on YouTube. While going for a daily walk has its health benefits, it probably won’t get your heart rate up. However, it’s definitely a good place to start.  

Making Time for Yourself

Do you ever feel like you do so much for other people, that you don’t have any energy left to do something nice for yourself? When I feel like this, I don’t feel whole. Fortunately, the solution to this problem is simple for me. I feel recharged when I do something for myself, even something as simple as reading or getting my nails done. Don’t forget to make time for yourself. My dear, you are worth the effort.

Works Sighted

Nalgene bottle; Hobbs Skirt (old); Superga 2790 Acotw (Navy); LL. Bean Boat and Tote