Somehow, the holidays turn off an alarm in my brain that would usually sound if I so much as even smell a gluten-filled treat or think about cutting off a slice of cheddar from the block on the appetizer tray. For some reason, as the clock strikes Turkey-thirty, it is game over for me and my dietary restrictions for the next month. Ski season starts and with it comes Marley Nachos and spicey margaritas at the Spur, and then of course the influx of holiday parties and before I know what’s happened, I’m shoving Pillsbury croissant-wrapped mini-weiners into my mouth between glugs of Egg Nog while looking around guiltily and declaring “its the holidays!”
What I learn every year – and then quickly forget when November rolls around again- is that I care about the holidays, but the holidays don’t care about me. The holidays don’t care that I’m lactose intolerant and that gluten makes me ill for days, the holidays don’t care about the daily sugar-comas I put myself into after the fourth Christmas tree shaped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup is consumed, and the holidays certainly don’t care about the rum and egg-nog hangovers I’ve fought (and lost). In short, the holidays don’t make me immune to the physical reactions and mental effects I experience during the dietary guerilla warfare I wage on my body at this time of year.
By the time January comes around I’m struggling- workouts are hard, motivating to workout is even harder, my sleep patterns are off, I’m tired, cranky, stressed, unproductive. Here’s where my Tabula Rasa strategy comes in. I know myself well enough to understand that I’m going to go a little rogue in December, and I’m going to be okay with that (“Its the holidays!”). I actually really depend on it. The recklessness of December motivates me to go to the opposite end of the spectrum in January- to clean myself up, press reset, and get myself prepared to train for whatever is coming on the summer horizon.
For the past two years I’ve chosen to do the Whole30 elimination program in January. I’ve done similar 21-day programs at different times of the year, but I like the Whole30 for January because it challenges you for the whole month and when you’re done you feel like you’ve totally made up for all that monkey-business way back in December. I’m not a nutritionist, and if I could live by the “Everything in moderation theory” then I’d be doing it (I can’t- rewind back to that moment with mini-weiners and egg nog for proof that for me, there is nothing in moderation), but the results that I’ve experienced while on the Whole30 or the 21 Day Sugar Detox speak for themselves.
The Whole30 focuses on eating whole, real, unprocessed foods- something that humans should be doing on a regular basis, but are failing miserably at. The Whole30 allows you to eat all unprocessed meat and poultry, vegetables, sweet and white potatoes, nuts (no peanuts), natural oils, and fruit. The Whole30 eliminates from your diet foods like sugar, grains, dairy, alcohol (gasp!), and legumes that could potentially be having a negative impact on your health, how you feel, and your mental state. The elimination program enables you to realize what effects which foods are having on your systems and what it feels like to “push the “reset” button with your metabolism, systemic inflammation, and the downstream effects of the food choices you’ve been making.” Each time I do one of the programs, I learn more about how the foods I eat actually affect my day to day life and health.
I’m on Day 22 and this time through has been one of the easiest to stick to. I’m typically craving chocolate or a glass of red wine by the 3rd day, making the next 27 fairly difficult. However, I’m really enjoying my reset this time around. I’m saving money by not going out. I’m back on my regular workout routine and am feeling strong as I think about starting to train for the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race, I’m sleeping like a log, my mind feels clear, my mood has taken a 180 turn back to happy, and my joints have stopped aching after running and skinning. Another major benefit people see on the program is weight loss. You’re not supposed to weigh yourself during the program, so I’m not sure if I’ve lost or gained, but my clothes are definitely feeling much better than they were at Christmas. The Whole30 program has a what-to-expect timeline and it has been fairly accurate for me. You can check it out here: http://whole30.com/2013/08/revised-timeline/.