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Whole30: It Gets Hard

I’ve said a lot of 10-word phrases in my life I’ve lived to regret.

  • I’m hungry. Maybe I’ll try this Yankee Stadium ballpark sushi.
  • I’ll wait and see Mitch Hedberg next time he visits.
  • I don’t think wedding planning’s going to be that hard.

Here’s a new one to add to my list:
The Whole30 diet? I could do that in my sleep.

Ok, so I probably didn’t mutter those exact words, mostly because my sleep is too precious to even make jokes about, but you get the gist: I honestly didn’t think giving up all dairy, sugar, grains and alcohol for 30 days would be that hard.

Why, you ask, did I think something so restrictive wouldn’t be that hard? Well, because I already eat a heck of a lot of vegetables. And because I like to cook. And because I’m a planner, organizer, and — let’s be honest — I’m stubborn as a mule. I knew Whole30 wouldn’t be easy peasy, but I really didn’t think it would be that hard.

And the truth is, it wasn’t — at first. Instead of starting my restrictions on a workday, I began during a weekend visit to my sister instead, and I don’t think it hampered our lifestyle one bit (though the local ice cream salesman may think differently). I hit up the farmers market, cooked us delicious meals — meatballs, roasted sweet potatoes, breakfast sausage, a whole chicken — and even enjoyed a steak out at a restaurant without asking SO many questions on preparation that I sounded like Meg Ryan ordering pie a la mode. My meals were filling and delicious, and I didn’t get any of the pounding headaches other eaters leaving their carbs behind tend to report. Life was good.

And it stayed good — through Monday, through Tuesday, through Wednesday. I fried eggs before work. I worked new produce into my diet. I survived a Mets game without beer and a pretzel.  

But then I woke up today and everything suddenly sucked. Maybe because I had watched The Great British Baking Show the night before and saw all the cakes. Maybe because I had read a delicious recipe in Cooking Light that included Whole30-excluded-but-otherwise healthy items like chickpeas and corn. Maybe because I haven’t had time to work out given all the extra time I’m spending on food prep (oh right, and a new job) these days. Whatever it was, I didn’t go into today particularly enthused about this voluntary challenge I’ve taken on.

I had prepared a healthy breakfast and lunch (which, obviously, I still ate — at 6:55 a.m. and 10:43 a.m., respectively), but I still found myself wandering through Whole Foods at 2:30 p.m. looking for something satisfying to eat. But everything I picked up — jerky, soup, protein bars — had some kind of sugar it in. I ultimately bought $8 of grilled eggplant from the salad bar (delicious but exorbitant) and a container of lemon olives, but as I checked out, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for myself: There was so much bread inside, and I wasn’t eating any of it.  

A part of me simply wants to throw in the towel — I’m going to another baseball game this weekend! Oh, the humanity! — but part of me also knows far too many people start this food plan and give up before they’re even half way through, just in time to suffer all the unhappy side effects of changing your diet (bloating, exhaustion, depression) and before any of the good side effects (weight loss, boosted energy, better sleep) supposedly kick in. The people at Whole30 say most of the quitting happens around Day 10/11, but I’m not going to lie: This body is tempted to pull the plug on Day 7.

But I’m not going to. Even though I for sure haven’t seen any good side effects yet, I know I’d be selling myself short if I don’t at least TRY to see it through to the end. And if I’m honest, I actually have seen at least one good side effect: I’m not tempted to dive into the peanut MMs every afternoon in the office anymore. Knowing it’s unnegotiably off limits has somehow removed the temptation, and if that’s a habit I can break once and for all, all this suffering will have been worth it.

Also worth it: tonight’s steak dinner, even if replacing the truffle fries with broccoli rabe was an insult to my soul. 

Anyone who’s done this, please send all motivational thoughts (and satisfying food tips) my way! One week down.

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Whole30: It Begins

My fiancé told a funny joke the other day:

How do you know someone is doing Whole30? They tell you.

Heh heh heh.


It’s true though: since deciding I’m going to start this sugar-free adventure for a month, I’ve both intentionally and inadvertently told everyone I know — my family, my friends, the woman I sat next to at a charity luncheon yesterday, the turkey farm guy at the NYC green market. And the question they’ve all had for me is the exact same one: Why?

I need to work on my elevator pitch, but it goes a little something like this: For as healthy as I imagine I am, I still consume a lot of junk, and that junk leaves me feeling pretty rubbish. Could I just stop hitting up the peanut MMs every afternoon at work instead of going whole turkey with this program? Maybe, but the strictness is actually most of the appeal to me. As my best friend in California put it: “I honestly think the biggest thing (for me, and I imagine you since we’re really similar) with this and any other diet/cleanse/etc is that you no longer have the free will to make bad choices.” Amen.

(Don’t worry, Mere, I won’t post any other e-mail excerpts here. Maybe this recent photo of us from a non-whole30-compliant wine- and cheese-filled day in wine country, but that’s it.)


