Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Date Book Change - Another Whole Life Challenge Parable

Last month I changed my schedule book. I’ve never been able to use my phone or google calendar for scheduling – I need to write things down and see them in my own handwriting in order to know where I need to be and when.

I’ve been using the same Filofax system since maybe 1990. It’s in a brown leather case and the page spread shows an entire week at a time. (I need to see the whole week at once!) But, the pages are not that big, and as a result, the days themselves don’t have much room. And Saturday and Sunday are jammed together to occupy the same space that Monday through Friday each get on their own.

In July, once I started working more regularly, I needed more room to write things in (and I work on the weekends, so that minuscule amount of space just wasn’t cutting it). So I went to Staples, a store that, to me, holds the same kind of life-changing promise that other women find in a shoe store, and I found a scheduling calendar that seemed perfect. More space on each day, and Sat and Sun are treated like every other day of the week. Plus it’s light and attractive, and it started in June. An 18-month calendar that runs from June to the following December. This was huge – I could start my transition immediately.

It was a lot of work to transcribe the initial few weeks of meetings from my Filofax into my new planner, and as I did, I noticed something: Wednesday was not in the same place visually as it had been before. It used to sit on the bottom left, now it was on the top right. I suspected this was going to screw with my head, and it did. I couldn’t keep track of what was Wednesday and Thursday at a glance, so after trying the new book for two weeks, I went back to my old, familiar, too-small, inadequate planner. The one that I’d outgrown and that no longer served me at all.

I thought maybe it would somehow rise to the occasion, but it didn’t.

So in September, I tried the new book again. I still don’t like that it has Wednesday in an unfamiliar spot. And when I say I don’t like it, I mean I really cannot get used to it. But everything else about it rocks. Every single day I notice how much better my life is just from this crazy little calendar. And for now, I’m just writing WEDNESDAY in red to remind myself where it is -- I’m pretty sure after a few more weeks I’ll forget I was ever vexed by it.

Or I won’t. But I’ve committed to the new system…and this I know: it’s not going to get any better simply because I’m focusing on how much I don’t like where Wednesday is.

I know this new calendar is not perfect, but it’s so much better for me than my Filofax (sorry, Baby…we had a good run), so I'm going to figure out a way to make it work.

If this seems like another Whole Life Challenge metaphor, that’s because it is.

Monday, September 21, 2015

My Son's Green Smoothie (or A.M. Prep for W.L.C.)

It’s 8:40 a.m.  I just spent the last 40 minutes in the kitchen. I pulled out all the fruit and vegetables I use for my son’s green smoothie. (I know that sounds obnoxious, that my son drinks green smoothies, but he just started last year and, at 15, those may have been the first vegetables he’d ever eaten in his life. I don’t know how or why he agreed to try a green smoothie, but he did, and now I get to say “my son’s green smoothie.”)

Into the smoothie goes apple, cucumber, avocado, carrot, lemon, OJ, spinach, frozen strawberries, chia seeds, and, today, celery (because it was going to go bad).

My green smoothie, which I will have later, is similar (water instead of OJ, and I add ginger and protein powder), so I cut up extra of everything and put it aside so my smoothie will take 30 seconds to assemble rather than 5 minutes. I also cut up even more of all that stuff for tomorrow morning’s smoothie – just because I had it all out already. And while I was cutting, I decided to make some quinoa, which takes 15 minutes, and hard boil some eggs (also 15 minutes) and to cut up some broccoli and marinate some chicken breasts which I will throw in the oven for dinner.

I did all of that, including vacillating about using the cucumber because of the salmonella recall and cleaning up, in 40 minutes and I now do not have to worry about pounding nuts all day because there’s nothing in the fridge ready to eat.

After I write this, I’m going to make some quick egg salad with some of the hard boiled eggs. The others are going to be thrown, with some chopped veggies (cucumber, tomato, celery, olives, avocado) into the quinoa for lunch.

I do not do this every morning, but I wish I did. I have a day today that will start with a meeting at 9 a.m. and end after a meeting at 9 p.m., and it is jammed with work (and a necessary hair appointment) for pretty much every hour in between. I absolutely believe that the 40 minutes I spent doing this is doing more for my health than an exercise class. If I get a 30-minute walk in later, I’ll feel great.

