So. 30 days without: dairy, processed foods, wheat/gluten or any grain, really... beans/ legumes, added sugars, alcohol...
This was my 2nd attempt. The first time, I couldn't stand the emotional upheavals of sugar withdrawal. (It's that addictive, yeah.) I bailed after 2 weeks, telling myself some story... that I was choosing a "Whole 15" and that for me, that was enough.
That was the first of many lies I had told myself about this program. The truth was, I didn't want to get too uncomfortable, I think. I didn't think I could do it.
So, to catch you up: I work full time as a reference librarian. I write books on the side. I'm a single Mom (co-parenting - I do get days to myself.) And I am a recovering productivity junkie. I realized this as I geared up for this program, around holiday time in December... I looked back on my life, on the last 4+ years, and saw that my health goals had stalled completely, as I wrote through things, over and over.
I soul-searched and journeyed and meditated and connected and found my beautiful glittering soul and loved her and pressed her into me, blissfully. I mantra'd. I ohm'd. I shavasana'd. And then I traveled and I rocked out and got doe-eyed and swoony and re-found pieces of myself that I thought were long dead. Nope, not quite. All the while, I was feeding my passions, my joy-meter, my ease, and my mental wellness. No one dared tell me no, to anything. I was on a mission.
Well, a few years out, book two is finished and making its way out into the world, and I chose, purposely, to NOT dive deeply into another project. I would dive deeper into me. I would wrangle my own health, I would master my day-to-day life and priorities, I would organize the place, redecorate some things, reinvent some things. It was all physical. And I tried to do it all for a while... day job, motherhood, organization, novel notes and writing for future projects, a meditation practice, meal planning and fitness and well, I got burnt out again.
So, when an old school friend announced her Whole 30 Challenge on Facebook, it was kismet. I pushed everything off my plate that wasn't home, motherhood, work, and wellness. And I went hard for it.
I kept a journal, but otherwise... no looming writing projects. My free time was spent searching up recipes, cooking, meal-prepping, setting exercise routines - and sticking to them. My own wellness became the obsession. All my lights had been turned inward, right back onto me, and it felt strange at first. Really strange. "But, so and so needs this," and "this one should have that," and I "should do this for that one..." But, I let it all go. It was me-time. I was being selfish. But it wasn't really, not in a bad way.
Because the Why was still there - "build a better world for my son, and for all of our kids." How? Educate, inspire, connect. With What?
So. Whole 30. I committed to a modified version... I knew my allergies well, I just wanted a firm and consistent reset.
What did I eat?
Breakfast: Bulletproof Coffee - fresh espresso, blended with tbsp Kerrygold Butter, 1 tsp MCT oil, 2 scoops collagen protein (I did better with some steady protein in mine, and it took a while to sort this out), and I "cheated" and threw in a Splenda sometimes.
Lunch: big-ass salad... e.g. a few handfuls of greens, 1/2 a cucumber, steamed asparagus, 1/2 sweet potato, cherry tomatoes, sauerkraut, olives, 1/2 an avocado, oil and vinegar, leftover protein (usually chicken breast or hard boiled egg. Sometimes beef. Sometimes no-sugar bacon.) No croutons, no bread, nada. Just the veg.
Snack: If I needed it... a Lara Bar or a Quest Bar. Lots of water. Green tea, maybe. At peak sugar-craving times, I made modified "sweets," like keto brownies or almond flour donuts, with Swerve and but flours and other approved keto-style ingredients. I fed the indulgence, but staying on track with my goals. Win-win. And it was only for that 2nd week, really. The cravings passed.
Dinner: protein, veggies, 1/2 avocado. Berries on the side, sometimes with coconut cream. (OH MY GOD, COCONUT CREAM.)
That's about it, for 30 days. Samesies, every day. The result? Food became a fuel, and not a pleasure fix or a thing to do or a mindless diversion. I ate what was best for me, intentionally... I have iron-anemia and hypothyroidism. And after over 10 years of experimenting, I now know for sure that I do best on a higher fat, low-carb diet with animal proteins and very low amounts of grain. Most of my carbohydrates come from plants.
