What I Learned On My Whole Foods Detox (Plus Before & Afters!)

I finished up my 21 day whole foods detox almost 2 weeks ago and just last week I took my after pictures. 

It’s true – a picture is worth a thousand words.  Honestly, I felt different – lighter, clearer – and a little slimmer (and my husband kept telling me how skinny I looked), but my body itself felt largely the same.  That’s why comparing my before and after shots was really eye opening.

Over the 21 days, I lost a total of 12 pounds (a lot of which I think was muscle mass) and 8.5” inches – mostly from my waist and hips.  (you’ll note the difference in my love handles and abs – winning!)

weightloss detox
weightloss detox

But more than losing weight and inches, I learned a heck of a lot about myself and my body on this 21 day whole foods detox; THAT was my goal – to refine what I know about what my body needs.  Here are some of my main takeaways (remember: this is for ME and my body; your body might work completely differently).

  • Abs ARE made in the kitchen
    • I have heard (and personally say this) pretty often... this week just affirmed it’s true.  I didn’t do a single crunch, but look at my stomach!
  • My body thrives on VEGETABLES
    • I felt the absolute best during Week 3 – which was limited grain vegan and packed with lots of yummy veggies.  The trick is to keep it interesting with a variety of different colors, textures, and tastes.
  • I NEED exercise
    • Exercise is a major stress reliever for me and as a work-from-home’r it helps to break up my day and get me out of the house and away from my laptop.  21 days without any exercise except some gentle yoga and walking was KILLER – I really need some sweating and straining.
  • Too many grains really block up my system
    • During weeks 1 and 2 of the detox, there are grains at almost every meal.  I love grains and so does my tummy, but the rest of my GI system, not so much.  I’ve experienced this before when traveling to the Philippines; eating rice at every meal leaves me constipated.  I do best with grains every other day or so.
  • It’s OK to give myself a break
    • This was a tough one for me.  I’m a chronic go-getter and those who know me well know I am ALWAYS doing something.  During these 21 days, I made a conscious effort to SLOW DOWN, sleep in, appreciate more, and fill my days with intention and purpose.  Eye. Opening.  This is something I’ve kept with me and plan to continue.
  • I CAN live without caffeine
    • I really lucked out... I only experienced 1 day of caffeine withdrawal (the norm is 3-4 days), but that single day was debilitating enough.  I have no desire to go back to drinking caffeine regularly.  But, I love my morning ritual of coffee and a book, so for now it’s high quality, fair trade decaf for this girl.
  • 70-90 ounces of water is my sweet spot
    • Yowza!  That sounds like a lot, doesn’t it?  And, in all honesty, I’m running to ladies’ quite a bit... but this is what really helped boost my energy and provided me with mental clarity. (For reference, this is about 60-75% of my post-detox weight in lbs...you do the math)
weightloss detox
weightloss detox

If you think this is for you, make sure you check out this post to determine if this is a good fit for you and then let’s talk.

Control Your Portions & Your Waistline in 21 Days

Ever have one of those meals where, after you’re done stuffing your face, you hobble away to lay down, feeling bloated, stuffed, and just downright disgusted with yourself?Like you need to unbutton your pants?

A meal where you say to yourself, “Ugh, I shouldn’t have eaten all that.”

And I’m not talking about on Thanksgiving,

I’m talking about on a random weeknight or when you’re out with friends on Saturday.

We’ve all been there.

portion control
portion control

Or maybe THIS is you.  

You’ve really cleaned up your diet.  You’re eating healthy - loading up on real food and cutting out the processed crap.  But the scale hasn’t budged.  For weeks.

It’s possible to overeat on healthy food, too.

So, let’s talk portion control.  And let’s make it easy.  Check out these portion control tips.

1. What’s the hurry?  Slow down

It takes 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you’re full.  So, if you’re wolfing down your entire meal in 10 minutes, there’s absolutely no way for you to know when you’ve had enough.  

Quick tip: If you are in a rush, try to eat a few smaller meals throughout the day.  This curbs overeating and allows you to stay on schedule.

2. Ditch the “Clean Your Plate Mentality”

Did you have to clean your plate to leave the table, too?  Our parents truly had our best intentions at heart… unfortunately, plate manufacturers may not.  The average plate size has increased by 2 inches in the last 30 years.  What that means is, if you’re a child of the 80s like me, your meals have increased by 900 calories since you were a kid.  

portion control
portion control

You know I don’t believe in counting calories, but that’s almost a 200% increase in calories at every meal!  

