Today I can eat what I want. But I probably won’t.
Yesterday my wife and I finished the Whole 30, a dietary regime which removes all sugars, gluten, grains, beans, dairy, alcohol and (it sometimes feels) just about everything else from your diet for 30 days. I went into the project with a fair amount of apprehension, perhaps for obvious reasons. On the first or second day we went to the supermarket and I got rather sad as I scoured the small print on the packaging looking for the treacherous words (fructose and dextrose) that had me reluctantly putting things back on the shelf. It turns out that there’s sugar in everything.
So for thirty days we ate a lot of meat and vegetables and salad and nuts, and not much else. I drank nothing but water and coffee. The jar of Nutella remained resolutely shut throughout.
If this all sounds like a lot of hard work, well, it was. We bought a Whole 30 cookbook and adapted recipes from a cookbook for runners and another called Weeknight Paleo. But the effort was worth it: we enjoyed a constantly changing and (usually) delicious menu, and discovered a lot of things we would not ordinarily have bothered to try. We used substitutes (ghee instead of butter, for example) and scoured shops for sugar-free fish sauce. To my astonishment, we ate wonderfully well and after about a week I (mainly) stopped counting the days until it was all over.
By far the hardest moments were when we ate out. Our favorite restaurant in Columbia serves the most delicious tacos, and these were strictly verboten. And it wasn’t easy to watch our friends drink beer and wine while we cracked open another can of lemon-flavored La Croix.
And, glory be, here we are at Day 31. I’ve lost thirteen pounds. I am sleeping better. I have more energy during the day. My metabolism seems to have reset itself and I get full much more quickly and feel less hungry. I don’t want any of these good things to stop, but this morning I’m confronted by an interesting psychological twist to all this. For the last 30 days we have been living according to a set of rules. It was simple: there were things that we were simply not allowed to eat. On Day 31, however, I find myself in far more dangerous territory. Those rules have been replaced by the infinitely more precarious concept of choice. Now each time I open the pantry door I am going to have to make a conscious decision not to eat this or that. It shouldn’t make a difference, but I know that it will. Rules are a comfort, a means to finesse the knotty issue of self-determination. Freedom to choose is far harder.
Wish me luck. Those tacos are already calling me.