My First Whole30: The WHY.

Something to know about me: I am seriously Type-A, to the most extreme degree. I plan everything, organize it, and then overthink it all. So my decision to do my first Whole30 did not come lightly. But it’s one that I’m so extremely excited about, and truly feel that I am doing for the right reasons! So I wanted to do a post explaining why I chose to make this change, and help shed a little light on some information that not a lot of people may know.

If you are unfamiliar with the Whole30, the website is by far the best place to go for information, along with the book It Starts With Food. Both of these resources explain the program far better than I ever could, but in simple terms: It’s 30 days of strict paleo where you work to not only improve your digestion  and overall health, but relationship with food. People come out of it raving about skyrocketing energy levels, improved skin, disappearing digestive/bloating issues, and so much more! So, obviously, I had to get some of that for myself, right?

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I mentioned earlier that I am in love with listening to the Nourished Podcast – so a ton of information comes from there! There were a lot of topics that Meg and Shawn talked about that sparked my interest, which I then researched further on my own, such as:

  • Autoimmune disease: My mom has ulcerative colitis, a form of irritable bowel disease. Dairy and gluten are two major foods that cause flares and inflammation (a HUGE FACTOR in autoimmune disease), and I’ve been noticing more and more intolerances to them over the past few months. I also am constantly bloated, and these could be a potential cause. Additionally, people have literally cured their Autoimmune disease through a combination of Paleo, Whole30, and the Autoimmune Protocol. I have another health situation that I’m not ready to blog about, but could very well be autoimmune and thus I want to try every possible remedy for it!
  • Hormone balance: my hormones are a big factor in this “mystery condition” as it is appearing. 😉 Grains, legumes, and dairy have all been known to disrupt female hormones, not to mention cause inflammation, disturbing cortisol levels.
  • Poor quality sleep: These factors are ALL interrelated. What happens when you have disrupted cortisol levels? Well, it’s not high when it should be (the morning), and you wake up feeling groggy and drag yourself out of bed. Then, as a result, it’s high at the wrong time (evening) and you feel like you can’t sleep even though you’re exhausted. I’m pretty sure a lot of you can relate to this! Additionally, eating too much / too much sugar close to falling asleep often results in waking up at 2-3am due to low blood sugar. I had never considered this cause, but it makes perfect sense! I always eat fruit / cookies / chocolate / whatever right before bed, and always wake up 2-3 times per night. More balanced blood sugar = more balanced sleep.
  • Thyroid issues: Some symptoms of hypothyroidism: constant fatigue, hormone imbalance, dry/brittle hair/skin/nails, brain fog, mood swings, and/or weight gain (and struggle to keep it off). Now, these aren’t all of the symptoms, just some very common ones, and I can relate to every single one! Guess what? Hypo OR hyperthyroidism is often an autoimmune disease, which inflammation is a HUGE trigger for. And our three major inflammatory foods: gluten, dairy, legumes.
  • Keratosis Pillaris & Nutrient Absorption: Here’s where I get all science-y on ya. Dairy, grains, and legumes (along with other foods, just picking on these 3 for simplicity’s sake!) all contain phytates, which bind to many the nutrients in the food, limiting our ability to digest them. So the nutrients are there, but not bioavailable and therefore of very limited benefit to us! There are, of course, many consequences of this occurrence, but the one I am focusing on here is keratosis pillaris. You know, those weird red bumps common on the back of arms and legs? I’ve had mine for over seven years, and nothing has helped get rid of them. So the hope is, along with dry-brushing and coconut oil lathering, my body properly absorbing a ton of nutrients will help these annoying little guys disappear for good.

Wow. That was a lot of information – and I could keep going! The truth is, there is an infinite amount of information available to us in this era, and it only makes sense to take full advantage of it! I can’t wait to start experiencing some of the major benefits of this experience, and will be sure to keep you updated along the way. I’m thinking of a “Whole30: The HOW” post, explaining some of the things I’m doing along with changing my diet, and of course a “THE FOOD” post, showing the delicious creations I’m eating. 🙂 I hope you all have a fantastic Monday!

