The Whole (30) Truth: No Grain, No Gain?

body-weight-scaleOkay. It’s been several weeks since I ended my #Whole30 challenge. I made it through all 30 days not eating legumes, grains, dairy, sugar, alcohol, or a number of additives.

Since then, it’s been a challenge. It started when I fell face-first into a pan of brownies after an initially successful week of slow reintroduction. Then I found myself inhaling all sorts of crap again.

I don’t want to. I don’t want to be a slave to food like that, to be eating so unhealthfully like that. Not only do I not want to gain back the twenty pounds I’d shed, but I can’t afford the damage to my body. At 43, I’m showing signs of wear and tear, and if I continue my “All Sugary Bready Things All The Time” diet, I’ll be diabetic with a fatty liver and who knows what else going on in no time.

And yet, the addiction is strong. It is SO strong, people. I can’t tell you how I weep at my own struggles with this. It’s a daily battle against a substance, sugar, that is eight times more addictive than cocaine and heroin. EIGHT TIMES.

sugarBut sugar is not my only nemesis. Oh, no. Apparently my brain also loves white flour (which, of course, turns fairly instantly into sugar in the bloodstream). Give me, please oh please oh please, my daily bread. Only make it a donut, or a Twix bar, or a Little Debbie Double Decker oatmeal creme pie. Anything that combines flour & sugar is so much better than flour or sugar items alone. I’d rather eat a Kit Kat than a Hershey bar, rather suck down croissants than bagels.

So I decided, very logically, to go sugar-free and grain-free for the month of October. These seem to be the big triggers, more than legumes, or even dairy. And eliminating these two, while daunting, felt LESS daunting than returning to the Whole30 whole-hog.

The ugly truth: how I feel when I'm in sugar withdrawal.
The ugly truth: how I feel when I’m in sugar withdrawal.

Only, uh, I made it two and a half days. Two and a half, until I was sitting in Costco yesterday, hungry, eating a friggin’ cold chicken Caesar salad while around me people chomped on pizza or hot dogs or smoothies or what-not. In hindsight, the pizza might have done me better, because I felt so deprived that it made me rebellious. Yes, it was my choice to put those chocolate chip cookies in my cart, my choice to eat about half of them over a 12 hour period. My CHOICE, but a choice also driven by the emotional and physical addiction in my head screaming, “Give us more, give us more, give us MORE MORE MORE.”

Note to self: do not go to Costco on day 3 of sugar/flour withdrawal. Stupid plan all around.

Second note to self: plan better to have more foods at home to eat, so that you don’t feel hungry and deprived before going shopping.

It’s the dance. It’s the dance I do, people, the dance with the monkey on my back, with the devil in my head whispering, “Just this one time. That’s all. You’ll stop after that. Just for today.”

You’d think after 43 years, I’d stop hitting the dance floor. Nope.

BUT . . . today is a new day. My motto has long been, Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight.

The Sugar Roller CoasterSo I’m getting up. I’m suiting up. I’m so weary of the battles, so very weary of the war.

But I’ve got to try again, for my health, for my family, for my own personal well-being. Because I felt better at the end of the Whole 30. I felt better than I KNEW – I was so busy hating it and thinking not so much had changed, that I didn’t realize how much HAD, until I added those substances back in. Unless the bloating, the digestive issues, the self-shaming, the sleep struggles, the guilt, the tired eyes, the foggy brain, and the friggin’ five pounds came back.

Yes, I felt much better at the end of the Whole 30, as much as I don’t want to admit it. And I don’t, because the devil I know – my own body and brain – desperately wants me to go face down in pizza and pumpkin cheesecake today. “You’re happier on sugar,” my gut tells me. Only I’m not. Not really. I’m addicted. I’m high. But I’m not happier.

No grains, no gain, I joked to myself on October 1st. Well, here’s to the fight, to making one day’s slip not become two or five or the whole darn month.

