Day Thirty: Done and Done

Day Thirty: diet complete. The Whole Thirty has been vanquished. It’s been a rough thirty days, but this just goes to show you what grit, determination, and fighting spirit can do for you.

I imagine there may be certain pressing questions being asked by the faithful readership right about now, among them such gems as “How much weight did Matt lose in total?” and “What are you going to do now that you’re free?” and “Wasn’t yesterday Day Seventeen?” This last one I feel deserves some slight attention. You see, as I explained to you previously, time dilation effects are in play here. What we have is a serious gravitational field in the vicinity of the Whole Thirty diet, caused by the immense vacuum in my interior. When I realized that time was actually passing more swiftly for those outside the effects of the field than it was for me, I thought immediately of my blog and knew that in order for these posts to make any sense I would have to compensate for the time differential, as the day count would not correspond to that being kept by those following along at home. Doubtless the differential was already in play and you’ve been confused all along why I was calling day twenty a mere twelve and so forth. Thus, via the careful application of advanced mathematical calculation and a bottle of wine, I have determined that this instant in time is the correct one on which to post the Day Thirty summary.

My summary of the Whole Thirty diet is that it is a crock. It did not cure heartburn, it did not make me feel like a tiger, and I officially class the proponents of this madness alongside those runners who claim that running makes you feel good. I agree entirely with a good friend who expresses the candid opinion that most of the alleged health benefits gained by our paleo ancestors was not from their diet but from their habit of alternately chasing and fleeing from sabre-toothed tigers.

Unfortunately, it seems that I’m not yet entirely in the clear, because now my personal medical advisor has a new dietary plan for the treatment and cure of my pernicious heartburn. It has now become apparent, to those looking in the right places, that taking heartburn medication for the rest of my natural life will unduly shorten it via cancer, or ulcers, or salmonella, or some such disorder of the inner workings. Thus, it’s time for a new quacky diet to manage heartburn! This one is called FODMAP, or FODCIAKGB, or some such acronym which I have difficulty remembering. I couldn’t quite follow the details the first time through as they were explained verbally and rapidly by my medical advisor, but I believe the gist is it’s like Whole Thirty but you swap some fruits and vegetables for sugar and cheese. And on top of that, I’m taking some more pills filled with hydrogen chloride and pepsin (whatever that is) and I’m practically awash in apple-cider-flavored cleaning product and vitamin B solutions. The bottom line is that I’m still not allowed to eat any grain products, but I can (and did) consume two chocolate-dipped cocoa-nut patties this evening accompanied by a glass of wine. The ideology behind this diet also encourages fermented foods, though while hops are thoroughly approved of (as a bitter aiding digestion!), beer itself remains conspicuously absent from the recommended eating list. I feel like the omission of this most noble fermented beverage is a frequent and curious oversight amongst these fad diet practitioners.

I’m not actually sure what weight this Whole Thirty diet has cost me because my wife informs me I must weigh myself first thing in the morning and I keep forgetting to do so. I think it fluctuates greatly. Probably I didn’t lose anything important.

Day Seventeen: Isn’t This Over Yet?

Hello again. It’s the conclusion of Day Seventeen. That’s about all that can be said for the day. I’m alive. I’m still quaffing apple-cider-flavored cleaning product. I’m still thinking about glasses of wine with the excellent steaks for dinner and about largish bowls of chocolate chip cookie dough to follow them up. In other words, it’s Business As Usual.

The most curious thing about this diet is that it’s not over yet. I’m pretty sure we’ve been at this for a month or two already, but I keep this here blog which reminds me of the day and it says only seventeen days have passed. I wonder if time dilation is a factor. I understand this time dilation stuff comes into play with respect to objects moving at high rates of speed, and it can also come into play with respect to an object’s proximity to a gravitational field. I’m going to suggest a third situation, that being an object’s proximity to a Whole Thirty diet. The closer one is to a Whole Thirty diet, the slower the clocks run. It’s possible the people attributing long life to eating paleo-style diets have completely mistaken the true agent of causality.

