Diet Review: Whole30 (part two)

(Check out part one of my Whole30 review HERE)

So as I mentioned before, eating Whole30 was a pretty big shift for me. I’ve always been big into health and fitness, but I hadn’t really realized how unhealthy my diet had become. My daughter had picked up one of my indulgences: vanilla Greek yogurt with dark chocolate M&Ms. As I watched her add more and more M&Ms and eat this snack 2-3 times a day, I cringed. I started to pay more attention to how I was eating, and I realized that the habits my kids were learning came directly from me. And to be honest, it wasn’t great.


Just because I can eat those foods and not gain weight doesn’t mean that I should. It is so important to me that I set a realistic and healthy example for my kids when it comes to food. I’ve done the overly strict dieting thing before, and that was not something I wanted to model to the kids. But I also don’t want to model a diet consisting of too much sugar and very little unprocessed food. The truth was clear: I needed to find a happy medium.

The first week on Whole30 was really not too bad, but the second week was rough. I felt sluggish at the gym, and a little down. Life was throwing me curveballs, so it’s hard to know if it was more my circumstances or the diet that was throwing me off. By week three my energy was back, and I was feeling a lot better. When I came to the last week, I was pretty certain these new eating habits would stick. I’m all about eating in a way that feels great and tastes good – and surprisingly I found that in the Whole30!


Here is a sample of what the Whole30 diet looked like at my house.  These are certainly not the only options, but they represent the foods we ate and enjoyed the most!


  • Pedersons Whole30 Bacon, Grapefruit, and Cold Brew Coffee


  • Roasted Potatoes, Peppers, and Onions with Sausage, Diced apples, and Avocado, and a Glass of Iced Tazo Zen Green Tea



  • Banana with Cashew Butter
  • Apple with Almond Butter
  • Epic Hunt & Harvest Mix
  • Baby Carrots and Sliced Peppers with Guacamole
  • Sparkling Water, or Ice Water with a drop of a fun Essential Oil

Favorite Dinners:

  • Taco Salad made with seasoned Ground Beef on a bed of Lettuce, Tomato, and Onion, topped with Salsa and Guacamole
  • Bacon Burgers made with a Seasoned Burger Patty cooked in Avocado Oil on the skillet, topped with Lettuce, Tomato, Pickles, Onions, Bacon, and Guacamole
  • Whole30 Chili made in the crock pot with browned Ground Beef, Beef Broth, Diced Tomatoes, Seasoning, Peppers, and Onions
  • Baked Chicken Marinated in Olive oil, Mustard, Balsalmic Vinegar, and Seasonings, served with Roasted and Seasoned Broccoli, Carrots, Onions, and Brussel Sprouts in Olive Oil


Since completing the Whole30 diet, I’ve enjoyed eating my taco salad in an actual taco shell, adding chocolate chips on my bananas with peanut butter, eating my Whole30 chili on crumbled corn chips, and indulging in a glass of wine or bourbon a couple of nights per week. I also am back to eating my beloved Ezekiel English muffins with white chocolate peanut butter here and there, and also having a whole milk cappuccino most days.  I’m back to eating cheese now and then, and tasting whatever I want at social gatherings or parties.  And the other night I made my favorite fair trade brownies and I ate three of them…and they were awesome.

What I love though is that I’m still eating a ton more plants and a lot less processed, prepackaged foods. I’m enjoying meat more, I’m motivated to cook more, and I’m setting a better example to my kids. I’m feeling great all day long, and I feel just as strong if not stronger at the gym. I’m glad I tried the Whole30, and if you are thinking about trying it – I say go for it!  What do you have to lose…but more importantly, what do you have to gain?


Sara Pascale is an owner and coach at The Den in Allen. She homeschools her three children, and runs the StrongMom’s Bootcamp here at The Den. Sara has an Exercise Science degree from Wheaton College and 14 years of experience in the fitness industry. She played collegiate level basketball and has competed in several NPC Figure Competitions. Sara loves The Den because she loves to train like an athlete. She regularly attends The Den’s CrossFit and Boxing Classes, and she loves to train alongside her StrongMoms!



Diet Review: Whole30

I recently decided to give the Whole30 Diet a try. My husband was looking to drop some weight after several dieting strategies he had tried were not working. I personally didn’t have weight to lose, but I’d begun to realize that I was not eating nearly enough fruits or vegetables anymore. They just didn’t sound appealing for some reason. I used to joke that I could survive on lattes, wine, bread, and chocolate. Somehow, this had become a reality!

