sanity restored

Why 54 days are better than 60.

54 days

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.

sanity restored

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!

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doing-the-whole30

Whole30 Day 27: Life on the road to Getting Wholly Healthy

doing-the-whole30

Since I started the Whole30 diet four weeks ago ago tomorrow (has it already been that long?!), the way I think and feel about food, as well as the way I interact with it, has changed.

My carb cravings have all but disappeared. I confess I really wanted to snatch one of Johnathan’s McDonald’s fries last week, but I restrained myself.

I am getting used to waiting a while for my food to be done. That and stocking up on pre-cooked veggies and raw veggies and stuff like that. Good food takes time!

Every time I go to the store, I buy avocados. And coconut milk. And tomatoes.

For the first time in my grown-up, shopping-for-myself life, I go through fruit and vegetables before they go bad! Though that pineapple that’s been around for a couple weeks might be done for. Oops. In my defense, I bought it in the first couple of weeks of my Whole30, when the sweets cravings were pretty strong, and I was eating about a case of clementines every day. Well, at least a handful of them, anyway.

That was before I found out I was supposed to take it easy on the fruit, lest my body not be allowed to learn that what it needs most is vegetables!

Fresh vegetables are important components of a...
Veggies: Learn to love them!

My “Whole30 and Getting Wholly Healthy” post talks about how I stopped weighing myself, even on the Wii Fit. This diet, this process is not about losing weight, as much as I would love it if my little paunch would just disappear forever (Keep reading to see what I am doing about that).

I make my own salad dressings, either using extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) and balsamic vinegar or another vinegar, or using my homemade dairy-free mayo as a base and adding garlic and/or spices, etc.

Instead of ketchup or barbecue sauce on meats, I use salsa or guacamole.

Real food tastes good, people! You just have to get out of the habit of relying on processed, sugar- and preservative-laden ingredients, and you’ll discover that the grass really is greener on the other side.

Cheating?

A few people have asked me whether I have cheated on the diet. Since I am a goody-goody that tries not to break clearly-defined rules, the simple answer is no. Technically, before I realized that not all bacon was made alike, I ate a lot of bacon the first week on the diet. I also ate a lot of fruit that first week or two, not remembering that thing about going easy on the fruit.

Also, even though Dallas and Melissa of Whole9Life are adamant about not trying to “Paleo-ify” dessert items while on the Whole30 by making cakes with almond flour or coconut flour, or breads, etc., I have to confess to a lingering sweet tooth which led me to the Fudge Babies recipe. I have made two batches of these over the past couple of weeks. Each batch makes about 10 balls of chocolatey goodness, and most days I only eat one, if any. Since they’re made with mostly raw, Whole30-approved ingredients, I don’t consider this a cheat. Though, if I were more hard-core, I would ix-nay those, too, I suppose. My sweet tooth has also influenced me to keep a container of banana pieces in the freezer for those moments in the evening when I’m studying or reading and could really use something that tastes yummy.

Fudge Babies
Fudge Babies

There have been a few times, while making a Whole30-approved recipe, that I have used something like curry paste which was already in my cupboard, that may have contained traces of things I’m not supposed to eat, like soy and peanuts, or a common preservative. Again, I don’t consider this a cheat because it was in such small amounts and because I’m a poor and starving student: I can’t afford to buy everything brand new!

Exercise

Yes, I have begun a regimen of regular exercise as part of this whole personal get-healthy endeavour. Many Paleo eaters are also Crossfit-ers. That is WAYYY too intense for me right now. I am getting my body in shape more slowly and easily.

A couple of weeks ago, I started the Couch to 5K running program. I will officially do the third run of the second week. Couch to 5K is an interval training program designed to get beginners out and running at a pace they can handle, then build their endurance until they can run 5K non-stop, 9 weeks later.

In week two, I warm up with a brisk five-minute walk, then run for ninety seconds, then walk for two minutes. I repeat the run and walk six times, then do a five-minute walk to cool down. On Friday, I will run ninety seconds, walk ninety seconds, then run three minutes and walk three minutes. The first week was one minute running, ninety seconds walking. You can see how easy it is for the couch potato to get their rear in gear. (More about the Couch to 5K in an upcoming post)

Then there’s the wee paunch I mentioned earlier. You probably never noticed it – I apparently have a gift for hiding excess weight. I have no idea how this is possible, because it’s clear to me any time I put on a pair of jeans and flesh squidges up over the belt. Gross, right?

The Plank
The Plank

It’s not huge. I’m not fat. I just don’t want to “let myself go”, if that makes sense. Imagine what that little paunch-ette would turn into if I were to start having babies before getting my stomach muscles into good shape! I would probably be a lost cause at that point.

Hence the being proactive in giving my belly flab a run for its money. Every other day, usually on days I run, I do a series of tummy workouts based on this post on the Women’s Health website (thanks for that, Britt and Pinterest). I add as many crunches as I can take, both straight and to the side, some side weight-lifting (holding some weight in one hand, bend sideways so the weighted arm moves down towards the floor, then flex the ab muscles (think: love handles) on the opposite side of your body to pull yourself back to a standing position. Repeat several times, then switch sides.), and then I sit on a chair holding a broomstick across my shoulders (holding weights in my hands, too), and twist as far as I can to one side, feeling the pull in the side muscle on the other side. Then I twist to the other side, and repeat several times. These last two exercises are thanks to Johnathan.

Results

Is it magic? The Whole30? The exercising? No, none of it is magic. It is all part of a process. A time-consuming, effort-involving process that requires dedication and discipline.

But is it worth it? Absolutely. You will feel great by the end of your first week on the Whole30, ’cause you’re not putting ANY junk in your body anymore! Everything worth having requires some effort to keep, including your health.

If you’ve been following my posts, you may have read about how our new apartment must have a dishwasher. John hates to do dishes, and I’m not a huge fan, either. Doing the Whole30 has made the dirty dish situation infinitely worse: practically every time I walk in the kitchen translates into an extra ten minutes of dish-washing!

But even so, it is still worth it. I am willing to pay more, do more work, establish new habits, and learn new skills, all in the name of being “wholly healthy”. Aren’t you?

Continuance

That’s why I’m going to do another Whole30, back-to-back with this one, a Whole60, if you will.

At the end of this week, I’m going to have a glass of wine, a slice of cheese, a piece of whole-grain bread, and a small piece of dark chocolate, and then the next day it’s back to grain-free, sweetener-free, legume-free, dairy-free, additive-free living, until it’s practically second nature!