Whole Lotta Whole30: Results + Overview

Last week, I finished Whole30, the nutritional program where you give up dairy, grains, added sugar, preservatives, legumes, and alcohol for 30 days. I didn’t think I’d make it, to be totally transparent, and while I did have one intentional mishap (of course I had to drink a beer at a Dierks Bentley concert, c’mon), I’m proud of myself for making it completely through a diet-cleanse for the first time.

And the last time.

Turns out, I was already kinda healthy and balanced before doing Whole30, but it took going through the program to fully understand that, so I am grateful to have experienced it. I’ve always joked that, because I workout so often but love good food and a glass of wine with dinner, if I ever stopped eating junk and ate healthy for a long period of time, I’d probably turn into a twig.

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Whole30 Ramblings + Meal Plan

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Tomorrow marks the first day of what may very well be the 30 most difficult days of my life. Dramatic? Perhaps. Probably true? Most likely.

I start the Whole30 challenge tomorrow with my boyfriend, John. (It took about three days of begging him to do it with me before he caved. Misery loves company.) It was his idea to start on a day that would coordinate our timing to wrap up the program on a Thursday, so we can then indulge in the foods we’ve missed starting on a Friday, the weekend. Sometimes it’s nice dating such a smartypants. So, that’s why we’re starting on January 4 instead of the 1st, like a lot of other people.

Apparently this program has been around for years, but I only heard about it for the first time a few weeks ago. My boss was talking about how she wanted to do it to cleanse out holiday goodies, and my initial thought when she told me the details of it was that she must be crazy.

And then came the holidays. And the bread, and the cookies, and the ice cream, and the wine, and the enchiladas, and the casseroles, and the cheese and crackers. Suddenly, a cleanse didn’t sound so bad after all. Like I’ve talked about before, I’m not big on jumping on board with health trends — I think a lot of them promise more than they result, and some can be unhealthy physically and mentally.

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From Vegetarian to… Non-vegetarian: An Entirely Too-Long Post to Answer Your Questions

The question I got for six years: “Why are you a vegetarian?” The new question I’m getting: “So why do you eat meat…now?” 

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Until a couple weekends ago, I’d been a vegetarian for nearly seven years. SEVEN. Actually, I was technically a pescatarian for the majority of the time (which means I still ate seafood but no land or air animals). Occasionally I’d feel pangs of guilt toward sea creatures, though, and would stop eating them, too, but that never lasted long. (I really love sushi.)

Most people didn’t care about my lack of meat-eating — except for friends and family in the Midwest who loved to give me a hard time about it. My paternal grandparents made their living off a pig and livestock farm, for crying out loud! So I was basically an alien to everyone up there.

No one else seemed to mind, though, even my Texan, hunting-loving boyfriend. So when I came to the decision to give up vegetarianism about two weeks ago, I made the choice myself, without outside influence. And — this might seem silly — it was really hard.

I stopped eating meat the day after Thanksgiving when I was a junior in high school after a conversation with my brother’s then-girlfriend about her refraining from eating meat products. She told me it was weirdly easy for her to give up, which made me think, Maybe I can do that. I’ve always been a crazy animal lover (can you tell?), and didn’t eat meat too often to begin with, except for occasional burgers or bacon or chicken. I figured it was okay to not be eating most of those foods, anyway, so I quit meat cold turkey.

Except for the first month — when I’d have days I REALLY wanted an In N’ Out burger — it was mostly easy for me to stop eating meat. Sure, certain things would smell good, but never good enough for me to need to try them.

I’ve also always had issues with self control around food, too, so I think this was a way for me to taper certain cravings in a healthy way. Instead of ordering the cheeseburger and fries at a restaurant, I had to get the vegetable dish. It was a dietary restriction that didn’t feel too much like a restriction. After all, I could still have ice cream or cheese or bread — you know, all the important nourishments. (We won’t go there with the one time I tried veganism, which ended tragically quickly after two days of torture.)

For once, I had to choose animal-friendly options and consider what I was putting in my body more than I ever did before. Did I have enough protein today? Is this going to keep me full long enough? After a while, I had a routine down, and it was fine. Great, even. It worked well for my life for nearly a decade, but like many routines, it began to get boring.

My boyfriend will tell you I’ve been boycotting any kind of baked, sautéed, or pan-cooked fish for a couple months now. (I think it’s annoyed him since he only had so much to work with when making dinner with me — and I chopped out most of our options by refusing fish.) I’m honestly just tired of it! I still like seafood, but for easy, nutritious weeknight meals, I was running out of ammo. You can only eat baked salmon so many times.

And so, slowly, a few months ago, the idea of eating meat again crept up on me. At 24 years old, I feel more secure in my health habits than I did at 17. I no longer feel like food controls me like it did when I became vegetarian.

