Knit Wit: Reversible Slouchy Hat

The minute Fall weather crept into the Midwest in late September, I spent all of my free time searching for knitting and crochet patterns on Ravelry. You can never get too early a start on Christmas crafting, especially when you tend to be as over-ambitious as me.

Only having knit for the past three years, and never attempting anything outside of straight, simple scarves, I decided to challenge myself by making a slouchy knit hat. My friend had lost their hat while traveling, and it seemed the perfect opportunity to replace their favorite hat while learning a new skill.

I chose the Graham pattern, a relaxed, broken rib reversible hat that only required I know how to knit, purl, and, occasionally, count. I worked in the round for the ribbing and body of the hat and then moved to DPNs (double pointed needles) for the crown.

While I am a serial shopper at Michaels, I wanted a nice, stretchy, yarn that would at least feel nice even if I messed up the stitches (which I did, several times. Only had to rip the hat out twice). I only needed one skein (around 220 yards) of this light gray, hand-dyed yarn that I bought at a local Des Moines shop, Yarn Junction Co. I love how the slight variation in color gives the hat a little more dimension.

You can view my project details on Ravelry, where you can find the original pattern as well. While the hat is reversible, I love the look and feel of the seed stitch side (technically the wrong side) best. You can also make this hat a regular beanie by folding up the ribbed edge and pulling it tighter on your head!

slouchy_hat_seed_side

Slouchy_hat_rib_side

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East Coast Labor Day Weekend Travel Gallery

Labor Day Weekend is one of my favorite weekends of the year, mainly because it usually falls on my birthday 🙂 This year, I took another trip out to the east coast to visit my friend Amy, who grew up near Boston, who also happens to share my birthday! I’ve been to Massachusetts five times in the last five years and this Labor Day weekend was our most adventurous yet. Over five days we went from Boston to Provincetown to Quincy to Portland, ME to Salem, MA back to Boston.

It was a weekend filled with beer, cider, wine, beaches, coffee, witches, graves, car rides, and friends.

Provincetown, Cape Cod, MA

This may have been my favorite part of the trip. We made the drive to Provincetown early on Saturday morning, spending time at the beach watching seals swim close to shore, reading poetry, walking around the Provincetown farmer’s market, visiting Truro Vineyard on the way back to Boston, and eating dinner with friends overlooking the ocean.

Boston, MA

No Labor Day Birthday Weekend is complete without a night out on the town! These were my amazing hosts, the Sisters Luskin (Amy and Elise). Together we form the Triple Threat Trio Rage Brigade.

Portland, ME

Portland was another amazing highlight of the trip, as I hadn’t ever visited Maine. I was expecting a larger, busier town, but was very surprised and happy to find a beautiful community right on the water with great food, breweries, wineries, shops, and people around every historic corner. If you get the chance, make the trip!

Salem, MA

Last, but certainly not least, I finally fulfilled my childhood Hocus Pocus dreams of visiting Salem. It was the perfect way to spend Labor Day (while skipping the oppressive Halloween tourism). And yes, I did, in fact, write “Max likes your yabos, in fact, he loves them” in the guestbook while visiting Allison’s house because I’m an adult.

My Curly Hair Products and Routine

I have curly hair, but you might not know that when first meeting or looking at me. Up until a couple of years ago, I didn’t know the best way to care for my hair or the best products to use, so I always hated the way my hair looked. I felt like a drowned poodle.

For reference, here I am when I was living in Scotland 5 years ago, giving you full Merida vibes.

Soon I started straightening it more and more, then using a wand to create waves, because I felt that was more socially accepted as beautiful. Even TV and movies characters with curly hair are portrayed as spazzy, eccentric, and wild. I thought to look professional and put together meant having sleek, styled hair.

Luckily, a curly hair movement has begun and I recently began the journey of finding the right hair care routine that gives my curls new life. Here’s what has worked for me so far!

Products and Tools:

  • Kenra Shampoo and Conditioner
  • L’Oreal Heat Protectant
  • Tresemme Mouse and Hairspray
  • OGX Moroccan Oil
  • Wide Tooth Comb
  • Diffuser
  • Scrunchie
  • No Pull Hair Ties

Day 1 Routine:

When I plan on wearing my hair naturally curly (basically every day from June to September due to humidity) I shower in the morning and use my Kenra shampoo and condition. Any sulfate and phthalate free products are great for curly hair. My shampoo isn’t specifically formulated for curly hair, but it has helped my curls stay tighter and less frizzy than drugstore options that say they cater to drier, curlier hair.

