In media res: it's the fourth day of my first attempt at doing Whole30. I come to it skeptically, perhaps even begrudgingly. I'm not one for fad diets or pseudoscience, and I normally dismiss anything that has even the faintest whiff of either.
I should admit here that actually I did try Atkins once, shortly after college. It was an abject failure that left me feeling crappy and probably added a few microns of cholesterol buildup to my arteries. Needless to say it also didn't have the slightest effect on my waist line. At the time I thought (and was told) I hadn't done it right, hadn't given it a chance, didn't have the willpower, etc. etc. That last part, at least is true, but immaterial of course. We've long since relegated Atkins to the garbage heap of ineffective, possibly harmful fads and we at best chuckle ruefully that we took it seriously.
When the notion was proposed to me by my lovely lady, I was equivocal at best, but I'm not a monster... I try to be supportive and open minded about these things. I was probably less supportive than I'd hoped really, because I certainly wasn't enthusiastic about giving up many things I love for a month.
The Things You Give Up (for love)
- Added Sugar
- Grains of any kind
- Legumes of any kind
- Carrageenan, MSG or Sulfites
There's also a rule against eating technically legal things that recreate things that would be disallowed, so no coconut flour pancakes or cauliflower based pizza crust. They call this type of thing (alas) "Sex With Your Pants On" and caution that it goes against the spirit of the thing. ¯\(ツ)/¯
One of the primary stated goals of the Whole30 is to force you to take a good hard look at your dietary habits and the things you're eating normally, as a means for making incremental change the rest of the months of your life.
The truth is, I feel I'm already quite good at assessing my choices and making good ones (I will qualify this shortly). When I cook, it's virtually all with fresh vegetables, good meats, and quality, healthful oils and the like, and don't use much if any sugar or honey. When I eat out, I rarely go for the most dangerous things and though I do have phases where I go out too often, I recognize those, and generally correct when I can. I rarely snack, virtually never eat sweets, and with the exception of alcohol, only drink any calories a couple of times a year. I tend to read labels already and eat relatively little that's highly processed or chemical laden.
I don't really feel like I need the crash course in Things You Buy Contain Lots Of Things You Didn't Know About!, because mostly I do know and either am ok with those things or already wasn't buying that stuff.
So, why do this at all then (other than just being a supportive boyfriend) if I'm already a healthy eater and don't have any problems?
Well, the truth is, I do actually suffer from digestive issues. I've been diagnosed with IBD, which despite being an entirely vague "disease" summarized by a set of symptoms, does have a genuine effect on my life and my ability to engage and do things sometimes. My doctor has prescribed one or another elimination diet in the past, which I've followed to varying degrees of success. But really, I ought to, at least once, really do a good job of it. So that's one reason.
And I do have two dietary habits that need some work:
- I do probably eat more, in quantity / calories, than I ought.
- I do enjoy drinking, beer especially, both with and without meals, and from a purely caloric standpoint should probably cut back overall, notwithstanding other reasons to do so.
Now, Whole30 will do nothing for the first, and in fact I worry a little bit that it'll make that worse, as it very specifically allows you to eat as much as you want or need of the things that are allowed.
But taking a month off booze is something I'd been contemplating doing anyway, and this gives me an excuse and extra support along the way. So that's all to the good.
Wrap It Up, Kerry…
This has gotten rather longer than I'd wanted. Anyway, at the end of the day I do find a lot of their language off-putting. "This will change your life!" their site boasts, to which I can only think "Or it won't at all, which is still fine, so stop yelling ffs." And their All Or Nothing, Bad Cop routine also pisses me off. "THIS IS NOT HARD…" is just wrong. Changing a habit, especially a food or social habit, is hard. It's very hard. Changing several at once is proportionately, perhaps exponentially, harder still. Claiming otherwise, I think, just sets people up for failure and self-judgement when they encounter the inevitable cravings and temptations during their 30 days. It made me mad enough to read that paragraph that I almost bailed out on principle.
But, ultimately, it's just an elimination diet of the sort I should've done long ago, and I'm hopeful that it'll shed some light on some of my issues. If nothing else, I'll treat it as a science experiment and that'll help me maintain a bit of willpower.
I don't feel totally confident in the health claims that would have me eat as much bacon and bun-less hamburger as I want, but would damn me to instantly starting over if I happen to have a spoonful of black beans, but I'll do it and we'll see what happens at the end of the month.
Meanwhile, after 4 days, I can report only that my energy levels are about the same overall, but with lower lows, and at different times of the day, and I really have to eat more frequently lest I be found asleep in the server room at work. I've been eating much more of the kind of things I rarely eat normally—packets of almonds, fruit bars (of the allowed variety)—at times and in ways that feel like snacking, and go against my feelings of propriety, but all in all, so far so good.
I shall continue with (shorter) updates, as the month goes by.