Category Archives: Food

Life after Whole30

That’s it, it’s over. In experimentation, I didn’t have any dramatic reaction to anything as far as I’m concerned, so moving forward will simply be a matter of moderation. I still don’t like to waste food, though, so do you remember the cheesy quinoa with ground sausage I had been planning to eat before I started this diet? Well, now I’ve taken it out of the freezer and incorporated it into an egg bake. The bake is now significantly richer than before, and sits heavily in my stomach, and it wasn’t even half of the cheesy quinoa I’d made. Nevertheless, it’s a victory to keep it out of compost.

As advertised, part of the benefit of Whole30 is not only to learn sensitivities but to change my relationship with food. Now I don’t feel like giving up the sugary sauce on my meat in the SAS cafeteria means I’m depriving my life of joy. In my rambling after the wedding, I suggested that it might change my relationship with a number of things. After spending a month internalizing the virtue of self-denial, it would stick with me.

To be fair, it hasn’t revolutionized everything. I still have perhaps more than my share of vices, but I have learned to appreciate self-denial, and I may give myself more 30-day challenges to try and change my lifestyle. Here are a couple I’ve thought of already:

  • Nirvana 30 – For thirty days, entertain no thoughts of how things could be better or could get worse. I’d have to figure out a good threshold over which I’d have to start over, because avoiding thoughts is harder than avoiding food.
  • No Loaf 30 – For thirty days, all activities must be either productive or social.
  • Smile 30 – For thirty days, entertain no negative thoughts. When they arise, just say “It’s Smile 30, and I’ll deal with it next month.” Exceptions can be made for urgent matters.
  • Slow 2 – If you tend to speak before thinking, count to five before you say anything for two days. Probably a weekend, since it’s unlikely your co-workers will indulge your bizarre behavior.

featured image credit: http://news.softpedia.com/news/Mummified-Buddhist-Monk-Found-Resting-in-Lotus-Position-471648.shtml

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The Last Days of Whole30

This was going to be the grand opening of my technical blog, but I ran into, well, technical difficulties. Not only does WordPress.com not support Jupyter notebooks (a pretty web-based way of presenting data science), Dropbox and Google Drive have both disabled their own simple webpage publishing options. Now I have to go buy another service just to put my data science work online! I was going to rush to do it today, but I’ve put it off until next week instead.

I am now racing through towards the end of Whole30. My meals are steamed asparagus and Harris Teeter rotisserie chicken. I’m on my fourth chicken now. I have made it through three experiments thus far:

Legumes – my peanut butter soymilk smoothie made me feel sick. I never got a chance to have more beans at the Thanksgiving dinner, so it’s very possible that this is just a matter of it being too rich, or the soymilk being expired. The reaction was mild, fortunately.

Grains – I did not have much of any reaction to the quinoa, but I did have energy issues the next day. Energy issues the next day don’t seem conclusive to me, so this is another unresolved experiment.

Dairy – I had a quarter pound of smoked gouda over the course of the day with no reaction.

Next up on Wednesday is gluten. Whole30 puts it last because it is apparently the king of foods with short-term health hazards. I have my eye on some croissants on the front island at my local Harris Teeter. Really, to reasonably run this test, I should eat all of them, right?

Image Credit: http://likesuccess.com/topics/18759/light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel

 

Stick it where it hurts

That’s the advice my medically-recommended masseuse gave me the other day when he handed me a tennis ball. Anytime, but best when I need to be in a static position for a while anyway, I should place this tennis ball between me and whatever I’m resting on or against. I should position the tennis ball such that I feel a similar pain to when I receive my deep tissue massage. So, when I was driving the other day, I put the tennis ball behind my hip. Sure enough, the next day my hip was feeling much better.

There’s something deeply satisfying about experiencing intense pain now to solve lingering pain later. I suppose anything that solves lingering pain is satisfying, but the fact that I can feel pain and use it as a guide that I’m doing something good for me makes the pain bearable. Wait, bearable is not the right word, it’s great. I like the pain. It hurts good.

