The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom. (Photo: Amazon)
No one ever said dieting was easy. This week was a challenge, which came — perhaps naively on my part — as a shock. I’d breezed relatively easily through the first few days of the Whole30, and I thought maybe, just maybe, I’d be immune to the trials that haunted every single other diet I’ve ever attempted. I was wrong.
“This is the part of the program where our minds try to drive us back to the comfort of the foods we used to know,” authors Melissa and Dallas Hartwig say of days eight through 15 in The Whole30 book. “You’re dreaming. Not crazy nightmare or strange surrealist dreams, either. Incredibly normal and realistic dreams — about donuts. Or Twinkies. Or Snickers. … But then, the feelings start following you into the waking hours.”
I did have dreams. In one, I scarfed down an entire bowl of peanut M&Ms, then I awoke in a panic. But most of my obstacles were real-life ones.
For a food editor, temptation isn’t simply hidden away in the refrigerator, or secreted on a high shelf in the pantry. It’s lurking in emails from restaurants enticing me to sample their latest tasting menu, or fragrant New Orleans muffulettas shipped to the office. It’s in packages filled to the brim with Easy Cheese canisters, sent unrequested and waiting on my desk in the morning, and in required taste tests for an alluring new flavor of Ben & Jerry’s.
I’m not a rabid fan of Easy Cheese, nor powerless in the face of Ben & Jerry’s. But the act of being denied something — and watching other people heartily enjoy it — is especially torturous.
It’s the same when I’m off the clock: I’ll attend a dinner party and be the only one not drinking. I’ll try to schedule dinner with a friend and will morph into a complete diva when it comes to picking a Whole30-friendly restaurant. I’ll arrange one dinner for out-of-town guests, then prepare a separate, lonely plate of diet-safe salad for myself.
Early in the week, these struggles turned me into a certifiable grump. I was snippy to my fiancé (who had some choice words for me), and I had trouble focusing at work. Every time a co-worker ordered lunch — a BLT sandwich, or Chinese fried rice, perhaps — I’d feel a twinge in my stomach. It wasn’t hunger. It was envy.
This ice cream cake appeared in the office for no apparent reason. (Photo: thepumpernickel/Instagram)
But several things kept me going. At my gym, where I work out twice a week, a trainer told me I was looking trim. At work, colleagues noticed that my face had slimmed down. At home, I cracked open the “dreaded drawer,” where I keep clothes that no longer fit. Spoiler alert: they do now.
And, all things considered, I ate pretty well this week. A pleasant side effect of the diet is that it forces you to be more mindful about your meals; I planned ahead and researched ways to compensate for any flavor deficits.
My efforts yielded a spicy gazpacho with tomatoes and charred red peppers topped with red onion and avocado (my rough recipe notes in the Instagram comments here); a delicate dish of asparagus topped with a poached egg, paprika, lemon zest, and flaky salt (I find that peeling the asparagus makes it feel fancy and decadent); and a hearty coconut lamb curry over cauliflower “couscous” (it’s not rice, but it’ll do). Over the weekend, I tucked into a frittata flecked with salty anchovies. Salty things, I’ve found, are my friends.
Spicy gazpacho with tomatoes and charred red peppers topped with red onion and avocado. (Photo: thepumpernickel/Instagram)
On the other end of the flavor spectrum, frozen bananas and grapes were my savior. (When I’m not consuming any added sugar, I find that fruit tastes endlessly sweeter.) And for energy boosts, raw almonds and almond butter were essential. Coffee — with a splash of coconut milk — perked me up when I was in danger of falling asleep at my keyboard.
Asparagus topped with a poached egg, paprika, lemon zest, and flaky salt. (Photo: thepumpernickel/Instagram)
This week was difficult, but I feel as though I’ve pushed through the worst of it. I’m more focused and chipper (much to my fiancé’s relief), and I find myself fixating less on the things that I can’t have and enjoying more the things that I can. A looser waistband is a welcome confidence booster, too.
I know it’s important to remember these better moments when the diet gets rough. I’m feeling good now, but who knows what next week will bring? All I can ask of myself is that I stick to the plan, even when the universe tries to lead me astray‚ like when the makers of Krave S’mores cereal sent me a box with my face on it. Seriously.
Swing back next week to find out how I fare in Week 3.
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