55 days plus a 3-day weekend ago, I embarked on a bit of an extreme diet journey. Extreme from the perspective of most of us who have gotten used to relying on refined carbohydrates and artificial sweeteners and the convenience of processed and fast foods. Normal if you think of how food used to be for most of the history of humanity.
I did what is called the Whole30 diet, which rules out grains and all grain products, dairy, sugars and all sweeteners including honey and maple syrup, legumes, and common preservative and additives such as lecithins, sulfites, MSG, and carageenan. Few people would be able to do the Whole30 all the time. It’s meant as a sort of nutritional reset, a time for your body to heal from all the non-natural stuff you’ve been pumping into it for your entire life. It’s not your fault–it’s our culture’s fault.
After the success of my first month, I boldly decided to do two. My friend Erika did, after all, and she had inspired me to try the Whole30 in the first place.
Something went wrong in my calculations, and I put yesterday in my calendar as the last day, Day 30, time to celebrate! Last week, I began to get excited. I could finally eat some cheese! Dig into the chocolate that has been accumulating in my candy jar, taunting me! Check to see if the bottle of wine I opened before all this started is still remotely good!
Having just come through about 10 days of academic zombie madness, where avoiding that chocolate was an exercise in self-control I didn’t know I had, the idea of finishing became very very enticing.
I could finally relax my Kaiser-esque food regime, buy cheaper food, eat some of the convenient-and-less-nutritional stuff in the freezer, have dinner with someone without a long list of I-cannot-eats.
I got excited, and I began to count on yesterday being the last day. Then, the night before last, I realized my mistake. Yesterday was not day 60, it was day 54! Oh no! A sort of despair started to settle in as I thought about having to forgo that bottle of wine I had promised to share with my BF’s parents on the weekend, about not being able to enjoy the potluck dinner with friends we are attending on Saturday.
And I started to think about what it really means to quit at Day 54 rather than Day 60.
It means I went without grains and sugar and dairy and legumes and preservatives for 54 days!! It means I’m running 20 solid minutes tonight! It means I have lost weight! It also means I have spent so much time shopping and planning and cooking and packing meals and washing the resulting dishes. I have spent so much money on vegetables and meat, money that I didn’t really have. It means I have little patience left for waiting for a sip of wine, a taste of chocolate, a bite of cheese.
It means enough.
I was on a mission to get “wholly healthy.” I didn’t get all the way there, but I got 54 days and 5 weeks of Couch to 5K closer. I learned a lot about food and cooking and spices and oils and myriad ways of making vegetables into something yummy and crunchy.
Now, for me, “wholly healthy” means backing off of the strict diet. Relaxing my boundaries a bit, a little at a time, finding a balance between what I have learned and what my real life is. Taking some time away from the stove and giving it to some of the people in my life. It means enjoying those things that I have always loved, albeit with much greater moderation than ever. It means learning how to say “No, thank you” to a second helping of whatever delightful carb is offered.
It means greater sanity. And sanity, for me, sometimes feels too thinly spread across the fabric of my life. I will take more sanity over 6 more days without cheese or chocolate, thank you very much!