Home > Health > 39.5 days

39.5 days

I just wrote about how much I do not like proselytizing.
There’s a chance what I wrote below might come off as trying to sell you, but that’s not my intention.
I intend strictly, exclusively, to tell you why I feel so darn good at this exact moment in time,
in a way that doesn’t take me 408 hours to explain.

A few years ago, I changed my eating habits after a serious, months-long health scare following exposure to environmental toxins.

With doctors unable to help, I fell asleep every night praying I’d actually awaken each next morning … until one on-call doctor told me it sounded like I was experiencing rampant inflammation. He recommended Aleve for short-term relief.

Aleve actually helped, so–tentatively hopeful–I began looking into inflammation. Alone in the theater during a crappy Tom Cruise movie, I searched Amazon and found a book that suggested its recommendations could help heal systemic inflammation.

I decided to give it a shot. I had everything to gain and nothing to lose.

While the diet wasn’t a cure-all, my health improved dramatically (times a million; “dramatically” alone isn’t nearly strong enough) during my 30-day Whole30.

After that Whole30 ended, I continued to eat according to most of its guidelines. I felt great by doing so.

I’ve eaten guided by Whole30 principles since then, but found it harder during my stressful last year.

I tried and failed through a dozen false starts, hoping to feel long term good but unable to sacrifice short term good tastes to achieve it.

With my older son inspired to give up something for Lent this year, I decided this might be a chance for me to succeed in resuming my healthier ways. I aimed for a Whole40.

I usually feel the magic within a week or two of starting. This time, the magic was less magical and more “mildly pleasant,” so that I knew some other problem required address.

I ditched coffee two weeks ago. Doing so helped me see I had a serious coffee problem, and made my now withdrawal-laden Whole40 feel a hundred more times difficult.

Still, I told myself I had to do the whole 40 days. Anything else would be a failure! I mean, who proudly touts running 24 miles of a marathon?!

Since giving up coffee, I’ve felt deprived. I’ve thought constantly, “In only [x] hours, I’ll be drinking beer and eating chocolate and it will all be OK!”

This does not feel healthy. I don’t see ongoing self restriction for its own sake as meritorious or worthy, and I’ve struggled with whether to stop early in light of new circumstances or continue because I said I was going to go 40 whole days, dammit.

Today I talked at length with my husband, who’s–bless him–reading a book on stress management with me to help effect changes impossible by diet alone after living with chronic stress. I decided that stopping a few hours early of a Whole40 isn’t giving up at the 24-mile mark, but stopping running a few miles after the finish line in recognition that I could keep running for its own sake … but that it might not be the wisest thing for me, right now.

So I had a Cadbury Egg, which contains as much caffeine as I see in my future for a long, long time.

I’m savoring a beer and my family now. And I’m thinking not, “Oh, gawd, I failed!” but

“Check me out, learning not only to listen to where I’m at,

but actually trust it.”

Categories: Health Tags: , , , , ,
  1. Kay
    March 20, 2016 at 4:51 pm

    I’ve had a similar experience, first giving up soda, eating clean, then becoming a vegetarian, and also giving up coffee. Yet, still I experience health-rated issues which are likely due to chronic stress. Managing the stress has been one of the hugest hurdles! In my case some drastic changes have to happen, I believe. But first, not feeling guilt or shame for my feelings or my needs! That’s tough!

    Thank you for sharing, Deborah. 💜

    • March 20, 2016 at 5:00 pm

      I got a little misty-eyed reading your words: “not feeling guilt or shame for my feelings or my needs.” Until I found the book Anthony and I are reading, I did still feel a background sense of: Who am I to ask for these things?! Reading the author, also a medical practitioner, advising folks to be accepting of where they are instead of angry about where they aren’t, has been so peaceful for me the last couple of days.

      It made me revisit a comment I made on my bulimia post some months back. Someone said loving her body as it is now would constitute defeat. I replied:

      I lovingly and completely disagree that loving your body now constitutes defeat. Loving your body inspires you to make changes that improve its well being, versus trying to force or hate yourself into positive change. (Doesn’t it even sound strange?)

