2018 Whole30 Kickoff

A lot has happened in the past 14 months: a move to Chicago, several new roles at work, some travel, and a few life changes. After moving to Chicago in October 2016, I lost focus on my health through a combination of long hours at work (hello, office pizza deliveries), Chicago winter making the walk to/from the grocery store unpleasant, and being faced with an entire city full of new food to try. I ended up gaining more weight inside of two months than I ever had before, and it sucked.

On a New Year’s trip to Florida, I realized how miserable I felt and how clothing simply didn’t fit properly anymore. When I got back to Chicago, I resolved to put more focus on taking care of myself. That meant drinking less, making better food choices, and making time for exercise.

The easiest step was to simply make better food choices. Instead of having a Red Bull and a candy bar for breakfast every day (yes, really), I switched to water and fruits, granola, yogurt, or a cheese stick. At lunch, I began to limit portions to reasonable sizes and chose to focus more on vegetables than on desserts or cheesy, carb-y foods. One of the largest shifts was dinner — instead of ordering pizza or whatever sounded awesome to my frazzled brain in the moment, I began ordering comparatively lighter options like poke, sashimi, soup, etc.

I experimented with several workout routines for the first few months of the year, including a really embarrassing SoulCycle incident during which I was off-beat, out of breath, and eventually gave up and laid down on my handlebars. The instructor turned the lights down, cranked the volume, and actually came over to my bike to ask if I was dying. Needless to say, cycling to Justin Bieber tunes is not my thing.

Eventually, I discovered pole fitness and fell in love. It was everything I was looking for — dance, acrobatics, strength, and fun. I ended up attending classes regularly until the gym closed in October, then continued taking classes sporadically at other studios. Most days, I would walk the 2 miles home after class to help extend the physical activity a bit.

All said and done, I ended up losing around 25lbs within a year and gaining quite a bit of strength. Plus, I can do some cool tricks involving street signs now!

I’m planning to be more intentional about health and fitness this year, which means more meal planning, more cooking at home, and cutting drinking down considerably. To kick it off, I’ve planned a January Whole30. If you’d like to use the meal plan/recipe list/grocery list I’ve put together, feel free to check it out here.

Now for the first recipe in 14 months!

Chicken Bacon Chili Zoodles
Prep to plate time: 40 min
Servings: 10-12 cups-ish

Ingredients:

  • 3-6 zucchini squash
  • 2-4 tbsp red chili paste (read the ingredients to make sure to grab one without sugar)
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1lb bacon (read the ingredients to get bacon cured without sugar, nitrites, or nitrates)
  • 4 grilled chicken drumsticks (I broiled these in bulk on Sunday)
  • 2-4 tbsp olive oil
  • Bunch o’ salt

Spiralize (or julienne) the zucchini and place in a strainer in the sink. Heavily salt the zucchini, mixing it up to ensure even coverage. Let it set in the sink to drain for about 20 minutes.

While noodles are resting, sauté garlic in olive oil and set aside.
Chop up bacon and cook in a large frying pan. Simultaneously, pull the meat off of the 4 chicken drumsticks and start simmering that in a separate pan.
When the bacon is cooked and the noodles are finished resting, mix the garlic/olive oil combo with the chicken, add the red chili paste, and simmer on low heat. Rinse the zucchini noodles well and pat dry with a paper towel, then sauté the zucchini noodles in the bacon pan. Then, mix it all together and serve.

Whole30: Coming to a Close

It’s now the end of day 22 for my whole30, and it’s time to start planning on how this will carry over into a long term nutrition plan. 

The Whole30 plan is extremely restrictive for several reasons: to promote a healthier relationship with food, to detox from sugar, to heal the gut, and to eliminate potentially irritating foods from your diet so that you can test them one at a time later. Obviously, it’s a difficult thirty days and is not intended to be followed forever and ever.

As it stands, I’ve experienced excellent results from this Whole30 – lost pounds, pants are fitting more loosely, more energy and focus, etc. As a result, I plan to follow these guidelines for my long term diet:

  • Continue to base meals on vegetables, cooking at home at least 5 days a week
  • Allow honey back into my diet (sparingly and probably as the only form of added sugar)
  • Continue to forgo fast food, frozen food, and other forms of over-processed food
  • Allow dairy back into my diet (sparingly – based on my first Whole30’s food reintroduction, dairy had no real effect on my body)
  • Eat whatever I want once during the week (when at brunch or out)
  • Allow paleo-ified versions of food (paleo cakes, cookies, pizzas, etc.)
  • Allow grains like quinoa and brown rice

I’ll continue blogging recipes and experiences as they arise.

Zucchini Noodles + Buffalo Meatballs
Total prep to plate time: 40 minutes

whole30

Ingredients

4 zucchini squash
1 lb buffalo meat
4 cans tomato sauce (make sure there’s no sugar added)
3 cloves garlic
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs coconut flour
1 egg
red pepper flakes
salt & pepper

Steps

Preheat your oven to 430 degrees.

Using a mandolin or knife, cut zucchini squash into long strips and place in a colander (make sure it’s in the sink). Cover the strips with salt and let them set for twenty minutes to draw out all of the moisture and prevent zoodles from getting mushy.

While the strips are in the colander, mix together the meat, coconut flour, egg, red pepper flakes (however much you want), one half of a can of tomato sauce, and any other seasonings you like in meatballs. If the meat won’t stick together in balls, add a little bit more coconut flour. Roll in balls, place in a glass casserole dish, and cover with tomato sauce. Place them in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

After the zoodles have drained in the colander for 20 minutes, rinse VERY well with cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. Place the olive oil and minced garlic cloves into a sauce/frying pan (or a wok if you have it), and heat (medium-high) until you can smell the garlic. Add the zoodles and saute for approximately 4 minutes or until desired consistency is reached. I like the zoodles to remain somewhat firm.

Remove meatballs from oven, add meatballs and sauce to zoodles, and eat. NOMNOMNOM.