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 750: True come dream

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.

DAY 747: Flyin’ high

That’s day 24 on the books.  Less than a week to go on Whole30!

The very next day after my last post, everything changed for the better.  I didn’t want to post about it at the risk of jinxing myself, but it’s been a long enough trend now that I can at least report on a pattern.  All of a sudden:  improved sleep, regular poops, not a single headache, and good workouts.  I’ve been dreaming nightly of oh-shit scenarios where I’ve accidentally consumed a prohibited Whole30 item, and waking up in massive relief to find that it didn’t happen.  Beyond that, I am constantly thinking about working out.  I will be in the middle of a sprint on the elliptical, thinking about working out.  It does not make sense.

This must be my version of tiger blood.  It’s not euphoria and unlimited energy, but I am grateful this upswing has finally found me.

I’ve started doing regular core exercises along with my arms circuit for the first time.  I’m almost finished prepping my food for this last week of the program.  I’m eager to see the final results.  Regrettably, I only weighed myself before starting; I did not take measurements or photos.  However, if I’m pleased with the results, I’ll likely incorporate a large part of the program into my typical diet for at least the short-term.  Hopefully, that will still help me continue on my weight-loss mission, but lessen some of the expense.

Here’s hoping for a strong finish (and beyond)!

DAY 743: To sleep, perchance to food-dream

OK.  It’s day 20, and I feel like I’m back tracking.

I have slept terribly the past two nights, in spite of taking melatonin on Sunday night.  Last night, after 2+ hours of trying and failing to fall asleep, I ultimately gave up and went to the kitchen to start preparing today’s lunch and tonight’s dinner.  Still not wound down from that, I went ahead and filed my taxes.  Finally, I trudged back upstairs around 2 AM where I lay awake for another hour before finally dozing off sometime after 3.  I also peed four times between when I first lay down and when I scraped myself off the mattress when my alarm went off for the 5th time this morning.  I usually only get up once or twice throughout the night.

I also had the worst headache yesterday that I’ve had since starting Whole30.  Two pills didn’t kill it during the day, and it clung on and on until I took another dosage before my first attempt at going to sleep at night.  It then took a while to dissipate, which at least it finally did.  As I sit here typing this, I can feel another one creeping on.

I continue to have inexplicable and frustrating stretches of constipation.  That just infuriates me.  In. fur. i. ates. Me.  Anti-bloat diet, my ass.

And to add injury to insult, I am all of a sudden having knee pain.  KNEE PAIN.  For the first time in my life, I have aching, stiff, sore knees through absolutely no strain or exertion.  I’ve been totally phoning it in on the physical activity, and what little I’ve gotten has been pretty non-strenuous.  Even at my heaviest weight of 303 pounds, my knees were fine.  I’m years and miles away from that point now, and partway through this healthy dietary tweak, I’m struck with it out of absolutely nowhere?  Not fair.  Also, not logical.

What the eff is going on here?!

This better be the death throes of toxins leaving my body or something.  I am SO irked about what I’m experiencing this far into the program.  The hardest shit is supposed to be over.  It’s been almost 3 weeks and I have experienced, mmm, approximately zero of the program’s touted health benefits.  For all the extra investment — and I do mean investment — of time and money to stick to the strident rules of Whole30, to experience nothing even close to “tiger blood” is outrageous.  Not only am I not feeling better, but I’m actually feeling worse.  I am so glad I’ve ignored the guideline about not weighing yourself; if it weren’t for my knowledge that I’ve dropped a lot of weight, it’s hard to imagine I could convince myself to stick out these last 10 days.

Oh, oh, oh!  But THEN!  I’m all skittish about stopping after day 30 because what if all the pounds that fell off were just water weight, and I instantly gain it all back during reintroduction?  I won’t fit into my MoH dress.  I’ll be miserable and inconsolable.  It will all have been an utter waste, in every possible sense.  Ugh, I can’t even let myself think about that, but the thought keeps popping into my head.

