Friday, January 31, 2014

Three Amazing Things (Including Whole30 Results)

me and my babes! together forever--even on weekdays. for now anyway.

Three amazing things happened this week.

My husband went to, competed in, finished (7th place!), and came home (to much local fanfare) four days later from a truly insane wilderness ultramarathon (ultra-marathon? who knows) in northern MN called the Arrowhead 135; I completed the Whole30 program; and I very suddenly and rather unexpectedly got hired for a job that begins next Monday.

1. I won't say much more about the ultramarathon/ultra-marathon, because you can read about it here and also here. I will say that people in our little college town are sweet, supportive, and beyond excited. His boss organized a welcome-home reception at the college's student union coffee shop, where everyone listened to Christopher's tale of insanity--oops I mean outrageous skill, bravery, and endurance--, inspected his fatbike, admired his trophy (and his frostbite), and even gave me a round of applause, multiple kudos, and a hug, for my role as support staff #1 and primary child-caregiver so that Christopher could train for and do this thing. So sweet.

2. The job thing was funny and head-spinning. Last fall, when I determined that now was not the appropriate time, family-wise, for me to revisit my dormant therapy career, I wanted more than anything to continue my life as a full-time stay-at-home mom, but to be able to do it without guilt or nagging doubt. However, winter is the worst, and all the horrible cold weather gave me too much time during the girls' school days to feel lonely and achingly sad that I have no more babies (i.e., babies/toddlers/preschoolers/etc.) in this house. Plus, my husband really wanted me to get a job, so that was always sort of nagging at me.

Long story (a tiny bit) short(er), it suddenly occurred to me that what do stay-at-home moms do when their kiddos reach all-day school-age, yet they want to remain available before school, after school, on school vacation days, and over the summer? In my universe, at least, they become EAs (Educational Assistants) at their kids' school. At least, I started noticing, on my volunteering days, that there were several formerly full-time at-home parents who I now saw routinely in the halls of my daughters' school, wearing staff badges and working in various EA positions.

As far as I was concerned, this was the only option for me. I love my kiddos' school, I'm there all the time anyway, and if I got an EA job there, I'd be under the same roof as them during my work hours--which was a major draw considering how much I miss them during the day.

I started watching the school district website a short while ago and waited until I spied an open EA position that a.) was at my daughters' elementary school (not at a different one or at the middle or high school), and b.) was very part-time. After the holidays one came up for an EA in the developmental disabilities/special ed room for three hours a day, five days a week, starting just after lunch and ending when school lets out, from now until the last day of school in early June. Temporary, part-time, around my girls' schedule, and just enough to give me time and space to try it out but not commit to major hours or a permanent gig.

Blah blah. Within 24 hours this week I was approached, "interviewed" (if you can call it that), hired, and at a workplace orientation. If my background check comes back and I can get my staff badge from HR in time, I start on Monday. Yikes?

3. OK, enough about that. I know (some of, or maybe none of) you want to know about my WHOLE30 RESULTS. Right?!?

OK, maybe not. But I'm going to tell you anyway, because why have a long, boring post when you can have a suuuuper-long, boring post? Onward.

I will preface my results by saying I was not super-strict on the Whole30. The "official" "Whole30 community" would thus say that I did not actually do a Whole30. Whatevs. I did really, really well, and am super proud and extremely glad I did it, and I am THRILLED with my results, but I slipped up now and then, purposely "cheated" at times (I hate that word "cheated," more like I chose to eat something I technically wasn't supposed to), and basically ended a half-day early. So, take that however you will. Maybe to you it means I'm not a Whole30 finisher, but to me it was plenty good enough. I haven't had Diet Coke in 30 days (and don't plan to), have had almost NO sugar, wheat, dairy, other grains, legumes, junk food, or processed food of any kind, and have basically completely kicked all former cravings for the stuff most Americans eat far too much of (refined sugar, flour).

