how our chief fitlosopher finally found food freedom


spoiler alert: since my last novel-length update on my fourth round of whole30, i'm giddy to report progress, people. like my new size-up jeans are feeling a little looser, tummy is slightly slimmer, arms are getting stronger with muscle tone making a long-awaited return, and my backside is a tad-bit perkier, if i might say so myself.  have i stepped on the scale? um, no. (insert eye-roll here.) why ruin all the good feels with a judgmental piece of pointless plastic? i saw numerous non-scale victories this past round of whole30, so i'm fairly certain that my wonder woman-esque weightlifting workouts coupled with my continued clean eating is (finally) starting to pay off. well, that and sleeping (like lots) and following a strict supplement regimen to regulate my outta-whack hormones. and here’s the amazing part: for the first time in my life, i'm kinda super comfortable in my own size-medium skin now. coincidence that now i'm starting to see progress? i think not.

my purpose for this recent round of whole30 was much different: to lower inflammation + manage pain, a much more motivating factor than wanting to drop a few lbs. but unlike my first go at whole30-turned-90 last year, where i just skipped the whole reintroduction process, this time i decided to do it right. yeah, i'm pretty sure i celebrated completing my whole30 last year with a piece of cheesy pizza, glass of red wine, and froyo just for good measure. this is so not how or why this program was created – and i didn’t realize (or want to accept it) until i read the next book in the series: “food freedom forever.”  the whole30 headmistress herself, melissa hartwig, says it best: “without a proper elimination and re-introduction, there is no freedom.”

what is food freedom, you ask?
the creator wrote this follow-up guide to help whole30-ers reintroduce foods back into their lives in a healthy way, not just nutritionally, but emotionally and psychologically to embrace this concept she calls “food freedom.” so, here’s how it works: after completing an elimination protocol (i.e. whole30), while keeping all other foods whole30-constant, you add in enough of a food group for just one day to see how it affects your body. then, you go back to strictly whole30 for the next few days and make note of any side effects. at a high level, here are symptoms to watch out for: digestion, energy, sleep, cravings, mood, focus, skin, allergies, bloating, headaches, (and the biggest ones for me) pain + inflammation.

the book goes into great detail, so check it out, but here’s a not-so-brief, slightly-TMI synopsis of my reintroduction.

remember, the idea is that you add enough of a food group in to make sure you can evaluate the effects. “the exception here is alcohol. let's not get drunk before noon, m’kay?” (ha, i read this line in the book and laughed out loud for a good 15 seconds.) with a cousin’s wedding the weekend after i finished whole30, i decided adding a simple glass of wine would probably be better than diving face-first into a white-flour-laden-sugar-bomb slice of wedding cake yumminess. here was my plan to assess the damage (or not): if i add in a glass of wine while keeping all other things whole30-constant and my leg throbs in pain the next day, then i might need to reconsider wine. (oh dear, sweet baby Jesus, please don’t let it be wine – not WINE!) but truth be told, i only drank half the glass of wine…because i honestly was just enjoying my family and dancing, so i saw no reason to have a few glasses “just because.” part of the value for me in whole30 is truly seeing that my joy isn’t tied to what’s in my glass at the bar (club soda with lime + mint, please) or what’s on my plate. since that ½ glass of wine, i've limited alcohol intake to 1 drink per week – if i feel like it – which i haven’t, other than a straight high-quality sipping tequila for mi amigo’s cumpleaños. an aha moment for me: when my uncle came up to me after the wedding and said, “so rumor has it you only had like one drink at the wedding – and you were tearin’ up the dance floor, girl!” clearly my social life isn’t in peril by kicking up my heels, sans alcohol.

guilt-free, gluten-free grains
society would like to convince you that carbs are the enemy – but the more i learn, read + experiment, i'm convinced that it’s all about the timing. in fact, not only are whole grains good for you, they may also be a hormone-helper during certain times of a woman’s cycle. so i don’t fear grains. disclaimer: i only added in gluten-free grains for now. you might choose to add in gluten-containing grains (like whole-grain bread, pasta, or tortillas) – i just chose to stay gluten-free in an attempt to keep inflammation at bay. on my reintroduction day, i subbed-in ½ cup gluten-free oats for my usual sweet potato slices, nibbled on a handful of corn chips with lunch, and then had a serving of white rice at dinner in place of my cauliflower mash. honestly, no bad reaction or bloating by adding any of these in. but what did surprise me, is i didn’t like that i was essentially replacing my servings of veggies with grains. but i did learn that gluten-free grains work a-okay for me. my go-forward strategy: i add in a serving of white rice, quinoa, or gluten-free bread with dinner.

nut-butter no-no
food freedom forever talks about trigger foods – or foods that cause cravings later on, hence the purpose in keeping a food journal. let’s just say that i may or may not have gotten into a spoon-duel of sorts with a jar of sunflower butter. nut butter: 1, angela: 0. after having a little nut butter with lunch, i noticed later that night it was literally taunting me from the deep-dark-depths of the cupboard. just a little nibble. oh, what’s a spoonful gonna hurt…it’s healthy fats!? oh, excuse me…what? i have something on my face/knuckles/elbows? pardon me, i just battled with a jar of nut butter and the nut butter won.

