Welcome to the End of the World: Whole30

IMG_0866 After a summer of polishing off pints of ice cream and weekends of stuffing my face with pizza and donuts (gourmet donuts only; I have some standards), my body was asking me for a favor. Please, it whispered. Treat me better. Apparently it did not whisper loudly enough because my junk food diet continued into the fall season, culminating in a long birthday weekend complete with (gourmet) donuts, tacos, Nutella-stuffed pastry, pizza, and croissants.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the hell out of that food and I did not feel an ounce of guilt about it.  Well, maybe, I felt a twinge of guilt for going four days without eating a single vegetable.  In any event, my endless spiral into Carb City seemed like the perfect window of opportunity to start the Whole30 challenge.

You can find out more about Whole30 here, but in short, it’s a 30-day challenge where you pledge to eat only real, whole foods, with a focus on high-quality meats and fish, vegetables, good fats, and some fruit. And you agree to eliminate lots of other crap. Read: processed foods, any and all added sugar, wheat and dairy products, alcohol, and even legumes. This last item raises one of the most confusing issues about nutrition and healthy eating. Some people say lentils are a superfood and other people (Paleo followers, for instance) say they are bad for your digestive system. Who do I follow? Who is right? Is anyone right? Should I just give up on trying to eat nutritious food and make peace with the donut-a-day diet?

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A dessert plate common in our household

If you scroll through the rigid rules and limited shopping list of the Whole30 program, you are probably wondering why I decided to subject myself to this masochistic military regimen.  To be brutally honest, it’s because, just like Louis C.K., I have a case of good-old-fashioned case of American food addiction.

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At the end of the day, I want to be able to eat just one cookie (okay, maybe two) and then put the bag away. I want to be able to occasionally say no, thank you to the office donuts and bagels, especially when I’ve literally just finished eating breakfast. And I really want to start having the kind of bowel movements that dreams are made of. So those are my big picture goals for Whole30.

I do have one advantage going into Whole30. I love to cook. I love experimenting with new dishes and flavors, and I often cook a big meal on Sundays to feed myself for the week. If there’s anything you should know about Whole30, it’s that home cooking and meal-planning are essential to success. Most restaurant and pre-packaged foods are non-compliant with the demanding Whole30 standards, so novice cooks need not apply.

However, I am facing A LOT of disadvantages going into Whole30. For one, whereas most Americans have a sweet tooth, I have sweet teeth, i.e., all of my goddamn teeth are sweet. And not only are all desserts forbidden on Whole30, but so is ALL AND ANY ADDED SUGAR. I can’t even have raw honey or pure maple syrup, which I ordinarily use very liberally because I believe they are health foods akin to kale and blueberries. You may be wondering how much honey I use, and the answer to your very sensible question is BOTTLES. I go through bear-shaped bottles of honey every month.

So, for the next 30 days, I can’t put honey in my five cups of daily tea or in my tangy salad vinaigrettes. Gone is my favorite snack of almond butter and bananas drizzled with honey on toast. And this is just the healthy sugar in my diet.

All other forms of sugar are also forbidden, which means that almost every store-bought product you can imagine is forbidden. Sugar is added to ketchup, barbecue sauce, pasta sauce, salad dressings, many dried fruits, and even my beloved Sriracha.

Another one of my disadvantages is that my life revolves around food. For instance, I just purchased 4 new cookbooks in the past week and I’ve carved out time every night this week to spend time gazing at the pictures.  I experience orgasmic highs when I enter a Whole Foods market. And my favorite kind of dream is the one in which I’m seated at an enormous table that is piled high with a buffet of my favorite foods and I don’t stop eating until my alarm clock goes off in the morning.

Yet another challenge for me is that snacking is sort of discouraged on the Whole30 program because you are supposed to eat satisfying and substantial meals that tide you over until your next meal. This does not bode well for me because I need snacks just as much as your five-year old does.  I take snack time very seriously. At work, I carve out at least 10 minutes every afternoon for snack time.

There are many, many other difficulties and disadvantages, but I figure it’s time to stop being such a Negative Nancy and start sharing my Eat, Pray, Love journey.

I hope you join me in this wild experiment and learn something new about food and healthy eating!

-Nisha

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