I made it! I actually did a Whole30 without cheating! Yes, folks: no grains of any kind, no dairy of any kind, no sugar/sweetener of any kind, no legumes, no preservatives, no additives…!

This is kind of a big deal for a bread, cheese, chocolate, and wine lover.

It’s not over: After some celebratory eating this weekend, I will continue on to do another Whole30 (I’ll need another badge for my site, I guess…) to really kick my bad eating habits.

Click here for Whole30 Eats

New Section of A Transparent Life: Whole30 Eats

I have relied heavily on other people’s food ideas this past month, and so I thought I would share what’s on my plate daily and where I get my recipes from, to inspire others who are trying to get “wholly healthy,” too.

Check out my new page, “Whole30 Eats”. You can see it in the menu bar just under the header of my page, between “Weekly Series” and “What I’m Reading” (who would have guessed that I’d have more “W” titles than any other letter?! Random!).

Click here for Whole30 Eats

Or, you could click this link that I’m giving you here.

When you hover your mouse over “Whole30 Eats” in the menu, you will see a list of sub-menus or sub-pages come up. If you click “Whole30 Eats”, you’ll be taken to the intro/explanation page. To see each day’s food report, choose a page from the drop-down list.

Drop-down menu

Now: enjoy! Be inspired!


Whole30 Day 27: Life on the road to Getting Wholly Healthy


Since I started the Whole30 diet four weeks ago ago tomorrow (has it already been that long?!), the way I think and feel about food, as well as the way I interact with it, has changed.

My carb cravings have all but disappeared. I confess I really wanted to snatch one of Johnathan’s McDonald’s fries last week, but I restrained myself.

I am getting used to waiting a while for my food to be done. That and stocking up on pre-cooked veggies and raw veggies and stuff like that. Good food takes time!

Every time I go to the store, I buy avocados. And coconut milk. And tomatoes.

For the first time in my grown-up, shopping-for-myself life, I go through fruit and vegetables before they go bad! Though that pineapple that’s been around for a couple weeks might be done for. Oops. In my defense, I bought it in the first couple of weeks of my Whole30, when the sweets cravings were pretty strong, and I was eating about a case of clementines every day. Well, at least a handful of them, anyway.

That was before I found out I was supposed to take it easy on the fruit, lest my body not be allowed to learn that what it needs most is vegetables!

Fresh vegetables are important components of a...
Veggies: Learn to love them!

My “Whole30 and Getting Wholly Healthy” post talks about how I stopped weighing myself, even on the Wii Fit. This diet, this process is not about losing weight, as much as I would love it if my little paunch would just disappear forever (Keep reading to see what I am doing about that).

I make my own salad dressings, either using extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) and balsamic vinegar or another vinegar, or using my homemade dairy-free mayo as a base and adding garlic and/or spices, etc.

Instead of ketchup or barbecue sauce on meats, I use salsa or guacamole.

Real food tastes good, people! You just have to get out of the habit of relying on processed, sugar- and preservative-laden ingredients, and you’ll discover that the grass really is greener on the other side.


A few people have asked me whether I have cheated on the diet. Since I am a goody-goody that tries not to break clearly-defined rules, the simple answer is no. Technically, before I realized that not all bacon was made alike, I ate a lot of bacon the first week on the diet. I also ate a lot of fruit that first week or two, not remembering that thing about going easy on the fruit.

Also, even though Dallas and Melissa of Whole9Life are adamant about not trying to “Paleo-ify” dessert items while on the Whole30 by making cakes with almond flour or coconut flour, or breads, etc., I have to confess to a lingering sweet tooth which led me to the Fudge Babies recipe. I have made two batches of these over the past couple of weeks. Each batch makes about 10 balls of chocolatey goodness, and most days I only eat one, if any. Since they’re made with mostly raw, Whole30-approved ingredients, I don’t consider this a cheat. Though, if I were more hard-core, I would ix-nay those, too, I suppose. My sweet tooth has also influenced me to keep a container of banana pieces in the freezer for those moments in the evening when I’m studying or reading and could really use something that tastes yummy.