dairy debacle
this wasn’t pretty, people. and no, it’s not what you’re thinking. (ew.) my dairy day began by adding a sprinkle of high-quality aged parmesan to my eggs + avocado. not really that hungry come lunchtime, i skipped my usual bulletproof coffee and just had a little container of full-fat icelandic yogurt.  i like siggi’s 4% milk-fat, which touts less sugar (only 5g) and more protein (a whoppin’ 25g) than its fat-free or flavored cousins. after doing whole30 for so long, i find that i actually don’t need/want added sweeteners anyway – and the creamy consistency of this yogurt is perfect without it. after quickly eating my probiotic protein-packed snack, i head out into the lovely 82-degree sunshine to walk to a coffee shop for my 3rd and final dairy addition for the day. i mean, it’s dairy so why not go for the trifecta? because i truly do prefer my coffee black (unless it’s bulletproof), i thought i'd sip on a fabulously frothy 2% cappuccino, but on this particularly warm fall day, i opted for an iced americano. reluctantly, i added a tad bit of heavy cream, figuring it would be a treat. so, in true chief fitlosopher style, i borrow a pretty pumpkin from the table nearby to snap my insta-worthy caffeinated concoction. proud as a peacock, i turn to go return the pumpkin props….and SPLASH. it was like a slow-motion drench-fest watching as my little red laptop lapped up the iced coffee as i sprung into action. i sopped (and nearly sobbed) up as much as i could in a feeble attempt to save my techy sidekick from an inevitable death by coffee. ultimately, my macbook died a good death, being swept away to technology heaven in a pool of coffee, which honestly isn’t the worst way to go. aside from this coffee-induced dairy debacle, that same night i woke up around 2am with insane stomach cramps. i blame the dairy. hence why, other than a little bit o’ really good aged/hard cheese every so often, i’m steering clear.  i'll have to experiment further to find out if it was the cheese or the yogurt (my guess is the yogurt because it was later in the day) – and clearly my laptop drank any of the cream that was in my coffee. lesson learned. (she says as she types with a hot tea 3 inches away from her shiny new laptop.)

sugars + sweets + treats (oh my!)
even before starting the reintroduction process, i already knew while doing whole30 that sugar seems to be a major source of pain/inflammation in my bod, because even a small serving of fruit (with only natural sugars) tended to cue the pain signals. sugar dragon, indeed.  one might try introducing say a little raw sugar in your coffee, a drizzle of maple syrup over your sweet potato, or raw honey in hot tea. but for me, right now sugar isn’t worth it. i get my sweet fix by sipping a GT’s (whole30-approved) kombucha, which is sweetened with real fruit juice or even a small handful of cherries. one side note: the book mentions that if you’re not really missing a food group – or you know that it doesn’t work well for you – do not feel like you have to reintroduce it. that's not food freedom! so for me, given that i already knew gluten + sugars were causing inflammation, why for the love of donuts would i add back in foods that would trigger pain? no bueno.

in closing, here are key takeaways from reading this book – possibly just as valuable as the reintroduction regimen:

  • fave sound bite: literally, when i'm eating i now have this little voice in my head saying, “is it worth it?” if so, follow the one-bite rule + reassess. ms. hartwig’s rule is now forever engrained in my noggin on parrot-like repeat: “is it worth it? is it worth it? is it worth it?” *squawk* more often than not, no. but having a slice of my mom’s homemade pumpkin pie on thanksgiving? the same recipe i make in her memory every year? yes, so worth it.

  • fave tip: why elaborate, when the book says it best…
    “a food journal is the first tool in your slow slide arsenal. you don’t have to track calories or list every ingredient, but writing down your meals for a few days can help you spot areas where off-plan foods may have made quiet but steady reappearance. if you start paying attention when you indulge and log the resulting cravings or food choices in a journal, you’ll be in a far better position to identify the culprits right then and there.” #micdrop
  • fave quote:
    “imagine, for a moment, that your food is just food, and that your choices are just choices. what you eat is not a statement about your self-worth, your value, or your significance in this world.”

whoa. it's like someone just dealt me a dose of my very own medicine that didn’t go down quite as smoothly when i’m not dishing it out. but, like in a good way. reading this book made me briefly aware of my shortcomings with flashbacks to past struggles – but also made me see my progress with eyes wide open. as a former anorexic-turned-bulimic-turned-over-exerciser who admittedly battles my mind more often than my bod, this is probably the most important piece for me. yes, seeing how foods affect inflammation + cravings is vital. but stepping back to give myself grace and say, “good girl – you are no longer controlled by food or the number on the scale or the reflection in the mirror." that, my friends, is my definition of freedom.

chief fitlosopher, out.

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