How I managed to lose nearly 15 pounds during a global pandemic, and keep it off, can be summed up into 3 things: diet, exercise, and accountability (but also the triple D: discipline, dedication, and determination).

Disclaimer: I define diet as “the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.” I don’t current claim to be ‘on a diet’ or ‘dieting’ as I view whole30 as a purposeful lifestyle and form of eating, rather than a restrictive eating program as the term diet might imply. I did not count a single calorie nor intentionally restrict my intake of calories in quarantine as a means of maintaining or losing weight.

When Melissa Urban announced they were launching a community whole30 – #whole30athome, to begin on April 13, 2020, I knew it was time. The announcement came around week 2 or 3 of the COVID-19 outbreak and just after Governor DeWine put into effect our stay at home orders in Ohio. I had already committed to working out at home 4-5 days a week following the closing of my local gym, but I knew the next step to making lasting change was to re-evaluate my diet and eating habits. Enter: a new round of whole30.

Let me say first that I have quite the history with whole30. You can read more about my first round in 2015 here, as well as all other blog posts I’ve shared about the topic of whole30, including a week by week recap of #whole30athome, here. During #whole30athome I managed to lose 9.4 lbs and a combined 3 inches. I ate over 95% of my meals at home, only twice did I ‘eat out’ which consisted of the whole30 compliant chicken bowl from Chipotle.

Of the seven rounds of whole30 I’ve done in 5 years, I’d say this was the easiest. Not only did having months of prior experience work to my advantage, but having extra time to meal plan and meal prep also aided in my success. And let’s not forget the fact that most restaurants were either closed at this time or only offering take out with limited menus, thus reducing temptation to eat out. Honestly, it was a recipe for success from the start (ha, food pun).

Was I jazzed to be limited to working out at home after the closure of my local gym in March? No, but I was also determined to make the most of it. I knew it would be easy to just stop working out all together, I mean who could blame a person? We are living through a global pandemic after all. But I made a commitment to myself to continue to exercise 4-5 times per week with the goal of 60 minutes of activity. It took a week or 2 but I found a routine and rhythm that worked and that I have stuck with months later. My at home fitness routine is combination of strength training, tabata/HIIT workouts, and cardio.

I was seeing a lot of HIIT and tabata type workouts being shared on Instagram. What I didn’t particularity like about them was that they were usually only 15 to 30 minutes long and the tabatas were typically 30 sec on/15 sec off. Knowing that I wanted to commit to 60 minutes of exercise/activity, I downloaded a tabata timer app, messed around with the intervals and time limits, and settled on 60 secs on/30 seconds off for 7 rounds which equates to a 10 minute round. From there, I began building workouts by choosing 4 to 5 exercises to be completed tabata-style with 10 minutes reserved at the end either for a cool down walk outside or stretching/yoga. I quickly found that this was the perfect blend of repetitiveness and variety for me. I started building my at home workouts like this near the end of March and have continued this method into June.

I have also been enjoying what I call 100s which are typically shorter, 15 to 30 minute workouts. Similar to the tabatas, I pick 3 to 4 full body exercises, like squats, push ups, and sit ups most often, and do 10 reps of each move round after round until completing 100 reps, doing my best to limit rest time. I like these shorter workouts for either after a short run outside or after a long neighborhood walk.

The last component of my at home exercise routine is cardio, specifically running outside. I aim for 2 runs a week, generally one run to focus on a quick 1 mile, with the goal to reduce my 1 mile time, and the other to be a slower paced run, 2 miles or longer. I’m still building tolerance and find that for longer runs I need to alternate between periods of running and walking – typically I’ll run the first 1 to 1.25 miles, walk for 0.25 miles, run 0.5 miles, then walk again for 0.25 miles, run 0.5 miles, and repeat, so on and so forth.

