My first Wahls Protocol Thanksgiving has officially come to pass. And it did not pass modestly, y’all. It passed like the giant turkey float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. That is, if the float got a hole in the side and took off air-screaming down the parade route. What I mean to say is, this holiday was a true whirlwind from the 17 hour drive that started at dawn til the last bites of my inaugural Wahls feast were consumed at dusk.
The fear: My goal in implementing Wahls for my family was to make it taste and feel like Thanksgiving. Could a dairy diehard family like ours feel satisfied with an entirely dairy-free meal? Wouldn’t we feel deprived? Would my family smile and offer me their support while quietly feeling a little cheated? For this reason, I did not go gently into that good night. I prepared and planned to produce an entirely Wahls compliant rendition of our family’s turkey day faves.
The fatigue: When I arrived in Wisconsin 4 days before T-day, I took care to plan out my menu and grocery shop in advance to avoid overwhelming crowds and allow ample time for being choosy about my ingredients. After a trip to Costco, the local natural food store, good ol’ County Market, and (oye vay) the neighborhood Wal-Mart, I had acquired the produce + high quality cooking oils + gluten free flours necessary to get down to bidness. What I perhaps neglected to consider (or give weight to) was the way my body would feel about taking on this uncharted turkey day challenge. MS fatigue for me is not like, I feel groggy and could use a nap. It’s like, if I didn’t set an alarm in the morning, I might actually sleep for days.
When I am being diligent about Wahls and fighting to get my 9 cups in, I can actually slice through this fatigue pretty swiftly and with pep in my step to boot. But, a 17 hour cross-country drive with stops at chain restaurants and the Ohio Turnpike’s finest rest plazas doesn’t necessarily yield ample opportunities to find + fill myself with 9 cups of deeply colored, sulfur-rich, nutrient dense fruits and vegetables. I’m not saying my hands were tied and I was forced to eat a Whopper, friends. But even while being mindful about the choices I did make on the trip, my body was beat up, achy, and that glorious devil MS fatigue reared its ugly head. One morning home, I woke up feeling like my arms and legs were made of lead and wondered how I’d convince myself to get out of bed. Update: I’m still in bed and this post is just a fanfic about what I wish I’d done on turkey day.
KIDDING. I kid. I know that (unfortunately, EFF YOU, MS) many folks in the MS community with disease far more progressive than mine legit have days like that. I’m not trying to make light or be irreverent. All that to say, (whines) I was tired & achy & experiencing these super painful cluster headaches behind my right eye for about 3 hours a day for about 3 days solid. When T-Day arrived, I was assisted by my incredible mom (talk about role reversal), and my loving hubby, there to give backrubs + hugs whenever needed (which was often).
The food: My menu was not unlike what probably graced the table at many (those fortunate & privileged enough to celebrate) American homes this past Thursday. The golden gobbler. The sweet & savory sweet potato casserole. The citrus driven cranberry sauce. The predictable (but oh so necessary) pumpkin pie. And a slew of decadent side dishes harnessing the flavors of the season. I wouldn’t dare claim credit for the recipes that enabled me to make my first Wahls Thanksgiving possible. Pinterest + The Complete AIP Resource Library saved my toosh and gave me so many accessible options to choose from. So, without further ado, here’s the finished product, with links to follow of the humans who helped to harness such magic:
Implementing the Wahls Protocol on a daily basis is challenging & requires persistence. Implementing the Wahls Protocol during holiday time when the expectations of a classic, comforting, + indulgent meal are present is even more challenging, IMHO. To that end, I was lucky to have an internet flock of paleo & AIP foodies helping me to bring this meal to fruition. The turkey was loved up with ghee (I added cheesecloth around the outside to really hold the herbs and ghee close to the skin) courtesy Jay’s Baking Me Crazy. The meat was falling off the bone & so, so, so juicy. The sweet potato casserole came courtesy Cupcakes OMG, and it did not disappoint. Not hyper-sweet like the sweet potato casserole of my childhood, but decadent and warm and so rewarding. The green bean casserole courtesy Cassy Joy was honestly an upgrade from the casseroles of my youth. Not simply the suggestion of mushrooms, but forkfuls of baby portobellos in each bite. Rather than cooking up the traditional mashed potatoes, I took a detour and made one of my favorite potato recipes evaaar. Umami Girl, this recipe is from savory heaven, to be sure.
In keeping with my ever present Wahls inspired desire to get my 3 cups of leafy greens in, I made a big ass salad for my butter loving fam. This salad was harvest-y, sweet, & savory. Curly kale + baby spinach + roasted butternut squash (repurposing Skinny Ms’ recipe for acorn squash) +pomegranates + sprouted toasted pepitas. I let the squash cool fully before adding it to the salad and dressed it with a quick whisk soy-free veganaisse + dijon mustard + maple syrup + apple cider vin + avocado oil. Even my dad took a big bowl of this salad, and he believes iceberg lettuce is the be-all, end-all of green & leafy. Cranberry sauce is typically can shaped in our household, but I took advantage of another Cassy Joy delight and cooked up a spicy & sweet take on the traditionally gelatinous canned-mass.
The sweet finish line for this gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free, soy-free feast came in the form of pumpkin pie & vegan cheesecakes. Neither disappointed, and the crust for the Primally Inspired pumpkin pie was yummy and crusty — just as you’d hope. I will say, take care to make sure you have ample arrowroot flour on hand for this endeavor ’cause ya gonna need it. The sweet little vegan cheesecakes courtesy Minimalist Baker could not fool my seasoned Dairyland taste buds, but they did satisfy my sweet tooth with their delicious creamy and bright taste.
The feelings: Nearly 28 years of being fed and feeding myself with gluten & dairy and it is hard to believe these things only find their way into my daily consumption on accident now. I have a *complicated* relationship with food that can best be explained by my ghost-writer and childhood twin Andie Mitchell in her mirror-to-my-life book It Was Me All Along. That being said, my foray into the Wahls Protocol has been the healthiest (emotionally & physically) relationship with food I’ve ever built. I love feeding myself this way, and I want the people I care about deeply to feed themselves this way too. We have grown so accustom to feeling less than in every which way possible, when our bodies are capable of vibrant, stunning energy & light if only we deposit some moolah into our life bank. With this spirit, I cooked for my family and held my breath while they took the first bites. Actually, that’s not true. I was starving from all the cooking and was mowing down on my salad and green bean casserole. I knew it tasted good. I knew even before I took a bite that it would taste good. What I didn’t know was whether it would taste like Thanksgiving — whether this meal would feel like Thanksgiving. I can’t speak on behalf of my family, but they cleaned their plates. I won’t ask you to take my word for it– so I’ll leave you with the following from my brother (ever the honest critic) who offered this ol’ sage: “I really thought this was gonna suck but it is all really, really good.”
So there you have it. Wahls Thanksgiving, Year the First — of hopefully a shit-ton more. Speaking of which, we’ve got another Wahlsiday just around the corner. Stay tuned in my #wahlsnewb adventure toward bigger health and smaller MS.
| Sarah Jean