Like many women I know my health, weight, and relationship with food are on-going issues for me. Ironically, I feel better about myself now at 31 then I did at 13, even after two kids and a lot of weight gain. I have learned a lot, particularly in the last year, about food and health and these days I feel like the best version of myself.
Before our wedding, I wanted to drop a few pounds, so I hired a nutritionist that offered meal planning services. My meal plan was extremely low-carb and low-fat. Lots of supplements, lots of processed low calorie packaged "food" and very little nutritious whole foods. I was discouraged from eating fruits (sugar + carbs) but encouraged to use a fat-free Kraft single "American style" cheese slice. Even I, a food/health/weightloss moron, knew that something about that wasn't right. How could a 1-ingredient-away-from-plastic-"cheese" slice be better for me than a strawberry? Why would I cook with low-calorie Pam instead of grass-fed butter? These things started to bother me when I really started to think about the quality of food I was eating. I lost weight, but I was still hungry most of the time and I did not notice any difference in the way I felt, the quality of my sleep or any other non-scale metric. I was grossed out about what I was putting in my body and I decided that I would never again follow any type of meal guide that suggested heavily processed or fake foods were healthier than real foods, despite fat or sugar content.
Then there were a few years where I was pregnant and breastfeeding and for the most part I did not care at all what I looked like. I felt accomplished, like HELLO, I just created, birthed and fed TWO HUMAN BEINGS. I saw my body - perhaps for the first time - as capable of doing amazing things. I also have the benefit of having a loving and supportive partner who has never commented on my weight, which has significantly changed over the years, or talked negatively (or even been neutral) about any aspect of my body.
Last August my sister got married, and I had a really difficult time finding a dress to wear because I was still nursing my youngest and carrying extra weight from the pregnancy. I felt uncomfortable, exhausted, and I was at my heaviest weight ever (non-pregnant). I was completely run down, and not only because I had a new baby and a toddler running around. The pictures came back from her wedding and I looked at myself and cringed. I looked as bad as I felt. I resolved to do something about it, but to ease myself in. I was only 5 months postpartum and I was battling some injuries to my core and hips (thanks kids) so I started with food. Enter Whole30.
Thanks to the magic of targeted ads, I discovered around the same time that the Whole30 community was going to do a large-scale round complete with online support during the month of September, which they are doing again this year. I had learned of the Whole30 program years earlier and had loved it as a concept - it's completely free, and always has been (which is awesome if you hate to pay for stuff, or are suspicious of people who try to sell you supplements, or subscriptions or whatever, like I am) plus it is all about whole, fresh, local foods. I hadn't done it before because I thought that it was too restrictive for me, but in the aftermath of my sister's wedding I realized a big change was what I needed and I was willing to give something a chance on a short-term basis. I mean, the whole program is only 30 days.
So thus began my journey into Whole30 which, spoiler alert, I loved. I still use the program when I feel I need a reset, or have had a particularly indulgent weekend. Even eating clean for two days can make a big change in how I sleep, my energy levels and the way my pants fit.
As I've mentioned before, we were on the go a lot this summer. We've taken this long weekend to recharge, clean the house, and game plan for the fall, and we've decided to do another round of Whole30, starting tomorrow, Sept. 4th. If you've been considering it, September is a great time! Something about that going-back-to-school feeling in the air has us craving a fresh start ourselves, and this time of year is perfect to take advantage of the amazing local produce that has been growing all summer. We are so fortunate to live in an area with access to several local farms, many of which offer their own CSA packs. We were lucky enough to score a spot with Amy Higgins of Valley Meadows of Model Farm, but there are others in our area that offer a similar type service. If this doesn't appeal to you, you can still get farm-fresh produce every week at the Queen Square Farmer's Market, and everyday in the Saint John City Market from Baleman's Farm.
I've talked before about my kids, especially Charlie, being picky eaters. This can make things a little tricky when we start to eat clean, but I got some really good advice from several strangers on the internet. The first was, don't give up on introducing new healthy foods to your kids. Sometimes they have to see it on the table a few times before they muster the interest to even try a bite. I have discovered that this is true for us. Second, if you are really having a problem, someone suggested to me Ellyn Satter's, Division of Responsibility in Feeding and this was a life-altering switch for us. This took the fight out of mealtime. Essentially, I decide what we have and prepare meals, and our kids decide how much/if they are going to eat. I generally always have something on the table I know that they will eat, just to be safe but this has really improved our meals together. I no longer argue with my toddler to "try something" or "just take a bite", and I don't withhold dessert or treats for not eating healthy or full meals. Highly, highly recommend.
When we embark on several weeks of conscious clean-eating, like the Whole30, the kids of course are impacted. I do not cut grains or dairy out of their diets, but they do primarily eat what we eat, especially at dinner. In many ways I feel much better about what they do eat when we eat clean because I know that regardless of what they decide to eat it is wholesome and nutritious. Similarly, we tend to eat together around the table more frequently, which I truly believe to be really important for families to do regularly.
I never gave so much thought to the things I eat until I had kids. I want to be healthy for them. I want the energy to keep up with them, and I want to be around for a long time to watch them grow. I also want to impart to them a knowledge of healthy habits and hopefully a desire to eat for both health and fun! Life is too short not to have ice cream (just not for the next 30 days, haha).