Day Sixteen: Do Tigers Get Headaches?

It’s Day Sixteen, commonly touted amongst the crazed Whole Thirty advocates as a day filled with Tiger Blood. As such, I feel that this is obligatory:

But when it comes right down to it I’ve gotta say, “bro”, I ain’t feelin’ it. Maybe my problem is that I’m not banging 7-gram rocks.

Instead, today I woke up with a headache along with other vague symptoms of the onset of a cold. Do tigers even get colds? I don’t think tigers get colds. On the other hand, I’d sooner eat a breakfast of bacon and eggs with a cup of coffee than devour a raw wildebeast. And in fact, today I did so. Had bacon and eggs and coffee, that is.

I’m also reading some wild theories about heartburn and how it’s caused by not enough stomach acid instead of too much stomach acid, and also how taking omeprazole will cause cancer, salmonella, and generally rot your insides out. I find these assertions vaguely disturbing and likely credible but not sufficiently credible to convince me to start drinking kombucha anytime soon. And by “anytime soon” I mean “anytime on either side of eternity”. Nevertheless, at the suggestion of the general population of quacks on the Internet, maybe I’ll start doing some acid. Not that kind.

Despite this being Día del Tigre, this afternoon I heard worrisome rumbling of mutiny in the ranks. The two other hapless characters, who are either dragging me through or themselves being dragged through this dietary purgatory (the situation is not clear) are talking open rebellion. Turns out they’re not feeling like tigers either, for better or for worse, and they are ready to utterly throw over this entire experiment and trample upon it with hobnailed boots, afterward scattering its ashes to the four winds as a warning to other diets. In my characteristic ineffably effervescent manner, I explained that the thing is already halfway over and besides who wouldn’t want to eat this way for the rest of their lives simply out of solidarity with our supposed ancestors living amongst the primordial goo and woolly mammoths. This rather touching soliloquy was met with what I can only describe as a chilly demeanor. At the end of the day, one of these two mutineers is my personal chef, and if she goes on strike then the grand adventure will have unquestionably come to a sudden and abrupt end.

Until then, this your humble and distinctly non-feline correspondent will continue to supply reports from the front.

Day Fifteen: The Breaking Point

Here draws to a close Day Fifteen of the Thirty Days of Serious Dietary Inconvenience. Morale on this particular evening is good, but this past weekend brought troop morale to the breaking point.

I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m the sort of plain fellow who likes to start a Saturday with four or five pancakes of no insignificant size. Following that, I rarely eat much (if any) lunch, and then am accustomed to a rather generous dinner (particularly when Saturdays are spent in physical labor). Following a double bacon cheeseburger with all the fixings and fries, there are Saturday evenings on which I consider having another bacon cheeseburger, and even some evenings on which I actually do so.

I’ve been told that eggs and bacon do have calories in them, and that said calories are of a special variety designed for long-term sustaining energy rather than the short-burst energy that pancakes provide. However, the Whole Thirty diet has apparently not yet repaired my metabolism to the extent that it knows about this fact. Saturday breakfast left me satiated at the time, but hungry by lunchtime. At lunchtime I made the mistake of just poking around at leftovers and not really going wholeheartedly into the thing. By dinnertime I was ready for about one and a half of those bacon double cheeseburgers, but it was not to be. Instead, the dinner was three hamburger patties and a pile of spinach topped with raspberry-flavored cleaning product.

It was at that moment, staring at children with delicious slabs of cheese and actual store-bought white bread hamburger buns, that morale nearly cracked. I sat there, a sort of bleak look on my hollow face to accompany the hollow feeling in my bleak stomach, feeling wan. This is not worth it, I thought. This is ridiculous. But I ate my blighted Whole Thirty dinner anyway. And afterward I could have eaten three more hamburger patties on the spot, but I didn’t, because I saw no point in it. I’d have felt the same hunger after eating them anyhow. I don’t know why this is, but meat alone has never made me feel full.

