On Day 3 of the Whole30, I spent my commute home from work deciding if I would continue with this ridiculous abuse of myself being called a diet. If you’re not familiar, the Whole30 is a detox of certain types of foods for thirty days. For the duration, I would abstain from:
- Whole grains
- Added sugar (or substitutes – yes, even agave)
- and…what was that last one…oh…fun.
Everyone’s question after I told them: what else is left? Exactly. Yet, even though I lasted a mere 30 hours on that stupid lemonade diet (google it), I thought I could survive thirty days without what I thought were my vital nutrients (like rosé wine). I had even convinced my friend, Erin, to join me, starting the same day. That was Monday, and by Wednesday we were in the rationalization stage.
“We really didn’t eat that bad before. This diet is for the people who eat crap.”
“In two and a half days we’ve really learned what we are supposed to from this so we don’t need to continue.”
“I’ll come off it if you come off it, but we have to come off together.”
It didn’t help that I had done a poor job of stocking the kitchen with “compliant” food prior to starting. I had bought a few basics, but the yummy non-compliant options far exceeded the acceptable items. I had allotted the time immediately following work on Wednesday to shop for everything imaginable that God would allow me on this wretched meal plan. Then that rationalization kicked in. I needed reinforcements.
I had told my Mom about the Whole30, and she expressed some interest. I’ve been trying for years to get my Mom to eat better for health reasons. I decided that the fate of my health rested in testing that interest of my dear ol’ mother. In the 40-minute drive from work to Trader Joe’s, if I could convince Mom to start the diet as well, then I would blow my grocery budget on Whole30 compliant foods, thus forcing myself to stick with it. I’m not sure my mom knew when she answered the phone that my accountability now rested in her hands. (I don’t know if that makes sense at all, but we’ll go with it).
My mom said she would do it! She also added a bonus in that my sister loved the idea and was going to start the same day she did. It was settled. My next thirty days were going to be brutal.
An hour later I rolled into my apartment where Erin lived below me. She hurried upstairs, excited to see what our first cheat would be after these two and a half grueling days. I witnessed as her smile sank into a frown in slow motion. It was like each bag of vegetables she saw on my kitchen table was quietly stabbing her.
“I take it this means we’re not quitting?” I shook my head. The only other time I’ve seen that much disappointment in her was when I had to cancel our trip to Sea World. (That’s before we were all woke about Sea World being awful).
Our journey began. Here’s how I survived:
- TEAM UP. I ended up with two friends and two family members doing the diet at the same time. This diet takes some focus, so chatting with people who were in the same boat made me feel less annoying than when I chatted about it with the guy I had just started dating.
- HIDE THE CRAP. I took everything that was non-compliant and either put it on the top shelf of the cabinet or in one drawers of the fridge which would become known as the evil drawer.
- STOCK THE F*** UP ON COMPLIANT FOOD. When I say, I blew through my grocery budget on Whole30 food, I’m not joking. I bought almost everything on the Trader Joe’s shopping list (whoever posted that deserves a Nobel prize).
- LOVE THE EGG. Like, really love the egg. Scrambled eggs for breakfast. Fried eggs on top of bun-less burgers to give a little extra flavor. Hard boiled eggs in the fridge at all times for a snack. I even used pasteurized liquid egg whites as a protein supplement for smoothies (because God has not made a sugarless protein powder yet).
- SPIRALIZE. A year ago, I would slap someone I caught saying this, but squash put through a spiralizer and cooked with ground turkey and plain tomato sauce can almost pass for pasta. Plus, the actual spiralizing process is kind of fun. Quick tip. Actual pasta expands when you cook it. Veggie pasta does the exact opposite. So, make a lot.
- MEAL PREP. I’m a single guy who does comedy shows, so my go-to meal quickie meal was microwaving frozen meatballs. Meatballs with bread in them. That wasn’t going to work. Whenever I cooked I made a lot of it and made multiple dishes at once.