Here’s a list of fitness Instagram accounts I look to for inspiration for exercises to include in my HIIT and tabata workouts:
– Maddie of @madfit.ig, also on youtube
– Rachael DeVaux of @rachealsgoodeats
– Melissa Urban of @melissau
– Gabrielle Rodriguez of @gabsfit15
– Iulia Danilova of @fit.with.iulia
– Kayla Itsines of @kayla_itsines and @sweat
– Meg Morat of @megmo_fit

And here’s a list of the basic equipment I have for my at home workouts:
– yoga mat
– 8 lb medicine ball
– 15 lb kettlebell
– 25 lb kettlebell linked here
– resistance bands linked here
– tabata timer app

Throughout this weight loss journey and especially during quarantine, I set up various systems and habits to keep me accountable to my goals which has helped my motivation and focus on my overall goals.

1 | A habit I put in place at the start of the year was a bi-monthly, excel spreadsheet check-in where I record my weight, measurements, cardiovascular health (via fitbit data), and journal about my overall emotional response and feelings to the 15 day reporting period. This has helped me track my progress, both numerically and emotionally, and holds me accountable to my actions.

2 | In a similar way, I keep a health and fitness Happy Planner where I record my daily workouts, weight, thoughts, emotions, etc. I love flipping through the planner and reflecting on the progress I have made, and it is a nice way to get workout inspiration from older at home workouts I’ve done.

3 | Publicly documenting my #whole30athome journey through Instagram and this blog was another huge form of accountability. The benefits were two-fold – it kept me focused on delivering whole30 content but also helped build diversity in my blog posts.

4 | Earlier this year, I started tracking my workouts more publicly (i.e. not just in my Happy Planner) in our apartment by keeping a weekly tracker on our command station whiteboard. At the start of the #whole30athome in April, I adapted the dashboard to track my 1 mile time, days of whole30, weight, and weekly workouts. I sounds crazy to admit but this simple, weekly overview dashboard is the biggest driving force for my success, without a doubt. There is something about passing this section of the whiteboard everyday that holds me to my values and reminds me of my overall goals. Something inside me can’t stand the thought of not being able to check off all 5 workout boxes (classic Gretchen Rubin obliger, I know).

And finally, because I am technically an exercise scientist (with a bachelor’s degree to prove it), please enjoy a summary of the data I’ve obtained:

April 1, 2020June 1, 2020CHANGE
Chest42 in 41 in1 in
Waist38 in36 in2 in
Hips45.5 in43.5 in2 in
Thigh27 in25.75 in1.25 in
6.25 in
Weight 184.8 lbs170.2 lbs14.6 lbs
WeightJanuary 1, 2020
188.2 lbs
June 6, 2020
170.0 lbs
18.2 lbs

Post-workout glamour shots below:

Until tomorrow, Meryn



And just like that, the 30 days are up and the results are in – I’ve finished #whole30athome! As with all successful previous whole30s, I’ve literally never felt better, and I’m asking myself, why don’t I eat like this all the time? My energy levels are high, my exercise performance is improving, my skin looks great, my body is leaner, my digestion is more regular, but most importantly, I’ve fallen back in love with fueling my body with healthy, delicious, wholesome foods – and I don’t want to stop. I love the challenge a whole30 presents, I thrive on structure and discipline, that’s the type A personality and (previous) straight A student in me.

But what comes next is the real challenge, life after whole30. I’ll be honest in admitting I have a looming sense of fear. I don’t want to face the emotional and physical repercussions that comes with returning to eating daily, grains, added sugar, and alcohol. I don’t want the bloating, GI distress, acne, and I especially fear the weight gain. Because, let the record show, I’ve literally always gained back the weight I’ve lost on a whole30. In 2015, I lost nearly 40 pounds through a combination of whole30-type eating and exercise and over the past 5 years, packed it all back on. From here it’s my job to be continue to be mindful of my eating habits, to be mindful of the way in which I perceive food, but most importantly, how I perceive myself and my relationship with food. *Takes mental note on the need to re-read Food Freedom*

Non-scale Victories [resource found here]

Numerical Victories
Weight: 183.2 lbs – 173.8 lbs = 9.4 lbs
Measurements: 3 inches lost between chest, waist, hips, and thighs
Resting heart rate: 62 BPM to 56 BPM