Next morning was Sunday, and instead of starting it off right with a solid stack of pancakes, it was eggs and bacon again. An even half-dozen of the former and two strips of the latter, and I was hungry all the way through church. That was followed up by a birthday celebration for my daughter, featuring (at her request!) a salad bar. (She loves salad. I cannot understand it.) I had two sizeable plates of salad generously topped with chicken, mushrooms, eggs, and more raspberry-flavored cleaning product. After that, I felt exactly the same as I did when I started. I could have eaten two more plates of the stuff, except my jaw was tired of chewing. I probably had a net loss of calories from that meal just from the chewing and work involved in digesting lettuce.

However, the story has a happy ending. (Well, “happy” as relative to the Whole Thirty diet.) My kind wife took pity on me and cooked up what she says was about two pounds of ground beef with seasonings and mushrooms and a can of tomatoes plus two large yams. I ate it all except about half a pound of the beef and a child’s portion of diced yam, and at last my stomach was full. In fact, that glorious feeling carried over into today, wherein I ate an average Whole Thirty diet and yet am not starving unto death.

On a sidenote, I learned that tobacco is actually verboten on this blighted diet, which just goes to show you that the rules are really only about the authors’ personal prejudices. I imagine Whole Thirty adherents will latch onto the two pipes I smoked earlier on as the reason it’s not curing my heartburn.

Though actually, heartburn hasn’t been so bad today, so maybe it is curing it after all. I’m not sure whether I would be happy or sad about that. But I’ve already decided that if this ordeal does cure heartburn, I’ll just have to take omeprazole for the rest of my life, because I’m for dang sure not spending the rest of my life eating this kind of diet.

Tomorrow is supposed to be “Tiger Blood” day. I’ll let you know if I find myself mauling any safari hunters.

Day Twelve: Biotics, Are You Pro or Anti?

Day Twelve of a Whole Thirty: I didn’t quit today, either. It’s primarily for the noble purpose of debunking the wild claims of the vegetable-eaters, I think. I’m holding out past at least Day Sixteen, which I am informed is “Tiger Blood”, which sounds promising even if not strictly true in the literal sense. At present, though the prospect of tiger blood coursing through my veins does have a certain appeal, I think I would rather be sopping some off my dinner plate with a large chunk of homemade bread.

I have chronic heartburn/acid reflux/whatever the chic term is, which the Whole Thirty people claim is caused by degradation of the stomach lining or something to that effect and fixed by their diet. Naturally, I was interested in fixing heartburn, but having given elimination diets their due in the past, I remain skeptical of this one being any different. It is my held opinion that diets such as these are generally cooked up to sell books, a rather cynical outlook supported by the existence of many contradictory diets. If measurable, repeatable results were behind any of these, there wouldn’t be so much argument about which is best.

To properly assess this diet’s effects on my personal metabolism, I stopped taking omeprazole (which typically manages the hearburn very well) earlier this week. The heartburn remains present. Doubtless the mere twelve interminable days consisting of this diet plus apple cider poison plus digestive probiotics aren’t enough to cure heartburn outright. It requires more time.

I haven’t talked about digestive probiotics yet, have I? They come recommended to me by my personal home medical amateur. And you know I follow all the advice of my personal home medical amateur, so I’m taking a capsule filled with who-knows-what (its contents involve approximately fourteen syllables and appear to be a dingy white powder) once daily. This capsule’s end is to help restore “friendly” bacteria in the recipient’s guts. I have taken the liberty of scanning the front of this product’s box for your viewing pleasure:

Digestive Probiotics for Happy Tummies

I have given no small amount of thought to the picture on the box and I’m still not sure what I’m supposed to draw from it. Do digestive probiotics cause pert tummies? Is the picture supposed to demonstrate the target demographic of digestive probiotics, viz. people who like to show off their midriff with saucy hip action? I note that they do not show the woman’s face. I like to imagine that her face is screwed into a horrible grimace suggestive of a recent dosage of apple cider vinegar. I briefly considered reenacting this photo myself for comparison purposes, saucy hip and all, but I quickly decided such imagery is not to be borne on a family-friendly blog. Sorry.

