Eating Better, Eating Worse

I have noticed over the years that there are patterns in what has worked and what has failed. Particularly as my diet gets worse, I always move on to worse foods in the same order, and I improve by reversing that.

I have also noticed that I can never successfully make more than one improvement at a time. Very occasionally, when I have had lots of free time, I have improved two things at once – but that was a full-time project. So it’s important for me to know where I am in my eating habits, and what a realistic goal is. The table below helps me to do that. I can easily see which level I’m on, and what I need to add/cut to improve one level.

Please note, I’m not saying that this is true for everyone, this is purely what I have noticed in my own diet. If you’re reading this, you may find that you have different “trigger” foods, or that you don’t have this kind of “slippery slope” at all.

Better-Worse Lifestyles

The other thing I’ve noticed, which depresses me a bit, is that I can’t get to the top level as a vegetarian or vegan. I get to level 2 at best. I was vegetarian for 20 years, and would like to cut out meat again for ethical and environmental reasons – but it just doesn’t work for me. I eat too many carbs and not nearly enough protein. I haven’t given up, but I haven’t found a solution for that one yet. I’m living in hope.

I’d love to have comments from anyone else who has noticed similar patterns what works or doesn’t work for you.


Change of Plan

I’ve spent the last few days feeling rubbish with a cold, and also feeling very disinclined to diet or exercise. Although my weight has continued to trend downwards, so yay for that… Still, I just can’t get up the enthusiasm to do P90. Yet this morning I ran to and from my son’s school. Not a massive distance (maybe 0.5km each way), but given that I’ve never been a runner, it’s a big deal for me.

Which has got me thinking. Why is some exercise totally off-putting, but other types of exercise are just fun? Why is it that I used to hate running but enjoy step aerobics, whereas today I can’t bring myself to put a DVD on but enjoy running along behind my son’s scooter?

I haven’t got an answer. But one thing I do know is that trying to make myself do exercise I hate isn’t going to get me exercising regularly. So: some running, straight from dropping my son off at school. And some swimming (I love swimming). And the DVDs are being put away for a while. Maybe I’ll want to do them another time, maybe not. But I’m going to stick to doing the stuff I enjoy.

On a related note, I’m celebrating a milestone imminently, and as a result of that, having a slight change of focus.

I’ve been very focused recently on losing weight, and getting fit has been secondary. I’ve spent two months losing weight, and I’ve lost over two stone (14.5kg). But I’m now within a week or two of my BMI being “normal”. That was me going from obese to normal in two months, and I’ve achieved it.

The next phase is a bit different. The next phase is about finding the size, shape, weight, activity level that I’m comfortable with. Now I need to find out how much fat and muscle I’m comfortable with, and what weight that turns out to be. How much exercise I can do weekly, and what sort of exercise I enjoy and will stick at – not for a few weeks, but for months and years. And that is a whole different game.

Also, what my diet should be long-term. Which bits of the Whole 30 should I stick with (low sugar, nightshades), which things can I reintroduce (eggs). And can I find a diet that keeps me healthy but is much lower meat, which I’d like to do for environmental reasons.

So, experimentation time. Possibly several starts and stops until I figure out what works. But hey – that’s how I learn. Onward and upward 🙂


Why Make Life Easy? W30 and P90

Hey, at least it’s not P90X! (Maybe next time).

I’ve had trouble getting back on the W30 bandwagon, because it doesn’t seem like such a big thing second time, but I really, really want to get back to eating heathily again, and get fitter. I haven’t been eating super-bad – no weight gains – but I’ve lost the “feel great” factor. So I decided to double down. W30 and P90 – to make sure I get the exercise I need as well.

Technically, I should start the P90 on a Monday – there’s a calendar – but I’m just going to add a couple of extra days onto the beginning rather than put it off for two days.

So, first day. Food – sausages and vegs for breakfast, tuna nicoise (spinach, fine beans, red onion, olives and tuna) for lunch, sliced chicken and more vegs for dinner. Exercise – “Sweat A” (modified!). Okay, done.

Can I keep this up for 90 days? Ulp. Yeah, what the hell.

Now excuse me while I go have an essay crisis. Busy, busy….

Whole 30 Diary – Day 31

Off road! So far off road I can’t even see it! … Well, not really. But a bit.

So, I’ve decided against doing the careful reintroduction programme that’s given in “It Starts With Food”. Because I’m not coming off the Whole 30. But I am giving myself a one-day break between two lots of the Whole 30 to let my hair down and eat some crap.

