Whole Drudgery

I’m trying the Whole Thirty diet, and am half way through my 30 days. This is an elimination diet, meaning you don’t go near food that is likely to bother your body. Sugar, sweeteners, dairy, legumes, processed starch (chips, bread, pasta), all grains, are all out the window in favor of whole veggies, home-cooked meat (not that additive-saturated processed crap), and a few fruits. Tree nuts are OK (thank heavens), and spices are encouraged.

The objective is not to lose weight, though some people do. The objective is to feel better–less groggy, puffy, tired, compulsive, dull, achy, and scattered. The diet’s proponents claim it can have life-changing consequences, and will certainly shift your relationship with food.

Mine has shifted all right. Instead of looking forward to my one cup of jasmine green tea with agave nectar and cream, I choke down the plain variety and wonder why I bothered. I put off eating because fixing stuff I don’t like is just drudgery. Eating it is worse than drudgery, and when this thirty days is over, brothers and sisters, there will be some CHEESE consumed in Western Maryland.

Why subject myself to this? Because with my health and energy, I’ve reached the point where I have to acknowledge: What I’m doing isn’t working well enough.

That tread desk is good, staying away from gluten isn’t a bad idea either, leaving out the caffeine can’t hurt, and nobody needs to eat much meat… but all of that wasn’t moving any needles in the right direction. So I’m going Sherlock Holmes, and investigating the unthinkable for thirty days.

I knew food was part of my  reward system (books are another part), but I’m left with the realization that I might have to demote food to a subsistence necessity. (This is me, grieving for my long, lost cheddar.) What then? What manner of treat doesn’t go in my mouth? The usual answers–a massage, a writin’ buddy date, flowers–don’t have the immediacy or simplicity of food. If I finish a scene that has really been a slog (what scene isn’t?), I can go to the kitchen for a snack. If I have put in a particularly good day on the tread desk, I can pat myself on the back with a cup of hot chocolate.

If court was awful (and it often is), I can comfort myself with cup of decaf Constant Comment (with agave nectar and half and half). I’m not a glutton, my caloric intake is well within the charted guidelines, but I do try to make food something I enjoy.

And thus my question to you: What are your micro-rewards or micro-comforts? When the day has been trying, when there’s something mundane to celebrate, how do you treat yourself? I don’t envision a life without chocolate or cheese, but I would like to have more variety in my pleasures, until that fine day when somebody comes up with an edible book.

To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy (not an ARC!) of No Other Duke Will Do.






Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

43 comments on “Whole Drudgery

  1. Hmm, tough one as I am definitely guilty of using food as a reward! Maybe a new chapter or a new book (being able to buy books anytime, anywhere and receive them instantly on my Kindle has not been good for my bank balance). A phone call with one of my sisters. Writing a thank you note to someone for something they did that they wouldn’t expect to be thanked for and imagining them receiving it.

    • You have pounced on a profundity. One of the surest ways to improve mood is to do somebody else a kindness. When we have goodwill to pass around, we’re not quite so broke, not quite so empty, not quite so exhausted. When is kindness ever a bad idea?

  2. Chocolate covered peanuts are my reward my pleasure my selfishness my contentment my final statement that I have closed my door at the end of a busy day and given myself me time. I being a good girl have eaten my main meal including fresh meat and veg also an Apple but now I want to be bad ! ‘With my packet of nuts in hand I look for the book I am currently reading(a Grace Burrowes)go to the fridge and seek out the last of the wine,settle in my favourite chair and continue to be a member of the farm-yard.Tomorrow I will hate myself and vow not to do that again.It does not happen often so does it really matter.I am only human.Some would say it is weak willed but I need to rebel every so often it does me good.My small statement in this life.

    • Even primitive cultures had honey, dates, sugar cane… I believe in moderation, and that means no diets, exercise programs, work schedules, or social obligations that are too rigid to be sustained over time. Here’s to chocolate covered peanuts, the occasional glass of cheer, and cozy reading sessions.