I returned to lifting weights... just a few times per week, and lots of cardio: aerobic dance, walking, and just maximizing ways to stay active throughout the day. Every day. I moved every single day, somehow.
SO the results?
So, it was absolutely worth it, all around. I may allow some cheeses in here and there, some whole grains, maybe, like quinoa or oats... but for the most part, this is how I'll be eating. And it's probably how I always should have been eating. It just makes sense - it's so simple and natural.
Am I at my goal? No, not yet. But I'm damn proud of my success after just a month. It feels really, really good to take care of yourself and insist on that time: to run, to workout, to go to a yoga class, to cook a slow meal. It feels really good. And too many of us don't fight for it. It's hard, to let go of the rest and focus on yourself. It's really hard, you fear missing out on things, losing things, but really... you're not. And the more you focus on your own well-being, the more you realize that YOU are what you've been missing out on, while you put everyone else first, for so long.
I've decided to never take myself for granted again, if I can help it.
I had an up and down day, today.
I was feeling pretty darn good when I woke up, I got a quick workout in, drove out to a workshop on raising quail from eggs to release in areas of Long Island to minimize the tick population... (they eat them. Who knew?) It was actually fun and strange and very informative and important. Eric made it easy, breezy, and fun.
It was a rainy, gray day, I had lunch on the road (a protein box from Starbucks) and great music in the car, as I ran errands on my lunch break. I managed to squeeze in a few moments parked at the beach as I nibbled my cheese and fruit and things, and sipped my gigantic coffee.
A few minutes. That's all it takes, now, and I'm grateful for that. Waves. Wind. Seagulls and being transported into their world, watching them dive for clams in the choppy water and fly way up high and drop them with a crash on the pavement. Brutal. Lunch is served...
Perspective. It's a miraculous thing.
And those moments, where I get to slow it all down and become the scene I'm in, they're magic. There's a kind of ease and calmness in reflection, for me. Where was I then, and where am I now?
I've been zooming along for a number of years now, with little down time. It started with my first blog, as I wrote Ana J Awakens. Everything was a journey. Every day, all the time. There was magic everywhere, inspiration in absolutely everything, the world came alive for me in ways that I hadn't seen since early childhood - when my dreaming was strong. Then, the book came out and I found myself pulling women together, at different times, for meet-ups. I formed new friendships and expanded my networks. I began testing the words out on my tongue, "I wrote a book." "I am a writer." "Yes, it's finished, you can buy it here..." The first time around, telling people about it was beyond nerve-wracking. It felt so different, so strange and alien to me. But it stuck, the more I said it and the more I wrote and kept creating new things. Always, I'd wanted to share something of value. To help move the world forward, toward connection. Community. Peace. Harmony. In small ways. Big ways. Any way that I could and I think I'll just always be trying.
Afterwards, there was a lull in creativity. I thought I was blocked. Stuck. Frozen. I'd written my one book, now I'd just crawl back into my cave and go about my business. But, then I started dealing with some real-life struggles, new anxieties, my first-ever panic attack, and all the rest. I began bleeding into poetry and songwriting and journaling, in notebooks. So many notebooks. Surrounded by words.
I soon started writing Wild Horses and Mistakes.
Travel. Oh, how I loved the travel. New people, new places and experiences. The deep and ominous Pacific, and what secrets I left there, with her, washed out in the undertow for safe-keeping. Deep and life-affirming conversations with strangers at airports. The rumble in my belly, as I crossed a new threshold. Alone. In another state. With no idea of how anything would play out... just going for it, and expecting the best, and seeing that when I went forward with the idea that I was a kind, open, loving person, that life usually met me there. When I went forward riddled with fear, paranoia, distrust, or a chip on my shoulder, life met me there as well. And how sensitive it all is. All of life, always, speaking to us and showing us to ourselves. How our perspectives determine and design our realities. And how easy it is to forget and to slip back into old ideas and shadows of pain and ideas that we're less-than.
