Getting a Fresh Start with The Whole30

I moved back into my parents’ house about five months ago, and it’s actually been a pretty nice change of pace. Living here has allowed me to avoid worrying about rent and utility payments while I get started on freelancing, and it’s been a lot of fun to reconnect with my family. One of the more challenging aspects of living here, though, has been staying healthy.

In my “normal life” (aka my life when I live outside of my parents’ house like a normal adult) I am very health-conscious when it comes to my diet. I almost always cook whole, real foods (fresh veggies, lean meats, seafoods, the occasional whole grain, lots of fruit, etc.), and a significant portion of my meals are vegetarian. I rarely have any cereals, breads, pastas or processed foods. I love my family, but their eating style is very different from mine. To add to the problem, my parents’ kitchen is currently in the middle of a huge renovation – so we’ve been deprived of a stovetop or oven for the past month or so. As a result, we’ve had to subsist on packaged, microwavable, processed foods or takeout.

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Amber, tired of eating ham sandwiches.

I also usually take public transportation everywhere, which means that I’m moving around on foot for much of my day. I used to have a FitBit that could tell me how many steps I’d taken on any given day. On an average day in Chicago, it’d show that I walked about 9,000 to 13,000 steps a day – in Twin Lakes, I was lucky if I hit 2,000. I also had a gym membership in Chicago (I do have one here, but it’s not within walking distance and I don’t have a car) and access to multiple fantastic yoga studios.

Suffice it to say, living in Twin Lakes has taken a toll on my health. I’ve gained about 10 pounds since moving here in September, and I can feel that I’m not in as great shape as I used to be. I visited Chicago last week to run some errands, and I became noticeably fatigued just from climbing the stairs up to the Brown Line platform. (If you feel like nerding out with me about urban planning, here’s a cool article about how suburban communities make you fat.)

So a few weeks ago, I decided that it was time to get back on track! I can’t exactly move out right now, so I needed to try extra hard to eat healthy. Since I don’t have access to a kitchen, I decided to team up with my friend Alyssa to meal prep all of our dishes for the week ahead. We headed to her apartment on Sunday to cook everything we’d need for the week. We also decided to try a new approach to eating: The Whole30.

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What is The Whole30?

As someone who is pretty well-practiced in low-carb eating and who tries to eat only whole foods, I don’t really view the program as a diet. It’s more of a clean approach to eating – you simply do away with sugar, grains, gluten, legumes, dairy, alcohol, MSG, and any other ingredients to which many people have food sensitivities. After 30 days of clean eating, you then add these items back in (gradually) to see what may have been causing you problems.

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Alyssa prepping our Paleo Italian Meatballs

We decided to try this approach for Alyssa’s sake, really. Alyssa has had stomach issues for years, and had her gallbladder removed a few months ago to try to correct the problem. She told me that she has felt tired and fatigued a lot of the time, continues to experience problems with digestion, and has gotten negative results on any tests for gluten or dairy sensitivity. She is the perfect candidate for The Whole30, because she’s not sure what kind of foods are bothering her and wants to find a pathway to better health.

Why am I doing The Whole30?

I have no food allergies or sensitivities, so you may be wondering why I’m adhering to the Whole30 at all. Like I said, my health has been taking a back seat to other priorities lately, and I need to get back on track. I have had immense success with low-carb diets in the past (I lost about 40 pounds back when I was 18 by eliminating carbs, and have kept it off for the past 10 years even after re-introducing them) and I favor a low-carb, high-fat approach to health. I’ll do a separate post later about why I fall into this nutrition camp.

Another thing that I find attractive about The Whole30 is its emphasis on developing a healthy relationship with food. The diet asks that you eliminate any foods or drinks that cause you to feel “out of control” – in other words, the things you find you can’t stop eating (for me: PEANUT BUTTER!!!!). The idea is to “quit” these foods so that you develop a healthier relationship with the foods you eat.

What are we eating this week?

In a marathon cooking sesh, Alyssa and I made enough meals to get us through all of the week’s dinners and some lunches. We made:

Paleo Italian Meatballs, recipe by Tastes of Lizzie T’s, which we paired with spaghetti squash and no-sugar-added marinara
Baked salmon, paired with sweet potatoes
Baked orange roughy, paired with roasted vegetables (specifically broccoli, onion, asparagus, beets, and green and red peppers, which we drizzled with coconut oil and roasted for about 30 minutes)
Cabbage Fat-Burning Soup by Nell Marsh, as published on AllRecipes.com
Grilled chicken breasts, paired with sautéed onions and mushrooms and served with roasted potatoes

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So far, every dish has reheated well! I’m lucky that Alyssa is letting me use her kitchen. My parents’ new kitchen is going to be gorgeous, but it won’t be ready for another few weeks – and I simply couldn’t wait that long to start eating healthy again!

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