Why I’m doing another Whole30

I’ve never had a good relationship with food.

I am almost 32 years old and I still haven’t figured out how to be at peace with who I am and what I eat and how food makes me feel about myself, which is mostly bad.

This past fall though, I did experience somewhat of a breakthrough and a sense of calm and acceptance over what I was putting into my body – this was when I was doing my first Whole30.

Following the Whole30 isn’t easy – no dairy, legumes, sugar, alcohol or grains (this part was easy for me since I have a wheat allergy) – but feeling a constant sense of guilt around bad food choices or the physical discomfort of eating too much isn’t easy either.

On Wednesday June 1st I am going to start my second Whole30 to reset my body and my mind for a healthy summer, and beyond.  I know it won’t be without challenges, but I feel more prepared this time and am ready for what’s to come.

The first time I did the Whole30, I started just before Halloween. I remember that night at my sister’s house, surrounded by tiny packages of chocolate, candy and chips. On any regular Halloween I probably would have eaten 10, maybe 15 of these packages, easily racking up hundreds of (empty) calories of mindless eating, telling myself that those calories didn’t count because it was a “special occasion.” But on that night I stuck to the Whole30 and I woke up the next morning feeling good about my decision. A Halloween without chocolate was OK.

Over the next month I made it through 3 birthday parties without any cake. I also made it through every afternoon without my 3pm chocolate fix. Weaning myself off sugar was tough, and the sugar hangover they talk about is real, but it’s amazing how your body naturally starts craving healthier foods when that’s the only option you have.

From delicious soups and chilis, fresh salads, amazing meat dishes and my ultimate, I-could-eat-this-everyday favourite, Sauteed Cabbage with Red Onions and Apples, I ate very well on the Whole30. I spent more time than usual grocery shopping, meal-prepping and cooking, and I hardly ate out, but it was worth it because I learned so many new recipes and discovered new foods.

As someone who spends a disproportionate amount of my day on social media (I’m working on that too…), my journey was certainly made easier by the incredible Whole30 online community. I frequently consulted the Whole30 Recipes Instagram account as well as the #Whole30 and #Whole30recipes hashtags for inspiration. I regularly shared my #Whole30problems on Twitter, receiving immediate feedback and love from others. I also enjoyed following Whole30 co-founder Melissa Hartwig for her tough-love attitude and delicious food pictures.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous to start another Whole30 on June 1st, but I know that I am ready. Since I finished my last one, I have been struggling a lot (too much) with my eating habits and it’s affecting all other areas of my life, both physically and mentally. I’m turning 32 in a month and I can’t bear to spend another 365 days with all the added guilt, stress and physical discomfort that comes from bad eating habits, especially when I know that I can do better.

This isn’t a diet, it’s a framework for a new way of living and a better relationship with food. While the Whole30 isn’t meant to be followed forever (I will drink wine again!), its principles and philosophy form the basis for a life-long shift in the way we think about food and what we put into our bodies. 

If you want to follow along, I’ll try to document as much of my journey as I can on my Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat (junepet84) accounts.

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Healthy Eating Habits For 2015

Having a New Years resolution that doesn’t revolve around “losing weight” is relatively new for me. Every year, for as long as I can remember my dream on January 1st would be to shed 20, 30, 40 or even 50 pounds so I would be prettier, happier, healthier, etc. This last year, 2014, has been the first in my entire life when I was able to maintain a happy, healthy, and reasonable weight and I am excited that I get to have a different New Years resolution for 2015. Note to anyone who may have a resolution to lose weight: You CAN do it! It’s going to be tough and sometimes your cravings for chocolate and ice cream will be stronger than those for apples and almonds, but you will achieve whatever weight loss goal you set out for yourself. Take it from someone who has lost 80 pounds herself!

Now, just because weight loss isn’t my goal for 2015, that doesn’t mean that I have my relationship with food all figured out. I am a very fast eater, I am generous with my portions, I may be addicted to Larabars, and I eat nachos far too often than I should. Oh, and there was a time this summer that I was chugging cans of Root Beer after my long runs… Please don’t tell my Coach! Since being diagnosed with a wheat allergy, I have experienced a new level of anxiety around food and that has definitely contributed to some less than ideal habits. I have big athletic goals in 2015, including my first Olympic and Half-Ironman distance triathlons and I know that the way I fuel my body will directly contribute to the way I perform as an athlete.

Rather than labeling the following list as “resolutions”, I want to think of them more as “things I’d like to try” in 2015. If something doesn’t work, I’ll move on and try something else. But if conquering my sugar (chocolate) addiction helps me perform better on my swim/bike/runs, then I’ll consider that a habit I’d like to keep.

Practical Paleo1) Explore a Paleo Diet. Since going gluten-free, after being diagnosed with a wheat allergy, my diet has definitely shifted towards a more Paleo way of eating. A typical day for me includes eggs and sweet potatoes in the morning, salad with protein for lunch, and then meat with veggies for dinner. I still eat things like oatmeal, rice, quinoa and other wheat-free grains, but they play a much smaller role in my diet than before. I just ordered 2 copies of Diane Sanfillipo’s Practical Paleo, one for me and one for my Mom, and I can’t wait to dig into this book, learn some new recipes, and see how my body responds.

