Sarah and I embarked this week (starting Monday, February 11) on a 30-day nutritional reset, the Whole30 program. It’s associated with the “paleo” movement which emphasizes meat, fruit and vegetables over grains, legumes, and dairy. Processed foods, sugar, etc. are frowned upon, but can be used in moderation. The Whole30 is more strict, banning dairy, grains, legumes, sugar and artificial ingredients altogether.
This is not normally my sort of thing. I dislike “diets” and I’m suspicious of nutritional fads. But Sarah’s been dabbling in paleo for a while, and it’s gone well for her. She decided recently, with one of our neighborhood friends, that she wanted to do the full reset. It’s a lot easier to do this sort of thing if your partner is on board (instead of filling the house with the smell of fresh biscuits every morning, as I often do). So she asked me if I would join in too. At first, I was resistant and bit cranky about the whole idea. But, why not? I’m not a paragon of healthy eating (as aforementioned biscuits attest), so I could do with a reset of my own. I’ve never tried anything like this before, and I have a certain amount of scientific curiosity about whether the program “works,” whatever that might mean, and whether or not I have the strength to stick with it.
Today is the seventh day, and so far things have been pretty good. The most challenging aspect has been quitting my soda addiction. I typically drink two or three cans of Diet Coke (or, my new favorite, Coke Zero) per day. I don’t do coffee or tea, but I am quite solidly addicted to my soda. It seems silly, but seriously, this is what I was most worried about. I considered starting to drink tea or some other “approved” source of caffeine, but decided that as long as I’m jumping in, I might as well go whole-hog: no caffeine either.
As it turns out, whatever physical addiction I may have had to caffeine was mild. No headaches or anything like thatâ€”the stuff I hear about from people who give up a major coffee habit. I have been a bit spacey and lethargic, especially in the morning, but it’s hard to know if this is related to caffeine or a radical realignment of my metabolism (no sugar or grains changes my fuel mix dramatically).
Sugar cravings have been present, but not as bad as expected. I definitely want chocolate after dinner, but it’s been manageable thus far. I worry that it will be harder once the “newness” of this thing wears off. I imagine the cravings won’t be as strong, but my level of commitment is likely to dwindle by the time day 30 rolls around.
The hardest thing has been the near constant onslaught of temptations outside of the house. At my ECFE (Early Childhood Family Education) “dads’ group” with the kids on Monday night, one of the other dads brought approximately one million gourmet doughnuts for our snack. (When you compare the snacks between the dads’ groups and the moms’ groups, it appears that men are willfully committing nutritional suicide.) Then I had two days of professional development at the end of the week. With the advent of Valentine’s day, candy was the theme. Our work tables were festooned with sweets and we actually had activities where we tossed candy at each other to validate especially good ideas. Luckily, I appreciated the comedic value of all of this.
One of the support resources Sarah and I have used is an article about what to expect as we proceed through the 30 days, The Timeline: A Day-By-Day Guide To Your Whole30. Overall, things have been a bit less extreme for me than described in the article. In particular, I didn’t feel quite as “hungover” or cranky as expected during the first week. Last night, however, one of their predictions came through in spades. During days 8-15, one should expect dreams:
Youâ€™re dreaming. Not crazy nightmare or strange surrealist dreams, either. Incredibly normal and realistic dreams â€“ about donuts. Or Twinkies. Or Snickers.
Last night, just a day ahead of schedule, I had the most insanely vivid dream I’ve ever had about a piece of candy. I was teaching a first grade class about why Snickers bars are not a healthy snack. In order to do so, obviously, I had to slowly eat a Snickers. Dream reality allowed me to narrate while eating, and so I calmly explained why each delicious layer of chocolate, caramel, peanuts, and nougat was actually terrible. I woke up with the flavor and texture still vividly imprinted in my mind. This cracked me up, especially considering that I haven’t eaten a Snickers bar in ages. Maybe I had one of the mini-ones around Halloween, but it’s not one of my favorite candies, and I usually stick to fancier dark chocolate anyway. But my subconscious remembers exactly the flavor and texture of the real thing, and somehow it symbolized the deprivation that my body has been feeling this week.
Seven days down. So far so good. We’ll see how the next twenty-three go.