My Verdict on Whole 30

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was starting out on a food challenge known as Whole30. A quick recap–it’s an elimination diet that excludes most inflammatory foods like grains, dairy, sugar and most starches. It’s very Paleo-like.

The whole point of this (for me) was to overcome some tummy upset I had developed after a necessary round of meds, lose that bloated feeling and hopefully improve a few areas like energy, PMS and skin health.

So how did it go?

Overall, I was really happy with the program and results for me. I had two major improvements. First, the tummy issues went away rather quickly. I had been dealing with the fallout of antibiotics and my belly was grumbling at everything. So taking out foods like gluten and sugar and uncultured dairy for a time, while enjoying my probiotic rich coconut milk kefir, did wonders for digestion.

kefir

Second, I had a ton more energy. Which was especially helpful since we were in that time of year when you’re trying to wrap up school, there are a thousand performances to attend, and there’s a ton to do outside.

But to give you the nitty gritty of my humble opinion, I thought I’d do a little pro and con list for you.

The Pros of Whole30

If I had to pick the biggest perk of this eating plan, it would have to be the veggies. If you’re doing it right (and not having bacon as the center piece of every meal) then the bulk of what you’re eating involves vegetables. I had veggie fritters and salads and slaw. I ate seared cauliflower and sauteed zucchini with pasta sauce and grilled peppers and onions. I made sweet potato hash and butternut squash fries.

I ate a LOAD more veggies than what might normally cross my plate. Lots of vegetables that deliver a ton of benefits. More vitamins and minerals from real food sources. More fiber. Less bloating bulk. And I begin to think that some of the results that I (and others) have on this diet aren’t so much from the things you don’t eat, but from all the new things you are eating.

I also believe that the uptake in energy had a lot to do with the increase in vegetables. Usually, if I go without my beloved multi vitamin for more than a few days, I feel a significant decrease in my energy. But while I was on this eating plan, I frequently forgot, with no loss at all.

slaw prep

Other positive things I noticed:

  • The skin on my face cleared up
  • I slept a good bit better
  • My moods were more even, probably because the meals kept me fuller, longer and evened out my blood sugar.
  • My sugar cravings went significantly down.
  • I lost a few pounds (and I didn’t really have the time to exercise much)
  • Some PMS symptoms were a little better (though I’m figuring you’d have to do a whole lot more than a month to see long term changes there)
  • I was a lot more mindful about what I was eating. No mindless noshing on whatever is closest, whether I’m hungry or not.

 

The Cons

But to be completely honest, there were a few drawbacks for me.

  • Having to plan, plan and plan some more. It became a little mentally draining to have to think that hard about what I ate constantly. I suppose for folks who eat this way all the time, it become second nature.
  • Making separate food for me. The entire family was not eating this way. And although I tried to plan dinners that were easy for me to adapt, I was still doing an extra step a lot of the time.
  • The detox period. You have to weather the first few days when your body is crying out for sugar or wheat or whatever. I had a non-stop splitting headache for about four days. Now, I think a detox is good for all of us every now and then. None of us need to be addicted to certain foods. But you should just be aware that it can be rough at first.
  • Not baking! I LOVE to bake, and the Whole30 program discourages you from baking even Paleo versions of your favorite baked goods. The idea is to have you stop associating a certain treat with the way you feel. So even if it’s a brownie sweetened with honey and made with almond flour, it’s still out for a time. Fortunately, I was still baking for customers who ordered bread and for my kiddos. Cause yes, I have a NEED to bake. (And no, I didn’t sample.)
  • The price tag. I know there are people out there who say that healthy diets don’t have to cost more. But in reality, they usually do. Coconut milk costs more than regular dairy. Meat costs more than beans and rice. And a cart full of veggies (even in season ones) will usually run more than pasta or sacks of flour. I did a number on my grocery budget that month, and it was only one of us eating this way. Yes, your health and quality food is worth the investment. But the bottom line is the bottom line. And if you only have so much in the bank, then that’s what you’ve got to work with. (To that end, I’m putting together a little post of the biggest bang for your buck veggies.)

dinner

So, was it worth it? I’d say, yes. Yes it was. It was very good to break the sugar cycle, remind myself to eat mindfully and to increase my veggie intake. And everyone loves it when their jeans are a little roomier.

