DAY 755: The dirty on Whole30

whole30alum.jpg

I MADE IT.  ALL THIRTY DAYS.

Here’s the official Whole30 timeline of what to loosely expect along the way.  Here’s what actually happened to me:

Screen Shot 2017-04-16 at 6.32.39 PM

THE SCORE
Days with low-carb flu:  7.5
Days with a headache:  16
Days with diarrhea:  3*
Days constipated:  8
Days with no weird effects:  4

*I think there were more of these in the beginning; at least, I recall having loose stools often and going at least once per day.  I unfortunately didn’t start keeping a symptoms calendar until I started that wretched, wretched 4-day stretch of constipation, and by that point, I could only recall back a few days.

BROAD SUMMARY (MENTALLY [because the physical should be self-explanatory based on my calendar image])
Days feeling meh/normal/pretty much fine:  16 (1 – 16)
Days feeling fucking terrible:  5 (17 – 21)
Days feeling fucking awesome:  9 (22 – 30)

TL;DR
Did you ever get your tiger blood?  YES.
Was it worth doing this shockingly expensive, drawn-out, often infuriating dietary experiment to feel awesome for less than a third of the time?  YES.
HUH?  WHY?!  There is no TL;DR way to answer this question.  Trust me blindly or keep reading, champ.

First of all, let me say up front that I’m proud of myself for doing this.  At no point did I falter, or even consider abandoning ship.  I stuck with it the whole time and I owned this process, and it wasn’t without its challenges or massive frustrations.  If I could high five myself without looking like a total dork who never learned to clap right, I would do it.

Sticking to Whole30 truly did help me tame my “sugar dragon,” challenged me to face the way I’ve been using food to punish or reward myself instead of to nourish myself, and gave me the feeling of power and control over what I put into my body (ironically enough, on such a restrictive diet).  It got me back into the gym on a routine basis.  It (eventually) made me feel great physically and like totally baller mentally.  I learned to love almond butter.  I reached rain-man levels of label-reading expertise.  What I thought was already great skin, became even greater.  I got something I really wanted out of this, which was improved sleep.  It forced me to become comfortable with discussing my dietary habits with people, out loud.  And ya know, it just feels great to have set out to do something for 30 days, and to have inarguably risen to the challenge.  Above all, it punted me out of my I-don’t-wanna stupor, and gave me results along the way:  my final weight-loss number from Whole30 is 17.2 pounds (most of which was knocked off in the first 2 weeks).  I still have a long way to go, but holy hell, y’all.  That’s a big-ass number, especially considering that low-carb flu sidelined me for a full week and I didn’t really start working out in earnest until the final third of the program.

And yet, I don’t think I would ever do this again.  The main reason is that it was astronomically expensive for me.  I’m not exaggerating when I say my weekly grocery bills doubled.  To give an example of the runaway costs I had on Whole30, I site breakfast.  Typically, I eat a bowl of passably healthy cereal (Cheerios) that I buy on sale at CVS for $2.50/box, and it lasts me over a week, along with milk from the grocery store that also lasts me over a week, for which I pay under $4.00.  Assuming each lasts me 10 days, that means one day of breakfast costs me roughly $0.65.  SIXTY-FIVE CENTS.  It’s practically free.  On Whole30, however, grains and dairy are no-nos, so I had to seek out compliant options — quite the quest within itself — and then I had to properly balance my plate.  For breakfast alone, I had to have starch (let’s say breakfast potatoes, which cost me about $6 to make last for the week), protein (let’s say Aidell’s chicken-apple sausage, $6.00/package, which lasts two days), and fat (usually avocado, which I can make last 4 days — thanks, refrigeration! — for $1/each).  I would also usually add in a fruit to help inject some fiber into the meal (let’s say raspberries, $4.00/package, which lasts two days, according to serving size).  Are you seeing how this adds up insanely fast?  Pricing this out per food item and factoring in staying power gives me a breakfast that costs $6.10 every morning.  SIX DOLLARS AND TEN CENTS.  It’s almost ten times more expensive every day!  And that’s just ONE MEAL!  Extrapolated across the full month, if I had had this meal for breakfast every day (which I did not, but I’m doing this just to drive home the point), it’s a total cost difference of $163.50!!!!  UNAFFORDABLE.