I’m telling you all this because I am not organized, I don’t like to cook, I don’t ever feel like I have enough time in my day, and I go through many periods of every day feeling like I just want to sit down and have some delicious food to settle me. And this is how, on some awesome mornings, I deal with that set of circumstances.

And (except for your son drinking green smoothies, which I cannot promise), I’m pretty sure you can too.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Whole Life Challenge Parable

Once upon a time, I went to a nutritionist. I was sent to her by an acupuncturist whom I was recommended to by a chiropractor. I saw all these people because I was having recurrent pain and tightness in my back.

The nutritionist asked me a lot of questions, some of which made me cry – not because they were particularly probing, but because once upon a time almost any question about anything made me cry. 

After an hour and a half together – time spent listing all the foods I ate each day and taking a lot of blood, she suggested I might want to consider varying my diet – namely, having something else for lunch besides my daily tuna salad on a bagel.

“I’d rather die,” I told her, and at the time, I meant it.

I’m not sure what it was about tuna salad on an onion bagel in 1995, but I could not imagine a day without it. I had a great bagel store in Hoboken and the bagels weren’t huge but they were really dense and doughy. I looked forward to my tuna-salad bagel from the moment I woke up and upon taking the last bite, I started pining for the next day’s lunch so I could do it all over again.

“We often feel that way toward foods we’re ‘addicted’ to,” she said. “Those foods we really crave are usually the worst for us.” She was talking about the bagels and I felt my eyes start to sting again, a typical response to my being told I shouldn’t be doing something that’s not good for me.

“That’s just bullshit,” I said, and I left her office armed with a few vitamin supplements and absolutely no intention of ever giving up bagels.

I now cannot remember the last time I ate a bagel. It has surely been years. I mean, I can’t remember the date, but I can remember the experience: plain bagel, cream cheese and capers. As I was eating it, I was pretty sure it was the best thing I’d ever had in my entire life. It’s like I got high from it and I thought, Why don’t I eat these all the time!?

I also cannot remember when I started moving away from bagels as a staple in my life. I’m sure it had something to do with wanting to lose weight, but even when I’d “diet,” I’d manage to find ways to maintain the foods that soothed me in my diet.

And that’s what bagels do. They soothe me. Bagels are like a nice big dose of Xanax – they simply take the edge off everything.

For a bit.

And then I need another hit.

I don’t know how much I’ll be blogging about the Whole Life Challenge this time around, but it’s starting on Saturday (9/19) and if I do, be forewarned, most of the things I have to say about it will probably fall into this category:

If we are not happy with our energy levels or our health, it probably has a lot to do with how we are or are not taking care of ourselves. And if we’re not taking good care of ourselves, it’s probably because we’re partaking in things that may not serve us, but that soothe us. No one is asking anyone to go around unsoothed – that’s not a good plan – all I’m suggesting is try going for a day, or two days – some teeny tiny amount of time – without your usual “bagel” and just see how it feels. Keep a bagel nearby just in case it’s intolerable. If it turns out not as bad as you thought…that life really is worth living, even without a bagel for lunch, see if you feel like that the next day. No pressure. Just see.

There's never a good day to give up bagels, so you may as well try it today.

If you’re reading this thinking, oh I wonder if this is some message to me because I said I haven’t been feeling good lately but I'm also not “ready” to give up the things I need to give up in order to do the challenge, the answer is: yes. It is.

Saturday, August 8, 2015


I am so unspeakably excited to have another personal essay run in the New York Times. As always, I'd be honored to have you read it. This was a hard essay for me to write and even harder to put out there. I'll say this: the comments in the Times have blown me away.

The link to the essay is here:


Thank you for reading, responding, supporting.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

My Gift To You

I walked up to a man in the grocery store today that I’ve been trying to approach for years. I live in the town where I went to college, returning here as an adult, and this is a man I recognize from my past. When I was 20, I used to see him walking around town. At the time, he was an “older” man to me, though he was younger than I am now.

