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June 25, 2021

Finding Food Freedom: Whitney and Ashley’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:

Whitney stands in the kitchen and smiles at the camera.

Whitney Stuart

Whitney Stuart MS RDN/LD CDE is a registered dietitian-nutritionist, board-certified Diabetic Educator and award-winning Advanced Whole30 Certified Coach. Whitney’s nutritional expertise has been featured in media segments for ABC, NBC & Business Insider. She has served as an expert health consultant to numerous restaurants and food brands. She is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and has been Voted Dallas #1 Dietitian since 2019. Her virtual practice, Whitness Nutrition, focuses on nutritional empowerment with an emphasis on real food for real joy. Learn more at

 A close up shot of Ashley Maynard. She smiles and looks at the camera.

Ashley Maynard

Ashley Maynard, Whole30 Director of Finance, has over 15 years of experience in finance & accounting specializing in the retail food & beverage space, as well as mission-oriented enterprises.  A self-proclaimed nerd, she is passionate about numbers and telling the unique story of a business through financial models & reports.  Ashley is originally from Georgia, where she graduated from Georgia Southern University with a BBA in Finance.  She can usually be found galavanting around New York City with a coffee and camera in hand.  She is an avid reader, amateur photographer and last minute flight-booker.

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

u003cspan style=u0022font-weight: 400;u0022u003eI didn’t realize that a Celiac diagnosis with other food intolerances and delayed gastric emptying would be the start of my Food Freedom, but it was! In 2009, after this diagnosis, my healthcare provider put me on an elimination diet that included medical food shakes twice daily, and I unintentionally lost weight rapidly. Although this elimination gave me a clean slate, I desired real food and to regain my health for the long run. I found Mel Jouwan’s blog and was fascinated by the, at that time, Whole9 community. It worked with my food allergies, but was also so abundant!u003c/spanu003e

u003cspan style=u0022font-weight: 400;u0022u003eI completed my first Whole30 sometime in 2012.  I was so dependent on caffeine u0026amp; sugar to get through the day and I really wanted to change that.  I dreaded the 3pm slump everyday.  I wanted to reclaim the power that I had over my body u0026amp; mood as much as possible.u003c/spanu003e

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

u003cspan style=u0022font-weight: 400;u0022u003eAs a dietitian, I am constantly faced with the u0022smaller is betteru0022 dialogue from both the patients I treat and the practitioners I work with. It is hard to make nourishment sexy for others and for myself. Even as an educated dietitian, I have this internal battle! I am human, I am woman.  It is hard to remind myself that deprivation isn’t the best choice because thinness isn’t the solution.u003c/spanu003e

u003cspan style=u0022font-weight: 400;u0022u003eWhen I’m honest with myself, there are still many days that I want to eat away my feelings and dive face first into a cheeseburger, fries u0026amp; milkshake.  Through a lot of trial u0026amp; error I know the milkshake is not going to be worth it in about an hour.  But I’ll do ok with the cheeseburger u0026amp; a few fries. u003c/spanu003e

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

u003cspan style=u0022font-weight: 400;u0022u003eCommunal dining. After my elimination diet period and two Whole30 resets, I found thatu003c/spanu003eu003ciu003eu003cspan style=u0022font-weight: 400;u0022u003e most foods still worked for meu003c/spanu003eu003c/iu003eu003cspan style=u0022font-weight: 400;u0022u003e outside of gluten, corn and dairy. My husband and I have relished in cooking full meals together, and eating alongside one another. Previously, I felt  isolation and anxiety in eating a separate meal from my family. Although we have differences in our food tolerances, I keep our house 100% safe for me. This has been a game-changer to remove the feelings of u0022yesu0022 and u0022nou0022 foods.u003c/spanu003e

u003cspan style=u0022font-weight: 400;u0022u003eMy greatest joy in food freedom has really been the power that I feel in making my food choices u0026amp; setting boundaries.  I tend to be a very black u0026amp; white thinker so giving myself grace in the grey has been a journey. I love that it translates into other areas of my life as well.u003c/spanu003e