Beyond that, the amount of time it takes to plan (i.e. find compliant, balanced recipes that I liked) and prepare (i.e. cook and portion out) all the meals and snacks is something you should be provided a time machine for.  And I don’t mean a gizmo that lets you travel through time; I mean one that lets you add hours to your day.  Honestly, I thought this would be a very minor adjustment heading into Whole30 because I already put in so much thought and time into my menu planning and prepping efforts, but this knocked my socks off.  I’m used to sacrificing my entire Sunday to the kitchen altar of the nutrition gods, but even cooking morning to night did NOT give me enough time, especially if I had any hopes of getting a workout in.  I repeat:  cooking morning to night for an entire day was not enough time to get ready for the week!  Taking the example of breakfast again, something I never had to do any kind of prep for when I was simply eating a bowl of cereal, I was now having to fully prep an entire additional meal in addition to lunches and dinners for the week, increasing my kitchen work time by 50% right off the bat.  I had to sacrifice more and more of my weekend to Whole30 prep time, and it got a little dicey pretty often.

Finally, doing Whole30 can be a bit of a lonely experience.  I’m fortunate that I had a co-worker roped in with me, and I’m very glad I was vocal about my decision to take on the program ahead of time so that people I see regularly would already be in the know and implicitly give me support and accountability, but social situations could be very trying.  It’s basically impossible to find something at a work function that’s likely to be compliant, aside from an undressed pile of lettuce and perhaps some raw fruit or veggies.  There is sugar in everything.  EVERYTHING.  It’s also an isolating feeling to be at a celebratory event and be the wet blanket who’s not raising a glass of fizz to the guest of honor, or digging into the cake alongside the rest of the guests.  I’m only grateful I didn’t have to do any traveling during those 30 days; that would have been straight-up painful.

All that being said, I *am* glad I did it this once.  I learned a lot, and I think differently about food now.  On day 21, when I was up to my ears in frustration with stalled progress and feeling stymied by the whole thing, I would have said it was a pure waste of time and money.  On day 22, the Whole30 gods mercifully gave me my tiger blood, and there was no turning back.

I’ve done one day of reintroduction (sugar), and just those 12 waking hours were enough to show me the effects of sugar on me:  it makes me feel guilty, and it immediately exhausts me.  After a few days on Whole30, I had no more energy crashes and maintained a pretty consistent level throughout the day pretty much every day.  One day back on sugar, and the spikes and crashes set back in immediately.  Mind you, it wasn’t even an unusually high amount of sugar; it was a bit that was a casualty of preparation from each meal (except the cupcakes — yeah, plural.  I was at a bridal shower and I baked those bad boys blind on day 30.  You really think I didn’t deserve both of them?!  😉 )  I hate sugar now.  I mean, I still like the taste, but I hate the concept of it.  It has wrecked many a person’s relationship with food, myself included.  Taste wise, I do now detect a chemically/artificial taste in sugary foods that I didn’t previously.  It’s interesting… and unnerving.

This week, I’m actually back on the program.  There was one last recipe I wanted to test out, and I figured that while I’m at it, I might as well just keep on the program full-time the rest of the week.  I’ll continue reintroduction at the end of that.  I’m curious to see what I’ll discover.

If you’re considering doing Whole30, my best piece of advice to you is to economize your money and time.  You should save money for a few weeks before you start, and you should plan out all your meals before you even begin the program so that you save yourself that time once you get started.  Search for and build your little Whole30-friendly library of recipes well in advance, and write out your grocery lists by week so they’re ready to go when you get there. Believe me, you’ll be grateful for that little gift of time you give to yourself.  Oh, and if you can, definitely get a friend to do it with you.  The support will help keep you going when it feels like the tiger blood fairy has forgotten you.

Just don’t ask me to be that friend.  I’m taking a hard pass on doing Whole30 again.

DAY 731: Happy worth day, dear body

Two years ago today, I made The Change.

It was tentative at first, but it stuck… for a while.  For months and months, I gained steam and experienced a lot of successful changes physically, mentally, and emotionally.  After nearly a full year of hard work, I eagerly laced up my running shoes and went for my first-ever outdoor run in the refreshing spring air after work.

It was also my last outdoor run.

