Life Updates: Wine-cation, Nutrition Overhaul + More!

Whoa: I just realized I haven’t blogged in 12 days. I almost apologized, but then I caught myself. Because there’s good reason for my absence here. Very good reason.

If you follow me on Snapchat, you know what’s going on. If you don’t, I’ll quickly fill you in: The past 2 weeks have been pretty transformative. Last Monday, I embarked on a nutrition and lifestyle overhaul. After years (about 25, to be exact) of trying out different diets and eating styles, I stumbled upon an article about inflammation. This article led me to another, which led me to a day’s worth of online research learning about inflammatory foods and how they were quite possibly affecting me (feeling moody, tired, never able to truly lose all the weight I want to lose, bloating and a “swollen” appearance).

Let me preface this all with a brief background. I am a professional dieter. I joined Weight Watchers for the first time in 1991 as a chubby 11 year old kid, and have been on the diet circuit ever since. I’ve gained and lost too much weight to even count. I’ve been a vegan, a vegetarian, I’ve been on South Beach, Atkins, Jenny Craig – you name it. In fact, I even wrote a book about my experiences with obsessively dieting and how they ultimately led me to a place where I decided to embrace myself and love my body for what it is, while committing to making the most healthy choices possible while still enjoying life.

But even after all that – even after recently losing a lot of weight (50 pounds, to be exact), riding SoulCycle 4-5x a week, and completely changing the shape of my body, something was still off.

I don’t know how else to describe it other than noticing that after a night out of drinking and eating restaurant food, I would wake up in the morning and look and feel totally bloated and puffy. And not just the “my pants are so tight because I ate 5 tacos” bloated. I’m talking a 5-6 pound weight gain on the scale (sometimes more), a bloated face and double chin, and the appearance that my whole body looked wider and thicker. I also felt extremely lethargic and moody. At first I assumed this was either happening from drinking too much wine or eating foods high in sodium. So I dismissed it and made a mental note that this was just par for the course when I went out.

But then I started paying close attention to when this was happening even after not going out and having all that booze and salt. I kept a food log which revealed the fact that I was not eating as healthy as I thought. I was basically eating some kind of wheat/dairy combo at every meal. Sure, it may have been organic, whole wheat bread, and expensive, gourmet cheese, but it was way too much nonetheless. I was having non-dairy flavored coffeemate creamer in each one of my 3-4 cups of coffee a day (seriously, have you ever looked at the ingredients in that stuff!?). I’ve never been a big meat eater, so I wasn’t having much of that. I definitely ate healthy things: a banana each day, beans, brown rice, and a few protein smoothies each week. But I realized there were times I had gone days without eating a vegetable. And I was drinking at least a few times a week again.

My habits weren’t completely terrible, but they needed a lot work. And the way I felt was a telltale sign of that.

These observations made me start thinking about whether or not I may have some food sensitivities. I mean, my symptoms were textbook. The more I googled, the more information came up. Every single article I read about symptoms from the main inflammatory foods like dairy, wheat (gluten), and alcohol had me shaking my head YES and feverishly taking notes. I also remember how great I felt when I took my last “wine-cation” and only drank once or twice a month tops. I knew it was time to make some serious changes. I knew that cutting out alcohol again plus making those other dietary changes could potentially make me feel better than ever. So right there, in that moment, I made a pact with myself. I was no longer going to half-ass this wellness journey I feel like I’ve been on forever. I was going to give it my all.

I decided to cut out wheat, dairy, and alcohol for 30 days. All at the same time. Most doctors will recommend an elimination diet like that for that period of time, and then suggest slowly incorporating each food group back in to see how they affect you. So that’s what I chose to do. My desperation to feel good outweighed any concerns I had about whether or not I could pull it off.

I chose to view this as healing rather than deprivation.

Like I said earlier, this isn’t my first rodeo when it comes to dietary changes. I’ve laid low on carbs before. I’ve taken a little break from cheese. I’ve even significantly cut back on my alcohol consumption (you can read about that journey here). But I never truly committed to all of this for a specific period of time to truly see how I might feel. I always felt like I’d take a few steps forward, then 10 steps back. If there was a birthday dinner, or any other excuse to indulge, I did it under the guise of “moderation.” And honestly, I think moderation is fine. But for me, all it did was perpetuate a cycle of feeling like shit. It was time to reboot and get a real grip to figure out what the hell was going on with my body.

