I started writing this at the end of Whole30, but I needed some time to collect my thoughts. Some of this is how I felt immediately after, some of it reflects how I feel now, and mostly it’s kind of a mess. Forgive the inconsistent tenses and rambling. If I don’t put this out there now with all its imperfections I think I won’t ever get to it.
Well, there’s an apt metaphor if ever I heard one.
Well, it’s over. The 30 days, anyway. I’m in the reintroduction-ish phase, but more on that in a minute. This January has felt like the longest, draggiest month and yet somehow, BOOM, it’s over. The days are long, the month is short, etc.? Looking back it feels like a blur, and I’m so glad I took the time to write through it. I’m still digesting everything, and will be for a while, I know. I am so glad I stuck with it. I’m not surprised to be glad that I did, no, but I am surprised, in some ways, that I did it. Huh. I did that. Neat. But also, I am not surprised. I am pretty effing tenacious when I put my mind to it. And when the situation is all-or-nothing (see also: weeks and weeeeks of the elimination diet I did last year) it seems to be easier for me. I don’t know why that is. Removal of options = success. For the short term anyway.
On Day 30, Zach and I popped a bottle of bubbly and drank it with our Whole30 crabcakes, broccoli, and remoulade. And just like that, Whole30 was over. I know technically we were supposed to wait until Day 31, Day 30 at the stroke of midnight, but eh. Suddenly bubbly sounded really good, and there it was.
After dinner I also had some candy. Oooh, candy. Besides oats, candy has been the one thing that plagued me through Whole30. After dinner I decided it was time. I had bought some Sweetarts Gummy Valentine’s candy, and some cinnamon and cherry jelly/jujube Valentine hearts earlier in the month. If I didn’t buy them I knew they’d be gone when I went back after Whole30. And honestly, the thought of that candy sitting in the cabinet has caused me more anxiety than I care to admit. Was it a mistake to buy that candy? Would I be slipping back into old habits? Who would win the battle: me or the candy? Who was in charge: me or the candy? It plagued me, and that’s not easy to admit. Over the course of 30 days I alternated between wanting to dive face first into a bowl of candy (a phrase which I believe I’m now semi-famous for on the internet!) and wanting to march over the the cabinet and throw everything away. I did neither. I just observed these feelings. (And wailed about them here on this blog.)
So after dinner, the true test. I opened the bags, stood there, and thought “This is it”. And as I slowly sampled the candy, I noticed how it felt, and let me tell you, it felt weird. I felt like I was walking a very fine line between two worlds. I could feel the tug of old habits, and the tug of new habits. It really felt like that, like I was being tugged from two sides. So strange. I half wanted to shove handfuls in my gaping maw, half wanted to walk away. I let myself have what I wanted, had a few handfuls, really thought about how the candy tasted. Then I realized, you know what? These cherry juju hearts SUCK. They don’t even taste good. Champagne aside, this is what I’m putting in my body after 30 days of pure, whole foods? A 99 cent bag of fake-tasting cherry candy? Why? No thanks. This is not worth it. Bye. In the trash they went. Next up, the cinnamon hearts. Suddenly they didn’t taste that great. They went from being satisfying, scratching an old itch, to tasting like the fake, cheap, drugstore candy they are. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with fake, cheap, drugstore candy if that satisfies you and makes you happy. But suddenly this wasn’t doing it for me. The only thing it would have been doing was fulfilling an old habit that I’m trying to outgrow. Again, not worth it. In the trash they went too.
Sweetarts hearts? Those stayed. Those I’m still processing. When I eat them, I eat them slowly. I don’t do it mindlessly. I make a point to be aware of the fact that I am eating, rather than shoving food in my face. And as such, I’m eating way less. When I bought the Christmas Sweetarts gummies, they were gone in a day or two. The whole bag. This time, two days later, most of the bag is still in the cabinet. It’s not perfect by any stretch and in many ways I still feel like I’m walking the line between the two worlds of old and new habits. I’m still learning. 30 days isn’t going to turn around years of bad habits, no. But it is certainly a start.
How else do I feel about Whole30?
I’m glad to be off the leash. I am so, so glad to be eating oats again. I am relieved to feel less picky, yet I also still feel very, very picky. I don’t want to overload my system with all kinds of stuff it’s no longer used to. I want to know how things effect it.
So far the non-gluten grains reintro is going well. Day 31 was the long-awaited oats for breakfast. Leftover Whole30 crab cake lunch. Quinoa beef taco bowl for dinner. I was happy. I felt good. I feel good.