Anyway, on to the medical claims. The first thing we may notice is that the box is liberally sprinkled with daggers and asterisks. There is at least one dagger symbol on all sides of the box except top and bottom, and they follow most paragraphs of text. The dagger leads to the following statement, in bold:

† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

As far as I can tell, this translates to:

† We pretty much made this stuff up so you would give us your money. We don’t know whether it will do anything to you or not, and we’d rather not have the government find out because the resulting loss of marketing copy from our label would be even worse than this disclaimer we now have to include here.

That helpful disclaimer out of the way, what exactly are digestive probiotics? I was helpfully informed of the answer according to digestive probiotic manufacturers when I examined the side of the box.

Poor diet, age, stress, travel, antibiotics and other prescription medications can tempt bad bacteria to flourish in the digestive system. Probiotics are “friendly” bacteria that help restore natural balance in your intestinal tract. TruNature® Digestive Probiotic has been scietifically shown to help maintain digestive health and support a healthy immune system; promoting a general sense of well-being.†

I do not doubt most people consuming digestive probiotics have a general sense of well-being, as I am a firm believer in the placebo effect. Unfortunately it’s not working for me, as I was convinced these were a placebo from the start. The quotes around “friendly”, however, lend this paragraph a more sinister aspect. Are these bacteria only pretending to be friendly? Is this like the “mother”? Actually, I still don’t know what that really means, only that I find it vaguely disturbing. Same deal here. I don’t want my bacteria to have any lingering questions about whose side they’re on.

On an unrelated sidenote, I’ve decided not to write a new post for every day of the Thirty. I hold a general principle that if one has nothing to say, one should be quiet. On most days I now find that I have little to say that has not already been said. If the blog is silent, you may safely just insert some grumbling about how slowly time passes, or how empty my belly is, or how all is vanity and of the writing of diet books there is no end, and I’m sure you will be reasonably close to whatever vapidity I would otherwise have written.

Day Twelve. The end is kind of in sight! If you can see more than two weeks into the future, anyway.

Day Ten: The Slow Slog of the Deprived

Day Ten of Thirty down. There was no Day Nine, because the plague reared its ugly head and briefly incapacitated me. In fact, it was so serious I think I missed my dose of apple cider vinegar. However, today I’m back in action.

It’s diets like these which make one realize how slowly days do pass. Often and particularly at this time of year we are tempted to look back and reflect upon the year(s) gone by, and how time, like an ever rolling stream, does bear its sons away. Perhaps this sensation comes from eating well, and what those people who bemoan their lost youth need is a Whole Thirty diet to make them realize what time really is: an ever trickling jar of molasses, slowly dripping into a puddle on the floor. On the other hand, I will say that if anything’s making me old it’s the Whole Thirty diet. Strange paradox, this.

Owing to an unexpected opportunity for cross-verification at the doctor’s office, we learned that the bathroom scale in our house is not in fact displaying things five pounds on the heavy side. This is good news for me because it means my weight is not quite so low as I might have feared. This is bad news for me because this sort of news never seems to be taken as good news by the female members of the species.

My advisor informs me that Day Ten is the day when everybody quits, because it’s when you feel most like quitting. This is plausible to me, but I will refrain from making any final judgment until the end of tomorrow. After all, this entire diet has been one day stacked upon another, each full of desire to quit the ridiculous thing and fry a doughut already. So far as my experience takes me, every day is the day when you feel most like quitting. As yet I have no frame of reference for a day on which I would think of quitting this diet as a less attractive option than it was the day before.

Still, that’s one-third of a whole thirty days safely behind us, and apparently the best is yet to come.

Day Eight: and Feelin’…wait.

Day Eight down: we are 25% of the way done with the whole thirty days. Not that anyone is counting.

Curiously, day eight was marked by a lesser degree of inner emptiness. Unfortunately this was not true of all the troops, as half of the personnel on the diet reported continued famine-like conditions dominating their interiors. Perhaps one thing helping me was my decision to spread the chewing exercise across a greater portion of the day by saving the purely vegetable portions of my lunch for slowly consuming throughout the afternoon.