So, as of Monday, September 12th, I have officially been wheat-free, dairy-free, and alcohol-free. If you just shuddered, I get it. Those three terms (especially altogether) used to bring on massive anxiety for me. But I’ve gotta tell you, it’s so much easier than I thought! And I feel amazing. I’m basically eating whole, clean, mainly non-processed foods, most of which I am preparing myself. I’m not eating anything with added sugar, but if its naturally in my banana, or a spoon of honey that I put in my tea, or vanilla almond milk, I don’t care. I’m still having my morning coffee, though I feel like I need much less of it these days. I use SoDelicious coconut milk creamer (either hazelnut or vanilla flavored). I know a lot of people say coffee is also an inflammatory food, but you’ll have to fight me tooth and nail to give that up. Baby steps.

I haven’t had meat other than a bite of steak, but that’s really because I am not a huge meat eater. Plus, many studies show that meat is an inflammatory food, so I’m avoiding it for this 30 day run. I’ve had salmon once, in a restaurant. As far as my protein intake, I’m drinking a vegan chocolate Shakeology each day which has tons of nutrients and 16g protein, and I’m also getting it from beans and vegetables. And on that note, everyone seems to be in a tizzy when I talk about what I’m eating now and whether or not there is enough protein in such veggie-based meals, but really, we don’t need as much protein as you think we do. In fact, 97% of Americans are already getting enough of it. If you’re curious about this topic, read this article or do some of your own research.

If you want some meal ideas and inspiration, make sure you follow me on Snapchat (username: GlitterGutsGlam). I post lots of my meals and how I prepare them. Here is an example of one of my staples: butternut squash and shredded brussel sprouts on corn tortillas. They are DELISH.

Processed with Snapseed.

My biggest fear with all of this was not giving up wheat, dairy, or booze at home. It was the thought of giving up my social life. The thought of not being able to join my friends at the bar for a drink, or a dinner out, depressed me. I’m a social creature, and I always assumed that it was either one or the other: stay home and be healthy, or go out and be unhealthy. But I refused to let that fear overpower this desire to feel good. I was not going to sit home and feel bad for myself. I have tons of friends who are gluten and dairy-free, and/or sober, who go out all the time and socialize. And if they can do it, I can too.

I educated myself on the best GF/DF options for dining out. I decided I was not going to give in to the desire to drink just because I was at a bar (I feel like that needs a whole other blog itself because that was slightly terrifying!) And I’ve gotta tell you, I’ve gone out four times so far and had more fun than I’ve had in a long time. I modified menu items by discussing my diet with the server, and rather than indulging in wine or a cocktail, I opted for a club soda with mint and lemon (my new mocktail of choice that also serves as a healthy detox drink and looks just like a mojito!).

I’m not saying I will be sober forever, but I’ve gotta tell you, going out without drinking is a whole new world. I feel present, I feel happy, I feel energized, and no hangover in the morning? Yes, please! And dare I say it…I think I even like myself better without alcohol.

Processed with Snapseed.

Here are a few preliminary results from this nutrition and lifestyle overhaul:

I’ve lost nearly 10 pounds

I have more natural energy than ever (I barely need one cup of coffee in the morning!)

My mood is fantastic

My entire face structure has changed (hello cheekbones!)

My skin is glowing

My stomach feels flatter and more toned

I feel so much more present, happy, and energized being out in a bar/restaurant without drinking

No hangovers! My God it feels amazing to wake up after a night out and bounce out of bed!

I feel super creative and focused

My intuition feels heightened, everything feels clear (did not expect that one either)

I am really excited to see what the next few weeks bring. This experience has been empowering to say the least, and I know I am only going to be more and more proud of myself as the days go on. Mastering going out to a bar and not drinking even though every single of one my friends was? Empowering AF. I don’t think I have ever committed to something like this – with no “cheats” – for a week, let alone 30 whole days.

I’m not saying you should do what I’m doing (although if you decide to, please feel free to ask my any questions you might have). This is all a very personal journey. Everyone has differing opinions on the effects of these foods and different experiences with drinking alcohol.

I’m not preaching deprivation of any kind, or saying bread, cheese, or wine is bad. I’ve always been the girl who shouts “enjoy yourself!” from the rooftops. And I still wholeheartedly believe that. But for me, unfortunately, the price I was paying for enjoying myself sucked the fun right out of it.

The reason I am sharing all of this because I truly believe that the best way to get empowered is to do the things you think you cannot do. To challenge yourself to feel as good as you possibly can – whether that’s through your nutrition, your fitness, taking a wine-cation, your career, whatever. We all have ways in which we hold ourselves back. I sabotaged myself for years when it came to food and alcohol. Years. 