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Healthy Swaps to Kick Artificial Sweeteners

As most of you probably know, I have had a loooong struggle with artificial sweeteners. I know how detrimental they are to our health, and yet I can’t seem to kick the habit for good. I’ll go weeks without diet soda, but usually only make it a few days gum-free before caving. And then once I succumb to the gum cravings, I usually use that as an excuse to have ALL the crap: pudding, jello, jam, etc.

Hermione-Granger-Control-Yourself-GIF

I’ve discovered that the best way for me to keep the junk out of my diet is to not simply try and avoid it, but replace it with something that will help satisfy the craving! That way I don’t feel deprived, but I also am not poisoning my body with chemicals.

These are a few of the things I’ve discovered that have worked wonders for me – so much that I actually have an unwrapped pack of gum sitting beside me (I got it in a care package) and have no desire to even open it!

The Fake: Jell-O / pudding: You guys have probably seen them at the grocery store – the 5 calorie jell-o cups and “no sugar added” puddings. I get super snacky after dinner, so sometimes I fall trap to buying these things with the hopes that they will satisfy the late-night munchies. But what they usually end up doing is make me crave sugar more (hello artificial sweeteners!) and feel generally crappy (chemicals galore). I also had a super not fun sugar high after downing three jell-os, only to realize they were the full sugar ones.

SugarfreeJellO

The Swap: Unsweetened applesauce! I have no idea how these have not been in my life beforehand. They come in perfect little cups, just like my beloved pudding, but they only have two ingredients: apples & pectin. These are exactly what I need after dinner and I honestly don’t miss the fake stuff one bit.

The Fake: Diet soda: You know, when you aren’t hungry but just feel like something sweet? I don’t actually even like diet coke anymore, but fresca used to happen a little too regularly around here.

The Swap: Tomato juice! I actually discovered this on the airplane – it is thick, satisfying, and made of only tomatoes and salt! It is definitely salty though – I wouldn’t have more than one every few days, one per day MAX, but it honestly eliminates any craving instantly. Travelling generally makes me really snacky, mainly out of boredom and not hunger, so this is also great for those instances when you just eat for something to do.

caesarI would prefer clamato juice in caesar form…but tomato juice works too. 😉

The Fake: Gum: OH GUM. I have given up counting the number of times I have attempted to quit the stuff and failed. I don’t remember the last time I had any, so that is a good sign, but it wasn’t overly long ago. I tend to associate gum with things like reading magazines, so that has been the hardest part of quitting for me.

The Swap: A new outlook. Let’s just be completely honest here – the “naturally sweetened” gums are just plain gross. The flavour lasts for 2.3 seconds and then it turns into a flavourless wad of plastic. I think the main reason I haven’t been craving gum these past few days is I’ve realized my mouth does not need to be occupied at all times! It sounds ridiculous, but I honestly used to feel that way. I had to be eating / drinking / chewing something at all times or I was uncomfortable. Since getting over that, the cravings have vanished.

The Balance of Nutrition & Activity

As I wrote a novel about yesterday, last week I went on a four-day cruise! All the food was free onboard, which led to a rather lot of unconventional eats / snacking. There were waffles for breakfast, ice cream for 11am snacks, the list goes on. I didn’t gorge myself, but I absolutely indulged 1-3x per day. Personally, I am a believer in moving more when I eat more. It’s not to punish myself, and it’s definitely not to “burn off dessert”. It simply makes my body feel healthy and balanced.

Dessert2Because it is impossible to say no to something like this. 

I know there are a lot of schools of thought that food and exercise should remain 100% separate – and while I totally respect that ideology, I know it is not possible for me. I need to increase my protein intake when lifting a lot of weights, eat more carbs & calories when running more, eat a bigger meal after a hard workout, smaller meals when doing nothing but sitting, etc.

7-mile-runBack in September when I ate burgers every night for dinner. I have no regrets. 

With that said, I was most certainly not perfectly balanced this week. I did 3 four mile runs on the ship’s treadmill this morning, and probably walked 2-3 miles max throughout the day. Compared to my usual level of activity, that is way down! And my food intake was way up.

