Round 2, Day 9

For anyone who is a recent reader of the Chronicle, you may not know that back in April, I completed my first Whole30 (read about it here, I’m not going into it). It was challenging and wonderful all at the same time, but at the end of the 30 days, as I went to bed, dreaming about the nice bottle of wine waiting for me when I got home from work the next day, I remember thinking that sure, I felt great and had energy and I’d even lost a few pounds – but I didn’t think I’d ever want to do another. In fact, I think those were my exact words, when I went into the office the next day and my coworkers all stopped by my desk to ask me what my final thoughts were: “Honestly, I feel amazing, but I don’t think I’d ever do it again.”

So why is the title of this post Round 2, Day 9?

I could list a million reasons why I wanted to do another Whole30 after saying very insistently that I never would – I miss the mental focus! I like having solid nights of sleep and a steady mood! I love how much I can eat without the mental restrictions I’d imposed for years as an anorexic! – but I don’t actually care to justify my reasons for doing another round. Truth be told, I’ve been met with a lot of side-eye over this, from friends and family alike, and it all comes back to one thing: “but can’t you just do a Whole30 and still drink?”

To be clear: wine is my favorite food group. If anyone ever told me to stop drinking wine forever, unless it was imperative to my staying alive, I would laugh in their face as I popped another cork. I love the social aspect of going out with friends for a quick drink, and there is no better feeling after a long week at work than changing into sweats on a Friday night and pouring a big glass of wine. But it started to become abundantly clear to me just after finishing my last Whole30 that excessive drinking and I don’t really get along all that well. In all the other changes I’ve made in the past two years, I’ve neglected to learn my limits with alcohol in public settings. Since just May 1 of this year, that’s led to such lovely half-memories as: falling asleep in the middle of M and N’s engagement party that I technically hosted, losing my wallet in a cab, losing my phone in an Uber after an embarrassing display at R and H’s rehearsal dinner, and most recently, loudly fighting with an Irishman outside of the bar at H’s birthday (though to be fair, that last one ended pretty alright for me).

And also since May 1 of this year, I’ve: watched two wonderful friends get married, turned 27, made a decision for next year that will change my entire life, watched my twin sister marry her soul mate, said goodbye to a beautiful creature that helped me through some of my darkest days, and permanently altered my right forearm. In the two months to come, my best friends say forever under the Spanish moss in Savannah and I tick off a second year on my own, before we go into 2016, the year of yoga training and saying YES to moving on. There is so much love coming our way in the next few months and years, and the last thing I want to remember when I look back at the end of 2015 is how I did something else fucking stupid and ended the night in a blackout shame spiral, not learning from the past, yet again.

Whole30 means something different to every person, and it means something different to people at each round. I went into this round not so concerned with the food aspect, but hoping to reset my mind in the excessive drinking part of things. I want to take 30 days off from numbing emotions I need to feel about all of these insane changes in the past few months, and feel them. I want to remember that girl at 22, 23, 24 with crazy anxiety that drank first to loosen up and then because she didn’t know how to stop; and I want to remember how much I’ve grown from that girl, so the next time I go out with my friends I’m not a complete disaster, something that’s felt too familiar since finishing Whole30 the first time. Maybe the biggest surprise I’ve noticed in just this past nine days is that I don’t really miss drinking the way I thought I would, even a little bit. I don’t miss the social aspect because I’ve been out twice now in the past week where I’m drinking seltzer and no one blinks an eye; when we got the sad news last week, my instinct was not to reach for a liquid escape, preferring instead to cry and look at old photos, reliving memories rather than suppressing them. This round has felt like the very small introduction step to a new life that I’m chasing going into 2016, and while I know that myriad challenges lie ahead, I also know I’m ready, willing and able to take them on.

But I tell you this: come Day 31 on November 25, the VERY first thing I’m doing when I leave the office is buying myself a nice bottle of wine and enjoying as much of it, or all of it, as I damn well please.