And, like everyone, my palette has changed. Things like a chicken salad, which I used to feel indifferent about not eating, now looks freaking amazing. Don’t even get me started with the smell of bacon. (Things other than meat have become alluring in the past few months or year, as well, like olives… Just so we’re clear I haven’t become this ravenous, meat-craving freak or anything.)

But even though my food attitude has improved, and my palette is different, there was still the whole guilt thing to approach. When I told John I started considering eating meat again, he got so excited and asked if he could make my first meaty meal in celebration. That made my stomach turn. I know he was just being sweet: He loves to cook, and I’m sure he’s dreamt about a day when I might eat meat again. But for me, I didn’t want to celebrate my failure of saving animals! (I understand that one person being a vegetarian does little to save animals or negate cruel slaughterhouses, but still, guilt is guilt, and I had it big time.)

I’m still wrestling with that part of it, but for now, I plan on eating grass-fed, ethically-raised, pasture-raised, organic, hormone-free (you get it) meat. At least as much as I can help it. I don’t see myself eating meat at many restaurants, either, unless I know it’s a place that really cares about the quality of its fare. (Side note: if anyone knows the best grocer to get the most ethical and pure meat, please let me know! I’ve only hit up Whole Foods so far.)

There you have it: my weird, entirely too-long story about going from a longtime veggie to a full-blown carnivore, with standards. I’ve had a lot of questions about both choices — the choice to become a vegetarian way back when, and now, the choice to not be one — but if there’s anything I didn’t address, please reach out! I’m happy to answer and open a discussion in the comments below (or email me at audrey@frecklesandfigs.com).

Perfect Bar Giveaway + Nutrition Q&A with Sydney Spoon from “The Spoonful of Health”

Sydney, a registered dietician and the voice behind “The Spoonful of Health,” was one of my best, best, best friends growing up. We went to middle and high school together, and before that played soccer for a bright-green uniformed team called the Tabagators, and we kind of kicked ass. We were goofy kids who loved being active together from a young age, from soccer to dance classes.

I remember one time she came with me to a group exercise class at my 24 Hour Fitness when we were teenagers, and we thought we were SO. COOL. because halfway through the class we decided to workout in just our sports bras. We definitely believed we were hot commodities, when in fact we were actually little pipsqueaks.

Syd and I lost touch some through college when I came to Texas and she went to Reno, but we’ve kept up with each other’s lives thanks to, of course, social media. After seeing each other work hard and pursue success in different fields — hers nutrition and mine journalism — we’ve reconnected and realized we’re still huge dorks with tons in common, namely: growing our brands and trying to maintain healthy, balanced lifestyles.

She is one of the hardest workers I know and knowledgeable about all things health (and she has amazing eyebrows — a surefire sign you can trust someone), so I knew no one was better to answer my nutrition questions than this chick. If you have queries about food norms or what you should be putting in your body every day, look no further!

(Giveaway details below the Q&A!)

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Audrey: As an RD, what are some of your favorite snacks-on-the-go that fill you up but don’t kill in the calorie/fat/carb department?

Sydney: The fresher the foods the better. I love grabbing a piece of fruit and a small nut butter packet for the perfect mix of carbs, protein, and fat. This way, I can be satisfied while staying full for a longer time, rather than if I just had a carb-loaded snack! Also, certain nutrition bars, such as Perfect Bars, have a great nutrition profile and are great snacks for busy days.

I always keep fruit or veggies that are easy to grab on the go when I am running a tad behind, too. For example, I will slice up a bell pepper the night before and have it in a baggie next to a small hummus in the fridge to take on the go.

A: If you’re cooking at home, what are some easy ways to sneak in healthy components to what might be thought of as “cheat meals?” Like, if you’re making tacos or pizza, how can you up their health factors?

S: I always strive to add a lean protein source and extra veggies to make sure I am eating a better version of what people think of a “cheat meal.” For example, when making a pizza, I always use whole wheat dough (Trader Joe’s is my favorite) and always roll it out extra thin to increase size while decreasing the concentration of carbohydrates. Also, for pizzas, I load them with a ton of my favorite veggies. There’s less room for extra cheese, which can cause an over consumption of fat.

As for tacos (one of my favorite meals), I always make sure to use whole wheat or corn tortillas for a good choice of whole grains. Usually I can eat more than just one taco, so to make my calories count, my second “taco” would include a bed of lettuce with the traditional toppings and no tortilla — a taco salad, if you will. If you like sour cream, try adding nonfat plain Greek yogurt instead for less fat and more protein. Seasonings should always include salt-free herb mixes for heart health, and now you can make your own Mexican seasoning at a lower price instead of buying it at the store! (Maybe one day I will blog about how to do that!)

A: What about at restaurants? Say you’re at a fancy-schmance burger place — or somewhere like that where options are limited to a type of food. How would you order to feel a little better nutritionally?