2) Eat Slower. If you’ve ever eaten a meal with me, you know I am usually the first one at the table who is finished. It doesn’t matter if I’m eating at home with my boyfriend, or out at brunch with a table of hungry runners, I can scarf down a plate of food at an alarming speed. As I mentioned before, being diagnosed with a food allergy has contributed to a heightened anxiety around eating, and sometimes I eat fast just to get it over with. Since my wheat allergy was such a fluke, I worry about new food allergies popping up randomly and getting another allergy attack that will send me to the hospital. I know that eating fast isn’t good for me, and it often leads to overeating as I go for seconds before my body knows I am full. This year I’d like to make a commitment to break this habit and enjoy my food at a more thoughtful pace.

babycakes nyc3) Break my Sugar Addiction. At any given time, you will find 2 or 3 chocolate bars in my purse. Seriously, I have a dark chocolate coconut, dark chocolate mint, and Cadbury milk chocolate mint bar in there right now. I love sweet things. One of my favourite treats is birthday cake and fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you look at it), options for gluten free cake are plentiful. Just this Halloween, I ordered a Halloween Cake from Bunner’s Bakeshop. No one needs to eat cake on Halloween, no one. Put a bowl of gummy bears, or Skittles, or jelly beans (my fave!) in front of me and I will mindlessly eat them until my stomach hurts. It doesn’t take long to find an article, like this one in Macleans, warning us of the dangers of too much sugar and how too much is quite literally killing us. A few of my friends have taken the Fed Up 10-Day Sugar-Free Challenge and it is something I am committing to in January as well.

Changing habits is never easy, but I’m hoping by putting my intentions out there into the world, I will be more successful in making these changes! Everytime I want to reach for that extra piece of chocolate, I’ll think of this post and how I want to be able to report my success and not my failure at the end of January!

Are you planning to try anything new with your diet in 2015? Let me know in the comments and we can hold each other accountable.

Allergic to Running

People often say that if we listen closely to our bodies, they will tell us exactly what we need, and more importantly, what we don’t need. On Monday February 10th, my body decided to turn against me while I was out on a run and I suffered an anaphylaxis allergic reaction. It was the absolute worst thing that has ever happened to me and as I was waiting for the ambulance to arrive to pick me up, I didn’t know if I would make it.

It was around 9:00pm on Monday when I met my friend Mark for an evening run. Our plan was to do a 5K progression run from 7 minutes/km up to 6 minutes/km. We took off down the Danforth and I was feeling good. My legs felt strong, my energy was high, and we were chatting comfortably, talking about how we were really excited for the spring race season to begin. About 15 minutes into the run my eyes started to feel funny. They were burning as if I had rubbed them after cutting hot peppers. I thought back to what I had ate that night and realized I hadn’t cut anything hot. I tried to ignore this feeling in my eyes and kept on running.

Jenna Allergic Reaction 2

In the hospital

5 minutes later I knew everything was not going to be ok. I slowed down, told Mark that I was going to have a panic attack, and held onto his arm as we walked to a nearby bar to get a glass of water. My upper lip was starting to swell and when we got to the bar I bolted to the washroom and was horrified by what I saw in the mirror. My face was swollen to three times it’s size, I almost couldn’t see my eyes, and my legs and feet were incredibly itchy. I went outside and told Mark that I had no idea what was happening to me and that maybe we should call an ambulance. I believe there was someone above looking out for me that night because a very kind man sitting at the bar got on his phone right away and called 911.

The hives were spreading fast, up my body to my arms and hands. My wrists were so swollen that I couldn’t move them and my legs were on fire. I just held onto Mark and prayed that the ambulance would get there soon. Luckily the Toronto East General Hospital was just around the corner and the ambulance arrived in less than 3 minutes. The paramedics took me into the ambulance, asked me what was going on and gave me a shot of epinephrine. At this point I was shaking uncontrollably and having a panic attack on top of my allergic reaction. The paramedics were incredible – they kept me calm and helped me control my breathing because I was worried that my throat was going to start to swell. My mouth was parched which made it tough to swallow, but I wasn’t allowed to have any water.

Once we got to the Emergency Room, they took me in right away and hooked me up to some drugs. Mark stayed with me until my boyfriend and my parents arrived and tried to make me laugh by telling me that I looked like Shrek. Thanks Mark. We were in the hospital until 3am that night because I had to be under observation for 4 hours in case the reaction returned. We were home by 4am and I slept until 10am the next morning. My eyes were puffy and my joints were swollen for two days after that, but by Thursday I was looking and feeling normal again.

One day after the reaction.

One day after the reaction.

I still have no idea what happened to me. The Dr. said it could have been a result of exercising in the extreme cold, but I have been running outside all winter for two years and this has never happened before.  Another theory is that it could have been a reaction to the fish I had for dinner prior to running. I was a vegetarian for 3 years and just started adding fish back into my diet. I have eaten shrimp, salmon, arctic char and calamari over the past few months without any negative reaction. There is something called exercise induced anaphylaxis occurs during physical activity that takes place after an allergen is consumed. So it may be that I am allergic to fish, but that the allergy only comes out during exercise.

My allergy tests are scheduled for March 19th so I hope to have some answers then. Until that time, I have been instructed by my doctor to stay away from running and focus on lower intensity, lower impact activities like yoga. It’s been 2 weeks since this incident and staying away from running has been tough, but I know it is what’s best for me right now. I have sold my race entry to Around the Bay and it looks like I might have to postpone my first marathon until the fall, or later. I’m upset about what happened, but mostly grateful for Mark, the kind man in the bar who called the ambulance, and my boyfriend and family for taking such good care of me. I am grateful that I am able to write this blog post and grateful that I can still do fun things like yoga and light strength training. My running friends have been fantastic too, always there to offer encouragement and support when I need it.

For the next few weeks I am going to try to keep things fun and exciting through yoga and strength training and will post some of the challenges and workouts that I am doing. If anyone has had a similar experience to this, please let me know. And if anyone has some suggestions for how not to go crazy on a break from running, I’d appreciate those too 🙂