What I’ll keep in my back pocket are lots more meals of grilled veggies (after all, grilling season is in full swing!), salads from the garden and saving the sweets for special occasions. (Unfortunately, getting the kids in bed does NOT constitute a special occasion.)

What about you?

Ever done an elimination diet? What was your verdict on the experience?

 

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting this blog!

 

 

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What I’ve Been Eating On My Whole30 Journey

whole30 collage

Last week, I came out and told you that I was beginning a eating plan known as Whole30 to help me reset my cravings and deal with some other pesky issues. I know you’ve been breathlessly waiting to find out what I’ve been eating these days. Right? Well, if not, I understand. No hard feelings. However I would encourage you to read on. Because whether you’re on a specific eating plan or not, we can all benefit from this type of food.

All the Creative Options

Once I started looking into this idea, and doing a little recipe research, I quickly realized that I had been in a recipe rut. My creative dinner mojo was missing. So it was a little exciting to do some looking around and find so many tasty options. Because, yes, I could easily eat salad for just about every meal, but this lady needs a little culinary interest. Creating in the kitchen, playing with new flavors, trying a new vegetable–it all energizes me and makes me forget all about that block of cheese calling to me from the frig…almost.

The Prep

The first day or two of this little plan, I went shopping. Actually, I went shopping a lot. I bought veggies. Eggs. Meat. Berries. Then, a day or two later, I got a little more. You know, just in case. I made piles of my Veggie Bacon Fritters (you can’t hate a plan that involves bacon) and salmon patties and froze about half of them. I shredded a big bag of cabbage, carrots and radishes for a quick and easy slaw. I cooked up a few jars of our garden green beans. I put a big old turkey breast in the crockpot and then made broth the next day.

slaw prep

veggie patties

I (shamefully) began to realize that perhaps my worst fear in this whole thing was running out of food.

But that’s the truth, isn’t it? The worst thing that can happen is coming home from a long day, starving, and having no options for you except that dang loaf of bread staring at you. Taunting you. Then you cave in. Then you beat yourself up.

A little planning and prep work can help a lot.

Dinner Strategies

dinner

Sometimes, I feel like a short order cook around here. Especially at lunch. One thing for my oldest two. Another (or a variation) for my youngest (because of her food allergies). We watch my niece most days, and…well…you might just say she’s a little picky. (I count about 4 things she’ll eat for me.) And then, finally, about a billion minutes after I get everyone else settled, then I eat.

Lunch is one thing. But I am not going to do that for dinner. No way. Especially with afternoon activities or errands just about every day. So at dinner time, I employ a strategy like I shared in this postFor instance, one night we had these amazing chicken legs. I made some slaw with Asian dressing, and baked potatoes for everyone else. I had a sweet potato. Doesn’t get easier than that. 

When they had veggie fried rice, I just had a heap of the veggie part (didn’t hurt that there were yummy bits of ground pork and eggs in there too). When they had nachos, I had a taco salad, sans chips.

Little substitutions. Almost no extra work. And I don’t feel like I’m missing anything.

My favorite new discoveries

Coconut milk kefir. Mmm. If you’ve never had kefir, think yummy, creamy smoothie (when you blend in some fruit) that packs a huge probiotic punch. My mom has been making kefir for her and my dad for a few weeks now. She has these awesome mutant kefir grains that keep multiplying to infinity. She kindly agreed to make some coconut milk kefir for me (since I’m off the dairy variety for now). I blend it up with some frozen strawberries and blueberries and slurp it up with breakfast or as an afternoon treat. No extra sweetener required, because the coconut milk is a little sweet and the berries take care of the rest.

kefir

Sweet potato hash. I have to give credit yet again to nomnompaleo for this one. Shredded sweet potatoes fried in clarified butter. I added minced onion and grated in some fresh ginger. So good. With just about anything.

sweet potato hash

I’m only a couple weeks into this thing. But, hey, I’m half-way there! It seems to be definitely worth it for me. At the end, I’ll let you know all the benefits I’ve reaped. But for now, as I sit and sip on my kefir, I’ll enjoy the journey.

