So you are thinking of doing a Whole30….

So you are thinking of doing... a Whole30

While I’m not doing a Whole30 this January, I’ve done several rounds of the nutrition challenge in the past, and one of my favorite parts of the experience is the planning process! For those of you unfamiliar with Whole30, it’s a 30 day nutrition challenge created by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig, which focuses on eating unprocessed whole foods, and cutting out inflammatory foods such as sugar and alcohol. For more information, go to, and make sure to get a copy of their book “It Starts with Food”.

1. Plan, plan, plan! Go into your challenge with a plan in mind. I actually use a Google spreadsheet – here’s my sample Whole30 template, feel free to copy and make your own – to plan my month in advance. I’m flexible as I go along, but having done some of the heavy lifting before I dive in really helps me to stick with positive choices.

2. Batch cooking is your friend. Every weekend on Whole30 I plan an afternoon where I make a few staples for the week. I hard-boil a dozen eggs, roast a tray of vegetables, bake some sweet potatoes, and grill a few pounds of chicken or other meats to keep in the fridge. I like also making a sauce of the week, such as mayo, romesco, or chimichurri. Overall I spend about two hours in the kitchen – so I can cut my daily cooking time down to a minimum!

2. Whole30 should NOT be a consistent test of your will power. Build yourself up for success! Clear your house of treats you know you won’t be able to stay away from. If you go consistently to social events, prepare by eating in advance, keeping a compliant snack in your bag, and stay prepared! If you happen to live in a place where social life seems to revolve around alcohol (ahem, Washington DC?), go to the bartender and order a soda water with a lime. (Pretend it’s a gin and tonic if you are tired of explaining Whole30 to people.)

4. Make a list of restaurants where you can get a Whole30 compliant meal, and schedule in at least a weekly dinner out. Eating at home for thirty days can be exhausting if you haven’t gotten used to it. I like having a few options in my back pocket where I know I can get meals that fit with the program. In the past, I’ve done Chipotle, and one of my neighborhood restaurants where I can order a steak or roast chicken, potatoes, and greens with minimal fuss.

5. Make a list of easy pantry meals that you can fall back on if you don’t want the meal that you’ve planned for the night. This is crucial if you aren’t used to sticking to meal plans. Some nights things change – be it your schedule, the weather, your mood, and you find yourself wanting something different. I keep a list of pantry meals or quick fix meals for these evenings so that I’m not left making a bad choice. Breakfast for dinner is often a solution for us. I always keep a bowl of chili in the freezer to pull out in an emergency.

6. Find support. Whole30 can be mentally challenging, and it always helps to do it with a friend. If you don’t have friends or family on board, there’s a great community out there – Instagram (#Whole30) and Pinterest are both good places to find people on the program.

7. How can I Whole30 with a family? This can definitely be a challenge, but it’s doable! The challenge is certainly easiest if everyone in the house is eating the same meals and your spouse is on board – but you can still do it if they aren’t! I’ll usually make a main dish that works for everyone, with optional non-compliant sides for those who aren’t participating in the challenge. Encourage family members to eat treats out of the house, or if they’d like to eat them at home, don’t feel like you have to sit there suffering and watch them while they do it! Take some me-time!

8. A Whole30 challenge does not need to be boring! If you are worried about eating boring chicken breasts and broccoli for thirty days, I promise you, the Whole30 does not need to be that! Many cuisines are naturally Whole30 friendly. I do a lot of Mediterranean tray bakes, Mexican inspired meals, Italian, and Middle Eastern meals. Spices are your friends – stock up at Whole Foods or Penzey’s before your challenge.

9. Rely on some template meals. You do not need to plan elaborate meals each night of your Whole30. Mel Joulwan champions the “Hot Plates” – Protein + Veggies + Fat + Spices + Sauce = Meal. (Lots of good stuff in her cook book Well Fed!) I like doing theme days for inspiration: “egg night”, “soup night”, or “meat + two veg night”.