I was sort of feeling by the end of the 30 days that I’d had enough of being so strict. But at the same time, I know I’m not actually in the habit of eating healthily enough to finish the Whole 30 and start eating a balanced diet off my own initiative. I’ve been dithering about it for a few days. Part of me said just stay on the Whole 30 until I feel ready, but the AIP is too strict, and it’s too open-ended. I need there to be a finish line in sight. Another part of me wanted to just go ahead and try to eat sensibly without being on the Whole 30, but if I’m really honest, I’m still having sugar cravings and I know I’d gradually slip back to eating badly.

So what I’m doing isn’t the recommended approach at all, but it feels right for me. One day to eat a few things I like: pizza, chocolate (both gluten and dairy free, as I was avoiding dairy and gluten even before I started Whole 30). Then another 30 days to do the stuff I didn’t get to: exercise, learn a wide variety of meals, give the cravings more time to go away.

Wish me luck!

Whole 30 Diary – Day 27

I’m still in the wrap-up stages of my Whole 30. I can’t say I feel “tiger blood” ish, but I do feel pretty good, and I’m determined to keep eating well after the Whole 30 ends. At the same time, I know that I haven’t really “cracked it” – I need to pick up more recipes. And I know that I’m going to have to try reintroductions of foods I’m avoiding on the AIP. And, lurking, I have the worry that if the reintroductions fail, and I have to eat like this long-term, what then?

One thing that I’ve been finding a bit annoying about the Whole 30 is that most Whole 30 recipes aren’t suitable for people following the AIP. BY most, I mean around 95%. It’s really hard to find recipes that I can eat, other than quite plain meat/fish-with-herbs and vegetables-with-herbs-or-lemon. Even Melissa Joulwan found it hard to enjoy food on the AIP!

Then, today, I found these.

betsyl33’s Pinterest Whole 30 AIP recipes

The Paleo Autoimmune Cookbook

Paleo AIP Recipe Roundtables

Now, obviously I haven’t really tried the recipes out yet, as I’ve only just found them, but I’m so desperate for recipe ideas that I’m posting them anyway, in case others feel the same. And, equally obviously – check for yourself that they really are AIP-compliant, especially if you already know what foods you need to avoid.

Off I go to maybe make some more varied food!

Whole 30 Diary – Day 25!

Holy crap! It’s day 25. Including today – which is half over already – I’ve got just six days left of my Whole 30!

So, a quick update. I’m feeling a lot better than I did last week – I think it was just a monthly cycle thing. So, that’s something. I’m still really craving sugary stuff – I think because the end is in sight. But as it gets nearer, I’m also starting to want to break the Whole 30 less. It’s as if it was a nice dream but I don’t really want to go back to sugar in reality. I will have one sugary treat when the Whole 30 is over though… maybe… I think… Well, let’s wait and see how I feel in another five days.

I really am looking forward to getting a few things back. Eggs, for one. (Yes, I know Whole 30 allows eggs, but I’m on the autoimmune protocol). I don’t really think that I have a problem with eggs, so assuming the reintroduction goes okay, it’ll be good to get them back. I’m dying for a really huge veg-filled frittata. I’m glad I cut eggs out though, as otherwise I think I would have eaten them too much. When they get reintroduced, it will be as just one more option for protein, not as a breakfast staple.

I also still need to broaden my recipe repertoire. I was reading Ottolenghi’s “Plenty” last night, and while there are lots of non-compliant recipes in there, it gave me loads of ideas of things I could adapt. I need to crack on and do it!

I also haven’t been doing the exercise that I should have. Starting today, strength workout every three days, yoga on the intervening days. And I want to learn to do a handstand. And after that, a cartwheel. And at some point, a pull-up. (That last may take a while, but let’s see). For now, handstand.

I also promised myself that I’d write out the list of how I feel better, just to remind myself on day 31 what it was all for (and why I don’t want to lapse!). So here it is:

More energy, no sugar lows.
Slimmer, and also less achy and more flexible.
Less fuzzy-mouth at the end of the day and in the morning.
Fingernails growing well, not breaking.
Not feeling hungry all the time.
Fall asleep easily, feel properly awake in the morning.
Easier to concentrate, I’m getting more stuff done.
Wider choice of meals, not always cooking the same few favourites out of a packet.

