By Rita Chavez

I love the holiday season.  It’s a time filled with fellowship, friends, family, and lots of food.  I love sweets. Candy, cookies, pie, you name it, I love it and will eat it, and starting around Halloween, there is usually a constant supply of sweets around me.  After Halloween, I had noticed that I just wasn’t feeling well overall, I was sluggish and always tired.  I realized that I was just mindlessly snacking on all the leftover Halloween candy that my daughter had brought home from trick or treating, and thought maybe I was overdoing it on the sugar.  So I decided to rein in my eating habits for the holidays.  I wanted to feel good while spending time with friends and family, and I wanted to get my sugar consumption under control. 

I know you’re probably wondering why I would decide to completely cut out sugar during the holidays, when there would be a plethora of parties and dinners with friends to enjoy, but my thought process was to try to focus on the fellowship, and not on the food. I do know that socializing and food typically go hand in hand, but I thought to myself that this would be a great time to really break my dependence on sugary foods.  I tend to overindulge with desserts, and if I let myself have a slice of pie, I usually will end up eating more than just a slice, and then I don’t feel well afterwards. 

Right after Halloween, I decided to start a food program called Whole30.  It is a 30 day eating regimen, where you eat only whole and minimally processed foods, and avoid processed foods, legumes, dairy, grains, alcohol, and, you guessed it, sugars.  The idea behind Whole30’s length of time is that it takes 30 days to turn something into a habit, or to kick a habit.   I had done this program a few times before, my first time being during the summer of 2014, and I had been met with great results, one of the biggest being increased energy levels.  I started my Whole30 journey on November 6, and because I wanted to make it through the whole holiday season, I opted to eat clean for a full SIXTY days instead of the required thirty.  This meant I would have to be aware of what I ate during Thanksgiving, Christmas, AND New Year.  

To prep for my sixty days of clean eating through the most food indulgent time of the year, I had to mentally and physically prepare myself, if I was going to be successful.  I threw out most of the candy that I had stashed in the pantry, and stocked up on some Whole30 essentials for cooking.  If there is one thing I have learned through my past rounds of Whole30, it’s that you will become very close with your kitchen!  If you love to cook, this program would definitely be fun for you, since you can experiment with different foods and spices, and try new recipes, but if you’re not savvy in the kitchen, pull out your apron and spatula, because it’s basically a crash course in cooking.  

Eating at home was a fairly easy task for me, since I had control over what I could eat, and a number of different options available to me in the fridge or pantry.  But eating out or at a party was a little bit trickier, since I was not in full control of what was being cooked and served.  We did not eat out often in our little small town during my sixty days of clean eating, as there were not a lot of places that cooked Whole30 compliant ingredients, but when I did eat out, I made sure to ask my server to adjust what I was ordering to eliminate certain ingredients (i.e. butters, sugars, certain dressings or seasonings).  We were also invited to a friend’s house for a big dinner during Thanksgiving weekend, and this was a little bit trickier to navigate.  I did let my friends know that I was doing a Whole30, but we would still be happy to come and have dinner with them, and I also offered to bring some side dishes as well.  Our hosts made a number of traditional Thanksgiving dishes, but they also did barbeque a duck which I was able to eat, along with the compliant side dishes that I brought. 

After Thanksgiving, I made it to thirty days and was half way through my sixty day journey.  I was feeling great, I was sleeping so much better and waking up in the morning feeling refreshed and not foggy or still tired.  Sometimes would feel the temptation to have a piece of chocolate or a Christmas cookie, but it was much easier to resist the urge to indulge. We hosted a large Christmas dinner at our home on Christmas day, and I planned a mostly Whole30 compliant menu!  My husband smoked a turkey with an aromatic blend of compliant spices, and I made pulled pork  and many vegetable sides, to include a creamed spinach dish that was completely dairy free and delicious.  Some friends brought side dishes that were not Whole30 compliant, like baked mac and cheese (always a winner for kids!), and mashed potatoes, and we had some gourmet cookies available for dessert.  We enjoyed the evening with our friends, they were surprised at how delicious and healthy the food we had prepared was, and the dinner was a success.

It’s been about two weeks since I finished my sixty days of Whole30 eating, and I can say that my sweet tooth is completely under control! I started to reintroduce some foods back into my diet to see if my body would agree with them, and here are a few things I have learned.  Eating large amounts of processed sugars definitely makes me tired, dairy really upsets my stomach, and grains make me bloated.  I have decided to keep dairy out of my diet, because it’s really not worth the stomach upsets that it gives me, and I am eating grains in moderation.  I don’t feel the need to buy a candy bar every time I am out and about, or buy cookies while I am grocery shopping! Along with these benefits, I have also lost 22 pounds and a few dress sizes, and can fit back into some of my clothes that were a little snug! 

If Whole30 is something you would like to try for health reasons or to gain control of your eating habits, keep an eye out for my next article, which will talk a little more about the Whole30 program and my tips for success!

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Rita is an Army wife of ten years and a mom to two little girls.  She graduated from University of Hawaii: West Oahu in 2010 with a Bachelor’s of Applied Science in Public Administration, but has a passion for helping animals and most recently worked for the oldest no-kill animal shelter in San Antonio, TX.  As a recent military move led her family to bid goodbye to San Antonio, she now volunteers with The Carrying On Project in Fort Drum, NY, where she shares her love and knowledge of babywearing with other caregivers.  When she is not volunteering, Rita enjoys taking photos of her daughters and dogs, and her hobbies include cooking and crafting.

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