How I Finally Cleaned Up My Act

Adopting a clean and whole food eating plan brings with it many perks — including some that will surprise you.

jennifer lazaruAll good relationships are built upon honesty. That is what I told myself when I started out on my journey to a simple, clean and whole lifestyle 12 weeks ago. I decided it was time I re-built my relationship with myself. If that was going to happen, I knew I had to be honest about two important things: my unhealthy lifestyle, and the likelihood that I would need help changing it.

Planning a wedding can be a very stressful time in someone’s life — and it doesn’t end there. Married life brings many stressors with it, too — not the least of which is having children. When my now 22-month-old son was born in October 2010, I realized quickly that I was facing some challenging times ahead when medical experts labeled him “colic.” For the first five months of his life, he cried all day and slept very few hours in a 24-hour cycle, leaving us both with too many waking, tearful hours of the day. I tell you this because out of this period of my life was borne my very unhealthy lifestyle filled with an outrageous caffeine habit, quick unhealthy food fixes, and commercial diets touting preservative-filled foods. Nearly two years later, I was still wielding these unhealthy habits and feeling pretty awful both inside and out.

That’s when I decided I needed to find someone who could help me help myself. I soon discovered Jen Meister and her incredible program simply called Simple, Clean and Whole. In a nutshell, Jen’s approach to nutrition is a holistic one, which means you look at every angle of your life and how it affects the choices you make when it comes to nourishing your body. Looking back at the beginning, the thing that stands out most for me was my intense fear of giving up my 6-cup of coffee per day habit and my love/addiction to sugar. In truth, I sat there and listened to Jen say all the right things that first day we met, but I don’t think I truly believed I could kick these habits and become a healthier me.

I am thrilled to report 12 weeks later that it has been an extraordinary journey filled with challenges at every level — physical, emotional, mental — which I have been able to overcome with success. Gone are my repeat trips to my espresso machine and late-night binges in my “chocolate cupboard.” Instead, I replaced these unhealthy habits with three healthy, portion-controlled meals a day and two portion-controlled snacks complete with simple, whole foods.

The funny thing is there is nothing “magical” about this eating plan — nothing out of the box. Every meal is based on two simple tenets: eat foods as they’re meant to be eaten in their “whole” state, and watch how much of them you eat. Lunch and dinner follow the sound principle that your meal should be made up of ¼ lean protein (e.g. chicken, shrimp, steak), ¼ healthy starch (brown rice, sweet potato, quinoa) and the rest must consist of veggies. Snacks can be anything from apples and almond butter to raw veggies and hummus or hard-boiled eggs and turkey slices. No mystery drinks, no quick-fix pills, no liquid cleanses. Instead, the hardest part is in the preparation — both preparing your foods and thinking ahead so that you always have what you need. It’s all about anticipating and planning — just like a wedding. It may seem challenging at times, but it’s always worth it in the end.

However, if I am going to continue to be honest, I have to admit that I had a little help along the way.

When I started the Simple, Clean and Whole plan, I held tight to a couple of my crutches with the blessing of my beloved nutrition counselor. I was allowed to have one 12-ounce cup of coffee in the morning and a dark chocolate treat at the end of the day. For me, these two items were like life rafts, and I clung to them to get me past some of the initial hurdles. Thankfully, I love dark chocolate, and it goes a long way toward satisfying my sweet tooth. And, even better — I found a holistic nutrition counselor who makes her own dark chocolate and it’s good enough that some well-respected organic food outlets are considering selling it.

vita chocolate

Vita Chocolates, as it’s called, adheres to the Simple, Clean and Whole Food philosophy by using only three core ingredients and absolutely no additives or preservatives.

And did I mention it tastes good? Every morning, I look forward to ending my day seated on my couch in front of the TV, relaxing and indulging in my favorite chocolate and not feeling deprived. On the contrary — I feel like the lucky one eating one of my Vita chocolate bars (which come in multiple flavors including coconut, peanut butter, goji berry, mint and more) rather than being bitter or resentful of my husband sitting next to me stuffing his face with a big piece of warm chocolate cake covered in melting vanilla ice cream.

Nope, no bitterness here. Just good old wholesome chocolate.

To find out more about Vita Chocolates, visit