After shampooing, I put on conditioner, comb through my hair with a very wide tooth comb, and then twist and clip my hair up for the rest of my shower routine. This way the conditioner sets in without dripping off my back or getting wet and rinsing out too soon. Then I do a light rinse and put my hair up in a microfiber hair towel, which I highly recommend trying, no matter your hair type.

Now, this is crucial: I only comb my hair in the shower. When I get ready to put in my hair products I simply do as Willow Smith taught me – I whip my hair back and forth. I do this to break up the solid slab of wet hair without having to recomb it and pull out the curls. Then I will squeeze and scrunch my hair with the microfiber towel to get out an excess water.

The rest is pretty simple. I spray on the heat protectant spray, then put about a half dollar size of mousse into the hair while scrunching it to create the curl pattern. Then I snap my diffuser head onto my hairdryer and let it do the rest of the work for me.

Finally, once dry, I rub a little OGX Moroccan oil into my hands and work that through my hair, which might feel a little crunchy from the mousse. This softens the curls, tames the frizz and adds some volume. Add a bit of hairspray where needed and you are on your way.

Hot diffuser tip: Don’t bounce the hair dryer up and down. Pick a section of hair and scrunch with the diffuser from ends to roots and hold it there for 15 seconds. Keep doing this with sections of hair until 80-90 percent dry. This helps form and hold curls better and reduces frizz.

Day 2 Routine:

If you are like me, it’s a hassle to wash your hair every day, especially with all the work that goes into it (see above). When I want to refresh my curls for the second day, I take a small squirt bottle of water and dampen my hair until its saturated but not dripping. If needed, I’ll run a comb through it quickly and then re-scrunch with my microfiber towel. Depending on time, I will either air dry or use my diffuser. Finally, like day 1, I will finish with some hair oil and a bit of hairspray.

A lot of times, I will wear my hair in a top knot/messy bun, or do a half bun look on the second day. My hair tends to be a bit frizzier on day 2 too, so the Moroccan oil works wonders.

To keep my curls from frizzing or pulling out during the night, I put my hair into a very loose ponytail with a Scrunchie on top of my head.

What’s Your Curly Hair Routine Look Like?

Let me know some of your favorite curly hair products in the comments! I, like many girls, hated my curly hair growing up and am finally at a place where I appreciate the natural beauty and versatility of my hair. I learned that finding the right products with the right ingredients is key to achieving the hair you want and I am always looking for suggestions!

 

My Pursuit of Happiness

Making Time and Space for Joy and Self-Care

If there is one thing that Queer Eye is teaching the world, it is that self-care isn’t selfish. It is important and necessary for our wellbeing. For me, self-care is bringing things into my life or making space in my day to do things that bring me joy. It’s not always easy, but it’s definitely worthwhile. It’s not a new concept to believe that if we make more time in our lives for joy, we invite more joy and happiness our way.

Acknowledging Joy Out Loud

I think there is a lot to be said about actively acknowledging joy in the moment, as opposed to saying, “I was really happy when…” It is something I have been trying to practice more and more, although it can feel awkward at first. Being able to express to your friends or family that where you are, what you are doing, and who you are with makes you happy is gratifying to you, but also the people around you. Who doesn’t want to be told that they make someone happy? It is a way of showing appreciation for the moment, in the moment. It could be as simple as saying, “I like getting coffee with you, it makes me happy,” or “Talking with you always makes me happy.” It makes that feeling more poignant and memorable.

Make a Joyful List and Check it Twice

I wanted to write this blog because I have been making a list of things I want to make more time for that brings me joy. We’ve all been asked “What do you like to do for fun?” and the list of what you do for fun and what makes you happy overlaps. So I started by writing down what I do for fun and I keep adding to it the more I pay attention to what brings me happiness and contentment.