S: Hopefully, I am not eating by myself so I can share a dish with someone I am dining with. If I see a burger that I really like and want to try, I would gladly order it if I knew my boyfriend or friend would split it with me. If you are eating alone (no judgment!), I would say no to toppings such as cheese, bacon, or a fried egg, since they add a ton of unnecessary fat and calories. If you order a hamburger, try eating it open-faced (discard half of the bun) because you still get the full burger effect without consuming extra carbohydrates.

It also won’t hurt to use a fork and knife. I know. God-forbid we don’t use our hands for a hamburger, but this trick can help us to slow down our eating and be more aware of each bite we consume.

And don’t be afraid to ask for a side of fresh veggies! Usually all restaurants have ingredients that are not listed on the menu, so why not ask if you could have a side of steamed broccoli (great source of fiber, and delicious – well, I think so).

It also won’t hurt to use a fork and knife. I know. God-forbid we don’t use our hands for a hamburger.

A: Am I going to be a fatso if I eat chocolate every day? (Please say no, because I pretty much do.)

S: NO! I am a firm believer of keeping the foods you love incorporated into your life. Obviously, you don’t want to have a chocolate binge every other night, but moderation is perfectly okay. The darker the chocolate, the better because it is richer in antioxidants. My favorite sweet treat is a Dove dark chocolate square with a tiny bit of peanut butter on top. This super savory and rich treat leaves me satisfied and prevents me from binging on a whole pint of Ben & Jerry’s; perhaps it can work for y’all, too!

A: If your philosophy toward food was a Real Housewives tagline (which you might not watch (I don’t blame you), but they’re concise and clever lines to describe each housewife)), what would it be?

S: Oh my goodness, I have never seen an episode nor am I that creative, BUT I would have to say my philosophy toward food is, “Eat what you enjoy and foods that make you feel good.”

A: Is there a ratio we should be trying to attain when it comes to eating clean vs. splurging? In my head it would be 95% clean to 5% splurge, but in reality mine’s a little more like 75% to 25%.

S: Honestly, I don’t like to think of eating clean and splurging as two different things, mainly because there is a lot of psychological aspects when it comes to food behavior. That is why I say we should always strive to eat healthy, but to not feel guilty when we “splurge.” If we fear foods and mark them as “unhealthy,” our minds will associate that with no and, ultimately, guilt. It is okay to eat foods that are not as healthy as others. If you give yourself a little bit more freedom, you will find those sweet cravings or binges completely absent because you allowed yourself the foods you once thought was off-limits.

If we fear foods and mark them as “unhealthy,” our minds will associate that with no and, ultimately, guilt.

A: If you need a superfast breakfast or lunch, what do you usually go for?

S: I always try to get some carbs and protein incorporated into my meal. For breakfast, sometimes all I have time for is grabbing a Perfect Bar, small banana, and bottle of water. Other times, I may grab a cheese stick, apple, and peanut butter packet. It may not be a full or complete meal, but it is A LOT better than just skipping a meal completely. We need to constantly feed our bodies and brains with the energy it needs to function properly.

A: Is there really a good time of day to eat carbs? I always hear this but don’t necessarily believe it…

S: Any time of the day is okay to eat carbohydrates. It just depends on your activities for the day and what your eating habits are. If you like to work out at night, you will definitely need to consume carbohydrates at dinner in order to have the proper amount of energy for a killer work out. On behalf of most dietitians (okay, well at least the ones I know), we like to think every meal should be composed of the same ratios of carbohydrates, protein, and fat (i.e., the MyPlate method).

Eating a balanced dish for every meal is a great way to stay on track with your healthy lifestyle. Also, don’t forget that fruits and veggies have carbs… Some people think it is better to stay away from carbs after breakfast, but truly that is impossible. We need a consistent amount of carbohydrates primarily because carbs get converted into glucose in our bodies and that is the number one source of energy for our brain to run on.

A: Anything else we should know about food, meals, nutrition from the annoyingly smart mind of RD Sydney Spoon?

S: I could talk about so many things, but mainly I would want people to know that they should create a healthy lifestyle they can maintain. Diets simply do not work and making healthy changes should start out small to create long lasting results. Everyone can improve on their health and diet, but truly as long as you love your body and feel good each day while having enough energy to live your daily life, then you are doing everything you need to succeed.

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And now for… THE PERFECT BAR GIVEAWAY:

  1. Follow my Instagram page (@frecklesandfigs) and Sydney’s (@thespoonfulofhealth)
  2. Like each of our Perfect Bar photos on Instagram (posted this morning)
  3. Tag two friends who inspire you to live healthfully in EACH of our Instagram photos (they can be the same friends in each of our photos!)
  4. BONUS! Repost one (or both) of our giveaway photos for an additional entry to win!

Syd and I each get to choose a winner who will receive a sample pack of Perfect Bars, which includes all seven flavors of full-size Perfect Bars and two mini bars. Yum! Contest closes Sunday at 11:59 p.m. Winners will be announced Monday. Contest is valid for US residents only.

Thanks to Perfect Bar, for sponsoring this giveaway, and to Sydney, for answering all my questions!