My first Whole 30, completed!!!

I completed my first Whole 30 on September 2. Never in a million years did I think I would type those words. When I embarked on my journey, I was scared and doubtful. But, I did it and I am so proud of myself. Many people have asked me to share my thoughts on the program and whether I really enjoyed it. The short answer is yes, I loved it. The experience changed my relationship with food, how I will fuel my body going forward and how I will feed my family. (If you missed my review of the first two weeks on Whole 30, you may want to read that first. There is also a post on why I chose Whole 30 which you can read here.)

After a full 30 days on the program, here are some final thoughts for those who are interested and just for my own record.

Be prepared to cook: Sure, there are plenty of no cook options on Whole 30 like fruit, raw veggies and nuts but meat and eggs do require cooking. That doesn't mean you can't keep it simple. I love this recipe for lemon thyme chicken. It's a regular weeknight favorite in our house. I tried to cook in bulk on the weekends (like grilled chicken and hard boiled eggs) so that I could just "grab and go" during the week. Whole 30 does require some planning and prepping but once you make it a priority, it provides for lots of quick and easy meals.

Get ready to fall in love with fruit again: Wow, this really took me by surprise! Whole 30 will give you a brand new appreciation for fruit. After eliminating artificial sugars from your diet, a perfectly ripe piece of fruit will taste like pure heaven. Summertime is an ideal time to do a Whole 30 because there are so many wonderful fruits and veggies in season.

You'll be surprised at which foods you miss the most: When I began the Whole 30 I thought for sure that alcohol and bread would be the things I missed the most. I was completely wrong. After 30 days, you know what foods I missed? Feta cheese on my salad, greek yogurt for breakfast and real-deal chocolate ice cream. I could have cared less about bread, except maybe those garlic rolls I passed over at the italian restaurant one night. And about alcohol...a lot of people have said to me they couldn't do Whole 30 simply because of the "no alcohol." Trust me, you can do it!  Stepping away from it for a while opened my eyes to when and why I was consuming alcohol. I noticed much of my consumption was done out of social obligation or a reaction to an emotional day.

People will be curious. Have an answer: Speaking of social settings (and you will encounter them on Whole 30), you need to be prepared for questions. People will be curious or interested. Others will be confused and appalled. I encourage you to really think about why you are on this journey so that you can share that with people in a kind and honest manner. For me, I wanted to reset my hormones after having Ben. I also wanted to jumpstart my postpartum weight loss and increase energy.

You will lose weight: If you are truly following Whole 30, I'm 99% sure you will lose weight. I only lost 10 pounds during my 30 days but others have reported greater numbers. I was a little disappointed that I did not lose more but I had some other challenges working against me which I will discuss in just a second.

Get your rest and renewal: I kid you not, the day I began my Whole 30 Ben decided he was going to quit sleeping through the night. I'm still trouble shooting his sleep issues but I haven't slept through the night since beginning my Whole 30 and I really think it affected my weight loss. My lack of sleep also discouraged regular workouts too.  Either way, your body is going through extreme changes and rest is important! Get as much as you can. I also made a point to take salt baths and treated myself to a few spa appointments. Reward your body mentally and physically because it deserves it. Take care of your body and it will take care of you in return.

You will not be hungry: Another comment I got a lot was "Don't you get hungry?" Amazingly, no. Not at all. When you fuel your body with "the good stuff" you will be full and satisfied. I also noticed very quickly that I didn't have the high and lows associated with sugar. Remember, Whole 30 does not limit you to an amount of food so eat as much as you want, as long as it's whole foods. Plain and simple.

Trying new foods and recipes: Admittedly at first glance, Whole 30 feels like you don't have a lot of choices. But you do. I enjoyed trying new fruits, veggies and proteins. After the first few weeks, I began to step out of my comfort zone and shop for things that weren't regulars on the grocery list. I also enjoyed experimenting with new oils and fats like coconut oil and clarified butter.

