Eat Well: Elimination // Whole30

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I've been going back and forth on whether or not to tell y'all about this.

On Monday, my husband and I started the Whole30, an increasingly popular diet. Well, the founders of the Whole30 would probably resist the moniker "diet" - it's more about cutting "bad" foods out of your life and only eating naturally occurring things. But you get the point.

To be honest, as far as "diets" go, the Whole30 is up my alley. I've never been able to stick to a diet where you count calories and measure your portions with the end goal of losing weight. What I have done are "elimination diets" - I've given up all dessert for Lent, I've given up gluten for a month, I've given up eating out for a month, etc. I thought I was unique in this, but apparently it's a thing.

In the Whole30, you cut entire food groups out of your diet (desserts, grains, white potatoes, soy, etc.) and can eat as much meat and vegetables as you want which is great because 1) portion control is not my thing but 2) there's only so much meat, vegetables, and fruit you can eat before you're stuffed.

I'll be honest - I was hesitating to tell you guys about this eating experiment because I wanted to avoid accountability on all fronts. Generally when I've tried stuff like this in the past I haven't done a great job - and I'd rather fail in private than fail in public. However, I spent the past two days on a business trip in Wisconsin and somehow managed to stick to the tenets of the plan. You really don't realize how carb-y American food is until you try to buy dinner in an airport. Nonetheless, the fact that I made it through two crazy, travel-filled days means I can easily take on another 27 days at home! And I want you guys to keep me honest. So that's the deal.

Also, please note that this diet did not keep me from pinning about a million Oreo brownie recipes on Pinterest last night. My body may be in the process of giving up sugar, but my mind is still addicted.

Also, the Whole30 website appears to be down, so I can't link to it right now - you should definitely Google it yourself, though!

Be Well: Back on Track

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Okay, maybe the title of this post should be "Mostly Back on Track" but hey, I'm going for it.

This week I took a major leap: my husband and I started a paleo-inspired, low-carb diet. I know - I'm not into depravation, and I really like to eat. Trust me, I'm not going cold-turkey - I still have dark chocolate in my pantry and I expect to enjoy a nice dinner out from time to time. But today and for the foreseeable future it's goodbye, processed food, bread, dairy, and dessert and hello meat, vegetables, and more meat.

I knew it was time to take the diet plunge the first time I realized that I was afraid to step on the scale. Like I literally avoided it because I knew I would be so demoralized by the number I saw there. Also, I've spent the last month complaining to my husband that I'm a fatty and then stuffing my face with delicious baked treats, so there's that, too. It was time to put my money where my mouth is, rather than just putting chocolate where my mouth is.

The other motivation behind deciding to do this diet is that I've never actually done a diet before. I mean, I did my paleo eating experiment, but the goal wasn't really to lose weight. This time the goal is to lose weight, and it's really important to me that I prove to myself that I'm capable of being successful. I'm going to weigh myself once a week and I even bought one of those seamstress's tape measures so I can track whether I lose inches off my waist. I realize I'm achieving nerd status with my goals and measurements, but I figure shooting for something specific is a necessary component to a successful diet/exercise plan - otherwise, it can seem like you're going to have to deprive yourself forever. I want to know when I can stop!

Most of all, I want to feel like my healthy, fit self again. For the past couple months I've been overindulging in great meals and underperforming on going to the gym, so I think it's about time I switched the priority of those two pastimes.

I started this little adventure on Monday, so how's it going so far, you ask? Well, it's been really hard. In fact, I'm surprised I managed to make it through Tuesday without caving. I thought Monday was bad (I was seeing mirages of cupcakes in the afternoon, I swear), but then Tuesday morning I woke up at 5:15AM with a migraine-status headache. I had to scrap going to the gym in favor of laying in bed, praying that I wouldn't throw up. Luckily, some medicine cleared the headache up quick, but then my workday was pretty crazy starting at 7:30AM and ending around 7:30PM. I ended up eating lunch at 3:00, and although my stressed-out brain was begging me to go get a cheese sandwich, I somehow forced myself into Chipotle where it's easy to get a no rice, no beans, meat and vegetable extravaganza. Work, stress, and physical pain are three of the major excuses I use to "treat myself" and eat what I want, so I figure if I can stick to my diet plan on a day like yesterday, I can make it through any day. Right?

Right. This is happening, and you guys will hold me accountable. If any of you are hoping to clean up your eating act, let me know - I'm always in favor of the buddy system to keep yourself honest!

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On this day, as on all other days, I turn to books to make it all make sense. Today, the book on my mind is Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. Read it for the tragedy, read it for the good.

