10 recipes from the Whole Smiths that are great for life after Whole30. As well, a bit about how I approach my Food Freedom today and how I got here.
Ohhh man. It’s Monday and I’m coming off four days of a non-stop girls weekend in LA with two of my girlfriends and here I am thinking I can pull off a killer blog post about Food Freedom. But you know what? I got this. Not only because I slay Mondays but because I’m realizing that this weekend was a perfect example of how I eat clean but in moderation, even while away. I’ll be sprinkling some of the my most popular post-Whole30 recipes throughout the article, so if you see something you like make sure to click it and Pin it or save it for later. You can also head over to pre-order my new book, The Good Food Cookbook, HERE as it’s loaded with recipes that contain recipes that are perfect for life post-Whole30.
So let’s make one thing clear because I get this question a lot. No, I don’t eat Whole30 every day. I don’t really know that anyone does nor do I think anyone should have that as their end goal. And before I go any further that that, I want to make something else clear. This is my version of food freedom, you will have your own. This is simply how I approach food and hopefully bits will resonate with you and your journey and you can find some ideas that will incorporate well into your food life.
I realize for me to start talking about my Food Freedom I need to back up many years to how I used to view food. I came from a family that was health conscious. My parents were active, whether it was my dad playing a plethora of sports or my mom hitting up the elliptical machine at the gym I always had a notion that movement was healthy. Our pantry wasn’t loaded up with Twinkies and unlimited supplies of soda. But as a child of the 80’s and 90’s we had lot’s of granola bars, some processed fruit snacks, low-fat string cheese, wheat bread and margarine. You know, the “healthy” stuff.
However along with that healthy 80’s/90’s mentality came the notion that healthy meant skinny. The messages surrounding “healthy” always seemed to focus on making you skinny. That’s what I grew up around. Skinny = healthy. And less food = skinny = healthy made a lot of sense to me. Diets were big then and everyone always seemed to “be on a diet”. Which in my young eyes meant not eating a lot of food. So this is the image of food I grew up to know and what was imprinted into my mind.
Knowing what I know now, it’s such a flawed picture. I saw that relationship with food play out through my life many times in many ways. While I can never say I had a true eating disorder, I think it’s fair to say I had a disordered relationship with food. I used food as a vehicle to make me feel good when I was unhappy but I also used food as the enemy when I wasn’t feeling great about myself and needed something to control in my life. I want to make one thing clear, I never had such an issue with food that I felt my health was in danger or that anyone else would ever think that I did. My weight was always fairly steady within a 15 pound flux depending on how much of a gym rat I was at the time and I never really went without because I loved food too much. I was still healthy but my mind was fucked up on how I viewed food. As an emotional tool rather that a vehicle to wellness.
The reason why I want to emphasize this is because I think that it’s easy to think of clinically diagnosed eating disorders as the only flawed relationships with food. However, so many more of us struggle on a different level with how we view and use food. We become a prisoner to what we are eating. Is it too much? Is it too little? Oh man, I just ate four brownies, why did I do that to myself and then proceed to feel guilty after that. What we eat plays into our worth at that moment and beyond.
About 15 years ago a friend said something to me that I will never forget. It was a friend’s sister that I had become close with. In my mind she was kind of a badass. She was the ultimate doesn’t give an kind of eff girl, kinda like a honey badger. She wasn’t a super girlie girl and that idea that she ever cared about what she ate struck me as strange, she didn’t seem the “type” to care about that stuff. But we were talking one day and she said, “Every woman is one step away from an eating disorder.” The context of that was that women (and perhaps men but I’m a woman and I’ll speak to my own experience) overthink about our food intake and use it as more than just nourishment for our bodies and develop an unhealthy relationship to it. It was then that I realized so many of us used food as a tool the wrong way.
Now that I’ve laid the foundation of how I (and what I anticipate to be so many others) developed and viewed my relationship with food over all of these years, where has that left me? How have I come to a point where food doesn’t control me or my worth in the way that it did for so many years.
By eating real food the majority of the time. Not always, but most.
It’s that simple. But let’s talk about why and why it didn’t happen overnight and why I still grab a bag of Cheetos when I want them.
It was a process for me, starting with when my children were born. I was looking for the best way to nourish them. Was it being a vegan or vegetarian? Was it just eating fish and vegetables? Was dairy good for them or terrible? I had no idea. But when I started learning about the paleo diet, it made sense. I’m not super strict about all of the tenants of paleo but I look at it as a diet on mostly unprocessed, real foods. I felt that these foods were the foods that our body has evolved all of these years to be able to process properly. So I went with that. What was the most natural way to eat and how can I make it realistic in today’s modern society?
