So…how DO you eat!? Are you on a Whole30 all the time?
No- I’m not on a Whole30 all the time. But yes, Whole30 and the Food Freedom that followed has influenced my lifestyle in a way I’ve found to be sustainable and healthy. I get asked these questions often so I wanted to answer them and give you a glimpse into how I eat now and how I arrived at this place in my journey.
Before I begin, I want to emphasize that a “one size fits all” plan does not exist! What works for me may not work for you…and that’s just fine! I’m sharing my journey to help you as you’re evaluating your own Food Freedom. In my next post, I’ll be sharing a sample “what I eat in a (Food Freedom) day!”
“Food freedom is feeling in control of the food that you eat, instead of food controlling you.” – Melissa Urban
The Whole30 truly changed my life by teaching me HOW to nourish my body, which led me to discover (for myself) that food freedom/eating intuitively was possible. During my first reset 7 years ago, I experienced a drastic improvement in how I felt when I ate according to the Whole3o template. In other words- I didn’t know how crappy I felt until I changed my entire approach to fueling by body!
What was your lifestyle like before Whole30?
I counted calories, was afraid of eating too much fat and gaining weight, rigid/restrictive with my food choices, over-exercised, and I had a raging sugar dragon. I didn’t pay attention to the ingredients in my food. I was too focused on the numbers. It was all or nothing, black or white. If I followed my diet I was “good” and if I didn’t I was “bad.”
I spent way too much time thinking/worrying about food and was always looking for the “best diet” to follow.
I had been in recovery from eating disorders for years without a relapse, but I didn’t have a healthy relationship with food. It wasn’t a healthy place and deep down inside, I knew it. I also worried I wasn’t modeling a healthy relationship with food for the kids. But, if you would have asked me if I lived a healthy lifestyle at the time, I would have said yes!
What was dramatic about the change you experienced?
Many things! First, Whole30 shifted my focus off the numbers- my weight, calories, and macros. For the first time ever I understood the connection between what I ate and how my mind and body actually felt. Instead of restriction, I focused on nourishment.
I was able to figure out which foods help me feel my best and which foods don’t. Foods I thought I couldn’t live without lost their hold on me and my tastebuds changed. (4 cans of Diet Dr.Pepper a day habit, I’m looking at YOU!) The variety of foods I ate expanded to include more whole foods than ever before.
My energy increased, sugar cravings decreased, my mood/sleep improved, and I felt more focused, like a fog had been lifted. YES- I still have hard days, but I finally learned how to truly take care of myself and bounce back from them!
But- early in my Whole30 journey, I struggled with finding the right balance for me.
Maybe part of that was my Upholder tendency, but I thrived within the structure of Whole30 and was afraid of “letting go” too much! Reading Food Freedom Forever helped tremendously and gave me the strategies I needed (on sale, under $10!). My Food Freedom process included a cycle of resetting, reintroducing foods and figuring out the gray area of what’s worth it/do I really want it, and letting go of guilt and stress around food.
A big part of that was learning to move forward after what I would have perceived as failure or falling off the wagon.
Pre Whole30 I would have punished myself through restricting food the next day or over exercising if I over ate or ate something off plan. Or, continuing because I had “messed up anyway” and then feeling shameful afterwards. Stopping this cycle was a major struggle for me and didn’t happen overnight or with just one Whole30. But, the journey was vital because it led me to where I am today. It’s not perfect (and neither am I!) but doesn’t have to be and it’s so much better than where I once was.
In Food Freedom Forever, Melissa Urban says “you will lose control and that’s okay.”
It’s part of the process. How you handle a slip and what you do after changes the game. It took practice and was uncomfortable at first to just move forward with my healthy choices and not beat myself up after I felt I’d lost control. It was tough to shake the feeling that I had to do damage control.
But, eventually something magical happened…I started to let go of the guilt around my food choices and pretty soon the times I felt out of control were fewer and far between and the stretches of enjoying my Food Freedom lasted longer.
And- I was able to bounce back quicker after holidays, vacations, etc because I wasn’t coming home with a punishment mindset. I started to show myself more grace. If I wasn’t feeling my best, I would just do a mini reset or jump back into the healthy lifestyle I had created for myself. I started to go months without feeling like I needed a reset! I finally felt free and not like I was constantly on a diet or depriving myself.
The Food Freedom 3 Step Plan is basically this:
- Reset your health, habits, and relationship with food.
- Enjoy your Food Freedom.
- Acknowledge when you’re starting to slip.
Repeat as needed. For full details/explanation I strongly encourage you to read Food Freedom Forever!
I stopped looking to my food choices to help define the kind of person I see myself as, which was also a huge breakthrough!
Food is just food. I am not a good or bad person based on what I eat! This process has taught me how to make mindful choices and has changed over the years. The beauty of Food Freedom is you can expect it to evolve, and it doesn’t have to be rigid. You just have to pay attention. This process has empowered me. I know what to do for my body when I feel “off” and it’s no longer a stressful black/white cycle of being good or bad.
How I eat in my life after Whole30 IS based on the Whole30 “real food” framework…
I eat lots of vegetables, protein (such as eggs, red meat, poultry, and fish), healthy fats (such as ghee, coconut, olives, and avocado), nuts/seeds, and fruit. This makes up the bulk of my diet because it works for me and I feel my best when I focus on these nutrient dense foods.
In addition to this, I’ve added other foods I’ve found are worth it to me.
This process occurred over time through rounds of Whole30, reintroducing foods, and listening to my body! This is my unique Food Freedom. This does NOT mean eating mindlessly or to excess. I try to stay mindful when I’m eating less healthy foods and only eat as much as I need to be satisfied and stopping before I feel full.
