I haven’t written about this because I wanted to get to the halfway point before posting about it, but I am currently participating in a Whole30 challenge. This is 30 days of strict Paleo: no grain, no legumes, no dairy, no sugar…and no alcohol. My goals for the 30 days are:
1) re-evaluate my relationships with food, and my emotional response to food. I have always been a terrible stress eater.
2) re-adjust my body to burn fat, not glucose, for fuel. I want my body go to my fat stores for fuel more often rather than telling me I need a carb-based snack to keep going.
I wasn’t sure that this was working until today. The first week, I was tired all the time, because I had pulled a lot of the easily digestible the carbs out of my diet, and wasn’t supplying as much glucose. I was replacing carbs with caffeine, which wasn’t a good idea, and wasn’t entirely working. I was also kind of in disbelief, because I didn’t think I had been eating that many carbs, but then I started noticing times when I would normally have eaten something: sushi, potatoes, extra servings of fruit, sugar-sweetened Kind bars, dried fruit, Greek yogurt. And I was checking those impulses more often. I also started checking my impulses to snack on sweet things at night, even on paleo approved things like berries with coconut milk, or an apple. And the foods I had been going to for stress eating, things like popcorn, chocolate, Pinkberry…all those things were suddenly completely off limits. If I get an impulse to stress eat now, I have to really think about it to find something to meet the craving, and usually, while I’m doing that, if I drink a cup of tea and distract myself, I can get past it,
But I was getting discouraged because I kept reading that I would get more energy shortly, and that I would feel much, much better by Week 2. That was NOT HAPPENING. A week and change in, I was still falling asleep at my desk, or on the subway, and I was struggling to climb stairs to my apartment at the end of the day. I was also discouraged because I was still ragingly hungry in the afternoons, and was counting down minutes to my 4pm snack every day. According to It Starts With food , the basis for the Whole30, I shouldn’t have felt that kind of blood sugar drop telling me to eat RIGHT now at 4pm after a week focused on protein, fat and vegetables.
But I kept going. It was hard, especially in social settings. When my team went to dinner with a vendor at an excellent restaurant, I couldn’t have the wine, or the amazing looking desserts. When my friends were here this weekend, I couldn’t drink with them, and when they had grilled cheese sandwiches at midnight, I had leftover kohlrabi slaw. But I kept going, because after the first ten days, every day, I felt a little bit better.
And then, finally, this week, I went back to energy levels I used to have to maintain with a steady routine of coffee and snacks. And at 4pm today, I wasn’t even hungry. I actually never ate an afternoon snack today (Ok, I had some fruit gelatin, but it was a lot less of a snack than I usually eat). And now I see this whole project coming to fruition, as my body adjusts it’s hunger cues, away from the usual time-based cues. The theory is that my body will now pull glycogen out of my fat stores, since it is getting used to burning fat, not glucose, for energy.
This has, obviously, taken a huge amount of organization and planning. I am basically running my own meal service now, where I’m cooking and preparing in batches for the week, and setting aside pre-made meals for later in the week. A lot of this is inspiration from Well Fed, my new favorite cookbook, which explains a weekly cooking routine that works really well in our household. Also, the author of that cookbook is a former roller derby girl. I can get behind that.
But I actually really like eating this clean. I like knowing that every single bite I take is one made of the best components possible. I eat soup made with bone broth that I make by cooking bones in a slow cooker for days. I eat two servings of vegetables at every meal, with ethically raised protein and clean, healthy fats. Everything I eat is nutritionally dense food. And now more of what Paul and Ben eat is nutritionally dense as well. They may add rice to a broccoli, cabbage and chicken stirfry, or add bread to make a leftover roast beef sandwich (while I eat mine in lettuce wraps), or put cheese in their eggs, but they are still eating more foods that have really solid nutrition because they’re adding on to my planned meals. I even made Ben some lemon blueberry Paleo muffins, with eggs and coconut flour, which he loved, and which gave him three times the protein of his morning toaster waffles. I see my
baby little boy eating foods that are what his tiny increasingly bigger body needs to get bigger, and I know, I’m doing the best I possibly can for him.
So now I’m on Day 18. I cook a lot, I eat a lot, but it all adds up to 1,500 calories a day or less. My nutrition is split fairly equally between carbs, protein and fat. Let’s see if this kicks off more fat burning. After all, I have a DietBet to win
why dietland matters
Coming off of SaTC week, let’s focus on some very different television: Dietland. Based on the 2015 book by Sarai Walker, this show tells the story of a “morbidly obese” woman, Alicia “Plum” Kettle, who has put her entire life on hold until she is no longer fat. She denies herself more than just food: she denies herself feelings, love, sex, socializing, a career, her writing, baking, hopes and dreams. Her life is limited to a few blocks of Brooklyn (HI PARK SLOPE!) except for days she goes in to her employer, a Hearst Media style publisher in Hudson Yards (which is where L’Oreal is based in reality), where she ghostwrites for a glamourously thin editor played by Juliana Marguiles. By the third episode though, she’s realizing she isn’t denying herself life because she hates herself. She’s denying herself life because the world hates her.