10. Whole30 does not need to break the bank. Eating organic meat and vegetables and cooking all of your meals at home can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. I practice this year round: find your sales and purchase in bulk. I ask the butcher to package meats in pound increments so I can freeze each separately and defrost as I go along. Trader Joe’s Organic Free Range chicken thighs are delicious. Make use of the frozen vegetable – they can be great convenience foods, and are often riper than out of season vegetables. I subscribe to a CSA farm share in the summer time, and a meat CSA all year long to help lower the cost of these higher quality foods. (Plus, you’ll likely be saving money by not drinking alcohol and avoiding treats.)

11. You do not need fancy appliances to do a Whole30. A good pan, sharp knife, a roasting sheet, and a dutch oven are what I use most often. If you do want to get a little fancy, I love my spiralizer for making vegetables for salads, crispy fries, and vegetable noodles.

12. Know what to expect. It helps to go into the challenge with the right mindset. Whole30 isn’t a crash diet, it’s a way to reframe your eating style, and form new healthy habits. That said, it can very be challenging. Cutting sugar and alcohol cold turkey can be difficult. Be prepared to notice your feelings, acknowledge them but don’t fight them, and persevere. It will be hard, but you can do it!

13. Commit to the month. You can do anything for a month! If you find yourself frustrated, take solace in the fact that this is a finite challenge, and you will definitely learn things about yourself along the way. Choose a few new recipes each week, commit to learning some new cooking techniques, and have fun!

For more Whole30 resources, check out these resource posts on a few of my favorite blogs:

If you are interested in any personal coaching to support your Whole30 (or gym nutrition challenge) – I do schedule one-off consultations to help you strategize your month of good eating in compliance with the program! Email me at for more information. 

Starting Monday – Secrets of Self Care

tackeff 6 week fall wellness coaching program

This week has been a vibrant whirlwind – which is sort of how I’ve come to expect my fall to be – life reflecting nature – the leaves changing colors, the winds picking up. Except I’m not gearing up to hibernate, but instead bolster myself for the holidays and the new year. It’s a little scary how fast it’s come this year. Wasn’t it summer yesterday? (Okay, so maybe it did hit 73 degrees here this week…)

Much of my free time has been spent building out my fall wellness program which starts on Monday! – the Secrets of Self Care, and I realize that I haven’t talked to you about it here on my corner of the internet, and YOU are who I’ve been writing this course for!

Secrets of Self Care is a 6 week program for those who have been focused on career, family, or business, and lost themselves a little in the process. (Okay, isn’t that all of us?) Six weeks leading up to the holidays to help you get back in touch with yourself.

Are you lacking inspiration to make simple, healthy, and seasonal meals?

Are you feeling tired with the change of seasons?

Do the holidays cause you anxiety?

Does your energy wane in the early afternoon?

Do you find yourself making sub-optimal food choices when you don’t have better options?

Do you feel like curling up on your couch with a cup of tea, and not leaving?

Join me for this adventure in which we’ll focus on being kinder to ourselves, supporting our needs and desires, and nourishing our bodies.

What you get:

– Daily weekday emails providing journaling and action prompts.
– Supportive online accountability
– A variety of printable handouts
– A personal coaching consultation with Sam (via Phone, Hangout, or Skype)
– Additional email support for the duration of the course

The cost of the course is $179 for the 6 weeks, including a 1-1 personal coaching session.

We start Monday – I’d love to have you join me – we’ll be thinking, writing, dreaming, and bringing good things to life, and I’ll be doing the work right along side of you!

If you want to hear more, email me at, and I’d happy to hop on the phone with you for a few minutes to talk about the work that I do, and how I can help!

Summer Dinners + Training Updates

After my first triathlon this summer, I decided to try giving up music while running outdoors. During the triathlon, where headsets are prohibited by the USATF, I managed to get through nearly two hours of swimming, biking, and running, without it, and found myself really enjoying the quiet time. Without music you can listen keenly to your body and your surroundings. I find that I’m slower, but I think that really it’ll help me continue to build up my fitness, and more importantly, my mental fortitude. When you have nothing to listen to other than your thoughts, you have to make a conscious effort to fill your head with positivity in order to keep going strong. Last weekend I went for my longest run of marathon training so far, 13.1 miles on the coast, with nary a song nor podcast to keep me company. I did, however, have this view:


Now, about that positivity. I wouldn’t exactly say that marathon training is going smoothly, but it hasn’t been abject failure. My long runs have all been *excellent* learning opportunities – specifically what NOT to do when running. 10 miles without food? Bad idea. You will be tired and crabby. Forget your water bottle? Good thing you brought some cash. Thank you kind people of Starbucks. Chafing under your left arm? Next time, there’s body glide. Yeah, I don’t quite know how that happened either. Fortunately, I’ve been tweaking as I go along, and each part of this adventure has me itching to continue. That’s really my ultimate goal with this marathon training: work hard toward something new, and have fun doing it.