Quick tip: Use your salad plates at mealtime to reduce what’s in front of you when you’re eating.

3. Make half your plate veggies

Clearly, I love this tip.  It’s my #1, go-to, take your health back quick tip.  By making ½ your plate veggies, you’re crowding some of the other stuff OFF your plate.

PS - I’m not talking about veggies covered in butter or cheese!  Cheater!

Quick tip: Use a little himalayan sea salt, olive oil, or Bragg’s liquid aminos to add some flavor to your veggies if you can’t handle them on their own.

4. Make It Easy For Yourself

Figuring out how much and of what you should be eating can seem overwhelming.  Counting your macros (protein, fat, & carbs) and weighing of measuring everything you put on your plate - No thanks!

You’ve got a ton to worry about.  Your life is hectic.  The idea of figuring out the science of portion control is just a bit beyond anything you’re interested in investing your time in right now.  

Which is why I’m going to make this easy for you.  I have an amazing, brand-spanking-new, and totally affordable program that breaks this stuff down for you and takes the guesswork out of how much you should be eating.  

The best part - NOTHING is off limits.  You can eat what you want, as long as it fits in the containers.  

The other best part - this program combines this simple approach to portion control with 30 min workouts.

The last best part - in just 21 days, female participants are losing an average of 10 pounds and up to 15.

Quick Tip: Hop over here to get this program for just $140 through 2/28.

What to do with ALL THAT TURKEY?

Tired of the post-Thanksgiving obligatory turkey sandwiches and piles and piles of mashed potatoes? I rounded up some of the yummiest, most fun Thanksgiving leftover recipes on the internet.  

There is so much WINNING with this "recipe" - granted it's not a step by step guide, but it's a great inspiration.  Imagine, all your favorite Thanksgiving fixings wrapped up in a nice, warm burrito.  You can also take a tip from my favorite veggie burrito recipe and bake the burritos for a nice crispy touch.

I WANT THESE SWEET POTATO WAFFLES RIGHT NOW.  They are absolutely mouth-watering and I love the versatility in the ingredients - no dairy?  No problem!  Gluten free?  Got you covered!

I love the idea of sweet potato "buns" for this fun Paleo Turkey Sandwich recipe, and you know me, I'm pretty much sold on anything with brussels sprouts.  

This Israeli cous cous salad is something I'd make even without leftover turkey.  My stomach is growling just reading the recipe:

I was first introduced to tostadas just about a year ago... they're a bit tough to eat, but oh so yummy!  Check out this simple turkey tostada recipe.  You could even sub a fresh tomato for the canned ones here and eat this cold, majorly cutting down and the cooking time.  (PS- PLEASE ditch the canola oil!

There are few things easier than a stir-fry and the Asian-flare will have your leftovers feeling brand new.  Use whatever veggies you've got on hand for this one - you really can't lose.

For an interesting twist on a frittata, try this recipe for a Banger's and Mash style baked egg casserole. Happy THANKSGIVING, ya'll!

Anti-Inflammatory Recipe: Spiced Squash with Cashews

There are two things that I am just absolutely head over heels for right now: acorn squash and ghee.  On their own, they’re both pretty freaking great... but the combo is legit OUT OF THIS WORLD.  This is hands down, my favorite fall combo this year (aside from a great boots and scarf combo, of course).Now, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that you know what acorn squash is, but just in case you don’t (no judgment zone), I’m talking about this guy:

anti-inflammatory recipe
anti-inflammatory recipe

It’s squash season, so you should have no problem finding acorn squash in your local grocery store.

But, there’s a good chance you’re asking yourself, “What the heck is ghee?”

Ghee is “clarified butter” traditionally used in Indian cooking (note: I use the quotation marks because there’s a little more to the preparation process).  Ghee contains vitamins A, D, E and K, lipids that have anti-infective properties, and acids which have anti-viral and anti-carcinogenic properties, as well as omega 3 fatty acids.  Due to its preparation process, which removes all the milk solids, ghee is lactose and casein-free, perfect for our dairy-intolerant friends.  

