Joyless eating

January 10, 2017

whole-30It’s been about six weeks since I began detoxing on The Whole 30 program, which eliminates sugar, dairy and grains as options. I mean, they are gone, gone gone from my diet.  And so has much of the joy of eating.

Let’s take coffee. I loved my two big cups of morning coffee, each with a slug of half and half. Morning coffee was a treat, not an energy boost, at least not for me.  Half and Half is not permitted on the Whole 30. By the end of the second week, morning (black) coffee was so joyless I completely stopped drinking it. I mean, what was the point?

So I’ve been drinking tea.  One day I had something like 7 cups of tea or herbal infusions. By the day’s end I could not look at another cup.

Carbs are important, but only as part of whole food. So my carbs come from sweet potatoes. By the 10th day of daily sweet potatoes I just couldn’t swallow another bite of one. I could not.

Whole 30Have I mentioned that I am not a big meat eater? Oh, I love a good tenderloin and game or a nice roasted chicken. But to eat meat of some kind at just about every meal? That’s just not me. One morning after the gym I had leftover salmon and cauliflower for breakfast. But what I really wanted was a big ole bowl of cereal. Because I’d had so many damn eggs I should have been squawking like a chicken.

Oh, wait. You think that image of a meal up top looks good? It does look good. It’s fresh, whole and beautifully prepared and presented. But imagine eating like that every meal, every day. Or two meals like that daily. For months. IDENTICAL.

Doesn’t look so good now, does it?

Chop, stir, saute. Repeat. Again. And again. Forever.

Now, I love to prepare food and I love to prepare food that tastes great. The problem with Whole 30 is that you have to cook like that every meal on every day or you food tastes….grey. I think it would be way easier if we had, say, a personal chef. Which we don’t.

My shortcut is the paleo prepared food section at Whole Foods, which costs almost as much as a personal chef. I’m sure you know what I mean. But after a week, I saw how they repeated the same foods week after week and sometimes day after day. Their Paleo spicey ground beef looks just like dog food. Riley thinks so, too, because when I eat it, he begs for some. I mean.

“Food is just fuel,” Hot Trainer said to me one day. He eats five meals a day: a meat or chicken, rice or sweet potato, broccoli.  That’s his diet day in and day out.

Joyless. That’s what that kind of eating is. Joyless.

We Sicilians think of food as an event! We want it to taste good! We want to experience the joy of eating, not just shovel it in. We want to eat with gusto and we want to drink wine! Which is NOT ALLOWED on Whole 30. NOT ALLOWED.

The only compensation is this: I actually get hungry.

Oh, you don’t think it’s a good thing?  Come to find out, it IS a good thing.

Whole 30If you let yourself get hungry, your body starts utilizing excess sugar for fuel. Once the sugar is gone, it burns fat.

On Whole 30, the only sugar we consume is that which comes in fruits and vegetables. So my sugar store is gone pretty quickly and fat is being burned.

Being hungry is a good thing, indeed. For our health. And thanks to both Hot Trainer and Trainer Tom who support me all the way, I am getting through it. But hunger is not a natural state for Sicilians.

Each hunger pang is a hunk of fat being burned

Surfing the ‘net, I read something else that was counter-intuitive:  Don’t eat five small meals a day. And eat your biggest meal at night.  Because your body needs to get hungry to burn fat and you want it to burn fat during the day when you are most active. It’s not necessarily a Whole 30 concept, but W30 falls right in line with it because you are not supposed to snack.

If you really can’t stand it or in a food emergency, W30 allows you to eat a Larabar. Well, I’m here to tell you I took one bite of a Chocolate Coconut Larabar and that was enough. I have never met a more joyless protein bar. Cherry Pie is a bit better, but not enough better that I’d break out in song or anything. Angels did not sing. So they’re not a treat. They’re…fuel.

I write this as I finished fueling up–I mean–dinner: some cashews, some boiled shrimp with hot sauce I made myself with sugar-free (W30-compliant) catsup,  and half an artichoke. That was dinner.  And I’m damn full.  But, like eating at a Chinese restaurant, I guarantee you I’ll be hungry in an hour. And burning fat.

So here’s my plan. I’m sticking to it (yes, I stuck to it all through the holidays) until about a week before I go to school at the end of this month. Since I won’t be cooking, I’ll wean myself back onto a few things. I’ll pack a few things to get me through. I am certain it’ll be a shock to my system to have some dairy, grains or sugar. I’m back less than a week before we leave for Antigua, so I’ll probably keep to the modified diet and eat healthy on vacay. I’ll try not to go crazy while i’m away and then I’ll pop right back on when I’m home. Because really, I do think that it’s a good way to eat. Just not a lot of fun.

With food such a sad part of my day, I’ve had to find my joy elsewhere. And that’s not such a bad thing.