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The Whole30 diet initially seemed like a great choice. I mean, what could be unhealthy about trying to eat real food? In a nutshell, the Whole30 plan has you eating plants, fats, and animals, avoiding anything prepackaged or processed. You cannot have dairy, but you can have clarified butter (ghee). The diet also omits grains, corn, peanuts, soy, added sugar, alcohol, and beans. They do not allow for making fries, chips, breads, or pancakes even if they are made from legal ingredients. The purpose of Whole 30 is to eventually not want and need foods like that.

Are you starting to see the issue for me? I was living on chocolate, bread, dairy, and wine.  All disallowed on the Whole30!  And as a homeschooling mom of 3, I love convenience food – seriously where was I going to find the time to prepare and cook fresh food all day?

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Whole30 seemed a bit extreme – it allows for literally NO mistakes, no deviations, no cheats….NONE! But it only requires you follow it for 30 days, and then you can become more flexible. As I read more of the book, I understood that the reason for this is so that you can eliminate possible problem foods from your diet, and then slowly reintroduce them so you can watch for sensitivities and reactions. Our goals were pretty specific – I just wanted to enjoy healthier foods again, and my husband just wanted to lose some weight. Neither one of us felt like we had any food sensitivities, so that aspect of it wasn’t very important to us.

To be honest, we were not perfect on the Whole30. We also started our 30 day adventure during a time period that included both our birthdays, Mother’s Day, and a couple other social engagements! Ok, probably not the best timing. But overall, we stuck to the diet pretty closely!

So how did it go? Surprisingly well! Since I didn’t want to lose weight, I intentionally ate lots of fruits and potatoes in my diet to keep my calories and carbs a bit higher. I quickly started enjoying the simple flavors in fruits and veggies again. I realized I felt pretty good and actually enjoyed eating a higher fat diet. It’s been a few weeks since we finished, and I’m still following the Whole30 about 80% of the time. My husband dropped 15 lbs, so he was very happy as well. He also has been able to continue eating Whole30 about 80% of the time, and says he feels great!

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If you are thinking about giving Whole30 a try, here are my 4 tips for making the most of your 30 days:

  1. Buy and read the Whole30 book. It is informative, encouraging, and a step you absolutely can’t skip!
  2. Figure out your goals.  Are you wanting to lose weight? Do you have chronic stomach discomfort? Do you just want to eat healthier? Understanding your goals and motivation is critical for success.
  3. Google Whole30 recipes and find choices that excite you. This diet doesn’t have to be miserable – it can actually be quite indulgent and delicious.
  4. Commit to really go for it for 30 days.  As the book reminds you – it’s just 30 days of your entire life. 30 days is enough time to jumpstart your weight loss, to make new healthy habits, to reprogram your cravings and your mind. You have so little to lose, and so much to gain!

Stay tuned for part 2 of my Whole30 review to discover my favorite Whole30 recipes, and read about how I ate during and after the 30 days. If you have tried the Whole30 diet, or are thinking about trying it, leave a comment and tell me about your experience!


Sara Pascale is an owner and coach at The Den in Allen. She homeschools her three children, and runs the StrongMom’s Bootcamp here at The Den. Sara has an Exercise Science degree from Wheaton College and 14 years of experience in the fitness industry. She played collegiate level basketball and has competed in several NPC Figure Competitions. Sara loves The Den because she loves to train like an athlete. She regularly attends The Den’s CrossFit and Boxing Classes, and she loves to train alongside her StrongMoms!

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An Introduction to the Advocate Coach

Many young athletes hear more negative motivations than what most parents would believe.

Greetings from Jairus Pascale here at the coaches desk at The Den! Over the last several years there has been a gradual shift in how coaches and athletic instructors communicate life lessons and techniques to younger (8-12yr old) athletes. This shift has even been taken on by a few professional and college coaches throughout the nation. This shift is one of the Advocate Coach. Many students and adults have had Adversarial Coaches through school and athletics. Where the Adversary Coach may use negative motivation and fear based incentive to get athletes to perform, the Advocate Coach takes a different approach. This style of coaching is not one that avoids discipline or correction, but the Advocate Coach focuses greatly on positive reinforcement.