Perhaps most importantly, though, ghee is known to be an effective carrier of lipid-soluble nutrients.  Herbs and spices coated in ghee can easily penetrate lipid-based cell walls in the body, where you really get the most bang for your buck – which is why this Anti-Inflammatory recipe is such a powerhouse.

You can get ghee in most natural food stores, or Whole Paycheck, but I’m personally really digging on OMGhee, which can be purchased right from the comfort of your own kitchen table.  It’s a bit pricey, but well worth the investment.

Ghee is still a form of saturated fat, so use it sparingly... it’s recommended to use no more than 2 tbsp per day.

Anti-Inflammatory Recipe: Spiced Squash with Cashews*

Makes 6 side-dish servings

½ tsp ground cumin½ tsp sweet paprika¼ tsp turmericPinch of cayenne pepper¾ lb (1 medium sized) acorn squash1 tbsp ghee2 tbsp chopped roasted cashews

1.    Half and remove seeds from squash and bake for approximately 30 minutes at 400oF (until soft)2.    Remove from oven and let cool, approximately 10 minutes3.    Scoop squash from skin and cube4.    Toss squash with spice mixture5.    Heat ghee over medium heat and add squash6.    Mash squash with a spoon as you stir, until completely mashed

*Recipe modified from Eating By Color for Maximum Health, Williams-Sonoma

What fall recipe or flavor combo are you totally digging right now?  Make sure to leave it in the comments so I can test it out (I double as a health food taste-tester in my spare time!).

Clean Out the Fridge Frittata Recipe

Why It Sucks to Be an Egg: You only get laid once, you only get hard once, and when you DO finally get hard, it takes under three minutes and you're already in hot water. Source: Comedy Central Food Comedy

Also, if you're in my house, you're likely to be in my belly VERY soon.

frittata recipe
frittata recipe

If you're trying to clean up your diet, but you're short on time and or funds, incorporating eggs is a great choice for you.  Decent quality eggs (cage-free, vegetarian-fed, organic) can be found in pretty much any grocery store for less than $5 a dozen.  If you REALLY want to step up your egg game, invest in pasturized eggs from a local farmer.

This summer, I participated in an egg share, which meant a farm-fresh dozen eggs every week, so I've done lots of egg-speriments.  I've scrambled, fried, boiled, and baked 'em.  What I've learned: no matter how you cook eggs, its crazy-quick and easy and they can easily be paired with practically anything in your fridge to make a more complete meal.

Bad Rap Busted

Eggs, especially the sweet little yoke, have been getting a bad rap for quite some time - too high in fat, too high in cholestorol - but recent research shows these claims to be unfounded.  

In fact, eggs are nutritional powerhouses - filled with protein, healthy omega 3 fats, and a whole host of vitamins and minerals including Vitamin D, Selenium, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B5, Phosphorous, Iron, Folate, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B2.  And, get this- a study at the University of Connecticut found that the fat in egg yolks actually helps to reduce LDL (“bad” cholesterol).

As far as cholesterol goes, the real threat is saturated and trans fats, not dietary cholesterol. According to the American Heart Association, the recommended limit of dietary cholesterol is 300 milligrams for people with normal LDL (bad) cholesterol levels; one egg (yolk and white) contains 185 milligrams of dietary cholesterol.  The problem isn't the egg, it's how you're cooking it and what you're eating it with.  My suggestion: ditch the butter and bacon and add in fresh veggies instead.

(Note: if you have a history of high cholesterol or heart disease in your family, talk to your doctor about how much cholesterol you should have.)

Clean Out the Fridge Frittata Recipe

Serves 4

8 eggsSplash of unsweetened almond milk or water (approximately 1/8 cup)Potential Clean Out the Fridge Add-Ins:

Dark Leafy Greens (spinach, chard, kale)OnionPeppersGreen or yellow squashBroccoliBasilWhite or sweet potatoesTomatoes, Salsa, or Tomato SauceMeat: Chopped Ham, Turkey, or SausageCheese: Feta, Grated Cheddar, Mozz, or Parmesan

1. Preheat oven to 400F2. Whisk eggs and almond milk3. Fold in veggies, herbs, cheese, etc.4. Pour egg mixture into 9" glass pie plate5. Bake for 30 minutes or until firm

This week I made swiss chard, red onion, & green and red tomato frittata, served with a large (1/2 plate!) green side salad.  The pairing is perfectly refreshing.  The frittata can be served hot or cold, depending on your preference.  Leftovers double as a great grab-and-go breakfast.

