I finished the Whole30 last week.
Here’s the book about it:
I didn’t tell you I was doing it. To be honest, I was kind of embarrassed. I hate trendy things and I especially hate trendy foodie things. Even saying foodie makes me cringe. I have never jumped on a dietary bandwagon. My own cookbook, Djiboutilicious, is not Whole30 compliant. But maybe I should think about making a cookbook for living abroad that is…
Yuck. Yuck. Yuck. Foodie trends reek of privilege, wealth, excess, obsession, and self-focus. Food has become religion for many, with morality directly associated with how, what, and where people eat. Words like clean, whole, pure, good, bad, dirty have come to be applied to food and the people who consume certain foods. This means food is used to condemn, elevate, divide, and judge and that is dangerous.
Americans especially, talk about food a lot. Like a lot a lot. Obsessively. And they seem to be in the control of whatever trendy food diet is all the current rage. People are unable to make their own decisions and are plagued by guilt, shame, and judgment. Or even fear. Fear of bananas. Or of potatoes. They feel righteous about kale salads and avocado smoothies. They obsess over fit bits and calorie counts and forget about pleasure, enjoyment, freedom.
Clearly, I have issues with food trends.
This is a great post on Salon that captures a lot of what I think about food trends: My Body Doesn’t Need a Cure.
I believe in all things in moderation and that God gave us all things, including sugar, for our pleasure, if we consume them wisely. So other than when I fast for personal, spiritual reasons, I don’t restrict my eating.
But, I love to read about nutrition and food and sports. I’m captivated by the idea that nutritionists don’t really know what they’re talking about. People still aren’t quite sure what a calorie is or how to measure it. They can’t agree on what is healthy or what is killing us. Everyone goes gluten free because that will make us thinner. Except we’re still getting fatter. No matter how much kale or avocados or organic foods we eat, we still eat too much of it. And this is interesting to me. What is it about food that drives us, Americans, on the whole, so wild with opinion and fads that radically swing from one extreme to the next and yet we continue to be less healthy?
I’m also personally interested in how diet affects my running. I’m getting older and I’ve never gotten much faster than I was my first year as a runner, aged 30. I attribute most of that to the impossible heat. I run in temperatures year-round in which most running advice columnists recommend runners just quit. When I run in Minnesota I feel improvement in weeks. In Djibouti, I just keep slogging it out.
Can’t control the temperature, can’t afford the only air conditioned workout club in the country ($300-400/month). Won’t pay to run indoors with a fan on a wobbly machine – hotter than outside – at cheaper clubs.
Can’t control my age.
Can control my diet. Never really tried. But, after finding myself continually clicking on links to stories about nutrition and running, I finally decided to try something for myself. I wasn’t sure what to do, didn’t want to adopt a life-long change, and wanted something clearly defined.
I picked the Whole30. Maybe because it is known as an ‘extreme paleo.’ Extreme appeals to me. If I’m going to run, I’ll run marathons. If I’m going to Africa, I’ll go to Somalia. If I’m having kids, I’ll have twins. If I’m trying a food trend, I’ll pick a hard one.
I started while in Kenya, an experiment. I thought, if I can do this for one day while traveling, I can do it no problem, for 29 more days at home. And so, I did.
Here’s another book about it:
How’d it go?
I had a lot to learn about cooking this way. Our meals are grain-dependent. We love spaghetti, lasagna, hamburgers, tacos, curry, pizza. Pasta, rice, and bread are every day foods for my family. So how could I cook without relying on these things? Especially when my family wasn’t joining me? I would have to cook things that I could eat and that they would want to eat. Sometimes this meant making two things, though they did, to their great dismay, give up homemade pizza for the month.
I’m going to break this down into a few posts. At first I wasn’t even going to write about it but I will, possibly because I am running out of other blogging ideas. I will, reluctantly, join the internet glut of food-related bloggers.
Why do I cringe at this? I’m honestly not sure. If you have insights into this strange reaction, please enlighten me.
Here are the topics I hope to cover in the coming weeks:
Attitude Toward Food
After the Whole30
For now, what can I tell you about the Whole30?
I felt great before I did it, great while I did it, and great now that I am off it and have reintroduced anything I want. So did I learn anything? Ya, sure, you betcha. Come back later to read more about it.
Have you done the Whole30? Especially, are you an expatriate who has done it? I’d love to hear about your experience.
Growing up in a single-parent home where money was tight and we were taught to eat what was put in front of us, I’ve often scoffed at the food trends (easy to do when they seem to come and go so quickly).From 6000 miles away I commisserated with my sister with tweens whose friends were on one food restriction or another (one family didn’t eat pork, another couldn’t have peanut butter, another no sugar in any form whatsoever)… She was in a quandry as to what she could make for an overnight her girls were hosting. And I’m definitely in the “all things in moderation” camp.