      … and yet still had a difficult time completely translating that to my own life!

      Our lives these days are so complex. Taking small steps right now is a huge thing, whereas taking All Enormous Steps right now is … impossible, in most cases. That’s not something to be frustrated by, but rather, something to–I believe–inspire one to hopefully feel good about all she has been able to do amidst all the noise and hubbub.

      I failed to recognize how much of an impact chronic stress was having on me. “But why does this impact me so much harder than it did before?! It makes no sense!” Actually, now it does. Serious stress was never meant to be sustained for more than a couple of hours or days at a time. Acknowledging that feels a little crappy because it means there’s so much more work again, but also super hopeful because … there’s work ahead, not just despair that nothing could ever change enough to feel good again.

      Thank you so much for your kind words, and much, much inspiration and support on your own stress-relieving journey ahead! ♥

      • Kay
        March 22, 2016 at 4:19 pm

        ‘To be accepting of where they are instead of angry about where they aren’t’ was like a punch in the gut. I already know that’s what I do, a cycle I get myself into, actually. I lost 75 pounds exercising and eating well. I feel so good when I treat my body right! Mentally and physically. When I don’t, due to stress and all sorts of thinking errors, I focus not on where I am, but on where I’m not. Where I will never be again (skin due to loss), instead of how far I’ve come. And all of that adds to the stress, feeding the negative self talk, the voice that also asks, am I worth the time and effort?, why must I always be deprived? Again, instead of reminding myself what a gift it is to treat myself in ways that fill my well and make me feel good. And, my loved ones benefit as well!

        Your bulimia post was fantastic. I’m so thankful you shared it. I wholeheartedly agree with you! Loving our bodies never constitutes defeat, it absolutely inspires positive change and healthy thinking. No more guilt and shame; having compassion for oneself. I, too, have had difficulty translating that into my life. It’s been a long road and I encounter many roadblocks! I really believe it’s something I MUST tackle, day to day, accepting where I am each day, and moving forward.

        I appreciate so much your sharing. It felt like the universe sort of lead me to this post at just the right time! And then you shared those others, which were inspirational. Just what I needed to hear. Thank you. 💜

  2. March 20, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    I have a really bad coffee problem. I just don’t know if I have the strength to give it up. And I’ve been really itching to do something for my health so this Whole30 thing…how expensive is it, really honestly truly? I know it costs a lot more to eat healthy all the time. For a person on a fairly tight budget for the next little while, would it be feasible?

    • March 20, 2016 at 5:05 pm

      I would absolutely not have given up coffee if I hadn’t faced such a huge difference this time around. I normally feel like I imagine a unicorn might two weeks into a Whole30, so that feeling sluggish and sad three weeks in alerted me to something else being amiss. I ditched the coffee but still wasn’t feeling great, which was when I started reading the stress management book and realized coffee was only part of my cortisol+ problem.

      The folks behind the Whole30 program address that here and there. They say that doing it with cost prohibitions is better than not doing it with cost prohibitions, so that it’s–for example–good to eat the “dirty dozen” organic and OK to eat not-organic otherwise, and for meat to cut out the fattiest parts of not-organic meats because the toxins live longest in the fat. Here’s one related article I just found. (I’ve read many articles but retained few specifics, sadly!)

      I would say that I read about tons of folks saying that farmers markets are sooooo expensive, but that hasn’t been my experience. At my farmers market, we get these heads of lettuce that are easily 3x my (ginormous) head size for $2 apiece, which is $0.5 less per miniscule head at the grocery store.

