Welcome to Dear Melissa, where I answer your questions about transitioning into or completing a Whole30, successfully sticking to your new Food Freedom habits, and figuring out how to make a healthy, sustainable lifestyle work in the real world. Today, I’m going a little outside the box and talking about extending your health-focused approach to areas of your life other than food.
Besides eating healthy Whole30 foods, in what other ways do you avoid toxins? Do you use plastic containers? How do you feel about non-stick pans? Do you buy non-toxic skincare? -Stephanie, Fontana CA
This seems to be a natural train of thought once you’ve done the Whole30. Once the healthy habits you cultivated on the Whole30 feel like second nature, you start asking, “What else can I do to be a healthy person living a healthy lifestyle?” You start thinking about where your food comes from, shopping seasonally or locally, looking at the ingredients in your skin care products, and researching natural cleaning products for your kitchen.
The trouble is, all this research basically makes you feel like everything is bad for you. EVERYTHING. Like, you know, drinking bottled water. Plastic anything. Coloring your hair. Even spinach can make you sick. It’s incredibly easy to get overwhelmed—not acting on any information because there’s just too much information. Or worse, convinced that unless you live in a hypoallergenic bubble next to an untapped mountain spring eating only organic food you’ve grown yourself from heritage seeds (BUT NOT SPINACH) you’re doing this “healthy” thing wrong.
Deep breath-I’ve got you.
Research is Good, Overwhelmed is Bad
First, it’s fantastic that you’re looking into all of this stuff. It’s good to be aware of what’s in your food, products, and environment so you can make an informed choice—even if that choice is, “I’m not going to change anything right now.” But don’t let yourself get overwhelmed before you’ve even begun! Take a cue from habit research (which says the brain can only really focus on one goal at a time), to keep you on track and prevent information overload.
Tip: Choose one category on which to focus for a month, and stick to researching and making gradual changes in that one category. Maybe this month, it’s household cleaners! You can pick a new focus next month (or the month after that, because some changes may be time-consuming and/or cost money to implement). This will keep you from getting sucked down an internet rabbit-hole into feeling the changes you’ve made just aren’t enough.
Shortcut:Here are some effortless switches you can make right now based on my own research and the household products I use, saving 30-50% off retail at Thrive Market.
Aunt Fannie’s Vinegar Wipes: These work JUST AS WELL as anything I’ve tried, smell great, and include non-toxic ingredients safe for kids, pets, and you. I keep a stash in the kitchen, bathroom, and my office for quick wipe-downs.
Rosey by Thrive Market Dishwasher Detergent Packs, Lemon: These eco-friendly tablets get my dishes clean and leave a fresh lemon scent (instead of that icky wet-dog smell that happened with my old brand).
Amala Magic Sponge Cloth: I was a huge paper towel user until I discovered these. They dust, they absorb liquid, they gently clean, you can microwave them (to kill germs), and clean them in the washing machine or dishwasher up to 300 times. Truly magic!
Start with the Low-Hanging Fruit
I suspect you already realize that some changes will be easier to make than others. Swapping out your dish soap for a more environmentally-friendly brand? No emotional attachment there. Deciding whether or not you want to continue getting your roots touched up with chemical-laden dye at your heavenly swanky salon? That one might be harder to reconcile—no judgement here. Starting with the things that feel easy (effortless, even!) is a great way to make changes that matter and give yourself some grace if the tougher stuff isn’t in the cards right now.
Tip: Start with the stuff that feels effortless—like using a more natural body lotion, hand soap, or toothpaste. There’s nothing wrong with making changes in order of easy to hard, and the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel knowing you’re making changes for the better may strengthen you for the tougher examinations.
Shortcut: I’m not ready to give up my nail polish routine or my root touch-ups, but I have made some changes to my personal care products, and I love that I can just add these items to my normal Thrive Market order.
f.a.e. by Thrive Market Nourishing Body Lotion, Coconut Vanilla: This lotion smells amazing but not overpowering, has a convenient pump bottle, and plant-based botanicals like aloe, vitamin E, and shea butter.
EO Lavender Deodorant Wipes: I keep one of these in every bag, especially in summer. They use a gentle lavender essential oil and hydrating ingredients to keep me fresh with just a quick swipe—no aluminum or salts.
Essential Oxygen Brushing Rinse Mouthwash: I’ve been talking about this stuff for years! It’s so much better for gum health than my old mouthwash, and it leaves my mouth feeling fresh and clean.
Let Good Enough Be Good Enough
In a perfect world, no BPA-containing plastics would ever touch your lips or skin. In the real world, where even cash register receipts are “toxic,” that is wholly unrealistic. Not only that, but some of these changes, like subbing all the plastic in your house for glass, is expensive! We’re not aiming for perfect, nor are we setting expectations for ourselves or our families that are only going to create more (unhealthy) stress. It’s okay to do what you can and leave the rest for Future You, make changes slowly, and give yourself credit for the changes you have made.
Tip: Do Do what you can, as you can. Switching to all-glass storage at home? Awesome! Make those changes as you are able, and keep using what you have until you’re there, because your healthy Whole30 leftovers still need to go somewhere.
Shortcut: Thrive Market has some affordable glass or silicone storage options too, at significant savings off retail. Add one or two to orders where you can, and start phasing out that stained plastic storage for these space-saving, versatile options.
Thrive Market Stainless Steel Nesting Trio, Medium: I send my kid to school with these stainless containers every day. They keep his chicken chips from getting crushed, help keep his turkey wraps cold, and he can see through the lid to what’s inside. Plus they double as storage for leftovers.
(re)Zip Reusable Stand-Up Food Pouches: These replace my plastic baggies for snacks, freezing leftovers, and single-servings of veggies or fruit. They seal up tight and their small size are perfect for kids.
If You Care Compostable Parchment Paper: I use parchment paper for all my veggie roasting. This version is unbleached, chlorine-free, and compostable, with an all-natural silicone coating to prevent sticking.
Live Your Life
Finally, is it perfectly ideal that you are eating a non-organic fruit salad, grilled (but not pastured) chicken kabobs, veggies that weren’t bought locally, and cans of BPA-lines cans of sparkling water, all packed in a plastic storage containers, heading to the park in your oil-consuming sedan to sit on a blanket coated with fire-retardant material, on top of grass sprayed with chemical fertilizers, while coated in paraben-rich sunscreen and listening to music from your radiation-emitting iPhone?
Yeah, I think it is. Because you are sharing a meal with your family. The sun is shining, the kids aren’t complaining and you’ve got the entire afternoon to enjoy nature, in-person social interaction, some lawn bowling, and delicious food you prepared by hand and packed with love.
Don’t let the pursuit of getting it “right” take over your life. Live it. Enjoy it. By all means, ask yourself the tough questions, challenge yourself, and do better where you can. But allow yourself to recognize that the progress you’ve made improving your own health and the healthy of your family is something to celebrate.
Best in health,
Got a question for Melissa? Submit them here.
Remember, we aren’t answering questions about the Whole30 rules via this column (use the forum!), nor are we able to offer you specific advice about your medical issue, health condition, or body composition.