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

u003cspan style=u0022font-weight: 400;u0022u003e6AM: During the work week I start my day with a large glass of water as I drive to a morning workout. 80% of the time I have a water + iced americano post-workout while I look through patient charts.u003c/spanu003ernrnu003cspan style=u0022font-weight: 400;u0022u003e8:30AM Sometime before 10AM I have leftovers for breakfast; turkey tacos with a cassava tortilla and sauteed veg with a cutie orange was on today’s docket.u003c/spanu003ernrnu003cspan style=u0022font-weight: 400;u0022u003e12:30PM I eat lunch in my backyard while throwing the ball for my pup; it’s usually thrown together from components we prep over the weekend. Yesterday I had shredded pork, arugula, black beans, a sprinkle of hemp hearts + a handful of raspberries.u003c/spanu003ernrnu003cspan style=u0022font-weight: 400;u0022u003e3PM I take jerky, an apple u0026amp; sparkling water back to the office for a snack.u003c/spanu003ernrnu003cspan style=u0022font-weight: 400;u0022u003e7:30PM Three nights out of the week, we use a prepared meal service for dinner. Last night I had chicken thighs with parsnip mash + sauteed kale. I added a Poppi drinku003c/spanu003e

u003cspan style=u0022font-weight: 400;u0022u003e6:30 – I’m still a coffee drinker and look forward to that ritual every morning.  I usually add some Nutpods, Bubs MCT powder and sometimes collagen powder.  u003c/spanu003ernrnu003cspan style=u0022font-weight: 400;u0022u003e7:30 – I make it through the day more gracefully when I have lots of protein in the morning so breakfast is usually some version of eggs and whatever veggies are in the fridge – potatoes u0026amp; bell peppers are my fave.  u003c/spanu003ernrnu003cspan style=u0022font-weight: 400;u0022u003e12:00 – Lunch is usually a big salad.  I’m very thankful that Sweegreen is around the corner!  I tend to need an afternoon snack which is usually a Chomps or sliced turkey, veggies with ranch, or a piece of fruit.  u003c/spanu003ernrnu003cspan style=u0022font-weight: 400;u0022u003e5:30 – Dinner is a lighter meal for me and I hate all the cleanup in my tiny NYC apartment.  I like to keep it simple by throwing some brussel sprouts, broccoli and chicken thighs with coconut aminos on a sheet pan and call it a night. u003c/spanu003ernrnu003cspan style=u0022font-weight: 400;u0022u003e u003c/spanu003e

What’s your favorite Food Freedom meal?

The left side of the photo shows Whitney’s favorite food freedom meal, shrimp tacos. The right side of the photo shows Ashley’s favorite food freedom meal, New York pizza.

u003cspan style=u0022font-weight: 400;u0022u003eAny meal that I’m not compelled to count the caloric value subconsciously in my head. Every meal where I’m fully present in the taste and texture, not the nutritional qualities of it. As a dietitian, I have to force myself to turn off the clinical side and just eat. This could be beachside ceviche and a tequila with lime, or a Sunday afternoon coconut milk gelato trip.u003c/spanu003e

u003cspan style=u0022font-weight: 400;u0022u003ePizza.  Definitely pizza.  I’m currently testing all the pizza in NYC to determine which ones are “worth it”.u003c/spanu003e

What does Food Freedom mean to you?

u003cspan style=u0022font-weight: 400;u0022u003eNourishing my body with the most abundant variety of food possible while listening to internal hunger cues for how much and how often I eat. Food Freedom has no affiliation with the u0022shouldsu0022 or the rules of diet culture and stands free of counting and keeping score.u003c/spanu003e

u003cspan style=u0022font-weight: 400;u0022u003eFood Freedom is feeling empowered over my choices.  I’m no longer controlled by the petulant toddler that was my sugar dragon. Actually, I don’t need sugar at all and I love coffee so much I’d choose decaf.  I also don’t look at food as “good” or “bad,” just a decision, and that has been liberating!u003c/spanu003e