July 30, 2021

Finding Food Freedom: Jen and Debbie’s Stories

Food Freedom Snapshots text in bottom left with illustrations of a salad, chicken wings, pizza, coffee, chocolate, bread

We’ve saved the best part of the Whole30 for last: Food Freedom.

The Whole30 consists of the 30 day elimination phase, the reintroduction phase, and Food Freedom.

Wondering what Food Freedom is? Food Freedom is feeling in control of the food that you eat, instead of food controlling you. Wondering what Food Freedom looks like? Experiences of Food Freedom are as diverse as our community. Every Food Freedom journey is different, with different joys and challenges, diverse diets, and a unique sense of empowerment for every individual.

With this series, we want to celebrate Food Freedom by sharing snapshots of what Food Freedom looks and feels like members of our Whole30 HQ team and Certified Whole30 Coach community. We’ll be sharing more snapshots throughout the year so you can see what this looks like for other people as you navigate your own Food Freedom journey. To see past snapshots click here.

Here’s a little background about our contributors:

Debbie Marlowe smiling at the camera.

Debbie Marlowe is an Advanced Level Whole30 Coach and Holistic Coach. She received the 2020 Peer Coach Award. She lives in an RV full-time and currently splits time between North GA and Central Florida. She fell in love with Whole30 in 2010. You can find her hiking with her husband and dogs in tow, feeding goats and sharing real life @motivatemelove on Instagram or www.motivateme.love

Jen Kendall smiling at the camera

Jen Kendall, our Whole30 Approved Program Manager, is a born and raised Floridian who now lives in Utah with her husband and their son. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2010 from the College of Journalism and Communications and has a strong interest in nutrition, health and exercise. Jen has an insatiable appetite for travel and adventure and also loves books, spending time in the kitchen cooking and experimenting with recipes, Crossfit, and enjoying as many days as possible outdoors year-round.

When did your Food Freedom Journey start and what main pain points led you to work toward finding it?

It took me a LONG time to get the hang of Food Freedom. I realized I did well with Whole30 because there were rules. I created my own Food Freedom Structure. For instance, if I have something that is “worth it” for me, I make my next two meals nutritious and typically Whole30 compatible. I created a structure of things like that to my life simplified and amplified.

My journey towards true Food Freedom began in 2011 when I joined a CrossFit gym and was introduced to the then newly popular Paleo Diet by way of a 30-day challenge at the gym. At the time, and in the couple years prior to this, I was experiencing several frustrating health challenges and hormonal imbalances. After the 30 days, I felt such relief that I’ve never turned back to a Standard American Diet. A year or two later, I discovered the Whole30 program and gave it a try, using it as another dietary tool to further tinker with and craft the perfect diet for me, and I found it to have the biggest bang for my buck in specifically pinpointing foods and food groups that were causing me the most trouble.

What’s been the hardest part of the process for you? Where are you still growing in your Food Freedom?

The hardest process was getting out of my head, taking a 10,000 ft. view of how I was thinking about food. Realizing that there are always going to be disconnects and that every day I would be learning about myself was a game changer. I am always working on having tools to better my choices. Where could I do better? I have more growth around getting more variety of veggies in. I do well with getting them at every meal, but I tend to rely on the same favorites.

The most challenging part of the journey in my Food Freedom was letting go, completely, of the on-the-wagon/off-the-wagon diet mentality that caused me so much stress for many years. Balancing the process of habit formation, which can involve being somewhat inflexible until those habits start to go on autopilot, with practicing going with the flow in regards to dietary choices, felt challenging at times. After many years of practice, this has become much more natural and, at times, even easy! These days–after holidays, birthdays, or vacations–I find it automatic to just resume my preferred eating habits without punishing myself with a calorically restrictive diet first.

What’s been the greatest joy of the Food Freedom process?

My greatest FF joy is knowing that I have the power over food and it doesn’t control me. I can put the pint of ice cream down after a few spoonfuls. I can eat a handful of potato chips and not the whole bag. Another bright spot is eating for quality. If I am going to have ice cream – it’s going to be the best out there. If I eat chips, they aren’t going to be crappy ones – basically it’s artisanal or “high falutin” 🙂 If I am going to have it – it’s going to be amazeballs!

