Creating Boundaries and Finding Balance

We’re doing the Whole30 reset again. Not because we don’t know what we need to do to eat healthfully but because, without rules and a commitment, it’s easy to cheat and let things slide. There is always a special occasion; always a reason to splurge. This time around isn’t as stressful since we continued to make many of the recipes throughout this past year. It also isn’t as fun since we kinda know how we’re going to feel – and that we’ll most likely get off track again by this time next year.

CreatingBoundariesandFindingBalanceI’m still glad we’re doing it though. It’s a reminder that resets are necessary. That even when we know what’s good for us, boundaries are necessary. I have a feeling that most of us are like that, whether or not it’s about the food we eat. We have indulgences and habits that aren’t bad, in and of themselves, but perhaps aren’t the best.

I was reminded of this with my reading habits the other day. I often lean toward nonfiction genres and this year have been making it a point to read more fiction. And I’ve read some incredible fiction! There are so many incredible storytellers in our world. I’ve also read a lot of mediocre fiction, which totally has its place, as well. But I noticed the more easy fiction I read, the harder it became to focus on nonfiction. And then I started reading easy nonfiction, with more conversational tones and format.

I was critiquing a book I had just started and Frank asked, Why are you reading that? You have another book about the same topic that’s meatier. Why don’t you just read that one?

Since life really is too short to read books I don’t love, I returned the other book to the library. It’s not a bad book – in fact it’s perfect for its intended audience, but at this moment in life, I’m not that audience. I picked up the thicker tome with thinner pages and smaller font and have set about reading it.

It’s harder. And my brain hurts more. But, already I recognize how much better this is for me at this point. I’ve taken a break and indulged in really great and really fluffy books, which was fun. And now I need something meatier. It’s a reminder that I should probably be a little more intentional about balancing the books I’m reading – whether it’s a heavy nonfiction with fun fiction or more thoughtful fiction with lighter nonfiction. All are good but, like food, they’re good when balanced and moderate.

This link to food and reading has made me pause and wonder what other areas of my life I’m off-balance a bit. What small recalibration would make certain activities healthier? I’m looking at our family’s schedule and we have a lot of really good commitments and activities. But we also have a limited amount of time. How do we balance those? What season are we in, where certain groups makes sense and others don’t? I’m looking at my exercise routine (or lack thereof) and am wondering how I can make small changes to my priorities and schedule to fit more of that into my days.

Like I said, I think there’s a time and place and necessity for fun, easy, fluffy foods, reads, and activities. And there’s a season for weightier and healthier ones. I’m remembering to take some time to asses and look at all areas and choose small changes that make sense.

I like the idea of fall-housekeeping for lifestyle choices. I’m remembering that it’s never too late to start a new habit. That I don’t need to wait until the start of the school year or January or the first of the month or Monday. I can start tomorrow or at 2:00 in the afternoon. Small changes happen any time, and I’m looking for opportunities.

How do you balance the meat and veggies of life? Do you have to stop and be intentional or does this happen naturally for you?

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Five Things I Learned On Whole30

Today is our last day of the Whole30 cleanse. On Day 2, I accidentally licked peanut butter off my finger while making Bea’s lunch and midway through, I had a bite of corn before realizing my breakfast side was “noncompliant.” But otherwise? We stuck to it and didn’t veer off course.

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Image source: Whole30.com

I feel pretty proud of us. There were challenging parts – especially with extra meal prep falling right when the neighborhood kids came outside to bike. But, I learned how to anticipate and prep ahead. We weren’t the most unhealthy eaters before this month, but sticking to the routine and following the guidelines definitely made us more cognizant of what we were buying and why we were choosing to eat certain things.

Tomorrow we enter the reintroduction phase, slowly adding in “sensitive” foods to see how we feel. But for now, I thought I’d share 5 Things We Learned while doing this Whole30 plan.

1) Meal Planning is Worth It
We were loose meal planners before – targeting Monday-Thursday. This meant Fridays were often hasty, pizza driven meals. The first two weeks of Whole30, we planned every single meal, every single day. As the days went by, we slowed down to dinners (breakfasts were an egg dish and lunches were either leftovers or my uniform meal of salad.) Last week, we planned Monday-Friday but left the weekend open for leftovers or simple grilling. I see that as a sustainable plan: Weekday planning; Weekend spontaneity.

I also kept track of every single meal I ate during the month. I certainly won’t keep that up, but as I highlighted the snacks I added, looking through my days made me more aware of patterns and choices I was making. This was especially helpful as I distinguished between hunger-snacking and boredom-snacking.

2) So Much Meat
We weren’t vegetarians before this month but we didn’t eat meat every day. I am so, so tired of animal products. Eggs for breakfast. Shredded chicken in my salad at lunch. Some sort of meat (and I count chicken and fish as meat) for dinner. So much.

It probably didn’t help that I’ve been reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer during this month. Or maybe it was perfect timing. In any case, going along with meal planning, we’ve decided to be more thoughtful about what we plan. Our schedule after this will be: 1 day Vegan, 3 days Vegetarian, 3 days Meat. Hopefully this makes us think more about our eating choices.