I am incredibly happy with how I have reacted to this whole experience, though. Not once did I feel guilty for indulging in dessert (although my stomach definitely complained a few times). I didn’t deprive myself of anything but I also did not eat everything in sight “because I’d already blown it”. I have struggled a lot with the “all or nothing” mindset with regards to food, so I’m seriously proud of my level of moderation on this trip!

cookies-gif[source.]

I also have no intentions of doing anything dramatic this week. Obviously, it will be nice to not crave sugar 24/7 as I did when it was at my fingertips, and I am of course looking forward to things like kale and chicken. But I won’t run more or eat less than usual. I will only BE HAPPIER because it is impossible to not be after a once in a lifetime trip at sea.

Do you think food & exercise should be related? 

Tell me if you disagree!

Coffee + Caffeine / The Real Deal

I know that this statement probably means nothing to you guys at this point, after me abandoning you and coming back multiple times sine mid-November, but I promise it’s true this time. I am back to blogging for good! I explained why I wasn’t posting much over winter break – between work and soaking up every minute of being at home, I just wasn’t interested being behind the computer.

And now, on my third day back at school, I can hardly believe it. On one hand it seems impossible that the entire month I had off has passed, and it feels like it did not even happen. On the other hand, though, first semester feels like it was a different life, so long ago, and now everything has changed. However, not everything is different.

I am atrociously addicted to caffeine

It’s not what you think, though. I don’t need coffee to feel “awake” – I drink it because I am in love with the taste, and savouring the different flavours is an art form to me. I just recently started drinking espresso – my taste buds finally adapted enough to get past the bitterness and appreciate the taste – and so the whole “coffee experience” is what I am in love with.

CREDO

My body, however, seems to have other ideas. I didn’t even realize that I consumed no coffee on Monday. I obviously didn’t get to continue my habit of going to Credo (my cafe), and so I simply woke up, went to class, and continued on with my day.

Annnnnd, then I had to skip the two hour screening of my film studies class because I had such an awful migraine I was on the verge of vomiting.

1160857-voldemortWorld’s most appropriate picture. 

This continued all afternoon and evening, leading me to take my last tylenol 3 from one year ago when I got my wisdom teeth out. T3s, you have served me well.

The headache actually continued this morning, until I finally got a coffee, and then it miraculously disappeared. Coincidence? Don’t joke with me. IT did get me thinking, though – I started to feel sick about four hours after waking up with no coffee. When I’m at home (I experienced this at Thanksgiving too) I can go all day with no coffee and feel 100% fine. At school, though, the moment I stray I am literally incapacitated by pain.

I think it’s an incredibly interesting situation and balancing act. There are two camps with opposite viewpoints – one recommends coffee and touts its health benefits, and the other trashes it, calls it “unnatural” and proclaims tea to be the be all and end all. I think it’s pretty clear which camp I’m in – I will never give up coffee. I am far too in love with it and the entire cafe culture (did I mention I want to drop out of school and become a barista?) to even consider that option. BUT it is incredibly annoying to have to force a Starbucks down because my only other option is collapsing on the frozen sidewalk in agony.

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I don’t think there is anything wrong with drinking coffee regularly – it improves athletic performance, contains antioxidants, and is seriously  comforting. A cup of warm, delicious liquid on a cold morning to start the day? It can do wonders for my mood, and for others too.

Yes, it is habit-forming, and a lot of people will shy away from that. I think the name of the game in this situation is to be aware of said habit, and sip smartly. <- yup, I just created my own tagline for coffee. Went. There.

Tips for being a healthy coffee drinker

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  1. Drink in moderation. During the computer science days (oh, how we miss those…) I was downing upwards of 400mg of caffeine per day. The chemical boost wasn’t necessary for my sanity, but the comfort aspect was, and for that reason I have no regrets. The same goes for drinking while I was at home. That coffee (Intelligentsia) is the nectar of the gods and no way was I not savouring every single bit I could get. Again, I wasn’t drinking it for a boost, it was purely pleasure. No. Regrets. But I’m confident I reached 600mg of caffeine a few days, which is sort of the opposite of this tip.
  2. Consume quality. I’m going to be a Starbucks hypocrite. I hate the taste and the company BUT I will drink it in desperate situations (such as being about to vomit in class). However, organic, humanely sourced coffee is the ONLY way to go. We see everyone, including healthy living bloggers, all about the organic fruits / vegetables to avoid pesticides and antibiotics, but ignoring the label when it comes to coffee. Pesticides are a real thing in coffee, not to mention growers being treated like vermin. I personally recommend Intelligentsia. 🙂
  3. Keep yourself balanced. You could do what I did on Monday: become incredibly exhausted, eat no real meals throughout the day, drink zero water AND stop drinking coffee cold turkey. OR, you could maintain organ function and remember to treat yourself extra well if you are drinking the back stuff regularly.

