Let Me Share This Whole New World With You

(song:A Whole New World/artist:Alan Menken & Tim Rice)

Hi there, friends! I am so sorry that this is only my 2nd post THIS ENTIRE YEAR, but what can I say? Life. I promise to do better next year.

Okay, so in my last post I wrote that I was going to do a Whole30. I did.  I lost a few pounds, and I was starting to feel better. Then we moved (locally), then I went to Georgia for a month during the summer, and between the stress of moving and the joy of spending five weeks in my hometown with family, good friends, refreshing beverages and southern food, I "forgot" about clean eating and I gained even more weight. At one point I was only three pounds less than my starting weight during the Brazil Butt Lift test group. Depressing. On top of that, the pain in my ankle still lingered one year after the initial injury. Once my son started school and I was back to a routine, I decided to give Whole30 another go. And boy, am I glad I did!  

Whole30 is a program designed to reset your body, cure your sugar cravings and boost your immune system by eating clean, wholesome foods but eliminating foods that can cause or exacerbate inflammation; dairy, sugar, grains, legumes and alcohol are off-limits for 30 days – some people go longer but it is not recommended as a year-round lifestyle. It is based on the Paleo principal of eating whole foods but is a stricter version. (Example: Paleo allows natural sweeteners like raw honey and agave while Whole30 eliminates ALL added sugars.) Many people with autoimmune disorders use it to identify foods that cause negative reactions. At the end of 30 days you reintroduce one food group at a time to see what may be causing inflammation. I have no autoimmune disorder but I do have inflammation – tendonitis in my left ankle – which is the reason I had to quit running, which I then used as an excuse to revisit unhealthy choices, which caused me to gain weight then spiral into depression. You know the dance. Many Whole30 testimonials report cured pain, loss of sugar cravings, regulated sleep, cleared skin, boosted energy, no longer needing diabetes medication, no more IBS issues and much more. They had me at "no more pain".

The difference between my first and second Whole30 was my preparedness – literally and figuratively. I sort-of winged it on my first Whole30; little-to-no menu prep and trying my best to get around actually cooking, which is impossible. I ate very boring Whole30-compliant meals but I refused to explore recipes and try new ways of preparing veggies etc. I also frequently snacked on dried fruit, which is not off limits, but frowned upon since it doesn’t really solve the issue of sugar cravings when you trade one sweet thing for another – your brain doesn’t know the difference. On my 2nd Whole30, I did not eat any dried fruit and I very rarely ate Larabars, which are a compliant snack but recommended only for emergencies. I really focused on eating whole foods and getting enough nutrient-dense protein, fat and veggies in every meal. I dedicated one day a week to food prep for the week and planned menus. I actually began to enjoy cooking. I became a devout follower of Whole30 posts on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest and I documented every meal I ate on my Facebook page and my Instagram account.

An example of one my my Instagram posts. I am a hashtagging champion now: "Whole30 Day 12: Breakfast - 2 fried eggs, steamed asparagus, strawberries. Workout - circuit training, boxing, 15-minute treadmill run. Lunch - slices of turkey and roast beef with grilled veggies, fresh tomatoes and pickles. Snack - banana, grass-fed beef stick, hazelnuts. Dinner - turkey burger (used @aipxwhole30 's meatball recipe) with avocado and spinach on sweet potato "bun"(inspired by @amazon_ashley 's post on @whole30recipes ) #Whole30 #Paleo #GoodFats #CleanEating #Whole30Recipes"

I was much more focused and determined the 2nd time around. I started working out right away and I noticed by week 2 that my ankle wasn’t hurting after a workout. I started running again. When I was finally able to run a whole mile without walking, it felt just as exhilarating as running the half-marathon last year! My physical therapist gave me the all-clear to run a 5K race in early November. After almost one year, I was finally running a race again! FOOD HEALS!

My first race since December 2013. That smile says it all.

By the time I reached day 30, my ankle was pain free, my skin was clear, I was sleeping great, I had incredible energy during my workouts and I felt so great that I decided to keep going and make it a Whole50. For my last four weeks I hired a personal trainer twice a week and kicked my workouts into high gear. By day 50 I had lost 16.5 inches and 8 pounds (Perspective: I wasn’t "fat" to begin with - I had fat; for people starting at a higher weight, you will lose more in 30 days than someone with a lower starting weight.). My jeans fit again but MUCH MORE IMPORTANTLY, I feel so good. I can’t say that enough.  I FEEL SO GOOD! It feels so good to feel so good. And I don’t crave sweets! I did my Whole50 during Halloween and didn’t even flinch when faced with my son’s candy bucket. If you have ever read any of my posts - like this one, or this one, and this one - you know I AM A (recovering) CANDY ADDICT. I love sugar. Or rather, loved sugar. But not only did I not touch it, I didn’t want to touch it. I didn’t feel deprived. I simply did not want any candy. In case you didn’t get that, I DO NOT CRAVE SWEETS AT ALL. Not even the mountains of dried organic mango, and dates, and Larabars that are sitting in my pantry right now. I’d rather have an apple with some hazlenuts. I don't snack on my kid's leftovers. I find myself completely indifferent to his once-tempting mac & cheese. And that is the very definition of “food freedom”.  At almost 40-years-old, this is one hell of a milestone for me.