I had said I would be starting this challenge on Monday, April 25, but a wise friend (fine, it was the same friend. I only have one friend) suggested starting on a weekend instead, since the first few days of Whole30 are known for sapping your energy. As your body relearns a how to fuel itself on fat, not carbs, most people report a major — but temporary — slowdown. I was tempted to start this on Monday, but I am also starting a new job Monday, and I’m not a complete massochist. So instead, I’m starting today. First challenge: fly to the Midwest to visit my sister for her birthday. Bring it on, Indiana!
I may not be totally ready, but I think I am as prepped as I can be. Here’s how I got ready:

  • I stocked up on compliant food at Whole Foods and the farmers market. Did you know most canned tuna fish contains soy?! The things I’ve already learned are amazing. And probably annoying: I’ll try to keep them to myself.

  • I prepped. The trick to sticking to a plan like this is having ready-made food on hand. I prepared this week by making two giant batches of soup: butternut squash and parsnip leek. I froze them in muffin tins and have partitioned them out for easy, veggie-filled lunches on the go. Success.

  • And of course, the final step of preparation: I binged on carbs. Yesterday, I had a white bagel for breakfast. I had a tennis ball of burrata for lunch. I drank a Bellini, downed some candy and enjoyed my last squirt of sriracha until May 22. They say the degree of your “carb hangover” those first few days on Whole30 is completely proportionate to how badly you ate leading into the plan. Brace yourself, body. This is going to be rough. (But oh-so-worth it.)


A word of warning: I’m going to use this space to share tips and recipes and to keep myself accountable for all 30 days. If the idea of reading about someone else’s food choices for a month makes you want to scratch your eyes out King Lear style, feel free to set an alarm and come back to this blog in late May. But if you find what I’m doing interested or, dare I say, motivating, please reach out! Misery loves company, and I could use your support. 🙂

Let’s do this!

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Whole30: A Rule Lover’s Diet

I’ve been a rule follower all my life. I wait in lines. I RSVP. I send thank you notes, use my salad fork, and once called my fifth grade teacher in tears on a Saturday afraid I had used my “get out of one spelling test free card” incorrectly the day before. 

I’m sorry, Mrs. Totzauer, wherever you are. You deserved that Saturday morning free of my fifth grade anxieties. 

Sure, I’ve been known to jay walk from time to time, but use a fake ID? Sneak into a concert? Eat ice cream before finishing my vegetables? I can’t even fathom what such reckless rule breaking would feel like. 

In fact, I’m so good at following rules that when I suddenly don’t have a specific set of guidelines to live by, I can find myself feeling a little overwhelmed. Take, for instance, marathon training. For four months, I wake up every morning to see a workout on my calendar — 8 mile pace, 5 miles with hills, 20 mile tempo — and without fail, I do it. Why? Because I wrote in my calendar I would and I don’t break the rules. When the race is over, though, it’s nearly impossible to get myself out of bed for even a 2-mile jog, because the rules no longer dictate I have to.

The same holds true for food. In recent months, I’ve stopped calorie counting after years of using it as a crutch and told myself everything in moderation is fine. Sounds reasonable, except when there’s no specific rule stopping me from hitting up the bulk chocolate bin at work, it means I throw back two servings at 2 pm daily without fail. When I was recording my calorie count on myfitnesspal, I found I could walk away from wine or dessert, but now that everything’s fair game, I don’t seem to have an off button. The side effects aren’t fun: some minor weight gain but more importantly — headaches, sugar rushes, constantly feeling full or bloated, sometimes to the point I can’t fall asleep, and poor Ben hearing this phrase over and over like a broken record: “I think I ate too much.” It’s not a great feeling, and not just because I have to squeeze into a wedding dress in seven months’ time.
  

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what the solution is here — do I return to calorie counting, meaning I have to pull my phone out at every single meal to record my intake? Do I snap a rubber band around my wrist every time I reach for the bulk bin of chocolate banana chips? Do I forgo food altogether and subside solely on coder-approved Soylent for the rest of my days?

But maybe the solution doesn’t have to be so drastic. Maybe I don’t need a new life-long eating plan: just a temporary reset. With that idea in mind, I’ve been doing a lot of reading on Whole30, the 30-day lifestyle change it seems everyone on the Internet has completed at least once. 

  

The idea: cut out all processed foods, sugars, grains, dairy, legumes, additives and alcohol and for 30 days straight focus exclusively on vegetables, fruit and protein. The plan itself isn’t sustainable forever (I will sorely miss yogurt and wine) and it’s not supposed to be: it’s supposed to be 30 days of mindful eating intended to retrain your body to crave real, nutritious food, not the sugary stuff with the emotional pull. If you’ve ever said to yourself like I have: “I’m hungry … but not hungry for an apple,” then you know what I’m taking about. 

I read the book cover to cover this past week, while eating a Whole30 compliant meal of cabbage, bacon and tilapia … and white wine. Ok, so not completely complaint. 
  
As the authors claim: “It will change the way you think about food, it will change your tastes, it will change your habits and your cravings. It could, quite possibly, change the emotional relationship you have with food, and with your body. It has the potential to change the way you eat for the rest of your life.”

Most importantly, this plan comes with a specific set of rules — cans and cannots that make food choices black and white. While I wouldn’t want to restrict my food choices indefinitely, I am open to the idea of doing it for 30 days starting April 25 and seeing where it gets me. Maybe it helps me trim down for my dress fitting. Maybe it introduces me to some new vegetables. Maybe it simply slows down the amount of junk I put in my body without realizing it. I don’t think this meal plan is a cure-all, but I’m looking for some new rules to follow, so why not give it a try?

They say it’s easier with friends. Who’s with me?