I’ve also been doing it my own way: plenty of cross training in the mix, and as many new ways to challenge my body and mind as possible. Last Wednesday I woke up before dawn to head out to Harvard Stadium for a full tour with November Project. Stadiums are a challenging mental exercise. You head up the big steps, down the little ones, and work your way up and down, again and again, until you’ve worked your way around 37 sections. It has that hamster wheel feel to it, although working out with hundreds of other people at once makes it a spectacularly fun form of torture. My “carrot” was a 6 month old piglet named Phoebe, who was waiting to play at the last section of the day if you got your best time. My kind of motivation, and you bet I got to play with her!


Another major piece of this marathon adventure has been fueling my body with delicious (and nutritious) foods. Here’s some brutal truth about endurance training: many people gain weight while training for a marathon. I did not want to do this! A large part of training is learning how to effectively feed yourself on long activities, as well as during your every day life. It’s easy to get into the habit of rewarding yourself with food post workout, but I’ve long tried to avoid this, because usually it’s a hard habit to kick when you reduce your milage and energy expenditure. Instead, I’ve been rewarding myself with home cooked dinners and packed lunches.  Yep, very wholesome of me. Here are a few of the best last week, re-shared from over on my Instagram.

Breakfast for Dinner. Cooked up some ground beef and onions with salt, garlic powder, and cumin. Added chopped potatoes, browned for a few minutes then added some chicken stock and covered the pan so the potatoes would cook through. Added a few extra eggs, and dinner is served!


Seafood Mixed Grill.  King salmon, monkfish, and sea scallops, and beautiful dry farmed tomatoes I picked up at Formaggio Kitchen.


Zucchini Noodles with Meat Sauce.  I shred, and then salt zucchini generously in a colander for 20-30 minutes. Give them a good rinse, and I usually try to wring out all the excess liquid. Usually I’ll pat with paper towels. If you have time, you can put them in the fridge for an hour to further the drying. And then just cook for 1-2 minutes in a good hot pan, and I’ll season and coat with a little olive oil. Topped with meat sauce made with Rao’s marinara.


Dinner, Island Style. Pork chops, seasoned with salt, allspice, and garlic powder. Cooked in a little coconut oil on medium high, about 7 minutes on each side. Salad: cabbage, mango, and mint, with a dressing of lime, fish sauce, a little coconut oil for sweetness, and water.


Crispy salted chicken leg with a carrot, tomato, cucumber and avocado salad with cumin dressing. Quick tip: to cut lots of cherry tomatoes, put away the knife, and take out your kitchen scissors!


What’s on your table this week?

Are you training for any particular events this fall?

Healthy Balance


For the past few months I’ve been hopping on the #FitFluential Twitter chats, looking to meet like-minded folks passionate about health and fitness.

Tonight one of the questions was about nutrition trends, a topic that always piques my interest. One person quipped “Now we say “clean eating” is a trend. When I was young, it was called, “eating at home.” And I’m not that old.” And isn’t it so true? Growing up, eating well meant eating wholesome, home cooked foods, free of junk additives. Treats were few and far between, but when we got them, they were savored.

I like to say that I’m not training for any particular race, I’m training for life. And to do that, I think about what I eat often – my goal in life is to eat sanely, well, and with delight. Sometimes it falls in line with trends, and sometimes it doesn’t. My eating is largely seasonal, heavier in the winter, lighter in the summer. At home I cook a lot of mediterranean inspired meals, and many of my home cooked meals fall squarely into the “paleo” or “primal” camp, which I was doing well before things became trendy. I just call it “eating”, and it’s something that I’m excited to do every day.

There’s always room for well-selected treats – tonight was no exception. I couldn’t help a trip to Shake Shack to celebrate National Burger Day. To balance it out, I crossed the street to the brand new sweetgreen in Chestnut Hill to pick up a “guacamole greens” salad to accompany it. Now that’s a good meal!