Somehow this psychological effect hasn’t quite made it to exercise. I like to think it’s getting there, though. Sometimes when my morning push ups start to get enervating, I gasp “HEALTH!!!” This has been enough to keep me going, but it doesn’t make exercise as fun as having a tennis ball grind into my musculature.

I want to admit here that last post was exaggerated. I say this because I heard that some of my poor readers we’re very upset. Let me apologize. In fact, I was not descending into Lovecraftian madness from the food I’d been forced to eat last week. Nevertheless, I was more than happy to hew closer to recipes this week. This week I had hamburgers with avocado mayonnaise and mustard every night. Those were the only three ingredients. Sometimes I used kale as a bun, other times I used slices of green tomato I had mistakenly bought based on a recipe that was in fact calling for green onion. I think the huge amount of animal fat gave me a resurgence of acne. During the day I had roast vegetables and chicken. The vegetables were flavored with the fat I had drained from the hamburgers and from the chicken, so they tasted pretty darn good.

I’m going to make a Whole30 chili using the broth I made from my colossal number of chicken bones. I finally agreed to take my sister’s advice and not include onion skins and cruciferous vegetables, and my broths now taste delicious instead of deathly bitter. I can admit that Rachel was right here because I’m confident she will never read my blog. It’s as good as a diary.

There are two days left until I can start experimenting with adding things back to transition to an eating lifestyle. I’m not supposed to measure my weight or my waistline, but I’m glad that I got into the habit of wearing a belt years ago, because none of my pants fit anymore. I’ve also had more energy and felt more positive. It’s not a panacea by any means, but I do think it’s had a marked impact. I’ve also been doing lots of other things – exercise, yoga, sleeping on a mat on the floor instead of my too-soft bed to name a few, so it’s hard to isolate one factor. If I can keep up all of this, though, why not? It’s not critical to know the exact details of what’s helping the most.

Adding things back in the last phase of Whole30 works as follows:

  1. Add exactly one banned item back for one day
  2. Pay attention to how you feel for the next three days (including two completely Whole30 days
  3. Note your reactions for later consultation when planning your lifestyle moving forward.

You’re not actually adding things back one by one to gradually leave the diet, which surprised me. While experimenting, you should only have one exception to the rules at any given time. Let me put my schedule down here.

November 20th:  Grains (Non-gluten) – This is quinoa and rice. These should never be a huge part of a diet, since they’re carbs, but they do make it easier to extend other foods and they taste so good. The official recommendation is to do this after legumes, but legumes will be important for Thanksgiving.

November 23rd (Thanksgiving): Legumes – this includes peanuts, which are pretty much my favorite food. Also, it includes all beans. Why this and not grains? Well, I figure at my father’s family’s Thanksgiving everything with grains is likely to have added sugar or something else bad as well. I know my mother is bringing hummus, so legumes will give me access to that high-protein option, and maybe there will be a peanut-oil fried turkey, although fried food introduces so many other problems it probably should be a category to itself. Dairy would be the next best option, but that might not open up much more than mashed potatoes and a few butter-cooked veggies. Soy is also on this list. Legumes is a huge category! Soymilk is my number one priority. I can do a lot more with smoothies when soymilk is on the table. Almond milk is allowed on Whole30, but has the disadvantage that it tastes repulsive. Soy sauce will also be welcome back, and miso as well.

November 26th: Dairy – Cheese should never again be the mammoth in my diet it once was. Unbanning it will open various options. Of everything I’ve given up, cheeseburgers have been what I’ve missed the most. I don’t think I want to lose cheese in my life.

November 29th: Gluten – The crown king of foods for short term bad health. The last time I thought I reacted poorly to gluten, my gastroenterologist told me I should just stop eating like a maniac and I’d be fine. So, I will not buy a whole La-farm loaf and attempt to eat it all in one day, I will not force a reluctant pizza shop employee to fill a calzone with ricotta cheese*, I will not see how many meatloaf communion wafers I can fit into my mouth at once. Honestly, I don’t think meatloaf communion wafers are actually a thing, David Perlmutter be damned to Catholic hell.

