First things first: 2014 was the year I learned a million things about myself, but one of the most important was my inability to live a calm, peaceful and encouraging existence while fueling my body with junk food. (I know – obvious statement of the decade, but I’m a slow learner.) Although I’ve never been a particularly healthful eater, I started making changes in my diet when I became pregnant with Bee. I cooked dinners I thought were nutritious because they were made from ingredients at the grocery store, rather than a drive-thru. And they were nutritious, for the most part: hummus plates, fresh wraps, cobb salads, etc.
But what I didn’t realize was that those “fresh” ingredients from my grocery store contained loads of not-so-fresh chemicals and additives and preservatives and natural flavors I couldn’t pronounce. And when my girlfriend passed along this book to me earlier this year, I couldn’t ignore the facts. It was as if someone was writing a memoir about my life: sluggish mornings, energy slumps in the afternoon, cravings all night long. Frequent breakouts, bloated stomach, boggling headaches. Mine eyes had seen the glory, forever and ever, Amen. It was time to make a change.
So I decided to give #Whole30 a go last spring (the official rules are here, if you’re curious), thinking it would be fairly simple to cut out grains, legumes, dairy and sugar. I already cooked mostly at home, and I’d given up dairy while nursing after realizing Bee was allergic (and then later realizing I was, too – again, slow-learner!). But, simple it was not.
Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t so magnificently difficult that it’s impossible, and it was one of those purposeful hards, like the kind where it’s pretty easy to press forward because you are learning something about yourself. After just one week, my head felt clear. This one’s hard to explain, because I didn’t realize my head wasn’t clear before. But suddenly, focusing was easy and my productivity was unbelievable and I just felt, kind of superhuman. Like a put-together version of myself that wasn’t continually at war in her own head. (Told you it was hard to explain.)
I distinctly remember a morning that was particularly frenzied – we were out of coffee and I’d just stubbed my toe and Bee was being of the general toddler variety and Bernie chose that precise moment to pee on the dining room rug. Non-#Whole30 Erin would have yelled, for sure. And maybe stomped, out of maturity, of course. But there was this weird holding period, like my brain knew reacting in a rash way wasn’t going to help anything, and I actually took deep breaths. (I’ve always read about the kind of people that take deep breaths, and I always wondered how they trained themselves to do that. Turns out it’s kind of natural if you take away the raging sugar telling you to scream.)
And after that moment, I was a changed woman. I realized that I’ve been fighting against myself for years now – trying to calm those anxious moments or stressful days or tense relationships with everything other than the fuel I was offering my very own body. I was trading my peace for – quite literally – a slice of cake.
It sounds funny when I put it that way – like cheese and bread and wine are more important than daily sanity or peace or clarity. I mean, I always think of that story in the Bible where Esau gave up his birthright for a bowl of stew, and it sounds like the silliest thing until I realize that I do this every.single.day. I trade self-control and will power for the comfort of food and a raging sugar high. And it just needed to stop.
Here’s one of the things no one tells you about #Whole30: it’s not really about the food. It’s about the clarity; the realization that food affects you on a very, very cellular level. It’s about devoting a month to learning that you’re stronger than a craving, that you can make better decisions that you think, and that it doesn’t have to be this hard to tap into the energy you already have.
I now eat Paleo roughly 90% of the time and am slowly learning my balance. There have been days of over-indulgence that leave me achy, bloated and lethargic the next morning – the trigger my body provides to remind me to clean up my act. And I’ve learned that I can tolerate some additives more than others (for me, sugar is a non-negotiable; the stuff makes me act like a child).
And now that I’ve written a novel, here are a few of my favorite resources, recipes and ideas to help you clean up your diet, should you be interested!:
Jenna held my hand through the entire #Whole30 process (her Instagram tag features lots of fantastic clean eaters sharing ideas!), and she recently created a 1-week meal plan ($13) to ease the transition to cooking without grains, sugars and legumes.
For a more exhaustive list, Whole30.com offers some incredible downloads: shopping lists, meal planning templates, dining guides, travel guides and more. Download away; all are free.
For breakfast, I like to clean out my veggie crisper with whatever needs to be finished and add either eggs or sweet potatoes. Super scientific, I know. But here are a few great recipes if you’re a rule-follower: Egg McNothings, Pulled Pork & Jalapeno Frittata, Sweet Potato, Apple & Pancetta Hash, Dijon Pork Breakfast Skillet.
For lunch, I generally grab a handful of nuts, a beef jerky and some fresh veggies (carrots or peppers). Maybe an apple? I’m pretty simple. But on weekends or slower days, here are some good lunch recipes: Buffalo Ranch Stuffed Peppers, Calamari, Kale & Kalamata Olive Salad, Turkey Roll-Ups with Avocado Dressing.
For dinner, I follow a really simple formula of any meat+green veggies+homemade vinaigrette (I love dijon mustard and white wine vinegar together, or balsamic and garlic). But, again, for the rule-followers, here are some goodies: Easy Pan-Fried Lemon Chicken, 15-Minute Kale and Sausage, Balsamic Mustard Steak.
For dessert, these are the most amazing brownies you’ll ever have (thank you, Amy!). And they take – literally – 6 minutes. (20 if you let your toddler help.) Refrigerate and enjoy. I sometimes get lazy and make mine with organic almond butter, dehydrated date pieces, extra cocoa powder with a bit of sea salt. Dark and delicious!
These are my favorite #Whole30-approved staples that I rely on to jazz up the everyday mix of eggs, grass-fed meat and veggies:
–Chomps Grass-Fed Beef Jerky
–Pecan Pie Larabars
–Louisiana Hot Sauce
–Applegate Turkey Bacon
–Aidells Chicken Apple Sausage
–La Croix (Lime)
And lastly, a tough love quote that made me smile from the website: “Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Giving up heroin is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard… It’s only thirty days, and it’s for the most important cause on earth – the only physical body you will ever have in this lifetime.”
Tell me, would you ever give #Whole30 a go? Have you ever tried a food “cleanse”? I’d love to hear your experiences!