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PLD Montage: Vol. 2.2 (Whole30 Edition)

30 days is not a long time, all things considered. Breaking it down, it’s four weeks at work and four weekends, it’s two paychecks, and maybe four trips to the grocery store. But when you’re on Whole30, those days break out a little differently. That’s 90 meals that need to be planned, prepped and consumed all on my own. That’s four weekends of no wine, four weeks of no chocolate, and two paychecks largely sacrificed to food-related purchases. It’s 30 days where you feel sick, and bloated, and depressed, and over it for a large portion of the time; it’s four weeks of your brain taunting you with all the things you “can’t” have and maybe a night or two where you dream about swimming in a pool filled with pinot noir.

But it’s only 30 days. And in those 30 days, there are a lot of things you can learn. SO without further ado, I give you:

PLD Montage: Whole30 Edition:

  • After some back-and-forth on the exact start date, my lovely friend M, who was joining me in this round, and I decided we’d start on Monday, March 30. The way I saw it at the time, I had two big “tests” during the month – dinner with a client, and my grandmother’s 90th birthday party – and the rest of the time would be smooth sailing. Work was supposed to calm down after the insanity of March (March Madness, if you will), I had zero plans on the weekends aside from the aforementioned birthday party… what could possibly go wrong, right?
    Lesson learned: Always expect the unexpected.
  • In preparation for the 30 days ahead, I spent a lot of time reading about what to expect throughout the process. I read the Whole30 timeline, read people’s reviews online, asked M and G more about their experiences, and generally thought that I’d done a bang-up job preparing for the month ahead. The more I prepped, admittedly the more I thought I’d “probably just skip” some of the early unpleasantness, like carb flu and any gastrointestinal weirdness. I mean, my diet was pretty aligned to the lifestyle anyway. Was I really eating that much sugar, in the form of work chocolate and wine, to affect me in any noticeable way?
    Lesson learned: You are not the exception to the rule, snowflake. Also CARB FLU IS A REAL AND TERRIBLE THING.
  • On Day 13, I just felt crappy. I’d been dealing with the stress of my grandmother in the hospital/nursing center and trying to help my mother through that time, plus a stressful time at work. I hadn’t seen a single improvement in 13 days of eating foods that were starting to bore me – my skin didn’t look better, my energy was steady but not great, I was still sleeping poorly and if anything, I felt like my yoga performance was getting worse, not better. I was in Connecticut at the time, surrounded by my parent’s incredible wine collection and take-out pizza from my favorite place in the world, and all I had to eat were chicken sausages, sweet potatoes and kale. If there was a single moment this month where I wanted to quit, dear god, it was that one.
    Lesson learned: Putting seltzer in a wine glass and going to the wine cellar to stare at all the bottles actually helped get me through that moment. I swear one of the bottles of Three Sticks was telling me “it’s only two more weeks…”
  • On Day 30, I woke up at 5:45 with a ton of energy, checked Instagram (duh) and hopped out of bed. I made myself a delicious breakfast, packed a big lunch, and checked the fridge to confirm I had enough leftovers from Sunday for dinner. I practiced a little yoga, opening up my shoulders and back for the long day ahead at a desk, and then went into a forearm stand, a pose that I’ve been working on for months, and one I set as a goal to master during Whole30. I smiled as I eased out of the pose, got dressed and quickly checked my schedule to confirm when I’d be able to pop out to Chelsea Market for a bottle of wine to open in celebration tomorrow night.
    Lesson learned: It’s about the journey, for sure, but the destination is pretty sweet too.

It’s been a whirlwind experience, to say the least, and it’s crazy to think it’s just because I tweaked my eating habits for 30 days. I’ve learned a lot about myself on this Whole30, in ways I never expected. I’ve learned that I can and should eat a lot more food than I was eating before, because even doubling my portions hasn’t caused any weight gain that I can tell. I’ve learned that I am mentally stronger than I’d imagined, passing on my favorite foods free in the office kitchen, passing up the best bottles of wine from my parent’s cellar, and passing the candy drawer at work multiple times daily. I pushed myself to try new things and found so much happiness in the little victories, like falling under the spell of Bikram yoga after managing not to pass out in the standing postures, and buying unusual produce to challenge myself, like golden beets and funny-colored squash. I learned that I love foods like olives and beef bone marrow, and most of all, I learned that I can cope with some heavy things on my own, not buoyed by the comfort of a drink or a brownie.