What Makes Me Happy:

  • Completing a crossword
  • Cooking Sunday brunch
  • The feeling I have after a workout (but not before or during)
  • Weekly trips to the Farmer’s Market
  • Listening to mystery, comedy, and history podcasts
  • Smelling books (oh, and reading them too)
  • Taking Watson to the dog park
  • Making the perfect cup of tea
  • Lighting a new candle
  • Writing
  • Crocheting and knitting
  • Playing board games at breweries
  • Riding my bike
  • Cooking dinner and dessert
  • Summer outdoor concerts
  • Making and sharing a charcuterie plate
  • Watching indie films with friends
  • Traveling

Kansas City Weekend Travel Guide

I know what you are thinking, “Two travel blogs back to back…” Here’s the thing: I’ve noticed that all of my travel blogs are about international travels, but a lot of the traveling I do is within the U.S. I want to do better about documenting all the trips I take throughout the year. Traveling can become a bit of a double-edged sword; I visit these amazing, foreign places, eating their food, drinking their drinks, and meeting new people, so I tend to forget there is plenty of my own country to explore and celebrate.

This past weekend I took a trip to Kansas City (the Missouri side of course), a place I haven’t visited since I was 9-years-old. I had a few different things on my agenda for this 3 day, 2-night trip.

Events and Tours

First Friday
Kansas City has a great event the first Friday of every month (when it’s not freezing cold/winter). It is aptly called “First Friday.” This event is one huge block party with food trucks, beer, music, vendors, and more. It features art galleries, DJs, acoustic guitar players, all of the city’s best food trucks, and so much more. It’s a great place to grab some quick food, stop into a gallery or two, and explore the breweries downtown.

Art Galleries
First Friday highlights a lot of small art galleries and studios. They feature everything from large canvas work to more reasonably priced prints, hand-sewn clothing, handcrafted jewelry, artisan bakeries, and the like. It’s a good time to window shop or find some cool new pieces for your home.

Boulevard Tour
I know this is a bit basic and cliché, but I found it worthwhile. Only $5 to get in, there are tours every day of the week, lasting only 45 minutes, and you get a total of three 5 ounce beers (aka a quick buzz for me). If you want to keep the party going, they have a beer hall inside their tours and event building as well!

Breweries

Causal Animal Brewing Co.
This was the first brewery we stopped into after going to First Friday. They have an awesome tap room featuring punny beer names, shuffleboard, board games, and a love of succulent plant centerpieces.

Border Brewing Co.
In the same area where First Friday was held, you’ll find Border Brewing Co. They have a smaller taproom but a large outdoor deck/patio where you can play bags and people watch. Try their Strawberry Blonde Sour!

Double Shift Brewing Co.
Double Shift is literally next door to Border, making it an easy one-two punch for good beer. It has a larger taproom, board games, and 24 hours of Hell with Gordon Ramsay always playing on the TVs. Their Guava Lamp beer was great and the high alcohol percentage doesn’t hurt either.

Food and Drink

 

The Mixing Bowl Noshery
This was probably my favorite meal of the weekend, and not just because I have a love for breakfast that rivals Leslie Knope’s. We hit up the Noshery before going to the Boulevard Tour, it being only 6 minutes away. They have classic breakfast offerings, some with a twist. I fell deeply in love with my sausage and egg biscuit sandwich and gravy. Yeah, that’s right, it is a sausage and egg biscuit sandwich doused in homemade gravy and served with a side of crispy hash browns.

Some friends mentioned that trying a flapjack is a must, and it did not disappoint. It tasted like literal birthday cake, combining two of my favorite things: breakfast and dessert.

Taste of Brazil
On Sunday we headed to the River Market and walked around all the cute shops, checked out the fresh produce, and then made our way to the stalls. It’s a nice of mix farmer’s market meets flea market, with a huge variety of food. You can find authentic Italian, Cajun, African, and Brazilian, which is where we ended up eating. The food was amazing, filling, and deep-fried. Can’t go wrong!

Quay Coffee
Before heading out of town, we hit up Quay Coffee right next to River Market. They have a coffee menu that is more limited than Starbucks, but I think they have something that everyone can enjoy. I tried their vanilla iced latte, wanting to try their housemade syrups. The difference between homemade syrups and store bought had never been more clear to me then at that moment. Hands down the best vanilla latte I’ve had to date.

Obviously, this is not a comprehensive guide to Kansas City, nor a fraction of what the city has to offer. But if you are looking to travel to a cool city in the Midwest, give Kansas City a try! Use this blog as a jumping off point for your planning, or do what I did and just go with the flow. Comment below if there are places I should check out next time I’m in the KC area!