Be Well: Vacation Prep

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There are so many things to do in preparation for a vacation. There are even more things to do when you're prepping for a beach vacation - not only do you have to make sure your flights are booked, suitcase is packed, and Kindle is loaded, but you also need to make sure that you feel happy and confident in your appearance. And a whole week in a bathing suit requires some serious confidence, so in order to adequately prep for a beach vacation, you have to start pretty far in advance. While I'm not a huge fan of dieting/exercising JUST to look good in a swimsuit (good health should be a priority year round), I completely understand that sometimes it takes an impending week spent in the sand to make yourself reevaluate some of your recent health and wellness choices. That was certainly the case for me and my husband.

We had a really gluttonous April. Like, really gluttonous. With so many fun restaurants in San Francisco to try and so many friends to try them with, we found ourselves eating heavy meals three or four times a week. While I pretty much always enjoy a heavy meal, unhealthy outing after unhealthy outing can start to weigh on you (edit: pun originally not intended). So, with our July beach vacation in mind, we decided to change the way we were eating. We decided to go paleo.

I know. I know. The whole paleo diet craze drives me insane (have I ranted about that yet?). Just the name" paleo" is enough to send me into paroxysms of criticism - to start, the name is inane. NO ONE who practices the paleo diet today in America is doing anything even somewhat resembling living in the paleolithic period. If they were living under rocks, killing animals with handmade spears, never seeing a doctor, and dying when they were 30 in tribal attacks, THEN the diet/lifestyle would be appropriately named. But I digress. Despite my beef with the naming convention (and let's face it, there's a lot of beef), I think there's something really compelling about this whole meat-and-vegetables thing. About cutting out processed foods. About cutting out sugar. I don't think there's a nutritionist in America who wouldn't agree that the vast majority of people need to eat fewer carbs and eat more fruits and vegetables. My husband and I were definitely part of that population, so we decided to do something about it.

Our "paleo" (ugh) diet boiled down to this - for breakfast, we ate eggs and fruit, for lunch, we avoided bread and rice wherever possible, and for dinner we ate meat, brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and onions. I know that sounds boring (and like we were giving up a lot) but honestly, it just wasn't that hard. Yes, I definitely craved sweets on multiple occasions. And yes, we did cave every once in awhile and eat a whole pizza (what's life without pizza?). But for the most part, we stuck to the plan. We ate single squares of dark chocolate on the nights where we just had to have dessert. And we ate normally whenever we went to restaurants with friends - the point of the diet was not to make people around us uncomfortable.

One of the best parts about our little clean eating experiment was how easy cooking dinner became. Seriously, 15 minutes of dicing and seasoning vegetables followed by 40 or so minutes in the oven and you are DONE (this is made even easier when your husband does it for you every night). Fifteen minutes of labor isn't asking all that much of someone, even if you've just had a long day at work. You generally wouldn't think that food preparation would get easier when you were trying to adhere to a diet, but in this case, it did. Major point in the paleo column (seriously, paleo, ugh).

I'm not going to claim that I lost a bunch of weight. I didn't. I don't look like a supermodel after a month and a half-ish of eating healthily (you've seen my pictures). However, I truly feel so much better. One of the best benefits for me personally was finally cutting dairy out of my diet fullscale. I can't digest dairy. I know that, and yet I keep eating it because it's JUST SO DELICIOUS. But after a few days of eating meat, fruit, and vegetables (and nuts every once in awhile, too!), I noticed that my stomachaches went away. I noticed that I didn't feel heavy and lethargic. Will I still eat pizza and ice cream every once in awhile? You'd better believe it. But I know now that life feels pretty great without them, too.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this little mini-essay. I guess I just wanted you guys to know that I tried another food experiment, and I think it worked really well. Has my opinion on depravation changed? Absolutely not. I think eating strictly paleo while maintaining a normal social life would be borderline impossible, and I'm just not willing to sacrifice happy hours, new restaurant outings, or the occasional trip to Bi-Rite for paleolithic perfection. But for those of you who, like me, want to clean up your eating act but find all of the diet guidance out there to be just too confusing, in my opinion, sticking to the meat, vegetables, and fruit; no processed, no sugar, no fried model is simple, easy, and effective. Do you have to refer to it as "paleo"? No. (In fact, please don't.) But will it have a positive impact on your health? I truly think it will.

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So, three days to go until we're beach-bound! So. Much. To. Do. This week I've realized that one of the most important steps in prepping for a trip is realizing when to say no; when to take it easy. Last night, after a longgggg day at work, I came home to an empty apartment. Part of me wanted to do what I always do: hop on my computer, work on this blog for an hour or two, answer as many emails as I could, and then go to bed early so I could get up in the morning to go to the gym. But you know what? I think that would have sent me over the stressed-out edge. So instead I put my computer to the side, watched two hours of Chopped, ordered sushi, and eventually wrote this somewhat-cathartic essay. And no, I did not go to the gym this morning. That's what tomorrow is for, right?

Eat some meat and vegetables, and have a wonderful day!