      • March 20, 2016 at 6:13 pm

        Thank you! I think you’ve inspired me to do this in the not so distant future. Time to do some research. 🙂

  3. March 20, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    Thank you for this, Deborah. I’m currently experiencing inflammation to the point where it impacting my life. I’ve been eating the whole 30 way for about a week except for wine, which makes it a huge fail. I’m weaning off. I’m taking Ashwagandha for thyroid and adrenal relief but recently read that it can put the immune system into overdrive. I’m going to check out the book your husband is reading. And, you aren’t failing. Like you said, the program is whole30 and you ran whole39.5. 😃.

    • March 20, 2016 at 5:25 pm

      That book is amazing, in part for its content but in another great part for its tone. Some books/resources sound very: “If you do not do this, you are failing and you will die early and painfully!” This book’s author is much more pragmatic, reflecting on almost every page her understanding that real life requires a lot of real life decision-making that’s more complex than anything happening in the pages of a book. She compassionately/emphatically states over and over again that you should not beat yourself up over what you’re not able to do right now, but feel proud of what you are able to do in your first steps today, no matter what those first steps are.

      In a world so full of negative noise, it is so calming to read such gentle affirmation that good results come not from hage and feelings of inadequacy but from grace for yourself equal to that grace you’d offer others.

      When that one doctor suggested inflammation could be causing my various, severe symptoms, I was super dubious. If it was something so simple as to be summed up in a single word, how could that have not been caught prior? But, indeed, that doctor’s single-word assessment changed everything for me.

      I would suggest not feeling too bad over glasses of wine in addition to eating Whole30. While Whole30 works best without wine, slower but positive change is worked even with the wine. Doing what you can with what you have will be beneficial in the short and long terms, even if doing a little more would be even more beneficial. So a little wine with Whole30 style eating? Better by far than wine plus eating all the things you ate before!

      Good luck! Please email me if you have any questions. It takes me a while to reply, often, but for health related things, I try to reply quicker. I’ve amassed a lot of links that are really beneficial, though they didn’t fit in this one post.

    • March 20, 2016 at 5:25 pm

      p.s. Thank you. ♥

  4. March 20, 2016 at 6:05 pm

    I’m so late to this game😢I only recently decoded the overall symptoms my anxiety causes me. I do have OCD, PTSD, but I have high blood pressure, stomach issues and severe joint pain and swelling. Per reading your posts about your own struggles I researched chronic stress and its effects on my body. I was amazed that in all these years/doctor appointments, not one human suggested this to me as a possible problem. I have to do some more studying before I truly understand all of it, but I’m so thankful that the small changes I’ve made have had a significant impact on the way I feel physically. I’m even planting my garden this year based on growing whole30 best choice veg and fruits. I can’t believe how much stress effects the body.
    That being said-thank you for posting about your journey. It gives me something to fall back on in a personal way when I’m struggling with me. And it’s always nice to know one does not simply struggle alone! Now, savor the memory of that Cadbury creaminess. Enjoy a beer or three!

    • March 22, 2016 at 4:34 am

      Three was exactly how many I had! Heh. Between that and the Cadburys, I felt so gross yesterday that clean eating was easy. I am so glad I stopped early and had that Sunday evening treat! My anxiety was so greatly increased by this additional restriction that biting in felt like much, much more of an affirmation than going six or seven extra hours. Making a conscious, conscientious choice about departing something that felt bad (and usually feels good) felt great. This is exactly why I work to counter messaging D’s getting that one must never give up. Yeah, if one is sensible, one will allocate resources in less harmful/more beneficial ways in certain cases! Giving up on some things is a way of welcoming other, potentially better ones.

      It is unbelievable how much of an impact stress can have, especially when it’s sustained! Until reading this book, I had this idea that I’d sailed through the last few years of stress with little to no scars to show for it. Reading this book, I see that I dealt with some superficially and moved on to other challenges without fixing root causes. That growing discomfort in the background–what I just grew to think of as normal–was cumulative stress exerting a physical toll on my body to the point where everything “suddenly” felt like a threat. I’m glad to be understanding this now, and hopeful I can get my baseline anxiety level way, way down and into healing over the next couple of months.

      (I have been thinking of getting some planters for our own little garden. What a thought!)