I’ve seen him around town for the past 15 years, walking up the main street or in the grocery store. I knew I knew him instantly, but it took me a long time to remember from where. He looked exactly as he did in 1980, so much so that for a while I thought maybe I was seeing a ghost.

When I saw him today, my impulse was to shy away as I have at least a dozen times before in this very store. But I felt oddly brave today, so I walked up to him, said excuse me (twice, because the first time he just moved against the bread shelf so I could pass) and told him what I just told you: that I’ve seen him for years and he looks exactly the same as he did 35 years ago.

You would have thought I just handed him a winning lottery ticket. He said that I’d made his day and then told me it again, three more times. “I’m 76,” he said, a piece of information he shared, I’m sure, to impress upon me how giddy I’d just made him. (He seriously looked giddy.) After our short encounter, he came to find me in the dry goods aisle to let me know just once more how touched he was that I made the effort to share with him.

I had avoided talking him for years because I worried: that it would be awkward, that he’d be mean, that he’d think I was insane, that I’d sound stupid. An exchange that took two minutes (and a modicum of chutzpah) totally changed this guy’s day.

And here’s the thing: it changed my day too. I’d been having not just a bad day but a bad stretch of days – inexplicably weepy and constantly ready to pick a fight. Poof – all that disappeared. In fact, I felt so high from this encounter I did something nice for someone else in the store – a surprise, and anonymously – and that moved me into a state of euphoria that I didn’t think possible without chocolate on my tongue.

Then I came home and told my 15-year-old son and his friend what had just happened. “It’s the antidote to angst,” I told them, thinking maybe 15-year-olds might some days have a need for such an Rx. “Just make someone feel awesome,” I explained. “If it doesn’t work immediately, go make someone else feel awesome. It won’t take long before you yourself feel great.” They looked at me skeptically, but I could tell they knew it was true. They just needed to be reminded.

As we all do. (You’re welcome.)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The End Is Near

As part of my spiritual practice, I chant every morning. It’s a time consuming and sometimes tedious ritual, but it makes me feel good – often for the whole day. There are days I don’t want to do it and other days I feel like I don’t have time to do it, and for the most part, I do it anyway. But some days I cheat.

Instead of doing the whole 45-minute practice, I will sometimes do a shortened version. And, if I’m really hard pressed to fit it in, I do a tiny little micro version. It’s extremely rare that I don’t do it at all.

Gradations like this work really well for me – because I know that sometimes I just can’t show up with 100 percent. In my mind, my “short” and “micro” versions “count” exactly the same as a full chanting session. I don’t feel at all guilty because I don’t consider it slacking; I consider it modified. When I make a huge commitment like that – to do something every single day – I need some wiggle room.

As most of you know, I have continued to eat according to the Whole Life Challenge parameters even after the 8-week challenges themselves end. Because this is a big commitment (and because I can rationalize almost any indiscretion), I set up some non-negotiables last year that were my personal lines in the sand – namely staying true to No Sugar and drinking at least 45 oz of water daily. Meaning, when my first challenge ended a year ago, I decided to, at the very minimum, keep these two new habits in my life.

No Sugar keeps me sane and I’m convinced that Lots of Water makes everything in my body work better. I’m not a person who is good at living up to unreasonable ideals. I decided to devise small rules for myself so that even if I went back to a lot of old habits, I wouldn’t feel like all hell had broken loose.

Doing this challenge is hard. And it’s harder without the support of the team, even if it’s made you feel really good along the way. Feeding ourselves healthy meals can be both time consuming and tedious.  If you want to continue on but think you need some wiggle room, consider creating your own ideal minimum that you can aim for EVERY DAY. The goal is to continue to feel good about what we can do for ourselves, not feel bad about how we’re falling short.

So maybe pick a thing or two that you consider non-negotiable. And anything you manage beyond that – gluten free, limited alcohol, limited dairy – is (and this is probably a poor choice of words) icing on the cake.

I’m going to say this once more just so everyone hears it: The goal is to continue to feel good about what we can do for ourselves, not feel bad about how we’re falling short.

