The Whole30 Pt. III: The Bread is Nigh!

It’s the LAST DAY OF THE Whole30 EXPERIMENT! YES, ALREADY! I’ve come a long way from trying to huff cake and hoping to taste tiger blood (whether it’s on the plan or not)! At the end of it all, this was an experiment, and while I could yell about how excited I am about eating peanut butter for an entire post, but there’s information here and ready… So let’s get to the juicy stuff.

Some of the good things I’ve experienced on the plan:

• I stopped counting calories. Some years back, I was a fastidious (obsessive) calorie counter. That’s not the case anymore, but I still usually take mental tallies over the course of any day—like a weird hobby. This all but stopped the deeper I got into the Whole30. Even richer foods such as coconut oil, nut butters, dried fruits, or sausage, no longer have me reaching for a calculator.

• I started reading MORE labels. Label checking during my vegan experiment was small-time compared to the ingredient-scanning terminator I’ve turned into now. I can spot sugar almost in an instant. Soybean oil? Forget it! Corn? Back to the shelf with you! As a result, I’ve eaten less food with ingredient lists, and more dishes with ingredients

• My tastebuds have changed.  I won’t be able to confirm this until I eat something with refined sugar in it (something I’ll be putting off as much and as long as I can), but I think I’m currently experiencing natural sugars as the peak of sweetness. Yesterday I had few dried medjool dates, and I stood in my kitchen, chewing and marvelling over the the fact that I was sure they tasted EXACTLY caramels. Insane, I know.

My boss also says my skin has been looking amazing, but I still have some blemishes on my jaw, a recent problem area of mine… So either she’s biased and pro-program, or the rest of my skin looks good?

Some other observations about the body & mind:

Body stuff: Program protocol says you’re not supposed to weigh yourself at all, which I understand, and actually agree with (despite hating a lot of the Whole30’s website with a passion). I think the less people stare at the scale, the better.
HOW. EV. VER. This was an experiment and so weigh-ins became part of the data. I’ve been losing at a steady, healthy pace of about 1lb a week, so not all that different from my regular routine.

I didn’t use a tape measure, but it’s totally possible I smoked an inch or two off, between the leafy greens and ramping up my running mileage. My clothes do seem to be fitting better, but I’m not certain if that’s a by-product of the work or the diet changes?

Mind stuff: The Whole30 didn’t give me an endless wellspring of energy, but that could also be because I usually don’t get enough hours of sleep during the week anyway (and the one day that I drank egg coffee). To be fair to the program, I’m in the middle of tapering off of anti-depressants, so any lows could be linked to that.

It DID get me to examine lots of the food systems that exist in my immediate surroundings. The fact that sugar is everywhere, in everything, or that buying sustainable free-range, antibiotic-free meat is privilege. It opened conversations with friends about food—friends who I didn’t know would be interested in the topic in the first place.

Lastly, it showed me that temptation is basically nothing, and I’m capable of maintaining whatever food decisions I choose to abide in the future. That’s a great feeling, powerful feeling. While I wouldn’t say the Whole30 changed my life, that’s a bit too assertive and sweeping. I would say that it changed my mind—for the better.

Plus, now that first bite of off-plan pizza is going to be A-MAZ-ING. I can’t WAIT to start cooking with more variety again!

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.

 

Stop Using My Weight to Compliment My Weight Loss

Truth: not everyone who starts exercising wants to lose weight or change how they look.

Between the mental and physical benefits (healthy brain, heart, lungs, joints!), the social aspect of workout buddies or groups, and the variety of activities available (zumba, trampoline cardio, rock climbing, parkour, pole dancing lessons?!), there are tons of other reasons to get active that have nothing to do with appearances.

Crazier truth: sometimes compliments about weight loss can be hurtful.

Hear me out—I’m NOT saying to never give compliments to your friend who just started running, or your brother who has become a hot yoga junkie. When they’re done right, compliments are GOLD. They feel like a mighty simultaneous fist bump from the people you love AND the universe. The thing is, when they’re done WRONG, they’re half way to insults.