Find a support group: For me this came via Instagram but I know there are message boards, Facebook pages, blogs, etc. Just knowing that others were on the same journey was motivating. I also loved seeing what others were eating and got some great ideas for new meals.

Do it for yourself: In my opinion, this is huge for any wellness program. Many times, we look for motivation outside of ourselves such as a spouse, a group of friends or an upcoming event. Let me tell you, nothing will ultimately motivate you better than your own desire. Do this challenge for you. Do it because you want to feel better, because you long for better health, because you want to change your relationship with food. Refer back to my point of why you are doing this program. Be honest with yourself and remind yourself of it every morning and throughout the day if needed.

Read the book: Even though the Whole 30 is a very simple program, there is a ton of science behind it that is quite intriguing. The book will encourage you and provide you good reminders of why we eat certain foods and how they fuel our bodies. It Starts With Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways and can be on your doorstep within days thanks to Amazon.

Shop before you begin: Okay, if your feeling motivated to start your own program right away (which is kinda what I did) clean out your fridge and pantry of temptation and go shopping for whole foods. Staples for me were eggs, avocado, sweet potato, tomatoes, various fruits, chicken, almond butter, olive oil, sea salt, nuts, raisins and Lara bars. Don't make the mistake by setting your mind to start today only to discover by lunch time you don't have enough whole foods on hand to get your through the first 24 hours.

Last but not least, Whole 30 is not "Forever:" Sure, lots of people adopt this program as a lifestyle due to health reasons, food allergies or simply because they love it. But throughout your challenge (and it will be challenging) remind yourself this is only 30 days. You will enjoy ice cream again, you will sip a margarita, you will go out for pizza. Just not right now. These 30 days belong to you and your health. Commit these 30 days to you because you are worth it. 

Thank you again for all your support and encouragement! It really helped me stay focused and motivated me to stick to the program. If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email or get in touch with me via social media. Thanks for reading and sharing this experience with me.

Blueberry Almond White Chocolate Clusters

I know you're probably wondering why I'm posting this yummy goodness right at the tail end of my Whole 30 journey. I assure you, I have NOT fallen off the wagon! These blueberry-almond white chocolate clusters are going straight to my freezer to enjoy during the upcoming labor day weekend. I told myself I would ease back into sugar after the Whole 30. And by ease, I mean bite size, perfectly portioned, partially whole food goodies like these. It's just a little white chocolate with some almonds and dried blueberries. No harm in my book!

Making these could not be any easier. Simply melt your chocolate, pour into silicone ice cube molds and cover with blueberry almonds and dried blueberries. Now if I can just resist temptation for a few more days!

// Ingredients //

2 (4 oz.) packages of Bakers white chocolate baking squares
1/2 cup Blue Diamond Blueberry Almonds
1/2 cup dried blueberries
1 silicone ice cube traysilicone ice cube tray

// Instructions //

Melt chocolate according to package directions. Pour into trays and tap the tray to allow the melted chocolate to settle. Next sprinkle almonds and blueberries over the top of the chocolate clusters. Freeze until chocolate is set or until ready to serve.

*This post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds. All opinions are my own. 
** Recipe development, styling and photography by Amy Mikkelsen

Lemon and Thyme Chicken (Whole 30 Approved)

lemon thyme chicken

This recipe was one of my go-to weeknight recipes before Whole 30 and now I love it even more! It has tons of flavor and is so refreshing, particularly in the warmer months.  I've been making this Lemon and Thyme Chicken in bulk on the weekends to eat for lunch during the week. Sometimes I eat it warm with roasted veggies but most of the time I eat it cold over a salad.

I snagged the original recipe from Kelly at Eat Yourself Skinny, which is a lower fat/lower calorie version but I've added some healthy oil to the recipe for two reasons. Number one, Whole 30 requires us to eat healthy fats so that we have enough calories to sustain ourselves (plus, healthy fats ARE good for us) and number two, the marinade later becomes a delicious salad dressing. One quick note on that. The oil in the marinade does solidify a bit in the refrigerator but a few seconds in the microwave will fix it.