So I think I like indoor cycling? (ClassPass launch at Flywheel)

FlyWheel Never Coast

{Obligatory changing room selfie pre-workout. Am I going to make it? Am I going to die?}

I had an unusual conundrum on Tuesday: attend a startup event for women entrepreneurs which boasted an impressive list of founders who I admire and free dumplings, or attend an indoor cycling event at Flywheel, for the Boston launch of the startup ClassPass (which happens to be founded by women) with free post-workout salads from sweetgreen! Both events seemed well worth attending – and dumplings! – but as you have caught on already, cycling won out! Why? To overcome fear, try something I’d previously written off as “too difficult”, and crush it. The crushing part is subjective. In this case I just didn’t want to fall off the bike. I have ambitions for a sprint-tri in my future, and you have to start somewhere!

Indoor Cycling, take one: The first time I attempted indoor cycling was when I was living in San Francisco, and after barely, just barely, making it through a class without quitting, I went home and cried. The spin instructor, Rachel, was so terribly nice, and there were four of us in the class, a bickering boyfriend and girlfriend, both athletes giving 110% the entire class, an older man who was a cyclist with experience with real San Francisco hills, and me, out of shape, a little terrified, and woefully unprepared for what I was getting into. (There is some irony in the fact that I lived in San Francisco for several years and didn’t run once on the Embarcadero, and now I work at a fitness company in Boston and yearn wistfully for the West Coast whenever I’m out running here in the winter time.) But this spin class, this first class, I was uncoordinated, in pain, exhausted, and I felt sorrowfully like I had let the very nice instructor down. So I went home, and I cried, and I never went back again.

Looking back on this, years later, I get terribly sad thinking about how I missed out because I felt out of place – this feeling is one of the reasons that I go to work every day hoping to make fitness accessible to everybody.

Indoor cycling, take two: So Tuesday was my re-do, and I had no idea what to expect, but we’ll just say I was experiencing nervous excitement with just a smidge of terror. The class was at Flywheel, a new Boston cycling studio in the Prudential. Flywheel is pretty swanky – free shoes, towels, lockers, showers with complimentary shampoo, conditioner, and hair elastics! (I used three.) Our instructor, Ann, was great – super fit, dare I say it sultry in the best possible way – and I managed to make it through an entire class and get on the leaderboard. What a difference a few years can make. Definitely will be going back!

What is ClassPass: The startup I wish I had founded. With ClassPass, you subscribe a monthly $99, which gets you access to 10 classes at studios (Indoor Cycling, Yoga, Barre, and more) across the Boston area.

Flywheel Indoor Cycling
800 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02199

ClassPass (formerly classtivity)
(Currently in Boston and New York)

Chicken Brussels Sprouts with Soba

Chicken Brussels Sprouts

For someone who loves food and cooking so much, some nights it’s awfully hard to make a decision and get food on the table. This evening threatened to be trashy takeout night– we didn’t get home until 8:30, and it took all of my willpower not to order in. I usually reserve Sunday afternoons for batch cooking, but yesterday I was out and about, and didn’t have time to cook. I did however pick up a package of organic free range chicken thighs at Trader Joe’s, which was my starting point for tonights meal.

First I added a spoonful of coconut oil to my All Clad and heated up the pan on medium high heat, seasoned my chicken thighs (about a pound and a half) with Maldon salt and black pepper, and seared them on one side for about five minutes without touching them. Once nicely browned, I flipped them over and started rummaging through my cupboards for something to cook with them. I had some garlic, just a few cloves, which I sliced and added to the pan. Then I decided on shredded brussels sprouts, a few large handfuls, which I added after the chicken was cooked through (about 12 minutes). I tossed the chicken and sprouts, and added a pinch of urfa biber (Turkish hot pepper), and covered the lid to let the sprouts steam. At this point, I took the picture, thinking that we’d eat, until I spotted a lone portion of soba noodles, one of those single portions, maybe 2 or 3 ounces, which I decided to quickly boil and add to the pan. To finish the dish, I grated on a massive amount of parmesan cheese, which just makes everything in life better, and tossed everything together.

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