I spent the remainder of 2016 undoing most of the work I’d done from March 23rd, 2015, until that date.  I couldn’t even bring myself to post on my first worth day because I was too busy falling off the wagon, sabotaging myself, and feeling 360 degrees of shitty about it.  One little thing went wrong, and then I allowed every little thing to go wrong and nearly ruin my weight loss.  What a waste.

This year, I’m not at the size I thought I would be when I imagined myself two years out at my start date on this day in 2015.  I’m trying to claw my way back to the levels of health and happiness I had managed to reach previously, before I will really be able to believe I can attain my ultimate goals.  If I started out two years ago feeling tentative, that’s amped waaaaaaaaaay up this time around.

Shakiness aside, I am making sure to recognize my efforts today.  The path I’ve taken hasn’t been straight or without significant obstacles, but it’s started taking me back towards  where I’ve long wanted — and needed — to go.  As my mission enters its toddlerhood, I recommit to the girl who has always occupied, and will always occupy, this body:  I will be fearless.  I will work hard.  I will see to it that my last outdoor run was only my most recent outdoor run, not my final outdoor run.  I will one day stop being ashamed of this body and strive to not only accept it, but to see it as beautiful.

I am worth it.

Happy worth day, dear body.

DAY 724: Whole30, the Whole30, and nothing but Whole30

whole30

The day has come:  Whole 30, day 1.

This actually turned out to be as great a day to start as I had hoped.  I selected and committed to this start date a little over a week ago, allowing for a cheese-centric weekend with friends and a catered all-day meeting yesterday to pass.  My area ended up with winter weather on Tuesday, so I opted to telework that day, and it allowed me to prepare one of my favorite meals while I was at home, which magically happens to be Whole30 compliant (although my eyes did spring open wildly as I was drifting off last night in sudden fear that the tomato paste I’d use contained added sugar [I confirmed this morning that it does not]).  I’ll have to cook dinner when I get home from work tonight, which will be a semi-random concoction of things I don’t mind eating, all together in one dish.  *shrugs*  Weekday meal planning ain’t my thing.  I’m looking forward to having this weekend to map out the rest of the 30 days in one fell swoop.

Yesterday’s meeting concluded with a happy hour, so I made the rare exception and had a cocktail and tasted small bites of two sinful apps before heading home and realizing I had no dinner there!  So, it being my last day before Whole30, I grabbed some Mrs. T’s pierogies and some ice cream from the store on my way home.  Right there in the middle of the frozen foods aisle, I was very politely chatted up and asked out.  Seriously.  With no make-up on, face generally looking like trash, and arms full of an ill-advised pre-Whole30 mini binge that was composed of trash.  I did him a favor and declined, as he only would have become a Whole30-compliant meal… but it was very flattering.  And only mildly embarrassing.

Anyway, day 1 is now halfway over!  I’m about to dig in to my lunch, and later, one of the two co-workers who joined in on Whole30 with me asked if we could get together and have a welfare check-in for day 1 support.  I did Weight Watchers in my mid-20s and the thing I liked the most was the meetings; I’ve been so insular with my weight loss this time around that I’ve limited my support system to basically only strangers on the Internet.  Don’t get me wrong, that’s VERY valuable and helpful, but sharing Whole30 — even to the extent that I’ve freely discussed my choice to do it with people I know and see every day — has been great.  I think it’s because it’s not necessarily about weight loss; it’s just about health.  I have explicitly framed it that way, even though I’m sure most people can infer that it’s linked to my overall efforts.  I’m still skittish and uncomfortable talking about losing weight with anyone other than fellow fatties, but this is hopefully a sign that I can come around on that.

In addition to abstaining from added sugar, grains, legumes, dairy, alcohol, and chemicals like MSG, I’ve added coffee to the list.  I already take it black, so it would have been a cinch to continue drinking coffee on Whole30 without feeling deprived of the cream and sugar, but I think it’s in my interest to give it up, given my recent challenges with sleep.  I am not a caffeine addict by any stretch; I rarely make it at home even though I enjoy the taste because it’s more about the social ritual of grabbing a morning coffee with my colleagues.  I could do decaf, but I’m not going to go out of my way to consume it when I could just as easily cut it out entirely for 30 days (and enjoy the saved cash while I’m at it).  So, that’s my little extra twist on the challenge.

