Here I am, sitting on a pile of pillows in a bathtub at The DeSoto House Hotel, Galena, Illinois (circa. 1855). We’re in room 203, with its soaring ceiling and grand windows and slanted floors. It is 4:30 a.m. I’m sipping black decaf coffee that I made in the little hotel pot. And the rest of my precious family is sound asleep just outside that door.
Our annual China Adoption Travel Group Reunion is coming to an end. We’ve spent a long weekend here in Galena with five other families, whom we adore. I’ll share more about this wonderful tradition in a later post…
Because this morning what I really want to talk about is food. Probably because I could eat my right arm, right now.
Back in June I shared that we Worralls had adopted three core summer values, three standards that we would use to guide our summer of 2015. They were (1) Good Health, (2) Relational Connection, and (3) Eternal Value. Well, now that the summer is all too quickly coming to a close, I’m here to report that we have prevailed on some fronts and lost ground on others and learned,well, a few lessons along the way.
For the first half of the summer, much of my “good health” energy was aimed at giving our home a much-needed overall. Walls and ceilings and fences needed painting. Closets and cupboards needed sorting. The basement needed a major purge. And it was time to get rid of some things that I had been hanging onto for way too long. (There’s plenty of fodder there for future blog posts as well. Stay tuned.) This giant clean-out culminated in last week’s massive, multi-family garage sale. When we get home later today, I’ll start donating the leftover piles. And I can (just about) cross that project off of my list.
So now I’m turning all of my “good health” attention to another major and much-needed overhaul. The way we Worralls eat.
I’ve known for a long time that our diet needed some attention, but I kept convincing myself that it wasn’t terrible. We’ve fiddled with things here and there over the years. Tried gluten free for a time. Cut back on carbs and sugar. And so on. But in recent months Peter has suffered from chronic discomfort and pain. Tests have been inconclusive. One doctor labeled his problem “inflammation” and medicated him to no good effect. Last year Daryl struggled with focus in first grade. Amelia consistently asks for candy fifty times a day. And who am I to talk? My own sugar crave has gotten completely out of control. My energy levels (and moods) have fluctuated—sometimes drastically. My back pain has returned with a vengeance. I haven’t slept well since I can remember. My own inability to focus sometimes frightens me. And I just haven’t felt as well as I know I could.
I did some research and stumbled upon the best-selling book It Starts with Food. When it arrived in the mail, I devoured it in two days and shared sections with Peter (in particular, the whole chapter on inflammation). He agreed that we should give it a try.
If you’re not familiar with the Whole30 plan, it’s pretty simple really. At least the concepts are. Put into your body what makes you healthy; leave out of your body what doesn’t.
It’s the execution that’s a bear. The Whole30 invites you to strip your diet back to the basics for thirty days. Take out all of the “psychologically unhealthy, hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, inflammatory food groups” and let your body heal. This means no dairy, sugar, grains, or legumes. Instead, build your diet around proteins, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats. Then, after thirty days, you can start to reintroduce some of the other stuff—slowly and carefully and with great attention to the effect. Figure out what your body needs. But the Whole30 program promises to forever change your relationship with food and even your life. We’ll see.
So last Wednesday we Worralls started our first Whole30. All four of us.
The timing was not ideal.
In fact, with our China Travel Group Reunion falling on days 3-6, the timing probably could not have been worse. It’s hard enough to eat this way when it’s just you and you’re at home and you’re in maximum control of your surroundings. It’s a whole other story when you’re out and about with a large group of friends, eating at restaurants and trying to include your kids.
I considered this when we began. Really, I did. But I decided to dive in anyhow. There is always a good reason not to start something like this, right? And I knew I needed to get us over the hump of the Whole30 before school starts up again. They warn you that the first two weeks are the worst. So we went for it and decided to just do the best we could “on the road.” We ordered eggs with onions and peppers off of the a la carte menu for breakfast. When everyone else was enjoying a sub sandwich picnic, we stopped at a grocery store and picked up some rotisserie chicken and carrots and fruit. Thankfully, the kids gobbled that up without too many complaints. And surprisingly, apart from a few comments at the breakfast buffet—“I want a muffin! Everyone else has a muffin!”—we were doing pretty well.
Until last night.
Last night our whole gang gathered at the local Culver’s for our final meal together. It was impossible to order Whole30 compliant food off of the Culver’s menu, but we did the best we could—opting for the dinners of meat and sides, rather than the sandwiches with fries. But, of course, many in our group were getting custard for dessert.
And our kids wanted some. Of course, they did.
So in honor of the special occasion, we decided to let them “cheat.” Of course, we did. As long as they ate their giant pile of green beans first.
Poor Daryl. He ate every last bean and a good helping of meat, and he was so excited to have his first serving of sugar in five days. But when his cup of custard arrived, he stuck in his spoon to get a bite and flung the whole scoop onto the table. Splat! And poor Daryl began to cry.
A Culver’s employee witnessed the incident and brought him a second scoop with an added cherry to make up for the mishap. Daryl wiped his eyes and stuck his spoon into his replacement treat, only to somehow slide this second cup onto the floor where the lump of custard slid across the rug.
I cleaned up the custard as best I could and whisked Daryl outside. When he caught his breathe, I asked him what was going on. I hadn’t seen him this upset in a good long while. “I’m embarrassed,” he said. “And sad.”
As I listened to him there on the curb of the Culver’s parking lot, I realized that I had set him up for just this sort of struggle—putting him on a restrictive diet in the company of so many of friends, taking him to Culver’s on Day5 of the Whole30 (the day they say you will want to “kill ALL the things”), asking him to eat differently from everyone else when he already feels different enough.
So after he apologized for his outburst, I apologized for my part in the problem. And I tried to explain again that, as parents, it’s our job to make the best decisions we can for our kids. That it’s our job to teach our children how to take care of their bodies, their brains, and their souls. That what we eat can affect all of those things. But that we don’t always get it right. That these things can be complicated. And that we’ll have to be patient with each other as we work our way through.
We’re heading back to McHenry in just a few minutes, and we’ll be continuing on this Whole30 journey through the end of the month. I’ll let you know how it goes and what we discover. If anyone wants to join us on the plan, let me know. We’re only a week ahead of you and would love to cheer you on!