What's your favorite "egg-cellent" recipe?

The Mighty Brussel

Up until a few years ago, I’d never had brussels sprouts.  After having bad experiences with the sprout while growing up, my parents never cooked them for me.  I didn’t have my first encounter with the mighty brussel until just a few years ago, after spotting a must try recipe in Vegetarian Times.  Since then, brussels sprouts have become a regular in my house and for good reason.  Not only are brussels sprouts absolutely delish when cooked correctly, they’re also chock full of nutrition.  Keep reading for information on brussels sprouts nutrition and my favorite b. sprouts recipe.


The Nutritional Lowdown

  • Serious Phytonutrients: Brussels sprouts have recently been found to have the highest glucosinolate concentration of all cruciferous vegetables.  Glucosinolates are important phytonutrients; they are the chemical starting points for a variety of cancer-protective substances.
  • DNA Protection: Research shows improved stability of DNA inside white blood cells after daily consumption of 1.25 cups of brussels sprouts.
  • Reduce Cholesterol: When steamed, fiber-related components in b. sprouts do a better job of binding together with bile acids in the digestive tract.  After binding, it’s easier for bile acids to be excreted, thereby lowering cholesterol levels.
  • High in Vitamins & Minerals: Just 1 cup of spouts contains 194.7% daily recommended value of Vitamin K, 124.6% of Vitamin C, and 15% of Manganese, among many others.

Delicious Sprouts

Not sure how to make the sprouts absolutely delectable?   Simply halving and roasting with some olive oil, salt, and pepper is fantastic, or try my favorite recipe for a yummy B. Sprouts salad.

Honey Dijon B. Sprouts Salad

**Honey optional

Serves 1 as a main dish; Multiple as a side

  • 2 cups brussels sprouts, rinsed and quartered
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup walnuts


  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 ½ cups apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard (I love Grey Poupon!)
  • ½ tsp Chia seeds

Heat garlic and olive oil over medium heat for 1-2 minutes.  Reduce heat to low and add sprouts, stirring occasionally.   Saute for 5-10 minutes until sprouts are tender (test with a fork).  For softer sprouts, add 2 tablespoons of water and cover, heated, for approximately 3 minutes.  For sweeter sprouts, add 1 tablespoon raw honey to water before covering.  In a separate container, combine all dressing ingredients and mix vigorously.  Remove the brussels sprouts from heat, combine all dry ingredients and enough dressing to coat (use your discretion; I’d estimate about ½ of the recipe above).  Serve hot or chill in the fridge for 20 minutes before serving. 

How To Stop Counting Calories - For Good!

I hope after last week’s post you’re recognizing the limitations in counting calories.  But, you can’t just DO NOTHING.  So, let’s talk about what you should do instead.

Just Eat Real Food

You want to know the real secret to not counting calories from food labels?  Eat food WITHOUT labels.  Fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, grains (think quinoa, steel cut oatmeal, rice), and healthy fats all fit the bill.  Ditch packaged and processed foods - anything with more than 5 ingredients in the label.

If most of your food is packaged, start by replacing just one item a day with something natural.  Ultimately, aim for 80%-90% whole foods in your diet.

Restructure Your Plate

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that growing up you were probably familiar with the food pyramid as a guide to what you should eat.  No wonder everyone started counting calories - the pyramid did a poor job of helping people identify real food portions! 

Did you know that in 2011 a new food icon was introduced in the US?  The MyPlate icon was rolled out in early summer of 2011 (shown below) and has since been improved upon by Harvard School of Public Health with the replacement of milk with a glass of water, incorporation of more vegetables, and the inclusion of a healthy fat.  The new plate icons make food portioning much more accessible by showing you what your plate should look like at every meal.

US GOV MyPlate
US GOV MyPlate

When planning a meal, use the Harvard School of Public Health graphic as a guideline.  I personally advocate making half of your plate vegetables, adding a lean protein roughly the size and thickness of your palm (approximately 3 ounces for women and 4 ounces for men), incorporating a healthy grain for no more than a quarter of your plate, and adding in a small amount of healthy fat such as olive oil, nuts, or avocado.