For full accountability, I will share that I have one planned cheat — but it’s not food.  It’s the scale.  Technically, on Whole30, you’re not supposed to get hung up on weight because you should be focusing on your body as a system and see the nutritional changes as a holistic benefit to your overall health.  I think it would be beneficial to me, actually, to completely ignore the scale for a month, and I was kind of looking forward to having a set of rules in place that would make me do so.  However, I’m going to do it exactly once over the course of the 30 days.  You could argue that I don’t have to, and I suppose that’s true and I am making a choice, but I’m currently in a Transformer DietBet, and the weigh-in for round 2 will pop up smack in the middle of my Whole30 experiment.  Yes, I could choose to forego it and still technically be in the bet and eligible to win the whole pot, but why short myself the round’s victory (I was already at my goal weight for round 2 when I weighed out of 2 Kickstarters earlier this week) and the prize moolah for it?  Sorry, Whole30.  I gave you my cheese.  I’m keeping one illicit rendez-vous with the scale.

Anyway, so far so good here on Whole1!  Fingers crossed all over that it stays as much that way as possible on Whole2 and beyond.

DAY 721: Whatever floats your bloat

17240085_1263537680381170_6973732965235047633_o

New bed: check.
Podiatry issues addressed: check.
Allergic  chaos handled: check.
Exercise routine: check.
Meal planning and preparation: check.
Sticking with meal plans: check.
Solving the mystery of persistent fatigue and blah-ness: ???

Coupled with this STILL-abiding exhaustion enigma is a recent incident of occasional digestive discomfort after eating, and rather chronic bloating.  I haven’t been able to pinpoint the source(s) of these incidents, but they’re obviously unpleasant and disruptive to my day.  Ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat.

I have an IRL friend (who actually knows about my weight-loss mission and even reads my blog sometimes — hi!  *waves*) who did Whole 30 not too long ago, and she had a lot of really positive results and interesting findings.  I’ve been researching it, and late last week, I decided to take the plunge.  I had friends visiting over this past weekend, and I have a meeting this Wednesday where I won’t be able to prep and bring my own food (and I want to eat the yummy catered food, if I’m honest), so I’ve chosen the start date of Thursday, March 16th.  I’ve even gotten 2 co-workers to go in on it with me, and my IRL friend will be joining for her second time!

I’m typically disinclined to do anything that resembles a fad diet like I thought this did at first.  However, having a friend vouch for it and reading about the numerous positive effects it can have — plus, better understanding my body’s reactions to foods and being able to tailor my diet to its true needs — are very enticing prospects for me.  The oversimplified version of Whole 30 is it’s a very restrictive elimination diet that is meant to help determine what foods may be causing inflammation (not to mention a host of various other undesirable effects on the body), so that a person can ultimately design a daily diet that will work best for his/her specific needs and balance of all things.  You achieve this by reintroducing the eliminated food groups one by one to your diet after the 30 days, then carefully monitoring your body’s reactions.   I expect and hope to also achieve some weight loss during this experiment, but along with the added sugar, alcohol, all grains, legumes, and dairy, I have to give up the scale for 30 days — so it will be a long time before that particular outcome is revealed.

The adjustment phase looks pretty intense, but I’m hoping the fact that I’ve been eating clean for a long time already will help mitigate some of the withdrawal symptoms.  It looks pretty daunting, but I can handle it.  I’ll be bitchy, but I can handle it.  😉

My goal is to really make it the “whole 30” days without any missteps or cheats.  Now that I’m actually trying to put together meal plans for the upcoming start date, it’s feeling quite challenging — I’m already realizing how many no-no foods sneak their way into my recipes!  It’s going to be quite the… uh… adventure.  Whether you want it or not, I will be reporting back and likely updating (read: ranting) pretty regularly throughout the process.  Please wish me luck!

DAY 686: Healthy competition

All right, I’ve officially done it: I’ve taken my mission to the streets.  And by “the streets,” I mean real life.

A friend and I have been gradually falling into a rhythm of accountability partnership for a few months now.  When I first got securely back on the wagon post-migraine, I announced to her on the following Monday morning that I was in an iron-clad agreement with myself to go to the gym that night.  She said she was planning on going to her gym that night, too.  We agreed to check in with each other later that evening about whether we had both met our obligations.  I told her when she asked me if I went, that if I said no, I wanted her to immediately follow up with, “Why the fuck not?”  Anything less than “because my legs fell off” would be an unacceptable excuse.  Fortunately – perhaps even consequently – when she did check in with me that evening, my answer was yes.