It’s true, many people ARE trying to get to their idea of their best physical self. Many people who lose weight start out with this motive: if you’ve read any articles about body transformations you’re probably familiar with trope of  “hitting rock bottom.” I’ve found that a really common rock bottom is someone seeing photos of themselves at a special event like a party or a wedding, and realizing they want to make a change—

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

I’m saying even if the person you want to praise might really enjoy a pointed compliment about how slim they are looking, you owe them better than that. Think about what you’ve said about their value if all of your praise is purely based on how they look. What does it say about who they were before in your eyes?

A really good compliment will acknowledge their progress while empowering their further efforts. Otherwise, that’s when stuff turns into mixed signals, feels backhanded and starts to sting:
Screen Shot 2017-02-23 at 9.40.17 PM.png

We are not numbers on scales, or pants measurements, the calories we eat in a day, or the amount we can deadlift. Reducing someone’s lifestyle change, or whatever-the-hell-they’re-calling-it to numbers or pure physicality? Not okay. These misplaced priorities are why we have self-hating fitspo and fat shamers and eating disorders.

So you have a friend, or a family member, or a significant other who has been working their literal ass off, and you want to show that you’ve recognized their effort. What do you do?

Maybe this person thinks that the best kind of praise is focused on the physical, but you can open their mind up to their own awesomeness with one simple move: praise the work of the artisan, not the art.

We live in the era of the process. We are encouraged to know the farmers who raise our crops, we watch documentaries about how things get made, we will generally pay more for craftsmanship. We want to meet Oz behind the curtain. There’s a lot of power in showing that you acknowledge their process.

In my personal experience, comments on my size are actually kind of awkward or alienating. (Though if you are going to go for physical praise consider a positive “your butt looks great!” versus the critical ring of “oooh you’re so skinny!”) Of course, this  is not one-size-fits-all advice. No matter what, some people will be pleased, and some people might find it embarrassing and highly personal. You just. Don’t. Know.

There are always other words to show someone that you’ve noticed they are growing: tell someone that you’ve noticed the hard work they’ve been doing, and that you’re proud of them. If they’ve inspired you, TELL THEM THAT! If you have noticed they seem to be more positive, acknowledge this change in temperature.

They will appreciate the acknowledgment, and hopefully begin to see themselves as the glorious “MORE” that we all deserve.

#AVeryVeganApril

Okay that title isn’t accurate, but #AVeryVeganFortnight didn’t sound as good. (Also, have a picture of a Highland cow, vegan creature and unofficial mascot of this post… because I like Highland cows.)

The challenge: eat vegan for two weeks, from April 1-14. No using recipes I’ve tried before to make it happen. (I could eat peanut noodles with tempeh forever, soooo…)

Why: For fun! I like cooking, and I eat a lot of cheese, so this is a good way to change things up and try new dishes and ingredients.

How’s it goin’, eh?: I eat vegetarian about six days a week, so this maybe isn’t as hard for me as it might be for someone who eats more animal products. THAT BEING SAID,  friends came from out of town and wanted to meet for the best smoked meat in Montreal so, at least ONE lunch was a delicious bust.

My kitchen has changed up too! I’ve tried new recipes, ventured into tapioca starch, and made vegan queso. (I also screwed up Veganaise by using almond milk instead of soy.)

The biggest change I’ve noticed is that I’m taking care to read a lot more labels. I look at ingredients to scan for animal products, and in the process, I’m noticing all the additives and preservatives that are even in the healthy foods that I eat (especially things like breads or tortillas). Here’s to nosh with less additives?

What are you eating, dude?:

Uhm, basically whatever I want, without the cheese? It has been a lot of curious comfort food and some indulgent bites, but I’m always trying to add more vegetables to everything, and I’ve got a veggie burger recipe coming that BLEW. MY. MIND. So stay tuned for that!

