A few weeks ago, we got a babysitter and went to dinner for Nick’s birthday. We ate at St. James Seafood Restaurant and Raw Bar in Durham, one of Matt Kelly’s (of Vin Rouge and Mateo’s bar de tapas fame) newest food sensations. Seriously, I love all of his restaurants and would let him cook for me for the rest of my life. Anyway, we went there for my birthday in December and Nick liked it so much that we went back for his. We had just started the Whole30 diet at the time and we were going to try really hard to stick to it, but as soon as we saw the fried oysters, we threw the diet out the window and didn’t feel the least bit bad about it! It was totally worth it.
Spoiler: It lasted less than a week!
Nick and I have been feeling like we need to make a change in our lives. We’re not at our best and the way we eat is partially to blame. We wanted to try Whole30 because we were attracted to the idea of completely resetting our eating habits, cravings, and mindset around food.
If you aren’t familiar with Whole30, it’s an elimination diet. You take a 30-day challenge to cut out certain foods from your diet in an effort to potentially reduce the negative health impacts some of these foods cause, as well as to examine and reset your way of eating. You CAN eat lean meats and seafood, lots of vegetables and a little bit of fruit, and healthy fats and nuts. You CAN’T eat sugar, alcohol, grains, dairy, legumes, soy, carrageenan, MSG, sulfites or processed junk food.
We were hoping to lose a little weight but, most importantly, we wanted to gain more energy, to improve our eating habits, and to feel better overall. I’ve read stories from people who have cut out sugar – just sugar – from their diet and claim that their energy levels shot up exponentially. Like, they don’t even have to press snooze on their alarm clocks in the morning; they just wake up all bright-eyed and bushy tailed. That’s the level of energy I need in my life, especially when I have to keep up with a toddler all day. So, we did a little research and started our 30-day journey on a Monday. It was over by Thursday evening. The main reason is because we went to dinner for Nick’s birthday where we had made reservations well in advance of starting this diet. It was delicious seafood and neither of us felt like denying ourselves a birthday celebration.
So anyway, here are my thoughts on the whole thing.
Sugar is everywhere and in everything
The biggest eye opener for me was the amount of sugar in foods that shouldn’t even have sugar in them. When you learn all the names for sugar (dextrose, cane sugar, glucose, corn syrup, etc.) and start reading labels, you realize it’s everywhere and in everything. One meal I had planned for the week was a sweet potato hash with ham. Simple enough. But I could NOT find a ham that wasn’t cured with some form of sugar. Mayonnaise has sugar in it. Packaged potatoes have sugar in them. My coffee has sugar in it! Okay, that one is because I put it there, but you see where I’m going. Look, I have a degree in public health so I know that sugar has become a big problem in American diets. But I naively thought that was because folks were drinking Starbucks coffees with sugary syrups, or that they were eating sugary cereals instead of “healthier” options, or eating too much processed foods. What I didn’t realize, as I mentioned, was how sneakily sugar has been added to things that didn’t even need sugar, like potatoes. Holy crap! Really reading and understanding labels has kind of changed my life.
I did as much research as I could and planned our first week of meals. The first day was fairly easy. At lunch, I had a big tuna salad with spinach, tomatoes, onion, carrots, and avocado. I made a simple vinaigrette with olive oil, lemon juice, dijon mustard, salt, and vinegar. Pretty delicious. I was feeling really smug with myself until I made Sebastian’s lunch. He had a grilled cheese, and as soon as I saw that gooey, melted cheese on toast, my craving for it went into overdrive. Then he didn’t even want to eat much of it! Normally I would finish what he didn’t eat, so it took every bit of willpower I had not to eat it. Then that evening, after dinner, I really wanted a chocolate chip cookie and a glass of wine. To satiate my sweet tooth, I had some figs and that did the trick.
I’m putting on my public health hat and jumping on my soapbox for a moment: Something that really struck me negatively – and really turned me off to the whole thing, whether out of spite or principle – was what the author and creator of Whole30 said in her book:
“It is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Quitting heroin is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Drinking your coffee black Is. Not. Hard.”
BUT HERE’S THE THING: Eating healthy foods is often VERY hard and it’s okay to feel like it’s a difficult task. And that’s not just because you don’t like the taste of broccoli. Research has shown that sugar activates the same pleasure centers as cocaine. COCAINE is a drug. Drug addiction is, by the author’s own admission, very hard to overcome. Why would food addiction – which is essentially what our nation’s use of sugar has become – be any less hard? Many people in the U.S. live in food deserts, usually impoverished areas void of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthy foods due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers. This includes many rural areas. So, in this case, eating healthy is hard. Eating healthy in the U.S., and being able to partake in diets like Whole30, often require a lot of privilege and money. If it were easy, there would be many more cheap and available options for purchasing fresh foods, but there simply isn’t always an easy way. So, yes, it is hard. And I have a degree in public health. Fight me.