And learn some new tricks in the kitchen along the way. 

 

What favorite food “discoveries” have you made on a new eating plan?


Me On Whole30

*I’m not associated with the Whole30 program, nor am I a health profession. Just someone sharing my story. Please consult a doctor/use care when starting any eating program.

Last week, I started an eating program/elimination diet called Whole30®. You may have heard of it. Loads of folks took up the challenge after the New Year, in hopes of hitting the dietary “reset” button after a season of holiday treats.

So why am I doing it now? Several reasons, actually. I’ve got a serious (I mean SERIOUS) sweet tooth problem right now. You might have seen me, in one of my weaker moments, grabbing several bags of Easter candy in the Aldi check out lane. Then, you would have seen me (in several other weak moments) polishing off nearly two bags in a week’s time. (My husband, in an effort to be helpful, reminded me that he helped with the candy eating. But let’s be honest. It was mostly me.)

As for other reasons, my system is a mess after my recent fight with laryngitis/bronchitis and the antibiotic and prednisone that followed. Milk was bugging me (antibiotics are a major culprit in lactose intolerance). Nearly every time I ate I had stomach pain and bloating. And all the yogurt and probiotics weren’t touching it.

And there are a few other pesky problems I’ve been dealing with over the last few months. Skin stuff and hormone stuff (sorry fellas) and energy slumps.

Whole30® is one of those elimination programs (like GAPS or SCD) that’s designed to *hopefully* help with some of that. You remove inflammatory foods from your diet for 30 days to allow your body to do some healing, break the sugar or bread addiction and (when you reintroduce things) pinpoint foods that may be triggering your symptoms.

It’s not nearly as restrictive as GAPS or SCD, nor is it for as long. As far as my limited knowledge takes me, those programs are better suited to folks who have some MAJOR issues that require a much longer period of healing. (Like Crohns, ulcerative colitis, celiac or other serious autoimmune issues.)

What I’ll be eating

I’m still working through the material (you can find a quick guide pdf here), but the basic gist of this diet is Paleo based. (I’m not a subscriber to the philosophy behind Paleo…but that’s for another post.) The creators of Whole30® don’t push the caveman thing anyway–but focus on studies and client results.

(I do find all the science really interesting and plan on finishing the rest of their book, It Starts With Food.)

whole30

(Amazon affiliate link)

What that all means is that I’ll be eating plenty of unprocessed, real protein (hot dogs and most cold cuts are out), loads of veggies, some fruits and lots of real, nourishing fat.

What’s off limits? Grains, white potatoes (sweet potatoes and winter squashes are okay), starches, legumes, dairy (OUCH–I do love my cheese), and sweetener of any kind, natural or otherwise. These are actually the foods that most often make my tummy grumble, so I can’t argue with the list.

(Oh, and I do realize the great irony of me giving up bread for 30 days after I announced to my local Facebook friends that I’ll be selling loaves of sourdough. But at least I still get to bake!)

I’ve done enough research and experimenting (on myself) to know that these types of clean, easy to digest diets really do go a long way to reducing inflammation and restoring balance to the body. You’re doing more than putting a ban on certain foods. By taking them out of the equation, you’re also removing any processed, fake foods from your diet. Veggie (and therefore nutrient) intake goes up by default.

In the short term, I expect some impressive headaches (and perhaps some crankiness) as my body cries out for its daily sugar fix. Sad, when you think of it.

I seriously debated sharing my plan with anyone…cause then I’m accountable. Keep me on track, will ya? And over the next month I’ll give you updates here and there on how it’s going and what I’m eating, if you’re into that.

And now I’m curious?

Ever done an elimination diet? Was it helpful for you?

 

 


DIY Nourishing Body Butter

body butter

This post contains affiliate links. But these are pretty much the products I used for this project, or at least a close second. 🙂

It seems like I have wanted to do this FOREVER. Every time I purchased a bottle of lotion for us I never really did feel good about what we were slathering all over our skin. I was never comfortable with what was making it’s way into the bloodstream of my youngest who sometimes struggles with her immune system.

