I have become one of those annoying happy people. The kind that says “Good Morning” instead of looking at the floor with my headphones firmly in place so as to block all chances of conversational interaction. I know, I can’t believe it either. Traitor.
I am in a good mood. Not just good, but like animated birds landing on my shoulder to sing duets. Possibilities of breaking out into a dance routine on the streets. Yup, that good.
So, what happened?
I started the Whole 30. In case you were wondering, yes, you will hate me by the end of this post.
If you are not familiar with the Whole 30, it is basically an elimination diet. For 30 days, I have pledged to abstain from grains, dairy, sugar, legumes, alcohol, soy and processed food. Instead, I eat lean meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. After 30 days, I am to slowly introduce those foods back into my diet to monitor for intolerance. The idea is to give my body 30 days to heal from all the junk I’ve been pouring into it, reset, and then find a path to a healthier lifestyle that works for me.
I first heard about the Whole 30 two years ago, and my initial reaction was No Fucking Way! Beer. Cheese. Cupcakes. These are dietary staples for me. I couldn’t conceive of giving them up for 30 hours, let alone 30 days.
Most of the people I know who have done Whole 30 are already very healthy people. I don’t know if they eat Whole 30 just to be assholes doing the nutritional equivalent of making you feel their bicep, or if they have some sort of legitimate reason for taking it to the next level. But I do know Taco Bell is probably not considered their office (yes, that is what I call it), and they don’t finish a run and re-hydrate by popping open a beer. Can a die-hard beer drinking, carb loving, chubby gal like myself hack the Whole 30?
I want to punch myself for admitting this, but so far, I really like it. I have not felt deprived at all. I love that there is no calorie counting, no points, no numbers. As long as I’m eating the foods from the program, I can eat as much as I want, as often as I want.
If anything, I’ve been eating much better food than I normally eat. Generally if I am trying to be healthier, I opt for salads or yogurt for lunch. The thing, is, I don’t really enjoy salads or yogurt all that much. I kind of choke them down because that’s what I think I’m supposed to do. But with the Whole 30 I’m cooking a lot of super delicious stuff. I make food I can’t wait to eat. I sit around thinking about when it will be lunch time so I can finally gobble it down.
It reminds me of when my kids first started solid foods. I made at least 80% of their baby food, wanting their first bites to be fresh, delicious, and full of nutrients. For the first time in many years, it feels like I am taking care of me and being that nurturing parent to myself.
People keep asking me what I eat. I think they envision me sadly nibbling a piece of lettuce while smelling the discarded wrapper of a candy bar. Basically, I went on-line and found a lot of recipes that I would want to eat that just happen to fit into this program. A couple of nights ago I made chicken curry and roasted cauliflower- both foods I REALLY enjoy. I love spaghetti and meatballs. On my first day of Whole 30, I made a HUGE batch of meatballs and homemade tomato sauce. Sometimes I eat them just like that, others I add spaghetti squash noodles. On mornings when I have time, I fry a couple of over easy eggs and a piece or two of prosciutto (minimally processed, Whole 30 compliant prosiutto- because not all foods are created equally. I’m getting very good at reading labels). I slice an avocado and squeeze some fresh tangelo juice from my tree. Who wouldn’t want that for breakfast?
Don’t get it twisted. It is a huge commitment of time and money. The last two Sundays, I have spent a good portion of the day shopping and cooking. I try to cook 2-3 meals on Sunday so that I can freeze entrees and have food ready to eat for the next week. I don’t feel deprived because I am willing to plan ahead. I am curious to see if I can keep that up and make it routine, or if at some point I tire from the extra preparation. I can see it going either way.
Before we go any further, I’ve got some disclosures to make. First, I am 11 days in. According to my cycle, this is about the time each month when my mood shifts to off-the-charts bitchy, and I want to jam every food in sight into my mouth. So by this time next week, you might see a photo of my face down in a pie with my children ugly face sobbing in the background because mommy has completely lost her shit. We are entering the witching hour. The faint of heart should retreat.
Second, I planned a specific cheat on the Whole 30- a big no no. The program advises that you do not even fathom the possibility of a slip up. It’s only 30 days, and for that month, you should commit without failure. But pre-Whole 30, my friend bought me a ticket for an event called “Spirits with the Spirits”- a cocktail party with a medium serving as the entertainment. I saw her crestfallen face when I said I was going to be doing the Whole 30. That was all the motivation I needed to decent. I had one evening of decadence and it was delicious.
To my surprise, I hopped right back on the Whole 30 wagon. I am currently debating whether I have to start over from that point, or just keep going as if it never happened. The fact that I’m even conflicted about it speaks to how much I am liking the program. I actually feel like I could do that extra week and have it not be a big deal. Who am I?