Scotland Travel Image Gallery

I know it’s been a minute (plus a month and a half) since I’ve shared much of anything here, but I have a good reason! After two international trips in less than three months, with a road trip to Colorado sandwiched in the middle, I needed some time to decompress. Life, work, family, etc. happened, so I let it all wash over me before making my way back here.

I’ve been mulling over in my head how to write and share this post because it has literally been five years in the making. Five years ago, I was dropped off outside of AKD Hall at the University of Stirling, Scotland, forced to carry my two oversized bags up four flights of stairs, attempting to be brave and not start weeping in the echoing corridor. For the first week, I was convinced I would never make a friend, let alone more. Luckily, I was wrong.

It is rare to meet a tribe of five amazing women anywhere in the world, even rarer to find them all living on the fourth floor of a Scottish university dorm, even rarest to make a pact to meet up once a year in a different state/country and actually do it. From the beginning, we said our 5th year would bring us back to Scotland and, despite constant changing schedules and a million moving parts, here we are together again where it all began.

It doesn’t come much more full circle than that.

Back to the beginning: Stirling

We stayed in Stirling at the Willie Wallace Hostel for two days, trekking across campus, climbing Dumyat, and hitting up our old haunts, Dusk and FUBAR, until 3 or 4 a.m., pretending to be 19 again.

[Click the images to view the slideshow]

Highland Adventures

Scottish cities and university towns are great, but the Highlands call to me. While I had spent time in the Highlands before, it was a trip of firsts: renting and driving a car on the “wrong” side of the road, visiting the ancient Clava Cairns at sunset, discovering a knock-off Harry Potter bridge off of a dirt road, and actually seeing Scottish sunshine for five full days.

[Click the images to view the slideshow]

I won’t ever be able to describe fully what this place and these people mean to me. I can only say they are the reason behind the person I am today. Uprooting my life, even for just four months, to fend for myself in a new country was the most challenging thing I had done in my then 19 years of life. It’s one of the very few moments in my life that I can confidently point to and say, “That’s when it all changed.”

Two weeks before embarking on this solo study abroad trip, I got my first tattoo. I wanted to commemorate going my own way, taking a risk and accepting whatever may come. I kept going back to the first poem I really connected with, the ever cliché The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. I decided to get the title of the poem tattooed on my side. The last line of the poem that resonates the most with me reads, “I took the road less traveled by and that has made all the difference.” It’s assumed the difference he alludes to is positive, impactful, worthwhile. Yet, he never says what difference it makes. We as readers fill in the emotional blanks.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what difference it makes, rather that there was a difference at all. For me, the poem spoke of picking a path, putting one foot in the front of the other, and accepting the outcome, good or bad. I could at least walk a road less traveled and say that I tried, even if I failed. Lucky for me, it did make all the difference, in all the best of ways.

My Whole30 Holy Grails

Whole30 Saving Graces

Pinterest

Without the prolific help of Pinterest, I would have spent my Whole30 month eating nothing but chicken breast and steamed vegetables. Don’t get me wrong, they get the job done, but everyone wants variety when it comes to their meals. I’ve discovered naturally Whole30 options, like Red Curry with Cauliflower rice, and ways to adapt my favorites, like Chicken Fajitas. There are blogs upon blogs dedicated to creating exciting new recipes out there!

Aldi

Unfortunately, eating healthy in this country doesn’t come cheap. I usually shop at HyVee, as one is located a block from my building. But buying fresh produce and meats 1-2 times a week gets expensive. A friend reminded me of the amazing prices at Aldi, so I stopped in during week 2, and cut my grocery bill in half. Another great way to save money is to decide on 2-3 meals you are going to make that week and have leftovers for the other 3-4 days. It keeps you focused on your diet, as well as on your finances.

Every Day Must-Haves

Larabars

Larabars are vegan, non-GMO, gluten-free, and so much more. Not all of their bars are Whole30 approved, but the ones that are, are lifesavers when in a pinch for breakfast or a midday snack.

Cashews

I typically eat almonds but got into cashews during my Whole30. A nice sea salt cashew hits the spot, and the healthy fats keep you full.

Fresh Fruit

I’ve always been a huge fan of fruit, but Whole30 reintroduced me to how delicious it can be. When you cut out all added sugars, fruit really does begin to taste like dessert.

Carrots

I’ll be the first to admit I am not the biggest fan of vegetables. The one I eat consistently is carrots. Almost every lunch includes carrots and without them, I would have eaten significantly less veggies in my 30 days.

