Food and Law and Grace

During Whole30, I ate meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit and healthy fats, which included a lot of coconut and avocado. I did not eat any grains, legumes, dairy, alcohol, added sugar or sweeteners (natural or artificial), or a few different additives. This was not a low-carb diet because starchy vegetables and fruits were allowed, and I ate plenty of both. It was challenging at first to adjust to the shopping and planning and meal prep required (including packing all my own food for an overnight trip), but the meals were delicious and satisfying.

After the 30 days, there is a recommended reintroduction phase, where you introduce one previously prohibited category at a time while otherwise following the Whole30 guidelines. This allows you to develop more awareness of how certain foods affect you and help you understand your cravings better. They recommend a minimum of 10 days for this. Day 1 you reintroduce legumes for just that one day. Day 4 is non-gluten grains, Day 7 is dairy, and Day 10 you add gluten grains. On the in between days, you are still following Whole30. (Mike says the name Whole30 is deceptive, and it really should be called Whole45 or something.)

Mike and I talked about what foods specifically we felt like we were missing and made a plan for the 10 days. We were going to modify the end because we have friends staying with us next weekend and want to be able to enjoy some specific things with them. Okay, this will work with our future eating plan (mostly paleo) and our schedule.

Then I asked if we could change our dairy introduction from Day 7 to Day 8 because the dairy that I miss the most is extra creamy coffee drinks, like a cafe breve or a flat white. My schedule on Day 7 doesn’t lend itself well to stopping at a coffee shop, but Day 8 does. We’ll delay reintroducing gluten grains until after our friends visit, which will be no problem because they don’t usually eat them anyway.

Day 1 arrives. I ate peanut butter with my apple in the morning and was going to have black beans at dinner that night. In the middle of the day, I went to the grocery store. I was buying a few non-Whole30 foods for my son, but the pull to add other things to my cart was very strong. Marshmallows, chocolate, jelly beans. It wouldn’t hurt to have these right? I started to panic a bit about having to make decisions again about what I should and should’t eat. Yes, following the rules was work, but it didn’t involve weighing the options, which has always been a challenge for me.

In the afternoon, I scooped some more peanut butter into a bowl and ate it with celery sticks. That’s a fairly healthy snack by most accounts, so there was no real problem, except I kept wanting more and the nature of the craving bothered me.

On Day 2, I followed Whole30. Honestly, our food was lackluster. I had been extremely tired all week from some hormonal issues, and I didn’t want to put much effort in to our food. Boring food encourages boredom, and boredom has a way of triggering cravings.

Day 3 happened to be the day where we order ribeye sandwiches from a local restaurant for lunch at work. I’ll just eat the ribeye. And maybe the fries. Well, maybe I’ll just have the bun and make this my gluten grain day and then follow Whole30 faithfully for the next week before reintroducing anything else. Then it was time for dinner. I didn’t have anything planned. I didn’t feel like making anything. Mike and I both had already had gluten that day, so we might as well make the most of it. We went to the local bar and had fried fish and fried pickles and drinks. Some of it was delicious. The hard cider I usually like was sickeningly sweet and had a weird aftertaste.

For breakfast and a really late lunch on Day 4, we followed Whole30. And then evening came, and I was tired (still. It’s getting a little old.) And Mike said, “Sidney Dairy Barn?” After some discussion rationalization, we got in the car. My cappuccino sundae with hot fudge and caramel was delicious, although much richer and sweeter than anything I’d had in the last 5 weeks. We headed toward home, and I commented to Mike about how I could feel the mucus forming already. Woke up this morning, feeling bloated and congested. Awesome.

Thirty full days of sticking to the plan. Five days of freedom, and I was tanking.

If you’ve read It Starts with Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, their book titled Whole30, or perused the website for long, you know that the intent is not for you to follow the plan to the letter forever. Whole30 is supposed to be a temporary program to help you learn how food affects you, both physically and psychologically. You’re supposed to pay attention to when you want to eat and learn to distinguish between hunger and cravings. You’re supposed to notice what foods specifically you are craving and what is going on in your mind and body when you are craving it. Several of the rules are designed with the sole purpose of helping you break the cycle of mindless eating. The rules provide a framework, and you are the student.

After you complete Whole30, you use your new knowledge about your body and your eating habits to help guide your future eating choices. You are encouraged to live in food freedom, now freed from cravings and mindless eating. You are encouraged to truly enjoy food and be able to partake of things that are nourishing to both your body and your mind.

That freedom is terrifying. What if I make bad choices? Sure, ice cream one evening isn’t going to kill me, but what if I eat it and I can’t stop? What if I forget what good food, the kind that truly nourishes my body, tastes like and return to cheap substitutes? It’s hard. Whole30 knows that it is difficult, so there is a guide to Off-Roading. But it’s more work to go through the thought process every time you are presented with an option than to not have options. And a lot of times, with the added stress that brings, I fail.

So what does this have to do with law and grace?

But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. -Galatians 3:23-25, NASB

The Law was given to us so we could learn how to live. We could learn what it felt like when we made good choices. We could identify our cravings and their triggers. When Christ came, He freed us from sin. God still has expectations for our behavior, but we have much more freedom than we did before Christ.

So often times, though, we want to live under Law. We want a set of rules that we can follow without having to weigh the complexities of different decisions. We want to be able to stick with what we know, where we know that we are safe from harm, so we impose more rules to protect ourselves. But we were not meant to be slaves. We were born to be sons and daughters.

We were born to be sons and daughters who, while seeking God with all our hearts and following Him with our lives and hearts, also have freedom to truly live.

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. -Galatians 5:1, NASB

That’s how I want to live, with food and the rest of my life. But I learned that I am going to need a little more time following the rules to be able to truly break the chains of my eating habits. I learned that, at least for right now, there are some foods that negatively affect me, although because I rushed things, I don’t know which ones or exactly how. So I’m going to stick with (mostly) Whole30 a little longer.

The rules are a tutor, and I am going to do my homework to learn the lessons I need to be able to live in freedom.

And maybe I should do that in other areas of my life, too.

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