Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Lost and Gained on the Whole30

Well, my friends, it is time for me to share with you what I lost and gained on the Whole30. I'm going the list route because I'm still processing a ton. I think, given where I'm at, prose would end up loaded with v. unhelpful emotion, confusion, and judgment. Maybe someday.

Vastly improved meal planning skills
An improved (but by no means less complicated) relationship with food
About an hour more sleep per night
Knowledge: dairy and alcohol are not my best friends; legumes and grains aren't my worst enemies; almonds (the only tree nuts "safe" for me) cause or exacerbate eczema
Love of ghee
Demonstrated aversion to chicken livers
Healthy suspicion of all foods that go down a bit too easily (e.g. smoothies, nut butters, cookies)

Acceptance of food-as-reward
Cream in my coffee
My sugar dragon
Cheese addiction
Nightly glass(es) of wine
Skin ailments
A gazillion dollars, mostly spent on "healthy fats" and meat counter splurges
5 pounds
3 inches of waist
1 inch per thigh
1.2% body fat

There were other losses and gains that I feel are too personal to share on my public website which is, at its heart, a food blog and thus meant to be above all else appetizing. If you are interested in the nitty-gritty and/or are contemplating taking on a Whole30 challenge yourself at some point, email me and I'm happy to privately share my more detailed experience.

I have never felt lighter, leaner, evener, or more pain-free than I felt between days 8 and 32 of the Whole30. I was v. afraid of food coming out of the challenge and, according to the creators of the program, that meant I needed to ride my own bike and figure out what was next for me. I was also aching to eat something with a texture - while smells stopped enticing me somewhere around week 2 of my W30, when I made a sandwich for my children with MC's fresh bread, or when I saw someone eating a cracker, I really craved the chew, crumb, and crunch of foods that aren't meat, eggs, and vegetables.

I gradually eased forbidden foods back into my diet in the following order: alcohol (priorities!), legumes, dairy, gluten-free grains, grains. Sugar was kind of randomly in there, but no sweets until about Day 40. Every one of these foods made me feel immediately different (less great). The real kickers, however, have been alcohol and dairy. I feel fine when and immediately after eating them but the next morning I am a puffy, congested mess. They really are inflammatory foods. No joke.

Are they worth it nonetheless? Sometimes. Date night with MC was super fun. Rincon 38's fried manchego and red wine were delightful indulgences. Is one day of bags under my eyes, too-tight rings, and a fleeting but intimate relationship with my neti pot too harrowing a consequence for such hedonism? I don't think so. There is such pleasure to be derived from food and wine. What I've taken away from my W30 experience, however, is that food is not only meant for pleasure. It is meant, most importantly, for health and sustenance. And the foods that offer the most pleasure, at least for me, are the least healthy and sustaining. I hope that, as my food journey continues, I'll land somewhere that prioritizes healthy eating most of the time (like, really most of the time, i.e. 95% or more), and reserves indulgences to special occasions. Sounds so balanced and normal, right? But I'm not there yet. For one thing, my definitions of both "indulgence" and "special occasion" will have to be much broader than they used to be, back when I had cream in my coffee every morning and a glass of wine every evening. I thought those were okay since I ate healthy meals. I'd see other children's lunches at school, feel smugly chuffed about how comparatively nourishing my own children's lunches were, and then decide we all deserved a puppy dog tail from Isles Buns because - well of course! - it's Friday!

So I've changed. I think differently about food. I want food in different ways and a don't want food nearly as much as I used to. I could write a book about it but (1) it already exists, and (2) I am trying to mince my words here and unpack just the information I would have found useful when I was blog-researching two months ago.

This is kind of important: I've been vacationing for the last five days. I've had paleo-ish breakfasts most days, I've avoided cheese and milk 4 out of 5 days (but holy crap I almost died of cheese on that fifth day!), but otherwise I've basically spent the last 72 hours eating and walking my way through Portland. Like, I've eaten six pastries in half as many days. (Or, at least portions of them. The new E-NC can eat a bite of a doughnut and be satisfied. Whaaaaattt?!?) So, even eating out, snacking, drinking - less freely than I've done historically, but still opting for pleasure over sustenance - I find my W30-defined baseline is a great place to veer from. I bounce back quicker after eating crap than I did before the Whole30. I can see why people use the program as a "re-set" option every few months or years or whatever. I will probably do the same.

In the meantime, though, I'm still not sure what meals will look like in the long run. I'm for sure reducing the amount of dairy I consume and will probably treat cheese as a rare treat. Alcohol as well. I am hoping to reintroduce legumes into our family's meals as a protein main as opposed to the amount of meat to which we've grown accustomed for the last several weeks. (SO. FLIPPING. EXPENSIVE.) And grains are a bit of a conundrum to me right now. I tolerate them well but don't know where they will fit in. As a substitute for nutrient-dense vegetables? As a filler? Obviously, I am still figuring all this out! I am about to get on an airplane though and one of my goals on this vacation was getting a proper W30 update on the blog. So here you go. I hope it was illuminating in some ways. Please let me know if you have any questions.

xoxox (p.s. I haven't proofread this!)

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