Well, I finally jumped in. And I have to say, making your own body butter/lotion is ridiculously easy. Kind of shameful that I waited so long!

My list of ingredients might look on the long-ish side. But don’t worry. All you really need is shea butter and coconut oil. Everything else I added in is just extras to make this lotion a little more healing for my daughter’s eczema. But the first two on the list will still give you a wonderful, nourishing moisturizer. And although the initial cost of getting all this stuff may seem overwhelming, remember that you’ll be able to make more than one batch from your purchase.

Whipped Body Butter

  • 8 oz. shea butter
  • 4 oz. extra virgin coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup almond oil
  • 1/4 cup herbal infused olive oil (I had some Calendula from the herb garden–but if you don’t have any herbal oil, just use all almond oil. Jojoba or avocado oil would be great for really dry skin too.)
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp pure Vitamin E oil (I added this for it’s preserving effect as well as it’s ability to help heal the skin–but it’s optional)
  • 20 drops tea tree oil
  • 15 drops lavender oil
  • 10 drops cedarwood
  • 10 drops geranium

lotion ingredients

A note about the essential oils. They are also optional. But if’ you’re looking to add a little extra healing boost for itchy, rashy or sensitive skin, you might want to consider investing in some. In my experience, tea tree oil is one of the best for itchy skin. It’s also anti-bacterial. The lavender helps to calm irritated skin. The cedarwood and geranium are newer to me, but I thought I’d give them a try, since they are reported to help promote healthy skin as well.

1. Measure out and melt the shea butter and coconut oil until they are completely melted in a double boiler over low heat. (Don’t skip this. You’ll get a grainy textured lotion.) I just put the butters in the mixing bowl for my Kitchen Aid and set the mixing bowl over a small pot of simmering water.

2. After the oils are completely melted, add in the remaining ingredients. Stir gently just to combine.

3. Set the bowl of melted oils outside in the cold, or in your refrigerator for a couple hours, until they are almost completely solid. You don’t want them rock hard. Think room temperature butter.

melted butters

This is what mine looked like after it cooled and hardened a bit.

4. Using a hand held mixer or a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the oils on medium speed for a minute.

5. Scrape down the sides and bottom (especially important if you’re using a stand mixer) and crank the speed up to high. You’ll probably need to stop the mixer every now and then and scrape down the sides again. Whip it for a few minutes, getting lots of air into the mixture, until it begins to become light, fluffy and shiny. It will sort of look like meringue.

whipped butter

6. After you feel like it is all well mixed and whipped, it’s ready to scoop into jars or containers for storage.

This recipe made 2 pint jars for me. If you feel like you may not use it up in a month or two, just cut the measurements in half.

We love this stuff! My daughter keeps telling me over and over how good it feels. Her skins is much softer and holds it’s moisture a lot longer. And the essential oils give it a light, herby fragrance.

Enjoy!

 

This post is part of Wildcrafting Wednesday.


Caring for Dry Winter Skin and Eczema–Part Two

(Usual disclaimer. I’m not a doctor or dermatologist. All the advice given is the opinion of a mom just doing the best she can!)

In the last post on dry skin, we started with the insides, trying to nourish and care for the whole body, whose health is often reflected by our skin. But sometimes, no matter how diligent we are to get enough water, or take our supplements, we need some extra help for dried out skin and eczema. These are some things that have been helpful for us this year.

Baths and Soaps

Our homemade calendula soap

Our homemade calendula soap

Conventional wisdom has said that especially for children, it’s best not to bathe too frequently in the dry winter months. All that hot water can dry you out even more if you’re not careful. Some suggest taking lukewarm baths, but who wants to do that when it’s 20 degrees (or colder!) outside.

I tend to shower every day. But for my daughter, we keep baths to about every other day this time of year.

I think the soap you chose is the main issue with bath time. And I think we’ve tried about everything. Dove, Basis, Cetaphil, castile soaps, store bought “natural” soaps. None of the doctor recommended varieties (those first three) were helpful. They would often burn her irritated skin and they seemed to dry her out even more.