Show protagonist Joy Nash – in “normal” joyful clothes as herself, and as the self-denying trying-to-be-invisible Plum Kettle
So far the reviews have been mixed: the show is well written, well put together, and different than anything else on TV, but tries to cram in a lot. The original material is almost hallucinatory in its surreality at times, so I suppose this shouldn’t be a surprise. The problem is that the sheer density of the book has resulted in reviews which speak too much to the crowded nature of the show, and fail to notice that this is the first show to openly talk about two important topics. The first of these is the way American society has, for years, taught women to enable and ignore poor behavior by men, while, at the same time, punishing and mocking women for behaving (or appearing, which seems to be considered a behavior in itself) in non-standard ways. The second of these is the national addiction to antidepressants, and the impact of long term use and withdrawal. Selling pharmaceuticals to one in four Americans is so lucrative than I’m genuinely shocked anyone called out that it might not be a good idea.
First of all, I’m incredibly impressed that this show actually depicts and narrates the constant pressure women feel in society to allow men to engage in the behavior that makes women feel bad, while simultaneously pressuring us to not engage in behavior that would make anyone else around us uncomfortable. It is the first time I’ve seen a show on TV that portrays a fat woman being sexually harassed for no reason, and acknowledging that she is reluctant to speak up or clap back because g-d forbid she she should make it worse. Dietland actually takes this a bit further, and not only calls out men’s shitty behavior, but actually tries to show us all how to hold men accountable for it, without putting all the pressure to resist on the women who are the victims of said shitty behavior. In last night’s episode, when a man harassed a woman in a convenience store, the other women in the bodega banded together to film and shame him. We do not all have to torture and kill rapists as the shadowy “Jennifer” organization does, but as a society, we do need to call out men who harass women on the street or who slut-shame them in convenience stores.
This is one of the reasons why Dietland matters. It shows men’s response to women who do not follow a socially acceptable code of conduct, which includes not only behavior, but appearance. Society should hold men accountable for making choices to “grab women by the pussy”, rather than giggling and infantilizing those choices as “boys will be boys“. And when a man bro’s out at the expense of a woman, making a comment on her weight or appearance for his own amusement (as a custodial worker does, mocking Plum to his buddy in an elevator), it is the responsibility of the other men to tell him he’s an ass.
The second reason this show matters is that it shows a protagonist going off anti-depressants and the consequences for doing so. There are many voices of reason that remind Plum she was on doctor prescribed pills, that she should, at the least, wean off them rather than go cold turkey. But antidepressant withdrawal is a BFD as we begin to discover that it is easy to reap initial benefits from medication, but difficult as hell to get back off said medication when it becomes ineffective. No one really wants to talk about how awful it is to try to come off antidepressants, a consequence that is not well researched and on which patients are certainly not well educated when they start the medication in the first place. It’s doubtful that I would have turned down antidepressants in 2005 had i known it would be such an awful experience to come off those drugs in 2018. However, I was not prepared for how awful the withdrawal would be, nor was I really prepared to face the fact that the antidepressants hadn’t been working for years. The NYT has been running a whole series on this recently, which is as much about the withdrawal as it is about the fact that no one is studying withdrawal. To have a mainstream TV show address the idea of antidepressant withdrawal feels extremely timely as we start to investigate what the real long term effects of these medications are.
I do wish Dietland addressed the proven fact that antidepressants rarely remain effective for more than a few years. In the book and TV adaptation, Plum is on Y, an antidepressant that seems to have successfully repressed her feelings ever since she began taking it to cope with rejection from a man she trusted with her feelings. The show addresses the ready willingness with which we sacrifice joy to avoid despair, the way we are encouraged to embrace antidepressants out of emotional risk aversion. It does not address the real challenge, which is that if an antidepressant is prescribed for real depression, we are very likely on borrowed time with it – and we must take ownership for hacking our own brains in anticipation of the day it no longer works.
So for these two threads alone – Dietland matters. It’s got its clunky parts, and can be jarring and unfinished in places. The reviews are not wrong in that it is trying to cram a lot of plot and theme into a single hour long episode. However, I believe this is important TV. The more we portray these issues in television, the more we address the way we, as a society, still choose gender inequality. This show reminds us that as women, our inequality is constantly reinforced through the beauty and body image standards imposed on us, both by men and by ourselves. The more we show the methodology in which women are made lesser, the more we can find ways to make us equal.
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Tagged commentary, diet, dietland, media, sexist, tv, wellbutrin