No grain, no gain – and hopefully not as much emotional pain.

Rant over.


Whole 30, Week 2: Or, Can I Stop Now?

Fourteen days. I’ve made it through fourteen days of this Whole 30 gig. It hasn’t been easy, and Lord knows it ain’t been pretty. I’ve come close to quitting several times. And yet, I’m still here.

doing-the-w30-IGBe warned: If you’re looking for a post raving about this program and how easy/fun it is and how awesome it’s made me feel, you’ve come to the wrong place. When I wear my author hat, I aim for positivity. But I’m not wearing that hat right now; I’m wearing my “I’m so tired of having to battle myself and my body and food every day of my life, Good GOD why can’t I be one of those people who loves veggies and eating healthfully and exercising. Why can’t I be someone who doesn’t battle food addictions and food issues and food everything?” hat. (It’s a BIG hat.) I’m giving you my honest experiences here. I’m struggling, physically and mentally. I’m frustrated. I’m angry. I’m tired. I’m grouchy. I hate it. I hate everything this week. Foods don’t taste right, I’m still battling my stupid brain/body with the food aversions and nausea stuff.

But … I’m still going. Why? Skip to the end, if you really want to know.

Whole 30, Day 8:

Slept in until 9:15, when husband’s alarm went off. Granted, I didn’t go to sleep until 12:30, but still, so much sleep, and yet still I feel tired. My side is also hurting today – I’m glad my recent ultrasound says no gallbladder issues, but something is still going on. Fighting irritability. Why does my family put up with me?

Sirloin for yesterday and today feels positively decadent – and a little boring. I need to look at recipes and do better at preparing in advance. In particular, I bet I’d like more stir-fry type meals. At least I found a dressing I like – Tessamae’s Olive Oil & Balsamic vinegar. It’s no honey French (my favorite!), but it’s not nearly as bitter as whatever acidic slop I mixed up last week. Now to make my salads more interesting, too – I’m guilty of predominantly eating naked salad (meaning the only thing besides the dressing is lettuce, people!), so I should jazz that up a bit.

This evening, I faced two big challenges:

We attended my daughter’s Back to School potluck. 95%, at least, of the items people brought, I couldn’t eat—and seeing plates full of brownies, cookies, seeing macaroni and cheese and white bun BBQ sandwiches was hard. Hard. However, not choosing them was surprisingly easy. I had eaten a large lunch at 1:30 and hoped that would help stave off the hunger. It didn’t; I felt quite hungry. Maybe it was just cravings? In any case, I munched on carrots and grapes. Not, uh, the right Whole 30 balance, but it was the best I could do.

Fountain penI heard back from my wonderful editor, Tessa Shapcott, with her suggestions for my second book. All eight pages of them. I wanted to weep. Look, I’m smart enough to know she knows what she’s doing, that her advice is golden, and that once I apply it, the book will be that much stronger. But when you get all that feedback at once, it’s like getting hit on the head with a sledgehammer. And the drive to eat is killing me right now. Yes, perhaps I am legitimately a little hungry from the small dinner, but I’m positive that MOST of this is that raging desire to eat in order to tame the emotions running wild. I feel sad that my story needs so much work. I feel scared I won’t be able to do it. I feel angry I didn’t do it well enough the first time. I feel frustrated at how much I have to fix. I feel scared I won’t be able to do it (yes, I already said that one, but it’s possibly the biggest, and deserves a second mention). I admit, I grabbed a handful of cashews and ate it, hoping that would sate any actual hunger. But my stomach is gnawing at me, knocking on my brain in a way it hasn’t since before I started this. I know it’s not real hunger. It’s emotional hunger, it’s looking for some way to soothe myself. Knowing that doesn’t make it easier, though.

Whole 30, Day 9:

eggsMade eggs this morning, though I really didn’t want to. I’m tired of eggs. Apparently so is my body, as I nearly gagged on them several times and had to force them down. What’s up with that? Guess it means I definitely need a different protein source come tomorrow morning.

