Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Whole30 ...

I haven't had coffee in 30 days.

The day after St. Patrick's, my friends Amy and Alison and I embarked upon Whole30, the gist of which is "Stop eating crap," but more specifically, it requires the elimination of dairy and sugar (among other things) and so, given that I've never been enough of a grown-up to drink my coffee black, coffee ceased to be an option. Without my beloved hazelnut coffee goo or cream and sugar at the very least, I couldn't abide. I can drink espresso straight but not black coffee. I do not know why.

Whole30 teaches you about yourself. What I learned about myself and coffee is this: I do not have a bad caffeine habit. I was able to cut out coffee with just the slightest of withdrawal. I was a bit tired for a couple days. I had a slight headache. But I wasn't in the habit of drinking a lot of it. I'd make just more than enough to fill my favorite travel mug and that was it each morning, except Sundays, when I'd allow myself some extra if I wanted it. I rarely wanted it. Some days, I would drain my travel mug and be sad to find myself tilting my head as far back as possible to drink the last drop, but other days – many days – I would get a few sips in and think "I don't want this" and I'd pour most of it down the sink.

What I did miss about coffee was the ritual. There's something about waking up and padding into the kitchen and putting on coffee that just feels right. And, given that winter has been an egomaniacal bitch and has stuck around for six months, there were many mornings when the thought of the warmth and sweetness appealed.

But instead, I drank water. Not hot water. Cold water. And I turned up the heat.

Whole30, though, is a bit of a misnomer, as the point isn't to eat really well for 30 days only to arrive at Day 31 and binge on doughnuts and Doritos. It's really the first 30 days of a new lifelong way of eating, which looks silly as I write it, as "new" really means "the way I should have been eating all along."

Some people extend to a Whole45 or Whole60, but my mindset at the moment is of MostlyWhole[Infinity Symbol]. I'm relieved that I don't want to go nuts tomorrow just because it's "allowed." Because it's not allowed. By me. I won't allow it. I have abused my body for decades. And now that I'm in my 40s, I want to stop. I want to be healthy. Not fanatically so, but mindful. I like that when my body says, "Sugar, please," I say, "Here, have an apple," not "Here, have a bag of gummi bears." (Whole30 definitely taught me that I have more of an addiction to sugar than I realized, but I presume that's true for most people.)

I've known I needed to make this shift for, literally, years. But all of the information I've been gathering over these years have been like steps that have allowed me to arrive at and start walking on this new plane. These 30 days haven't been a "diet," they've been the jump start to a new way of eating for the rest of my life.

Which isn't to say I'll never have another bite of bread or another cookie, but I've abused this body for too long. It's time to start giving it what it needs. I plan to keep going – I'm in this for the long haul – but maybe life is 90/10. I don't want to obsess about food but I want to continue making good choices.

Yesterday, I went to the store – on Day 29, with the "end" in sight – and I bought broccoli crowns and an English cucumber and onions and garlic and a pork steak. Last night, I sat down to a braised pork steak with a side of beautifully caramelized onions and garlic. Bites of pork crowned with caramelized onions and garlic is a delicious, delicious thing. I have taken to making a "salad" of English cuke and broccoli florets dressed with a balsamic and Dijon and garlic vinaigrette, but I wasn't in the mood for it last night. That will be lunch today. I've developed a new-found appreciation for sweet potatoes (I've only ever liked them in French-fry form before) and I've rekindled my love affair with big-ass salads. They're seriously absurd in volume, but lettuce and greens are mostly water.

And while my intention is first and foremost about getting healthy, not simply losing weight, the fact that I can now wear jeans I haven't worn in five years is a lovely thing. My "goal" jeans have become simply my jeans and I have a new goal pair hanging on my closet door. When I hold up the smallest size I want to fit into, they look almost impossibly small, but then I remind myself that our natural disposition is to be lean. If we're eating the right foods and moving around and getting good sleep, our natural state is rather lithe. Most of us have just been doing everything wrong for a really long time.

One of my brothers was here this weekend, working on an electrical problem* for me, and I probably ran up and down my stairs 20 times, flipping breakers on and off, and I barely felt the effort. I've gotten back into the habit of walking and it's nice to log two miles or more without even blinking.

My sleep has improved greatly. I fall asleep easily and wake up when I wake up. I can read a book without falling asleep. On Saturday, I read a book cover to cover in five hours. In the past, I would have dozed off about 15 minutes in.

At the store yesterday, my one "treat" was a fresh bottle of goo, not the kind I've bought before but a new brand that a friend told me about that is, indeed, just milk and cream and sugar and flavoring (though I'm not sure what "flavoring" entails). I'm looking forward to the option of coffee in the morning, but first, I'll ask myself if I really want it. And then I'll see how I fare with reintroducing some dairy. I may not be long for coffee in the end.

Perhaps I'll learn to like tea.

* My "electrical problem" turned out to be a tripped circuit breaker that I hadn't noticed because it was on the other side of the panel from those labeled "family room." Whoops. But he discovered some wiring that didn't meet his standards, so he remedied those issues for me, bless his kind and helpful heart. And I learned to check every breaker should an issue arise again. Also, the formerly unlabeled breaker now has an identity. All's well that ends well.

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