DAY 755: The dirty on Whole30

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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:

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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 715: Not drawn to scale

Getting back on the horse has been so exhausting and challenging, I can’t help but curse past-me for having gotten off in the first place.  That was dumb, past-me.  SHAME ON YOU/ME/US.

As I’ve most recently lamented, sleep has been a problem lately.  Just when the remedy to that arrived (my new mattress and box spring finally came at the end of last week!), I had a nasty allergic flare-up amid a sudden onset of spring that has woken me up persistently throughout the night so I can give in to full-body coughing fits.  It’s really just the loveliest.  I can only imagine how much worse it would be without my Rx antihistamines and allergy shots (though I really don’t have to imagine)!

This, and a slightly indulgent Saturday (two meals out that included mostly healthy choices, with the exception of one cocktail and one pastry, and zero gym time although I still made all my daily steps), converged to stall my weight loss.  My scale has been showing me wildly inconsistent numbers that seem like they’re just being randomly generated by some gremlin living inside the scale, and I’ve given in to weighing in often multiple times a day just to try to identify what my real weight might be.  Foolish and counter-productive, is what I’d call that venture.  I am now swearing off the scale until the end of this week.  I know for my own sake I can’t weigh in more than once a week.  Back to that.

Also, I’ve been generally slacking at the gym.  I still go for the most part, but I’ve been letting myself off the hook of really pushing myself.  I know the pounds aren’t gonna drop off for free; I have to pay for that shit with my sweat.  What I’ve been doing hasn’t been cutting it.  I know that, and yet I haven’t been pushing myself.  Come on, self.  Scale gremlin lives off this kind of laxness.

I’m also wearing orthotics now, as prescribed by my podiatrist.  As my body adjusts to their correctional effects, there’s some stiffness and soreness in random joints up and down my legs.  I know it’s temporary, but it is a bit of a hindrance.

Things are finally trending toward equilibrium, though, and I’ve slowly noticed I’m feeling more rested when I first get up in the morning.  I’ve even dared to let myself believe that the slimmer neck and shoulders on the body I’m seeing in the mirror might be real.

During my Sunday visit to the gym, I did some interval jogging on the treadmill for the first time in ages, maxing out on 3 minutes straight at 5.0 MPH.  Last night at the gym, I self-insisted on my arms circuit and event tried a new machine that had always been a little intimidating to me (the rower) before pushing myself on the elliptical (which only exists in models I don’t like at my gym).   Still not a profuse sweat, but a good start.  And honestly, the post-workout soreness from the two days combined is highly satisfying.

This morning, walking down the stairs to leave my building, I felt more energetic and lighter on my feet.

And then when I arrived at work today, I got the affirmation of a co-worker.

Her:  “You look like you’ve lost some weight.  Have you been losing weight?”
Me (out loud):  cheshire

Me (internally):  “Why, yes.  Yes, I have.”  (HEAR ME, SCALE GREMLIN!  HEAR ME!  **shakes fist**)

In your face, container of brownies that mocked me at the grocery store last Friday.  You can bite me.

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 681: Febru-wary

Oh, man. I finally hit the gym for the first time in ages two nights ago, and I was sore the entire next day.  I’m actually still feeling it in my muscles even today, but I have a deal with myself to hit the gym religiously every other day no matter what, until there is no soreness the next day.  At that point, I’ll add strength training back into the mix and do that every other day, but cardio every time I go to the gym, which will be at least 5 days per week.  That will get me back to where I was when things were all going right.

Sooo, like a good little-big girl, I went back tonight.  I didn’t make it as long or push myself as hard as I did two nights ago, but I did what I needed to do.  It does feel good to know I’m moving again, and the physical exertion cyclically reinforces the effort of the good eating habits.

Unfortunately, I moved in July, and I HATE my new(ish) gym.  I hate, hate, hate it.  The equipment is cruddy, it’s always way too crowded, and the people it’s crowded with are mostly meathead guys who think they’re bad-asses, but really, they’re skinny little punks who sit on the weight machines and pay more attention to their phone than the time elapsing between their sets.  Assholes.  Furthermore, none of the machines — cardio or weights — are the type I like or am used to, and there aren’t enough of them to go around so as to avoid waiting to work out.  Seriously, I hate this damn gym.

All this to say, the coaxing I have to do to get myself to go to the gym when I’m feeling under motivated, is even more difficult now that I have to go do something hard at a place I despise.  I mean, it could be worse, but man, does this place suck!

