So, in my ongoing quest to get healthier, I’ve got to tackle the elephant in the room. The real reason why I exercise for a bit, get too tired, and let it lapse. The main difference between that time I lost 26 pounds and the times I haven’t. In a word, food. (And drink. Damn you, Diet Coke!)
The cycle goes like this. I’m eating crap and feeling unhealthy. I start an exercise programme and “clean up” my eating a bit (pasta with veggies, wholegrain bread, some salad). It all starts off well, I lose a bit of weight. But then, as my metabolism speeds up and gets more active with all the exercise, I start feeling washed out. I stop losing weight. I have no energy. When I try to work out, the strength just isn’t there.
I investigate, and find out that maybe I’m not eating enough calories. Yay! Add more carbs! (Maybe a few of them from the odd sweet treat – hey, if I’ve got the calories to spare, why not?).
So then I have energy in the workouts, but I’m still feeling flat between workouts. It’s like I get a shot of energy, then crash. Eating more doesn’t help. Eating less doesn’t help. And I’m not losing weight. And I’m permanently tired. Something’s not right.
At this point, I generally give up. Partly because it’s not working. Mostly through exhaustion.
This is where Whole 30 comes in – and the book “It Starts With Food”. It claims to know why this happens, and to help. It’s not unique (if you were religiously eating what P90X recommends, for instance, you’d be eating pretty similarly). But if you’ve been eating really badly for a while, it’s actually hard to turn that around. Especially when there’s so much misinformation around. Especially when, if you’re doing things right, you STILL feel worse before you feel better.
So this is what Whole 30 does. It breaks it down into very explicit rules of what to eat and not eat. It gives some easy, compliant meals that you can throw together. It gives you a timeline of how good/bad you’ll probably feel when. It has forums where you can share/vent/ask questions. And its creators appear to be endlessly patient in answering the same questions over and over in blog articles, FAQs and comments.
If you want the one-line summary, it’s this: Stop fuelling your body with sugar, fuel it with fat instead.
(An aside: Whole 30 is paleo-based, but it isn’t focused on the meats and fats as much as some paleo, it’s more focused on a balanced diet with lots of vegetables).
(Another aside: One of things I really like about Whole 30 is the firm advice about keeping to the spirit of the rules – no paleo baking, no smoothies. They call that good-but-bad stuff Sex-With-Your-Pants-On food! )
Basically, it tells you what to do, what will happen, and offers support along the way. There are no excuses left. Specifically, for me. I have to do this now, don’t I? Yep.
So, long story short, I started it. So far, so good – inasmuch as I’m still on it. So far, I’ve done 3 days (of 30). It’s been tough. The diet is very strict, and if you have an autoimmune condition, even stricter. (I have psoriasis, so following that one mostly).
I haven’t managed perfectly. I’ve been completely Whole 30 compliant, but a couple of slips on the autoimmune restrictions. Its very, very hard to eat out if you’re on the autoimmune protocol, be warned. Stay home or take a packed lunch. Cooking at home, Whole 30 is actually fairly easy to do. In principle.
What are my key wins so far? Well: firstly, I feel better and worse at the same time. Which is actually great, as the timeline says I should be feeling like shit at this point! I’m starting to be able to tell the difference between my body craving a sugar hit and being genuinely hungry. And I know from past experience that I always feel better when I stop drinking Diet Coke.
Downsides? I still have no energy. None. Not just feeling tired, but literally my muscles feeling weak and just wanting to sleep. This is apparently quite normal and wears off after the first week. I’m lucky enough to be at home at the moment – I can’t imagine having to go into the office feeling like this!
So, early days, but I’m really hoping this will help. Being off sugar and eating more vegetables is going to help me regardless of whether I buy all the Whole 30 info at the end. For the rest, let’s see how it turns out. Fingers crossed for me?