Things still to work on:
Getting enough sleep. (Although the sleep I am getting is more refreshing).
Exercise more.
Drink more fluids.
Learn more recipes, plan meals ahead.
Eat seasonally.
Make my meat choices more sustainable.

So, less than a week to go… But also a lifetime ahead to keep tuning this. Starting with some planning in this last week.

Whole 30 Diary – Day 21!

Wow! How did I get to day 21 successfully? Only 9 more days to go…

In theory, this should be the Tiger Blood section of the Whole 30, but I just haven’t been feeling it. Without going into TMI territory, let’s just say I’ve spent the last four or five days trying to make sure I’m eating enough fibre (my diet’s 80% vegetables, for goodness sake!) and that I’m drinking enough. Also I’ve taken some probiotics, as that was another suggestion from the Whole 30 site. Things seem to be improving, but eight drinks a day is LOADS! How does anyone drink that much without getting bored?

Also, I’ve noticed, it’s now been long enough since this began that I’m starting to take some of the benefits for granted. I did a quick audit to remind myself of what has improved since I started this – it’s a lot! It’s all too easy to forget how I felt when I was eating sugar.

Otherwise, I’m getting a bit bored with food – I’ve just bought a soup cookbook, and planning to experiment with some new recipes as well. A lot of the Whole 30 recipes aren’t okay on the autoimmune version, though – still, I can keep searching.

I am starting to fantasise about what the first treat will be when the 30 days are up. Today I cleared out my fridge to get rid of some chocolate that was stale, and tucked behind it was a small bar of my absolute favourite chocolate! Argh! If I can, I’ll leave it there until day 31. If I can’t, I’ll just have to let my son eat it! 🙂

So… Hopefully on the downward slope towards the finish, but still making adjustments and trying to get the diet right. And just 9 days to go…

Whole 30 Diary – Day 13 – The Dragon Roars

Insert expletive/blasphemy of choice here. The sugar dragon has woken up and stretched his wings.

Until now, Whole 30 hasn’t been too bad. The first week was physically exhausting, but my willpower was up to it. And I rested lots. The second week, so far, has been more about beating the habit. And I’ve been sailing through. Feeling, if I’m totally honest, the tiniest bit smug about how well I’m coping.

And then today happened. The smugness is gone. Although i haven’t broken Whole 30, but I really had to work for it.

A few things combined. First, I think I’ve got a bit of a cold. Nothing too bad, but sneezy, blocked nose and running a bit of a temperature. Feeling a bit snuggle-down-and-eat-comfort-food-ish. Secondly, I’ve been a bit short on sleep for the last couple of nights because of early starts. And then I had to do a grocery shop when I was hungry, which is never a great idea.

As I walked round that supermarket, I don’t think there was a single sugary item that I didn’t crave. I even noticed products that I’d never seen before. Did you know there’s a caramel coffee type of those coffee pods? Nor did I, but today I noticed. And wanted some.

The store had the gluten-free, dairy-free Christmas stuff in, and normally I’d buy that as soon as it’s available, since they tend to run out. Today I decided that there was no way it was safe to have them in the house while I’m in this mood.

So I didn’t succumb, and made it safely back home. But today I definitely feel like I’ll have earned the achievement when I make day 30!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go wolf down some salmon and veggies so that I at least don’t feel hungry!

Whole 30 Diary – Day 11

Day 11! I can’t believe it! I’ve actually finished 1/3 of the Whole 30!

So, astonishment aside, a brief update today with things I’ve noticed.

Firstly, I’m definitely smaller. But it’s a bit up and down, because I still get occasional bloat days as my digestion adapts/heals/whatever it’s doing. But I’m wearing a dress size smaller than I was. (It may not be a full dress size, but I’ve crossed the boundary by a clear margin.)

Secondly, I’m starting to very definitely know the difference between being hungry and thirsty. This was one of the things that had got messed up for me, maybe because of too many caffeinated drinks. Now if I’m not hungry, but need a drink, I can tell – I have dry mouth instead of hunger/cravings.

Thirdly, and I really love this one – no scummy morning mouth! You know when you wake up, and your mouth is all fuzzy? Gone. I just love that change!

Fourthly, I’m starting to get some energy back, and I feel like I want to exercise. Also, my body feels much less stiff. Even though I haven’t exercised since I started Whole 30, a load of aches are gone. I don’t grunt as I bend down to tie my shoelaces, or as I stand up from a low chair. I haven’t lost enough weight/size for it to make a significant difference, so I’m assuming that this is either less gas or less inflammation. Whatever it is, I love it.