Then on December 2nd, I’ll be off the diet. It’ll be about moderation rather than exclusion from there on out, much to the relief of the growing number of people who have plans to cook for me.

*This is not one of those crazy-sounding things that tastes surprisingly good. I could not finish it. I do not recommend it

Featured image credit: http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/Sir_Harry_the_Tennis_Ball

Whole30: Day 23

The year is twenty and seventeen. The month is November. A chill wind blows through the town tonight. It has been 23 days since I committed myself to the Whole30 diet.

I am finding it hard to leave grocery stores now. I wander through the aisles for minutes at a time. Hours? Days? I know not what it is that I think I am seeking during these departures from the realm of the lucid.

The Whole Foods in Waverly does not have a dedicated fish section. In the absence of salmon, I was forced to buy frozen tuna steaks. I do not know how to cook tuna. On Friday, dear reader, I am not proud to admit this, I was the one that reheated fish in the office microwave. I stopped the process halfway through at the first whiff that something was wrong, and ate my lunch tepid, asphyxiating the flavor with yellow mustard. Nevertheless, despite my every effort, I cannot say if I will ever be able to look Christopher from the sixth floor in the eye again.

David invited me to celebrate the success of a project at the Faithful Burger. Lo, though the Faithful Burger’s melted cheddar on all beef patties do haunt my dreams, I cannot partake. I will once again do as I did at the wedding. I shall eat chicken and nuts in sepulchral solitude, and emerge for Faithful Burgers as an ascetic. For me, the physical act of eating will be little more than idle speculation.

I would love to tell you, dear readers, that merely nine days from now I shall achieve the righteous reward due to me for my suffering, but this is merely the beginning. After the first 30 days begins the experimental phase.

In the experimental phase, I add a forbidden food, such as a peanut or a piece of cheese to my diet for one day, and witness the havoc it wreaks on my body. Should I be spared havoc, the food item may be returned to my regular routine.

There is no phase three. The gift I shall receive at the journey’s end is knowledge. I shall know what effects common foods have on me, and I shall know about ways that I can feed myself without them.

If indeed there are merciful gods, I shall once again be able to have soymilk and peanuts as a regular snack.

Yours Truly,

Sam

 

Whole30 Approved

I keep running out of food. No matter how much I think I’ve made it never lasts as long as I expect it to. To help me fill in the gaps, I bought twenty five “Chomps” snack sticks – think additive-free Slim Jim.

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In a somewhat schizophrenic move, Whole30’s own rules forbid the consumption of “treats with ‘approved’ ingredients,” even as they happily stamp their logo on exactly that.

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I can hardly blame them, really. It’s the conflict between what I’m sure is a sincere desire to help people change their lives and a need to make profit as a company. It makes me wonder if the use of the word “approved” in quotes is a deliberate jab from the one part of the company with the other. In any case, I think I won’t buy any more snack sticks. Probably just try to get more efficient with my hard-boiled eggs. Those dang things are so hard to peel.

The King of Restraint

I went to a wedding yesterday. I wore a tuxedo and took a picture when I saw a fancy mirror. Tell me that’s not the fanciest bathroom selfie you’ve ever seen. I listened to my friend sincerely and methodically explain that gluten free, and by not so subtle extension, my entire Whole30 diet, was bullshit. This happened as she dined on wine-marinated steak and rigatoni alfredo and I smiled at her over my empty plate.

So, what if mild food allergies are bullshit? What if when people take something out of their diet and feel better for it, it’s just psychosomatic? Well, for one thing, while gluten free still does get a lot of pushback, even my friend couldn’t disagree that excising refined sugars and fried foods would lead to life improvements. Even still, that’s not the only benefit.