Fudge Babies
Fudge Babies

There have been a few times, while making a Whole30-approved recipe, that I have used something like curry paste which was already in my cupboard, that may have contained traces of things I’m not supposed to eat, like soy and peanuts, or a common preservative. Again, I don’t consider this a cheat because it was in such small amounts and because I’m a poor and starving student: I can’t afford to buy everything brand new!


Yes, I have begun a regimen of regular exercise as part of this whole personal get-healthy endeavour. Many Paleo eaters are also Crossfit-ers. That is WAYYY too intense for me right now. I am getting my body in shape more slowly and easily.

A couple of weeks ago, I started the Couch to 5K running program. I will officially do the third run of the second week. Couch to 5K is an interval training program designed to get beginners out and running at a pace they can handle, then build their endurance until they can run 5K non-stop, 9 weeks later.

In week two, I warm up with a brisk five-minute walk, then run for ninety seconds, then walk for two minutes. I repeat the run and walk six times, then do a five-minute walk to cool down. On Friday, I will run ninety seconds, walk ninety seconds, then run three minutes and walk three minutes. The first week was one minute running, ninety seconds walking. You can see how easy it is for the couch potato to get their rear in gear. (More about the Couch to 5K in an upcoming post)

Then there’s the wee paunch I mentioned earlier. You probably never noticed it – I apparently have a gift for hiding excess weight. I have no idea how this is possible, because it’s clear to me any time I put on a pair of jeans and flesh squidges up over the belt. Gross, right?

The Plank
The Plank

It’s not huge. I’m not fat. I just don’t want to “let myself go”, if that makes sense. Imagine what that little paunch-ette would turn into if I were to start having babies before getting my stomach muscles into good shape! I would probably be a lost cause at that point.

Hence the being proactive in giving my belly flab a run for its money. Every other day, usually on days I run, I do a series of tummy workouts based on this post on the Women’s Health website (thanks for that, Britt and Pinterest). I add as many crunches as I can take, both straight and to the side, some side weight-lifting (holding some weight in one hand, bend sideways so the weighted arm moves down towards the floor, then flex the ab muscles (think: love handles) on the opposite side of your body to pull yourself back to a standing position. Repeat several times, then switch sides.), and then I sit on a chair holding a broomstick across my shoulders (holding weights in my hands, too), and twist as far as I can to one side, feeling the pull in the side muscle on the other side. Then I twist to the other side, and repeat several times. These last two exercises are thanks to Johnathan.


Is it magic? The Whole30? The exercising? No, none of it is magic. It is all part of a process. A time-consuming, effort-involving process that requires dedication and discipline.

But is it worth it? Absolutely. You will feel great by the end of your first week on the Whole30, ’cause you’re not putting ANY junk in your body anymore! Everything worth having requires some effort to keep, including your health.

If you’ve been following my posts, you may have read about how our new apartment must have a dishwasher. John hates to do dishes, and I’m not a huge fan, either. Doing the Whole30 has made the dirty dish situation infinitely worse: practically every time I walk in the kitchen translates into an extra ten minutes of dish-washing!

But even so, it is still worth it. I am willing to pay more, do more work, establish new habits, and learn new skills, all in the name of being “wholly healthy”. Aren’t you?


That’s why I’m going to do another Whole30, back-to-back with this one, a Whole60, if you will.

At the end of this week, I’m going to have a glass of wine, a slice of cheese, a piece of whole-grain bread, and a small piece of dark chocolate, and then the next day it’s back to grain-free, sweetener-free, legume-free, dairy-free, additive-free living, until it’s practically second nature!

Layers of delicious

Breakfast Smoothie Extraordinaire

(Update July 4, 2013. I removed “a la Whole30” from the title of this post because I keep finding it on Pinterest, with comments from Whole30-ers cautioning against consuming smoothies during a Whole30. Is this still a good recipe? I think so, yes. Is it “Whole30”? Not quite. If you’re doing a Whole30, consider this as an occasional treat rather than as a key nutritional go-to.)