  3. I am tempted to to try to the Whole 30 diet in January. Am not sure of giving up caffeine, chocolate, cheese and wine…… I might be unbearable to live with!

    I look forward to watching movies after a long week at work. Classic adventures, romance and the Hallmark channel- who dosemt enjoy a HEA every 2 hours? Netflix has some great series and I can’t wait for the Crown. I look forward to a glass of wine and snacks with my husband on Sunday afternoon. We have shifted towards hummus and veggies and low-fat spinach dips with gluten free crackers. Occasionally, real cheese finds it way on the dish. And I read .

    Lifestyle changes are hard to follow through with– seems that everything you like isn’t good for you. I don’t think I could succeed if everything was forbidden.Better choices work for me.

    Good luck this week and treat yourself to something — a cup of tea and a piece of chocolate to celebrate a good writing day or work day! You deserve it.

    • Susan, you don’t have to give up caffeine on the Whole 30 diet, but if, like me, you’re used to a drop of agave nectar in your tea, the shift to plain is a challenge. The silver lining from this diet is, “It’s only for thirty days. I can almost anything for thirty days…” And that thinking gets you past the three week hump…. in theory.
      In practice, yes, I do think, sometimes you just have to chocolate, or chardonnay, or cheese. Hafta.

  4. One square of 72% dark chocolate is a micropleasure/daily necessity. Watching my cats play, or cuddling with them. A song or opera played loud, echoing thru my space.

    I hope the elimination diet works for you, and that dairy isn’t one of your trigger foods. I’m on the autoimmune Paleo diet for 5yrs now and the hardest group to give up was nightshades = chili peppers, even paprika, tomatoes, eggplants. Living on the edge of the southwest peppers are in everything, plus a love of Thai, Indian, North African cuisine. Hard to give up, but a world of difference in my pain levels, GI issues, joint pain, even skin redness.

    Good Luck Grace, kudos for making the efforts to change and feel better.

    • I guess we do what we gotta do, and part of my challenge is that I’m so used to feeling crappy–foggy, slow, dull, dumb–that when I say, “I’m fine!” what I really mean is, “I’m pretty much always this way.” I’ve tried elimination diets before to no beneficial effect. My issue isn’t physical pain, it’s lack of physical energy. And I’ve yet to find a woman whose fatigue was taken seriously by aliopaths, so I’ll light this candle for thirty days. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

  5. Chocolate is a big treat for me. If I’ve done chores I detest or gotten work accomplished for many a project or the dreaded housework, I get candy. I bought a treat box (rubbermaid container)and keep them in my room. I’ve dumped the leftover Halloween candy this week into it.

    I have been eating more fruit and less junk over the summer and have taken to giving myself a daily barre (I was a ballet dancer). Both strategies make me feel physically better and even psychologically better.

    All of these lifestyles changes help me but are also treats…it’s a win/win situation.

    • It’s odd how we associate “improvement” with suffering. I just had this discussion with another writer. If the life coach clientele only caught onto the fact that reading a good book lowers blood pressure, improves sleep, reduces stress, increases tolerance, strengthens memory… the life coaches would be out of a job.
      And a ballet barre… I used to love that part of the classes I accompanied the most. I could feel the dancers centering mentally as well as physically as they warmed, stretched, and relaxed into the art and discipline. Great stuff.

  6. Hi Aunt Grace,

    One of the trickier things about my adjustment to Mommy life is that fitting in the micropleasures I enjoyed before motherhood: a run, a pedicure, yoga class, a massage got a whole lot harder. And though I have a wonderful co-parent, one often finds that leaving at a moment’s notice for a jog/pedi/yoga class just doesn’t work. And by the time one bundles both little darlings in the jogging strolling, it definitely doesn’t feel as rewarding anymore (Mama, I want to go home! I need more drink! Waaaaah!)

    What has remained is food. This is not a good thing. It is why I’m still fifteen-ish pounds above the pre-mom weight. Because chocolate cake can be there for me when even fifteen minutes with a book isn’t gonna happen.

