Saturday, May 2, 2015

What's Wrong With The Whole 30 or How Do We Love What We Love

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
-Mary Oliver

Here is a random smoothie I made to use up some fruit before it went bad.
Then I ate an entire 3 serving bar of chocolate which was delicious.

I want to start off by saying that if you have completed the Whole 30 and had a good experience, good for you!  I in no way want to take away your experience.  That said, I think that the Whole 30 and programs like it are damaging and hurtful.

If you've never heard of the Whole 30, it is a wildly popular diet with two best selling books.  I had a good friend jump on board with it so I decided to check it out.  Here are excerpts taken directly from the Whole 30 website:

"For 30 days eat foods with very few ingredients, all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients... More importantly, do not consume added sugar of any kind, real or artificial, do not consume alcohol in any form, not even for cooking, do not eat grains, do not eat legumes, do not eat dairy, do not consume carrageenan, MSG or sulfites, do not try to re-create baked goods, junk foods, or treats with “approved” ingredients."

It goes on to say:

"You are not allowed to step on the scale or take any body measurements for the duration of the program.  The only way this will work is if you give it the full thirty days: no cheats, slips, or “special occasions.” You must commit to the full program, exactly as written. Anything less and we make no claims as to your results, or the chances of your success. Anything less and you are selling yourself—and your potential results—short."

As I read through the website I could not believe the way in which readers were encouraged to treat themselves.  The tone I heard was condescending and controlling with no room for kindness or oatmeal.  Participants are supposed to feel like failures or "cheats" for eating a doughnut or some black beans?  Anything short of perfection is to be met with shame and guilt.

 The Whole 30 claims that it will reset your relationship with food.  First of all, food is one of the few things that everyone interacts with on a daily basis for their entire life.  It would be impossible to reset our relationship with it in one month of strict dieting.  Secondly, dividing up foods into categories of "good" and "evil" will not help us make healthy choices as we navigate our modern world.

What the Whole 30 is lacking (in addition to kindness and self-respect) is moderation.  I am not sure what our society's obsession with extremes is all about.  I know that it had been a challenge for me to prioritize balance in my own life.  Accolades are not given for living simply.  I think we all feel enormous pressure to give 110 percent of ourselves when we should perhaps be giving 70 percent and saving a little energy or a little money for a rainy day. The truth is that health doesn't come in a 30 day fix.  Eating a balanced diet is a process, not a destination that can be arrived at in a linear fashion.

So, where does true health and well-being come from?  I truly believe that it begins in relationship- our relationship with ourselves, with others, and with the larger world of which we are a part.  If you do not love yourself, no diet will compensate.  If you set up impossible standards for yourself, become extremely critical when you fall short, and are constantly trying to regain control then self-love will be a very hard road.  Trust me.

When I read material (such as Whole 30) that is written to inform grown-ups, I like to ask myself if I would apply the same techniques in my second grade classroom.  The answer is usually no.  Children are just smaller sized grown-ups.  They are learning and growing so quickly and in the process they make roughly 10,000 mistakes a day.  But you know what every kid I've ever met wants to know?  They want to know that it's going to be okay, that they are lovable, that their best is good enough.  I don't think that changes with age.

Here is what my hair looks like when I brush it out.
I have struggled to embrace it my whole life.
If I could find a tasteful way to photograph my cellulite, I would post that, too.
I am a human being worthy of love and belonging and you are, too.

When I started writing this blog, I had no idea that I would end up so publicly sharing my own clumsy journey towards being a more compassionate, more relate-able, more human- being. I am learning that there is a place for me with all of my imperfections if I am brave enough to step forward and claim it.  There is room for the soft animal that is me to love what it loves (including food of all kinds) and still have health, happiness, and belonging.  The quote I shared above is taken from a Mary Oliver poem.  I love how beautifully Mary reminds us, "whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting- over and over announcing your place in the family of things."

1 comment:

  1. I'm with you and Mary O... we only have to let the soft animal of our body love what it loves...with all its imperfections and with a sense of moderation. Amen to that!