But the natural soaps weren’t so bad. Then, we found the perfect soap for her. Or I should say, we MADE the perfect soap for her. A friend gave me a little soap making lesson this past fall and her recipe is great. She only uses palm oil, coconut oil and olive oil. (And yes, the lye. But if you just follow directions, it’s not that hard or scary.) We grew Calendula flowers in our herb garden and dried the blooms. So we added some of those dried blooms and infused olive oil to the mixture. (Calendula is one of the best herbs for healing irritated skin.)

The result is a creamy, sudsy bar of soap that leaves our skin feeling very moisturized and calm.

I don’t feel good about posting the recipe for the soap here, cause it’s not really mine, and I’m still a novice at this. Maybe someday.  However, there are a ton of good resources out there for soap making if you want to give it a try–even your library probably has some.

And if you’d like a place to buy your own natural, chemical free soaps, I’d recommend finding an artisan soap maker in your area. Many times you can find these little hand crafted bars at craft shows or gift shops. And you’d probably be able to find a contact number for the soap maker, so you can find out exactly what’s in there. If that doesn’t work, Vitacost as a pretty good selection that I’ve ordered soap from too. It’s worth the effort to find a quality bar of soap that’s not loaded with synthetic chemicals.

My hands are giving me the most trouble right now. And the best solution I’ve found for non-drying, non-irritating hand soap is quite simple. I fill an empty foaming hand soap dispenser with 2-3 TB of liquid castile soap (I like this brand. The tea tree is naturally antibacterial.) and the rest with water. Works great, doesn’t dry us out and it’s incredibly frugal!

Lotions and Potions

almond oil

The first thing many of us reach for when our skin is dry and irritated is moisturizer. The options are overwhelming. The standard recommendations from my daughter’s doctor have been Cetaphil, Eucerin and CeraVe. The Cetaphil burns like crazy. The Eucerin and CeraVe help some, but really, they just sit on the skin, or worse, absorb into the blood stream taking all their synthetic, petroleum junk with them.

They did nothing to nourish and heal her skin. Plus they were expensive. I didn’t feel like we were getting the bang for our buck and I was concerned about the loads of toxins we were exposing her to.

I had seen lots of DIY lotions and balms out there, but had been reluctant to take the plunge. But really, it’s not that hard.

So about a month ago I placed an order for some shea butter, almond oil (Amazon affiliate links) and essential oils online. For a while, I just used the almond oil straight–right after her bath. If that’s all you want to bother with, I’d highly recommend it. Her skin would still be incredibly soft and moisturized even the next day–something that we’d never get with the store products. Almond oil is loaded with essential vitamins like vitamin E, which aid in healing, doesn’t clog pores and is nourishing for the skin (source).

When I got up the nerve, I decided to do a little chemistry and mixed a whipped lotion for her of coconut oil, shea butter, the Calendula infused olive oil we had, almond oil and essential oils for extra healing and help with the itching. The end result wasn’t perfect (I didn’t cool the shea butter quickly enough and ended up with a grainy texture), but even so, we ended up with an incredibly moisturizing and soothing lotion that did wonders for our itchy, dry skin.

(I promise to post the method and recipe after I work out the kinks…and soon cause we’ve almost used up the first batch!)

I’d encourage you to experiment on your own. There are a ton of homemade, natural recipes out there for the skin.

Choose Your Clothes Wisely

fleece

Clothing? Really? Does that make a difference for dry, itchy skin? Actually, it does. Ironically, some of the first items we choose to stay warm in the winter can work against us and our skin.

Fleece. You know all those cute, fuzzy footed pajamas we love to put our little ones in for cold winter nights? Yeah, don’t do that if your child has eczema and seriously dry skin. Why? Fleece actually wicks moisture away from your skin.

This didn’t dawn on me at first, but when my daughter was a baby/toddler, it always seemed like her skin was rough and dry and scaly in the morning–when we had slathered her down with goopy cream just before bed. Then I remembered what I had learned about fleece when we bought backpacking gear way back when. Hikers wear fleece because it will pull sweat or moisture away from your skin, keeping you dry and warm. And if you’ve got dry skin, that’s bad news. So we axed the fuzzy pajamas and selected natural cotton whenever we could.