Added to that, I have a fun new twist on an old story: the heel spur I’ve had since July of 2015 is still around.  Not only is it still around, but it’s begun to become painful instead of just annoying.  Now that I’ve resumed working out, I’ve noticed a difference in the way I’m distributing my weight on my feet, which has made me conscientious of how I walk and stand in regular daily situations.  I’ve apparently been compensating for the discomfort caused by my bone spur.  I don’t want that to cause a whole new set of problems, so I’m seeing my podiatrist on Friday.  I hope he can take care of it right then and there instead of asking me to do stretches at home for a few weeks or something, cuz I’m not trying to deal with this anymore.  If I end up needing any form of treatment that requires me to be off of my feet for any period of time, I’m prepared for that, and I will find ways to keep moving so I get some burn in.  It just has to stop.

February is off to a kind of meh start, but I am still feeling committed and resolute, even if a little wary.

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!

DAY 349: Dem bones, dem bones

Collar bones, hand bones, ribs, foot bones, cheek bones… it never gets old being able to see bits of my skeleton peaking out at me from beneath my skin!

Today, am I pleased to welcome the latest newcomer to the bone party:  the thumb bones.  Did everyone but me know that if you look at your hand from the side, with your pinky facing outwards, there are two narrow, visible bones that run parallel to each other, from your bottom thumb knuckle to the side of your wrist??  Well, I didn’t!  I mean, I should have known about these secret bones because they’re just like the ones attached to all my other fingers, but I have never seen them before and never wondered whether they might be there.  When I discovered this anatomical breakthrough yesterday, I proceeded to spend at least 5 minutes bending my thumb up and down so that those bones were essentially waving at me.  (There’s a possibility I’m regressing into childhood, but one problem at a time.)  I can’t believe how exciting it is to see new bones.  Really, any normal/always-been-thin person reading this right now probably has one eyebrow involuntarily raised, the way I might if I were reading someone’s blog about the wonder that is the human toe nail:  who cares?  I CARE.  MY BONES ARE COMING OUT OF HIDING.  Fat, be gone!

Also from the same neighborhood, I found I can now enclose my wrist between the thumb and forefinger of my opposite hand, whereas I previously couldn’t even fit my thumb and middle fingers around my wrist.  I guess I lost weight from my wrists/hands last time.  Ha!  The Where Did I Lose From game, such a party classic.

I’m also seeing ribs.  RIBS.  My ribs.  I can also feel other ones that haven’t popped out.  I kind of hope my ribs will keep some of the mystery alive forever; I don’t really want to see all of them, as they kind of freak me out for some reason and I just start laughing when I catch a glimpse of the ones I can see.  BUT, evidence that my midsection is finally starting to go away?  Yeah, that works.  I’ll happily accept.  😀

Buuuuut…

The lower part of my body is a bit of a wet blanket on the bone party that the upper part is throwing.

My right knee is doing this strange clicking when I go down stairs (NOT up).  It’s actually been doing that for about 5 months.  It doesn’t hurt, but it is unsettling, and I’m wondering whether it might be worth a trip to the doctor.  I don’t want to end up with damage that makes exercise painful or difficult.  Does anyone else have experience with this?  I’d love your recommendations.

The second bummer is that damn heel spur I found out about over the summer.  It’s still there, and over recent days, it has breached the barrier between annoying and painful for the first time.  It’s started to hurt.  When I originally saw my podiatrist about it back in July, he said that if I could live with the annoyance, we shouldn’t worry about it as long as it wasn’t interfering with my normal routine or causing pain.  I’m gonna need to go back and see him, I think.  From what I remember from my first visit, the intermediate step towards a solution was a cortisol shot or shots in my foot.  (I just felt you cringe, but don’t worry, I have a superhuman lack of discomfort with  or fear of needles.)  If that doesn’t solve the problem, there may need to be a surgical intervention.  Because my heel is one of the bones I can’t see, I have no idea what’s going on in there or how bad it is.  It doesn’t seem extreme enough to require surgery, so I’m hoping to be able to avoid that, but I’m trying to lay a mental groundwork of acceptance of that for myself so I can plan around it and not get derailed from my weight-loss plans if that is the way things end up going.  At any rate, my doctor said all those months ago that he had a reasonable expectation that it would resolve itself naturally within a year.  Up until now, it seemed like that’s what it was doing, but this feels to me like a decisive turn for the worse.  Ugh.  The irony is, I’ve actually been doing lower-intensity cardio the last several weeks, AND I’m smaller than I’ve ever been, so there should be LESS strain on my heel.  Yet that has coincided with the uncomfortable sensation.  Heel spur, you’re drunk.

Anyway, that’s what’s up with my skeleton.  Glad we had this talk.