Whole-y Grail or Wholly Crap?

This month, I’m taking on the Whole30 Challenge with my friend and fellow blogger, McMaymie (check her out, she’s dope)!

This is out of my wheelhouse.  I generally think plans or diets that eliminate healthy staples like legumes or whole grains are less likely to be effective in the long term. However, in addition to the above, the Whole30 also slashes the usual suspects when it comes to better health: alcohol, added sugar, soy, and dairy.

My boss, who is in the middle of the program with her husband, calls it the “zero happiness” diet.

So, why would anyone in hell do this?

#1. I’M COMPETITIVE. Everyone calls it extreme. At first I thought that was funny and ridiculous, and then I wanted to experience it for myself.

#2.  I’M CURIOUS.  It’s an experiment to see how I fare, physically and mentally, in a kitchen full of restrictions. During my two-week vegan experiment in April, I noticed I eat a lot of breads with a lot of additives. I’m curious how my body feels without them. Many of the things the plan eliminates (lactose, gluten, soy) are irritants that cause inflammation to the system.

#3. PEOPLE ARE LOVING IT. So… I wanna know why. Can it really give me more energy? Balance my digestion? Find me a unicorn?

#3. I KIND OF HATE IT. At the very least I hate the voice they use on their website, and that resentment is fueling me to attempt to succeed for the full. 30. days.  Here’s an example of their slightly passive aggressive, humble-braggery: if you slip up, they say you should start the entire thing over again.

“If you want to do the Whole30, then do it, and either start after the special occasion or figure out how to enjoy your life without mojitos and cheese. We recommend the latter, because we haven’t had a mojito or cheese in ages, and we’re still happy and fun.”

Really? Because you sound smug and condescending. This isn’t making me like you any more. And sure, you don’t CARE that I like you, but if I’m following someone into the trenches and I don’t get to bring my cheese pizza as a shield, you had better find a BETTER way to lead me. So… let’s try this again. If there’s a slip SHOULD I start over again?

Answer #5: Do whatever you want, because you’re a grown-up.”

…Okay, you’re trying to shame me, and it’s not working. As an adult, any choice I make is an adult decision.

I’ve read lots of articles FOR and AGAINST this eating plan, and in the first week, it’s too early to judge which side I’ll fall on. Some of the rules of this regimen make sense to me. Some of them make me roll my eyes.

An episode of Food 52’s podcast Burnt Toast titled “Fat Is Not Bad, Stupid Is Bad” pinpointed something that usually irks me about these fad diets. The guest on the episode said a key part of eating nutritiously is “think for yourself.” With meal plans like this, many follow the rules to the letter. Sure, that’s the point, to go all in, to put in your faith and effort…. But I really think a healthy lifestyle cannot be one-size-fits-all, and the rules should be modified.

Here are some of the rules I’ll be bending/challenging/scoffing loudly at:

1. “No Sex With Pants On.” I think this rule, for certain people, is more damaging than it is useful. It’s when you make something that would be “off limits,” using ingredients that are technically approved by the plan—think coconut flour pancakes or zucchini pasta.  The Whole30 is fond of ‘nos.’ I think playing within ingredient constraints turns those negatives into positives.

“I can’t have this food,” turns into “I CAN cook with all of these other ones!” if you just loosen your grip a little. I’m not going to make meat bagels,  or even pancakes, but I refuse to strictly adhere to anything which doesn’t allow room for culinary play. It just ain’t gonna happen.  If you’re frustrated and bored with your food, you’ll be frustrated, and the plan won’t stick.

2. “No snacking.” L-O-L. It’s almost like this plan was made generically for a bunch of people without any flexibility as to their current state or their histories! (They do make exceptions for pre- or post-workout snacks.) I spent a long time as a binge eater. I’m still in recovery from that, and I remember the days when the feeling of hunger was an exciting novelty to be embraced and nurtured. When I am hungry, I am going to eat a rule-abiding snack. If my body is talking, I will be listening.

3. “No weighing yourself.” I get this one. I really do. As someone who has occasional scale struggle, I understand. And I could, when I break it down, go without a scale for a full month. But I don’t have to, and I don’t want to. Apparently it’s because if you’re in the middle of the plan and you don’t get results you want, you’ll feel discouraged. I have zero expectations of results. I want some gosh darn data during an experiment. Will I be cutting down on the frequency of my weigh ins? Absolutely.

So that’s it, my brief summary of my reasons for foraying into the cult-like eating experience that is sure to be the Whole30…

More to come unless I die very soon from the lack of cheddar in my system.

 

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On Finding Fat in Fit Spaces

Being fat is hard. It’s especially hard to be fat in traditionally “fit” spaces—health clubs, yoga studios, sporting goods stores, hell, even restaurants serving up healthier fare. In general, the world hasn’t realized that you can be fit and be fat simultaneously, so the very presence of someone with an so-called imperfect BMI in any of these locales automatically shoves fat people into the category of “other.” According to traditional standards, we don’t belong there.

