Whole30 Apple Pie – Maybe?

I’m a little squirmy about labeling this “recipe” Whole30 because of a little thing Dallas and Melissa Hartwig (co-creators of The Whole30) call “Sex with your Pants on (SWYPO).” Basically, the principle of the Whole30 is to reset your body by not eating any grains, legumes, dairy, alcohol, or sugar for 30 days. Most of these are pretty simple, with the exception of one: sugar. On the Whole30, you aren’t allowed any sugar at all – to include things like honey, agave nectar, etc. We all have that dreaded Sugar Dragon – you know the guy, that little sneak who may or may not send you down to the kitchen at 0200 for a couple spoonfuls of Ben and Jerry’s. “Slaying the Sugar Dragon” is one of the hardest things to do – whether you’re doing a Whole30 or not. I could go on and on about the negative effects of sugar – but I’ll spare you.

bearfamilystrong.com | whole30 apple pie2

For the full explanation of SWYPO, refer to this article. Essentially, it can be summed up like this. Eating something that resembles a junk food – even if it’s made with Whole30 approved or natural ingredients – can still sometimes serve as a junk food. For example, take a look at these recipes:

Raspberry Caramel Chocolate Cups

Paleo Nutella Mud Cake

Baked Pumpkin Donuts

It’s true that these recipes all include paleo approved ingredients, but it’s still junk food no matter how you slice it. And there’s nothing wrong with eating any of these treats as long as you realize that you’re still eating junk food, albeit a healthier version. If you eat something like this every night, chances are that you have not slayed your Sugar Dragon. You’re just being nicer to him.

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However, the line between what is or is not SWYPO is fairly blurred, which Melissa Hartwig explains in this Instagram post:

Is this “apple pie snack mix” #SWYPO? TL;DR: This is one of those grey areas in which I demand that you take some personal responsibility. The long version:


Technically, this combination of foods is #Whole30 compliant. There may even be specific situations in which this snack mix is appropriate for your Whole30, like a kid’s birthday party or dessert for a special dinner. If you’ve done the Whole30 enough (and live Whole30-ish in between), you may find a conscious, deliberate choice like this during your program is actually fine, and won’t wake your Sugar Dragon.


But this is not most people, and likely not your context. Remember the Whole30 is about changing your habits and your emotional relationship with food. Including technically-approved-but-not-at-all-encouraged foods to satisfy your Sugar or Snack Dragon or fill an emotional hole during your program is not helping your cause.


So why am I not ruling this explicitly off-limits during the Whole30? Some of you think I’m just going soft, and that the “old Melissa” would have banned snacks like this outright. That may have been true. But I would have been wrong.


It’s not my job to dictate every nuance of your Whole30. I can’t do it for you, and I wouldn’t want to. There are grey areas in everything, including the Whole30. And it’s your job to step in where the official rules leave off, and decide what kind of an experience you want to have.


Do you want to feed your Sugar Dragon with technically compliant treats for 30 days because it makes the program easier? Then go do that… and own the consequences. Do you want me to tell you, “Don’t eat that, it’s not right for you, you know this?” If you tweet at me, I might… but you already know the answer. You’re all big boys and girls, and it’s not going soft to say, “Here are my recommendations; now it’s up to you as grown-up people to make the right decision.”


In summary, it’s YOUR program. OWN IT. #melissarants #toughlove #heavyonthelove

This recipe is from @popular_paleo, who has an excellent handle on both the Whole30 and her Sugar Dragon, gets that “context matters,” and encourages you to eat responsibly.


Well, that’s how I feel about this Apple Pie “recipe”. I’ve completed several successful Whole30’s and I don’t tend to have a huge sweet tooth in general, and so for me this is perfectly acceptable as a snack – it doesn’t send me screaming down the aisles of the grocery store for a Snickers bar, but it does satisfy me when I want a little something sweet. Plus, there isn’t any added sugar to it and as far as fruit goes, a green apple is one of your better options. Really the only reason I’m calling it Apple Pie is because that’s what the smell reminds me of.

bearfamilystrong.com | whole30 apple pie3

Whole30 “Apple Pie”


1 small green apple

1 lemon wedge



Core and slice your apple. Sprinkle with cinnamon and drizzle with lemon juice. To really experience the Apple Pie smell, add your apple slices to a ziplock baggie, squirt in the lemon and add your cinnamon, and then shake like crazy.




For the past year or so (probably longer), the Husband and I have been struggling with our health. As much as I even hate admitting it out loud – or on paper – we needed help, and we knew it.

When we look back, it’s easy to see where things went south. We’ve both been pretty healthy people – when Kevin was living in California he worked out all the time. Health and fitness were a priority to him – both for his personal life and in his profession.

For me – I started working out fairly regularly when I first moved overseas. I’ve had ups and downs, but I always maintained a somewhat regular fitness routine. And I prided myself on how I ate. I’ve been on a mostly Paleo diet for a couple of years, I completed several Whole30s…it was a part of who I was. Even before I decided to go Paleo, I’ve always been the one in my family who chose vegetables over dessert.

