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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Quick Thoughts: Day 29

Today I woke up like every morning, rolling around for a few minutes before managing to roll myself out of bed, eyes heavily lidded with an interrupted dream and a fervent desire for five more minutes under the thick comforter. Once my feet hit the floor though, I was as awake as I am now, four hours later, working my way through emails before the day really gets going. Like every morning, I made my way to the kitchen where I cleaned a few straggling dishes from food prep all afternoon yesterday and made breakfast, a three-egg blueberry fritatta, half a cucumber sliced and a sweet potato, all while packing a salad with chicken sausage, roasted mushrooms, kale, cucumbers, guacamole and homemade dressing for lunch. I scanned the fridge quickly and decided I’d cook a turkey burger with leftover beet greens and butternut squash for dinner later, something that should only take me 20 minutes since most of the prep is done. After breakfast it was time for a little yoga, then rummaging through my closet to get ready for work, allowing myself a few extra minutes to savor the cool spring breeze drifting through the open windows in the apartment, hinting ever-so-slightly at the warm weather to come, calling memories of picnics in Fort Tryon with a cool glass of wine in a sweating plastic cup.

Today is Day 29 of my very first Whole30. I’ve made it through all the uncomfortable physical milestones, like carb flu and food boredom. I’ve pushed through some personal hurdles, like non-stop working hours and a family emergency. I have prepped every single meal that has gone into my body for 29 days, aside from one client dinner and one lunch at Hu Kitchen with my lovely friend M. I’ve pushed past thoughts like “you shouldn’t eat that much” and “it’s not working for you,” pushed through moments where all I needed was the comfort of a little bit of sugar or just a sip of wine. I haven’t radically altered things in my diet, but even so I’ve learned so much about myself in the past 29 days, and picked up habits I’ll carry with me as long as I can.

Tomorrow I’m going to wake up and everything will be exactly the same, except by the time I go to sleep, I’ll have accomplished something I never thought I could. It’s kind of crazy, that it’s already been 30 days, and kind of wild to think that this is the longest I’ve gone without sugar and alcohol since who even knows how long. Probably at least ten years. Maybe even more. It’s just 30 days in the grand scheme of things, but through all my planning and research, all my mental preparation, all the difficult times in the past month and all the difficult times I’m facing with a new perspective moving forward, there are things I hated and things I loved, and one huge lesson that I’ve learned: this program can change your life. It’s changed my lovely friend M’s. It’s changed my anchor G’s. And now I can say with absolutely certainty, it’s also changed mine.

Stay tuned for a round-up of lessons learned later this week. In the meantime, starting on Wednesday, I have some wine to drink.

All the feels

I love the moments where I can put my phone aside and just enjoy the freedom of not being immediately accessible. Whether it’s the 75 minute yoga class where the phone is on airplane mode, or yoga in my apartment where the phone is on silent, the moments with friends where I leave my phone in another room on purpose or the times in my apartment I lose my phone by accident and don’t feel like searching for it, there is nothing like knowing you’re disconnected, if only for a brief period of time. Inevitably, after an hour or so away from the phone, I’ll have the same anxiety: much as it’s lovely to be off the grid, what if this is the moment that someone actually needs to reach me, and I’m too busy relaxing to text back? Not that this has ever happened to me, of course. And actually, up until Saturday, I’d never been on either end of that scenario: the person taking a technology break for a short period of time, or the one who knows the person isn’t with their phone but desperately, desperately needs to get in touch with them, and fast. Up until Saturday, I would have been happy not to be either of those people, ever. Sadly, my Saturday morning at home with my Twinster and her fiance turned very quickly from a lazy morning preparing for outlet shopping into the two of us frantically calling Mama B over, and over, and over, knowing she was on a walk with a friend and cursing that her one hour of relaxation fell on just barely the wrong side of an unexpected turn in the day’s events.