Now the irritations.

I am starting to get a bit bored with the cooking every meal thing, and the food options. I’m heading for the shops today to buy beets and capers to make this nomato sauce. Also going to go back to “It Starts With Food” and look at their chicken/fish recipes in the appendix. I also saw a great lasagne substitute with zucchini/courgette slices instead of pasta.

At the same time, I’m wondering: where does this cross the line into trying to eat unhealthily with healthy ingredients? Whole 30 has some pungent warnings about trying to recreate your old diet with new ingredients. I am working on the assumption that the key is variety: don’t let things like the “lasagne” become staples, mix it up and have them once in a while.

Time will tell: I have to branch out sometime! Here goes…

Whole 30 Diary – Day 9 Update

I haven’t updated every day – I did say I wasn’t going to. But I am still sticking to Whole 30, I haven’t given up.

Days 6-8 have been about gradually feeling better. My Whole 30 doesn’t seem to be following the timeline exactly, but I’m getting the same symptoms in roughly the same order.

On day 6, I felt a bit better. I had errands to run all morning until about 1pm, then got home and rested until school pickup time. I didn’t achieve much, but had the energy to get my errands done without feeling like death. This was a big improvement on previous days.

The errands, unfortunately, were preparing for my son’s birthday. I seemed to spend the day surrounded by cake, sweets and everything I couldn’t eat. I resisted everything, but I did notice a tendency to overspend as compensation for resisting the sugar. I’ve noticed this before – I think it may be down to having finite willpower.

On day 7, I felt much better. I also felt completely sick of the diet. If I stayed at home all day, I was going to bounce off the walls. Moreover, the house was still full of cakes and sweets for my son’s birthday. So I went out. I had a giant mint tea at a coffee shop, and sat drinking it while thinking about all the things that I could still enjoy, rather than the things I couldn’t. Unfortunately what I thought was herbal mint tea was actually black tea with mint. The caffeine made me feel rubbish – gurgly stomach, buzzy head, hot flush. So I didn’t break the diet (tea is allowed), but I’ve decided no caffeine for me for the rest of the 30.

I then compounded my “success” by having lunch out, and carefully picking a healthy lunch (which wasn’t easy) of roast chicken, carrots and peas from the menu. Spot the error? I didn’t, until too late. I was so busy picking out veg to eat, that I forgot that peas are a legume, and banned on Whole 30. Doh! Luckily, a quick search of the forums (fora?) on the Whole 30 website showed that they consider accidentally eating some peas to be a technicality, and I don’t have to start again. Phew!

Despite the dicey nature of the day, it was really good to have a day out, to eat out, and to feel “normal”. It’s quite mentally intense, as well as physically intense, doing Whole 30, and the “treat day” really helped.

(Aside: what was my treat? I bought myself books. Books have always been my other weakness aside from sugar).

Day 8 was fairly productive – I felt back to “normal” and managed to get stuff done. I’ve got some catching up to do on housework, etc, from week one when I felt terrible. After lunch, however, I ran out of energy and needed a siesta. Day 9 is so far going the same – plenty of energy until after lunch, then a snooze. I think this is more of a sleep catch-up than an ongoing feature. I had a big sleep backlog, and each afternoon sleep is reducing the bags under my eyes a bit. I look almost normal again now, and I’ve got my colour back.

I’ve also noticed that I’m starting to get a bit bored with my food options. While I was short of energy in week one, I was preparing the simplest meals possible – grilled/cold meat with steamed veg. Everything tasted so good anyway that it wasn’t an issue. That’s one thing that I’ve really noticed – without sugar in my diet, I can taste the flavours of the food so much more. Vegetables that I used to think bland turn out to be delicious.

Nevertheless, I think its time to scout around the Whole 30 sites for some new recipes and try them out. One of the things I really need to do during these 30 days is try new recipes so that my healthy diet is varied enough to stick to long-term. One way to fail Whole 30, for me, would be to get through the 30 days successfully, but then to gradually reintroduce the crap into my diet out of boredom.

So: doing okay so far. Not perfect, but still on Whole 30 and still seeing improvements. Time to broaden my recipe repertoire now that I’m feeling a bit more confident. 9 days down, 21 more to go…