1. I love frozen fruit! Specifically mangoes, peaches, pineapples, and strawberries, but I have to be careful in not over consuming and mindlessly eating frozen fruit as if a replacement for ice cream or some other sugary-sweet snack in the evenings
2. I don’t mind eating repetitive meals. During the last 2 weeks of this whole30 I really found my groove with meal prepping. I switched between making a pound of seasoned ground meat (chicken, turkey, or beef) or making various types of meatballs to have with salads, a bed of kale, over a sweet potato, in a potato hash, etc – love the versatility!
3. A compliant sauce or dressing can really help spice up and revive leftovers – I liked to add sriracha, ranch, or barbecue sauce
4. A viral pandemic is definitely a great time for a whole30. Initially I thought the whole30 team was nuts for suggesting a whole30 right now, because who has the mental capacity to change their eating behaviors and habits at a time like this?! But then I thought, well, I do. I don’t have kids to feed, my hours were (still are) reduced at work, and I have the financial stability, so what better way to spend some extra time than focusing on a whole30? Plus, it was easy to stay on track since most restaurants were either closed completely or carryout only, pretty much eliminating the temptation to eat out.

I’m nervous for what’s next. My plan is to keep eating whole30 during COVID-19 quarantine. Maybe the occasional pat of butter here or there (Kyle’s preference is to cook with butter) but my goal is to just keep fueling my body how I had been and prioritizing healthy movement. In the future, I hope to be able to look back on my life and reference this period as the time when I lost weight, built muscle, created healthy, sustainable habits, focused on my health and well being, and treated myself with loved and respect.

Until tomorrow, Meryn


A collection of my whole30 favorites – from specific recipes, to compliant products, to recipe developers and more!

Recipe Developers

Alex Snodgrass
The Defined Dish

Everything about this woman inspires me, both in whole30 and in life. Alex is so down to earth, real, and genuine when it comes to living a balanced life – we’re talking tacos and margaritas without food guilt. I’m the proud owner and user of her cookbook and a frequent visitor to her website for whole30 recipe inspiration.

Ronny Joseph Lvovski
Primal Gourmet

And first, a confession: I have never made a single recipe of Ronny’s. Nevertheless, I love love his whole30 and wholesome food content. His ‘low budget cooking shows’ (as he calls them) on instagram are so pleasing to watch – from the music selection, to the spinning onion (if you know, you know), to his knife skills. And he just announced his first cookbook (whole30 endorsed) is available for pre-order!

Whole30 Recipes
✔ Chicken Lettuce Wraps – Life in the Lofthouse website (if modified)
✔ Mexican Cabbage Soup – The Defined Dish cookbook
✔ Pizza Meatballs – Healthy Little Peach website
✔ Pork and Sage Meatballs – The Defined Dish website (I prefer ground chicken)
✔ Sichuan Chicken with String Beans – The Defined Dish cookbook
✔ Sriracha Chicken Meatballs – Healthy Little Peach website
✔ Sweet and Savory Chicken Salad – Mary’s Whole Life website
✔ Whole30 Chili – The Defined Dish website
✔ Zuppa Toscana Soup – The Defined Dish website

Books and Resources
Whole30 website
Official Whole30 Recipes instagram
It Starts With Food book
The Whole30: The 30 Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom book
The Whole30 Fast and Easy book
The Whole30 Slow Cooker book
Melissa Urban, Whole30 co-founder and CEO – instagram

Compliant Products
Primal Kitchen Avocado Oil
Tessemae’s Organic Creamy Ranch
Tessemae’s Organic Avocado Ranch
The New Primal Classic BBQ Sauce
EPIC Chicken Siracha bar
EPIC Beef Apple Bacon bar

Until tomorrow, Meryn


Another successful week of #whole30athome! This week was mostly spent eating seasoned ground beef and ground chicken on various combinations of vegetables – either as a salad, over top a sweet potato, or in lettuce cups. For me, this is a great way to turn one pound of ground meat into three different and delicious meals – just toss in a side of compliant ranch or barbeque sauce and you’re good to go! Hard to believe there are only 2 days left of this round of whole30.