People keep asking me now that the Whole30 is over whether I’d ever do another one. That answer changed daily throughout the past month, one day a resounding “DUH I FEEL LIKE SUPERWOMAN” and the next a loud “HELL to the no.” The answer today is “Definitely, but not for a while.” Because the most important lesson I learned? I could live without dairy, grains, legumes and sugar for the rest of my life. But god dammit, I love a good glass of wine.

Quick Thoughts: Day Two

Captain’s Log: Whole30 Day 2

Well, after eating compliant for the entirety of yesterday, my lovely friend M and I decided we’d just start our Whole30 a day early, immediately removing the pressure of “DAY 1 WHOLE30 OMG” and setting us on a good path for the rest of the week. I’ve been reading extensively about what to expect on Whole30 for the first few days, largely so I can prepare my coworkers for any unpleasant mood and/or gastrointestinal side effects, but before starting, I didn’t think the rules of the Whole30 timeline would apply to me. I mean, it’s not a radical shift of my eating habits. Was I really going to experience the “Hangover” they tell you to expect on Day 2? I know my body has some gunk to clear out, but I really didn’t think I’d experience things like mental fog, a headache, a general malaise and an overwhelming desire to stay in bed until I remember how to pronounce my name again. Like, that rule wasn’t going to apply to me, right?

WRONG.

VERY WRONG.

I’m working on a post for later this week that I really wanted to put up today, but sorry guys, it’s just not going to happen. I’m just busy enough at work that it would be tough to proof properly on a good day, but I am legit going through these waves of “MENTAL CLARITY!! Nope total mental fog. I FEEL GREAT!! Oh dear god my head hurts.” Since when is a hangover from EATING HEALTHY worse than the hangover I had on Sunday after drinking tequila for 6 hours at my partner-in-crime’s golden birthday this past Saturday? The human body is a mysterious thing.

TL;DR: Everything hurts when you try to be healthy.

Cooking for One

Growing up, my family sat down for dinner every single night together, the easiest ritual in the world, and something we still do when we’re back in Connecticut. On rare occasions, we’d order from the local pizza place (Aside: NEW HAVEN STYLE 4 LYFE. End aside), and on REALLY special occasions we’d get Chinese takeout, but for the most part, mama B, a veritable superwoman, would cook for us every night. From a young age, I watched my mother chop and marinade and grill and bake, always inserting myself into the cooking process to help, starting with stirring and eventually taking over prep altogether. In high school, I started making dinner for the family, giving mama B a break from the stove and giving me a chance to learn her methods and her meals, appreciating the calm that rushed over me the moment I stepped up to the counter with a cookbook, knife in hand.

I didn’t cook much for myself in my early years in New York, for a few reasons: my kitchen was minuscule, going out to grab lunch at work guaranteed I’d get at least a little sunshine that day and I really only knew how to cook meals large enough to feed a family. I enjoyed having friends to my place for dinner parties, and my to-this-day favorite roommate and I used to cook together, navigating our shoebox kitchen in a feeble attempt to share one square foot of counter space. But for the most part, I lived on Seamless take-out and leftovers from whatever I’d picked up at lunch that day. It wasn’t until I moved into my own place in March of last year that I finally had a kitchen where I could actually cook: counter space, cabinets and a big oven and all. Hearing people and media complain about the difficulties in “cooking-for-one” at the time seemed silly to someone like me, a seasoned dinner prepper and someone who loves to cook. I remember standing in the kitchen those first few days, so excited about the culinary possibilities. “Difficulties? Nonsense!” I naively thought as I put together my first Fresh Direct order.