However, a few months after we got married we hit a series of trials in our personal life that led to a lot of stress. When added to the extreme Virginia winters, all we wanted to do – all we did – was stay home and feel sorry for ourselves, or go out to eat and feel sorry for ourselves. We thought we were helping each other out by offering comfort food when the other was having a bad day, when before we would have suggested something active like a run, or a hike, or a walk around the neighborhood.

Little by little we started to feel worse. Our clothes weren’t fitting…we were unhappy all the time…and we knew something needed to change, sooner rather than later.

My husband was the first to take action. A few months ago, he approached me with a meal plan he got from a nutritionist friend of his. When I first it, I cringed and immediately started to think of a hundred reasons why it wouldn’t work or why I wasn’t going to do it. It was pretty restrictive, with very low carbs and almost no sugar at all. It also limited portion size which is something we both desperately needed. At first I wanted to say no. I told myself that all I needed to do was another Whole30 and I was confident I’d get back on track. But my husband needed this, and in support of him (and because I needed it too, whether or not I wanted to admit it or not), I agreed.

He also approached me with something I’ve been adamantly against for years.

I’ve done some crossfit type workouts in the past, although admittedly never any of the Olympic weightlifting stuff. Most of what I did was body weight exercises like squats and burpees and sprints, not that there is anything wrong with any of those exercises. It was the crossfit stereotype that I had no interest in – trying to push tractor tires around, working so hard you throw up (no, thank you!), pushing other people so hard they throw up, snubbing your nose at any other type of workout…it wasn’t a crowd I wanted to be a part of.

But then Kevin found a crossfit gym in our area that he was really interested in. The biggest sell was their mission statement, which includes a line on Faith: seeking to put other’s needs above ours as we live out our Christian values. He loved the fact that faith was so important to the coaches/owners that they wanted to be known for it and I agreed wholeheartedly, although I still didn’t want to go to a class. However, they also offer a free Saturday morning class for people who just want to come and try it out.

As previously mentioned, I was not one of those people.

Unfortunately (or fortunately?) for me my husband was one of those people and so he signed us up. And when he approached me about it on the Friday night before, I agreed to go. When I woke up on Saturday morning I was singing a different tune.

Admittedly, I was cranky. And rude. And I’m surprised that he didn’t just throw his arms up in defeat (or disgust) and leave me at home, which is what I deserved. Instead he put up with my bad attitude, handed me a travel mug of coffee, and packed me into the car.

I was nervous when we pulled up in front of the gym – a nondescript office in a nondescript office park. I didn’t know what to expect and in my head all I could think about was the stereotype.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The Saturday morning classes are tailored to people who have never done crossfit but want to see what it’s all about. They don’t use any barbells or do any Olympic weightlifting – in fact, members must complete a mandatory two week “Basics Class” to learn all the proper techniques and moves prior to participating in any of the regular weekly classes. On Saturdays they do a group warm-up; then they review all the moves of that day’s workout, and then we go!

I was relieved when I saw the WOD (workout of the day) written on the whiteboard:

5 rounds of 1 minute each:

– Row or run (200 meters outside if running)

– Dumbbell push press

– Double unders

– Burpees

– Box jumps

All moves that I knew how to do – hooray! Not only was the workout a lot of fun but I pushed myself, felt great, AND met a lot of new and friendly people. By the time we left Saturday’s class, I was hooked.

We signed up for the two week Basics course that same day, and I quickly learned that this gym is not at all like the stereotype. For one thing (and probably the most important thing), the coaches are incredibly focused on good form and technique. Instead of pushing someone past their limits or forcing them to do more weight, they make gentle (or sometimes not so gentle, depending on the situation) corrections to form, and they always want to know if there’s something going on that might require you to take it easy during that day’s class. Don’t get me wrong, there have been more times than I can count where a coach (correctly) suggested I should add more weight, and I never once regretted it. That said, if I try something that’s too heavy and my form suffers, they are more than quick to tell me to decrease the weight. The other thing I like about our gym ties into their faith-based mission statement. Although our gym doesn’t have crossfit classes for children, it’s very family oriented and it’s not unusual to see a pack and play set up off to the side holding a bouncing toddler cheering us on. Also – this may be insignificant to some but to me it’s important – it’s a very positive, upbeat community. There’s no (okay, there’s limited) swearing, and instead of screaming at others to push harder or to add weight, everyone cheers each other on during the workouts, particularly if someone is having a rough time on it and needs some encouragement to finish their sets or reps. It creates a welcoming, friendly environment and Kevin and I have come to view the coaches and other members as family.

Needless to say, I am so glad Kevin dragged me to class that Saturday! It’s a decision I don’t think either of us will ever regret.

Remembering the Battle of Ramadi – April to September 2004

I was 22 years old in 2004. I was one month away from graduating college and at the time my biggest obstacles in life were which outfit to wear to the bar and stressing over the fact that the object of my affection didn’t return my affection. My life revolved around shopping, working, going to class, and spending time with my friends. On that Sunday morning in April I most likely slept in, maybe went to church, worked an afternoon shift at my job, and I probably spent part of the day whining about not wanting to go to class the next day.