This is not a fun day. Felt very oogy around lunch. Thought perhaps I needed some protein, so I made some ground beef. Yes, just plain. Obviously one of my problems is not planning enough / making interesting meals. Anyway, ate the meat and a banana and a couple of carrots – and felt worse. I lay down for an hour or so, and then spent an hour hunched in my chair with my innards yelling at me. Is this a Whole 30 thing? A bug? I don’t know, but it sucks. Making a potato now (evening) to see if the starch helps settle the stomach.

Whole 30, Day 10:

I did a no-no. I stepped on the scale. No, I’m not starting over (the Whole 30 argues if you break one of their main tenets, you must start anew with 30 more days. So. Not. Happening.). The good news is, I’ve dropped 11 pounds. 11. (Some of that is binge weight from the frenzy in the first few days before). The bad news is, I just don’t want to eat. Like, anything. I don’t mean psychologically, I mean physiologically. Yes, it’s totally bizarre for me, but I also know it isn’t healthy. Eating eggs yesterday morning, and then ground beef at noon, had me sick to my stomach. Not sure what to do about this. Of course, the book says days 10 & 11 are the hardest, because the newness has worn off, and sometimes gastrointestinal issues are still around, but really, not eating is not an option.

squashYou know when they say “x” tastes just like “y”? Don’t believe them. Why do I always believe them? When I was little, my mom tried to entice me to eat squash by insisting that if I put some brown sugar on it, it would taste just like pumpkin pie. I’m here to tell you, she lied. According to the Whole 30, coconut aminos taste just like soy sauce. OK, I admit, I haven’t tasted them – but I did dump them on the chicken and veggies I’m frying up for stir fry. And the smell was NOTHING like soy sauce, so I dispute the notion it’s going to taste just like soy sauce…

I wound up throwing some soy sauce in and resigning myself not to eating it (I don’t think I can stomach it, anyway), because if I didn’t, I have a feeling I’d have a family rebellion on my hands. So much for that.

Whole 30, Day 11:

I very nearly quit today. I know, how cliché; the Whole 30 book warns that most people who quit, quit on days 10 & 11. But I felt so awful this morning, and have felt that way for three days. Ugh.

When I mentioned to my husband I was googling people who’d quit the Whole 30, to see if others had experienced this level of innard discord, food aversion, gagging, he said, “That doesn’t sound like very productive reading.” I nearly threw the laptop at him.

Feeling sick and unable to eat for three days in a row is no picnic. Anyway, I made myself a fruit smoothie for breakfast (technically okay, but heavily frowned upon during a Whole 30), and felt MUCH better after drinking it, enough so that I decided to attempt some protein for lunch.

coconutoilI baked chicken, coating the glass pan with just a bit of coconut oil to prevent sticking. Upon taking the pan out and smelling the warm oil, I nearly retched. But it was a lightbulb. Aha! Maybe it’s the coconut oil that’s bothering me – I’d scrambled eggs in it, cooked meat with it, etc. Maybe if I stop using the oil, I’ll feel better! I managed to eat the chicken and one white potato. No greens, which I know is terrible, but hey, I was thrilled to choke down some protein!

Tonight I ate more chicken, and an orange. Again, no greens, but still, protein! And this evening I’m actually feeling 90% normal. Let’s hope this continues, and I can work more veggies back in.

This isn’t the prettiest Whole 30. It certainly isn’t going to win “Best Rule Follower” award. But I’m still here.

Whole 30, Day 12:

chickbrocWoke up feeling good, but still revolted at the idea of protein in the morning. Had a smoothie instead, which was yummy, but I think I woke the Sugar Dragon. Either that, or my body just feels better – I’ve been hungry again today! I suppose I should try to find a smoothie recipe that has veggies in it.