There’s not really much to report today. The local culinary specialist continues to do amazing work with the limited resources she has to work with, and I continue to think of how pleasant it will be to eat a largish bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough accompanied by a largish glass of red wine. Average morale today is fair. In fact, my morale was good enough that I revived thoughts of doing some work on my oft-started never-finished Morale-O-Meter project. It would be just like this Whole Thirty diet to spur to completion something like that.

Day Seven: All Aboard the Chew-Chew Train

This is Day Seven of Thirty, and life has become one big chewing exercise.

The food allowed by this Whole Thirty diet is grotesquely inefficient. It requires so much chewing for so few calories! I neglected to get an accurate weight measurement before this diet started, but today I did and I came up five pounds short. I attribute these missing pounds to having to chew so much. The chewing of all this wholesome food is burning more calories than I can afford.

Take olives, for example. My goodly wife suggested offhand that I eat a can of them. Do you know how difficult it is to eat an entire can of olives? The law of diminishing returns kicks in like nobody’s business! The first quarter or so of the can is enjoyable. The next quarter is okay, but lacks that certain je ne sais quoi. Following that it becomes apparent that you’re actually consuming pencil erasers or octopus eyeballs or something like that. What I mean to say is, the thing loses its appeal, it becomes a mere monotonous exercise in chewing. And yet the chewing has only begun! After all, a can of olives is a mere drop in the bucket of a man accustomed to eating four or five 6-inch pancakes of a morning.

Green beans are another example. These things take forty bajillion bites and half an eternity to chew. And for what? A few calories, probably barely enough to make the whole exercise worthwhile. Or take hamburger patties. Chewing a hamburger patty by itself requires more or less the same amount of effort as chewing it with a bun, cheese, and all the fixings–the hamburger itself is the limiting factor, and everything else comes along for free. But when you’re not allowed to have cheese and a bun and all the fixings, this chewing action becomes inefficient. This Whole Thirty diet might fix my gut, but I’ll need a new set of chompers by the end of it.

In other news, the viral blight which afflicted the camp chef has been spreading. Your correspondent succumbed to the thing last night, and the ache continues to make itself known, blending in beautifully with the (likely permanent) dull ache in my stomach. At least it’s not the vomiting kind of blight. I think at this point if I contracted a vomiting kind of blight I’d probably just die. The sheer effort of vomiting (burning those calories again!), combined with the effrontery of carelessly discarding all that food I worked so hard to ingest, would break my spirit at last.

As Day Seven draws to a close, morale is poor, but we are driven on by iron wills. Any pusillanimous talk of turning tail and fleeing before the enemy has been shouted down, and so the expedition continues.

Day Six: On Apple Cider Vinegar

Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,
so is the sluggard to those who send him.

– Proverbs 10:26

To some modern people this proverb is purely metaphorical. Unfortunately, I am not one of them.

In fairness, I would imagine that many (if not most) folk have experienced smoke in their eyes at some point, unless RV camping has become so prevalent as to eradicate the experience entirely. However, up until a few years ago, I don’t think I was aware that anyone voluntarily consumed vinegar apart from sald dressing, much less raw and for its alleged health benefits. And yet here I am, duly taking my daily dosage of 2 teaspoons (more or less) of apple cider vinegar on a daily basis.

Let me explain some things about this stuff, apple cider vinegar. These things will be nothing but entirely factual, being drawn from my vast experience and knowledge of the human condition. Firstly, I’m pretty sure the “apple cider” portion of the name was tacked on by marketers. Perhaps the resulting product once upon a time had something to do with apples, but I regret to inform you it has nothing to do with apples anymore, nor cider. This stuff is vinegar.

