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 739: Whoa, we’re halfway there!

BONJOVI-2

It’s day 16.  Do you know where your children are?

I posted this yesterday on DietBet, but it bears repeating:  I am SO. SICK. OF SALAD.

I’ve had a lot of late nights recently, resulting in needing to order food instead of eating the yummy, healthy, Whole30-compliant dinners I have waiting for me at home.  The only thing that seems safe to eat in those circumstances is a very basic build-your-own salad without dressing from a fresh salad joint.  And man, I am so over salad at this point.  I’m also over shelling out additional cash on pretentious salads — yeah, that’s a thing — on top of the substantial amount of money I’ve already spent to make the meals I’m neglecting in the first place.  GRUMBLE, GRUMBLE, GRUMBLE.  I’m looking mad forward to eating at home all weekend.

Yesterday, the halfway point, was a decent day.  I had a meeting that went on entirely too long, and when I emerged from the staircase afterwards on the way back to my office, two co-workers were chatting by the elevators.  One suddenly stopped herself mid-sentence and called out, “Is that… is that you?”  I turned around and said, “Yes, I’m me!”  She started saying she thought it was me, but she wasn’t sure; I looked so good, could I help her with losing weight?!  She must have said 3 or 4 times how different or good she thought I looked.  (I rarely see this person.)  That felt pretty nice.  (Thanks, super flowy, former oh-honey top I was wearing yesterday!)

Yesterday evening was a good-bye gathering for a colleague, and I was the designated cupcake picker-upper.  Not just any cupcakes, mind you.  They spent Wednesday night in my fridge, all day Thursday in my office, and Thursday evening staring at me while everyone else partook.  That fudgy chocolate frosting looked amazing, but was it?  I have only the word of other people — and foggy, fond memories — to go on.  Passing on those babies wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, actually; honestly, having them at home and in my office for nearly a full day was fine.  I didn’t think about them at all.  It was watching everyone else eat (and enjoy) them that gave me a pang.  I’m telling myself it was mostly FOMO while I remind myself what sugar does to my insides.  That shit looked sooooo yummy, though.  *single tear

The one thing that has started feeling like a sacrifice is coffee.  Go figure, right?  The one thing I gave up voluntarily, outside of the program’s guidelines, is the one that has started to hurt.  BUT, BUT, BUT!  Yesterday was the first time in over a week I did not get a headache!  I had several early on, then a few days without, and then straight headaches for about a week and a half.  They were more of the dull, nagging variety than the throbbing, painful variety; enough to be annoying and prevent clear thinking or ease in falling asleep, but not a light enough touch that I could avoid taking something to make it go away.  The night before last, I noticed the headache was a little lower in strength than the ones leading up to it, and I rolled the dice:  I went to bed without popping Excedrin, and the headache went away.  I slept normally all night and had no remnants of the headache when I woke up in the morning.  Then, no headache during the day, and I went to sleep pain free!  Magic!  It’s not exactly tiger blood, but I’ll take it.

You know, one thing  I have taken from this is that being open about my dietary restrictions has been very helpful, and not embarrassing.  This comes as a complete surprise to me, given how uncomfortable I have been all my life with letting people into this weight-loss stuff with me.  It feels like THE most personal thing I could share, no matter how limited the sharing is.  I feel appreciative and humbled by being proven dead wrong about this.  The implicit accountability, support, and encouragement from people has been incredible.  I’ve even intentionally told my parents I’m doing this, and they won’t even see me during these 30 days.  LIGHT BULB!  I don’t have to do everything alone.  A lesson decades in the making.

Sadly, I STILL have not made it to the gym.  It’s on the docket for tomorrow, right between SLEEP IN and PLAN NEXT WEEK’S MENUS.

Fifteen down, fifteen to go!

DAY 716: Judge Pudge

Sometimes during my health mission, I catch myself being kind of judgmental of others.  I think it’s rooted in trying to keep myself on track mentally, like if I make judgments of other people, it’s a check on the possible hypocrisy of my doing the same thing.  For example, someone I see every day who I know is trying to lose weight, was eating a jelly donut and drinking a sugary smoothie for breakfast today.  My brain was like, “ooooooooh…!”  Like a tattle-tale 5th-grader.  I’m not going to have a donut, I thought to myself with a silent scold towards my acquaintance.