Feeling healthy, confident, and in control of my dietary choices has positively trickled into so many other areas of my life, such as fitness, family life, and mental health. Not only do I look and feel exactly how I desire (something I quite honestly would have never believed I would achieve), I no longer carry the exhausting mental burden of feeling like my food choices made me “good” or “bad.” Choosing the foods that serve me well and leaving behind or moderating those that do not has, without a doubt, changed my life.

What does a typical day of eating look like for you?

Morning: I have bone broth first thing with my vitamins (5am), after I walk the dogs (7am) I have a smoothie with collagen, baby spinach, riced cauliflower, one type of fruit and nut butter/water or coconut milk. 

Mid Morning: somewhere around 10:30 I have “Second Breakfast” of 2 poached eggs, watercress, avocado, dulse, and Pluck. (@eatpluck)

Lunch: Is typically some veggies or GF crackers with cauliflower hummus or nut cheese with New Primal Meat stick.(noonish)

Snack: All the drinks. It’s Hydration Station! I usually do an LMNT here followed by a sparkling water or two.  I also have a daily Kombucha

Dinner: I am more of an assembler than recipe follower – I usually line a bowl with greens, and throw a hot protein and veggie mix over it. (4/5pm)

Snack: Athletic Greens + Chocolate LMNT with my evening vitamins (usually around 6/7) Possibly some tea too.

I am trying to work on being more consistent with starting my day with a bigger breakfast and sometimes I am hit or miss with this one. Many days I will blend together protein powder, a banana, a spoonful of nut butter, and some nut milk for a quick breakfast and solid balance of protein, carbs, and healthy fats. I’m fairly active and primarily lift weights for exercise, so the quick hit of protein in the morning is helpful for me. 

Lunch is often a can of Safe Catch Ahi Tuna mixed with Tessemae’s Habanero Ranch dressing, The New Primal Buffalo Seasoning, and a generous handful of sliced green onions. I love to wrap spoonfuls of tuna in sheets of SeaSnax. On the side, I never grow tired of eating a handful of mandarin oranges or Simple Mills Almond Flour Crackers. 

I eat plenty of snacks during the day and they’re usually fruit with nut butter or some sort of nutty bar (like a Kind Bar or Larabar). 

Dinner is usually a protein and roasted veggies, almost every night. Last night, I threw a couple of chicken breasts in the air fryer and roasted some zucchini, yellow squash, and broccoli. I’ll almost always eat a Justin’s Peanut Butter Cup or a square or two of quality dark chocolate after dinner.

What’s your favorite Food Freedom meal?

On the right is a photo of a traditional mole dish. On the left side of the photo is a plate of chips and guacamole.

I adore any traditional Mexican food! I live to try different mole sauces. Mole is a complex sauce. Each recipe is like a fingerprint. I heart mole in a big way! My favorite Food Freedom Meal would look like this Mole Enchilada from Siete Foods.

Corn chips & guacamole, tacos, and an ice-cold margarita on a patio in the summertime, hands-down. I rarely find alcohol worth it these days, but it still remains something I crave on a warm summer evening a couple of times a year. Generously salted chips and guacamole are absolutely a food-with-no-brakes for me, but when indulging I enjoy as much as I desire because it’s not an everyday thing.

What does Food Freedom mean to you?

I get so tired thinking about food. As an Advanced Level Whole30 Coach and Holistic Coach I am always helping people with their food choices. So when it comes to mine, I tend to stick with the basics because I get food fatigue. Knowing I can do Stuff over Stuff means that I don’t need to do anything fussy to get deep nutrition. Food Freedom is a journey but it will color every other part of your life if you continue to experiment on yourself.

My practice of Food Freedom has been instrumental in helping me (slowly but surely) let go of the diet mentality that weighs so many down their entire lives. It means that I can enjoy special occasions and vacations without the shame and guilt that comes with letting my normal habits relax and the pervasive, stressful thoughts that I’ll need to “start my diet on Monday.” Food Freedom has meant feeling confident and in control of not just what I eat, but how I show up in the world, and it has been enormously freeing.