What The College Girl Brought Home

Our daughter came home from college, diploma in hand and South Korea-bound.  She’s here at home for a few months to get all the paper work in order and while here she has brought us happily into the world of 20-somethings – alternative music, trending topics, exercise in the late afternoon, and The Whole30 Program.

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If you aren’t familiar with The Whole30, it is more of a cleanse than a diet.  For 30 days we commit to forego all refined sugar of any kind. In addition to the obvious sugar vehicles, we must turn our backs on alcohol and all grains.  Additionally, the Whole30 adherent gives up those hearty legumes except beans that are more pod than bean, like a snow pea.  Finally, all dairy is excluded with the exception of clarified butter or ghee which probably isn’t available in our town, but I could be wrong.

So what’s left?

8 days in to the 30, here’s what’s left:

* Actual real unprocessed original food.  Grilled chicken breasts, grilled peppers, stuffed cabbage, whole berries, homemade mayonnaise, avocados, lettuce wraps.  A steamed potato is the unsung understudy to butter and sour cream.  But let it have center stage and a star is born.  Yes, I know I sound like a sound-bite, but I’m not kidding.

* The chance to taste again.  I had not realized that I wasn’t really tasting anything anymore, partially because the original food was so submerged in other things, but also because this plan forces us to slow down, prepare, taste, savor.

* Kitchen time, touching food and thinking about what’s good.  At first it is annoying because nothing is fast or quick-grab on this program, and I have a busy life.  Aside from an apple or a banana, if you want to eat you have to cook.  So you have to peel, chop, seed, simmer, steam, wait, smell, think, wait, not sip wine, and wait.

* The good feeling of hunger.  I had forgotten that, too.  When was the last time I approached dinner actually hungry and having to wait?  I can’t remember.

* The deep thought that technology is not neutral. Neil Postman said this, I believe, and the gist is that advances can be detrimental.  We’ve developed ways to eat fast, convenient, and extra large, and much is lost in that.  We all know this, but Whole30 eating is a three-times-a-day illustration of it.

* Being able to eat a lot!!  We’ve eaten like kings for these 8 days.  Vegetable soup, fruit smoothies, lots of meat, oven roasted asparagus, Cuban pork chops and plantains, scrambled eggs, steamed salmon en papillote, to name some recent meals.

* But never feeling that sick stuffed feeling.  You know what I am talking about, that feeling that makes you hate yourself.

A wreck of a kitchen.  We’re in it all the time and every gadget we own stays out on the countertop – pressure cooker, smoothie blender, food processor, handheld and countertop mixers, and all their different lids, blades, and accoutrements. Come to think of it, I don’t know how I would do this during the school year. But the family is together and every meal is an event.

* Character challengesThe Whole30 founders say this program is not hard.  And what they mean is that it isn’t hard compared to actual hard things like cancer and car wrecks.  They are right.  But it is hard to say no to ourselves.  And when we do it our character is flexed and strengthened.  This program makes you say to yourself, “You mean you can’t give up cream in your coffee or the evening glass of wine for a mere 30 days???  What if the apocalypse happens and your family needs you to man-up and find shelter?  Will you collapse for lack of half and half?”    It’s one thing to be forced to give up something, but to do it by choice when it is available at hand, well, that’s a character builder.

* The freedom to make modifications.  Now the minute I say this, The Whole30 founders will say that I am no longer on their plan.  I respect that.  The purpose of doing this program is different for each person.  Andrew and I have decided that living almost half a century earns us the right to draw a few lines of our own, within reason, of course.  So, we have added the Asian grain millet or the Egyptian grain kamut for breakfast.  That and the tiniest splash of 2% milk in my coffee.  Drinking black coffee is like drinking Comet.  Otherwise, we are hard core.

* And the challenge to reject food righteousness.  It is a short jump from hard core to self-righteous, isn’t it?  And food can be a beautiful platform for raising my brows at the pizza-eaters and saluting my gnostically-enlightened fellow snow-pea eaters. Or raising my brows at them too and being what C.S. Lewis calls the truly superior man who thinks he sees through both sides as no one else can  (Screwtape Letters, Letter 10).  Yes, this program is a humbling opportunity to refuse to be enslaved by things that enslave me but not to be proud or judgmental about it.

* Moments for grace and politeness and empathy. Within these 30 days in May and June, we have weddings, birthdays, a family reunion, and graduation celebrations.  It can be tiresome when people dominate an event with their dietary needs.  This is my chance to find that I sympathize with the impulse to talk about the intracacies of a particular food path, but to conquer the urge. When handed the cake and champagne, I can participate fully by holding it and at some point just putting it down. Easy.

Well, these are my meditations at Day 8.

What?  Side effects?  A few headaches, a coping G.I. tract, and sluggish running. No euphoria or slumps, but these are early days.

Will we make it the whole 30?  I’ll keep you posted.

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