My default when I’m stressed out or dealing with an excess level of emotions is to grab a glass of wine or something sweet. It’s the emotional comfort of a chance to numb the scary emotions and soothe a running mind for a minute; there’s nothing nourishing mentally or physically about immediately turning to alcohol and sugar for support, but we all have psychological connections to food and drink that rule our emotions, I need a cupcake since I’m happy, I need a drink since I’m overwhelmed. In the few moments after finally getting Mama B on the phone and waiting for her to rush home so we could figure out the rest of the day, my immediate thought was “I am going to need a big glass of…. Oh.” Because I couldn’t turn to any of my coping mechanisms this weekend since I’m still on Whole30. There was no immediate relief in a piece of chocolate; I couldn’t hold on to the promise of a tall glass of California pinot from my parent’s collection later that night after the hospital visit to help numb the image of someone I love covered in tubes and in terrible pain. All of a sudden the weekend went from a series of happy occasions with family to a series of frantic phone calls and shuffling of plans, picking up a birthday cake I couldn’t eat anyway but now no one would enjoy in the way it was meant to be enjoyed, moving a wrapped present lest it make my mother start to cry.

I thought back this weekend a lot about how I’ve handled the many stressful and scary situations in the past few years: break-up #1, new job #1, break-up #2, my own health scare and new job #2. It’s crazy, looking back, to realize that in every single one of these situations, I numbed the emotions on the outset with a glass (or two) (… or fine bottle) of wine. It’s not to say that I can’t handle stress, or that I’m a raging alcoholic – but think back to the times in the past year that you’ve been really sad, really scared, really stressed or all three at once: didn’t a whiskey on the rocks or a fat glass of cabernet help you calm down a little bit? Did you maybe turn to a cold beer in the summer or a spiked hot chocolate in the winter? It’s part of our culture, practically: the first thing people tell you after you’re done complaining is to take a deep breath and pour a drink. We’re constantly living in these limbo-states where emotions exist but are dulled, a Stepford-level reality that leaves us in the emotional state of a frustrated toddler once you’re forced to deal with the real issue causing your emotions to percolate slowly, slowly and then spill over the edge. Hell, up until this weekend, I didn’t think I knew how to properly process anything without the thin veil of something to take the edge off.

I planned for a lot of things before this Whole30. I planned to bring my own food for Easter dinner and prepared to pass on the champagne toast and birthday cake for my grandmother’s 90th birthday celebration on Saturday night. I was prepared for my brother to tease me mercilessly about my “diet,” throwing Tate’s cookies in my face under the guise that “they’re all natural, right?” I was even prepared to pass on the wine that flows freely in the weekends we’re all home, bringing my own seltzer in the event plain water started to get boring. But I didn’t plan to learn how to cope when you’re forced to feel everything in a scary situation: I was scared, I was upset, I was emotional and I was relieved. And as much as it felt foreign, I survived. I survived sitting with my own thoughts, and I survived coping with a scary situation calmly, rationally (*mostly) and without numbing the emotions coursing through me like wildfire. Aside from improving energy and breaking my chocolate addiction at the office, I was pretty ambiguous about what I was hoping to get out of the Whole30: I don’t need to lose weight, I’m pretty cut thanks to yoga and aside from extra planning, it’s pretty close to my normal diet. And while my energy has been good, I’ve felt on the upside of “healthy” and I’m looking forward to the “turnaround” that everyone tells me to expect in the next few days, I’m really, really happy already for what the program has done for me. Because it may be foreign, having dealt with all of the feelings in such a short period of time, but it was empowering to know that I can handle them on my own: scary, stressful, and everything in between.

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.

Sugar, Sugar

Back towards the end of February, I was casually stalking my own Instagram when I saw that I’d posted two pictures in Locust Pose within two weeks of each other. I had some time to kill, as I was waiting for feedback on something for work before heading home for the night, so I edited the photos next to each other and was really surprised to see a noticeable difference in my backbend – in just 11 days! I posted the picture, and then put my phone down, checking in a few hours later when a notification came up that my anchor G had left me a comment. She left me a really sweet note, one I’ve gone back to read a few times, asking questions like how long I practice every day, and closing with something I hear somewhat frequently after people find out I’m a yoga nerd: “Help me, I’m inflexible.” Knowing she’s usually game for a dare, I posed a challenge to G: starting on March 31, she completes the Erin Motz/Do You Yoga 30-day Challenge on YouTube that inspired my entire yoga practice, and I’ll finally complete my first round of Whole30.

Now, for those unfamiliar with the Whole30 program, it’s essentially a 30-day reset that’s intended to remove irritating foods from your diet and give your gut a chance to heal before re-introducing foods slowly to determine what and how different types of foods affect your body. It’s a simple premise: for 30 days, cut out dairy, legumes, grains, preservatives and sugar, and focus on eating whole foods: meats, fruits, vegetables and good fats. The point is to break the cycle of mindless eating and snacking, and focus on good things that complement your body chemistry instead of aggravating it. G was the first of my friends to discover the program and give it a shot, but admittedly (and sorry G!), my lovely friend M is the one who’s really pushing me to finally commit to a full round. M has completely transformed not just her diet, but her whole life through five rounds of Whole30 in the past year; it inspires her the same way that yoga inspires me. We’ve even piggybacked on each other’s new obsessions, with M joining me for yoga classes and challenges every week, and me slowly adapting the principles of whole foods into my everyday diet too.