Tea

When you cut out pop, sweet tea, sports drinks, alcohol, etc during Whole30, you start to wonder what is left besides water. Whole30 allows water, coffee, and tea. I have always been a tea person, and find it more variable than coffee in flavors. And while I love the smell of black coffee, I can’t get myself to drink it.

Meal Essentials

Potatoes

Luckily, I jumped on the Whole30 bandwagon when they decided to allow all potatoes. This not only meant that I didn’t have to give up my favorite starch, but that I felt much fuller at dinner time. It takes a lot of veggies and meat to get enough calories in the day when not eating carbs like bread, pasta, and rice. Potatoes helped me feel fuller longer and made sure I wasn’t under eating.

Fresh and Dried Spices

Seasonings are allowed with Whole30, but I really began to appreciate adding fresh flavors to my meal with parsley, cilantro, garlic, etc. I’m not going to lie, before Whole30, my most commonly used spice was cheese. I know, cheese is not a seasoning, but that is how I saw it. Now, I enjoy the flavors of fresh spices and garnishes more than cheese. Yep, I said it.

Ground Turkey

If you are like me, eating a ton of meat can get boring and a bit uncomfortable for your gut. I am not someone who eats a lot of red meat, so ground turkey played a big role in my experience. I used it to make bunless burgers, spaghetti meat sauce, and breakfast turkey sausage. It’s a great lean meat that fills you up without weighing you down.

Cauliflower Rice

Welcome to your Whole30 saving grace. Not only is cauliflower rice extremely easy to make, it adds a great texture and heartiness to your meal. When you would use traditional rice, or what a more substantial dinner, this rice does the trick. I use it with curry, chicken fajitas, taco skillets and more.

Zucchini Noodles

Nothing ever has or ever will replace noodles in my life. The texture is one of a kind and it creates the perfect base layer for sauces. Yet, zucchini noodles are the next best thing. Low in calories and mild in taste, these make a great choice for your spaghetti meat sauce or dairy-free creamy alfredo.

“Sweet” Treats

Soy Lattes

Cutting out sugar and desserts was by far the hardest part of Whole30 for me. One of my favorite things to do on Friday mornings is stop in for a vanilla latte and cinnamon roll at Smokey Row. In a day, those options were gone. One day, while dangling from a brittle, tired, long limb early morning, I decided to go to Smokey Row and order a PLAIN latte with soy milk. I was convinced I would hate it. I don’t know to this day if it was the complete lack of sugar in my life or my desperate need for caffeine, but in that moment, nothing tasted better or sweeter than that latte. Soy milk has a natural sweetness to it that makes the latte taste almost chocolatey when mixed with the espresso, and now it’s my go-to coffee beverage.

GT’s Kombucha

Not drinking alcohol is a bummer, so I decided to cheat (but not really). GT kombucha is sugar-free and Whole30 approved. Not only was the tangy flavor great, I got to drink a little alcohol, even if it was only trace amounts.

Smoothies

Fruit smoothies with soy milk are a great treat post workout or for “dessert.”

La Croix

I hated La Croix. I thought it was dumb bubbly water that only smelled good and tasted bad. Once again, I was craving a fizzy drink and reached for it at the grocery store, thinking I would hate it. Turns out, when you don’t consume sugar, everything else tastes sweeter. For the first time, I could actually taste the natural essence in the water, and I still have one with my lunch every day. For me, it’s a great way to stay hydrated while feeling like I’m being bad.

I hope this was helpful to you on your Whole30 journey! I still maintain a Whole30 diet 5 days a week (or as best as I can), because I do truly feel better when I eat better. If you have any tips or Whole30 holy grails, share them in the comments below.

The Secret to My Side Hustle: Making Freelance Work

How I Got Started

I wish I could say I started freelancing because I always wanted to be my own boss, or that I just wanted to work on my computer while traveling the world. But, that’s not the case. After losing my first job (which you can read about here) I was waitressing long hours, pulling double shifts, and I decided to start freelancing social media and blog work for a family friend’s business. This allowed me to not only cut long waitressing hours but helped me continue to practice the skills I learned at my first job. From there, I worked with a few more clients and ended up getting my now full-time job after interviewing for a short-term freelance position! Funny how things work out sometimes…

Freelancing with a Full-Time Job

I have been freelancing for three years this coming summer, and I have been at my full-time job for two of those years. Considering I first interviewed with the company for a freelance position, they have been gracious enough to allow me to continue my freelance work, as long as I don’t freelance during work hours and am not working for a competing company. Many full-time bloggers, social media, and marketing managers are not allowed to freelance, but working for a small, tightly-knit team like mine is a benefit in this instance (and many others).