I’m exhausted.  What I wouldn’t give for a guilty food dream right now.

DAY 740: Headlines

1. I finally made it to the gym today!
2. I got a headache again today 😦
3. I weighed out for round 2 of my DietBet and won!
4. Since starting Whole30, I’ve lost a whopping 14 pounds!  Whaaaaa?  (And I still have 13 days to go!)
5. For my height, I have moved (back) from extremely obese to just regular obese.  Ah, what a strange milestone to celebrate.

That’s all I’ve got for today.  Short, but a lot.  Kinda like my BMI.  😉

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 737: There will be tiger blood

Well, here I am on day 14 — almost the halfway point of Whole30.  I’m basically disregarding the timeline at this point, because it has been of virtually no use to me.  All I can do is hope that the tiger blood I’m supposed to suddenly get 2 days from now is really coming, because I am B-O-R-E-D of this.  Actually, that’s not the best characterization of how I’m feeling, but it’s something akin to that.

I’ve finally started getting deeper sleep, but I have to coax myself out of bed in the morning because I just want to keep sleeping.  It’s also taking some time for me to feel calm/relaxed enough to fall asleep at night in the first place, which is weird and annoying.  So, so far, moderate progress on the sleep front.

The digestive issues are far from resolved.  If anything, there are just new twists and turns to the saga.  I had several days of sudden diarrhea (1-2 times those days) in the middle of last week and then over the weekend, which hasn’t happened again since Sunday.  Since then, I haven’t pooped at all.  I am a crabby thing when I’m constipated, so these last 3 days haven’t been my favorite.

And then, of course, there were the low-carb flu days.  (I’ve concluded decisively that this was what hit me on the night of day 3, not an actual cold.  I’ve read a metric shit ton about it lately, and I’m thoroughly convinced.)  It was an unpleasant occurrence that prevented me from good sleep and from working out, so needless to say, I was only too happy to kiss that mess good-bye when it finally started dissipating this past weekend.

Also, the cost of this has been exorbitant for me.  In the past 2 weeks, my grocery bills have doubled.  I am one person, eating and prepping meals for one.  The health benefits are one thing, but it’s simply not financially sustainable.  I’m hoping that much of that has to do with the fact that I really didn’t have any Whole30-compliant staples, i.e. almond butter (which I did cave in and buy, only to discover I’m not a fan >:(), and staples are a big up-front cost that then last a few weeks.  Unfortunately, the other side of that coin is, there really aren’t that many compliant staples — hello, you’re eating whole foods which need to be purchased fresh and consequently consumed pretty immediately thereafter.  I get it.  But holy crap.  I definitely had not anticipated this type of hit to the wallet.

The one thing I’m pleased with, of course, is the weight loss I saw on the scale.  I hope it not only sticks, but that it keeps climbing.

I’ll be taking my ass to the gym tonight, for the first time since starting Whole30.  Ideally, getting fitness back into my routine will have a beneficial impact on all of the above.  And it better get me some pretty potent tiger blood, stat.  I haven’t been thinking about quitting or anything, but let’s be real: I’m in it for the tiger blood.  I was promised tiger blood, and if I don’t get the vaunted Whole30 tiger blood, I might just lose my damn mind.

Just to end things on a good note, I’ll gush about the AMAZING meal I made for my lunches this week.  It’s a Whole30-compliant recipe combining chicken, pecans, and apple chunks with warm fall spices in a fantastically creamy coconut milk sauce.  It’s completely off season, but it made my entire house smell amazing while I was cooking it this weekend, and it’s kept well in the fridge and reheats very nicely.  I’ve just been eating it over crunchy kale greens with a side of Brussels sprouts.  (There’s conflicting information about whether or not arrowroot is compliant; it seems largely acceptable, but if you just want to be totally safe, you can skip it and the dish won’t suffer at all.)  So, the joy of a new meal experience that I really enjoy — especially as someone who typically hates cooked fruit in any setting, including/especially desserts — is a total victory.

Happy hump day, y’all.