I only have one more week left on this Whole 30 journey and I will give you another recap soon. If you missed my earlier posts, Why I chose Whole 30 and The first two weeks on Whole 30, feel free to read those if you're interested.

Lemon and Thyme Chicken

// Ingredients //

3 organic chicken breasts
1/4 cup olive oil
Zest of one lemon
Juice from two lemons
1 tsp coarse salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tablespoon chopped thyme

// Instructions //

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl, combine olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice salt, pepper, garlic and thyme.

2. Place chicken in shallow baking dish. Pour marinade over the chicken breasts and juiced lemons. (You can eat the lemons too! The baking process makes them deliciously sweet.)

3. Bake the chicken for 25 minutes or until cooked through. Allow chicken to rest for 10 minutes before serving. If you're placing it in the refrigerator to eat later, be sure to allow the chicken to cool completely first.

The first two weeks on Whole 30

If you missed my post yesterday on why I chose Whole 30, you may want to read it first. If not, keep reading. It may sound crazy but after only 14 days on Whole 30, I feel like this journey will forever change how I eat and how I think about food. For the sake of documentation and my own memory or lack thereof, I wanted to share a few things about my first two weeks. Perhaps if you are considering the program, you will find this helpful, informative or inspiring.

1. First it's not as difficult as I imagined. I thought it would be the worst month of my life but that is not the case. Unless you live in a hole, I promise you have done harder things in life than the Whole 30. It's just food. Yes we need it, but it's still just food. The Whole 30 simply asks us to eat really wholesome food and there is nothing hard about that. Yes, it takes a little extra time and effort to plan and cook your meals but the results are so worth it.

2. The thing I love most about Whole 30 is the simplicity. It is very black and white. No tracking or weighing food. There are no cheat days or "extra points" or "activity points." At first it felt very restrictive but now I appreciate how cut and dry the program is. It makes grocery shopping super easy too! Grab your produce, your meats, your healthy fats and your La Croix and you're done. Boom.

3. I realized after just two days on Whole 30 that I have been fueling my body all wrong.  I've always had trouble regulating my blood sugar and would try to eat several smaller meals throughout the day or incorporate snacks but I still felt hungry. I have not been hungry once since following Whole 30. It's so awesome to leave the house and not have to grab a handful of "protein" bars in case my blood sugar crashes.

4. I realized a lot of my indulgences are not consumed out of desire but rather habit. For instance, Friday night Mexican and margaritas, ice cream with the kiddos on the weekend or pizza night for the sake of convenience. After Whole 30, I will indulge in these things but it will be done more consciously and it will be enjoyed to the fullest and without guilt. If you're wondering what foods I've craved the most, see above. (Pizza, margaritas, and chocolate ice cream.) All the other "junk" I can most likely live without.

5. I've always been pretty good at reading my nutritional labels but often failed at reading through the ingredients. WOW, there is sugar and soy in everything...along with a bunch of other "ingredients" I cannot pronounce. Going forward I will consciously purchase brands that use more wholesome ingredients, not only for myself but for the entire family. I've already switched things like our spaghetti sauce and our butter.

6. Physically I can tell I've lost weight which is great! I'm noticing other big changes too. My sleep cycle feels completely different. I get naturally sleepy (vs a cocktail induced sleepy) at 10:30pm and wake well rested, except for the nights I'm up with Ben! (He has regressed with his sleep but that's another story.) While I did experience the infamous fatigue and Whole 30 hangover during the first few weeks, it was hard for me to tell whether it was diet induced or due to middle of the night awakenings with Ben.  Either way, each day I'm feeling more energized and stronger both mentally and physically. My nails look amazing so I'm hoping my hair is benefiting too. My night sweats are gone and the swelling in my knees and ankles are gone too. I don't have anymore lightheadedness associated with the highs and lows of blood sugar which is something I've struggled with since I was a teen. Overall feeling a lot more healthy and happy!

*photos by Amy Mikkelsen