I recently wrote about a gym employee who asked me if I had ever exercised before, and while I generally try to assume people mean no harm, the experience left me feeling like a sausage shovelled into a skintight leotard, centre stage on opening night. That is to say, the question othered me so hard that I wasn’t 100% comfortable being there. Translation: you are different. This is not your space. You don’t belong here… yet.

As though if I go to that gym enough, one day I’ll sashay through the door as in society-issued size 6, and the employee will know he made a mistake thinking I was a “them” instead of an “us.”

Such bullshit, wow.

We shouldn’t have to change to feel comfortable anywhere. These spaces should encourage, rather than alienate, the plus-sizers of the world. At best, encourage and welcome, at worst, shut up and mind your own business, right? This is such a common thing that whenever I have a positive interaction in any of these places, it’s kind of mind-blowing.

This week, I was looking at pictures of my first 5K run ever, and realized I’ve been in t[he same running shoes since 2011. My running periods have come and gone, but these shoes were my first 5K and 10K shoes. These shoes ran me around Scotland. The 20-year-old who first wore them is physically and mentally a very different person now, and besides the cartilage in my knees also probably appreciating a little break, it all translated into NEW SHOES REQUIRED. There was one hiccup—I didn’t want to go to the Running Room near my place because I was intimidated by the idea of putting myself into a space I felt I wouldn’t be welcomed.

I like to run, but I don’t call myself a runner. I am not a certified member of the the Cult of Running(tm), the gazelle-human hybrids who are constantly seen with hydration belts, compression socks, and the calves of Greek gods.

But of all the things to not order online, the shoes that will possibly run you through another 6 years of your life (lol) might be on the top of the list, so I sucked it up and went to the store, preparing to defend myself. What I got instead was a warm welcome, and it was amazing.

The woman there was so keen and kind, telling me about local running groups and classes. She talked about being part of our community. Our. She didn’t assume I was a beginner. She ordered me in my shoes from another store, and when I went in on Saturday to pick them up, the two employees working there automatically asked if I had come in to sign up for the race up the mountain on Monday. L. O.L. A RUN UP A MOUNTAIN.

It was amazing. I almost couldn’t believe what I was hearing or the way I was being treated. You don’t realize how hard you’ve been othered in one situation until you get to be treated like one of the “us’s” in another. I have the class lists and the brochures next to me right now. For the first time in a long time, I’m excited about the prospect of fit space—that’s the way it should be.

Obvious S#@! You Already Know, Backed Up by Winter Running

#1. Take Baby Steps
Okay yes, duh: it’s logic. Start small and work towards bigger challenges. You don’t want to sign up for a 10K this coming weekend if you don’t feel confident about running around the block.  Winter running, also incorporates this literally, take small steps, actual baby ones.

The Cult of Running(tm) is filled with sleek, gazelle-like individuals who glide along pavement like it’s a conveyer belt and have calves of granite. I am not a member, but I know that even THEY have to slow down in the winter because it’s dangerous. On the snowiest, iciest days, I’m afraid a wider stride will send me crashing down to the ice, even in cleats.

So from the terror began the habit trotting along, and shortening my stride has helped me un-hunch my shoulders, improved my running posture, and helped me power through hills… which is a pretty dope tie in to the metaphor. Baby steps will get you up the mountain (and keep you from breaking any bones).

#2. Overprepare
Duh: it’s better to have too much ready to go than too little. Slightly less obvious? Trying to dress appropriately for a winter run is a complex math problem:

If it is -14 C outside but it is -22 with the windchill, blowing snow, and a sunny glare, but the body heats up 10 degrees on average during a run, how many layers of clothing should you put on for a 6 kilometre jaunt in order to keep your fingers and toes?

If I had taken up running earlier in high school I might have been less afraid of math after grappling with all of that BS. The answer is, layer up. Just be prepared for it to be COLD and if you’re too warm you can yank stuff off and carry it as you go. Overprepare!

#3. Hard Work Pays Off
Triple duh: running in snow can suck,  it’s like running in cold sand with the potential for an icy surprise at the center to send you sprawling across the pavement. It’s hard work, because it’s hard to get anywhere fast when you’re basically running on the bitterness of Canada’s natural treadmill.

But there’s an upside—what doesn’t shatter your bones or give you frostbite makes you stronger! There will come a day when the snow will melt. I know, it seems unending, and every time the sun dares to peek out, another foot of the white stuff feels likely to drop from on high…But it end. For the first time in weeks, the sidewalks here have been clear and moving from running in winter sand hell to straight pavement felt….almost….easy. The big e!

Now it’s not gonna feel like pixie dust forever, but there will be a few honeymoon runs where the sole hits nothing but the pavement and it’s such a confidence boost because of all the strength you got while slugging it out in the slush has come back to let you power on at full strength.