(Update March 27, 2012. In a recent conversation with Melissa Hartwig, co-founder of the Whole30, I learned that smoothies are less than ideal for the Whole30 program for a few reasons: 1) the spotlight tends to be on the fruit rather than the veggies or protein; 2) almond butter is classified as a fat that should be consumed occasionally, not a protein that should be consumed daily; 3) flax seeds are on the “limit” list for fats; and 4) liquid foods are easier to overeat than solid foods. That being said, make the adjustments you need to for your Whole30 and enjoy!)

In the 21 days since I started my (first) Whole30, I’ve become increasingly competent in the art of the breakfast smoothie.

The smoothie that I blogged about week before last has evolved past the alpha stage into a more complex, flavorful, and healthy version. Each morning, I look forward to my smoothie with greater anticipation.

I start with coconut milk
I start with coconut milk
Then I add some almond butter
Then I add some almond butter
A cut-up banana is next
A cut-up banana is next
...followed by a handful of spinach
…followed by a handful of spinach
...some flax seed
…some ground flax seed
And, to make it pretty and round out the flavour, frozen blueberries
And, to make it pretty and round out the flavour, frozen blueberries

I know I have not reached the level of Smoothie Expert yet, but I am sufficiently satisfied with this stage to submit it to you for beta testing.

Please give it a go and let me know what you think my next step should be.

Sarah’s Whole30 Paleo Smoothie, Beta Version

  • 1/3 cup high-fat coconut milk (read the labels and choose one that uses only guar gum as a “stabilizer”, and has about a 30% fat content. Good fat, remember!)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons almond butter
  • 1 banana, cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup (or as much as you think you would enjoy) organic spinach or kale (you might want to blend the kale first before adding the other ingredients: I chewed each mouthful of this morning’s smoothie!)
  • 1 Tablespoon flax seeds (I use a version that is already pre-ground) (flax is a great source of Omega fatty acids)
  • 1/4 cup frozen blueberries
  • A couple splashes of orange juice (sweetener and consistency regulator: my coconut milk tends to be thick, and adding OJ makes it pourable)

Playing Favourites: Avocado

Did you know that there are “good fats” that we should be eating?

Coconut is one. Almond butter is another. They’re both pretty delicious.

But my favourite is avocado.


Last night, I mashed up an avocado and squeezed some lemon juice into it to use as a sauce on a baked pork chop.

This morning, I cut up an avocado and a tomato and ate them in a bowl with two fried (Gingerich organic) eggs and salt and pepper on top.

I was introduced to avocado when I lived in Mexico. There, avocado is made into guacamole (which we all know and love), blended with peppers and other ingredients into a creamy salsa, sliced and put on sandwiches and hamburgers, blended with thick cream as a sauce for flautas, and so much more.

Avocado finds its way into my salads as well. Its creamy smoothness is a nice counterpart to something like onion or garlic.

A simple and absolutely delicious way to enjoy avocado is to make your own guacamole. You have probably had it at restaurants or purchased the powdered mix at stores, but I’m here to tell you that you should be ashamed of yourself. That is, if you have never tried to make it from scratch, from fresh ingredients, you should be ashamed of yourself. Please disregard this if you don’t even like avocado at all.

To make your own guacamole, you need a handful of ingredients:

guacamole ingredients

I usually use at least 2 avocados. You’ll want to add more if you’re making this for a party.

First, choose avocados that are dark, almost black, in colour, and have some give to them when you squeeze them gently. I would recommend buying avocados at least a day ahead of when you want to make your guacamole, to give the avocados a chance to ripen a bit more. The worst is when you crack open an unripe avocado and realize there’s no way you can mash it with a fork.

Cut the avocados in half, like the one pictured. Remove the pit. Scoop the avocado out of the skin with a spoon and into a bowl large enough to mix all of the ingredients.

Mash the avocado with a fork until any lumps are obliterated.

At this point, I usually add a few dashes of lime juice (or lemon juice if you don’t have lime), a few shakes of salt (I use free-running sea salt), and I press one clove of garlic into the bowl, then mix well. Then, I add finely chopped onion, diced tomato (cut as large or as small as you like. I like it chunky, but others prefer it smooth), and chopped cilantro.

Mix well.

Add more salt and lime juice to taste, and even more garlic if you’re that kind of person. For heat, you could add some finely chopped jalapeño or habanero or other hot pepper.