I am informed that vinegar is useful for a variety of things. Reader’s Digest, for instance, has a helpful list of 150 Household Uses for Vinegar which range from clearing clogged drains to cleaning concrete off your skin. There’s no denying the lamentable fact that this diet is unclogging some drains, loosely speaking, but I would not previously have chalked this dubious benefit up to apple cider vinegar. Note that even Reader’s Digest in its extensive list, however, does not suggest it as suitable for digestion; all of its focus seems to be on cleaning, disinfecting, or deodorizing things. And while I admit that at times I am disagreeably odiferous, voluntarily ingesting a cleaning product would heretofore have never suggested itself to my mind as a viable remedy–at least not a remedy lacking certain undesirable side effects of a permanent nature.

Then there’s the curious issue of motherhood. All the “best” apple cider vinegar advertises it as “with the ‘mother’”. Make a special note of the quotation marks; they are sic. I don’t exactly have wide exposure to brands, but the two I’ve seen (Bragg and Heinz) both put that word in quotes. I’m not sure exactly what they mean by this, but I don’t like any of the possibilities. For one thing, it reminds me that the kombucha quaffers also refer to the large chunky mass of mold in their drink as the “mother”. (Recall: kombucha is the stuff that looks something like tea that’s been sitting on the counter for about seven months too long. I’ve never had any because I don’t eat moldy things whenever I can help it.) Depending on which brand of vinegar you like to believe in, they have different descriptions of this “mother”. Heinz rather conservatively refers to it as “a compound created naturally during vinegar’s fermentation process”, whereas Bragg goes further to describe it as “amazing” and occurring “naturally as a connected strand-like chains of protein enzyme molecules”. (As a sidenote, the adjective “natural” conveys no meaning to me, positive or negative. Botulism is natural, Pillsbury biscuits aren’t, and that just goes to show you.) All in all, I would like to keep ancestry out of my cleaning products.

I have special objections to the Bragg vinegar. Not for anything about the vinegar itself necessarily, but rather the “guilt by association” of being sold by supremely strange people. On my barometer of friendliness toward any given product, something sold by someone billing himself as a “Life Extension Specialist” wins the default prejudice of “snake oil” and will have to earn its way back from there. Using your label as a way to push copies of your vegetarian cookbook, promising healthy life to 120, is another strike. And lastly, anyone who describes apple cider vinegar as adding a “healthy, delicious flavor” to anything is surely lying through his vinegar-smitten teeth.

Heinz isn’t exactly the paragon of truth in advertising either (they do, after all, claim that their product is “sure to please”, directly contradicted by my personal experience), but at least their packaging communicates pretty clearly what their goal is: “We’re here to make money. We may not know why you want this stuff, but here it is. Pay us the money.” At least, that’s what it says to me.

So here I am, consuming acid every day in the vile form of apple cider vinegar, just to disprove the claims that it will heal me of my woes and restore my youthful vigor. Make no mistake – if it does do these things, I will be just and express a proper degree of gratitude to ‘mother’ and my wife and all the crazy things she reads on the Internet. But I will not stoop to liking the stuff. The proverb’s intent is to teach us about sluggards, but it also says something about vinegar.

Day Five: (Wo)Man Down!

Day Five and still alive, though my unfortunate wife might quibble with the definition. Alas, she was laid low not by any weakling fad diet but by some form of insidious virus. Morale among the men dropped accordingly, particularly since the plague struck our camp chef. Eating a Whole Thirty diet without an accomplished culinary specialist on board is no joke.

Today I subsisted primarily on eggs, coffee, fruit, and mixed nuts from Costco. Then I went to Costco this afternoon to replenish the milk supplies (for those happy folk who still bathe themselves in it), where I discovered that the mixed nuts I had been carelessly consuming cost about three times what I had surmised. The moral of the story is either that an appeased belly has no price or one should go easy on the nuts. At the moment I’m leaning toward the latter.

Also resulting from the incapacitation of our praised lady of the kitchen, I purchased a Costco take-and-bake pizza for the kids. Personally, I ate ground beef patties and rabbit food, and I drank saliva. I don’t think a Costco pizza and the thought of homebrewed beer on tap has ever been quite this appealing.

We’re one-sixth the way through this diet thing, and morale is fair.