I will be the first to tell you that I love food. I enjoy making it and eating it, and I hate to waste it. I have a bit of a careless relationship with food that represents a relationship I have with many things that I like. Let’s call it a Netflix relationship. When I see what could be a good Netflix show, I want to try it. If I like it, I want to consume all of it, and I usually do within several days. The same goes with food, although in that case I’m just consuming what I’ve put on my plate and over several minutes, thank goodness.

This is a more intentional relationship with food than I’ve ever had. I cook relatively healthfully at home, but it takes very little to convince me that each time I get a pizza or order out chinese food it’s an individual event that somehow lays outside the wholesome diet that at all other times defines what I eat. If I had to estimate, in my normal diet I think I would make such a rare exception about twice a week.

Whole30 allows no rare exceptions. If you cheat, your diet is over, and you either give up or start over from the beginning. Even on a special occasion, where I ordinarily could easily convince myself that I would never see food exactly like this again and that to not eat some would be a missed life opportunity, Whole30 brooks no dispute.

Whole30 forces me to ask a question I have been avoiding. What am I willing to give up to live the life I want? In Whole30, you can’t have everything. In fact, you can have almost nothing. What do you gain by losing so much?

You learn how little you really need. That’s a lot.

Whole30 – Day One

I was originally going to start my Whole30 diet on Monday, but when my decadent pre-diet feast turned out to be a horrifying abomination*, I figured maybe I’d be happer if I just got started on the diet right away. The Whole30 diet is based on eliminating the most common complication-causing foods from one’s diet for thirty days, then reintroducing them in a controlled fashion to identify the main candidates for permanent exclusion.

In my opinion, being now a one-day veteran of the Whole30 diet, the secret is planning. This may not be the case for my mother, who is an epic-level chef with the hardcore grit to cook a completely different meal every day and who lives a five minute walk from an organic-friendly grocery store, but us ordinary mortals, we should not just dive into Whole30 head-first. I took a half-Whole30 diet (No, not Whole15, that isn’t anything) last week to get a sense of how far I could go with my meal plan.

I had just bought a box of assorted meats at the farmer’s market, so my plan was to slow-cook a pasture-raised whole chicken on a bed of vegetables. These included carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, and onions as well as some diced garlic and ginger. I didn’t get started eating it until Wednesday because I was still finishing off West African peanut stew leftovers (peanuts are not Whole30 compliant). Nevertheless, to my surprise, I don’t burn through the chicken nearly as fast as I thought I would.

What was the secret to my sudden intuitive portion control? Twofold, I believe. One, I think that health concerns are less of a motivation for me than the sheer inconvenience of finding and making food in Whole30. A constant specter haunting me as I ate that chicken was the day it would run out and I would have to cook it all over again, so I portioned it carefully. Second, I did not think of food portions as discrete, but continuous. Rather than eat n meals per day and either finish each or not, I treated everything as a snack to eat until I was satisfied and then put back in the fridge for when I was hungry again.

Besides the chicken and vegetables, I had beet, carrot, kale, lemon juice, banana, water smoothies for breakfast. Yeah, water. No milk, soymilk, or yogurt on Whole30. It works better than you’d think. My other snack is hard-boiled eggs. This week I have several snacks. I’m so excited about the prosciutto and the smoked salmon that I have to remind myself they’re really there to rescue me when I run out of or realize I suddenly can’t stand my usual items. I mustn’t eat them all up on the first day. I still haven’t opened any of them. Just a little earlier tonight I was worried when I ate two hard-boiled eggs that seemed to do nothing for my hunger, but the effect was just delayed and soon I felt great. Fist pump for me!

This coming week I’m going to see if I can get through on two pork chops. I’ll have lots of veggies and hard-boiled eggs plus my smoothies so I think I’ll be in good shape. These thirty days are going to fly by!

*Think macaroni and cheese with two pounds of chorizo sausage. Or don’t. Yeah, probably you shouldn’t think about it too hard.