    I try to be moderate. I also know days of diapers and sippy cups and potty training and 2 AM wake up calls don’t last forever. Sometimes that thought and a cuddle with one of my girls is pleasure enough.

    • Oh, the early Mommy-days are a trial… and yes, they aren’t forever, but toddlerhood is the next stop. Hate to tell you, Ona, but…
      I know some Moms who take up writing ONLY after the kids arrive. They can squirrel away fifteen minute writing breaks and escape to the land of pirates or magical flower shops and come back after nap-time ready to face the dragons again. I think we know somebody like this?
      I figured out pretty early that society’s formula for the new mom who works is that the kid is the break from the job, the job is the break from the kid. It’s a dumb formula. All it does is model to the kid that moms neither need nor deserve respite. If I had it to over again, I’d make more playdates for ME, and call in sick more often after ditching PeeWee at daycare.

  7. A bit of dark chocolate is definitely a treat for me. And I do love my coffee with creamer in the morning. My nephew & his family gave me a 6-month subscription to a monthly Snack Sack box which has some very interesting offerings – the most unique so far was the pack of Sirracha Seaweed snacks – a bit spicy, but tasty. I think giving up dairy (especially cheese) would be the most difficult for me.

  8. Micro treats for me include a session with one of the crafts I enjoy, or learning a new aspect of artsy stuff. I used to take hot baths with a tattered copy of a favorite book (so that if it fell in, no worries). I sometimes (especially in summer) treat myself to sparkling water poured over frozen fruit (cherries, strawberries, blueberries etc) or even herbs. Basil tastes awesome with cherries, for example.
    I guess it comes down to treating myself by assigning time spent with pleasurable activities. My sis-in-love watches TED talks as a reward for working hard some days, for example.

    • I’ll occasionally take TED with me to the tread desk, because those talks are designed to intensive–to the point, pay ATTENTION–rather than meandering or marketing. Thanks for the reminder!

  9. I’d love to hear more about the treadmill desk as my docs are muttering I should get one…as soon as the surgeon signs off on my damaged knee.

    I’m pampering myself with audiobooks when I’m too frazzled or busy with physical jobs to read. James Langton can whisk me away when I’m knee deep in peeling, dicing, sautéing, and all that other prep work required for survival of the aging process.

    When my knee bends enough to allow escape from the tub, I’ll resume my end of the day soaks with bubbles, lotions and potions. Arnica gel is much nicer when followed by something moisturizing that smells good.

    • Julia Quinn put me onto the tread desk, and when the day is like today–pouring down, relentless rain, a high of 41 degrees–being able to wander into the living room and walk a mile while playing Bookworm is a perfect writing break.
      The tread desk has two features that do-it-yourself versions of “walking treadmills” often don’t. First, the engine is designed to go at low speeds for long periods. Most typically treadmill motors are not. Second, the working surface, where you put your computer or parchesi board, is stabilized independent of the treadmill, so you don’t get eyestrain as a result of what you’re staring at minutely vibrating.
      I managed to not gain weight this past year, and I’m sure, without the tread desk, that accomplishment would have been a lot harder to achieve.

  10. A televised baseball game (in season), along with Twitter commentary is a fun way to pass a lazy evening, and a yoga class relaxes and energizes me. A good book never fails to engage me, happy or sad. Poldark on PBS. And chocolate rocks, although I’m trying to eat microwave popcorn these days to cut some calories.

    • I watched the first couple episodes of Poldark, and came away thinking, “This was written by a guy…” A lot of cut to this/cut to that plot weaving, not a whole lot of character development. The scenery was lovely, but it couldn’t hold my attention.
      I need to find my version of Poldark though–Sherlock, maybe. Granchester, Monarch of the Glen. Something. Winter’s coming, and the nights are long and cold.

      • “Call the Midwife” and, for some history, “Monarchy.” CTM has lovely Christmas episodes. For a bit of whimsy, try “Pushing Daisies.”