I’ve also done this in certain instances when people start describing their new diets to me.  People come up with stuff that completely throws off their nutritional balance so they can give in to fad diets that will drop the weight quickly, but aren’t conducive to lasting success.  I keep my opinion to myself because I want to support people in their efforts to lose weight, and at the end of the day, it’s none of my business, anyway… but man, the things people will do to themselves!

And strangest of all, in large crowds of anonymous people, I am always involuntarily scanning the area for the fattest and thinnest person.  The fattest, so I can take comfort in knowing that, PHEW!, it’s not me (this time)!; the thinnest, so I can ask myself, does that look healthy?  How would I look at that size?

I didn’t realize this was something I did until earlier this week on my commute to work.  Once I caught myself in the act, I wondered how long I had been doing this.  Since I started losing weight in earnest?  Since I became officially morbidly obese?  My entire life?  Would I be doing it if I were average size?  Do other people do this?

The psychology of this whole deal is fascinating.  In my case, there’s always some proximal thought rolling around in my brain of size, health, weight, and/or appearance in every context imaginable.  That’s not an exaggeration:  every. Context. Imaginable.  It’s so omnipresent that it’s difficult for me to believe that it’s not the lens through which everyone sees and thinks about everything and everyone. When people say they don’t notice how big I am/was, I’m like, come on.  That just can’t be true.  It’s not a thing you can just not notice.

Anyway, taking account of all of my private thoughts and behaviors lately has gotten me thinking about the danger of comparisons when trying to lose weight.  I have learned and practiced not measuring my progress against that of others; all paths are unique and individualized to the point of complete impossibility and irrelevance where comparison is concerned.  If I were to constantly judge my own success against someone else’s, it would only lead to frustration and disappointment on one side of the coin, or smugness and satisfaction on the other, and the worst thing is, it would all be baseless!  There are too many variables between my mission and, say, yours.  We don’t have the same goals, the same physiology, the same genetics, or the same eating, sleeping, or exercising habits.  Making comparisons between two people’s weight-loss statistics is not a worthwhile activity.

Nor is it a worthwhile activity to compare how I look to how those around me look, or to feel any kind of way about it.  I might not be able to flip a switch and suddenly stop subconsciously trying to spot the biggest and smallest people in a crowd, but I can remind myself that it’s a meaningless thing to do (and also just not very nice).  The focus is here, with me, and that’s where I’ve got to keep it.

DAY 690: Stark craving mad

I’m a guest at a wedding, and it’s dessert time.  The banquet table is piled high with every variety of cookie I could have imagined, and I want all of them.  I squeeze as many as possible onto the small dish in my hand, still staring longingly at the ones I had to triage out of selection and save for my second trip.  In the back of my mind, my conscience screams, “STOP!  You’re going to mess up your weight loss!  That’s too many cookies!”  In brash defiance of this warning, I reach out and grab 3 giant chocolate-chip shortbread cookies that I just carry in my hand back to my assigned table.  I sink my teeth into one of the cookies in my hand and immediately feel guilty… so I keep eating.  I’m about to plow into the plate of cookies before me, when…

I wake up.

And now I’m angry.  Not only am I angry at my subconscious self for not making it through all those cookies when I could have and it wouldn’t have actually mattered, but I’m also angry that The Mission has crept into my sleeping time.  It’s bad enough I have to deal with constantly combating cravings during my waking hours, but now I have to do it in dreams, too?!

Ahhh, yes, I remember this: the taunting food-dreams stage.  This phenomenon is apparently common among dieters who are going hard.  Even Neil Patrick Harris mentions in his autobiography that when he was on a grueling fitness regimen in preparation for his role in Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway in 2014, the period was marked by “the most vivid food dreams” of his life.  Avoiding nutritional pitfalls in favor of sticking to meal plans becomes so ingrained in a loser’s mind that it burrows into the subconscious and haunts the person’s dreams.  It’s evidence of dedication and the huge importance of The Mission for the person in question, which is all good stuff — but damn, what a tease it is!