The big question I get from people when they find out I’m doing this starting next week is why. “You’re already thin!” (Because no one looking to improve their well-being ever did so from motivation that wasn’t weight loss), “Are you still allowed to have wine?” (Did you just ask me if alcohol was involved in a body detox?) and the big one: “But if you already don’t eat most of those, why bother?” It’s a valid question, and for the most part, it’s true – I won’t necessarily be changing my regular diet that drastically. But despite all the other changes in my diet and my life, there’s one little thing I just can’t seem to give up on my own: sugar. Sugar, you delicious, delicious devil. It’s not even that I eat sugar or sugary things all the time – I drink coffee and tea black and I’m not really a dessert person. But I have two massive downfalls in the sugar spiral: I can’t say no to the chocolate drawer at work, and god dammit I love my wine.

I mean, let’s just take a minute to appreciate a few things quickly. THERE IS A FULL DRAWER IN MY OFFICE FILLED WITH CHOCOLATE. Mini Snickers and Take 5s, Halloween-sized Hershey’s and sometimes if we’re good there’s a stash of Twix. Perhaps people exist who can enjoy a single piece of indulgence from that black hole of cocoa goodness, but I promise you I’m not one of them. On a normal day I’ll work through at least six to eight pieces of candy, and on a bad day, I stop counting when it hits double digits. Getting to the kitchen and the bathroom requires passing the magical chocolate drawer and I swear there’s a silent siren song every time you’re in it’s wake for “just one more piece.” And that’s not even the bad one. WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITHOUT MY WINE. Stupid alcohol sadly breaks down into sugar in the body, which means no wine, no whiskey, and no poor life… well okay, I make stupid decisions when I’m not drunk too. I mean look, I’m not saying I’m a booze hound who can’t go a month without getting plastered, but there is nothing quite like winding down at the end of a long day of work with a glass of red wine and something on Netflix. 30 days sounds like a lot of time to have to face life’s pressures with a clear head, instead of talking to Mr. Goodbar and some pinot noir about them.

So why bother? Because beyond the promise to G, I’m actually really looking forward to this. First, my body needs a reset, badly. The insanity that has been March at work meant most of my meals this month were delivered, and while we obviously could have made healthy take-out choices, we decidedly did not make those choices, especially not during Hell Week last week. Beyond work, the last time I went out-out, I blacked out like a college freshman and apparently, according to the grapevine because memory serves nothing, made out with a friend’s friend’s sort-of ex (oops). And on top of everything else, working 16 hours per day plus weekends has cut into my normal yoga practice, leaving me tight-muscled and cranky – a reset in all things will do wonders, I think. It goes beyond clearing the gunk out of my body that’s accumulated in the past month though. I think part of me has been pushing doing a full Whole30 because I was worried for a long time that it may stir up some long-dormant feelings from my eating disorder, like I would start with good intentions and end by taking everything too seriously. It’s that reason, more than the others, that I feel like I owe it to myself to give the 30 days a shot. After all, what better way to face the dragon head-on than with 30 days by someone else’s food rules.

The people who “created’ Whole30 have a saying to help put the program into perspective: “Giving birth is hard. Beating a heroin addition is hard. Drinking your coffee black for 30 days is. not. hard.” It’s a great way to put the program into perspective for a lot of people, but honestly, it doesn’t really apply to me. I’ve never given birth or fought a drug addiction, and I’ve always loved my coffee black. So from March 31 through April 29, instead of holding on to their words when I’m desperate for a glass of pinot and a piece of chocolate, I will remind myself of three things: (1); If M can do this five times in a year, I can do this once. (2): If G can suffer through 30 days of yoga, I can suffer with seltzer for 30 days. And (3): Beating anorexia is hard. Leaving the person you thought was the love of your life is hard. Laying off the wine and sugar for 30 days is. not. hard. And plus, if I’ve learned anything from the hard stuff I’ve lived through in the past few years, it’s so much sunnier on the other side.