Be Mindful

In this day and age, we’re all guilty of it.  Whether it’s eating in front of the computer or TV or incessantly checking your phone at meal time, you’re probably distracted when you eat. 

Research suggests that people eat less at any given meal when they are focused on the meal in front of them (and conversely eat MORE when they are distracted).  Disconnect from electronic devices, focus on chewing each bite fully, and engage your senses to notice the smell, taste, texture and color of your food.

Reflect On Your Previous Meals

A report published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that we draw on memories about the satisfaction of our most recent meal when we make decisions about what and how much to eat next.

Simply taking a moment before each meal to acknowledge what was eaten that day is enough. Alternatively, consider photo documenting each meal with a quick cell phone snap shot and glancing through your photo roll before you sit down to eat.

As you can see here, healthy eating is as much about eating real, whole foods as it is being conscious of what you’re putting into your body.  Consistently focusing on both these practices will ultimately lead to health gains and weight loss without ever having to counting calories again. 

In the comments, tell me what practice above you struggle with and what step you’re going to take towards correcting it.  I’ll go first – I am always distracted when I eat. I need to stop that.  I know better!

Are you a calorie counter?

In the health and fitness world, one of the commonly proposed and supported strategies for weight loss is calorie counting.Have you used calorie counting to lose weight before?  Has it worked for you?   The readers I polled said they had had success with calorie counting , but they all threw in words like “quality vs. quantity”, “portion control”, and “label reading” – suggesting that they were, in fact, looking at a much larger nutritional picture.

The truth of the matter is that calorie counting, as a model, is too simplistic to address the complexity of each individual’s nutritional needs.  Further, counting calories puts too much emphasis on the wrong things (quantity) instead of focusing on right things (quality).

With that being said, I’m going to tackle the calorie counting issue head on over the next four weeks.  I’ll be discussing why calorie counting doesn’t work, what to do instead, and teach you what to focus on instead of just calories when reading food labels.  But first, let’s lay some ground work, and get really clear on what a calorie is.

calorie counting
calorie counting

What is a calorie?

Purely scientifically speaking, a calorie is a measure of heat energy or “the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water through 1 °C”.  From a nutritional standpoint, a calorie is the amount of energy that is derived from a specific food or the amount of energy needed to metabolically “burn” a specific food.  The term calorie or “Calorie” is routinely used in place of kilocalorie; food measurements are actually in kilocalories.

How is a calorie measured?

Here’s where things get kind of squirrely, so pay attention!

Originally, scientists would measure the number of calories in food by burning the food in a bomb calorimeter, a sealed container surrounded by water; the calories are measured by the resulting rise in water temperature.  Using this method, a scientist named Atwater developed average calorie values for the macronutrients protein, carbohydrates, and fats.

Nowadays, the food industry typically uses an “indirect calorie estimation” method known as the Atwater system (based on Atwater’s standard values).  Food calories are estimated based on the average caloric values for protein (4 kilocalories/gram), carbs (4 kilocalories/gram), and fats (9 kilocalories/gram).  There are modifications to these values that have been made for some food groups including fruits, vegetables, and beans, but in general, the Atwater system provides the framework for estimating calories for packaged and restaurant foods. 

One glaring omission in this process is fiber; often, to account for fiber, which is slow to digest, the amount of insoluble fiber is subtracted from the total carbohydrates.  Unfortunately, insoluble fiber isn’t specifically listed on food labels, so replicating the calculations is tricky (says the girl who just pulled various items out of the pantry and tried to do just that).

As an example, here are the calculations for a handful of random items I pulled out of my cabinet.


**My apologies for this being so dang small!

Note, for most items the calories from the food label is in between the calculated calories and the calculated calories without fiber; I believe the discrepancy to be due to insoluble fiber, however, this cannot be confirmed.

Food for Thought

Next week, I’ll go more in depth about the limitations of counting calories, but based on what we’ve reviewed today, I want to pose two questions to you (and my thoughts on them).

Does your body operate like a closed-system furnace, like the calorimeter described above?

NO WAY.  Your body is not a closed system.  It’s a complex, adaptable, machine.   In this respect, the calorimeter measurements are woefully inadequate in determining your body’s response.

Are you average?

HECK NO!  Then what would make you think that using average burn rates (calories) to determine your body’s response will give you accurate results?

Leave your thoughts on calorie counting in the comments.