New Year's Resolutions: A Cautionary Tale

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Full disclosure: I wrote this one last January and posted it on the Little Dipper Facebook page, but I think it contains some lessons that are worth repeating, so I thought I’d share it again here (in a lightly edited and reformatted way)…

Culturally, the New Year can bring lots of talk about resolutions. Often these resolutions involve weight and diet. Dear ones, tread carefully here.

This is my story.

During the first 9 months of 2017, I did numerous rounds of a "lifestyle" (AKA eating plan AKA diet) called the Whole 30. For 30 days at a time, I eliminated all legumes, sugars, grains, alcohol, and dairy from my life.

This way of eating made me feel AMAZING physically. My skin looked radiant, I had so much less joint and muscle pain, my digestion was on point (I'll spare you the details).

And — yes — I lost weight.

Having worked with a naturopath for the past 7 years, I was already familiar with the theory that sugar and refined grains can exacerbate inflammation for some people (a big deal for me due to my chronic, post-traumatic arthritis), but the elimination diet (and meticulously scheduled reintroduction of "off-plan" foods) that the Whole 30 provided helped me learn that sugar doesn't actually seem to worsen MY inflammation, but most grains (even the unrefined, "whole" kind) do.

This discovery was SO freeing for me (yay for ice cream and chocolate!) and, probably because I was eating sugars mostly in combination with grains in the past, it was something that I had not been able to recognize previously. The Whole 30 gave me a much more specific and fine-tuned knowledge of what works for ME and what doesn't so that I can eat in ways that help me feel my best — nourished, energized, and pain-free.

But the Whole 30 also brought me a lot of suffering, fear, and self-judgment. 

Even though I consciously believe that no food is a “good” or a “bad” food, the loud and nasty inner gremlin that I already struggle with became a whole lot louder and nastier when the Whole 30 entered my life.  Often, food made me SAD.  I fixated on my weight obsessively and with an intensity I’d never experienced before.  I berated myself whenever I ate “non-compliant” foods (even though I wasn't actively doing a round of the Whole 30).  Eating became a meticulously planned, landmine-filled endeavor.

Ultimately, the Whole 30's black and white approach to diet weaponized food for me for a pretty long time.

My intention here isn’t to slam the Whole 30. I'm grateful for what I learned during the process — there are foods that make me feel good, foods that don't seem to affect me particularly strongly, and foods that make me feel not so great if I'm not careful about eating them infrequently and in small quantities.

But I am also so much more aware of how rule-bound ways of eating — even those we euphemistically refer to as "lifestyles" — can create unkind and unhelpful patterns, stigmatize some foods and deify others, and reduce our ability to trust our own inner wisdom and intuition about what, how, when, and why to eat.

And, in the spirit of transparency and vulnerability, I feel like I should also say that I eventually gained back most of the weight that I’d lost (surprise, surprise).

So, if you're making some shifts regarding health, wellness, diet, or exercise this January, please be gentle with yourself. Go slowly. Pay attention. Be curious and honest. Stay connected. Take care. And choose love.

Katherine Block