Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Thirty Days

Whole9 Well, it is hard to believe, but it is already over.
When I read, studied, made lists, and prepared for my first Whole30 I thought it would drag on for ages. Even though it was only a slightly more conservative version of what I already do every day, I was convinced it would be hard. I made a wish list back on June 24th and I think this short, concise list of wishes is a pretty good place to navigate from to assess the success of this program for me this time.

June 24th Wishlist

  1. Move past this point and definititively leave the 300s. Dream result: 285 (hey...no vagueness or shyness here, this is a real journey...and those are real numbers.)
  2. Break my dependence on sweeteners
  3. Drastically reduce dairy intake, refine to small amounts of quality cheeses, possibly replace cream or limit it to infrequent coffeehouse intake, in any case, use less. (When this was written I was using a LOT of half and half.)
  4. Increase my awareness of when I eat for reasons other than hunger
  5. Increase variety and quantity of vegetables eaten
  6. Shift my focus from weight loss to wellness and maximized nutrition
  7. Do it right the first time 
I'm going to take these one at a time, starting with #2. 
Going without artificial sweeteners for 30 days was the thing I thought would be the hardest but it actually turned out to be no big deal. I put away the stevia and I discovered that I really did like things without it. I appreciate coffee more. Fruit is sweeter. And without the combination of dairy AND sweeteners I don't find myself wanting to drink gallons of coffee. I'll never use most of them again. 

#3- Dairy intake
This was the big 'let's see' for me with this. And again, it was fine. Black coffee was fine, I used some coconut milk in coffee but I can now take it either way, which is simple and convenient and makes sure I don't drink milk instead of eating real food, which I was doing sometimes. I will admit I missed cheese a few times, a Philly cheesesteak stuffed pepper is kind of missing something without it, but day to day, not having it as an option cut way down on mindless grazing and that was a good thing. I do believe I am one of those people who is very sensitive to dairy products so going forward it will be a very occasional thing. 

#4-Increased awareness
Committing to set meals every day of a particular composition made me aware of how often I'd drift to the refrigerator and eat something just to eat it, and how many times I just ate something incomplete when what I really needed was a balanced meal. I became aware that for a while I've been technically compliant in terms of eating low carb, but not particularly mindful of nourishment or what my body was actually telling me I needed. It only takes a few minutes to put together something decent if you plan and purchase what you need. This month I was forced to do that planning and found out that once you have the right things on hand, doing the right thing is pretty simple. 

#5 Vegetables!!
I definitely ate more veegetables. In thirty days I can attest to six pounds of spinach, 8-10 heads of cauliflower, four pounds of carrots, and an untold quantity of yellow squash, zucchini, salad, tomatoes, broccoli, garlic, and onions. I still want to add more things to our list of favorites, but this is an ongoing project and one I enjoy so no issues there. In a short time I found adding vegetables to every meal relatively easy. There was a time when they were an afterthought. 

#6 Shifted focus
I would say I had 50/50 success with this. One one hand, I did a lot of reading, which was one of the things I'd tasked myself. I reread the book for this program and the light came on for me about foods that illicit an unhealthy psychological response. I will continue to monitor things that I suspect don't serve me and decide whether they have to be completely eliminated. On the other hand, since this was my first Whole30 I was anxious about it. What if I go to all the trouble and nothing good really happens? Putting the scale away was hard. And while I was able to physically put it away, I wasn't able to mentally put it away. I'm going to be working on that more over the next couple of months. True shift of focus to wellness, as yet, still eludes me because I am accustomed to being a numbers person. I am able to say 'just keep on and the numbers will take care of themselves' but if I'm honest I'm really only digging on that when my numbers are going down. I admit this. I'll work on it.

#7 Doing it right
I was determined not to have to start over. I wanted this 30 days to go like it was supposed to. I feel like I had mixed success with that. On one hand, I didn't have any major fails that necessitated starting over. But on the other hand, I think there were days when I didn't plan as well as I could have and didn't eat as well balanced a meal as I could have. I have a better sense now of how much I need to have on hand to ensure that happens and next time I'll do better. I also feel like I only scratched the surface in terms of meal planning, possible recipes, and preparation strategies so next time I'm going to delve further. 