The end.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Ten Minute Club (WLC)

When I was in my late twenties, I saw a therapist to whom I would constantly complain about my weight. This was in part because I worked in New York City and young women in New York City tend to be very, very thin. Even a medium-sized person seems obese. I would lament about the long hours I worked and how they did not afford me ample time to visit the gym.

My therapist was probably 40 years old, tall and lanky in slim-fitting business suits. Her voice was so soft I sometimes had to strain to hear her. “We don’t exercise to lose weight,” she said, using the royal we, as she tended to do.

“We don’t?” I sort of did.

“No, we exercise to have a relationship with our body.”

Wait. What? A relationship? This was possibly the most outlandish thing I’d ever heard.

It took me a while to accept her declaration as truth, but looking back I think this might be the single most liberating revelation of my adult life – certainly well worth the tens of thousands of dollars I’d ultimately plunked down for her counsel. That was 25 years ago and, in all honesty, I don’t think I’ve missed more than a couple dozen days of exercise since.

I am not a gym rat and I’m not ripped. In fact, I’m not even that strong. Sometimes I work out hard, but most of the time I’m just doing something – anything – that feels to me like exercise. Long before the Whole Life Challenge, my own personal time minimum was usually 30 minutes per day, but I’ve gone through periods after injuries or during particularly trying times where I would just take a brisk ten-minute walk around the block and that counted.

If I go to the gym, or go to a studio to take a class – between driving, parking, doing the actual exercise, driving home, showering and dressing for my day – I’m in for nearly two hours. For me, that’s not realistic every day…or even most days. The problem is, we sometime think, “If I’m not burning 750 calories when I exercise, why bother?”

I love the paradigm shift offered to me by my therapist. Once I separated Exercise and Weight Loss in my mind, exercising became a lot easier. Current research seems to bear this out. For most people, what you eat has far more to do with what you weigh than does how much you exercise.

The Whole Life Challenge requires 10 minutes of exercise per day. Not an hour; 10 minutes! I do not want to appear insensitive when I say this, but the days that you cannot spend 10 minutes doing some form of exercise should be few and far between. Yes, it’s cold out. Yes, the gym is a drag sometimes. I know it doesn’t seem like a mere 10 minutes will matter.

It matters. You’re telling your body it’s worth it. And that makes us more likely to treat our bodies well in other ways throughout the day.

Exercise does not have to equal boot camp. Do you have stairs in your house? Get up 15 minutest earlier, set a timer, put on some music and climb them. You're done.

When my kids were very young, I would walk them to the bus stop every morning. There were four or five moms at that bus stop and we would linger for a bit after the bus came and chitchat about whatever personal drama we were going through. My husband used to call us The 10 Minute Club, as we would come together and disperse over that period of time. At first glance, 10 minutes seems hardly enough to establish a relationship, but it didn’t take long before we were all very close. Those foundational minutes paved the way for us to meet for lunch or dinner or a movie. One of the women became one of my closest friends.

It does not take much to show up for yourself. But the message you’re sending is both loud and clear.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Food For Thought (WLC)

“I used to be a heroin addict. Now I’m a Methadone addict.”
Woody Allen, Annie Hall

Years ago, I went on Weight Watchers and over the course of six months lost about 20 pounds. I kept it off easily for a year and during that time ate a lot of fresh fruit, veggies, and lean meats, and stayed away from most grains. At the time, Weight Watchers was all about “points” and you had a limit to the number of points you could eat each day – a system that was sometimes problematic for me if I ran out of points at, say, 2 PM, which I often did.

After a year, I began to shy away from fruits as a snack. I was “spending” a lot of points on fruit and it wouldn’t fill me up for long. Instead, I would have low fat milk string cheese (2 points), Chobani yogurts (2-3 points) or Weight Watchers chocolate chip cookies, which, at the time, were only 1 point. My entire life revolved around trying to figure out how to stay full on as few points as possible.

I would make nachos with low fat cheese but could still only a small portion of them. To compensate, I ate a lot of popcorn. For the most part, I never felt satiated. Often, I would just go to sleep early because I was out of points and I didn’t trust myself to stay awake and not devour granola bars.