My battle with Whole 30 has nothing to do with the food, but with my head. It is forcing me to examine my relationship with food and my body- a topic I would be glad to avoid.
I find a lot of strength in the Body Positive community. My FB feed is filled with posts about every body being a good body, regardless of size, shape, color, etc. As a person who has resorted to unhealthy behaviors to fit a specific mold, I need that message. With the turn of the New Year, many of these sites began to point out the shame and self loathing behind the idea of “New Year- New You” diet plans. Their point being that the “you” that you are right now is good enough and worthy simply because you are a human being. Instead of focusing on depriving yourself of things you love, why not focus on filling your life with practices to enrich it- taking a dance class you’ve always wanted to try or learning to paint. Am I cheating on this movement by engaging in not just a restrictive diet, but THE restrictive diet?
I found one answer that exists in both the Body Positive and the Whole 30 communities- I do not have to justify my eating choices to anyone. I know it sounds simple, but it is a big idea for me. My choices are mine. If they serve me in a way that makes ME happy, that is all the confirmation I need.
Yes, the Whole 30 is restrictive and at first, I couldn’t understand why. Does it really matter if I cheat and put a little milk in my coffee? On the small scale, no, I doubt it. But by putting those restrictions on, and by making a commitment to not falter in the program, it is forcing me to think differently. I am discovering options I really enjoy that I would never have known about had I not taken up the program. I kind of like black coffee now. Last night, I made tacos for my family. As I looked over the cheese, sour cream and tortillas, I wondered what I could do to replicate those flavors and textures in a Whole 30 meal. I opted to roast some potatoes for my carb, mix with the taco meat, and top with avocado (for the creaminess), salsa and purple cabbage. I loved it so much, I ate the leftovers for breakfast with a fried egg on top. Here is an obligatory food photo:
I keep coming back to why I started the program, and it has nothing to do with not liking my body or wanting to lose weight. I am trying Whole 30 because I just did not feel good.
I am a person that enjoys exercise and could not find the energy to exercise. My irritability is off the charts at specific times in my cycle. On those days, I feel like I need to post a sign warning people not to interact with me. My antidepressants did not seem to be working. My allergies are out of control. Getting to sleep is a constant battle.
I started reading up on perimenopause, and many of those things are normal. But they can also last for up to ten years! I do not want to be a raging, tired bitch for ten years. I also went back to work this fall, and I know that plays a part in this. But that is not going to change, so I have to come up with a game plan to combat these challenges.
My initial thought was change your antidepressant. And that’s not a bad thought. Antidepressants help millions of people, including me. But I also feel like I should be doing everything I can before relying on meds. I needed to examine my life and figure out what things are bringing me joy and what things are bringing me down.
If I am honest, the possibility of losing weight is enticing. I find myself fantasizing about being a thinner me- what clothes I could wear that I haven’t been able to fit into, the possibility of not having to strategically pose in photographs. I am constantly being beckoned to the dark side and have to remind myself if this is not about weight. The Whole 30 advises you to weigh yourself only on the first day and last day of the program and to take before and after photos. I worry all the time about how I will feel if I get to day 30 and haven’t lost any weight and don’t look any different. Will I consider myself a failure?
I hope I can get past that. Because the results are real and should count for more than any number on a scale. I FEEL GREAT. Friends are remarking on the change in my mood. One of the biggest indicators came from the kids at the preschool where I work. Kids want to be around happy people. Last week, I looked around and noticed that out of sixteen kids, twelve were in my area. I was having a blast, and so were the kids around me- children were getting sucked into the gravitational pull of fun.
On Sunday, I took my kids to a park with some friends. I excused myself to use the restroom. As I washed my hands in the sink, I noticed some writing on the wall next to me. The author had penned in Sharpie the words “How do I stop myself from cutting? Help!” Next to it, someone wrote “Use a rubber band.” Another person offered the advice “You find something better.”
As I walked back to the playground, I thought about those words. At first, I was struck by the advice of using a rubber band- seemed like a decent, practical, surface solution. I wouldn’t have thought of that. But I couldn’t stop thinking of the original question. How undeniably sad to be so desperate and alone to seek help by writing on a bathroom wall. I felt pain for the person who wrote it. I came back to the thought of not needing to justify my choices for anyone else. We all have the right to find happiness however we choose. Joy is something to be grateful for. It can disappear in an instant. If I am finding joy in this program, relish it. If and when it disappears, find something else. That’s how life works.
It remains to be seen if I can actually complete a Whole 30. But today, I am happy. I am thankful for this body. I want to continue doing a better job taking care of it and considering its needs a priority. On that note, this body wants to go for a bike ride. Quit typing bitch and go outside!
May joy find you today wherever you are!