I wish I could take credit for this phrase, but I can’t. Although I probably ought to change it to shorts, for those of us in California, but you get the idea. Anyway, it was coined by the awesome folks over at Whole 9, but it so aptly covers what I’d like to say that I am borrowing it for this post. Plus, it never hurts to have the word “sex” in the title. It got you to click on it, right?
Every year at this time millions of people make long lists of resolutions, swearing this year will be the year they eat healthy, exercise more, stop eating wheat, finally get that elusive flat tummy etc, etc. We all do it – even those of us who don’t always physically write a list. And this is why in January most gyms are rammed full of eager converts to this new “healthy lifestyle” as they puff away for hours on the elliptical hoping to undo the damage of the holidays. In addition to hauling our butts down to the gym, most of us decide it’s the perfect time to clean up our food. Even us mostly clean-eaters tend to slip a little over the holidays (hey it’s hard not to with all the parties and excuses to celebrate, right?). And so, as we speak, a bunch of our awesome members have embarked on the clean-eating program we highly recommend – a Whole30. The reason we recommend this so highly is because it always works. Every time and for every single person. No ifs or buts. And the reason it works is because it involves cutting out crap and eating real, whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods. It can’t NOT work.
But it’s not always easy.
In fact, during the first week of a Whole30, most people will have a bazillion questions. “What about if I make those pancakes that use only banana and egg – those are whole30 ingredients right?!”. Or “how about if I make that almond flour bread instead of having sourdough bread? Those ingredients are paleo!”. “What about ice-cream if it’s just made with coconut milk and frozen-fruit?!”.
And yes, ALL those options are fine under every day circumstances – they replace harmful ingredients with real food ingredients, and that is a HUGE step towards better health, but the whole point of a Whole30 is that it is designed as a reset. It is a 30 day period during which we are trying to break old, less than healthy, habits of processed foods that sneak into our diets when our guards are down. It is designed to allow us to rethink our approach to food – to stop “needing” to have bread with a meal or that little something sweet after dinner, to reframe the standard western diet approach to meals, and to get used to eating food that is recognizable as its whole ingredients, and not made to replace our old choices with cleverly replicated new recipes.
Why do they call it “sex with your pants on”? Think about the food equivalent – let’s say having paleo donuts instead of the real thing. They are not going to satisfy you in the way you were used to being satisfied by gobbling down a plate of Krispy Kremes. No paleo version will replace the gluten-filled, sugary, processed fluffiness that is a real donut. You can tell yourself it’s good – it may even be pretty tasty – but it is not the real thing and you’re never left feeling totally satisfied. After all, something that is not made with wheat can never replicate the addictive, opiate-life affects in the brain, right? The same way you’d never feel totally satisfied having sex with your pants on, or smoking oregano instead of pot. Pretty lame substitutes right?
At the end of the day, all you will think about when you’re dabbling in the half-hearted version is the real thing.
Those imitation foods will not break the cycle of cravings that so many of us develop. As long as you are trying to mimic unhealthy options with slightly “healthier” versions, you are essentially still a slave to those old habits.
Now I am not saying those healthier alternatives do not have a time and a place. Heck knows, I have a Pinterest board jammed full of delicious “Paleo Treats”, in which I will happily indulge from time to time. But, as much as these treats are more nutritious (and less harmful) than their processed, grain and sugar-filled counterparts, I cannot pretend they are objectively healthy foods that should form a staple part of our daily nutrient intake. They should be viewed as treats and enjoyed occasionally as such. And with caution. It’s a slippery slope from there to diving head-first into those Krispy Kremes.
And thus, every so often we need to take a step back and clean up our acts for a month, just to get out of the habit of “needing” these things in our diet in order to feel happy/satisfied/appeased. My personal weakness is sugar, and whilst honey is a far better choice than refined table sugar, it is still sugar, so having baked goodies sweetened with honey will not break my after dinner sugar-cravings. What WILL break those cravings is simply not having anything sweet after dinner. Going cold turkey and accepting that having something sweet after a meal is not necessary to my survival or well-being, emotional or otherwise. It’s tough as nails when you’ve been indulging regularly for a while, but the hardest part is the first week/10 days. After that something magical happens – you actually stop craving those things. And THAT is freeing.
Then, once the Whole30 is done, you can once again enjoy the occasional paleo treat. Occasional, being the operative word.
In the meantime, use this time as a way to rethink your attitude towards food. The food we eat will either make us healthier or less healthy – those are the only 2 options. For this month, try to only choose foods that make your body MORE healthy. After all, food is there primarily to fuel our bodies in the most efficient way possible. It should not be used as an emotional crutch, a way of rewarding ourselves, or something we should use to drown out our sorrows.