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Day 14: Whole30 (The Fairness of Fire)

Mandatory Music: enjoy this fire-themed Heart song while you read the post. Go on, click the button.

Yesterday’s post dealt with concept of simply accepting disappointment by simply responding to it with “oh, well.” This concept came from a book called The Beck Diet Solution, a 6-week strategy for changing your mental and emotional (and thus ultimately physical) responses to food. Day 23’s technique is “Counter the Unfairness Syndrome.” I knew immediately what that meant, and so do you. It is NOT FAIR that some people have the metabolisms of hummingbirds and can eat whatever they want and suffer no apparent ill effects. Also NOT FAIR is that just because I’ve survived this long, I have to endure the breakdown of my body (looking at you, neck wrinkles) and the halting of an already slow metabolism. Nor is it fair that some people have the ability to eat small amounts of things I love and JUST STOP. HOW DO THEY DO THAT? “Oh, I just ate 2 Girl Scout cookies so I’m putting the rest away for another time.” How is that POSSIBLE? Are you a WIZARD?

But some instances of unfairness are really just expressions of the natural laws of the physical world, and thus not subject to principles of fairness. Is it really unfair if I overeat and as a result gain weight? Or is it just the natural consequence according to the ecosystem of my body? If you are trying to start a fire with wet wood, you’ll be disappointed with the result—but that’s not the wood’s fault. If you NEED to start a fire to ensure your survival, the wood’s dampness would seem cosmically unfair. But the creation of fire falls within a strict set of requirements, an arithmetic of elements. Math has no fairness component.

In the arithmetic of my ecosystem, for example, sugar + me = bingeing. One lick of cupcake frosting off my finger leads inexorably to half an apple pie (limited to half only because that’s what’s on hand, not because I wouldn’t have eaten the whole thing, and felt sick, and kept eating). Whether this response is fair is neither here nor there; my brain chemistry dictates certain laws that I must obey to achieve a desired result.

The dietary plan I’m following this month (Whole30) sets aside the bothersome concept of fairness, which is part of its appeal. The plan is black and white, no room for fudging or cheating. If you slip up and ingest one of the prohibited substances, you are supposed to start over again at Day 1. No time lost deciding whether to eat something, or assessing how I can compensate for it later, or pondering whether I feel it is fair that I can’t have a forbidden food. ABSOLUTELY NO: dairy, grains, legumes, white potatoes, carrageenan, MSG, sulfites, alcohol, Paleo-fied junk food, sugar in any form. Here’s the attitude of the plan’s creators:

  • It is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Beating cancer is hard.* Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You’ve done harder things than this, and you have no excuse not to complete the program as written. It’s only thirty days, and it’s for the most important health cause on earth – the only physical body you will ever have in this lifetime.
  • Don’t even consider the possibility of a “slip.” Unless you physically tripped and your face landed in a box of doughnuts, there is no “slip.” You make a choice to eat something unhealthy. It is always a choice, so do not phrase it as if you had an accident. Commit to the program 100% for the full 30 days. Don’t give yourself an excuse to fail before you’ve even started. 

*Note: The original W30 text said “Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Quitting heroin is hard. Beating cancer is hard…” One of the creators is a former drug addict; I don’t know if it was heroin she was addicted to. But I so appreciate that they could formulate this statement with the insight gained from addiction recovery—which follows its own set of natural laws not subject to the concept of fairness.

 

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