Two nights ago, I had a major first. While unconscious.
I was dreaming that I was at some sort of banquet-y lunch with a massive dessert table. Of course, I gravitated directly towards the dense, chewy, chocolate chip cookies displayed on it. I picked one up, studied its delicious mushiness, and placed it back on the table. I picked up another, gave it the same inspection, and set it back down to examine another. After the third or fourth time I put a dream-cookie back down, I shrugged and walked away.
No, no, no, you don’t get it — my dreams are the place where I relatively safely, albeit at the cost of fleeting waking guilt, stuff my face with nutritional contraband. I always eat the illicit brownie, piece of cake, cupcake, ice cream, chocolate, or cookie. But this time, subconscious-me chose not to eat that little piece of dessert heaven.
I still don’t think you heard me. In my dream, which I have never been able to control, I opted out of a cookie indulgence.
It might sound silly, but this almost feels like a bigger deal than making the safe choices in real life. Why? Because DUDE. This means that the lifestyle change has so deeply permeated my mind that it now lives in my subconscious. I have embraced it so wholeheartedly that even in my dreams, which express my true desires, I’m going for the healthy option. I truly, at all levels, want to be healthy. The cookie, real or imagined, no longer has the hold on me that it used to. Even at my strongest point of total weight-loss dominance last year, I never managed to achieve this level of mental strength and control. I’m sure I haven’t dreamed my last food-binge dream, but I’m also sure that having dreamed my first opt-out-of-food-binge dream is a BFD.
Dream-me’s actions are rooted in my general lived experience, but they also come from a specific incident at the end of last week. On Friday, I was stuck at a work conference for the third day in a row, and it was a Whole30 dieter’s food desert. (Incidentally, on day one of the conference, The Sugar Association’s Board of Directors was meeting down the hall from my group. I should’ve burned it down. HISSSSSS!) At lunch that day, I was wringing my hands over whether or not the cold-cut turkey set out was compliant. I had hungrily taken three slices to cut up into my plate of lettuce and cherry tomatoes, but it seemed unlikely that the lunch meat was safe to eat because it almost always contains added sugar. Finally, I decided not to risk it and pushed it aside in favor of my boring-but-safe rabbit food.
While this inner struggle was playing out, I was looking it up on my phone and wondering aloud to a co-worker who knows of my Whole30 endeavor about the predicament, and another co-worker overheard and asked what was going on. I explained, and she was kind of horrified to learn what Whole30 was. She asked, “What do you do when you have a bad day?!” (Implication: what do you binge on when you want to eat your feelings?!) I simultaneously appreciated the completely normal, honest reaction she had, and also felt a sudden click of recognition that this is what they’re talking about when they refer to unwitting, sugar-addicted victims of SAD (Standard American Diet). It was the first time that struck me in such a crystallized way. As I was processing my reaction to her reaction, I checked myself to make sure I didn’t come off like one of those goddamn judgmental, holier-than-thou dieters. I took a beat and said, “One of the things Whole30 helps with is changing how you relate to food, so it gets you away from doing that. I mean, it helps that it’s no fun bingeing on carrots.” She chuckled, and that was kind of the end of it.
Leading up to this conversation was my walk along the lunch buffet line. Coming away with a plate of greens and some puny vegetables was a big, fat bummer, even though none of the options looked stunningly awesome. Passing the cookie-laden dessert table and sitting down to eat with my cookie-laden colleagues was a bigger, fatter bummer. I really wanted a cookie. I vocalized that I really wanted a cookie. I even went back over to the dessert table, knowing that I wasn’t going to take one, just to look once more at what I was missing. I told myself they probably weren’t as good as they looked, shrugged, and walked away.
And then a few nights later, my true came dream.
What’s funny is that when I’m all by myself, I could give a rat’s ass about a cookie. I don’t think about junk food normally; I just go about my day and eat the things I’ve spent hours and hours planning and preparing for myself. It’s these social situations that are murder. Already, it’s hard even finding something that I’m confident will be compliant, but then watching everyone else be able to indulge in whatever without having to think about or care about what they’re eating, is extra hard. I never feel like I’m about to cave in those instances, but I do feel resentful and envious of the people who get to eat things other than lettuce. (Always prepared, I did have my home-cooked lunch with me that day, and at an odd hour of the afternoon, I snuck back to my office for the sole purpose of microwave access so I could eat it.)
I only have 4 days left (including today) on Whole30. I’m starting to feel apprehensive about going off the program when it ends. It’s like after spending all of 8th grade English being absolutely forbidden from ever writing with a being verb — sounds impossible, but is really just super challenging — I felt guilty when I started using them again in 9th grade, even with full permission of the teacher. True story. Even though I will have successfully stuck it out all 30 days, it will feel wrong to start consuming grains, dairy, etc., again. I’m also nervous I’ll suddenly regain a lot of weight, and I simply can’t afford to do that. Unfortunately, I literally can’t afford to maintain this diet fully, so it’s a bit of a conundrum right now. At this point, I’m thinking I may end up going on for at least another week, to give myself a bit more time to figure it out with a little less pressure because the 30 required days will have passed. In any event, I had anticipated feeling relief by the time I reached this point, so it’s a total surprise to be feeling hesitant about going off of it!
In non-Whole30 news, I’ve been good about sticking to my work-out regimen, even in spite of some scheduling challenges. In addition to arms and cardio, I’m keeping my new core workouts on regular days, and I’ve noticed it’s been helping with my digestion (unless that’s just a huge coincidence). On Sunday, I did back-to-back classes at my gym, and my legs still haven’t forgotten — but it hurts so good. My sleep has been much better and more consistent, and I am feeling more energetic overall. I know I said this was non-Whole30 news, but the truth is that it’s probably related to at least a small degree, of course. I’m relearning more and more that all of this is a delicate balance, and every component of it matters.