At the end of last week, we were talking about wanting to do a friendly steps challenge, but we have two different fitness trackers: I have Jiminy (commonly known as a VivoFit), and she has a Fitbit.  The idea seemed like a non-starter until we realized, hey, there’s an app for everything – there’s surely an app for competition between incompatible brands of fitness trackers.  Sure enough, I found an app/website called Stridekick, which we both immediately joined and created a private challenge on.  That challenge starts today.

While I do have a competitive streak that tends to become pretty fierce sometimes, the real driving force in this for me isn’t the pride points I’ll score when I mercilessly kick my friend’s ass; it’s from knowing the accountability is going to be instantaneous and displayed in hard numbers.  Jiminy will immediately betray me if my numbers aren’t up to scratch, so I’ve gotta earn those steps.  You can do challenges other than total steps on Sidetrack, and also against as many people as you want instead of just 1:1, but this seemed the best place to start.  My friend and I have similar schedules, so it’s a fair fight in terms of possible time investment.  There’s a bit of competition in DietBet, of course, with monetary stakes, but I like the personal element the head-to-head competition adds.  Plus, this brings positive reinforcement to my potential to succeed in my DietBets, and in my overall mission in the long term.  It seems a worthwhile experiment, at least.

Both my Stridekick challenge and my DietBets end with this month, so a lot will be revealed on February 28th.  No time to lose, so if you’ll excuse me, I’d better… uh… get to steppin’.

DAY 461: Schizophrenic wishes

I wish I were the type of person who felt empowered enough to embrace the plus-sized body I’ve had since my teenage years.

I wish I could truly believe that big can be beautiful, and that could be beautiful at any size.

I wish I had conviction behind mentally telling the world to fuck off for treating me and anyone else differently because of weight.

I wish I wouldn’t freeze in mortification at the thought of a seatbelt extender on an airplane or roller coaster, even though those days are behind me.

I wish I could permanently silence the nagging voice in the back of my mind that never allows me to 100% focus on a conversation if I’m sitting in a chair that has the slightest chance of breaking under me.

I wish the memories of a morbidly obese life would stop haunting me like threatening ghosts that can reanimate at any time.

I wish I had an easy relationship with mirrors, which are lying when I look bad and lying when I look good.

I wish I felt confident enough to have a take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward others who judge me for being fat.

I wish I could really be OK if they choose “leave it.”

I wish I knew how to overcome my own shame and disgust at my body and allow myself to have a relationship.

I wish I believed inner beauty was enough.

I wish I didn’t have to be so strong to be happy.

I wish I didn’t have to work so hard to be strong.

I wish I didn’t have to hide myself to work so hard.

I wish I didn’t think I had to hide myself.

I wish society didn’t make me think I ever had to hide myself.

I wish I didn’t kind of agree with society.

I wish I had always been thin.

I wish I didn’t believe being thin was the key to everything.

I wish I could start over again.

I wish I didn’t have to start over again from here.

I wish to be better.

I wish to do better.

I wish to empower myself through succeeding.

DAY 409: Change of a dress

The crime:  overindulging and under-exercising for several weeks.

The punishment:  sizing out of a garment in the wrong direction.

Welp, that’s done.  I won’t be wearing the dress I had bought for the wedding this weekend, to the wedding this weekend.

I guess I’ll have to find some other occasion, because damn it, I will rock that dress.  I will wear it somewhere fabulous with the hot-pink heels that sass it up even more.  Then I will post (faceless) photos of it and everyone will be like, “OOOOOH, I get it now.”

…Probably.

Anyway, I have been doing well with making up lost ground ever since I snapped out of my awful lapse on my mission, and I’ve already undone a significant amount of the damage.  I won’t feel over it until I’m under where I had been, but I am very pleased with the progress.  It’s never a bad time to remind yourself that you’re awesome.

I’m awesome.  Awesome and fearless.

And I’m coming for you, sexy dress.  I can’t wait to get inside you.  #clothesporn

*drops mic*