BUT as for the diet itself and my go at it: I lacked the discipline to eat this way for 30 days, partially because I’m anemic and needed iron sources other than red meat and spinach (so I went back to eating beans and other legumes) and partially because I don’t have a problem with eating milk and bread. Yes, I lost about 4 pounds in the 4 days I was doing Whole30, but I’m not entirely sure that’s healthy given my small stature and the fact that I’m still breastfeeding. I’m a little disappointed in myself that I couldn’t see it through, but I’m also not that worried about it. I have a good relationship with food and I’m healthy. That’s ultimately my end goal.
Have you ever tried the Whole30 diet? How did you do?
We all know that Pinterest is great for inspiration, especially when it comes to putting together cute outfits, yummy new recipes, and DIY projects to save you money. Sometimes the content you find seems too good to be true and, in my opinion, that’s usually because it is. However, there are a few Pinterest hacks that really do work, and they work so well that I use them on a regular basis. They’ve changed my life so much that of course I have to share them with you! Click or use your arrow keys to read through the hacks I use.
Which hack do you think would make your life easier?
It’s time for another round of Friday Four, a fun survey I’m doing so that my readers can get to know me a little better. This week I’m talking about four of my favorite foods. This one will be a little more difficult than my last four, simply because I LOVE food so paring it down to just four won’t be easy.
1. Sushi. Hands down, this is my favorite food on the face of the planet. I’ll eat any type of sushi, sashimi, nigiri, etc. It’s one of those foods that makes me feel better if I’ve had a bad day or if I’m feeling a little down. It’s also great for a celebration dinner. It’s even where I requested we eat for my bachelorette party! Nick gets annoyed that I love sushi so much because I always want to eat it when we go out, but it’s just one of those things he loves about me. We have some amazing sushi spots here in Durham.
2. Cheese. If I were superwoman, cheese would probably be my kryptonite. I don’t know what it is about cheese, but I love it so much. I put it on everything that requires cheese. Frozen pizza from the supermaket? Add a little extra cheese before popping it in the oven. Lasagna? Extra layer of cheese, please! Tacos? Cheese. Burgers? Cheese. Sandwiches? You better believe there will be cheese.
3. Pizza. Oh how I wish pizza were more healthy for us all. It’s delicious – especially when covered in cheese! – and I would eat it every other day (you know, the days I’m not eathing sushi) if there were more health benefits to it. I’m a simply gal and really love a simple pepperoni pizza, or pepperoni and mushroom, but I’ll eat just about any kind of pizza. Again, we have some amazing pizza places here in Durham so going out for pizza is easy and fun and delicious.
4. Berries. I feel I have to include something healthy and I love berries, which are healthy so there you go. I love all kinds but my top three are blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. I also love cherries, but they’re not really a berry, are they?
Honorable mentions: coffee, most fruits and vegetables, ice cream, potatoes, vanilla, tacos (or any kind of Mexican food), tapas, and wine.
I didn’t make any official New Year’s resolutions this year, either for myself nor for the blog but one thing I would like to do is share more lifestyle posts since I consider this a “lifestyle blog.” My first lifestyle post for this year is food-related. I am terrible at coming up with my own recipes but I’m great at following instructions and putting my personal spin on existing recipes – much like I do with my fashion. For example, I often make this Charred Chile Relleno recipe by Rachael Ray but I add chorizo and skip the green rice.
I’m a big fan of Gina at Skinnytaste.com so I try her recipes regularly. I can honestly say that I’ve never been disappointed by anything I’ve tried from her site, and she’s really good with cooking directions. The other night, Nick and I decided to try her Bangin’ Good Chicken Salad recipe. It definitely lives up to the name. It’s extremely easy and simple and I’ll definitely be making it again. But, of course, I put my own spin on it. More on that below.
It starts with romaine lettuce and red cabbage. Look at those beautiful colors: green and purple, my wedding colors! 😉
For the chicken, simply cut up a chicken breast (or some chicken tenders, which is what we used) into bite-sized pieces, coat them in a little olive oil, cover them in breadcrumbs, and bake for 8-12 minutes. Baking the chicken doesn’t give it quite the crunch that frying would, but it still turned out really yummy.
My personal spin is that I decided not to make the skinny bang bang sauce as specified in the recipe. Instead, I found a bang bang sauce that has become my go-to so I used it instead. The recipe I use is fromThat’s So Michelle and can be found on her blog here. (I haven’t tried that actual recipe yet but I have used that recipe with shrimp instead of cauliflower and it actually turned out to be amazing)
So, with the greens, chicken, and bang bang sauce, this recipe was a hit. The ONLY thing I would change for next time would be to add more vegetables to the salad since we ate it as our main course without any sides, so maybe some red bell peppers, carrots, snap peas, cauliflower, and/or edamame.
I hope you enjoyed this post and don’t mind seeing more like them. What do you think, would you try this recipe? Do you come up with your own meals or put your own spin on other recipes?
Hi, I’m Nikki. This is where I blog about my life and style. I’m a wife, a new mother, sushi lover, coffee drinker, and a social justice warrior. Welcome to my little corner of the world!