But then I was diagnosed with celiac (which I’d honestly never even really heard of before then). Living overseas I’ve mostly missed the gluten free trend, and when I did hear about it, in bits and pieces, I thought “Why would anyone want to stop eating yummy bread?! And pizza?! And pasta?!”
I can still remember what I ate for breakfast the morning we took my test results to my doctor: a thick slice of whole grain seeded bread we had made the day before. So delicious it didn’t need anything on it (although I did smear a bit of butter just because). I haven’t mourned giving up gluten (too much) but I really do miss that bread!
Of course the diagnosis meant a complete lifestyle change. It is shocking how many things contain gluten. By the time we were done cleaning out the fridge and going through the pantry shelves, we had several bags of food I could no longer eat. Some of the things directly contained gluten derivitives; others had to be removed because of possible cross contamination during production. Then we discovered we also had to go through our vitamins and supplements, the medicine I take for Meniere’s… In the end I could no longer take my iron supplement and had to change the brand of medicine to one that was produced in a gluten free facility. (FYI, it wasn’t the medicine that was of concern, it was the filler they used.) And a year after the diagnosis we are still learning. Did you know our bodies absorb 60% of what’s applied to the skin? So back to going through everything I use for personal hygiene.
Having been brought up the way I was, it’s embarrassing and awkward to turn down food that is offered. But we’re not talking about personal likes or dislikes now; we’re talking about my health.
I’ll look forward to hearing how you managed the Whole30 overseas. I did look into it, because we were desperate to do all we could to get me on the road to good health again. But so much of the things simply aren’t available. How did you work with substitutions? In the end I decided to wait until the next time we went to the states and meanwhile just continue our policy of “all things in moderation”, minus the gluten obviously.
My health hasn’t really improved all that much since the diagnosis 15 months ago, but my doctor said the longer it goes undiagnosed, the longer it takes to heal. As we look back we realize my symptoms became especially pronounced while living in Africa back in 2001/02. Some symptoms have cleared up but the fatigue and migraines continue to plague me.
It sounds to me like Whole30 is somewhat of a body cleanse, eliminating all but the absolute essentials, and I still want to try it when we head to the states in another month or so. So yes, bring it on! I want to hear all about it 🙂
Wow, I SO appreciate this thoughtful comment, Kim. I totally understand dietary needs based on allergies or illnesses – one of my current coworkers is allergic to nuts and comes over once a week for meals and it is no problem to not cook with nuts. Its when I have to face things like what your sister was going through – trying to please people with wide variances of dietary ‘needs’ (desires?) without a medical basis for it and trying to keep everyone happy! Thankfully, I haven’t had to deal with allergies or illness (yet) in my family, so this is all going to be based on feel and desire, not medical need.
I had no idea we absorb that much through our skin. That’s almost scary. But it makes a lot of sense. I think it is easy to scoff when I am able to do that – I mean because of not having medical reasons to restrict eating. But if I were in your situation, I might feel really easily defensive or perhaps I would feel pressure to explain myself all the time and then dealing with people like me (with my biases and scoffing), would get exhausting.
I would say the Whole30 is more like a cleanse than an actual diet, or maybe like a Your Body and Food class or something.
I am a nearly 62 year old runner, former expat. My husband and I did the whole 30 in January. We both lost weight and felt better! What I missed most was half and half in my coffee. Which was the first thing I added back in. We found we didn’t miss the grains, except for my husband and his daily oatmeal! We did not add most things back in on a regular basis, and have kept eating primarily “whole30, paleo”. This past week I had a craving for cereal in the morning…after three days of stomach aches and diarrhea I concluded I might not be tolerating dairy. So no dairy for the past few days… Symptoms gone. I think it taught me to pay attention to my body’s reactions. Like I do not sleep well after having red wine in the evening… Bummer! I agree that all things in moderation. Staying away from processed foods, eating food in the form God created. Looking forward to hearing more!
I was pretty thankful that I already drink my coffee black – no battle there. Funny – I’ve also missed cereal, well granola to be exact, which I can probably make again now that the rules are relaxed but there is a brand I buy here that I love. Basically it is cookies in a bag, but it tastes so good!
I resonate with your reluctance and wonder if it’s partly because any diet-related blogs seem so prescriptive. I’ve put off doing the Whole30, mostly because I still struggle with sourcing All The Things in Ireland (though I know it can be done, just not cheaply), but also because I don’t want to become That Person (or, more honestly, admit that That Person was, in the end, right).
I’m also curious to hear how you managed this in Djibouti! I have never been a fad dieter, either, but this one I have definitely done some reading on. Mainly because I feel like my body is not at it’s healthiest (or peak performance), but also because I have the perception that my family eats “healthy” for the most part, and I feel like doing something like this will give me a more realistic view on the amount of junk and/or processed foods that we do eat. I’m not planning to do until after we repatriate because though I think it could easily be done in Seoul (expensive of course!), I’m concerned that after a hectic summer, a move, and multiple transitions, I’m going to need a strict cutoff from fast food and easy fixes when we’re finally settled in TX…in about October! I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
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