Sometimes I’ve picked a word, or an emphasis, for the New Year. Sometimes I’ve made a whole list of resolutions, with so many habits I wanted to change that none of them got revised. This year I’ve picked a very tall, specific order for myself.
Have you heard of the Whole30? I am resolved that I am going to do it for 180 days, without lapse, starting today. In many ways, I already do this. Check out this blog of mine for “compliant” recipes that I already make regularly. So this goal is more about not doing other things.
But first let me explain that this is not about a diet. It is not about losing weight. It is not about trying to fix feeling bad, because I already feel wonderful. I don’t have any food allergies or intolerances. I generally don’t eat enough calorie-wise to maintain being over weight anyway.
I’m clear that this being over weight thing is a spiritual conundrum to be sorted out. I try intermittently to work on that, but it’s not really part of this goal, because I’m trying here to forget body and food, rather than to focus on it or obsess about it. One of the rules about the Whole30 is that you aren’t even allowed to weigh yourself, so I won’t be doing that for (at least) half a year. I like that.
My husband and I have done the Whole30 twice already, once last April and once more recently in September. It was very hard at first, but then incredibly freeing. I want to get to that freeing place and sustain it long enough for it to actually change my habits and my life. I totally loved that freeing feeling: free from appetite, and free from the subtle but surprisingly oppressive drugs of wheat and sugar.
They say that three weeks is enough to change your habits, but maybe not tenacious ones like sugar and wheat. We felt the blessing of not eating them and then each time, even when we thought we wouldn’t, we slipped seductively back into it until we were at it again with a vengeance. Especially at the holiday season, sugar and wheat are conditioned responses that are ubiquitous and socially expected.
Photos in this post show a few things we’ve been indulging in that we won’t be having. Note the chocolate pecan pie I had at my anniversary dinner out, and the awesome lemon macarons our youngest made, gorgeous and delicious on her first attempt. No more quiches or tomato tarts for a while either.
Will I never have a croissant, a fabulous egg sandwich on a brioche, ice cream or chocolate again? I do certainly expect to reincorporate these favorites again in a moderate way, but not as a general rule. I want to get to where I don’t crave them. I don’t like that it feels like they have control over me, and that I’m putty in their hands, driven like an addict for that “need” to be satisfied.
I don’t drink alcohol or take drugs. When I got pregnant 26 years ago, I averaged 30 cups of coffee a day as an engineer on job sites in NYC. I stopped that serious habit after a week of substituting caffeinated soda, and haven’t had or missed caffeine ever since.
This is kind of like that. I’ve realized sugar and wheat are drugs, probably not only for me, but for everyone. I loved the freedom from it, but got sucked back in each time, like a heroin junkie looking for their next fix.
The Whole30 backs out from more than just sugar and wheat, but those are the two I want to be very circumspect about reintroducing after our half-year of abstinence is over. I’m going to try to only reintroduce 10% or less of that– and only in only top quality– and avoid letting it generally creep back in, the way it did the last couple times. I think 180 days should be a long enough separation full of dancing freedom not to compromise all that progress too quickly.
Here are the rules for Whole30. They basically eliminate all the foods that people have problems with and recommend a slow reintroduction to see how you feel after a month of abstention. The problem for us is we have no intolerances, so eating it all feels fine physically, but let me tell you, the psychological feeling is another whole thing. I learned that food freedom for me is more mental than physical.
For me, I now know it is a purity issue. Like how I would feel bad if I stole or committed adultery. I don’t want to give myself over to feeling out of control, clamoring like a druggie, nor being contaminated. I don’t want to be duped into getting my satisfaction from material things. I have to eat, and I need it to be creative, interesting, wholesome, varied, beautiful, nutritious, and delicious. I need my food to be very good, but I don’t want to feel morally conflicted about it.
I stopped eating meat 38 years ago, after reading Diet for a Small Planet, because I couldn’t be part of inflicting starvation on others. It was a vote for sustainability that I’ve stayed committed to even though I’ve eventually reintroduced fish (I needed more protein) and nitrate-free bacon (it was the only thing I missed). I have not had red meat or poultry for almost four decades, so I’m not only making a contribution, but am not complicit with those bogus industries. This has been a freedom for me. And we’ve already ruled out eating GMO’s for similar reasons.
Now wheat farmers spray their fields with Round-Up to increase the yield, much the way if you pound nails in a tree it will bloom out of a sense of desperation. We allow them to put literal poison on our food because big money is involved, and then we wonder why so many are autistic or gluten intolerant when they didn’t used to be. And the sugar industry is no better, lacing it into everything, to make what is nutritionally void not only enticing but seemingly compelling. I want no part of it, but need to find my way out of this common dependancy.
So I thought 180 days would be long enough, where vowing to abstain for a year felt like I wouldn’t make it. Plus, I’m enough of a math geek that I like the image of 180 as a symbol of a complete turn around, which is what I am after. My husband, bless him, is going to do it with me.
So for six months we will eat no sugar, no grain, no legumes, no dairy (except eggs and ghee), no soy, no chemical additives, no “bad” fats, no caffeine, and no alcohol. Translated, this means we will eat only fish, eggs, bacon, vegetables, fruit, nuts, herbs, spices, and four types of fat (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, or ghee); and as much of it as we want. Within that we will eat organic, wild, and clean.
There are still lots of creative possibilities there, but it will mean a huge cooking endeavor for me, which you can follow along on this blog. But also note that I am not looking for substitutes or work arounds. I will not be making bread, pancakes, or crackers from nut and coconut flours. I will instead be retraining myself to eat without them. Additionally, I will try not to compensate for the lack of snack food by pounding roasted, salted nuts, eating a zillion dates, or an indiscriminate amount of bacon.
At the end of six months, I plan to reintroduce moderate amounts of dairy, rice, oats, quinoa, beans, maple syrup, and honey. And we’ll see how long I can sustain going without any wheat or refined sugar at all.
And what about the 10,000ish part of my goal? By the end of the six months I’m going to try be up to walking a “normal” 10,000 steps a day regularly. I’ve worn a Fitbit for a few years. When I got it, I tested out my average steppage, and was shocked to find I took a total of only 231 steps that first day. My commute is up a set of stairs. My work is sedentary. People think I get so much done, but moving is not really something I’ve made time for.
But when I did the Whole30 those other times, I itched to get moving. I felt light on my feet and with twinkle toes that wanted action. So I have as part of my goal to capitalize on that with finding time in my schedule to cultivate the habit of walking enough.
These days, I average between 1,200 and 3,500 steps, depending on the weather and how much I’m riveted to my prayer chair. Clearly for me, to do more than a couple thousand steps I’m going to have to make a conscientious effort.
I plan on making that effort increasingly, without demanding perfection, since sometimes I am legitimately too busy with other priorities, or the weather isn’t cooperating. This past December I worked every minute, and now the temperature is in the single digits. Since I don’t belong to a gym, getting outside needs to be an option. So this explains the “ish” part of the 10,000 step goal. On this, I’m aiming at getting progressively better about walking and finding ways to get it done enjoyably.
So that’s my resolution, and I plan on being successful. This commitment is challenging, worth it, and doable. I look forward to how I’m going to feel at the end of June, and I look forward to seeing where I go from there!