So why is this coaching distinction important outside the coaches box? Next to your child’s coach, you the parents have some of the biggest potential to hurt or grow your young athlete. As a coach myself who coaches youth lacrosse here in Texas, I’ve seen parents that do a great job in relaying good motivating sports values to their children. On the other side of that coin I’ve also seen parents that can’t seem to find one positive thing their child has done, and they remind them of that constantly while on the field.


Many young athletes hear more negative motivations than what most parents would believe. As a coach I realize that the vast majority of parents are truly trying to be positive and uplifting for their kids in how the motivate. However your children don’t always take the words you say as you intend them to. For example, during a lacrosse game I heard a parent yell to their son, “catch number twenty-two, I know you’re faster than him.” Now to outside that may sound positive, however, when that athlete came back to bench he was almost in tears because he didn’t catch his opponent and was feared the reprisal of his parent. While his parent was trying to encourage him, what he heard instead was, “How could you not catch him, I thought you were better than that.” In reality most parents have no desire to degrade their child publicly while he or she plays sports. Sadly, many of what passes as mom and dad cheering is perceived by a lot of their kids as a negative. Many times during a season I have to take an athlete aside an explain to him that mom and dad aren’t intending to be mean or pressuring, and that they really do want to be encouraging and inspiring.

So how can you as a parent learn to be more motivating and less degrading to your athlete? Le’s start with a few phrases NOT to use. Whether from the sidelines or on the way home from a game, these phrases need be dialed down, and if possible, erased:

1. What were you thinking?

2. Why didn’t you do…?

3. What’s wrong with you and your coach?

4. You know what you should’ve done….

These phrases are some of the quickest ways to derail your athlete. If you look at these statements, you’ll notice that every message they send is one of failure or some kind of demotivating concept that can bring many younger athletes into a emotional downward spiral. This happens when the younger athlete feels that he or she can’t really win or please the adult making the comments; then many times that child will shut down. As I coach my lacrosse teams I’m very careful that how, when, and where I correct an athlete. A goal I keep in mind is to aim at having the athlete tell me what he did that was mistaken or tell me where he can make a better, more team focused decision if in fact he has made a mistake. Those four above phrases can really drain a younger athlete from wanting to keep going in a game, and can even drive them to quit sports all together.


In response to the negative phrases, attitudes, and Adversarial Coaching methods, some of our coaches, including myself, have started using more positive, yet realistic motivating techniques that reflect the Advocate Coaching model. These concepts should be reinforced by the athlete’s parents. Here are just some of the ways parents can and should motivate their younger athletes into becoming more confident sports practitioners:

1. I loved watching you play today and look forward to the next game.

2. How did you feel about your playing time and assignments on the field?

3. Did you have fun playing?

4. Did your coach give you anything to practice at home before next game?

While this are not an exhaustive list, these kind of questions can lead to a more motivated and confident player. Remember, we’re talking about 8-12yr olds here, and while there’s a need to correct improper play and attitudes, there is also a need to create an environment where the athlete can recognize their own mistakes and grow from them. With this age group its very important that they’re able to see that you, parents and coaches, are not the enemy but an advocate for their on and off field success. That kind of success starts young, needs to be disciplined, be grown, be motivated, and be encouraged beginning with family.

This brief overview is a taste of some of the ways we all can help grow that young athlete get better and enjoy the game. As a coach, or as a parent, it’s incredibly important that we seek the best for their development inside and out. This means teaching them sportsmanship as well as how to competitively play to succeed as they get the best from their abilities. Win at any cost is a tired hat and one that doesn’t actually generate players who love to play. Here at the Den we want all your young athletes to compete at their highest level and be able to have fun doing it. Having fun is an important part of growing up, physical education, and athletics. We want to see your athletes love to train in order to give their best on the field.


As an Advocate Coach my goal is to help young athletes through realistic, positive, and energetic discipline become the best he or she can be. The Advocate Coaching model puts the coach and parents on the same team, helping guide a younger athlete into becoming all he or she can be as they grow. For more reading and information, the PCA, or Positive Coaching Alliance has some great resources at http://www.positivecoach.org. Until next time, be disciplined, encourage each other, and come visit us at The Den!


Jairus Pascale is both an owner and a coach at The Den in Allen.  He has a degree in Exercise Science from Biola University, and he is a level 2 certified Lacrosse Coach with 6 years of coaching experience.  Jairus offers Sport Conditioning Camps for Young Athletes ages 9-15 at the Den to improve speed, agility, and power.  Email info@trainattheden.com for more information on how to train with Jairus!