Unexpected benefit
On the Whole30 Forum, another participant wrote about how she had lost a significant amount of weight and had difficulty seeing herself differently, she struggled with thinking she still had the issues and limitations that compelled her to make this attempt in the first place. A conversation began about the complicated emotional issues that surface in the midst of this effort and I wrote this. 
One of the things I've finally lost at age 43 is the anger and bitterness that used to accompany my efforts to lose weight. I was on some diet or another for pretty much my whole life starting at around age 9, and I always attacked a diet effort with the fevered dream of some kind of revenge fantasy. I thought that being thin would silence the bullies, magically make me good at sports, and generally 'get back' at anyone who was ever mean to me. To this day, as an adult, I tense up when a group of teens walks by because I've had kids say ugly things to me (even as an adult) many, many times. So in addition to seeing myself physically accurately, I've had to relearn how to relate to people in a non-defensive way and somehow, since adopting this way of eating and knowing that every day I do something good and positive for myself and not something based on deprivation and self loathing, I have been able to let go of that anger, fear, and bitterness. When I was dieting low fat I didn't see how I was nourishing myself and feel good about that because, well, I wasn't. Now that I am nourishing myself, the number on the scale going down is almost a side benefit. My 'eye' is still off when I buy clothes. But I find that for the first time, instead of liking big loose clothes to hide in I find all the extra material a nuisance.
I think that learning how to see ourselves correctly is that extra mile we didn't see coming. The good news is that we have the strength to finish it. 

So, #1. Because admit it, you want to know. I sure as heck did.
Dream number, per my wish list: 285
Starting weight at beginning of Whole30 298.6
Final Whole30 weight: 286.8
Pounds lost in 30 days: 11.8
Inches lost: 5

Total pounds lost to date: 74.6
Total inches lost to date: 24.5

So what's the plan? August will pretty much continue as I have this month, not strictly Whole30 but pretty darn close. Come September we go again. My goal is to log a 100 pound loss by the end of 2013.
Halfway, kittens.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Staying on the Path

So in five days, my first Whole30 will be complete.
It went faster and better than I expected. I am absolutely planning to do another one, because I learned a lot from this one and there are a lot more things I didn't really get to do that I want to do.
Operating within a specific set of dietary restrictions is a lot like beginning driving. At first you have to think about everything you are doing, plan your reactions, go through  your checklists. Over time it becomes automatic. Even though most of this way of eating was adopted and assimilated into my life months ago, there was still a fair amount of diligence that had to be applied to making sure I was 'doing it right'. I'm not convinced it was perfect, but it was very good. And at this point most of the changes I've made have indeed become automatic, I no longer have to think through 'can have' and 'can't have'. But much of my attention this go-round has been focused on the food.

As for my goals, I do think that I have met most of the 'wish list' I made at the start of the project. I expanded my recipe repertoire. We ate more vegetables. I am sleeping better. I have made an effort to focus on positive things and avoid both the drama drain and general pessimistic timewasting. I've made some decisions about sources of drama and negativity in my life that I need to walk away from.
I exercised. Maybe not as much as I envisioned myself exercising, but the summer is not over. I have continued to read and educate myself about nutrition and how best to work this program that is working for me.

The biggest revelation for me came when I started re-reading 'It Starts With Food', the book that outlines the Whole 9/Whole 30 program. In it the authors discuss their 'Good Food Standards', which are as follows:

The food that we eat should: 

  1. Promote a healthy psychological response
  2. Promote a healthy hormonal response
  3. Support a healthy gut
  4. Support immune function and minimize inflammation

Now I must admit, the first read through of the book, I was mostly looking for the 'rules'...what I could have, what I couldn't have, maybe a little of why, but only enough to convince me that I wasn't crazy for doing this. Once things got going I decided to start back at page one and carefully consider what they were suggesting. And the first standard finally hit home. So many things that I used to describe as 'impossible to resist' and 'things I can't leave alone until they are gone' fail that first standard. The difference, this time, is that I recognize the necessity of eliminating those things with prejudice. Not negotiating with them, not planning 'treats', but looking at certain things and being able to say 'this does not serve me in any useful way, not nutritionally, it messes with the way I'm wired and makes me want more and more and it is perfectly fine to set it aside permanently'.

I hear a lot of people say 'you can't deprive yourself' and 'you have to have X or you won't succeed, it is too hard' but I'm here to say after a forty year battle with 'moderation' as a person with a disordered relationship with sugar that it may be the only thing that works. You don't 'scale back' an abusive relationship. You end it. The good news is, it isn't as hard as you'd think. And in a way I don't completely understand yet, when I let false comforts go they seem to take a lot of things with them-- irrational fear, old resentment and bitterness, carefully kept catalogs of unforgiven wrongs. It is fun to look at pictures and see how things are changing, but at the end of the day this is about walking a better path with a quiet mind.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Story So Far

Wow, I'm already on Day 10. Hard to believe. I fully expected that I'd have some sort of cheese related DTs, or I'd be passing through my local coffee shop in a floppy hat and sunglasses trying to score some gelato or a latte. (I told them what I was doing this month, so they'd call shenanigans if I went in there and ordered either one.) To some, what I've done here looks a lot like pulling a lot of blocks out of my Jenga tower of food, scrutinizing it, and then pulling a bunch more out. On one level that's exactly what I did. What some don't understand is that I didn't get rid of anything a person NEEDS. We've been made to think we NEED bread, we NEED whole grains. Once I went low carb I thought it was my heaven mandated right to put a ton of cheese on everything. I was super careful with milk, just like anything that had double digit carbs per serving. But over time my intake crept up, and my success rate slowed down. Hence the second round of Jenga.