A year ago, I  stared  this challenge with much trepidation because I wasn’t accustomed to eating a satisfying amount of food guiltlessly. For a long time, I approached this new eating regimen as a hybrid of WLC and Weight Watchers – tenuously moving from fat free yogurt to 2 percent and still eating bananas in one-third increments over the course of several days.

In the middle of the challenge, my husband came home from a party at the yoga studio and brought with him a gluten-free, sugar-free carrot cake. Carrot cake is my favorite of all cakes and, while I didn’t know precisely what this one was made of, the two main evils – gluten and sugar – were absent.

“I don’t want any,” I said and he couldn’t understand why. For me, that cake was a slippery slope. I’d already gone weeks training myself off of a constant desire for sugar and I was afraid having an “ersatz” carrot cake was going to make me want a real carrot cake all the more.

This wasn’t just paranoia. I’d already lived it. Eating low-fat nachos on Weight Watchers, made it easy for me to say, “Oh, I’ll just have the regular awesome nachos this once.” And I do not eat small portions of those nachos; I literally cannot stop eating them until every morsel is gone and I feel like Jabba the Hut.

Cookies? Same. “Do I really like these cookies?” I asked myself when Weight Watchers raised them to 2 points apiece. They didn’t seem such a point bargain when a regular Pillsbury chocolate chip cookie was 3 points. I meted out these little cheats, counting my points, staying within my paltry point limit, going to sleep at 8 PM so I wouldn’t eat any more for the day. By the letter of the law, I ate within my point range. But I wasn’t “eating right.” It wasn’t long before I gained back much of the weight I lost and, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why.

“I’m gaining weight!” I cried to the Weight Watchers leader.

“Maybe cut out bananas,” she said.

And, tragically, I did.

Here’s what I’m afraid of for me: if I eat “compliant brownies” and “compliant chips” every day, then when I’m not motivated or accountable to a team, I’m going to go right back to “regular brownies” and “regular chips.” I know I’ll do it because I’ve done it. That’s how I roll.

On the other hand, if  I eat all day long and it’s all fresh, compliant, non-packaged food, I don’t care how much I eat. And I usually feel really good.

When I’m eating a lot of stuff from a package – even compliant stuff – I can feel it. My clothes fit a little differently. And by different, I mean tighter.

The biggest change for me in this challenge was redefining what “dessert” is. I have (inadvertently) retrained my taste buds, so that fresh pineapple feels as decadent as crème brulee and mostly I’d rather have a smoothie that’s green and refreshing than creamy and sweet.

I know what I’m about to say is going to reveal me as the buzzkill that I am, but be careful of simply substituting compliant versions of snacks and treats for your old treats. Because when this challenge is over, you are going to have the Real Thing beckoning and no one to be accountable to. How great will it be when you want something sweet and orgasmic and instead of thinking brownie, you actually want to go cut open a mango?

For me, compliant treats are Emergency Food – and sometimes they are the only thing that will get me through a rough patch. But I know if I eat them every day, my next rough patch may require something a little stronger.

I’m talking about this now because many of you are hoping to look different 6 weeks from now – and I believe that the cleaner you eat, the more likely that will be the case. We all know what clean is. Sadly, it’s not Methadone.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Future Jessica

It’s 8:15pm as I sit to write this. I’m tired after a long day of mostly sucky activities. But I just spent 30 minutes cleaning the kitchen so it would be orderly in the morning for Future Jessica.

I don’t consider cleaning the kitchen “my job.” Or anyone’s job, really. The person who is most disgusted by the kitchen is usually the one who cleans it, and that is often not me. I have a pretty high tolerance for sinks full of dishes and general disarray. Messiness is something I can easily overlook.

But most of my sucky activities are going to continue tomorrow, and I thought that a tidy kitchen might be a nice thing to come down to when I start my day. So I rallied, cleaned the kitchen, and now feel like I have at least one thing to look forward to tomorrow.