Avo Nice Day Guacamole

Homemade guacamole speaks for itself and literally needs no introduction. I’ll just say if you’re a fan and you’re not making it from scratch, you haven’t truly LIVED!

I like my tomato and onion rough-chopped for more texture. If you like yours smoother, just chop up the ingredients more finely before incorporating them.

Guacamole toast is like avocado toast with a soul. There, I said it. 

Avo Nice Day Guacamole

2 small, ripe avocados
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
1 lime, juiced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 heaping tbsp. flax seed meal (optional)

1.  In a small bowl, mash up the avocado flesh with a fork, reserving at least one of the pits, and setting aside.

2. Stir in crushed garlic, as well as tomato and onion, mixing thoroughly.

3. Add lime juice and stir to combine. Taste, then add salt and pepper to your personal preference. If you’re adding flax seed meal, stir it in.

4. Enjoy immediately with nacho chips, toast, or however you usually eat your lame grocery store guacamole… just better. If you want to save yours for later, put it in an airtight container and add one of the pits to keep it from browning quickly.

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.

Plus-sized Microaggressions

I work for a company that offers some pretty awesome benefits, and one of them is a free membership to a small gym about two minutes away from work. I hate going to the gym—trapped in four walls, every rep or minute on a treadmill reminds me of a time I could be outside or at home.

Recently though, I decided I might incorporate more weights into my routine, shoving down my hatred with podcasts and music, so I went to activate my free membership—that’s when I ran right into a wall.

Maybe it was the way I thought the door was stuck on my way in, and the guy at the front desk pulled it open for me. Maybe it was my large wool coat and the hoodie underneath making me look bigger than my already larger size. Maybe the guy was more French than English  and didn’t know what he was saying (which sometimes happens on Montreal) but in any case, giving me the preamble, the man at the front desk asked:

“have you exercised before?”

I think I laughed.

I knew what he really meant. He really meant, “have you been to a gym?” and “are you familiar with the equipment?” But that’s not what he said, and it got me to thinking. There is always a chance he would have asked a thin person the same question, just probably in a different way… or there’s a chance he might not have asked them at all. In any case, it had happened to me. I wasn’t even mad, I just made small talk as I filled out my form, told him I was looking to supplement my outdoor running with a weight routine—like I somehow had to back up my claim about having tried exercise EVER in my WHOLE LIFE.

Yes I move my body on a regular basis. No, I didn’t roll in here on a segue with a bucket of 7-11 slurpee just to look at the bros in the muscle zoo. 

When I was finished with my form, I went to check out the weight room upstairs. It was small, pretty standard—and yes, there were a few torture devices I had no clue about, but for the most part, gym standard. I left the place feeling off without understanding why, and texted some of my friends about it to get some feedback and opinion on it—they were more offended than I was.

Here’s what’s eating at me: this is something fat people have to deal with ALL THE TIME— whether it’s getting the stink eye for eating a Big Mac in public, or judged for wearing certain items of clothing we aren’t “supposed to” or assuming we got ever-so-lost and wandered into the gym by accident. People just like to judge us; it’s always open season on fat people. By being plus-sized, we’re visible in a way that others are not. The worst part about being this particular kind of visible in a gym, about the kind of microaggression I experienced, is that it can be discouraging.

It can make the surroundings feel unsafe or unwelcoming, make the person who experiences it feel like they have no place there. In a lot of ways, it can prevent us from breaking the cycle—if that’s something we want to do. (Yes there are people who are happy being plus sized! It’s a Thing. It’s none of your business!)

On the way home I wrestled with two extremes: ditch the gym idea and find new ways to work out in the safety of my bedroom, or stick it out and show him that I ain’t a slouch.

I chose neither, because I’m sure as hell not letting someone who doesn’t know me attempt to shove me into a box  or guide my decisions. I’ll go back there.  If I’m going to the gym, it’s going to be for me, and because I want to. I’m not here to impress anyone else.

I also thought of a great reply on the commute home: “have you exercised before?”

Yeah, dude—check my Instagram.