Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Whole Foodie Gone Wrong and Other DietBet Lessons

Meal plan in the last week of the DietBet
I never followed up about that gosh-darn fruit cleanse and DietBet.

So the good news is… I won!  Fifty big ones.  The bad news is… the fruit cleanse was pretty brutal.  Here's what went down:

Just like I had last posted, things were going just great for the DietBet: I was holding myself accountable for eating well and exercising, which was leading me to steadily lose those lbs.  And just as I was writing that post to rave about how good I felt… I decided for the last week to alter my eating habits.

The plan was to eat only “whole foods” for the last seven days of the DietBet, and spend the last three of those days on a fruit cleanse.  I wanted to ensure that the last .8 pounds I had to lose for the DietBet would be gone, but I had also always wanted to challenge myself with a cleanse.  Oh man.

What's a whole food?

Well, it’s not all bad.  The whole foods restriction was interesting.  First, I had to figure out what the heck “whole foods” are.  Seemed like I should be able to find an answer simply enough – perhaps some literature from our most ubiquitous health food chain would satisfy? 

Um… no.  After scouring the internet, I realized that everyone can agree on the basic definition of a whole food as a food that is not processed, like a banana.  But I also came to realize that beyond fruits and veggies, it’s not super clear what’s still considered a “whole food.” 

Some items are easy to rule out: anything with additives, any packaged product with more than, say, five ingredients, and anything with sugar (both corn syrup and cane sugar).  But then there’s a big gray area, and I had questions.

·       What about oils, which may have no additives but have certainly been processed by humans such that the caloric content of an oil is substantially different than the nut/fruit/seed from which it came?  
·       What about dairy products – is pasteurization considered processing?
·       What about wine, with its fermentation process?

I decided I had to draw my own line for what “processed” meant to me, for the purposes of the week.  And in the end, I decided that in the spirit of what I was doing, processed would mean any kind of human manipulation of the food – aside from adding heat – that altered its content.  So… oils, yogurt, and wine were all out.

I was hungry.

One thing about attempting to eat only whole foods, especially without oils, is that you realize how much we rely on processing.  Packaged foods were obviously out.  So were dairy products.  I could eat breads, but they had to be whole grain.  I could eat veggies to my heart’s content, but not the oils in the dressing.  And if I really wanted to get crazy, I could eat sea -- but not table -- salt. 

Most of the supermarket was off limits, and all restaurants were, too.  I loaded up my plate with fish, veggies, and whole grain pasta.  Keep in mind, this is exactly what we are supposed to eat.  Anyone who knows anything about health would have said I was doing a bang-up job.  But you know what?  Real talk: I was hungry.  

Bananas bananas bananas

And that's when I entered the fruit cleanse.  You can see by my drawing at the top of this post that I was hoping to incorporate a lot of different fruits into the mix.  I had dreams of pineapple, strawberries, bananas, grapefruit, and of course the hearty avocado.  I thought, if I just match the calories I would eat on a normal day, then I shouldn't have any problems.  I'll be better than fine!  My digestive system will be working like it's never worked before!

What a load.

First beer post-fruit cleanse.  Even that lemon was too much for my tastebuds.
The first thing that got me was lack of energy.  I tried to go about my normal day -- I went shopping, I did yoga -- but by 3 p.m. the weakness started to hit me.  I snapped at the people around me (it's a low blood sugar thing) and felt like I couldn't concentrate on anything except that gnawing in my stomach.  And then the second problem hit: Fruit turned me off.  I was hungry but couldn't really stomach the thought of eating another banana, which would have been my fifth of the day.  I felt like I had banana residue on my tongue -- an unpleasant taste, to say the least.  And where were these so-called digestive benefits?

When I got home from errand-running, I forced an apple down and begged Michael to take me to a movie, to distract me from the pain.

And, well... I think you know where this story is going, because you know what they have at movies, right?  ...Pizza and beer.  (Oh yeah, I guess I'm really just thinking of this one theater in downtown Houston.)  

Long story short, I made Michael sit with me in front of the bar while I rationalized getting out of the fruit cleanse.  I argued that I didn't know the scientific evidence behind its benefits, that nothing that could feel this bad could possibly be good, and for the love of this stupid cleanse just please let me buy that pizza! 

I gave myself permission.  And I think it was the best pizza I've ever had.

The Lessons (too many)

Well first, I don't think I'll ever do a cleanse again, especially because the bounce-back was so horrific.  I craved nothing but salt for, like, five days -- hardly hammering in the good habits I had gleaned during the DietBet.

But here are the real tidbits I learned from my dabble into dieting:

  1. Listen to my body.  Am I full?  Stop eating.
  2. Enjoy it.  Practicing enjoyment while eating slows me down, fills me up and makes me happy.
  3. Keep my food options free.  (In other words, don't do what I did in my last week of this DietBet.)
  4. Exercise after work.  This curbs my appetite in the hours I'm most likely to overeat.
  5. Don't think too hard about it.  Devoting more mind space to what I'm eating makes my stomach growl.

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