Today [actually, the weekend after Whole30 ended - this already happened], my brother is in town and we’re meeting him and a friend for lunch at one of our favorite places. A place that has the best burger in town, only available at the bar. We normally sit at the bar, talk to the bartenders we know, have a few beers, hang out. Today I’ll order a burger without the cheese. Salad instead of fries. I won’t eat the bun because I’m not ready for gluten yet, but I won’t worry about whether there’s sugar in the salad dressing. I might have a cocktail, if something appeals. But I don’t feel overcome with a need to devour a burger and fries, as I often would before.
[Here's what happened: I had gin because it is - no joke - the most hypoallergenic booze out there. I also grossly underestimated the power of gin after 30 days of not drinking. Also, I hadn't eaten much that day by the time we ate around 5. Rookie mistakes, I know. Long story short, I had some bread and cheese with my meal, and in the end I felt worse about Too Much Gin than I did about the gluten and dairy. GREAT SHAME. I've had bread a few times since then, and MAN. I looked 6 months pregnant within a few hours of eating it. I am so bummed, let me tell you. A little gluten in soy sauce hasn't seemed to bother me, but bread? Pizza? Even sprouted Ezekiel bread? Forget it. Misery. I feel awful, my stomach is bloated and painful, I can't fall asleep. So, Big Gluten will be happening only when I'm prepared to pay the price for it.]
I feel grateful. It’s strange, in a way, but I didn’t fully grasp what a true reboot this would be. I mean, I KNEW it would be, but it’s been so long since I’d been in these better habits that I forgot what they felt like. I desperately wanted them back, but they felt so far out of reach. I am so very grateful that they don’t feel out of reach any more. I am grateful to be back in touch with my body, making conscious choices, and not being controlled by food.
I do still have to stop myself from automatically reaching for things sometimes. I stop myself and ask whether I really want it, whether it’s worth it. Often it’s not and I don’t eat it. I’m sure eventually I’ll get to a place where I ask myself that question subconsciously before reaching for something, but for now – at least I ask. I ask.
Here’s the thing. I don’t think that one prescribed way of eating works for everyone. And I don’t think that one thing that works for you will necessarily always work for you. Just like I used to be able to party all weekend and drink tons of gin and get 4 hours sleep and then get up and go the next morning, I can’t do that any more. My body has changed, what it can function on, how much it can function on, that’s all changed. And I’m certain it will continue to evolve.
I don’t think there is anything inherently bad with going into a month-long program with the intent of re-booting. It’s forcing me to be very intentional and purposeful with the decisions I make about what I put in my body, and I’ll be very honest with you: I needed that. Things had gotten away from me, and I needed to get the reins back firmly in hand.
I’m nervous about going off the program, yes, a bit. [I was nervous as the end neared, and I still feel like I'm getting my sea legs here, almost two weeks later.] But I also feel like a dog who has been trained so well on the leash that I’ll behave once I’m off of it. I am enjoying and looking forward to adding things back in and seeing what happens. I have noticed changes. I also did not see all the magic I was promised. I admit there are things I should have done better with. Sleep is number one on that list. Actually, that may be the only thing on the list. That’s something I’ve always struggled with. The thing is, I was expecting this to be a month of relaxation and restoration. But the truth is, it’s really really hard to cook three whole meals a day for a whole month, on top of an already busy life. It was nowhere near as relaxing as I had expected, and in many ways was just the opposite. There are so many things I wanted to do but didn’t. I promised myself I’d get my holiday thank you notes done and spoiler: I didn’t. I didn’t do a lot that was on my to-do list, other than complete Whole30. I feel like I spent all my time thinking about food, meal planning, shopping, cooking, and being sick. Yep, that will make a month go right quick. It also makes it hard to unwind at the end of the day, when you get home late from a doctor’s appointment or post-work yoga class, cook dinner, try to get some downtime with your husband, journal through your feelings and then suddenly when you meant to go to bed at 10pm, you didn’t. I will also admit that I didn’t prioritize sleep enough, and that’s on me. But I am okay admitting that I had a hard time finding a healthy balance. The truth is, Whole30 is a lot of work. It’s consuming. And mine wasn’t perfect (“perfect”), but I’m okay with that.
