Friday, September 18, 2015

The Healthiest 18 Days of My Life

This summer was one of excess.  Too much food, too much drinking, and too much fun.

It was absolutely fabulous.

We took trip after trip after trip, to see family, to go to the beach, to celebrate good weather and childhood and the freedom to be carefree.  I consciously decided to let go, and then some.  I didn't use my hair dryer once between Memorial Day and Labor Day (summer hair, don't care).  How freeing is that?

Freedom doesn't necessary lend itself to a healthy lifestyle, however.  My summer of leisure and nightly ice cream runs and daily cocktail hours left me feeling like a lazy blob.  I noticed the flab coming on, but I didn't really care.   I shall trash my body for the next six weeks, and then clean it up in September!

Trash my body I did.  And then September came.

After three months of creating bad habits, I needed something drastic.  Weight loss was not the only priority - though it would be nice.  What I needed was a complete cleanse.  A reset, if you will.   I wanted to be healthy.

Enter the Whole 30.

I had heard of the Whole 30 before, and was intrigued by it.  It's 30 days of clean eating.  There's no calorie counting, and you aren't supposed to weigh yourself at all (weight loss isn't the goal).  The idea is to eat clean, whole food, and see how your body changes.  The book makes the grandiose claim that this diet "will change your life."

As September approached, I started to prepare.  I bought the book "It Starts With Food," along with the corresponding recipe book.  As I read, I got nervous.  Turns out clean eating cuts out pretty much everything I like to eat.

There would be NO: sugar (of any kind, aka honey, stevia, vanilla, agave nectar, etc.), alcohol (AAAAAA!), grains, legumes, or dairy.  To break this down a bit, that means no butter.  Soy sauce. Most any salad dressing.  Cheese.  Corn.  Rice.  Bread.  Beans.  Yogurt.  Wine.  Did I mention wine? And did you know sugar is in pretty much everything? EVERYTHING?

That leaves: meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit.

This would be hard for anyone, but it was especially daunting for me for the following reasons - 1) It is basically impossible to go out to eat.  2) We always go out to eat.  3) I hate to cook.  4) Now I have to cook.  5) Did I mention wine?

But I was bound and determined.  I made a commitment, and when I commit to something, I'm all in.

The weekend of August 28th, I started planning.  I researched recipes and made a meal plan and went to Whole Foods and spent an embarrassing amount of money on foods I had never even heard of, like ghee and rutabaga.  On the evening of August 31st - my last "normal" night, I opened up a bottle of wine, ordered in Indian food, and spent the night cooking food for the upcoming week.

Days 1 and 2 were fine.  What's the big deal?  I thought.  I got this! I can't believe people think this is hard!

On Day 3 came the sugar withdrawal, and with it a pounding headache, extreme fatigue, and a bout of depression.  How can I do this for 27 more days?  I don't want to cook anymore!  I don't want any more chicken!  What the fuck is a rutabaga?

This was NOT easy.  Not only was the cooking onerous, the food not that satisfying, and the lack of wine disheartening, but the lifestyle shift was stark.  I quickly began to realize that my normal life was centered around meals - where my next would come from, and what I would be eating (and drinking).  It served as my solace, my break, and my reward.  Without a meal to look forward to, what did I have?  Where was the consolation in my day?

I knew it wasn't right to live like that.  But I kind of didn't know how else to live.  And with that taken away from me, life started to suck, for a few days, at least.

I truly was depressed Days 1-7.  I didn't make it easy on myself either.  During that first week we went to a barbecue at a friend's house where I could only consume raw carrots and sparkling water, we took my son to Benihana for his birthday where I watched the chef pour garlic butter over fried rice and I nearly cried, and I served my kids leftover birthday cake every night for dessert.  At one point, I sniffed the cake like it was some kind of drug and got icing all over my nostrils.

It was painful.

But then things got better.

Around Day 8, acceptance came.  There was no sense in pouting.  I wasn't going to be able to eat what I wanted, when I wanted, and meals could no longer be my reward.  So now what?  How did I want to spent my time?  Where would I get satisfaction?

I thought long and hard about what it is I enjoy, besides eating and drinking.  What makes me happy?