My cravings during the day have been mostly in check lately, but I find that when I let myself think for too long about what it would be like to let a spoonful of ice cream or a bite of a thick, chocolaty brownie with rich, gooey frosting cross my lips, things start getting dangerous.  That’s when the evil voice in my head says, “It’s just one indulgence, who cares?  You deserve it!  It tastes soooo good!”  I have to remind myself that no, actually, what I deserve is a healthy life.  I can’t give in to that temptation and expect to succeed.  Not right now, anyway.  The taunting food-dreams stage comes at a time too early in the process for me to safely veer off my nutritional course without A) cursing my own name, or B) stumbling the whole way down the slippery slope instead of feeling certain about regaining my footing.

I have DietBets to win and multiple bridesmaid’s dresses to fit into.  This is no time to be messing myself up.

The person who brought in the box of Tagalongs to my office, however… if I find out who that was, I will mess THAT person up.  And I don’t even like Girl Scout cookies.

If memory serves, these dreams mark the death throes of the tentative phase.  The more-confident phase of momentum is coming.  My sanity and I are waiting for it with open arms.

DAY 683: Body work

Decent news from the world of podiatry: my bone spur is NOT the issue.  In fact, it has shrunken since I first went in to have it examined.  The discomfort I’m feeling now is from strain on my plantar fascia ligament, which is tight and stretches when I take take steps, causing inflammation and the popping sensation in my heel.  My doctor offered to give me a cortisol injection today that would take care of the unpleasant feeling instantaneously, and possibly permanently, but I decided to hold off.  He’s prescribed me orthotic inserts that will help correct my immediate problem, and they won’t be ready for 3-4 weeks.  My (self-reported) pain level is at about a 3, so I figure that if it gets worse between now and the time I go back to the podiatrist’s office to pick up the orthotics, I’ll get the shot then (or sooner, if there’s a sudden spike).  Otherwise, I’ll give the orthotics (and, hopefully, a bit of weight loss!) a chance to make an impact and then go from there.

It is interesting how my body has responded to my weight re-gain.  I had trained it to be accustomed to a certain amount of movement with less and less mass to carry, and now, it has rapidly re-accumulated a bunch of that mass which was partially caused by, and also which partially contributed to, a significant decrease in movement.  The way that added weight has shown up on me has been interesting.  Whereas I lost it from all over, it really feels like 90% of it went directly to my waist when it came back.  Yes, my face and fingers have pudged out, but the rings I couldn’t wear when I was previously at this weight are still fitting from when I had reached my lowest, but the pants I was wearing when I was last at this weight aren’t.  I know this isn’t any kind of earth-shattering revelation, but the areas that are hardest to lose from, are easiest to gain to.  We all have our trouble spots, eh?  REMINDER TO FUTURE SELF:  Don’t mess around, girl.  It’s too hard to work the fat back off!  Not worth it.

This is so much work.  I’m looking forward to getting back to the place where it just felt routine and second-nature.

Wishing all of you strength and perseverance through the weekend!

DAY 460: Feeling some kind of weigh

That’s right… I’m still here.  And I’ve been feeling some kind of way.

Without wasting your time or mine with a long, detailed essay about how I’ve been busy and fighting off lack of motivation when my free time is constantly being compromised by some circumstances within my control (I’m buying a place!) and some that aren’t (my job owns me lately), suffice it to say, there have been too many distractions from my mission.

Over the past few weeks of my regrettable absence from my blog and from DietBet, I’ve had inconsistent focus.  I don’t want to say this, but for accountability purposes, I’m going to:  I gained.  I gained enough to get me pretty far back over the wrong side of 200.  It cost me the possibility of winning in my third Transformer bet, which would have been a very nice pot had I made it to the final round.  Failing is not fun.

BUT, I have learned that wallowing in shame and avoiding talking about it is what got me to over 300 14 months ago, and I won’t let that experience be for nothing.  I have to get back at it.  So, this is me, crawling out from under my embarrassment rock and trying to fix things.

I don’t have any insightful reflections I feel up to sharing at the moment.  It’s just being busy and having trouble carving time into my days when I can do an hour of cardio at the gym, and/or that 30 minutes of strength training.  Mostly, I’m frustrated with myself.  It’s no good when I don’t get along with me.