I leave you with my smurf-spresso, folks. Sip smartly.

I call it smurf-spresso.  Adventures in latte art - I'm just a wannabe .

Coffee: GOOD or BAD? Honest opinions! No judging here.

Unique / Whole Food Ideas for College Dorms

All right you guys, there is something I need to confess to you – I hate the dining hall at UBC. The salad bar is exorbitantly expensive, and everything else available is full of processed chemicals, nitrates, and (most definitely GMO) soy. NOT. OKAY.

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I am most certainly not a typical college student in the sense that I refuse to live off of ramen noodles and free pizza. I prioritize my health, which has been turning out to require a lot of creativity.

College is an extremely stressful time! You would think that universities would realize this, and take into consideration the huge effect nutrition has on overall well-being. Alas, sadly, that is not the case. I haven’t been letting my health suffer, though! I have just become a professional dorm-style eater. I have actually come up with several things that are not the typical ‘cereal, sandwiches, etc.’ options, so I thought that it might be helpful to some other dorm-dwellers to share them! They can also be helpful in situations where you have limited access to a kitchen – moving, travelling, hotel rooms, etc.

There are a ton of excellent dorm room snacking ideas out there – nut butter, oatmeal, fresh fruit, nuts/seeds, the list truly does seem endless! I’m not listing those for you today though – check them out here!

Unique / Whole Food Ideas for College Dorms

1. Avocados: If you can find them on sale (I just got mine 2/$3 at Whole Foods!), these are perfect to stash away. I like to have half at one meal and half at the next, so that I can avoid them getting too brown while also not overdosing on delicious avo. Although, can you really overdose on ago? Debatable.

avocado

2. Toast: This one sounds typical, but it can switch up so many of your go-to meals! Turn sandwiches into open-faced toasties, make grilled cheese by popping a toasted sandwich into the microwave, and cut your toast up into strips for instant dipping vehicles!

eggs + hummus

3. Sweet Potatoes: Believe it or not, you can cook them in the microwave! Just remember to slice it lengthwise and poke holes in it first – the fire alarm went off in my building because apparently that is not common knowledge.

4. VerMints: I am currently on day EIGHT of being completely gum-free! A girl has still gotta have distractions while studying, though, so enter: Vermints! They are 100% organic and have zero sketchy ingredients. (And no, I am not cool enough to get paid to say that.)

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And you need to do something with all that delicious food! These are some of the things that I have been loving in my quest to avoid said horrific dining hall.

Dorm Room Recipes

1. Mug cakes. Specifically Amanda’s Double Chocolate Mug Cake – my one true love. I swear to you, I have not tried any other mug cake that even remotely compares to this one. Rich, dense, creamy, and 100% healthy. All I need in life.

2. Grill-less Grilled CheeseWhen I’m deprived of my panini press, do NOT expect me to abstain from grilled sandwiches entirely. Enter: ghetto grilled cheese using the toaster and the microwave.

3. Microwave Pumpkin Creations. Specifically, this cookie and oatmeal from Fannetastic Food! I am in love with all the pumpkin things, all the time. (not since August or anything…)

oatsI am obsessed with banana + blueberries + PB. Pumpkin takes it over the edge! 

4. Peanut Butter + Apple Muesli Bowl. Alternatively titled, The Breakfast Emma Ate Every Day for Two Years and Counting. But that is an obscenely long title so we will stick with the first one. 😉 This recipe is exactly what it sounds like, and hardly a recipe! Dice an apple, then mix it into a bowl of greek yogurt. Top with muesli and peanut butter. DONE. Beyond delicious, fast, filling, and all easily kept in a dorm room! I’m expecting to carry on the five year streak.

yogurt

Do you have any kitchen-free food/recipe suggestions?