This is the point at which I’d give you a fun Whole 30 recipe. But I don’t have the energy. So I’ll just tell you what has become my favorite breakfast: a ripe banana, sliced, with a Tablespoon of almond butter drizzled on it. Oh yeah,  And my favorite “snack” if I am hungry: a small portion of unsweetened applesauce loaded up with cinnamon. I mean, who knew cinnamon was tasteless without sugar?  Whole 30 recipes coming, though. They’re coming.


51 comments on “Joyless eating
  1. Kate says:

    One question: why? Sounds terrible.

  2. ryder ziebarth says:

    I am in awe you’ve stayed on this plan for so long. GOOD for YOU. You’ve inspired me to re-cut some of the crud back out of my diet.Weight Watchers does not discourage crud.I lose weight, but I must get rid of good handful of my favorite snacks–sugar, artificial and otherwise, and salty carbs. Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. shari Eberts says:

    Wow. You are very determined to stick with this. I hope it gets easier and that the health benefits are worth it! Good luck to you!

  4. Not sure I could do this, especially while living with someone whose favorite snack is chocolate.

  5. Diane says:

    I’m following the same diet! Only, with me, it’s because my body rebels at anything containing a grain of sugar or any starch. On this diet, nothing hurts. And nothing rebels. It’s all good. Sigh.

  6. I have been through every diet known to man kind. If I enjoyed it, I stuck to it for a while until I eventually gave up. I’m Italian. I love my food, and I have some meat on my bones. I gave up losing weight when on a diet. I love food so much that I kept going off the diet. If it’s not making me happy, I’m miserable. I commend you doing this!

  7. Jim says:

    I’ve failed at it. I had to make biscotti and cuccidati for the holidays. How can you make those and not eat them? Agree about the coffee – one thing that helps is flavored coffee. So now I’m trying to alternate, 1 day Whole30, one day mediterranean. I know, I know, it won’t do the detox but it’s working for the weight loss and I have less hanger.

  8. Barbara says:

    You can count me out on this one! The minute I decide to eliminate a food group it’s the only food I crave. I believe in everything in moderation because, we really do need all food groups. I wouldn’t last a day on this diet! Is it really worth it??

  9. Anna Palmer says:

    I can relate. I am doing a version of this and…I don’t eat eggs. Which is a disaster for breakfasts. So I am having a small apple and peanut butter every morning. At least I already drank tea…

  10. JAnis says:

    That sounds awful! Food should bring joy. Surely it’s possible to eat in a way that’s both healthy AND happy, isn’t it?

  11. Sheryl says:

    Definitely NOT for me.. in so many ways. Do you really think you’re gonna stick it out? I sure admire your determination.

  12. I’m Italian and I don’t think I can do it. Food is meant to be enjoyed!

  13. Laurie Stone says:

    Okay Carol, I won’t tell you about the book I just read about French eating. Women over there eat bread, cheese, chocolate, and cream all the time and keep slim. They also don’t eat huge portions, but they think we’re nuts over here for our strict dieting. In France, Its definitely the opposite of joyless eating. Something to ponder…

    • I’ve read that book and others like it. Their entire way of life is different from ours, including the amount of exercise they get in the course of daily life. Portion size and other things.

  14. Amber Myers says:

    You are doing awesome! Personally it’s not for me. I know I couldn’t do it. I enjoy food wayyy too much.

  15. Kaitlyn says:

    I guess I never considering being hungry a good thing. I really enjoyed reading this! Good for you for sticking with the Whole 30. I don’t know if I could do it!


  16. Donna says:

    Literally in awe of you. Literally. I know you feel better, but my gosh…what an undertaking. So impressive.

  17. Oh Carol, I tried to do a Whole30 once and totally failed for the reasons you stated. But I am basically eating that way now with the Paleo diet. I’ve had some health issues the last few months and decided to clean up my diet. I’m sick & tired of not feeling well. But I hear ya. I wanted to slap my son-in-law who eats like this all the time when he said “I don’t like eggs but I eat them because I need them for fuel. I don’t eat for taste, I eat for fuel.” WTF. It’s a good thing I love him so much!

  18. I’m so glad the point of this post WASN’T to sell me on the Whole 30 plan, because I am NOT sold. Between no joyful coffee and no wine, you’ve pretty much eliminated everything I drink while writing!

    That being said, I’m willing to be that you feel better (other than the lack of food-joy) you sleep better, and at the the end of the 30, you’ll look better. So it definitely doesn’t sound like fun … but I can see where it might be worth it.

  19. My husband is supposed to be on a Paleo diet for his health by doctors orders, and it is so expensive and there is so little variety out there without having to pretend to be some sort of innovative professional chef. Cooking for a diabetic was easier than Paleo. I admire your strength. I’m like you, I’m not a big meat eater, too much of it makes me gag, I’m more of a veggies and grains girls myself. I would be terrible at this diet. My entire church small group participated before the holidays in a month of it, and I was the one to opt out. I’ll just stick to my mediterranean diet for now, and as for my husband…we’ll get there. Baby Steps.