  5. March 20, 2016 at 7:05 pm

    Giving up coffee made it possible for me to manage PTSD without anything stronger than a lose dose of beta blockers. I love being off coffee. LOVE IT.

    • March 20, 2016 at 7:11 pm

      Now that I’m fifteen days in, I’m starting to feel that. Honestly, facing this, I debated in extending this to something like a Whole50 or doing a Whole30 completely without coffee in a few weeks. Proceeding without coffee in a few weeks seemed far the better option, and I can already tell based on where I’m at now that it’s the right call. The first week and a half were so, so very hard, but I’m glad I did the work of that for the much, much better feeling of being without it! Now if only I can undo some of the other stress related burden sooner than later …

      So glad for your words on feeling great off coffee! I’m starting to see how very, very weird and untoward people see it when you say words like “I don’t drink coffee.” :O

      • March 20, 2016 at 7:16 pm

        I think I read that caffeine over years wears down your adrenals and makes them too touchy- I thought it cannot hurt to try and nothing was truer. When you get six weeks under your belt you probably won´t go back. I have no desire, myself. I used teeccino to replace it for a while, then switched to cinnamon tea, which is awesome stuff.

        • March 20, 2016 at 7:26 pm

          I debated trying teecino! I might still give it a try.

          Honestly, I’m glad I went a week without and then had that horrible coffee experience I did. Three cups of coffee should not have devastated me like it did, but it did devastate me. The fact it devastated me so illuminated how much was wrong with relying on it, and made me very, very wary of having any more again.

          I told Anthony there might be a time where I feel OK having a single cup with a friend here and there, but that feels like a long, long way off right now. The thought a cup of something could have such a profoundly destructive impact on me … well, it kinda makes me glad I had The Moment instead of nursing a bad habit along in such a way that I didn’t realize just how bad it was.

          I’m glad for the encouragement to persist a few more weeks, all the same! I hope a few of the folks who are trying to go without coffee right now read your comments and feel heartened. It’s hard at first, but so much better, I’m finding, in the long run!

  6. March 21, 2016 at 12:03 am

    Great, informative discussion here! Chronic inflammation is the key. Be extra kind to yourself. Just my 2 cents. 🙂

    • March 22, 2016 at 4:38 am

      Thank you! Even better than the science-derived knowledge in the book is the tone with which it’s presented: so empathetic and encouraging that I actually started crying while reading one section (on epigenetics) yesterday morning. I felt so much lighter of heart afterward, which really emphasized for me the importance of being kind to myself … and fully accepting when others are kind to me.

  7. March 22, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    Hm…..my body is constantly inflamed. Any diet author that doesn’t “preach and condemn” is an author that I want to read….I’ll add it to my books to get ahold of. Thx Deborah! 🙂

    • March 22, 2016 at 6:53 pm

      I appreciated the tone of the book at least as much as the content, something I can’t remember having ever said before! I’ll likely read it again just to absorb the support of the tone all over again … and also because half of it will have inevitably slipped out of my brain within a week!

  8. Val
    April 5, 2016 at 9:46 am

    Deborah, I had a blog that I gave up two or more year ago and was following you then and I remember that you’d had a lot of food problems, weren’t they a vast number of allergies that were making your life hell, or is my memory playing tricks on me? I’ve not tried the ‘whole30’ diet or anything like that but over a year ago I discovered that I’m intolerant to the whole edible nightshade family (which includes potato, tomato, aubergine (eggplant) and the worst effets were coming from potato, which I gave up eating. Since then the recurring bouts of body pains and dreadful bouts of exhaustion have stopped. I also stopped drinking both tea and cofee for a long time, but have since gone bakck to them. I ease off both if my stomach hurts as I think it’s th acidity more than the caffeine that affects me. And as for chocolate – I will never give it up: it’s one of my greatest pleasures.

    I’m so glad that you’re understanding yourself and your body well enough to be able to do things that work for you.

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