  11. Our coffee pot is on a timer in the bedroom. We sit in the dark with a cookie and a cup of coffee, rewards for waking up.

    Our adjustable bed is a guilty pleasure.

    I have 2 pre-orders coming in on Tuesday, my husband will be away and I will have Frosted Flakes for supper.

  12. Bach. From the first few bars of the cello suites, I unclench and my shoulders drop. Helps me through unpleasant chores.

    Also, a bath as a reward is not motivating exactly, (it won’t get me to do a dreaded task quicker or happily) but it sure feels like the perfect thing when I am done with housework.

    I have tried to consciously stay away from rewarding myself with food because I know, for me, it can be a slippery slope. But I still occasionally will have some chocolate, though I try to make it good dark chocolate to make it worth the splurge. Plus, in combination with good potato chips, it is the food of the gods. Or my household gods anyway.

    If things feel dire and I have nothing that is helping me feel hopeful right then, I read Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. For other emotional shoring up I read Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish. There is something about that stolen time in London that reliably pleases me, the quietness and the intimacy.

    Good luck with the elimination diet! I have had to adopt special diets at various times and it can be very challenging, but I hope that it can give you some helpful answers.

    • I don’t use food as a reward, per se, but we all gotta eat. I’ve tried to limit my eating to what’s healthy AND enjoyable, but this diet is fer serious. No sweets, none, not any. Not honey, not stevia, not agave nectar. None. No legumes–peanuts, chickpeas, alfalfa sprouts, all gone. No dairy, except clarified butter (huh?). Lordy, do I miss my cheese…
      It’s not a cheap diet, it’s not time-efficient, because veggies in particular want preparation.
      But it’s what I’m doing for now. We’ll see what the lab work and energy level say at the end of this very, very long month.

  13. Making it through an entire 30 days of the Whole 30 diet would be incredibly difficult for me. My micro comforts list has chocolate and cheese at the top of the list. Occasionally, when my husband is out of town for work, I will indulge in a meal of wine, cheese, fruit, and bread. All 4 are big on my micro comforts. 🙂

    • I’m not a wine drinker (yet), but chocolate and cheese are my desert island (and dessert island) keepers. Responding to these comments, I’m about to write a lament for my long, lost cheddar.

  14. I lost a bunch of weight this year by cutting out snacking and keeping a food diary. Since I stopped those two things, I’ve gained back 10 pounds.

    Since stopping snacking isn’t going to work when I am so stressed and depressed, I’m picking up several bags of carrots when I go to the store. When I want to eat but am not hungry, I’m going to eat a few baby carrots. I tried air popped corn once but didn’t find it appetizing.

    I don’t have the discipline to be on a very restrictive diet. One thing I found that I did have to give up entirely was corn bread. It’s just too high in calories.

    • Pickles are my mindless-nosh, or oranges. I think oranges work for me because I have to interact with the food, have to peel it with my hands, which makes the experience of eating it more substantial. Been eating a crap ton of clementines… and downing bucket of herb tea.

  15. Hmmm… you have already mentioned some things I do as well. I like to go walking during lunch. I am currently listening to The Miracle at Dunkirk. Singing to music at the top of your lungs in the car. Christmas lights inside, turn off the lights and watch TV.

    • I learned something about singing I did not know: It helps prevent snoring, which means better sleep (and better for the guy in the next bunk too, probably). This is especially true of signing “at the top of your lungs.”
      Good on ya!

  16. I can certainly identify with finding yourself outside of your foodie comfort zone. After having my gallbladder out in September, I have been following an IBS diet to figure out what foods are triggers for me and learning to cook all over again. I am very thankful to have eggs and some cheeses back in the mix (my pre-surgery diet was increasingly restrictive), but most dairy and wheat are definitely no-no’s. But what is life without some treats?!
    *I’ve been making Chia Pudding with a little vanilla and cocoa powder. I use Rice Dream’s Rice/Coconut blend but whatever dairy substitute you use will work too. A lot of them have additives and emulsifiers though, so look near the Thai foods for straight coconut milk.
    *Hot toasted nuts don’t need anything added to be a treat, but tossing in olive oil, spices and/or sea salt before toasting take them to the next level.
    Of course for me starting a new book or going back to an old favorite is always a wonderful treat. But in our house, the #1, get you out of a funk, family mini-break is Dance Party! Whatever gets your body moving, crank it up!
    Good Luck!

