A few months ago we took F to see a GI specialist. She was having some odd symptoms that we were trying to get to the bottom of, and one of the things that we discussed was briefly eliminating certain foods and then slowly reintroducing them back to her. I’m not going to get into the details here, but the process was really successful for her. I liked her doctor, and during our two visits with her I also briefly discussed some of the more serious issues I had as a child and teenager and younger adult. Turns out that Dr. GI and I lived parallel lives during those years.
I charted F’s food intake for two months (which seemed like an eternity), and I took the spreadsheet with us to one of the appointments. It was seriously the most annoying task I’ve ever done – it doesn’t seem like it should be that hard, but it really was. I would input her school menu and then edit it once I talked to her about what she had actually eaten. I would email M to see what he gave the girls after school. I’d scour back through my menus if I missed a day of recording. I practically threw the chart at the doctor I was so sick of it, but then she looked at it in amazement and gave me a legit mother of the year award, and so my annoyance disappeared. Plus, my kid eats amazing food, so there might have been a little bit of shameless pride there when the doctor wanted to adopt F’s menu as her own.
To bring this around to me (as if I hadn’t already), I was really interested in the idea of “resetting” my digestive track and the added perks of increased energy and better sleep really got me thinking. We were going into the month of May which I knew would be a crazy-busy month for me, and I was already doing my very best to keep my head above water. I kept to my workout regime even when I was swamped at work. We continued cooking at home, and I tried to stick to a regular bedtime – more reading, less screen time. June was fast approaching with a pretty large work deadline on the horizon, and I knew that it was going to take a lot more effort to keep everything in balance. So I decided that June might be a good time to dive into a low-FODMAP diet for the month as the doctor had recommended.
This seems counter-intuitive – tackling a big lifestyle change during a busy, stressful time – but for me it made sense. Working longer hours at a higher level of stress would have certainly led to poorer food choices for me. Cutting those options out completely seemed like a way to ensure that I was fighting off stress in every way possible. The girls were out of town with grandparents that last week of May, and so it gave me a few days to do the research and get a plan in place. I opted to do the Whole 30, which is really about the same as the low-FODMAP diet, just marketed better. (I liked the printout formats!) M was on board, and the girls also went along for the ride, although they did not have the full restrictions on them. That meant that I helped make camp lunches and couldn’t lick the peanut butter off the knife (no legumes!), we stopped for ice cream after a hot soccer game and I ate an apple (no dairy!), and I even made two desserts for June office birthdays where I had to farm out the taste testing to family members (no sugar!).
I shared this eating plan with my immediate family and maybe two other people. We spent the weekend with my family, and I didn’t even mention it. We went out to breakfast one morning, and I ordered eggs and sliced tomatoes while everyone else had pancakes. I missed having a glass of wine while making dinner (no alchohol!), and ordered sparkling water with a lime when dining out with friends. I ordered a salad with oil and vinegar (no pizza!) I lucked out at another dinner party with the menu quite by accident – the food was delicious and compliant! I did miss eating that night’s dessert, and sipping water while others drank cocktails was a bit of a drag. But thirty days isn’t forever, and after about a week I really starting to feel amazing. I was sleeping well, and not dragging at work, even when I was working 50+ hours a week. Two weeks in I upped my caloric content some – I had noticed I was really dropping weight which I was trying not to do. I had more energy on my runs, and my workouts were more enjoyable. Even in the more stressful moments of that month (and there were several), I felt even keeled and calm. It was working.
On July 1st we flew out of town on vacation, and I was done with the thirty days. I still stuck to the premise of eating whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible while we were gone, although I did have a few mojitos and ate some ice cream on the trip. And tacos (welcome back gluten!) But I’ve decided to ditch the oatmeal at breakfast completely; I’ve converted to a breakfast salad eater, with eggs or avocados or some other type of healthy fat. Even at a birthday brunch yesterday with F, I couldn’t bring myself to order crepes, I stuck with two over-medium eggs and some arugula tossed in oil and vinegar. It was delicious. My sweet tooth is in hiding still, although I will still occasionally eat really good ice cream or a slice of dessert in celebration. And fruit is sweet – and really what I crave most days anyway. Choosing to eat this way is certainly a privilege. It’s not inexpensive – processed foods are almost always cheaper. But in thirty days I only ate at a restaurant five times – and those were always necessary because of travel and one dinner date with out of town friends. Not eating out – even those inexpensive treats here and there add up, so that helped to offset my increased produce bill.
I don’t want to give up eating food and enjoying it – but I’m even more convinced to make that a choice for pleasure, not for convenience.
I’ll be completely honest with you here – I’ve always thought of myself as anti-diet, or at least anti-extreme anything related to food. I’m in camp moderation – eat good food at a reasonable rate and enjoy it. I’m married to someone with an extreme diet – although being a vegetarian doesn’t seem overly radical to me, it’s still means not eating a lot of things. I can appreciate eating very little meat, but I have no desire to eliminate it completely from my own diet. Whole 30 actually forced me to eat more meat, so it’s nice to be able to consume non-meat forms of protein again now that I am done. I missed beans and grains. And pasta.
Would I recommend this to others? 100% yes. I’d also recommend doing it in the summer first – when produce is in abundance and feels like a treat already. Doing this in January to try and lose weight or break bad holiday habits sounds miserable. I treated it from Day 1 as an opportunity to eat delicious food, not as a restriction of other foods. Days 3-7 sort of suck, but stick it out. By the second week you will feel like you can conquer the world.
If anything, it’s reinforced my pledge to eat as well as I am able as often as I am able. There are many things that are out of my control, but I can choose how to fuel myself for the ride. If you’ve ever done a similar diet reset, I’d love to hear how it went for you. For someone who puts a lot of effort into preparing and eating good food, I still learned a whole lot about how my body responds to it.