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On the Whole 30, falling off the wagon and moderation

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I spent most of the fall planning for a January “reset” via a Whole 30, knowing my body needed to get off the sugar-caffeine-carbs cycle I was on but not quite sure how to do that in the busyness that characterized the last five months of 2014.

To keep myself accountable, I invited a ton of friends (and friends of friends) to join a Facebook group to share recipes, tips, etc.

And then, right before I started my 30 days, I read this post from Paleo Parents, which echoed the same things Shaina and my friend Renay had been saying to me all along. I’d argued with both of them in the past, but how this post was worded impacted me this time around.

I realized that if I want healthy changes to last, I have to be willing to embrace moderation (something I haveconvinced myself I’m not any good at) and not just the extremism of a 30-day challenge.

For this reason, I decided to break a few rules along the way:

I started by breaking the “no scale” rule. There is a lot of talks right now, in general, about ignoring the scale and not being obsessed with your weight, but my goal is actually to weigh myself every day in 2015. I have some more thoughts about this to share at another time. Still, it’s less about the particular number on the scale and more about understanding how food and exercise affect my weight—which ultimately reflects my health. When I exercise regularly, I have my dad’s crazy metabolism (at least for now!), which means I can lose—or gain—2-3 pounds from one morning to the next. Understanding how activity, different foods, and habits affect that is an important part of being honest with myself about my eating habits and making lasting changes.

The other thing I did was start allowing myself something like a handful of popcorn from the girls’ bowls, a piece of bread in the Starbucks’ protein box when I was on the road, and a tiny container of ice cream during my personal retreat.

Unfortunately, as I anticipated, these small cheats quickly slid into full-out cheating and horrible decision-making.

Here’s the thing: I don’t want to eat paleo for the rest of my life. I like cheesecake, I love bread and pasta, and I am a fan of moderation, even if I don’t feel like I’m very good at it. I don’t have health issues requiring me to avoid entire food groups (although I do need to limit the amount of dairy I eat, which breaks my Italian heart). And I want to teach my kids moderation rather than extremism.

But—and this is a big one—I can’t just keep binge-eating whatever sounds good at the moment. It’s not good for my body, and as I’ve already seen, my metabolism can’t keep up with it the way I used to. I need to practice putting down food when I’m full or not really enjoying it, not just eating it because it’s there. Dessert needs to be a special occasion, not a craving-induced event. I need to make the good parts of the Whole30—veggies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, healthy fats, and so on—a regular part of my diet.

The problem with my personality is that I gravitate toward both extremism and perfectionism, which means it’s too easy for me to fall off a wagon and head out on my own journey rather than trying to climb back on.

This time, I’m trying a different approach. I often remind myself that I have a chance to make a new decision with each meal. I’m practicing saying no to a second cookie, even when I allow myself one. I’m looking for easy recipes and ideas for incorporating veggies into our meals. And I’m reminding myself that I really do like eggs and veggies for breakfast, even when french toast sounds more appealing!