Because nothing is off limits, I find I only indulge in what is special/when I really do want it, and not just randomly/because it’s available. (Important to note that I’m not allergic to any foods and have only minor sensitivities to a few.) I’m now very comfortable with saying “no, thank you.” Also, just because something is “worth it” doesn’t mean it is all the time. Context matters.
Occasionally Worth It… (not daily)
I’ve found I can enjoy these occasionally and not experience any (or minimal) negative side effects. If I go overboard though it is very obvious to me in the form of bloatedness, feeling lethargic/low energy/moody, and starting to crave sugar more.
I know baked goods can be a slippery slope so I try to stick to things are are truly worth it to me and I rarely bake treats at home. I’ve noticed that I have to be extra careful with these, because while I can tolerate them they can also trigger strong cravings for me. Some foods are special occasion or traditional foods I savor only when I’m in New Mexico. This is not an exhaustive list…it changes. Again, this is me and you are you!
In my Food Freedom, I also enjoy smoothies, french fries, and chips. I choose Siete Chips / Tortillas, plantain chips, and Jackson’s Honest Potato Chips because I really like them! If I’m making a smoothie or ordering one, I make sure its balanced with fat and protein, and low in sugar, for sustained energy to avoid a sugar crash.
As far as condiments go, I love my Whole30 approved versions so much I almost always make/reach for those at home or bring them along with me. But I don’t stress over sauces/dressings/added sugars/non compliant oils when ordering in restaurants.
- While I do enjoy gluten free baked goods, occasionally I will go for real deal cupcakes, bread, etc.
- Chick Fil A chicken nuggets
- Sopapilla with honey when I visit New Mexico
- Biscochitos during the Christmas season (my favorite Christmas cookie).
- Pizza, with regular or gf crust.
- Cheese- I can take it or leave it, but on pizza or enchiladas, it’s worth it. I usually order “light on the cheese.”
- I love ice cream! It’s my favorite dessert. However, I don’t keep it at home because it’s too much of a temptation/distraction for me. If I want ice cream I will go out for a scoop or two with our fam or on a date with Ryan! I like non dairy varieties too.
- Queso (I like guac more but sometimes I’ll have queso too when dining out tex mex.)
Non Gluten Grains
- Gluten Free Pancakes- We love Simple Mills mixes.
- Corn Tortillas / Chips
- Rice- Sushi or with New Mexican/Mexican food
- Brown Rice Pasta
- Canyon Bakehouse 7 Grain GF Bread (for avocado toast!)
I don’t drink alcohol often (once or twice a week, usually) and have a self imposed “two drink limit” when I do. I just know that more than two drinks in a day doesn’t serve me. I have also gone several months without drinking by personal choice.
If drinking, I usually choose:
- Ranch Water, which contains a shot of tequila topped with topo chico and fresh lime juice.
- Wine- I seek out Clean Crafted Wines with no/low residual sugar when I can/to keep at home. If I order in a restaurant I stick to one or two glasses. More on this topic soon…
I generally don’t eat a lot of legumes, I just don’t really miss/crave them.
- Bowl of frijolés con chile when I’m visiting New Mexico.
- Basil Pesto Hummus from Zoe’s Kitchen.
- Edamame when we go out for sushi.
Never Worth It: Diet Soda, Regular Soda, artificial sugars- I used to be hooked on these and now they just make my stomach very bloated! Plus they actually cause sugar cravings.
How would you describe your nutrition / lifestyle now?
My relationship with food and my body is healthy and relaxed. I enjoy cooking and don’t feel stressed about my decisions around food. I focus on balanced meals in my Food Freedom. I follow the Whole30 meal template when building my plate and add “extras” to that when I want them.
I’ll do a Whole30 once or twice a year as a reset if I feel I need one. Occasionally I’ll do a mini Whole30 reset if I just want structure or to get back on track. Bottom line: I pay attention to what my body needs.
Overall our choices as a family are healthier and we enjoy a wider variety of foods! Whole30 changed the way we eat and was the catalyst for other positive changes in my life. It changed my outlook on a lot of things, including my relationship with my body. Food Freedom certainly freed up energy spent obsessing over food and created space to focus on more productive, life giving things!
Really though- Are you going to share what you actually eat?
Yes! Next post will be Part Two, “a day in the life!”! Wanted to share a little background first. My goal with this and upcoming posts is to give you a clear idea of the benefits/lifestyle the Whole30 has provided, beyond the reset.
Lastly, I emphasisized reintroduction a lot in this post because a proper reintroduction following your Whole30 self experiment is key.
This is where learning takes place and differentiates Whole30 from a traditional diet! By reintroducing foods one by one you’ll notice how each affects (or doesn’t affect) your energy, sleep, mood, cravings, digestion, etc. You’ll be able to compare how you looked and felt without these foods to how you look and feel when you reintroduce them. This provides critical information to create the perfect diet for you in your Food Freedom.
Outdoor Voices 3/4 Warmup Leggings (on sale) also love the pink OV TechSweat Leggings / Dallas Duo Food Freedom Tank / Outdoor Voices Doing Things Sports Bra (love the polka dots!) / Merrell Trail Runner Sneakers (love these for hiking, some colors are on sale!)
For your reference, here are a few other examples of personal Food Freedom:
- Melissa Urban (see also How I Eat During a Pandemic, which is very helpful and timely)
- Whitney- What is Food Freedom
- Autumn – What My Food Freedom Plate Looks Like
- Steph and Chelsea- Whole Mamas Club
Thanks for stopping by! Have a great day! xx