Et voila! Thick, healthy yummyness that you can dip raw veggies into, spread on a sandwich, put in a quesadilla or taco, eat with tortilla chips… the list goes on.

(photo source) (I didn’t want to make my own guacamole just to take a picture for this post. Sometime in the future I’ll make some and take a picture and put it here. 🙂 )

There are many other ways to use avocado. The sky is the limit!

Here are a few recipes I would like to try:

Scale no weighing

Whole30 and Getting Wholly Healthy

Scale no weighing

On the Whole9 people’s list of guidelines for the Whole30 diet (which I started on February 22, 2012), there is a bit of a strange stipulation against weighing and measuring yourself:

One last and final rule. You are not allowed to step on the scale or take any body measurements for the duration of the program. This is about so much more than just weight loss, and to focus on your body composition means you’ll miss out on the most dramatic and lifelong benefits this plan has to offer. So, no weighing yourself, analyzing body fat or taking comparative measurements during your Whole30. (We do encourage you to weigh yourself before and after, however, so you can see one of the more tangible results of your efforts when your program is over.

This, of course, flies in the face of everything that we know to be normal about diets and weight loss programs, right? We’re all familiar with that Before and After series of torso shots of people standing in their bathroom in underwear. We hear of people stepping on the scale to monitor their progress.

It’s natural. We are curious: we want to know!

One of the things I really like about the Whole9 mindset is that health is not only about weight loss. Instead, it’s all about balance.

Balance between quality and quantity, between getting healthy and staying healthy.

I forgot to take the requisite torso shot on the first day of my diet, and again at the one-week mark. I regret that, and I regret that I didn’t realize this final rule until I went back after I started my second week to make sure I was doing things right.

But I’m excited. I am so proud that I made the decision to do something that is so against the grain in order to not lose control of my body and my health to comfort foods and convenience. I’m thrilled at how energetic I feel and that I have been motivated to take up running. For years, I have felt a distinct lack of discipline in my life, and I feel like I finally am gathering the skills to be more disciplined.

I’m actually considering making this endeavour a Whole45 or Whole60, in an attempt to completely break my dependence on sweets and any remaining emotional connection with food. It sounds a bit hokey for those of us that looooooove to eat, but I don’t want to be ruled by hunger pangs or enslaved to potato chips.

I want to be clear: this is not about shedding pounds. Yes, I would like to avoid having to buy another wardrobe, which means losing some girth in the hip-thigh-tummy region, and I’m afraid of “letting myself go”, which could so very easily happen. But I want to make the decision to be healthy, not just skinnier. Healthy.

Please comment with your perspective on our tendency to have an emotional connection with food…


Whip it! How to Make {heathy} Mayonnaise.

My mayo!
My mayo!

I say may-uh-NAYze instead of MAY-uh-nayze. Does that make me weird?

Not that anybody but my boyfriend cares. He likes to make fun of me a wee tiny bit about it. Okay, truth is he doesn’t care, either.

Where was I?

As part of my newly turned-over healthy leaf, I am not eating any of the six store-bought salad dressings in my fridge. But I am eating lots of salad.

Last week, I made my own balsamic vinaigrette, tried it, enjoyed it, then promptly started wishing for other dressings. Specifically,  creamy dressings like Caesar and ranch.

(Mysteriously, I can’t find the recipe that I used for the balsamic vinaigrette, but here’s a great guide to dressings the Paleo way)

Now that I’d done hours upon hours of Internet research into Whole30 recipes, I was pretty sure that I could concoct something.

Most of those somethings started with mayonnaise.

Crap. I don’t have “kosher” mayonnaise.

Light bulb. I can make my own.


I remember my mom making mayonnaise, and knew I had her recipe somewhere. My mom’s sister Hazel says that Grandma  would be proud of me, because she used to make her own mayonnaise when they were growing up.

Mom's Blender Mayo Recipe
Mom's "Blender Mayonnaise" Recipe, as she typed it on our first family computer (MS-DOS!)

