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What are Whole Foods

Not to be confused with my favorite shopping experience

Whole food. Real food. One ingredient food.

Confession. I’ve gone a tad astray with my diet.

However. Allow me to clarify.

As a self experimenter, I’ve done a lot of due diligence manipulating my diet to optimize my performance and help me reach whatever goals I have set for myself. And because my goals change, what I eat reflects that.

You will (and should) eat and train differently if your goals are specific and performance based, ie the endurance athlete or the competitor with a match or competition on the horizon. As opposed to those with goals that are more generic and targeted at optimum health, toning, weight loss, and overall wellbeing.

The “I just want to feel good about myself and be more toned” protocol is slightly different than the “I have this 4 hour competition in three weeks and am aiming to place in the top 3 in my age group” one.

Many principles may overlap in regards to sleep and recovery, but a lot will differ.

There are many ways to build muscle, lose body fat, get stronger, run longer, be more explosive, etc. And there is no one size fits all. If I want to drop ten pounds, I can go into a calorie deficit, live off of bars or powder, and get to my goal. And vice versa. If I want to build muscle, I can add in more of those bars or powder and hit heavier weights.

Now. 90% of the time, I want to feel good. I want to feel lean, not bloated, have sustained energy throughout the day, sleep well, and laugh.

I want to know that the foods I am consuming and the drinks I’m drinking are giving my body life and doing my body and mind good.

Therefore. I’m here to get back to basics. And remind myself what my body feels best on, can digest well, and needs to be happy.

I train hard multiple times a week. And I know I need fuel before and after my workouts to keep me healthy and keep me going for when I have to go coach or train others. And over the summer I hired my own nutrition coach to help me fuel my long and active days. And what I learned above all was how to properly plan my meals and fuel my days which at times would start before 5am and not end until after 9pm.

But since then, I’ve gotten lazy. I’ve fallen into easy habits. And I’ve gotten too comfortable reaching for processed protein bars and powders. I’ve fallen for the shiny marketing and gotten the fancy aminos that do nothing but make water taste not morning.

So I’m here to get back to basics. And remember the principles I myself have been preaching for years.

As the self experimenter, I’ve gotten very good at knowing what I feel best eating. And while I know that there is a time and place for things like protein powder, bars, and other packaged foods. I also know that at the end of the day, the number one principle I will always without fail preach is to eat real, whole foods.

But I take for granted that phrase and forget how broad and generic the term “whole foods” is. And I want to clarify what it means when you hear people saying, “cut out processed foods,” or “eat whole foods,” or any variation of that phrase.

Telling someone to “eat whole foods” and foolishly thinking it’s so straightforward is dumb on my part and still leaves that person wondering how in the heck to begin. And 99% of the time, the term whole foods or real foods leaves a LOT open to interpretation.

Therefore, if that phrase confuses you, or you find yourself getting lost in all the health and wellness noise on the inter webs and are looking for one clear and simple step to take to begin or continue a health journey, here is my advice for you:

Eat whole foods. In fact, I don’t even care what else you are doing in life right now. Eat. Whole. Foods.

So now. What are whole foods. Here is how I am defining whole foods:

Whole foods have one ingredient. They do not come in a package, box, bag, or shiny paper. They do not require an ingredient list because they are what they are. These foods are harvested, grown, picked, bred, and planted.

Examples of whole foods:





Chicken breast


What I do not consider whole foods:

Protein bars (even the ‘healthy ones”)

Protein powders


Ice cream

Pre-packed anything – frozen dinners, pancake or other mixes, etc

These foods are NOT harvest, grown, picked, bred, or planted. These foods are not even created by chefs or farmers. These foods are created by scientists.

And now…

“But Em, what about….?”

You’re right. There is a lot of gray area to this. But that is also the great news. The great news, people, is that we are officially spoiled to live in this world where we have every option available to us, good and bad. You can find bars and cereals that are actually “healthy” for you and only have a couple ingredients in them. So much of what is on the shelf is “whole 30 approved” and genuinely made from decent ingredients. And that is all well and good! Truly. I love living in a world where I can find cereal with five ingredients and an awesome amount of protein.

But at the end of the day, knowing what I know about my body and mind, will I feel better after eating eggs, avocados, and some fruit or will I feel better after eating a protein bar with the same kind of macronutrients.

Look for foods that are 5 ingredients or less. And all ingredients that you know exactly what they are. “Natural flavors” is not an ingredient, I don’t know how to go and pick “natural ingredients” outside.

And right now, I’m taking my own advice and eating the real foods. And cutting back and cutting out completely the fancy bars, protein cereals, and powders I’ve gotten too comfy with. Who made that protein bar? A scientist. Not a chef, not a farmer. A scientist. Who made those almonds? A farmer.

Again, there is definitely a time and place for that stuff. And yes you can lose weight and/or build muscle consuming them. But when I think about feeling my best and fueling my body, I want the real deal stuff.

Sure it takes a bit more time. It might not be as fun. But in my opinion, it’s worth it. And if you are looking for the one piece of advice I’d give to anyone looking to start a healthy routine, it would be just that.

Eat whole foods.

Clean out your fridge. Empty your pantry of the pre packaged crap. Start simply and build from there. If you need more help, leave a comment or question below! My go-to condiments and sauces are forever Primal Kitchen. And if I’m feeling crazy I’ll get Siete Foods brand chips and dips.

But re-focus on what real foods are. Did you great great grandparents eat it?

And don’t be fooled by shiny packaging.

Oh and while you’re at it, you might as well go to Whole Foods. It’s the motherland after all.


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