Day 23 // black pepper chicken
recipe inspiration via The Defined Dish cookbook

Day 23 // taco salad with seasoned beef, tomato, avocado, white onion, and cilantro

Day 24 // leftover taco meat over a sweet potato with avocado

Day 25 // chicken lettuce wraps
recipe inspiration via Life in the Lofthouse blogpost

Day 27 // 2 scrambled eggs with chicken sausage, sauteed kale, and tomato

Day 27 // sweet and savory chicken salad
recipe inspiration via Mary’s Whole Life blogpost

Day 28 // roasted sweet potato and carrot, seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika, and oregano

Day 28 // warm harvest salad complete with chicken apple sausage, roasted sweet potato and carrots, toasted walnuts, cranberries, on top of kale and boston lettuce

Until tomorrow, Meryn


As expected, the first half of my week was spent eating Sunday’s leftover soup and the pizza meatballs and dipping sauce I made. I’m not complaining, I have no issue with eating leftovers – I just try to change up what I pair with them for some variety. The egg bake/casserole I made over the weekend in the pie pan was surprisingly bomb. The red potato layered bottom made it so fun and beautiful – I plan to make another in the coming week! I’ve also been enjoying what I’m going to call a warm harvest salad – a blend of raw lettuce and kale topped with roasted sweet potatoes and carrots with seasoned ground meat on top, paired with whatever compliant dressing or sauce I’m trying to finish up. If you haven’t been able to tell, in no way am I a picky eater and I’m always game just to throw whatever on a plate and dig in (at least during a whole30).

Day 15 // leftover pizza meatballs with homemade mashed red potatoes
recipe inspiration via Healthy Little Peach blogpost

Day 16 // more leftover pizza meatballs with sweet potato and sauteed kale
recipe inspiration via Healthy Little Peach blogpost

Day 18 // ground turkey over boston lettuce and kale salad with roasted carrots and sweet potato

Day 19 // Chipotle Whole30 approved salad

Day 20 // egg casserole with red potato layers topped with kale, onion, and bacon

Day 21 // zuppa toscana soup
recipe inspiration from The Defined Dish blogpost

Until tomorrow, Meryn


Week 2 in the books! Confession: during week 1 I was over consuming mixed nuts and dried fruit as a replacement for sweets – this was the culprit, so delicious but dangerous for me right now. After I finished the bag I promised myself I wouldn’t purchase the mix at the next grocery run because, out of sight, out of mind, right? However, I fell into another less than ideal habit of over consuming frozen fruits – strawberries, pineapple, mango, and peaches. While eating fruit doesn’t sound like a bad thing, I feel like it quickly became a substitution (see SWYPO) for ice cream, something about the cold and chewy texture reminds me of a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. So, I did as the Whole30 suggests, and made a mental note of this habit and feeling and made a plan to change or eliminate the behavior moving forward.

I suspect week 3 is going to start off rather bland in terms of variety. I meal prepped 2 pounds of pizza meatballs and made a huge crock pot of chili which should cover 3 for 4 days of meals. I don’t mind eating the same foods day after day, but Kyle isn’t going to eat leftovers like that. He’ll have to fend for himself those couple of days.

Day 9 // roasted sweet potato and carrot with mexican ground turkey over kale
recipe inspiration via The Defined Dish cookbook (seasoning combination from the mexican cabbage soup recipe)

Day 10 // chicken sausage stir fry with cauliflower rice, onion, celery, and broccoli

Day 12 // 2 scrambled eggs with sweet potato, sauteed kale, and sliced fresh tomato

Day 12 // turkey burger over bed of boston lettuce topped with diced tomato, potato wedges, not pictured compliant ranch for dipping

Day 13 // pizza meatballs over kale with homemade pizza dipping sauce
recipe inspiration via Healthy Little Peach blogpost

Day 14 // egg, hash brown, and bacon waffle with sriracha and diced tomatoes

Day 14 // whole30 chili
recipe inspiration via The Defined Dish blogpost

Until tomorrow, Meryn


Week 1 of #whole30athome is in the books! And it wasn’t bad, like at all. I’ve finished enough whole30s in the past to easily fall back into the routine. I know what I like and I definitely don’t mind eating leftovers. Nor do I mind throwing literally whatever on a plate and calling it dinner – Kyle and I differ in that way. The day I see him reheat leftovers is the day pigs fly. Here’s a quick recap of some of the meals I had this past week:

Day 1 // chicken sausage with sweet potato and sauteed kale

Day 2 // chicken fajita lettuce cups
recipe inspiration via The Defined Dish cookbook