Mom’s wasn’t quite up to my health par, though pretty close. Following this very helpful recipe that I will refer you to for tips and what-to-do-ifs, I bought a fairly cheap Extra Light Tasting olive oil to use instead of salad or vegetable oil.

You’ll notice that my mom’s recipe is a fast recipe. 15 seconds fast to be precise! I’m going to lead you (as I learned from my new friend Melissa) in a much slower direction. Hours slow. But worth it slow.

Ingredients (Check back here tomorrow to learn where I got this beautiful big brown egg!)

So. What you’ll need:

  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice (or vinegar would work as well)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard* (pretty sure there’s stuff in that I shouldn’t eat, but I decided I didn’t care)
  • 1 1/4 cup light-tasting olive oil
  • A blender or food processor that can operate at a low speed

Possibly the most important thing you need to do is make sure that everything is at room temperature. Everything. I say again: nothing should be cold. Go ahead and leave the eggs and lemon juice out for a few hours!

Another very important thing to remember is that this recipe works best if you think LOW and SLOW. For the ingredients to emulsify, they need time. So, set your food processor on low and keep it there.

SLOW: In mayonnaise-making, as in many other aspects of life (though not all), slow and steady wins the race. Blogger Melissa says it very well when she says to pour “the skinniest drizzle you can manage and still have movement in the oil”. Why would I try to re-write that helpful visual? So I won’t.

Now you’ve been prepared. Here are your steps. Go:

1. Make sure all of your ingredients are at room temperature.

2. Make sure all of your utensils are very clean. (Yes, it matters. So I’m told.)

3. Crack the egg into the blender. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar. Let them hang out there for maybe 30 minutes to make sure they are good and room-temp.

4. Add the salt and dry mustard and 1/4 cup oil and blend until well-mixed, 20-30 seconds. Use your judgement.

5. Do some hand exercises to get ready for several minutes of slow and steady pouring. I kid you not. My hands shook for several minutes afterwards.

6. Get the machine going on low. Slowly and steadily pour the remaining 1 cup of oil into the whirring mixture. After a few minutes, you will notice the colour get lighter and you will actually hear the machine start to work harder as the soon-to-be-mayo emulsifies.

7. Remember my mom’s tip: if when all the oil has been added, a pool of it has gathered at the top, increase the speed to high for 3 seconds.

8. Turn the machine off and give your hand a rest.

9. Pat yourself on the back.

Voila! You should have a very smooth and creamy, slightly yellow mayonnaise.

Here's what it should look like, more or less
Here's what it should look like, more or less

So. Room temperature ingredients. Light-tasting olive oil (I repeat: don’t get extra virgin). Low setting on the food processor or blender. Slowly pour the oil in.

Do you feel like you deserve the Suzie Homemaker crown? You should!

Updated March 28, 2012: If your mayo flops, follow my mom’s advice: pour out 3/4 of your mixture into another container, add one more (room temp) egg to the remaining 1/4, blend, then slowly add the rest of the oily gloppy remainder. After the initial heartbreak of the flop, you should be delighted to find your mayo more delicious than you imagined!

Of course, for me, the mayonnaise wasn’t enough. I wanted salad dressing.

After some more Internet searching, I came up with an idea for a ranch dressing from this very out-of-date but informative page.

Instead of adding dried dill and garlic separately, I realized I had an Epicure dill seasoning mix in my cupboard that already had garlic in it. Huzzah!

Ranch dressing with homemade mayo
Ranch dressing with homemade mayo

Whole30-friendly Ranch Dressing:

1/2 cup “Paleo” mayonnaise
1/2 cup almond or coconut milk* (I used coconut)
1 Tbsp. dry dill weed
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
ground pepper to taste

Use as a dip or a dressing. Will keep for… a while. (Use discretion, people!)

Now you can feel even better about your salads and dips… or whatever it is you use your mayonnaise for.


*Note: I learned after I made this mayo and wrote this post that I should be avoiding sulfites as well as carageenans and MSG. The mustard that I used  did not have an ingredients list, but I can be fairly certain it contained one of these three common additives. My bad. Also, some coconut products contain sulfites as well. Basically, if there are more than a few ingredients, or if there is anything listed in the ingredients that you can’t pronounce, look for something else.