Reading.  I love reading.  So I went to Barnes and Noble and bought 5 books.  I took my time picking them out and read reviews and am super excited to read all of them.  (I already finished one - The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, which was excellent).

Exercising.  Who the fuck knew, I actually love exercising.  So I threw myself into the gym, and into training for a half marathon.  I'm actually doing it!  With a brief break due to a suspected stress fracture turned nothing at all, I have been working out or running almost daily and feeling amazing.

TV.  Yes, I love TV, especially any series that I can binge watch.  I just finished Season 1 of Narcos on Netflix and it was incredibly compelling.

Travel planning.  How I love travel planning!  So why not take the kids to Europe for spring break and spend the next six months planning it?  Tickets booked.

And food.  Turns out, I can still enjoy healthy food!  I don't know if it's because of the sugar deprivation or lack of alternatives, but I have seriously been loving every meal that I make.  And I have even been enjoying cooking.  (The fact that I just typed that previous sentence is a miracle - a true miracle).  I enjoy searching for recipes and making good, whole food meals that are absolutely delicious.  And I take immense pride in them, to the point that I take a picture of every meal.  I mean, who does that - takes a picture of their breakfast, lunch, and dinner?  I would publicly like to thank my husband and sister for humoring me for receiving and commenting on such pictures.  I have found a new love for lettuce wraps and rutabaga (a starchy vegetable similar to a sweet potato, in fact) and olives and spinach and oh my God, did you know the amount of things you can do with an coconut?  It makes me kind of want to share it with the world!

Best chicken fajitas ever.

Pulled pork with avocado and pineapple - yum!

Sweet potatoes, garlic spinach, and the best lamb meatballs ever.
And now, other weird things are happening.  I find myself saying things like, I love this diet - I could do this forever!  I even find myself dreading the 30 days to be over, because I am feeling so good.  I mean - really good.  I am wide awake all day and full of energy and generally disgustingly positive about life and all mundane aspects of it.  My husband even found me petting the dog last night.  I no longer crave carbs or alcohol, and I feel healthy and strong.  What could be better?

The fact is though, I won't continue this forever.  It's hard to be social and be on this diet, since it's difficult to eat anywhere but home.  It's also extremely difficult to travel, and with Disney World coming up next month, it's time for a little indulgence once again. I can't say I'm not looking forward to it.

But the book was right - this diet has changed my life.  Because I now realize that eating healthy feels good, and doesn't have to be miserable.  There's more to healthy eating than grilled chicken and steamed vegetables (which I still hate), and there's more to being healthy than losing weight.

My hope going forward is to carry some of the principle from these 30 days with me.  I mean, who needs tortillas when you have lettuce?  Who needs sugar in your coffee when you have coconut milk?  Who needs potato chips when you have plantains?

At the end of the day, doing the Whole 30 has started to change my relationship with food.  Food shouldn't be exclusively a reward - it should be fuel for your body.  It should make you feel good.  This isn't to say that I won't have a day, or week (or summer) of unhealthy indulgence in the future - I'm sure I will.  But at least now I have the Whole 30 to fall back on.  Much to my husband's annoyance, I am thinking of doing the program once or twice a year.

As for now, I have 12 more days of clean eating!  I may or may not be going out on September 30 to celebrate with a glass of wine...

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  1. Two shout-outs and neither mention that I've been "suffering" through this with you! :)

  2. I have to know.... how are the kids doing with this? Are they eating what you are, or are they eating something different?

    1. No - my kids are eating as usual. Meaning I have to make two different dinners every night which is super annoying! I do try and give them a bit of what I have made for my husband and I just to expose them, but they are picky eaters...

  3. I'm officially on round two day six. I'm feeling your pain but it feels so good to complete the whole30

  4. Hi, I noticed you're going to Disney World soon. We'll be going in February, and I've never been. My two sons are the same age as your younger two, and I'd love to read about your experience (ahem, tips).

  5. Love your blog. Wish you lived in Canada as we seem to have similar paths in life (former lawyer, SAHM, training for a half, not sure what to do with my life going forward, sometimes super bored at home)

    I've been debating trying Whole 30
    But like you, I like bad food, hate to cook and my kids are picky eaters. But I will try the books you recommended!


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