Day 3 // steak street tacos
recipe inspiration via The Defined Dish cookbook

Day 4 // chicken sausage with homemade mashed red potatoes and green beans

Day 6 // spiralized sweet potato with sausage egg bake
recipe inspiration via The Defined Dish blogpost

Day 6 // leftover sichuan chicken over sauteed kale with yellow potatoes
recipe inspiration via The Defined Dish cookbook

Day 7 // roasted carrot and sweet potato over raw kale with whole30 approved ranch

Until tomorrow, Meryn


Whole30 Introduction
As described by their website, a round of Whole30 is “a short-term reset, created to help you curb your cravings and bad habits, boost your metabolism, heal your digestive track, and calm your immune system.” The idea is to eliminate the commonly problematic trigger foods while monitoring your “improvement in energy, sleep, digestion, mood, cravings, focus, anxiety, self-confidence, chronic pain or fatigue, athletic performance and recovery, and any number of other symptoms or medical conditions.” At the end of 30 days, you systematically reintroduce the eliminated foods, paying attention to any changes in your health, habits, and mindset.

I completed my first Whole30 in January of 2015. I was a senior in college starting my last semester of undergrad and was a member of the University of Toledo CHAARG chapter. I was living in an apartment off campus with 3 roommates in a 2-bedroom apartment [shout out to Travis and his v instagramable black and white plates seen below]. At the start of 2015, CHAARG had announced they would be hosting a virtual Whole30 round, #CHAARGwhole30, inviting members to join. At the time I’m not sure why I was drawn to participate. Looking back, I think I was motivated by the challenge, and plus, I wanted the bragging rights because let’s face it, giving up added sugar, dairy, grains, and alcohol for 30 days IS NOT EASY, also pretty sure my roommates didn’t think I could do it, which motivated me more.

Up until that point, I wasn’t much interested in cooking or meal planning. If my memory serves me, I ate a lot of pasta, frozen meals, sandwiches, pizza, ya know, typical college kid foods. I can confidently say Whole30 taught me to cook. For the first time in my life I was not only following recipes, but then learning to toss them aside and throw shit together in a skillet that didn’t always look good but always tasted good. I bought new, trendy kitchen tools and gadgets, like a spiralizer and mandoline slicer. I experimented with spices beyond salt and pepper, like the Private Selection Pizza Seasoning Grinder (still bomb). I ate a lot of scrambled eggs, sweet potatoes, spinach, turkey burgers, and almond butters, as evidenced by the Instagram photos I was sharing at the time (then my handle was @meryn_inchaarg, since changed to @merynfoodie). I don’t remember being in it for the weight loss, though that did come. I lost a total of 16.2 pounds and 5 inches which catapulted me to my best shape and lowest weight which would have been around 153 (with my heaviest being 193 the summer of 2012).

Since my first Whole30 in January of 2015, I have completed 5 additional rounds with the last being in January of 2018. There have been other attempts since then but each time I’ve quit for one reason or another, most likely temptation from a snazzy looking donut, a refreshing beer, or a free sweet treat at work. But when Melissa Urban announced they were launching a worldwide group Whole30 – #Whole30AtHome starting Monday, April 13 (read more here), I knew it was time. Things are slow at work – I’m only working 10-15 hours a week, 20 hours in a really good week, so I definitely have the time to commit to a Whole30 and the planning and preparation that goes into a successful round. Plus, I have hundreds of pins on Pinterest and a stack of recipe and cookbooks (Whole30 brand and otherwise, listed below) to dive into further.

The Defined Dish: Whole30 Endorsed, Healthy and Wholesome Weeknight Recipes by Alex Snodgrass

The Whole Smiths: Good Food Cookbook by Michelle Smith

Better Homes and Gardens Fresh: Recipes for Enjoying Ingredients at Their Peak (not Whole30 specific but modifiable)

The Whole 30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom by Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig

The Whole30 Fast & Easy by Melissa Hartwig

The Whole30 Slow Cooker by Melissa Hartwig

I plan to be sharing photos on my @merynfoodie Instagram and a weekly reflection/round up at the end of each week, wish me luck!

Until tomorrow, Meryn