When I come downstairs to my clean kitchen, I know I’m going to appreciate the effort I put in tonight. My problems are not going to be gone. My kitchen is going to get untidy again, starting very early. In fact, by 10 a.m., it’s likely going to look exactly as it did a half hour ago. That makes it seem a little like it wasn’t worth doing. But I know from past experience that it was. I know from past experience that when I come downstairs and see an empty clean sink, a freshly scrubbed counter and a dishwasher full of clean dishes, it’s going to make me happy. Actually, very happy.

I spend easily half my day doing things for Future Jessica. I rarely want to exercise. I meditate daily, and I never want to do that. Whatever work I have to do, I’d usually rather be doing something else. I don’t want to clean out my coat closet. I don’t want to drive to Marshall’s to return that sports bra. I don’t want to sit in a salon for 90 minutes with poison-smelling hair dye singeing my scalp. I want it all done, I just don’t want to do it.

But I say to myself, "This isn't for you (I know what you really want is to just kick back and chill) -- this is to make Future Jessica feel good."

After a day like today, what I’d typically want to do is eat a plate of nachos that’s as big as my torso and then belch my way up to bed.

But I’ve become really enamored of how delighted Future Jessica can be when I offer these small gestures – knowing that tomorrow (next week, in a month, after the Challenge) she will really appreciate the relatively small sacrifices I made on her behalf. It makes it easier to do it over and over again.

As most people, I’ve spent much of my life doing drudge-y things that were decidedly not fabulous. I’m not sure why, but declaring my intentions to make life a little better for Future Jessica makes those choices much, much easier.

Maybe for you, too?

My Big, Fat Whole Life Challenge Blog Post

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Comfort and Hunger (WLC)

My comfort zone is frighteningly small. Sometimes I imagine an actual zoning board reviewing my parcel and I can see them shaking their heads that anyone would want to inhabit such a miniscule area. If my comfort zone were an actual place, it would be a sliver of land with no bugs, no extreme temperatures, and little wind. Only two or three people would be allowed there at a time and they’d need to be extremely nice people – well-meaning, with no hidden agendas.

Like many people, I do not really like stepping out of my comfort zone. This is not something I’m proud of, it’s just a simple fact. And that was probably my biggest concern when I first did the Whole Life Challenge in January 2014.

I have a very low tolerance for discomfort of any kind and when that first challenge started, the thing that soothed me most reliably was chocolate. I was completely freaked out at the idea of giving up chocolate…I didn’t think I could go one single day. I prepared in a way that might horrify many: I bought some very good chocolate and put it in the cupboard so it would be there at a moment’s notice, in case something rocked my small world and I needed to calm myself immediately. People with teeny weeny comfort zones need their security blankets very close by at all times.

Some may consider sugar addiction laughable, but The New York Times came out with an article over the past year that basically said sugar was as, if not more, addictive than heroin – partly because it acts on so very many pleasure centers in our brains. So whether I write about chocolate, or wine, or bagels or the Zappos box that’s sitting in my foyer, I’m writing about the same thing: that "thing" each of us turns to when we think, “Good God, am I actually going to have to endure an unpleasant feeling?”

Chocolate soothes me, and it’s not just in my mind. I eat chocolate and I can literally feel my vital signs change. So a big part of this challenge, early on, became exploring what it feels like to be uncomfortable for a little while and not grab onto the first thing that numbs me. Sitting with boredom, frustration, fury, sadness, fear, anxiety – you name it, I’ve sat with it. And, I’m not going to lie – it’s not ever pleasant.

But the other secret I’ve discovered is that it doesn’t usually last very long. The truth is, feelings pass. And they’re going to eventually pass whether you eat a Snickers bar or not.

We are going to have some very shitty days during this 8-week challenge – because that’s life…sometimes things just suck for a bit. One thing we can do is see what happens – just once – when we sit with the suckiness, rather than mollify ourselves with food.

This suggestion I'm offering is one I continue to struggle with. When things get too unpleasant, I still run for food – even though it’s now compliant food – and even though I don’t hate myself for mainlining chocolate, I’m not crazy about the fact that I’m still fundamentally unwilling to spend much time noticing what the unpleasantness is full of – what it really feels like – and trying instead  to figure out what I really need or want in that moment. I believe that most of the time what I'm really hungry for is not chocolate. And when I say "hungry" here, I don't mean the sensation in my stomach. I mean the craving in my heart.