The day I committed to this experience, I took out my journal and started free-writing. I wrote myself a letter, and the first line of it read, “What the f*ck is it going to take?” I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I had reached my breaking point. Something about that line was a major wake-up call to me and it made me see just how much I was in my own way. I read it a few times. And then I got to work.

I’ll keep you guys posted on my journey, and I plan to share many more updates here on the blog including samples of my meal plans and recipes. Don’t forget to add me on Snapchat where I talk about this often. My username there is GlitterGutsGlam.

With love and gluten-free, dairy-free, sober vibes (LOL),

Cara

 

 

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Showing 13 comments
  • Michelle
    Reply

    Thank you so much for this post! I have been wanting to improve my health and fitness and reading about your journey is so inspiring!!

    • caraalwill
      Reply

      Thanks Michelle! So happy you liked it! xo

  • Yolonda
    Reply

    Thanks for Sharon! It’s interesting that you shared this today as earlier this morning I read another article about inflammation and foods that provide inflammation. I’m even thinking of purchasing a recipe book from Barnes & Noble in regards to food that does not give you inflamation. again thanks for sharing and good luck on your journey!

  • Joanna
    Reply

    Hi Cara, thank you so much for this post! I have been struggling with my health journey for years, I am gluten and dairy intolerant too, and I had managed to stick to a healthy eating routine for a while, but in recent months I seem to have lost “my way”. It’s hard to stay away from things you know make you feel bad, but crave because at the same time healthy eating is also all about balance. Having that balanced approach to eating, meaning you can also treat yourself without going on a binge… Your post has motivated me to say enough is enough, and get out of my own way. Thank you!!

    • caraalwill
      Reply

      You are so welcome! You’ve got this! xo

  • Wendy Kay
    Reply

    I discovered you at the perfect time. Love how things just work out that way. I started my weight loss journey on July 25th. This month I significantly cut down on drinking and dairy. I have fibromyalgia and deal with inflammation as sell. What a difference! I’m finally losing weight. And I too feel so much better. I’m down 6 pounds from my highest documented weight and can’t wait to reach my first goal of 10 pounds. I will celebrate my victory and move on to the next goal.

    This post has really inspired me to do more and feel better sooner. I did quite drinking coffee with creamer over two weeks ago and the withdrawals were real. If I felt that crappy giving it up, it must have been pretty bad for me. Trying very hard not to let it back into my life.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    • caraalwill
      Reply

      Go Wendy!! Keep up the amazing work! XO

  • Becky
    Reply

    Cara – Love seeing your Snaps and updates. I have had a kale sautee the past few mornings because yours look so delicious! Keep doing you Girl Friend!

  • Samantha
    Reply

    So in love with this post! I did this a year ago – cut out most allergen foods that cause inflammation. I even cut out coffee cold turkey! Never felt so amazing in my life and dropped 35lbs. Educated myself on everything too. Haven’t been sick since then either. You will notice that this winter coming! It’s crazy how many sickness and diseases are all caused from inflammation. I have since lost my way after a hard plateau but you have inspired me to do this again. I wish I had more friends around me like you. They are coming, i’m sure. Enjoy the rest of your experience with this! You look amazing (as always) xo

    • caraalwill
      Reply

      Go Samantha!! That’s AMAZING! I am so proud of you. Thanks for inspiring me to keep going! xo

  • Jessika G.
    Reply

    This post speaks to me on so many levels! I’ve been doing similar research but for clearing up my skin rather than weight loss (although what a great side effect that would be!). I’ve been suffering from cystic acne for about two years now and I have reached a point where skincare is no longer enough. I feel as if your journey is confirmation for me that my decision to make a lifestyle change is coming at the right time! Thank you for sharing your gift; you inspired me to start my own blog and share my journey as well 🙂 <3

  • Sara Palacios
    Reply

    Brilliant! I’ve been meaning to come online and read about your journey for a while now but finally got the chance today and I’m so glad I did. I think we are so used to consuming inflammatory foods that we don’t even know what life would be like without them. I am an admitted sugar addict and am currently in the process of trying to really clean up my diet. It’s a mess and it makes my life feel so unorganized. Thanks for the inspiration, Cara. You got this, girl!

  • Chelsea
    Reply

    Very interesting! I have bad eating habits and I’m really trying to find an easy meal plan and lifestyle change to follow to help lose weight and feel healthy and energized. If you shared your meal plan and some recipes that would be amazing and help so much!

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