Dry January is apparently a thing. There’s even an app. Of course, there is. I was unaware of it until just a few weeks ago. I was out with a friend. I ordered a martini with extra olives, hold the vodka and vermouth. My friend asked, “are you doing Dry January?” I replied, “No, I am doing like give up like everything in January.” I’m still not 100% sure why I slipped in a Valley Girl “like.”
“Giving up everything” is my pet name for the Whole 30. A Program where you eliminate seemingly everything from your usual diet for 30 days. You replace your typical diet with clean, unprocessed foods. You even give up several seemingly healthy foods for a time, such as legumes, tofu, and peanut butter. But, the majority of the program comes down to cutting out sugar; and it is everywhere!
Usually, High fructose corn syrup gets all the attention when it comes to processed sugar. But there are others. In fact, after a little research, I discovered there are 61 names for sugar in processed foods. Barley Malt, dextrose, maltose to name just a few more.
I learned virtually everything we were eating had added sugar. For example, our seemingly healthy rotisserie chicken. Straight out of the rotisserie. How bad could it be? The second ingredient, after chicken? Sugar!
My first Whole 30 was a little over a year ago. It is the first program that I have found a connection with since I was a vegetarian swimmer post-college. For the uninitiated, I will give a quick overview.
The Whole 30 is a restrictive time-boxed approach to eating. While the creators suggest it is not for weight loss, I venture most of us dive in for that very reason. In recent years the program has spawned books and countless online programs from entrepreneurial folks. At a high level there is a yes and a no list.
The Yes List
Meat. Poultry. Fish. Ideally as minimally processed as possible
Veggies. Fruits. Fats, such as avocados and nuts are good sources. (But no Peanuts)
It looks short, but there are a lot of items that fit into the category above.
The No (fun) List
No sugar or natural or artificial sweeteners. Including maple syrup.
No alcohol. No smoking of any kind. No grains, including Corn. But, there are alternatives such as coconut and almond flour.
No beans or legumes. No chickpeas, no peanut butter (But Almond Butter is ok) No soy. Yep, no Tofu. No dairy. No processed additives such as carrageenan, sulfites, MSG.
No creating fake desserts with approved ingredients. A big part of the program is breaking bad relationships with food. Eating “healthy” versions of bad foods do little good to train your brain away from unhealthy habits.
Some of the eliminations may seem strange. But, for me, adhering strictly to the program made a big difference. Aches and pains disappeared. My subtle, but constant, indigestion was gone. That led to improved breathing when I laid down. Overall, I had more energy.
I ate pretty healthily before. I wasn’t eliminating daily trips to Dunkin Donuts, on the program. I was dumping seemingly healthy foods; replacing them with homemade alternatives. I even treated myself to homemade, ketchup, ranch dressing and butter (ghee, butter without the dairy). All things I wouldn’t have eaten before.
Many say the plan is too restrictive. But, it is important to remember that it is not a forever plan. It is a plan of self-discovery. You are encouraged, to slowly reintroduce foods, after 30 days. To see how they affect you.
My first run on the program, I lost weight, my blood work was stellar, and my doctor even teared up a little. I felt great. I was focused and had tons of energy. Tiger Blood! So much so that I would head outside at nine o’clock at night to mow the lawn. I didn’t feel deprived.
However, when the 30 days were up, I found I slowly slipped away from healthy eating. I stumbled back into old habits. Back into consuming whatever was available and fast. The weight came back; the aches came back. Indigestion came back.
Eventually, I tried another 30-day cycle. It was not successful. Admittedly, I was not as dedicated. The confidence of the first time, made me think I could bend some rules. Big mistake. I didn’t feel better, and I didn’t lose weight.
So here in “Dry January” in my 3rd official cycle. There is no doubt the weight is coming off. Belt holes never lie. But, there is no Tiger Blood. Not like the first time. None of the Charlie Sheen-like Manic Energy promised, without the need for drugs or rehab, of course.
I am 1/3 away from finishing, and I was feeling done. Ready to quit. Perhaps I am more of “a summer.” That is when I first did the program. Tackling weight loss in winter is like teaching a fish to walk on dry land. No offense Arial, but, we don’t all have a magical sea hag and singing crustacean helping us along. Man, I could use a singing crab right now, but I’d probably just eat it since they are on the approved list!
But, in my depleted state, something else has taken the place of tiger blood. Nowhere near as exciting, but it has been incredibly helpful. I have been gifted Self-awareness. Survey says . . . I’m bored!
You would think the restrictive diet is what is boring me. Not at all. There are tasty Whole 30 compliant recipes all over the internet. No, my boredom comes from everyday life. The repetition and mundaneness of it all. I love a challenge. Variety. Nearly without fail my wife greets me each morning with the words, how are you doing. She knows I am on a slide when I mumble back, “Groundhog Day.”
On the positive side, Groundhog Day is a solid, consistent holiday. Occurring each year on February 2nd; no chance of missing that greeting card. On the other hand, it can be a fate worse than no Coconut Aminos at a sushi bar. Inside W30 Joke!
The W30 has revealed to me how often I was masking my boredom. My mind is a merry-go-round of ideas. Too many to focus on at once. That has its challenges. But, compared to the repetition of 3-hots and a cot, I’ll take the merry-go-round. The hurdle is being able to narrow in on ideas long enough to maintain purpose without losing enthusiasm.
Overconsumption of anything, including Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, covered in caramel sauce are all evacuation routes. Ways to cope. With just a few days left to go. I know I am going to make it. I feel confident in long-term success this time. If I can beat boredom, I can conquer anything.
I believe, if we have a sense of direction, we are less likely to play victim to low hanging temptations. Tiger Blood doesn’t come from Brussels sprouts drizzled with honey-free balsamic glaze. It begins when we find and act on our “special-purpose.” Just ask Navin R. Johnson!
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