Have you ever lived in a dorm? What did you do about food? 

My Favourite Things About Intuitive Eating.

Goooood mornin’!

It’s a holiday Monday over here, which basically means my usual no-commitments day with my favourite cafe being closed. BOO. 😦

Alas, I will survive. I’ve pretty much just been lazing about for three hours this morning, and after a nap at 8:30am (yeah) I decided that I really didn’t feel like abandoning you guys again! SO for today’s post, I’m joining up with Katie to appreciate some awesome things I’ve discovered since stopping counting calories.


1. Mealtime compulsions. Anyone with even a little bit of a disordered past can usually realize that their thoughts make NO sense, yet can’t break free from them. One of mine was lunch before 12pm. It wasn’t because I was planning on not eating, or because I didn’t want to need a snack, or ANYTHING other than I just didn’t want to have lunch before noon. Welp I worked out at a weird time for me yesterday and had a freaking delicious snack plate on my deck at 11:30 for lunch and the world kept spinning.

2. Work delights. You guys, I have worked in a cafe with freaking delicious food for a year and I’ve barely eaten any of it. Part of it is because it’s pretty unhealthy, but also because there is NO WAY to figure out calories/macros. I’m seriously living up the chai lattes/cookies/yogurt + granola these days because yum. For some reason I still haven’t moved on to hot chocolate and mochas, but I will get there. I’m sure the 30C weather is part of it. 😉

chailatte

3. Intuitive exercise. Now that I don’t have X as my TDEE, there is no reason to do A, B and C on the daily/6x per week. Take today: I was planning on going for a run, but given my nap 2 hours waking up that is not going to happen. I know I would feel (even more) sluggish and gross for the rest of the day. Lazy days FTW.

4. Samples. Do you know how much fun it is to say “Wow, I see a free sample of cinnamon coffee cake or peanut butter chocolate cookie, but I don’t really want it.” NONE. Now I just need to remember to have cash with me so I can buy said cookie (from the gods) at the market.

Annnnd, I think my face has collected sufficient oil to seriously need washing ASAP. 😉 See you tomorrow!

Tell me something marvelous about your Monday! 

1 Day Aspartame Free

Yes…one day is all I lasted. On Sunday I decided that I was making my health a priority and stopped all forms of gum chewing/artificial sweetener consuming and felt GREAT! I craved gum, definitely, but what I didn’t crave was sugar. It was so interesting – normally, even when I’m full, I want something sweet 24/7. But when I wasn’t tricking my body with fake sugar, it was satisfied with real food!

salad Both this…

werthersAnd this!

It just wanted something to chew on. 😉

I almost made it to 2 days…but then I went to a movie. (go see 22 jump street! I think there was a total of about 60 seconds in the entire film that I wasn’t laughing/giggling). I had an internal battle with myself over whether or not I would get a diet coke and then I caved. But this is how I am going to look at it: I will have it if I am at a movie or it is directly offered to me. I will NOT go and seek it out myself! And I will definitely not have it every day…SO bad.

Also interestingly, almost immediately after I started drinking it I got a headache. In denial, I chalked it up to coincidence and happily finished my drink. But when it didn’t go away all night and is STILL hanging out today, it got me thinking. I distinctly remember the last two times I’ve had a migraine and both occurred after chewing a disgustingly excessive amount of gum. Like, 2/3 of a pack in the span of a couple hours excessive.

Does aspartame give me migraines?! Maybe…who even knows what kind of scary crap is in that stuff. All I know now is that I have even MORE incentive to avoid it.

smoothieWant a sweet drink? Green smoothies to the rescue! 

I think that people turn to aspartame when they are trying to cut calories, lose weight, and be “healthier”. I used to think that way, so I get it! But are you really “healthy” if you are tricking your body into being thinner, and confusing it by feeding it things it doesn’t know how to process?

I would way rather eat things like oatmeal, whole grains, fruits/veggies, yogurt, etc. and focus on the quality of my food rather than any irrelevant numerical values associated with it.

sandwich

Do you consume aspartame? Thoughts?