All told, I lost 7-1/2 lbs. This is actually a good thing, because while running up to my Toronto trip I was basically too nervous to eat, after Toronto when Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year's hit, I fell into an overly relaxed pattern of Eating All The Things and Doing Almost No Exercise. So, truth be told, I'm still a handful of pounds OVER my "normal," fit, preferred weight. But heck yeah, 7-1/2 lbs lost is awesome, particularly when it was done while eating a boatload of healthy food and by cutting out all the junk. In fact, I'm sure that if I had been 100% Whole30-compliant, I would have lost more. I also lost a total of 5-3/4 inches.

But I only started with that result because it's the one people want to know about. In many ways, it is the least important to me. Even with my "slip-ups" and "cheating," I experienced many more positive results from clean eating this past month, results that are thrilling to me.

* My joint pain decreased CONSIDERABLY. While my annoying left hip still gets sore at time, I would estimate that I'm roughly 80-90% less stiff and sore on a daily basis than before the Whole30. I am convinced this is due to not eating sugar or wheat, since they are quite accepted in the medical community as known inflammatories.

* My tummy is super-flat, even though I'm currently about 6-7 lbs. OVER the weight I used to have to get to in order to achieve a flat tummy. In other words, I look thinner than I ever did before at this weight. I guess the tummy flab that seemed to always be around wasn't fat so much as bloat. Or a combo of the two, who knows. All I know is, cutting out processed foods and eating only "real," good-for-you foods as nature intended, gives you a flat belly almost effortlessly. Wow.

* I used to have this mysterious annoying irritated-eyes thing where every morning when I woke up, even when I was just wearing my glasses and hadn't yet put in my contact lenses, my eyes (especially the left one) would water like crazy and sting and look irritated and red for an hour or so before clearing up and being normal the rest of the day. Next morning, same thing. All the time. I have no idea what this was (allergies?), but it's gone. 100% gone.

* I think my skin and hair look better, but it's a little hard to tell since my skin was clear beforehand and, honestly, does any woman's hair ever really look as great as she would prefer? No, but I think it's looking healthy these days--and it's also super-long all of a sudden.

* Most amazingly and thrillingly of all, NO MORE CRAVINGS. Seriously, this is the kicker. And if this can happen to me, it can happen to you, or ANYONE. I was a hard-core sugar (and Diet Coke!) addict, with a healthy dose of any-processed-food addiction thrown in for good measure. Meaning, I thought nothing of nibbling on my kids' snack foods, boxed crackers and cookies, bags of chips, absolutely anything snacky and processed living in my pantry. And sweets? Sweets were a major food group for me. Now, all that stuff is still in my house (I have a husband and kids, and they eat the same way they always have), but I don't crave it or think about it. This is ridic. I can't even believe it.

So, what's next? Well, I'm glad to be "free" of hardcore rules about things like beans/legumes/peanut butter/whole grains, because I cook for my family with a lot of those things normally, but in general I plan to mostly avoid sugar, wheat, and probably dairy, because I do believe the literature that suggests these things contribute to joint pain and inflammation, and since it's no longer hard to resist them, why not? BUT, I won't turn down a grain-based food, baked good, or dessert now and then, such as at someone else's house, a birthday celebration, having company, etc. I probably just won't eat these things regularly anymore. And Diet Coke will be a rare, restaurant-only treat! I never craved it after Day One, so it's outta here!

One last thing. People constantly wonder about energy. Can a person sustain enough energy for living if they're not eating bread, traditional carbs, etc.? If you're only eating fish, meat, poultry, eggs, tons of vegetables, and the like, won't you be lethargic and miserable, so tired you can't get out of bed?

The short answer is no. While in Week Two I did get very low-energy for a few days, my body adapted and after that I felt exactly the way I did when I was eating grains/carbs. In fact, I felt a lot better, with more steady energy and no mid-afternoon slumps. People forget that there are plenty of carbs and calories in many of the foods in this style of eating, such as sweet potatoes, winter squash, avocados, olive and coconut oils, dates and other dried fruit, bananas, nuts and nut butters, coconut, etc. There just isn't any GRAIN (or a few other foods that nutritionally "act" like grains, including corn, peas, and legumes).

And now you know more than you ever cared to know about me or my life.

I will end with this one sweet fact:

When I asked my girls what they would think about Mama working at their school, they literally yelled, "THRILLED!!!!" So it doesn't get any better than that.

Carry on, warriors. I'll let you know how it goes. :)

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