Lunch was baked chicken, baked potato, and broccoli, but I liked it. Felt good all afternoon, though hungry! Right now I’m cooking dinner for the family – and some anger and resentment has hit again. I want to eat their tacos, not whatever I’m going to eat. I’m grilling a steak. Not because I want to.

So I guess I need to find some real recipes to do. I want to make stir-fry, BUT I can’t use soy sauce, and the coconut aminos smell terrible to me, so I’m not quite sure what to do there. The ever-present challenge of finding proteins and especially veggies I like continues.

Whole 30, Day 13: Massive headache again, and slight stomach oogies. Not sure if it’s food-related, or just normal stuff (I get headaches a lot). Still can’t stand the idea of protein at breakfast, though I considered making eggs. Had a smoothie instead. Wish I could put yogurt into it more than fruit juice. Perhaps I shall try to find some appropriate almond milk and give that a shot.

People have asked me if I notice anything.

orange-clip-art-2Yes. I might feel slightly thinner (well, near the face, at least). Some fruits taste a lot sweeter than they used to. I still can’t stomach the idea of lots of protein in the morning. I still don’t like a wide enough variety of veggies, or probably protein sources, for that matter, which is making this especially challenging.

And I am way more emotional than I like.

I don’t think the Whole 30 sparks the emotionality; rather, I think the emotions have always been there – I just try to ignore them or stuff them down with food.

I have cried about something every single day since I started this. I’m angry a lot more. Or maybe not. Maybe I just feel it more acutely since I’m not smoothing it with sugar.

This doesn’t mean I haven’t had times of being happy – I have. But this “tears close to the surface” feels weird to me.

And that’s what I’ve noticed.

Whole 30, Day 14:

SadAnneGag reflex is back. Now it’s for cashews. What the heck, body/brain? You LIKE cashews. Hoping this passes. Today I’m in an extremely bad mood and have a ferocious headache. And I have 16 more days of this?

The problem is, The Sugar Dragon and My Brain are incredibly devious – because I can feel my body trying to self-select down to things like smoothies and Larabars. I know those are no-nos – I know it’s my brain WANTING the “no brakes” foods back.

If I’ve learned nothing else from this Whole 30, I’ve learned my brain has VERY strong notions about food, and about what should and should not go together.

I added almond milk to my smoothie. Innocuous, unsweetened almond milk. And I’ve having a hard time drinking the stupid thing.

How did these notions get so firmly entrenched in my head? Why do I have such a very hard time trying/accepting new foods?

almond-milkThis is making this whole experience extremely sucky. Feeling nauseated by foods I normally don’t mind (maybe because I’m eating so much of them) and then feeling nauseated by the idea of some new foods.

Frankly, the only reason I haven’t quit is a) because I told all of you I was doing this, b) I’ve dropped 14 pounds, and c) I want to prove to my husband I can do it.

We’ll see if I can actually make it another 16 days, though.


Day 14, evening: Just spent 1/2 hour sobbing in my room, angry at my husband and everyone for telling me not to quit.

Then I realized I was more angry at me. I don’t want to quit.

no-quittingBut I also don’t want a body/brain that has to fight this battle every stinking day, nor a body/brain unwilling to accept new foods. So right now I’m just very, very angry. Frustrated. And so very tired of the battle. Exhausted by the battle. Pissed off at the battle.

Why can’t I be someone who is an adventuresome eater who prefers this way of eating by nature?? Two more weeks feels unfathomable right now, especially in the middle of book edits. And yet, I really, truly do not want to quit. For me.

Because I always quit. It’s too hard. It’s no fun. It sucks. It’s not comfortable. It’s not easy.

Trying so, so very hard to tell myself that being overweight and tired and having high cholesterol and fatigue is no fun, either. But it’s what I am, it’s what I’m used to, and it sure would be a heck of a lot easier (and frankly more fun) if I just accepted that. Most of the time I do.

