Several years ago, after reading one of my blogs, a woman I knew said to me, “I think you like writing about ‘getting healthy’ more than actually doing it.” That the words came from this person who literally could not gain weight, and was six feet tall and stick thin and smoked a pack of cigarettes a day made the statement even sharper, and the remark more cutting, regardless of its truth. Earlier this summer when my first friend from 1st grade asked me to start Whole30 with her, I said “yes” before I actually knew what it was, what it wasn’t, what it involved or didn’t, and what I was going to have to give up…to be honest, when I opened the email she sent me with the “what you can’t have” list, and the first thing I read was that dairy was out, I did not think I was going to be able to participate! Really. I really believed that my love of light cream or half&half in my coffee would prevent me from doing this program with her. Well, ‘wait,’ said my silly brain, of course I would, and could do anything, and obviously ANYbody can pretty much do ANYthing for 30 days, but I thought it would be much harder than it turned out to be.
This past July I was 31 pounds heavier than I was when she had made this statement to me, and more than 50 pounds had grown around me since 2003 when I had happily, excitedly, joyfully, slipped back into my high school sized 501 Levi’s, which I had not been able to wear since I’d found myself pregnant 18 years earlier…It’s embarassing to admit, but it’s true. No, I was not a yo-yo dieter, and no, I was not stupid, I KNEW what I needed to stop doing to lose that baby weight when my baby was born, and I knew what choices I had to make, the first choice being, “get back into your pants” but I didn’t. My life at that time was terrible. Let’s leave it at that. I found comfort in cans of Tab and packages of Oreos. Those behaviors, of comforting yourself with food, stick with you even when your life turns around and you are happy, loved, and fulfilled.
That baby became a toddler, then a pre-schooler, and before I knew it, that baby weight I was still carrying around me was sitting beside a teenager as we drove to the mall!!! …your brain still associates those ‘bad’ foods with “feeling good” even though it turns out those foods don’t make you feel good at all. I write “your” brain meaning brains in general, as I am very well aware that many people, MOST probably, have a much healthier relationship with food and with eating than I did, but anyway…
The long story short is this; for 35 days I did not have any half&half in my coffee and learned that black has a totally different flavor and coffee for me is an experience I enjoy thoroughly, no matter what. I did not buy one Wawa soft Philly pretzel and call it lunch, I did not buy any candy while waiting in line at any grocery store, I did not drink alcohol. I followed the rules and before the 30 days was up, I felt better…SO much better than I imagined I would, because you see, I did not realize how crappy I guess I was feeling most of the time!!! I did not feel thinner, but I felt more “right” than I think I have felt in a long time. My sore leg, what I always called my “bad” leg, which has hurt since an injury when I was just 14, was no longer swollen and no longer ached day in and day out. I felt more in control of everything, even though all that had changed was that I was making mindful decisions about what to eat or drink. My work schedule was still what it was, my relationships were exactly what they had been, my finances or worries or stresses were unchanged, all that changed was my choices to eat food that was healthy for me instead of food that was not.
After the 30 days was up I found I had lost 15.2 pounds and gained a lot of self-care feelings. Since those 30 days I have had many of the things I missed; goat cheese, wine, pizza, a few shots of vodka, crusty bread with butter one night in NYC, but I am changed. I want to write that I am forever changed, but I know that is exaggeration. I read a medical journal article many years ago that asserted that the brain reacts to sugar, and sweets in general, in the exact same way it does on hard drugs…the more we have it, the more we crave it, and then we need even more to get the same feelings…so I have the knowledge, I always have, I just, I don’t know…maybe now I suddenly care more than when I was younger?
Maybe I am worried, was worried, that I needed to get myself back to where I feel best before I turn 50 or I’ll be a lost cause??!! I have no answers right now I just have a plan. I felt so good following this program so religiously, that I think I must simply stay on it, or should I say, not stray too far for too long from it? I am pretty sure that at some point I will have a piece of lemon merengue pie again, and I know I will have some PEEPS at Halloween time, but I guess what I know mostly is that some sort of occasional sugar overload should be for my immediate gratification, and then be over, not a way of life to fall back to…I have since lost two more pounds and feel that, while I am excited to perhaps finally shed for good these pounds that have lived with me, on and off, for almost 32 years, I just simply feel so much more “right” if that makes any sense…maybe instead of calling it Whole30 I will call it Right50! I am going to be 50 in 46 days. I’m probably not going to follow my plan very well while I am celebrating on vacation in Mexico at an all-inclusive resort with my significant other, but I know this, when I get back from that birthday vacation, I’m probably going to need a whole 30 days to recover from the six! AND now I know that is okay, and it will all be okay, and it is all up to me how I handle my choices.
As summer turns to autumn perhaps I turn into the me I always wanted to be…full disclosure: I probably always will prefer writing about changing more than actually changing, and that is okay too. Much changed during this 30 day experiment, and most of it was me.
“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” –*Maya Angelou*