I slowly started eliminating things from my diet and finding replacements for them. My daily Diet Cokes were replaced my kombuchas and gluten was replaced by gluten-free items (not always a better choice for what it’s worth). I started finding things that I could easily swap out with substitutions I liked. I stopped buying traditional milk and tarted using almond milk in it’s place as a permanent change. As I made more and more changes, the more they stuck. My suggestion to you is to start with the easy ones and make them permanent. What have you had an easy time with on your Whole30? Decide to make that change permanent. Do you love having a large Whole30 compliant breakfast to get your days going? Great! Make that part of your morning from here on out. Do you not miss creamer in your coffee? Perfect. You’re done with it. Write out a list of changes you’ve made on Whole30 that you are happy to keep that you can say right now you can make permanent.
Next, what are you struggling with? Maybe it was your coffee creamer. Find an alternative that you can be happy with. Perhaps it is an almond based creamer that has a touch of sugar but you’re ok with that because dairy was really what was killing you. Or maybe it’s adding some plain almond milk and a hint of maple syrup or honey. Maybe wine was difficult for you to go without during your Whole30 but if you have some now, you have a headache after (like me) and decide for yourself if it’s worth it to have anymore. Or perhaps it’s about having just half a glass. Find some of the areas you struggle with a make a list for that too. Think about the “why” it was hard for you and come up with a better alternative. Maybe that alternative isn’t perfectly Whole30 compliant but it’s a better choice than what you were doing before.
Start with that and know that as time goes on and after you implement more and more changes, things will get easier. Maybe after time, you won’t even want added sweetener in your coffee. But it’s not going to be overnight and it’s not going to be on the day you finish your Whole30. Be ok with that. Truly. Sit with that and be ok with that. Know that completing your Whole30 is just the start of your Food Freedom. It’s not the end all be all. You will learn things on your Whole30 that you can’t unlearn, you have that knowledge with you to take forward and learn from. Do it.
But when you dive head first into a cheesecake, that’s all good too. Allow yourself not to feel the guilt that your mind is telling you to feel. For me that’s the most important part, releasing the guilt attached to food. It’s all good. It was just a piece (or three) of cheesecake. It’s just food and you are ALWAYS able to move on from it. It’s not like you tattoo’d your face guys. You always have the power to choose different moving forward.
And here’s the thing, I made my husband a Key Lime Pie last week for his birthday. That thing is all crap, let me tell you. It’s a shit ton of condensed milk (i.e. boiled down milk and loads of sugar), sour cream, crumbled cookies as a crust and whipped cream. I had two pieces and hot damn it was good. I immediately got snarfly, phlegmy, and bloated from all of that dairy and sugar but I didn’t even care. I worked hard on that pie, it was his birthday and it was freaking amazing. But here’s the deal, I didn’t feel guilty. Because our dinner was actually Whole30 compliant (braised short ribs and mashed potatoes) and I’ve eliminated eating foods like that from my diet on a regular basis. So when I do eat them, I don’t feel guilty because it’s not part of my regular diet. I know it is a treat to be enjoyed and I know I’ll be eating well then next day. I didn’t have it for breakfast the next morning but I did have another (smaller) slice the next day. It’s all good.
My point is when the majority of my food decisions are foods that fuel me and make me feel great, I don’t sweat the other stuff because that’s not the majority of what I eat anymore. I also know that “skinny” doesn’t equal healthy and it isn’t even a goal for me anymore. Being fit (enough) and well is however. But it took more than a couple of weeks to get here. It took almost 4 years from when I started eating paleo to today. I might have figured it out on year 3 but I wasn’t counting. It was a continual process of making better decisions because I knew better now. Choosing to keep persevering despite regular face flops into candy, cakes and mac n cheese was the key to success.
This post is getting a bit long so I need to start wrapping things up. But what about those of you who need more structure than that? Guidelines to thrive? Maybe that’s why you did so well on your Whole30 because there were clear rules of what you need to do. But now what? I encourage you to make the lists I talked about above and create your own plan around that. Nobody is going to hold your hand and the only person to hold you accountable is still going to be yourself. But take what you’re learned from your Whole30 and create your own framework for the next 30 days after you’ve completed your reintroduction. Incorporate what you’ve learned and see where that leads you. Commit and be true to yourself. Maybe you’ll dive into some Halloween candy one day but there’s always tomorrow and you’ll make a different choice (if you want) the next time. Your framework may evolve month to month depending on what you learn.
Ok, whew that was a lot. I’m spent and need to go gab the kids from school now. I hope this article will shed some grace into your food journey and give you some ideas of how I’ve come to find mine and in turn give you the trust to know you will find yours as long as you continue on your path.