Freelance Schedule and Finding a Balance

Finding a balance between freelance work, full-time work, and a social life is something I struggle with, even three years later. While I was waitressing, I had time during weekday mornings or afternoons to get freelance work done, leaving nights and weekends open.

Now, with full-time work and three freelance clients to juggle, I spend most of my time doing work on Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons. This is not ideal for everyone, but it works for me. If I know I have a particularly eventful weekend ahead, I work after dinner on weeknights so I can enjoy my two full days of freedom. I do my best to make working weekends enjoyable. I make a big breakfast, have a large cup of tea or coffee, and listen to music while I work. In a way, it can be relaxing, even more so because I’m basically being paid to sit in my pajamas and write.

Managing Freelance Money

When I mention to people that I freelance and also work full-time, they think it’s appropriate to ask my rate and how much money I make per month total. First of all, rude. Second of all, a magician never reveals her secrets or her finances. But if you are a freelancer, or are considering freelancing in any capacity, knowing how to manage and organize your income is important. The vast majority of the money I make goes into my savings or rainy day fund, while a small portion goes toward my day-to-day spending money. It is important to me to put away the majority of the money I earn to help me afford the life I live and want to live in the future.

A Little More Work Equals a Lot More Play

You may look at my life and think, “All work, no play.” That is sincerely not the case. I view it as, “A little more work equals a lot more play!”

I love my freelance work and the opportunity to grow my portfolio, expand my skills, and continue to challenge myself. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the added financial stability. The majority of the income I make freelancing helps me take care of boring, everyday adult responsibilities like building savings, starting a ROTH IRA, keeping my credit card spending at bay, etc. But it has also allowed me to save up for amazing trips, concerts, and events, all while keeping the financial peace of mind.

I will have taken trips to Austria, Colorado, and Scotland this year alone, not because I am bad at managing money, but quite the opposite. I could say I am lucky to afford the life I live, the trips I take, and the adventures I embark on, but, in all honesty, I’m not. It’s not luck that has given me the life I have, but hard work. Luck may have started me on this journey, but hard work has kept me on the path.

If you have any questions about getting started with freelancing, networking, picking up new clients, etc. leave a comment below!

Austria Highlights Image Gallery

Hello! I know I have been absent recently. I was away, visiting my friend, Amy, in Austria in mid-March and have been recovering from my “travel hangover” ever since. Not only have I rediscovered my sanity and a normal sleeping schedule, I’ve finally gone through my photos from the 8-day trip that spanned 5 cities.

Here are a “few” of my favorites.

Innsbruck

Linz

Enns

Salzburg

Vienna

 

If you enjoyed this image gallery post, let me know! If you want Austria travel advice, to-dos or sample itineraries, post a comment. Up next on the travel docket: my 5-year study abroad reunion this May in Scotland. Stay tuned!

My Whole30 Experience

Yes, you read the blog title correctly. I am one of the millions (Maybe? I didn’t do any actual math) of people who started the Whole30 diet and came out the other end alive and, believe it or not, well.

Mentioning, writing, or even pondering about a “fad” diet tends to invite people to insert themselves and their opinions into your decision-making process. So, before you dump all of your preconceived, and possibly misinformed, opinions regarding restricted and elimination diets on me and the community of people who choose to live this lifestyle, let me explain.

Keep in mind that I am writing only about my experiences, which are unique to me. My experiences are similar to some and vastly different to others. If you are considering trying a Whole30 diet, for whatever reason, know that this isn’t a complete guide or user manual for the overarching experience.

What is Whole30?

To put it simply, Whole30 is a sugar, dairy, grain, legume and alcohol-free diet.

Whole30 was created in 2009 as a 30-day elimination diet to help people suffering from a myriad of health issues and discomforts. The goal is to eliminate foods commonly known for causing inflammation and irritation in the body for a full 30 days, then slowly reintroducing foods one at a time to see which foods or ingredients may be causing you discomfort or flare-ups.