I had no idea that on that same day halfway across the world, my future husband and several hundred other American men (most of them either my age or younger – my husband tells me the most of the junior Marines were in the graduating high school class of 2003) were dealing with an entirely different obstacle – they were literally fighting for their lives.

Thirty-four of those men wouldn’t make it home.

Most people remember hearing about the fighting in Fallujah, an Iraqi city just west of Baghdad. But many people don’t remember – or even have any knowledge of – the nearby town of Ar-Ramadi. On the morning of 06 April 2004 as the fighting raged on in Fallujah, Iraqi insurgents set off a series of coordinated attacks on the unsuspecting Marine battalion stationed in Ramadi. 12 Marines lost their lives in that single day. Over the next three days of fighting, however, those Marines fought back – and hard – taking out scores of insurgents. It was quoted that by the third day of fighting, Marines were walking through the streets with bullhorns and megaphones, taunting the insurgents and begging them to come out and fight. Not surprisingly, there were no volunteers. It is said that in four days of fighting this single Marine battalion took out 250 insurgents.

Last weekend I had the honor of meeting some of these men when they gathered for the 10 year anniversary of the Battle of Ramadi at Camp Pendleton in Califoria. I watched as they exchanged hugs and stories, pictures and memories. Some of them hadn’t seen each other in almost ten years but it was as if they’d never been apart. I was able to share in their joy, but I also saw their pain – the pain of what they saw and experienced, the pain of losing men they considered brothers. I heard at the memorial service that the average age of a squad leader in Iraq was twenty-one years old. Twenty-one years old and leading men in battle. Most of the twenty-one year olds I knew (myself included) could barely manage their checking accounts, much less lead a squad of soldiers in battle. It’s a sobering thought, the responsibility that these men held on their young shoulders.

When we arrived on base we were greeted by a stretch of Marines two miles long – lining the entire road from the base gate to the site of the memorial. For every man lost in Ramadi another soldier stood in his place and laid a purple heart on the 2/4 memorial before snapping to attention and delivering a deliberately slow salute. It was emotional. It was heartbreaking. It was humbling and awe-inspiring.

I left Camp Pendleton a different person than when I arrived. Until I married Kevin I had no personal connection to the War on Terror and I will be the first to admit I was extremely ignorant to what the men and women who served and fought have gone through. Being there and hearing their stories and seeing their faces and watching their interactions gave me a new perspective on the War – it gave it a face, a persona. And I know that we, America, can never be thankful or grateful enough for what they have done for us – for the freedom we have because of them.

So I would like to say THANK YOU to the men and women who have served, are serving, and will continue to serve our country so that I can live a life of freedom. Words are not enough.

And to the 34 Magnificent Bastards that didn’t make it home from Ramadi: you are not, and will not be forgotten.

Semper Fi.


The following is a facebook post by Jonathan Hancock, one of the 2/4 Marines who served at Ramadi and attended the Reunion/Anniversary. He gave me permission to post it here. I think it speaks for itself.

After leaving California and returning to Maryland following the 2ND BN 4 MAR MAGNIFICENT BASTARDS 10 year anniversary and memorial service I am humbled. Years ago, We walked away from each other. Some of us didn’t get to say our goodbyes when we returned to the states. We parted ways because our mandatory time concluded. We either stayed in, or we got out. Either way. We left and pushed ourselves into new lives. We carried out, into the world, our burdens, our memories (good and bad), our cries, and our laughter. But, we did this alone. We walked alone through a world of hustle and bustle. We saw people and never comprehended how we would ever fit in. We tried, and god dammit, we tried our hardest to assimilate; to move on. Our time for healing started much later. We had to go get drunk, get in trouble with the law, aspire to be great, become great, succeed over insurmountable odds, and find our way through something new and completely foreign; life. Returning to where we all met under the screams of senior marines, we were the kings this weekend. We met under a cloudless blue sky with the breeze of Valhalla drying our tears and we were once again united. We came to honor our dead and so much more happened. Men met and hugged. There was not one handshake this weekend. Brothers of a long lost story descended upon San Clemente and lay waste in the only way we ever could. Together. Company rivalries, albeit fun, were gone and a unified arm reached out to hold and strengthen any man who marched into Ar Ramadi. I tear as I write this and I know that is because the healing that we felt, the solidarity, the oneness with each other was so much more prevalent than any of us could imagine. The men of 2/4 have never been glory seekers. And while our videos of marines lining the road we travelled on go viral, we remember that we were called upon to hold, and fight. We fought with vigor and crushed an enemy that had no idea what hell they had just unleashed. I am so proud of every one of you. I am proud to call myself a bastard and I am especially proud of our fallen. Men who will never have a voice again. But damned if their memories don’t live on through our stories. Our stories become their voices and Our dead will have a voice until I take my last breath. Thank you to 2/4 for the ceremony, your attention to such a detail inside OIF not only validates us but it helps us never to forget that the marines will go on for years carrying the stories of war-fighters past. I love all of you and will always hold a special and large space in my heart for 2/4.

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