Every time we choose to observe rather than react – to just notice what’s going on rather than reaching for that “thing” we always reach for to calm ourselves – we increase our capacity (even if it’s only a smidgeon) to do it again. And that makes our comfort zone the littlest bit bigger. Soon, our “thing” we’ve forever grabbed at doesn't seem necessary in quite the same way anymore.

Every single person who talks to me about this challenge tells me what she is afraid she can't live without. We are all in exactly the same boat; our cravings are often not about our "thing"at all.

It amazes me to this day that the chocolate I bought exactly a year ago, “just in case,” has remained on the shelf, untouched. I look at it every day. Many days I still want it. But it no longer owns me.

My Big Fat Whole Life Challenge Blog Post

Friday, January 9, 2015

No Wine. No Whine. (WLC)

The Whole Life Challenge begins again January 17th and there have been several changes in the nutrition guidelines – the most controversial, it seems, is that wine has gone back to one glass per week rather than one glass per day.

I know I am wholly unqualified to write about wine consumption, as I rarely ever consume it, but I just gave up coffee a week ago so I feel like that entitles me to something.

I gave up coffee once before, in the winter of 1993, I think. I’d been seeing a chiropractor (professionally, not romantically) who said he thought coffee might be a contributor to my chronic back trouble. I drank at least four cups a day at that time, and I loved it.

I still love coffee. I’m sure I love it as much as you love your wine.

Detoxing from coffee in 1993 was horrible. Besides my grief from giving up something I loved, I fell asleep at my desk at 3 p.m. every day for a long time. Months. Then, eventually, my body relearned how to keep itself awake through an afternoon of work and I was back to my old, cheery self.

I started drinking coffee again only a few months ago and was plunged right back into that old love affair. It tasted great. I got more done. It made me happy. Every night during those months, I would go to sleep and think: Only a few more hours until I can drink coffee again!

But I gave it up 12 days ago because I got sick for a few days before New Year’s Eve, lost my taste for it, and then came to the terribly sad conclusion that it’s really not good for me. Caffeine and I do not make good bedfellows. Caffeine makes me anxious. Even when I sleep. I can feel the muscles in my face pulled taught through the night.

I’m not saying coffee is bad. In fact, I think it’s common knowledge that it has many benefits. Just as wine does. But I’m pretty sure wine is considered a “food that causes inflammation.” And the Whole Life Challenge eating guidelines are about eliminating or greatly reducing those foods. 

I’m not going to tell you that you should or shouldn’t have wine, or that you do or don’t deserve it. (Of course you do!) I’m going to say this: All the stuff in my life that I thought would be a deal-breaker to give up was really not as hard as I thought it would be. No one is saying: No Wine Forever. They’re saying: Move out of your comfort zone (even if it’s only a few inches) and see how it feels for you.

Is my life so unfun that having a half a cup of buttered coffee every day is my main highlight? Sadly, yes. But the truth is, after a few days worth of headaches, it really wasn’t anywhere near as dreadful as I thought it would be.

If you’re doing the Whole Life Challenge and you’re trying to pick a level, I offer this:
If you’re a reasonably healthy eater and you think you’d benefit from the middle level (Lifestyle), play at that level, and if you want more wine than once per week, have it. Take off the points and enjoy it. What this will do is force you to make your wine-drinking decision anew every day. You will choose to drink wine because of conscious desire rather than habit. That alone will make your wine-drinking experience lovelier. Some days you may choose to forgo and notice it’s not all that bad. Or that it’s awful, and you’ll look to discover why. Those are all good scenarios. No one cares about your score. The Whole Life Challenge is hard. We are pushed to inspect all the things we do mindlessly and decide if they serve us. If you’re worried about having to give up wine, then, in my opinion, this is exactly the level you should be playing at.

And no whining.

(My Big Fat Whole Life Challenge Blog Post #1)