Me, on day one in my Heights kitchen.

Me, on day one in my Heights kitchen.

Cooking for one is the most difficult thing I’ve had to learn in my adult life. It is more difficult than when I had to learn my way around the West Village for the first time, more difficult than waking up after a Sunday Funday brunching with my fashionista C and honestly, it’s more difficult than dating. It took about eight months before I started to get the hang of it, eight whole months of buying too many groceries and throwing out food that went bad, not buying enough groceries and resorting to take-out more often than necessary, cooking way too much food and then not enough food, and impulse-buying snacks that went uneaten. Oh god, the amount of snacks I’ve had to discard is so depressing I can’t even think about it. RIP, that half-full bag of dark chocolate Milano’s that I forgot existed until far after they were stale.

Now in month 17 of living alone, I’m still no expert in cooking-for-one, as easily referenced by the massive bowl of quinoa salad in my fridge that I made on Sunday and will still have to eat for the next two straight days before flying out to Austin on Saturday. However, quinoa-issues aside, I have picked up a few tips to make the most out of solo food time:

  • Pick a grocery store and stick to it. I know this sounds obvious, but for a while, I fluctuated between the local Bravo, Fresh Direct, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods for groceries, thinking the variety was fun and exciting. Honestly, it’s more a pain than anything: stores aren’t set up the same, it’s harder to remember where your staple items are in each place and you end up buying more than you need because you’re not in a routine. Once I started doing weekly shopping trips to the Whole Foods on the Upper West every Sunday, I saw myself wasting less food, making smarter choices about what to keep in the apartment and even experimenting with small quantities of foods I rarely used before, like yellow beets and fresh ginger. Simple life hack, but hugely, hugely helpful.
  • Don’t overload on produce! This was the number one mistake I made for months. I’m generally a healthy eater and like to keep fruit/veggies in the apartment at all times. This does not, however, mean I need to have three different types of peppers, asparagus, carrots and tomatoes, plus apples, cherries, blackberries and raspberries in my fridge because I won’t use them all before they’re bad (learned that exact lesson the hard way). Unless you know exactly what you’re using each thing for, stick to one or two fruits/veggies per week and incorporate them into each dish you make. True life: last week I had basil and zucchini in every single meal I ate. And they were all delicious.
  • Leftovers over salad = perfect work lunch. Yes, going out to pick up lunch is sometimes the only non-work social interaction I have all day. But from a cost and a quality control standpoint, I usually bring my lunch to the office. Easiest lunch ever? Just put whatever you had for dinner over some greens and voila: bangin’ salad. Works with pasta, the aforementioned quinoa, Thai takeout, and I know it’s weird, but cold pizza over spinach is super, super delicious (my brother’s wonderful girlfriend D convinced me to try once and I’ll never look back).
  • Freezer foods will save you. If you look in my freezer on any given day, you’ll see at least two kinds of frozen veggies (currently kale and broccoli rabe) and at least two kinds of meat (currently chicken and sausage). I try to plan meals in my weekly shop but sometimes I forget to buy things or I’m a few days behind in grocery stocking, so having things on-hand that make a quick and easy meal is beyond a lifesaver. This kind of transcends cooking-for-one, but you’ll thank me when you notice your fridge is empty after you’re already in your post-work, “no-one-can-see-me” sweatpants, sans bra and wine in hand. No one wants to grocery shop once you’ve hit that level of “day’s over.”
  • Accept defeat: you know what? Stores do not cater to the single. Produce and meats and snacks come in multiple portions and cookbooks scale everything for 4. Sometimes you’re going to throw food out. Sometimes you’re going to live on eggs and leftover quinoa for three days. And sometimes you’re going to throw your hands up and order take-out because the idea of doing dishes UH-GAIN is just depressing. Accept defeat sometimes and order Seamless. There’s no one around to judge besides the cat, and sometimes we all need a break.

Go forth and cook, my friends.

As do we all, Jess.