Nutrition was the last leg of this journey that began in 2009, and while I am still in the learning stage, if I had to define my diet today, I would say I’m Paleo with a heavy lean towards Whole30. It works for me. A diet that requires eating fat, protein, veggies/fruit - you know REAL FOOD - is one that I whole-heartedly embrace. If you’re tired of feeling tired and ready to see what it feels like to feel good, start here. It requires work on your part. Any lifestyle change does. If this former hater-of-cooking can become a recipe-posting Whole30 groupie, you can give up junk food for a month. 

I could go on and on about why I love Whole30 but you’re probably at work or using the bathroom and I don’t want to ramble longer than you can read this while you’re boss isn’t looking and/or it takes you to finish pooping. There is a ton of information out there. Whole30 is a FREE program. The site is free, the info is free. There is a book called It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, the creators of Whole30, which I highly recommend you read - it is not free.  There are forums galore - blogs, Facebook groups, Pinterest boards, Instagram accounts. They're all free and there for you! 

My favorites are:
Whole30 Blog

The book again, is It Starts With Food. This is the Whole30 bible – read it. Here’s my Instagram account if you’re more of a visual person. I photographed all of my meals for 50 days. And I’m always posting to my FaceBook page if you need further inspiration and encouragement. I know I do. Click it, like it, stay in touch. (My Whole50 food pics are also on my Facebook page.) And feel free to contact me. I’m happy to answer questions about my Whole30 experience, life after Whole30, and offer support during yours.

Change your habits, you'll change your life. 

FOOD HEALS! (That left ankle could not have withstood this plank two months ago!)
And just in case you thought, "What CAN you eat?" Here's a few meals I enjoyed during my Whole50:
Lamb chops with chimichurri sauce and broiled romaine lettuce.

"Bangers and mash" - compliant sausage with sauteed onions and mushrooms on mashed cauliflower.

Homemade meatballs with homemade marinara over zucchini noodles.

Turkey burger with roasted butternut squash, sauteed green beans and cantaloupe.

Tuna salad (subbed avocado for mayo) stuffed bell pepper.

Two eggs scrambled with mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, peppers, served with compliant sausage.

Lamb stew. (The best thing I've ever made.)

If you're hungry during a Whole30, you're doing it wrong.

Starting Again is Part of the Plan

(song: Coming Out of the Dark/artist: Gloria Estefan)

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Remember me?! I know, I know, all 19 of my readers are probably worried sick...

I'll get right to it, I've been kind-of a mess for the past few months. Since my September post, I haven't lost one single ounce of my "summer weight", in fact, I gained a few more pounds. Yup. I skipped my end-of-year post because I felt like doo doo for "letting myself go". My butt doesn't fit into my jeans, my arms are flabby and stomach looks like a glob of white Play-Doh. To make matters worse, I injured my ankle last July and I chose to ignore it until I finally went to a doctor - six months later - and discovered that I have tendonitis in my left inner-ankle. Then I made the painfully difficult decision to drop out of the NYC half-marathon because there was no way I could train on my injury. That choice, and the miserable winter that followed was the perfect excuse to comfort myself with food -- lots and lots of food.

I don't stock crappy food as a rule, I've just been eating huge portions, snacking all the time and enjoying one-too-many weekend cocktails. And though I feel terrible about myself, I haven't been able to make myself stop. This is an obvious place to set some positive goals for 2014 right?

Last month I started working with a great physical therapist named Tony Ellis, owner of Physio Wellness NYC, who also happens to be a runner and is one of the most positive people I've ever met. At my initial consultation, we not only discussed my injury and ways to recover, we talked about the emotional side-effects the injury had caused. I told him that I want to run the Brooklyn half-marathon in May but that I feel so hopeless about my ability at this point. He is determined to get me back on the course for a great race and has designed a realistic training program for me - a patient with an injury - and I'm happy to report that I'm running again! VERY slowly, and short distances for now but with Tony's help, I'll finish that half-marathon. It won't be my goal race - I've had to let go of the idea that I can match or beat last year's time, but rather use this as a base race for future performance. The goal is simply to finish without pain. During my sessions with Tony I do interval runs on the AlterG® Anti-Gravity Treadmill®which makes me feel like the Bionic Woman. My legs are getting stronger and my spirits are lifting.

"We can fix her. We have the technology." (My first run on the Alter G. If only I could do everything at 60% of my body weight...)
So while I'm feeling good about the exercise part of my come-back, the eating part still needs work. My long-time readers are familiar with my struggles with food, especially sweets. I love sweets. A few weeks ago a Facebook friend of mine posted a testimonial about the results she had after completing the Whole30 program. What struck me was her declaration of finally being pain-free: "I have a fractured vertebra that causes me immense pain in my lower back. Last week, I suddenly realized I could get out of bed without any pain in the morning--something I hadn't experienced in probably 4 years or more. My nagging knee pain is gone. Hellelujah! I feel like my much younger self physically and psychologically." And that her relationship with food has completely changed. She says, "I indeed found food freedom. It's a tremendous feeling of liberation. I have no cravings for junk or sweets - and I never need a snack between meals." I immediately bought the book "It Starts With Food", signed up for support on the Whole30 site and I am starting the program on April 1. With so much evidence about the healing powers of clean eating, I figure the only thing I have to lose is my addiction to sugar, uncontrollable overeating, chronic pain, inflammation, tired skin, extreme fatigue, excess weight and depression. So yeah, I think that's worth a 30-day commitment. 

I will keep you posted on my progress along the way. If any of you want to join me, that would be super! The Whole30 website is a great place to start. 

Sorry I disappeared for so long. As much as I hate to admit it, I'm human and I felt so defeated and ashamed so I just checked out. It was easier to continue to self-destruct if I hid...