I’m not saying these Whole 30 habits will last forever. They won’t. I’m already looking forward to day 31. I don’t want pizza or donuts or ice cream (well, I do, but not first thing). No, the thing I crave most lately is a bowl of noodles with peas and a little bit of butter. I really miss peas.

I want to continue eating more healthfully, if not as stringently as this month. I want to improve my health. I want to be a better example for my kids. I want to look better for my husband.

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 3.11.02 PMBut at the moment, I am filled with rage. Rage at how hard this is, at how much my stupid body and brain are not cooperating, at how it feels like everyone else has it easier and gets to eat whatever they want (yes, I know that’s not true, but hey, my brain is DEVIOUS, people).

Rage. And tears. I have cried every day this week. Every single day.

On to Week 3, full of rage and tears. And maybe that’s okay. Because I’m finally acknowledging and experiencing those emotions. I hate it. I hate everything right now.

But I’m determined. I’m determined to prove to myself that I can do this.

(And dearest husband, if you read this far, I’m sorry. I know I have not been easy to live with. I know. And while I’m fighting not to take this out on you and the kids, I know I’m not always succeeding. Please forgive me.)


The (Former) Sugarless Life: Attack of the Christmas Chocolate!

Oh, Christmas tree, oh, Christmas tree! How lovely are thy contents…

I did well until Thanksgiving, people. I really did. Sure, I had a few stumbles this fall – a sugar cookie here, a couple of Halloween candies there. But in general, I was sugar-free. Until after Thanksgiving. Until the holiday decorations came out, and the Advent calendar chocolate went up.

See, a few years ago I bought the kids a beautiful wooden Advent calendar in the shape of a house. I love it. They love it. They love it mostly because it means they get a piece of chocolate every day in December. I love it because it’s cute, and a German tradition, and a reason to buy chocolate for every day in December.

Around the same time, I bought a Christmas tree-shaped cookie jar. It sits on the dining room table, and it’s become our “tradition” to fill the thing with holiday chocolates. It’s been my “tradition” to inhale said holiday chocolates day after day, occasionally filling up the tree again and hoping nobody notices.

It’s a stinkin’ adorable house of sin.

Holiday traditions die hard, folks. I fell into the chocolate. “It’s Christmas!” the sugar-addicted devil in me kept whispering in my ear. “It’s only a month!” the sugar-addicted angel in me kept reassuring myself.

Gah. It’s been fun. In a way. And I’m not kidding myself that I’m giving it up before January. But it’s also been an eye-opening experience, to see how quickly I can fall back into this sugar trap, and to see just how much it affects me.

I’m fun when I’m on chocolate. I’m vivacious, chatty, happy, giddy. (Sometimes I’m those things without chocolate, but definitely more so with it.) My confidence level goes up. I have energy.

For a bit.

I’m also a witch when I’m on chocolate. Well, not when I’m ON; when I’m withdrawing. And if there’s one thing I’ve noticed this month, it’s how awful I feel when the rush is going away. I’m not sleeping well. I can’t concentrate – I seriously flit from thing to thing and haven’t sat down to work on writing or editing or anything requiring more than about twenty minutes of focus, because I just don’t have it. Part of that, no doubt, stems from all the demands December brings: gift buying and present wrapping and holiday baking and holiday recitals and holiday school programs and did I remember something for this person or that person? But part of it does not; part of it stems from the sugar highs and the sugar lows.

It’s depressing, this sugar addiction. When it’s not making me manic. I truly feel better without sugar. I’m more level-headed, more even-keeled. I actually want to work on stuff. My body feels better, and it was getting smaller. I can list many pros and many cons; the addiction discards them all in favor of itself.

So come January, I’m back on the bandwagon. I like resolutions. Starting over. New beginnings. I can’t say it hasn’t been fun, this bingeing. Sometimes. I can’t say I’m going to enjoy the withdrawal that’s coming. But I can say it will be better when I’m back to the sugarless life.