Sunday 17 November 2019

My Detox Diary: Joe O'Shea falls off the wagon of extreme detoxing and tucks into chips

When you commit to an extreme diet, it's either go hard or go home. Or go to the pub. Joe O'Shea has a moment of weakness - but hasn't given up...

Joe O'Shea
Joe O'Shea

The finishing line was in sight, three weeks of extreme dieting done and just one to go. So of course, I fell off the wagon.

Last Friday, after a hectic week of work and regular life stuff, I finally cracked. I went for two beers (and it really was just the two). And a bowl of chips. Plus, another bowl of chips.

In my defence, I was crawling past a particularly inviting pub, literally weak with the hunger, head pounding (due to total ban on sugar, probably) and feeling extremely stressed and sorry for myself.

So after 21 days of total abstinence, from everything except vegetables and meat, I had two beers and a few chips. No big deal, right?


'Wrong. The moment the first sip of sweet, sweet beer was passed my lips, I became "non-compliant". In the cult of the Extreme Detox, it's like setting fire to a church and then using the bible to fire up the barbie for a batch of Satan's bacon-burgers.

To be non-compliant, is to taste the forbidden fruit of mortal sin. Or a fun-sized Mars Bar. You break - once - from the strictures of the Whole30 programme and that's it. You either start all over again (seriously - back to Day 1) or admit you are a weak and worthless person, undeserving of entry into Beach Body Heaven.

And then came the reckoning at home with my wife and fellow sufferer.

Read more: My detox diary: Joe O'Shea is hitting the wall on the extreme 30 day detox

It wasn't exactly an Ashley Madison moment. I didn't fall through the door with tomato sauce on my shirt-collar. But she knew.

"Er, have you had a drink? And you don't look close to death. Have you been eating… CARBS!?"

Truly, it was a moment of shame-faced admittance. And in the strange world of the Whole30 that we have existed in for almost a month now, it felt like a genuinely terrible thing to do.

That's the thing about detox and diet programmes like the Whole30, the Paleo and the many 7-Day Juice Cleanses. Once you buy into them, especially when you do it as a couple, you have to commit body and soul.

The online world is full of blogs, YouTube channels and message boards run by devotees who will see any slip or back-sliding as the worst kind of blasphemy.

Read more: No dairy, no sugar, no carbs: Joe O'Shea dives into an extreme 30 day detox

Those Whole30 followers on YouTube who admit to falling off the wagon are targeted with some pretty horrible comments, really terrible stuff from people who say things like: "You deserve to die of a heart-attack, you fat slob!"

But there is also a growing backlash against this new faith. Just this week in Australia, there has been an extra­ordinary war of words over the Paleo (or Caveman Diet) between celebrity chef Pete Evans and The Dietitians Assoc­iation of Australia.

Evans, through his regular TV shows, has been pushing the Paleo diet pretty hard. The expert nutritionists, in an open letter to his TV station, warn; "'Nutrition advice must come from those qualified to provide it… those who have years of university study behind them, and base decisions and advice on scientific fact that can be accountable for the advice they provide".

The Paleo, another wildly popular extreme diet plan, is similar to the Whole30 and other rivals, pushing the mantra of no grains, no dairy, no sugar, no processed foods or alcohol of any kind.

Many nutritionists have questioned the science behind it. And after almost 30 days of following the Whole30, we are beginning to have our doubts ourselves.

There have been a lot of benefits. Giving up drink for a month (apart from my little two-beer slip) has definitely been a real eye-opener.

I'm currently in the middle of a fairly big project that demands a lot of creativity and focus. And there is nothing like giving up the drink for a month to help you with that.

Like a lot of Irish couples, the weekend meant a few drinks and a bit of a sore head on Sundays. But this weekend just past, we were up with the dawn on Saturday and went on a long trip to go and swim in a lake. It felt great.

We intend to take prolonged breaks from weekend bottles of vino in the future.

There has also been a fairly dramatic weight loss (and I'll have the figures in my final diary next week as are not supposed to weigh yourself for the whole 30 days).

And now that we are reaching the end, we have started to re-evaluate our relationship with food (and yes, that's pure Programme Talk).

I was the type of person who would drink at least a litre of diet-Coke every day and kept a bottle on my desk. And I suspect the extremely bad headaches have been caused by some kind of aspartame withdrawal - the sudden cold-turkey from the controversial sugar substitute that's actually 200 times sweeter than the real thing.

We have remained "compliant" with the Whole30 programme since my little chips and beer incident but I have to admit that the illicit carb-boost made life a little easier for a couple of days afterwards.

And to be fair, the programme does allow for carbs - just not the deep-fried and slathered in ketchup kind.

We are nearly there. And of course, to atone for my transgression, I had to go for a long Guilt Run the morning after.

In torrential rain. It felt good, like the washing away of my sins.

Irish Independent

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