So I am on the Whole30 – a pretty hardcore, strictly Paleo diet. I’m not entirely sure why I decided to do this. I am not a vegetarian, vegan, anti-this-or-that kind of eater. I don’t distrust the food industry. I’m a stick-it-to-the-man kind of girl, but I’ve never viewed conventional, modern agriculture as “the man.” And from everything I knew about Whole30-ers, they were the exact kind of people who do.
I raised and showed hogs and steers in high school, and I was a passionate public speaking champion on the issue of agricultural policy in the US. I married a man who grew up on a farm, and can give you some hilarious accounts of notoriously mean billy goats on a rampage or mean mamma cows stampeding over his fragile 8 year-old-body. One of his earliest and fondest memories is standing next to his grandfather has he crouched down to milk cows.
I like, and believe in, conventional agriculture. Because I’ve been there. I saw it, start to finish, and I have no qualms about eating beef or pork or veggies that are conventional grown on family farms, large and small. And guys, newsflash: like ninety plus percent of farms are family farms. Big companies like Frito Lay are buying their raw products from families. People. Warm bodies, busting their asses every day to turn a profit to feed their kids and yours and all those nekked little brown babies in Africa.
Conventional agriculture is not this robotic, blood-spattered horror-house of doe-eyed animals being tortured.
Except, in my personal opinion and experience, the poultry-sector of agriculture. It’s efficient, but also pretty disgusting. If you’ve ever been to a processing plant or even killed a bird on your own farm for consumption, you know what I’m talking about. I’m not going to wax poetic about it…a chicken processing plant is kind of like a scene from Carrie, plus a few feathers. It’s humane, but still a little shocking. But that comes with the territory, I think. Whether they’re grown on a large operation or laying eggs in your backyard, birds are just kind of gross animals. And I know people who raise chickens in both environments, and trust the products harvested in each. But still….I just have a thing about chickens. Yucky. I’ll raise cattle all day but pass on the poultry.
But I digress. So, knowing and experiencing lots of agricultural settings and processes, I chalk anything labeled as organic-gluten-cruelty-hormone free, free-range, blah blah blah up to be a little silly. And people who buy and believe in those products to be a bit uninformed, although well intentioned. I think there is a seat at the table for all kinds of agriculture, big and small and organic and GMO and rural and urban.
So, part one summarized: I don’t regulate the type of food I buy based on how it was grown, simply because I enjoy supporting family farms. Farmers and ranchers are the hardest working, most loving people I know – especially in regards to the animals and crops they raise. I don’t want to see conventional agriculture extinct, I want it to flourish like all the rest of agriculture.
Part two: I don’t regulate the type of food I eat because obsessing over everything that enters my mouth is a slippery slope to a place I’d rather not revisit. I feel this way about not just the food I eat and the way I exercise, but talking about it as well…I was hesitant to do this post because I would never want to give anyone the idea that obsessing over your food is okay. It’s not. From about 1st grade to, oh, junior year of high school I did some weird and unhealthy things surrounding my food. Of course, at the time, I thought it was all about being chubby or whatever. I now know controlling my food was simply a tool I used to control my anxiety. People do it with exercise, with drugs, with alcohol, with shopping, etc. I did it with food.
It doesn’t really matter if you’re fat and binge eating or skinny and eating Paleo – if you’re controlling your food as a way to manage your stress or anxiety, you’re paddling up an emotional shit creek. So when I watched my blogger friend do the Whole30, my defenses went up. I thought I would never, and should never, do the Whole30.
Sigh. So there are all the reasons I did not want to do Whole30. I had a lot of judgements and defenses. And I’m an extremely open, tolerant person. If I find myself judging or getting angry about something, it’s usually something I need to better understand – and the deepest understanding comes from experience.
So I started the Whole30 program when my diet was almost completely composed of grains and dairy. I know this can’t be healthy. My sleeping patterns were way off, even for me. I wanted to lose 10 vanity pounds that have creeped up in the years since high school. My skin was gross. My moods were erratic.
I needed a change. And something inside me whispered, Jess you are a grown ass woman. Living on milk, granola bars and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle shaped mac ‘n’ cheese is probably not conducive to your overall well-being. I needed to develop patterns that were healthier.
So I started the Whole30 program. I’m on Day 8… Here’s how it’s shaking down.
– The program says no dairy, grains, legumes or sugar. Sugar is in EVERYTHING. It’s in canned tomato soup, for cryin’ out loud. Sugar is almost impossible to avoid. If I do consume it, I make sure the label (usually on beef jerky – a good on-the-go snack) says less than 1 percent of sugar of any kind.
– I enlisted my parents to do the program with me. Dad is following it a little more loosely (cough, BEER, cough) than Mom and I. But, we are for the most part “by the book.” I’d say we are about about 95 percent compliant with the program.
– Surprisingly, I’m not jonesin’ for anything in particular. I craved a granola bar (my FAVORITE food) hardcore on about Day 2. But since then? I got nothin’.
– I take that back. The girl across from me in this library is drinking a Dr. Pepper. Damn, that’s a good looking Dr. Pepper…
– I eat two eggs and some hashbrowns every morning.
– I only hate chicken more and more with this program. It’s so boring and bland. I eat steak and pork mostly. I seriously may denounce chicken altogether. I haven’t decided.
– I struggled early on with palette boredom. But now, I’m basically eating to ward off hunger and for no other reason. That’s part nice, part boring and kind of sad.
– If you aren’t a hardcore cook: keep it simple. Meat, veggies, compliant seasoning. You don’t need to whip out the homemade almond milk or nut butter (ha! still can’t say that without laughing) or gluten free whatever to make a Whole30 compliant meal. The buying and planning around meals is time consuming enough, so if you’re busy or just don’t like to cook I suggest keeping it basic.
– I feel skinnier, for sure. The “rules” say you aren’t supposed to step on the scale but I did because I was skeptical: I’ve lost 4 lbs. I basically think I look better nekked, which isn’t an infomercial-worthy transformation but I’m not complaining.
– I feel happier. My mood swings are not so…swingy.
– I have had some headaches. I blame sugar withdrawal.
– Lots of hardcore Whole30-ers claim miracle-like healing of ailments, but I’m not feeling it. My hips are almost always achy and that hasn’t changed since being on the program. Yoga is the only thing that helps.
– Certain things are tastier than before, like tomatoes, onions and avocado. But I am still not a fan of green beans.
– I’m hardly snacking between meals. If I do, it’s beef jerky, a piece of fruit or sunflower seeds.
– I feel much less emotional around and about eating than ever before. Every meal isn’t saturated with guilt or justification or any emotion – happy or sad. It just is. It’s a refreshing change.
– I ordered some compliant snack bars that will conveniently be delivered right around the time I complete my first third of the program. I’ll have them for when I travel for the first time since being on the program. This was unintentional but turns out to be a smart move: I’ll introduce something new to my palette right around the time “cheating” would be most convenient.
– Mom and Dad both say their energy levels are good and they aren’t experiencing cravings either.
– Cory is, of course, not on Whole30. It’s not his gig.
I will be blogging again on the Whole30 when I hit the halfway mark, then near the end. If you’re interested in the Whole30, my friend gives some great advice. I’ve been blowing up her phone with questions. You can read her tips here.
Have you ever gone on a fast, a Paleo diet, an all-vegan/vegetarian diet or even the Whole30? How’d it go? Tell me in the comments…and feel free to sling out some advice:)