Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Whole 30 Days

Yesterday was the official end of our Whole30 slog, although we're extending the penance through the rest of Lent.

So, the hard data: after 30 days (less four in New York) of no grains, no sugar, no dairy, no legumes, and no alcohol, my grand total weight lost is:

Three pounds.

My friends, I am not generally an emotional woman. As it is, though, I am relieved that I've been tracking my weight ever since we got back from New York, because if I had seen this number fresh this morning, I do believe I wouldn't have to write this post because you would have already heard my reaction. And God help me if I'd waited to stand on the scale until Easter morning, bright with hope, and then had to go sing the sequence at three masses starting at 7am along with directing the children's schola at the fourth. Even the glory of the Resurrection might not have shone through to my deadened soul.

But as it is, I expect my Easter weight to be down, as I expect tomorrow's weight to be down, and that has nothing at all to do with Whole 30 and everything to do with rigorous fasting. Darwin and I have been stepping our fast each Friday of Lent -- as a discipline and a penance, not a weight-loss tool -- and fasting delivers on all levels, spiritual and physical. (How do we know it's fasting and not just not eating? Because fasting is combined with prayer.)

I think, for myself, that what has fueled any success I've had is just a kind of dogged stick-to-itiveness when it comes to setting a rule and following it. Fr. Robert McTeigue writes, in a post called How Much Should Lent Hurt?:
My friend said that the SEAL instructors would target first those applicants who were natural athletes, known as “the gazelles.” These were targeted first because, more often than not, feats of physical strength or skill came easily to them; they didn’t have to fight for it as much as others. Consequently, they didn’t have much experience with having to dig down deep to win, as my friend said, “the mental game,” in order to win the physical. According to my friend, the gazelles broke first. 
Legendary SEAL and famous author Richard Marcinko wrote that he preferred his SEALs to be “sled dogs.” Marcinko described his best men, his sled dogs, something like this: “You tell them to run in a given direction and not to stop until ordered to stop, and that’s what they did. Maybe they didn’t set world records, but they never quit. They knew they didn’t have to like it, they just had to do it — and they did it.” In other words, these men understood the fullest sense of “agony”; they understood that the outer battle very often depends on the inner battle.
I've never thought of myself as SEAL material (maybe you have to be a bit more of a natural athlete than I am) but I intuitively understood this: "They knew they didn’t have to like it, they just had to do it — and they did it.” It describes a lifetime of Catholic discipline. Want to abstain before marriage? There's no magic wand. You just do it. NFP? You don't have to love it, but if you need it, you do have to just do it. Fasting on Friday? Just get through it. It's not that there isn't joy to be found in these things, but that you keep doing them even when the joy is elusive.

This is low-level discipline: the discipline of just not doing something. I've wanted the kids' cheese and crackers over the past 30 days, but I haven't actually been tempted by them, because my rule right now is that I'm simply not eating dairy or grains. The hard part comes when everything is permitted and the discipline switches from abstinence to prudential moderation. Throwing everything out is the easy part. Sorting through everything individually is hard.

There is also the danger of training oneself into unhealthy patterns. Yesterday -- Thursday, not a fast day -- I was hungry at lunchtime, a natural time to eat, and yet my first instinct was to take that hunger as a sign that I shouldn't eat, because I was hungry. Perhaps that's what necessary when you're first starting a regimen of discipline, but I don't want to get into the habit of making hunger a weighted signal, with the weight toward "bad". Hunger is neutral. What I do with that hunger isn't. So I ate lunch. Today, Friday, when I'm hungry, I'll acknowledge it and move on, because today is a fast day.

I want to learn to see food as a privilege rather than an opportunity. Over the years, I've trained myself to serve out two scoops of ice cream for dessert, rather than the heaping cereal bowls full of ice cream my family served out when I was growing up. Now it's second nature, and those two scoops of ice cream are a treat, not a deprivation because I'm not eating a huge bowl. I want to do that with everything else: to see all opportunities to eat, no matter how restrained the portion, as privileges. This is something even 30 days of rule-following hasn't taught me. When Darwin and I discovered a brand of crunchy veggie chips that we could eat, we horked them down like there was no tomorrow, because CHIPS!

My thoughts on Whole30? Your mileage may vary, of course. Jamie loves it, and bears witness that will thrill those on the fence about undertaking such a program. And I can say that I've lost some fat, and that my pants certainly fit differently now -- which is not the same thing as going down a pant size. On the other hand, was it worth giving up everything for three measly pounds? I don't know if my eating habits are the ones this diet plan is designed to target. I don't have a sugar addiction, or gluten allergies, or any food pathologies. I cook dinner from scratch almost every night, and it's already good healthy stuff. I think I'll be better served, in the end, by moderating portions and vastly upping my physical activity (harder, for me, than just cutting out whole swaths of available foodstuffs).

And fasting and prayer.


August said...

The scale is not a good measure of success. Nor is hunger. Depending on past history with diet, exercise, stress, etc... it may take some time of healthy, nutritious eating to get well. If the body is constantly running, not eating enough, and suffering chronic stress, it will think it needs every ounce of fat to stay alive.

Anyway, you may have done quite well, but not have taken measurements or pictures to know it.

MrsDarwin said...

Thanks for your kind words, but God forbid I should ever become one of those people who post before and after pix. I feel like I'm pushing the TMI barrier here as it is.

Unfortunately, the scale is a good indicator when the goal is the sheer reduction of base weight. I'm not unhealthy. I do have to lose my baby weight, now that baby is two.

Bernard Brandt said...


If it is any consolation, may I offer two:

-Weight that is slowly lost is less likely to come back. Only yoyos think that yoyoing is either fun or effective.

-In the six months since I got my wakeup call about blood sugars (250+), soon after my late wife Beth's death, I've lost only 15 pounds. It has been enough, however, to normalize my blood sugars.

We must each do what we can. Just one 'sled dog' to another.

Banshee said...

What made me lose a little weight was tuna salad and Apple's. What made me lose a lot was fermented food, like pickles and kimchi, and lots of exercise all day.