     Here are the things I'm discovering so far.

  1. Cooking is a blessing and a curse. I've found wonderful recipes and eaten great meals. Balanced meals with tons of vegetables, healthy carbs, and good meat with all sorts of spices and nice things are delicious and they make you feel great. Lots of energy, happy tummy, no heartburn, no issues. And you'd never miss the dairy products, I promise. At the same time, there are days when I think if I chop ONE MORE ONION I'm going to go insane. Cooking from scratch meals in an unairconditioned kitchen in the middle of July is not for the faint of heart. There are days when I feel like I dirty and rewash all of my dishes. There are days when I catch myself thinking that it was just easier when I could say "Let's just go out to eat."  But. When I get over my fit, creating something with my own hands that I know is going to do good things for my body is satisfying. Every time you look at a task and overcome that 'I don't feel like...' feeling and actually DO it, it gets easier to pick up the knife and go. 
  2. I can absolutely live without all the things I thought I couldn't live without. I used to be one of those people who would say "I could never". I could never drink coffee black. I could never live without (whatever). My message is, I can, you can. Absolutely can. 
  3. I have become aware of how many things I did simply out of habit and not even because I was hungry or wanted that particular thing. How often I'd just graze from the cheese drawer or eat slices of deli meat. How often I wouldn't bother with the overall nutritional impact of a meal, focusing only on the bad things I had eliminated. Yes, you can eat clean and still eat carelessly.
  4. If it doesn't get easier as you go, you aren't doing something you can sustain forever. If you are on a 'strict diet' but your relationship with food is still disordered, if you still think about things outside your 'plan' as forbidden, and indulge in things and then think of yourself as 'bad', reflect. Eating shouldn't be a punishment/reward scenario. It should be a sensual experience of vibrant, healthy food that sustains us. Things we look forward to making, sharing, and partaking of. I will never again sadly scrape the corners of a little plastic tray trying to capture the last dregs of something that did not satisfy me in the name of a 'diet'. I will never again whip four chemical laden low fat ingredients together and call it dessert because it is 'Only 2 points a serving'. (F that all the way to Tuesday. I am seriously done with that nonsense.) If it comes in a box, it had better be cat litter or trash bags, because it sure as heck isn't something that's going on my table.
  5. I am not a lone wolf. There are lots of people out there who have done this. They have a lot of ideas. They made mistakes along the way. Read. Ask. Listen. Complain to them if you must, But find support and learn. It makes things a heck of a lot easier. And considering how many of those wise, done-it-before people I have met along the way are survivors of life threatening health conditions, or widows at 30 with small children, or living with multiple disease states and doing what needs done despite pain and significant limitations, my excuses are invalid and yours probably are too. 
I don't know if I have moved forward yet, since the scale is disabled and shelved for the 30 days, but I did find a pair of capris that used to strangle me and they fit just fine. So good things continue to happen. 


Monday, July 01, 2013

Locked and Loaded

                                                                                         Seaweed: Don't knock it till ya tried it.
     I write this on June 29th, one day before the official start of my first Whole 30. I am excited. I've planned the first week of meals, bought all the necessary ingredients, discovered a few snacks that are just too cool for school, sharpened my vegetable chopping knives, and I'm ready.

     I've been shedding no-go food items like rocket stages: first milk, then artificial sweeteners, doing sort of a last dance with cheese this weekend and then I'm all set. (The other no-go items were already eliminated.) As of this writing, with a start date of September 20, 2012, I have lost 64 pounds and 19 1/2 inches. In case you are wondering whether all this eliminating all the junk food has had any effect.
I don't miss it. Its funny how, once you start making the kinds of choices you know you need to make for your own benefit, they get easier and easier to make as time goes on. "New normals" are easier than you think to adopt.

     Another curious but true fact: I am losing something more complicated than weight. So many of my previous efforts were bound up in some sort of complicated revenge fantasy, as if making my outward appearance different would somehow silence or shame every childhood bully and judgement-passer I'd ever encountered. When you really think about that, it is pretty ridiculous. "I'll show them" is a poor and pointless motivator. Because they don't care. They never carried the weight of their unkindness the way you did. (And if you are still carrying it, it is well past time to put it down.) There is an enormous difference between berating yourself so you can have a traditionally acceptable outward appearance and taking care of yourself because YOU deserve to feel not just better, but fantastic, and because YOU deserve to not just function, but thrive. I'm not working on a body that can wear skinny jeans. I'm working on a body that can climb steep mountain trails, sure footed and unweary. I used to think that doing it for me was selfish. But now that I've got some traction I realize how doing it for me unpacks so much of the bitterness, disappointment, and nonsense and discards it.
     So that's where I am. Looking forward to a month of moving ahead.