  20. It is so awesome to see that you have stuck to the Whole 30! I did it last year and want to do it again and stick with it.

  21. kelly reci says:

    I tried to do that diet routine but its true, its joyless and so plain. lol but i salute you for having a good determination! you ar an inspiration/

  22. I’d stick to Sicilian. It’s one of the healthiest diets on the planet and much more joyful. Especially with some wine.

  23. Gessell says:

    Good on you! I can’t see myself giving up my morning coffee with cream. One of my daily indulgences that I permit myself.

  24. george says:

    Ahh in some way it is so frustrating to stumble upon food posts like these when you’ve missed out on both breakfast and lunch! The photos entices me! I personally would need a complete detox, need to get those high levels of sugar back to normal, but somehow I struggle with it. I think I’m addicted to it. I ought to bookmark this post and check back for these tips. Thanks for sharing!

  25. amanda says:

    i laughed when i read your comment about sweet potato! i have just been on a health retreat and started the week loving sweet potato – ended the week never wanting to see it again!

  26. Linda Hobden says:

    Doesn’t sound the diet for me, Carol …. I mean NO wine??!! Seriously though I do follow a healthy eating diet plan – I follow Slimming World(similar to Weightwatchers)- however I’ve found the best way to lose weight & keep healthy is to eat whatever in moderation, eat less, avoid nibbling and move more! ???? Good luck for the rest of the month & I really do admire your perseverance & willpower.

  27. Glenda says:

    This Whole 30 diet sounds great way to lose weight quickly. The only issue I would have is eliminating my coffee because I cannot function without it.

  28. TColeman says:

    I have no idea if I could ever go through with a diet like this. It sounds like I would have to give up way too much of what I love.

  29. Robin Rue says:

    People that do the Whole 30 diet have to have some willpower for sure. I congratulate you on being able to stick with it.

  30. Caitlin says:

    I’ve done the Whole 30 a few times in order to clean out my system ( and to identify a few food allergies). I definitely feel better afterwards! It’s brutal, though. Good luck!

  31. AMANDA says:

    I struggle with this as well. The good food is what brings me joy.. healthy food is just bleh. But you gotta do what you gotta do.

  32. Jccee says:

    I have done something similar and what got me through was getting my mind to think that food is for fuel but I enjoy foods so I had to really really tap into other things I enjoy to help me lol. It was definitely a struggle because again I enjoy food. Congrats on your progress thus far. 🙂

  33. Jccee says:

    I have done something similar and what got me through was getting my mind to think that food is for fuel but I enjoy foods so I had to really really tap into other things I enjoy to help me lol. It was definitely a struggle because again I enjoy food. Congrats on your progress thus far. ????

  34. You go girl! I have seen friends try out this whole 30 thing and oh man it doesn’t look so easy lol. I love your phrase “hunk of fat being burned.” LOL!

  35. Rosey says:

    IF food was thought of as an event, it would make for far better dinners than we have here. We’re always so rushed.

  36. Kiyshja says:

    Healthy tips and the benefits are encouraging. I tend to ‘detox’ every so often. Its a shame that all these diteting and seing food as just fuel takes the fun out of yoi said, it becomes joyless.But with working my 12 hour night shifts, I think I’ll keep to coffee for now. Thanks for sharing.

  37. Chrissy says:

    I would really love to start this program. I’m so worried about failing it though lol

  38. Rosey says:

    It burns through the sugar before it burns to the fat? Goodness gracious I may never get any burntif it has to cut through all the sugar first.

  39. My Teen Guide says:

    Well, I’m guilty of the big meal at night! It makes sense since I really just rest it off afterwards. I don’t want the fats resting too!

  40. Lisa Rios says:

    The Whole 30 program sounds amazing and I would really love to see how this could workout for me in real. I can see you need a lot of commitment to get the best of it and I wish it brings great results for you!

  41. I am love eating healthy. Not a great fan of process food or fast-food. Such a nice post, thank you

  42. I’m a big fan of eating whole foods, Carol, though have not tried the Whole 30 diet. I have reduced the sugar in my diet to less than 6 teaspoons per day which is what the World Health Organization recommended for healthy eating until the sugar industry lobbied them so relentlessly they caved and changed it to 12 teaspoons/day. On average Americans consume more than 19 teaspoons per day and this is the root of the obesity epidemic both in the US and now worldwide due the unbelievable amount of sugar added to the global industrial diet. I applaud you for your efforts. If you want to learn more about the science of obesity epidemic I recommend the book, “Fat Chance: beating the odds against sugar, processed food, obesity and disease” by Dr. Robert Lustig. He has also done some phenomenal Ted talks and has some great videos up on YouTube. Turns out we aren’t all gluttons and sloths after all. Our food supply has turned our hormonal system upside down.

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