I’ve always fancied myself more of a cerebral individual. I say this not as an attempt at intellectual boasting as much as it is to say this: I’ve always thought of my body as a clunky, oversized carrying case for my brain. I’ve spent the better part of my life treating my body and its physical needs secondary to the nourishment and attention I give my mind and my thoughts. Secondary? That’s probably an understatement. I’d rank health and nutrition somewhere between household chores and doing my taxes—I do what I need to do to get by without any extra effort or consideration (sorry, IRS!). In this respect, I’ve reaped what I’ve sown, and as I approach 30 (!?!), I’ve reached my comeuppance. My 20’s have been a constant rotation of chronic insomnia, blood sugar mania, joint injuries, poor digestion, ER visits, pain-killers, Ambien and lots of extra pounds. I’m hardly on my way to being 30, flirty and thriving (quick, name that movie!)
So what’s a girl to do? As I mentioned in a previous post, the start of 2013 meant resetting the way I look at nutrition, my relationship with food and the impact my diet has on the rest of my body’s operation. Thanks to the suggestion of a dear friend, I decided to not only give the Paleo lifestyle a try, but I decided to jump-start that transition with the #Whole30 challenge. For 30 days, I would strip my diet of all inflammatory foods: grains, sugar (real or otherwise), legumes, alcohol, and soy. What’s left is a steady diet of meat, seafood, fruits and veggies. I would take this time to allow my body to heal from the damage that occurs from a lifetime of eating toxic chemicals and an unspeakable amount of carbohydrates. I am nearing the end of my 30 days (with nary a cheat in sight), and the results have been nothing short of amazing. I am down twelve pounds, my skin is glowing, my sleep has improved, my blood sugar has stabilized, and more importantly, I better understand how and what kinds of food best fuel this clunky, oversized brain-carrier. Also, my cheekbones are back, so there’s that. Here are some random, interesting things I’ve learned throughout this process.
- Betty Ford should open an institute to treat sugar addicts. The first seven days were straight up sugar rehab.I was climbing the walls craving everything from candy to donuts to my old friend Diet Coke (yep, even fake sugar got the axe). If you were unlucky enough to be around me during this first week, you witnessed manic mood swings and heightened irritability. Also, I looked like an extra from Walking Dead.
- All my life, I was convinced that sweet potatoes needed brown sugar to be enjoyed. They don’t, and I was insane to think so. Sweet potatoes are my heavenly manna.
- If it’s not in my house, I can’t eat it.
- It is not really that hard to drink water while your friends sip mimosas and beer. If you get bored, you can always run down the street and order a veggie/fruit smoothie, and no one will judge you. That being said, I kinda miss whiskey.
- I ask myself all the time if it’s possible to eat too many apples. It probably is, but there are worse vices I could have.
- Speaking of vices, it is safe to say that I will look back on this month as the time I truly fell in love with coffee. Removing cream and sugar has opened up my taste buds to a world full of rich, aromatic flavor. Also, coffee kept me alive and tolerable for those first seven days. Anyone who crossed my path during that week should thank his or her lucky stars for coffee.
- Servers at restaurants are more than happy to put up with your obnoxious ingredient questions if you smile (and tip them well).
- It took my deli guy close to two weeks to stop looking confused when I ordered my breakfast. “No double egg and cheese on a toasted English muffin?” Sorry, Marcos, sometimes things change.
- I do still know my way around the kitchen. After nearly 5 years of flexing my take-out muscles, I was actually worried this would not be true.
- The coconut knows no bounds. Seriously, the Professor from Gilligan’s Island was totally on to something.
The trick behind #Whole30 (and it’s not actually a trick), is that after the 30 days, you don’t really want to go back to your old way of eating. The cravings are gone, and the pain and sickness is truly not worth that slice of pizza. I’ve turned a serious corner here, guys, and I am seriously jazzed about this new outlook on food. I have given some serious consideration as to what foods I will attempt to carefully incorporate back into my diet, and the list I’ve decided on is quite short—small amounts of dairy, most legumes, the occasional soy and of course, whiskey. I feel pretty good about my permanent exclusion list: sugar, grains, potatoes, corn, diet soda, beer, etc. I know I run the risk of becoming one of those uber-obnoxious, self-righteous health nuts, but this experience has been too good not to share. I don’t expect everyone to take such extreme measures with their eating habits, but I will be the first to join your cheer squad if you do.
Now, if only I could be this excited about doing my taxes.