I try to eat healthy without being fanatical about it. I’ve got my vices, Pepsi foremost among them, and I usually eat whatever I want at restaurants. Otherwise, it’s a lot of salads, fruit, rice, and veggies.
Recently, my coworkers were talking about the Whole30 diet. The general gist of this rigid diet is that you eat from a restricted list of foods for thirty days to give your body a “reset.” During the rest, your body purges toxins, and you determine if certain foods are making you bloaty, achy, and tired.
One of my coworkers was on it and said he had more energy, less colds, and less achy joints.
Well. I don’t have any problem with colds or achy joints, but who wouldn’t want more energy?
On the spot, I decided to try it. It was only thirty days. How hard could it be?
I went back to my desk and called up the Whole30 website. It didn’t seem like one of those bizarre diets, like raw food or a thirty-day juice cleanse or ones that encouraged you to take a bunch of high-priced supplements. I wouldn’t be down for any of that.
This was just a list of foods you should and shouldn’t eat for thirty days. It seemed like it was primarily encouraging eating more vegetables, and who would argue with that?
I started reading the detailed banned list:
- No processed foods—things like McDonald’s, Hungry Man TV dinners, and potato chips.
- No junk food or baked goods. Double-duh.
- No added sugar. This would be tougher, as it would mean abstaining from Pepsi, but not a surprise.
- No alcohol. For thirty days? No problem-o.
- No legumes. No beans? I thought beans were healthy. I love beans. This would be a crimp in my beans and rice lunches, but I was keeping an open mind.
- No dairy. Wait, what? No cheese? Okay, I guess. But no half and half in my coffee? (The Whole30 practitioners stress that you cannot have cream in your coffee, not even a little bit, not even one time. It’s a hazing—you prove your commitment to the diet by giving up your coffee cream.) At least, I told myself, I wouldn’t have to give up coffee itself.
- No grains. Excuse-ey moi? No grains? No bread, no oatmeal in the morning, no rice, no pasta. No wheat. No wraps. Gluten-free does not count. Out, out, out. Gulp.
Here’s what you can eat:
- Meat and Fish
- Ghee, aka clarified butter, aka butter without dairy
- Eggs (thank God)
But, as the website kept reminding me, it was only thirty days. After that there is a reintroduction phase for things like grains and dairy, and I’d cross that bridge when I came to it.
The first two days went off without a hitch. Despite not preparing meals and grocery shopping for the plan (as strongly advised), I woke up early and made myself a spinach and egg omelet for breakfast. Lunch was salad with pecans and berries, no dressing.
Dinner was harder.
Morning coffee without cream was impossible.
Whole30 stipulates that if you are an absolute weakling with zero self-control who lives like an out-of-control slob and therefore cannot go without coffee cream (guilty!), then they have an approved substitute called Nut Pods. Nut Pods are a dairy-free coconut and almond based creamer.
This was veering dangerously close to bizarre expensive supplement diet territory, but by this time Whole30 had sucked me in. The authors repeatedly state that if you eat one morsel of a non-approved food: one splash of half and half, one stick of gum, one bite of toast—you have to start your thirty-day period over.
Typically, this type of extremism is a red flag for me. But there’s an addictive and fanatical quality to the diet’s instructions that starts to get in your head and equates everything not on the approved list to rat poison.
So I ordered the Nut Pods and a jar of ghee (clarified butter) from Amazon since I doubted my local Shop N Save stocked them. I could last the two days it would take for Prime to deliver.
The first Friday that rolled around was my fifth day of the diet. I woke up with a headache that even an extra cup of coffee couldn’t cure. Sugar detox, I told myself. This meant things were working.
But I was hungry. Crazy hungry. Hungry that a bowl of spinach, no matter how big, couldn’t satisfy.
I was jonesing for carbs.
I told myself to stay strong. Only twenty-five more days to go. Bad pep talk.
I was out of food at home, and I knew better than to stop at a restaurant in my current state of mind. Finding a Whole30 approved meal in a restaurant is difficult under the best of circumstances, and my willpower was running on fumes. Better to go to the grocery store and fill my cart with fruit and veggies, then go home and make myself a nice salad.
I still couldn’t cook anything because my ghee hadn’t arrived from Amazon and I’m not allowed any butter or oil.
I walked into Giant Eagle and blacked out.
When I came to, I was sprawled out on my couch, Blinker pawing at my face. Scattered around me was a half empty bag of tortilla chips, six granola bar wrappers, and three empty vanilla pudding Snack Pack cups. I also had a vague memory of two—okay, three—pieces of toast.
That was the end of my Whole30.
The next morning, I had a glorious cup of coffee with real cream. Then I drank a Pepsi.
The morning after that my ghee and Nut Pods arrived from Amazon.