Enter Ira Glass.  The June 17th episode of “This American Life” was previewed at the end of the previous week’s podcast — this is one of the many podcasts I listen to avidly — so I knew it was coming.  I had eagerness and anxiety in anticipation once I saw it in my iTunes downloads last weekend, and I put off listening to it until yesterday.  Now that I’ve heard it, I want to recommend it to anyone who hasn’t heard it yet.  Go check out episode 589:  “Tell Me I’m Fat.”  It’s a bit longer than the length of a typical TAL episode by about 10 minutes, but such a worthwhile listen.

As expected, I had a complicated reaction to listening to those stories.  I think I’ll have to explain that in a future post — that gives anyone reading this the chance to hear the episode before I spoil it, too –but it was interesting.  A lot of it resonated strongly with me.  More importantly, though, it was the last push I needed to snap out of my fog.

More entries to follow soon!

 

DAY 395: The Skinny on Obesity

One of my tried-and-true tricks for helping myself refocus when I need a reminder of why losing weight is THE priority, is to watch some of the videos that helped positively reinforce my mindset at the very beginning.  I’ve mentioned this before in specific reference to the British series “Fat Doctor” and the role it played in shaping my work early on.  (I still recommend that one, particularly the episode I’ve linked to in my 12/1/15 entry.)  My current rut is the first time I’ve gained back a great deal of weight, and it feels the worst because of the milestone(s) I undid by allowing that to happen.  So, I’ve been doing a lot of self-cheerleading to recreate my positive attitude and remind myself that I’ve done it before, therefore, I can do it again.

Several weeks ago, I discovered a series of documentary-style videos by the University of California called The Skinny on Obesity.  I watched the whole set in the dead of winter when it was hard to convince myself that going outside was really necessary, and the motivation I got out of it was enough to last me a few weeks.  Not only was it interesting and informative, but it was presented in a very clear and matter-of-fact way that was easy to follow.  I learned a lot from these videos and have already returned to them many times for more inspiration and education.  Altogether, the entire suite takes just about an hour to watch, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.  However, if I had to recommend only one video, it would be this one.  More than anything I’ve ever read, watched, or heard, this presents information in such a clear way that it made me feel like I understand food at a basic level for the first time in all of my years on Earth.  Watching this video in particular, it was like a series of light bulbs going off.  Just eye-opening stuff.

Soooo, partially in thanks to the lessons these shorts have re-taught me, I’m on a vegetarian diet this week.  I’ve done this a few times since beginning my mission over a year ago, and it’s consistently yielded good results.  I’m not totally after just a drop on the scale this time, though; I’m in a position where I actually need to re-detox — which I remember the symptoms of and can feel happening — and reset the way I think about and consume food.  My plan of attack in the gym this week is light:  just arm weights and maybe a mile here or there on the elliptical if the mood takes me, or in the unlikely event that I don’t make my steps on a given day.  Next week, I intend to ramp it up.

One reason I’m letting myself off the hook physically is that I don’t want to overwhelm myself with so many readjustments that I’m setting myself up for further frustrations when I fall short, which is bound to happen when you try to change every single thing in one fell swoop.  Unfortunately, though, the self-hook-letting-off is primarily out of responsibility:  I have a knee injury.  I say that without knowing what it actually is; I just know I have some occasional shooting pain and there’s a lot of cracking and sustained soreness going on.  I want to get below the lowest weight I had hit and see if that’s enough to alleviate it, but without overexerting it in the process.  So, elliptical only so it doesn’t put too much pressure on my joints, and not until next week once I’ve got the food part on lock.  Also, I’m in a really shitty mood this week, so it’s just not the time to be forcing myself into stuff I know I’ll be too petulant to actually do, which will only create disappointment in myself.  (Ahh, self-awareness.)

Something that was reinforced to me through this whole lost month I just had is that all the pieces I had delicately set up to keep myself on track are very important.  It’s not just the big, obvious parts, like meal planning and working out; it’s also the small forms of positive reinforcement through podcasts, articles, videos, and writing in this blog.  It all matters, so it all needs to happen.  Lesson re-learned.

On that note, I hope you’ll watch the videos I plugged and find some motivation in them for yourself.  If nothing else, the educational value is incredible, so share far and wide!