We are not our stories. We are not those fleeting moments that pull us down or limit us or demean us in some way. We are what we bring, fully, to each moment. We are how we rise above those moments. We are energetic creatures and we are always, always creating.
Writing Wild Horses healed me. Changed me. Brought me to the other side of so many things, and I'll always be grateful for the serendipitous ways that I was led and nudged and whispered to and guided, at those moments when I felt most alone. And that's the beauty of an intentional journey like that, you can see how not alone we really are. Wild Horses restored my faith in something I'd always believed in and had lost - temporarily. That God is Love, and that I was a believer, and life had shown me how true this was. Fear creates distance and doubt. Love heals and connects and creates harmony. And so, courage, really, is being the first to drop the armor, and Love.
After I'd done the primary writing for Wild Horses, I'd been teased with the idea of podcasting. I took the bait. I jumped onto some new, free software online, bought a snowball mic at the music store, and I sat there. Staring into space, at first, laughing at myself. Then, it all started flowing out. I called it The Jelly. I was amazed at how much I had learned and integrated into my psyche, over those few years. I recorded a handful of episodes and then became preoccupied with getting Wild Horses out to print, finally. I was absolutely terrified to put it out there. It's the most honest and vulnerable thing I've done, so far. I second-guessed in profusion. Of course, now, I'm glad that I finished. Hearing women who connect to it come tell me, face-to-face, how they enjoyed it or found meaning in it, makes it worth it. These days, it is a big, big deal to expect someone to sit down and read a book and critique it. And I'm blown away at the ones who do, it's an honor to be read in any capacity. Truly. Attention is indeed, gold. If you read anything I write, I am grateful. Humbled. It's a gift to be able to connect and share thoughts in such a way. This is my way. I have many creative outputs, but free writing is always where I go home. The words wait for me, on the screen, in the pen, swirling in my head, to gather together and make manifest my inner ramblings and emotions and inclinations, that they might reach through space-time and connect. A bridge, from my mind to yours. There is a great intimacy in writing. Welcome, but please wipe your feet on the mat.
And now, as the days blend and bleed together and tiptoe ahead, I am popping up at events here and there, with two books in my traveling bag. And all I ever wanted to do was write a novel, just one book, and I never thought I actually would. It was...impossible. And I look back and see how many goals I had set, since, and how I'm on the other side of them. Smarter. A bit wiser. A bit tougher. Expanded.
So, whenever I get frustrated or feel like I'm standing still, I gaze back. I always feel like life is one big trail. And we're all here walking, together. Some ahead, some behind, all different kinds of people. But we're all just here, walking, figuring it out. Trying to get it right. Trying not to be assholes. Trying not to make a mess. Wanting to stay inspired and joyful, wanting to know that it all means something, wanting to know that we leave a good mark, as we go. Wanting it to be fun, yet somehow important. Hoping we don't trip and get injured. Wanting to stay so very much ourselves, and yet wanting so much to connect with others and share the experience. To marvel at the beauty, along the way. To huddle together when storms hit. And hoping to leave it all just a tiny bit better than we found it.
And I feel like, it's all right on time, you know? We start off on a path, and there are so many detours and side-trails, and deeper explorations, and pits to fall into, and cliffs to climb, up or down. And yet, somehow, we keep going. We just keep moving. In life and in art. We are all writing stories, with every choice that we make. And we make funny choices sometimes, and linger off down a strange path, into a weird cave filled with bats or something, and scoot back up to where we were going. A mistake to laugh off. And other times, we walk down some country road through wildflower meadows and stay there for a while, and maybe the path changes as we do. But I do believe that we make the path, as we walk.
And I think that there's so much more up ahead, than what we leave behind. Life: Expect obstacles. Pack a good bag. Stay kind. Know your strength. And just... keep going. Right?
Right. There's a beautiful sunrise ahead. There's a nice fire going, the rain has stopped the wind has died down...so, I'm going to get some rest, here, and just listen to the night sing.
The Jelly: creative hustle for anxious minds.
© 2019 - 2020 Stacie Hammond