3) Emotional Eating Isn’t Always Bad
There’s never a good time to start a diet or cleanse – Frank has been working late hours on the tax extension deadlines; I went on a retreat in the midst of this – so we knew there would be some tough moments when we wished for a glass of wine or a nibble of a lemon poppyseed cookie. For the most part, it was fine not snacking or drinking. Would a glass of wine been nice on my weekend away? Yes. Did it change the restfulness of the weekend itself? No.

We were chatting with friends about how, at the end of a long week, a beer sounds awfully good. And that’s not a bad thing. We are holistic beings – of course food is linked to emotions and memories. I guess the balance is recognizing why we choose to eat or drink certain things before doing it mindlessly.

4) Dinner Parties are Still Fun
Our supper group met twice while we were on Whole30 and we still had a wonderful time. We found food to eat and were able to converse and laugh with our friends without any adult beverages or tasty desserts. At our last meeting, two couples were doing Whole30 and one couple was doing Weight Watchers and it sparked a great conversation about food restrictions and hospitality. Eating in community. The fact that many people have restrictions that aren’t voluntary but a real allergy. It gave me a bit of empathy for people who must eat outside the mainstream.

5) Thirty Days Isn’t That Long
A couple days seemed to last an eternity, but I’m amazed that we’re already finished. All in all, this month passed quickly. It took that time to take our habits from a quick reset to (hopefully) sustainable changes. I don’t miss sugar or bread like I thought I would. I dream about plain Greek yogurt, not the creamy sugary ones we had been in the habit of getting. (Because they were local so we were being conscientious!)

We’ve already talked about other Thirty Day habits we’d like to form. Next month, I’ll be writing every day for 31 days. We want to spend the next month going to bed by 9:00 since Elle has decided to form the habit of getting up at 5:30 each morning. I like the idea of taking time to be intentional, to add good habits to our life, and to remember that if it doesn’t work out, 30 days isn’t really that long.

I’m glad we did this particular challenge. I know there are better ones for weight loss or blood pressure or environmental health, but Whole30 was what we needed in this moment. It helped us recalibrate and really look at our food choices in ways we just weren’t before. It kept us accountable and gave us an end date, which is nice.

Even though it extends the challenge by 15 days, I’m looking forward to the next two weeks of reintroduction. I’m hoping I don’t have any sensitivities but am interested to see what comes up and how we’ll readjust our eating habits in response.

Mostly, I’m glad we took the time to be intentional. It was a lifestyle reminder that it’s so easy to just go day-to-day without thinking too much about the whys behind our choices. As we move forward, whatever we keep or readjust or lose altogether from this past month, I hope the intentionality is the most sustaining part.

Have you ever done Whole30? What was your experience? What’s your favorite food recalibration? How do you best form habits?

Sometimes You Just Need a New Cookbook

We’ve never done a diet or a cleanse together. My view on healthy eating is just that: Use common sense and eat healthfully. Of course whole, homemade foods are best. Moderation is key. And sweets are rarely good.

This tax season was probably our best for meal planning. Of course, we cheated and ate out much more than usual. But on the whole, we were consistent and felt much better at the end.

And then, we stopped. For whatever reason, when we actually had time to cook and plan together, we didn’t. It was easy to get Costco pre-made meals or pick something up on the way home.

Many of our friends have joined the Whole30 fad and it seemed like a good restart – part cleanse, part diet, part common sense. (Well, mostly. I’m having trouble getting behind the no peanut butter rule…) We bought the book, eager to learn more. And then looked at our schedule and realized between visitors and camping and travel, we didn’t have the required 40 days to commit to this plan.

So, we decided to use this book to meal plan. We’ve been using the recipes just for dinners and not following the plan as a whole. And, it’s been awesome! We’ve been eating healthier, more consciously, and the way we know we should be.

It’s been the kick-start we needed to get back on track. I still have my toast, peanut butter, and yogurt for breakfast, but we’ve cut out weekday wine (weekends are fair game) and have been more intentional with our dinners.

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Coloring with Aunt M

Perhaps one day we’ll commit to doing the 40 days. I’ve always been interested in a cleanse and this seems as good as any. But really, it’s amazing what a new cookbook – whatever it happens to be – can do.

It made me think about life and our family. I’ve talked about our lack of date nights and wishing for more. And then my sister-in-law came to visit and gave us a night, just the two of us. We went out to dinner, browsed at Barnes and Nobel, and talked. It was a weeknight. We weren’t out super-late. Bea totally manipulated the bedtime routine. But, it was a good kick-start back on track.

It made me recognize this need. Elle doesn’t love being left, but she survived and she’s old enough to do it without worry. We’re emerging from the infant stage, leaving this first year of intensity behind, and we need to remember that now is the time to restart some of the habits we were able to form when Bea was an only child.

We have some trips coming up, some craziness to our usually quiet schedule and it seems silly to try and start a new habit now. But, if we don’t now, when is the best time? So, we’re cooking whole dinners and planning date nights. Neither are with superb regularity, but perhaps starting these goals will turn them into habits.

What are some habits you wish you had the time to form? Do you just start a new routine or idea a bit haphazardly, hoping to make it regular or do you wait until you can do it right?