It is important to remember Whole30 does not have to be a complete lifestyle change. It is a method for resetting your health, developing better eating habits, and, most importantly, learning what foods work for your body and which ones are actively working against it.

Why I Chose to Try Whole30

As someone who has tried going gluten and dairy free in the past to help with AD symptoms, I was always skeptical of elimination diets and the effect it would have on my autoimmune disorder. After writing my first blog on my AD, an old friend in PA school reached out with great information about a diet option for autoimmune disorder sufferers called the Wahls Protocol. This diet is a new take on a paleo diet. Terry Wahls, a doctor, and MS patient saw amazing results in her symptoms, even reversing some of them, with the diet plan she created with autoimmune conditions in mind.

This diet is extremely intimidating at first glance and, knowing myself, trying to jump in with no lead up to an extreme diet would be setting myself up for failure. After doing more research and talking to my aunt, a fellow AD sufferer, I landed on Whole30. An elimination diet with a deadline made it mentally more manageable. After years of taking medication in increasing doses and no end in sight, I decided to take matters into my own hands. If prescription medication isn’t helping, how could a change in diet possibly hurt, right?

Initial Impacts of Whole30 on My Body

Before I began the official 30 days, I decided to ease into the Whole30 lifestyle gradually the week before. I attempted to eat 2 out of 3 meals according to Whole30 guidelines. During this first “practice” week, I felt a little more fatigued and head one bad headache day, but nothing as jarring as the first week I went gluten-free.

The most noticeable, initial impact Whole30 had on my body was my digestion during the first 7 days. I was irregular, too regular, bloated, puffy, and bit sluggish. This is completely normal, and by the end of week 2, my digestion and bloating were better than it had been in years. While my bloating and gut discomfort don’t directly correlate to my AD, this was an added benefit for sure.

I was also among the people doing Whole30 who experience some acne and skin changes during the first few weeks of the diet. Yet, this is common for any major change to diet, whether you are eating healthy or eating poorly. I had some acne flare-ups and more oil production, but nothing ghastly. This also calmed down in the last two weeks.

Whole30 Impacts on My Autoimmune Disorder

My main objective going into Whole30 was seeing how it would impact my symptoms. I have had consistent flare-ups the entire time I have been on methotrexate. With little success attempting to fight the symptoms, I thought about trying to attack the source of symptoms: inflammation. I had a few small spots when I started Whole30 and was amazed to see no further growth and no new spots show up at all during those 30 days. I was still taking methotrexate during the Whole30, so this is not a direct comparison between symptoms when on just methotrexate and symptoms while doing just a Whole30 diet. Yet, it was extremely encouraging to see this progress and makes me hopeful that, over time, I may be able to reduce my medication dosage while eating a majority Whole30 diet.

Whole30 Impacts on Weight and Well-Being

My main goal for Whole30 was to see improvements in my AD symptoms, but I’d be lying if I said weight didn’t factor in at all. I think I was successful in completing my first Whole30 because my main goal wasn’t weight related. Whole30 even says not to count calories, step on the scale, or measure yourself during the process, which is refreshing. This diet isn’t about how you look, but how you feel.

That being said, I ended up losing 8 pounds during those 30 days, which falls into the healthy range of losing around 1-2 pounds a week. Having plateaued at the same weight for the past 5 years I was excited about seeing the number dip again!

But weight will always be just a number. I am much more impressed by the way I felt at the end. I felt more energetic, my skin cleared up, I was sleeping better, and I didn’t feel like I was going to die without sugar and dairy, which was the biggest surprise of all.

What’s Next?

My Whole30 ended right as I went on vacation to Austria, where I spent 10 days eating and drinking whatever I wanted. I didn’t feel as terrible as I expected, but I also didn’t feel great. I was bloated, sluggish, and definitely irregular. What surprised me the most was that even though I was indulging in chocolate cakes and pastries every day, I didn’t miss them or the taste as much as I thought I would. Maybe my taste buds changed in the past month, or my body just didn’t crave sugar as much because I wasn’t feeding it sugar anymore. Either way, I learned that while I wanted to eat all of those things, I didn’t really need them.

Now that I am back from vacation, I’ve decided to commit to Whole30 again, at least 5-6 days a week. I felt better, looked better, and saw improvements in my condition. Yet, it’s okay to have a day or two to give into cravings if they should arise. I’ll see if this new plan works or if more tweaking needs to be done.

As long as you continue to listen to your body, success will surely follow.