- BURN THOSE VEGGIES. I’m not sure the healthiest way to have veggies is to burn them, and I didn’t always, but tossing those suckers with olive oil, salt and pepper and throwing them into the oven until they’re just on the brink of setting off a smoke alarm added some much-needed flavor to my meals.
- GET CREATIVE (WITHOUT BREAKING THE RULES). One of the rules of the Whole30 is that you’re not supposed to recreate your bad food with good ingredients because of psychological blah, blah, blah. I guess there’s a way to make cookies that are compliant? I learned to experiment, and sometimes it worked while other times I found myself throwing a batch of What-On-Earth-Is-That-Texture-Cakes down the drain. Then sometimes you end up with a totally amazing chicken salad made from compliant mayo, apple cider vinegar, dates and pickled onions and you think, “I am a warlock.”
- WAIT FOR THE COMPLEMENT. It may not come as soon as you think, but the minute someone who didn’t know I was on this diet said, “Something’s different. Your skin’s looking great,” it was like motivation bottled up for at least another couple days. That complement doesn’t have to come from a person. It could just be the universe. My mom got her complement when she tried on a pair of snug pants to discover they were now loose.
A month ago, I pronounced myself victorious, having survived the entire thirty days! Now, don’t tell anyone this, but I miss it. Here’s what I learned.
- SLEEP. I don’t think I’ve ever slept as well as I did during that time.
- I CAN COOK! For real. It looks like I can do more than microwave meatballs. I didn’t even do a fraction of the recipes online, but even after I was done I was still taking my time to make better meals. I was notorious for making dinner out of a Trader Joe’s meal in a bag, but I haven’t bought one of those bags since. I’m sorry, Frozen Beef and Broccoli, it’s time to move on.
- SUGAR IS EVERYWHERE. For real. Who knew they put sugar in everything under all sorts of different names. Even in the photo above, the very first thing you see, the tuna burgers, is non-compliant. I messed up a couple times with those types of hidden sugar. I never ate a cupcake, but a couple occasions I caught myself going, “This is really good…wait…what’s dextrose?”
- BLOATING SUCKS. One of the reasons I went on the diet is that more often than usual I was getting that uncomfortable bloating feeling after eating. Within a couple days of starting I realized I wasn’t getting that feeling. Ever. And didn’t again until I started back on normal people food.
- CLEAN DIET = MORE PRODUCTIVE. I guess you could logically put together that I would have more energy and mental clarity, but I really got a ton done in that 30 days. I even pulled up my living room carpet and polished the hardwood floors underneath, which I didn’t even know I could do. Yes, I know. I’m butch.
- I STILL LOVE WINE. What? You thought these were all going to be happy? Nope. For someone who loves an adult beverage, having a club soda at a bar where I was performing was actually not so bad. What I missed was that glass of wine in my apartment after a long day. Granted, the lack of wine probably helped that whole sleep thing, but if you love that one glass as you watch the latest Scandal, that’ll be tough. Erin would throw club soda into a wine glass, so maybe?
- LEGUMES…WHO KNEW? They tell you to add items back to your diet gradually. Of course, wine was my first addition. My last? Beans. The one I reacted to the worst? Beans. I always thought they were super healthy, but an hour after my first bean exploration I had a headache and my asthma started acting up. WTF? Sorry, Hummus. Looks like this relationship might have to end, too.
- IT BECOMES A HABIT. When I go shopping now I mostly buy items that are more or less compliant because I got used to it. I think it’s like how kids who were yelled at for being boisterous end up being boring adults because they still don’t feel like they’re allowed to act up. Only eating better is a healthier habit than quieting your soul. But you get the point.
- 30 DAYS FEELS LIKE FOREVER…UNTIL IT’S DONE. Yup, it’s going to seem like the longest 30 days of your life. And when it’s done you’ll say, “That wasn’t so bad. Now where’s my god damn wine.”
love and plantain chips,