Scratchy sweaters and blankets. Irritation equals itch. And itch equals rash. So take care to avoid rough wool or synthetic fabrics that might cause problems.

Whew! That’s a lot of stuff! Sorry for the long winded post. This is what we’re doing this winter to keep sensitive skin happy, keep the toxins to a minimum and not break the bank. But now it’s your turn…

What works for your dry winter skin?

(This post contains affiliate links. Great products and prices for you. Small commission for me. Thanks!)


Caring for Dry Winter Skin and Eczema–Part One

image credit

I don’t know too many people who don’t struggle with dry skin in the winter. Couple that with chronic eczema, and you’re in for a few months of very unhappy skin.

My youngest and I both struggle with eczema. Right now, my daughter’s is much more chronic than mine. And while we do our best to eat clean, real food and avoid allergens, she’s been having some trouble in all the suspect spots. (Back of the knees, underarms, inside her elbows.)

For her, a little dryness can lead to irritation which leads to major itching, scratching, rashes and skin infections that are painful and difficult to heal. I’ve tried just about every OTC and prescription out there for her, and although there is a place for these, I’ve always hated relying on them. They don’t nourish the skin, they don’t bring any lasting healing or comfort, and she ends up with who-knows-what floating around in her blood stream.

This year, I feel like we’ve made a little more progress. It’s required some homemade projects on my part, but it’s been worth it.

Start with the inside

When I started this post, I fully intended to jump right into the soaps and lotions and such that are helping so much right now. But then I realized, we best start at the beginning. Or, more accurately, with the insides.

For folks with chronic dry skin and/or eczema, it’s important not to neglect what’s going on inside. Most with this condition have compromised immune systems or mild to major auto-immune disease. All those allergies and rashes and flare ups are a result of the immune system being over sensitive–reacting to otherwise benign substances (like rough wool that leads to itching and rashes) and sometimes attacking the body itself–in this case, the skin.

Eczema sufferers frequently have a very limited moisture barrier to their skin. That’s why a simple rinse in warm water can leave their hands completely dried out–even without soap. But we’ve had some success with different supplements to help give our bodies a little support in this department.

Cod liver oil. Never fear–it comes in capsule form. For my daughter and me, a daily dose of cod liver oil is crucial to keeping our skin from drying out and cracking. If I go more than a day or two without it, my fingertips crack and split like crazy–even in the summer. The best form is the fermented stuff from Green Pastures, but it’s a little too steep for my pocket book, so we usually go with Carlson’s at Vitacost. My daughter takes the lemon flavored liquid version and never has a problem with the taste.

Give the immune system a boost. If you want to help regulate a wacked immune system, then consider how you can feed and supplement your body well. Clean, homemade foods free of additives, artificial ingredients and preservatives can keep things calmer on the inside. I notice I have the most trouble when I eat any kinds of processed foods with hidden ingredients.

We also give my daughter a daily supplement designed to regulate histamine response. On good days, we can get by with just this stuff and no OTC anti-histamines. I’ve mentioned it beforeAller Ease which you can purchase at Amazon or Vitacost.

image credit

Get plenty of fluids. Be sure to drink lots of filtered water, especially this time of year. Most homes and offices are especially dry in the winter, and that dry air literally pull the moisture right out of you. I also like to drink one or more cups of herbal tea this time of year. It warms me up and gives me the health benefits of the herbs as well.

Next time, I promise to share our family’s favorite ways to soothe our winter skin. But in the meantime…

Share with us! How do you take care of what’s inside to keep your skin healthy?


Being Comfortable With The Skin You’re In

This month, at Modern Alternative Mama, we’re covering everything related to being a healthy and beautiful you. Kate has put together a ton of posts and resources to start you on your way.

My contribution to this is today’s post, Being Truly Comfortable With the Skin You’re In. Because you can follow every healthy eating tip, every fitness fad and every fashion trend, but at the end of the day, how you see yourself has a whole lot more to do with what’s going on in your head, than what’s on the outside. And what’s more, how we think does go a long way to transforming the outside as well.

Click on over and let’s tackle this important discussion, together.