I also cannot discount being sick so much, and struggling with that. My allergies, my sinuses, my immune system: All of this works against me in ways others don’t have to deal with, so I suspect that’s also part of why I only briefly glimpsed the tiger blood. That said, in starting to take oregano oil and working on killing off my candida (more on that in a different post), I think that inhibited feeling tiger blood, too. I have some of the symptoms of die off: sore throat. exhaustion. constipation. bloating. I found it so strange that I’m suddenly experiencing – once again – the exhaustion that came early on in Whole30. Plus a sore throat while my sinuses are clear. Plus constipation when my digestion has been really pretty good – certainly better than it was before. Something clicked about candida, and I’ve been researching, googling, reading everything I can get my hands on. Sure enough, these symptoms settled in after I started daily doses of oil of oregano, which is supposed to help kill candida. Ugh, anyway, more on that in another post.
I also couldn’t work out much. I made it to my weekly yoga class 3 weeks out of 4. I think. Three times in one month, and let me tell you: At this point that feels like a victory. Understand that over the course of the last year my system for determining my well-being went like this: A) Do I feel well enough to go to work? B) When I get home from work, do I have enough energy to do something more than fall onto the couch or climb into bed?
When I did make it to work (and oh I used more sick time last year than I ever imagined possible, thank god thank god for a wonderful workplace), that was often all i could do. Zach would have to deal with dinner, feeding the cats, cleaning up, finishing laundry, doing any chores that needed doing. And several days of this in a row were often the only real indicators that I had another infection. Well, along with a sore throat and cough a lot of the time too, but all that lingered pretty much constantly. Just ask anyone who tried to have a conversation with me and the Blathering
, and thought I was going to give them black lung.
So, I’m still on the road to better health. There’s still so much for me to learn. I don’t know what’s going to happen when I start adding things back in. I’m a little nervous about that, truthfully. I’ve missed my oats terribly and am glad to have them back. I don’t believe that one diet is right for everyone, but I do believe we are free and welcome to scavenge all the bits of wisdom thrown out by various people to cobble together what works best for us. And those decisions aren’t made in a vacuum, prescribed by someone else. They’re made by us, right in the thick of the mess that is our daily lives. We make the best choices for ourselves that we possibly can, and that’s all we can do.
The thing is, I think there is an awful lot wrong with the Standard American Diet. I think we were generally in better health when we listened to our parents and grandmothers and peers and did what had been done for generations, rather than listening to marketers and commercials and the next so-called expert to come along pedaling a book. That’s not to say that every person who does any of those things is WRONG, it’s just to say that they aren’t necessarily right, either. I really think we don’t know enough yet. Nutrition is poorly understood in many ways, and the more we learn the less we really understand. Is it a coincidence that when the low-fat craze hit in the 80s obesity shot up and we’ve been getting ever-unhealthier every year? I can’t believe it is. Marketers and food companies depend – literally depend – on selling us as many cheap, tasty calories as they can. (And I know this is all complicated by food deserts and availability and price and all that, oh I know. It’s so complicated.) We have more easy calories available to us at any time in human history, and we are unhealthier than ever. I mean sure, cavemen probably had terrible dental hygiene and died early of other diseases, but I mean as far as luxury diseases go: in our country (again, gross, sweeping generalizations here) we’ve pretty much gotten dental hygiene and vaccinations (ha ha not going there, let’s just gloss over that) and major diseases under control. So now we have diseases brought on by…eating too much? of the wrong things? Show me a caveman who died from eating too much of anything, except maybe poisonous berries his cavemen friends dared him to try. I know, this whole paragraph is RIFE with problems and other huge, glaring issues, but…that’s kind of where I’m going with this. It’s complicated, and oh so personal. Was it Michael Pollan who said that never have we spent so much time on the question “What should we eat?”, and never have we had more health problems? Because I think that sums it up right there.
No one can tell you what’s right for you. They can tell you the conventional wisdom, the new wisdom, THEIR wisdom. They can relay anecdotal experience. But no one else lives in your body. No one lives in MY body, except me. So I have to make the choices that make me as healthy as I can be. Whether that’s doing Whole30 for a month, doing an allergy diet, doing a Candida diet, trying vegetarianism, cutting out dairy, cutting out gluten, or otherwise finding foods that work for me. (And I have done ALL of that except the candida diet, which I’m currently considering.).
I’m going off this doing a lot of mulling. I am about to eat oats for breakfast for the second day in a row. We’ll see how it goes.
[I've been eating oats many days in a row and it is going GLORIOUSLY.]
Maybe I should change the header of this blog to that, eh? That’s the motto. We’ll see how it goes.
If you made it through this post, congratulations and I’m sorry. And thank you.
Thanks for all the love and support you’ve provided here. Don’t go anywhere, okay? Especially now that Food Lush
has closed its doors
, I need an outlet.
Tell me you remember this jingle? I’ll be right back. More soon.