  17. A few dark chocolate chips are an easy one. More interfering with my productivity is a few pages (or chapters) of a new book. Scanning the news sites or checking my social media feeds.
    I am trying, not very succesfully to get more time between my treat breaks.

    • You know, I used to regard a few minutes to scan my FB feed as a break too. Not so much any more, and I hadn’t put my finger on that until I thought about your comment. FB in particular has lost its appeal for me, outside of a few pages, and the posts were I get to interact with other readers. I’ll have to think about this… might be time for Kitten Pictures.

  18. My pleasure is chocolate anything, especially desserts. Not so much chocolate drinks but a good chocolate cake is sooooo rewarding to me.

  19. Well life can be both busy, frustrating and dispiriting so my favorite micro reward is reading. A quiet getaway between the pages of an old friend or new book revives me and uplifts me to move on to the next challenge. Right now I am really hooked on bruschetta so enjoying that on bread makes me very happy. Also writing letters and cards to people makes me happy. It is the little things although you wonderful books are big things to me. Thank you for sharing!

  20. Hmmmm……interesting thought. I never do anything to “reward” myself at the end of the day. If my budget permits, when I get paid at the middle of the month, I’ll do something special for myself. That can take many forms: new clothes, a trip to a museum, ordering pizza, going to a movie, etc. Then there is the old favorite: a shopping spree at whichever bookstore strikes my fancy. 🙂

    • If the nearest bookstore were less than 25 miles away, I’d be a frequent flier. As it is, I re-read keepers often, and they never disappoint. The idea of monthly reward though has a lot of appeal. Must think on this.

  21. I reward myself with cooking. I love spending time in the kitchen. It’s also how I destress after a busy day. There’s something soothing about chopping things into small pieces with sharp knives… Oddly enough, I rarely eat what I produce, so my coworkers love me!

    I do give you credit for doing W30. I’m currently on my second full month of primal, which has a little bit more leeway. I love to cook and experiment in the kitchen, and this gives me an excuse to do so…also an excuse to not finish writing. :/

    There is something to be said for a drastic change in dietary lifestyle, though. I do have more energy, only need 1 cup of coffee during most days, and just feel better. I didn’t realize how used I was to feeling bad. I like how the new me feels.

    You’re halfway there, Grace, it’ll be worth it. And it does get better…I promise! 🙂

  22. I did the Whole 30 thing last May, and still keep to a modified version of it. My hypothesis was that I was feeding the gut bacteria that specialized in carbs and wine. They hollered directly to my brain FEED ME, and when I was stressed, I caved in, which meant there were more of them, and the demand for food was that much louder. My friend who is a cardiologist, when I told her this, said, Well, you can believe it if you want to.
    So I think doing W30 was an exercise in killing off the FEED ME bacteria (the program starves them, and out they go) and letting the more healthful gut bacteria have room to repopulate.
    The results for me were worth it. I rarely have any alcohol, and do not miss it. I don’t CRAVE bread and crackers and pasta the way I did. I eat them on occasion, but can stop at a small portion without feeling in the least bit deprived. I think gut bacteria have a direct line to the lizard brain, and can get you to do stuff that your intellect can’t compete with. We talk about gut feelings for intuition. So the overeating I was doing was almost like an alien take-over. I’ve lost more than 20 pounds without really trying, and haven’t felt like I was ‘dieting.’
    Anyway, that and the FODMAP concept that Claire from Australia told me about (I think lactose and I aren’t great friends – but lots of cheeses have minimal or no lactose) have really turned my life around. Best wishes that you achieve what you are aiming for.