November 13, 2014


A Snail Festival, and the Whole30

I lived in Italy a long time ago, and taught little girls how to be better gymnasts. I also learned to speak Italian, and just generally became a huge fan of mountain people and anything that had to do with living a simple life. I remember my first time returning to the States after being gone for so long. The supermarkets shocked me, and I refused to let my mom buy me anything for at least a year--consumerism was so palpable. Plus people spoke with their hands in their pockets. That was weird.

Recently, a story from long ago Italy resurfaced in my thoughts. 

In Aosta, the town where I lived, I attended the wedding of a dear friend. During my ten-day stay, a gang of us decided to make the trip to Torino to the Ikea store. Something about a couch. And because they're Italian, a food excursion also needed to be tacked on to this errand. They'd heard of a festival of lumache (snails) that an entire town was hosting over the weekend. So Ikea first, then snails.

After the couch errand, which turned into a pillow errand instead, we ate and drank, and sopped up garlicky juices with bread. The snails were made in every way imagined--fried, baked, sauteed. We all just tasted, and talked, and walked, and enjoyed. 

But THEN! Antonella got a tummy ache. The group was aghast. They rushed her to the nearest bar and sat her down, and fretted over her, and ordered her sparkling water and other digestifs, and offered their encouragment. They brought forth all their knowledge on digestion--the local remedies--should she stand, should she walk, should she rest? Should we leave? 

She was not green. She was not throwing up. There was no fever, or sweat, or hives on her hands... She looked fine to me.

This story popped back into my mind several times these last couple of months as I have consciously worked on trying to remove some allergic reactions that I've developed over the years. Remembering how Antonella had listened so closely to her stomach made me realize just how out of tune we are with our bodies here in the States. Europeans are excruciatingly aware of their inner workings. For an Italian, good digestion is a crucial key to happiness. 

I laughed then, but understand better now. To try to rid myself of morning congestion and other allergic reactions, I embarked on a diet that removed just about any food trigger one can ingest. For about 50 days I ate a very limited diet, and though I am not completely free of my allergies, they have diminished significantly. But better than that, I learned an Italian secret, to listen to my body, to care about my inner workings and treat my own person with more respect.

There were other, unintended lessons that I learned, which is why I'm writing this post. Because I want you to learn about your body too. I don't want children to have diabetes. I don't want to see my friends burdened with physical ailments that might be avoided. I want us to hear our own tummy's grumbles and react.

  • By taking sugar out of my diet, I realized how addicted I was to sweets. Thankfully two weeks into the diet I let go of these cravings and they haven't returned. Just that alone is reason enough for people to change their eating habits for a time. I am especially now looking at how much sugar we allow into my son's diet and considering ways to readjust his cravings... I can't believe that I still don't want homemade chocolate chip cookies with my morning tea. That used to be a staple, but I honestly have no desire to mix and bake up a batch. I almost feel deprived--knowing how much I used to love them, but I'm getting over it.


  • By taking alcohol out of my days (I'm kinda French, you know) I realized how addicted I am to that evening drink. I use the word "addicted" freely, and realize the weight that comes with this word. Two weeks into the diet I did not lose the craving for alcohol. It never went away. And though for 50 days I did not have one drop of anything, the desire for a glass of wine each night was fierce. Not only is alcohol tied to emotional settings in your body and brain, but it becomes a need at a cellular level. This all surprised me, and brought me to make some very important decisions for my overall health. No drinking at all without it being accompanied by food. Only one glass of wine per day, period. And never on fast days (I'm Eastern Orthodox so this is about half of the year.) Being disciplined about alcohol is imperative for my overall health, and I'm so glad I learned that lesson now...


  • By eating more meat, veggies, and fats, but no grains, dairy, sugar or alcohol, even when I tried to eat a lot of calories, I still lost weight. I am little, so this was fine for a couple of pounds, but no more. I had to eat a lot of food to maintain my weight. But my body composition changed in a good way and now that I've reintroduced a little bit of dairy (yogurt mostly), and a few grains (rice, sourdough!), it's easy to maintain my weight, but hard to gain any...


  • Processed foods are just stupid. I didn't eat really any of them before the diet (except barbecue potato chips, which I adore) but now even the packaging makes me want to have a Boston Junk Party, throwing them all to the bottom of some burning, gnashing pit. 


  • I like sweet potatoes, and now eat them pureed for breakfast, with pomegranate seeds and nuts on top. Who knew?!


  • I thought I could never live without milk. I loved milk. I drank milk often, in chai, alone, heated in the evenings... And cheese? Why am I not eating cheese again? It's weird. The desire for dairy has disappeared. I almost feel sad about it. Like the cookies. But I'm going with it...


  • Discipline. More than anything this diet was a test in discipline. By completing it well, without any mishaps, any lapses or desperate binges, I proved to my brain, to my bones and to my flesh--that I can be in complete control of what gets on to my plate or into my cup. This discipline in eating has reinvigorated other disciplines important in my life. Prayer. Writing. Family. Friends. Finances. Fasting is a powerful tool and I am so grateful for its benefits.

So that's the scoop, folks. Think about how you eat, where you shop, what you buy, and what your body is trying to tell you. Think about your kids, or other loved ones. Who knows what secrets may be in it for you? 


Published: November 13, 2014 | Filed under: Me

Comments (1)
Kh. Tammy said:
November 20, 2014 @ 7:53 PM

Jane, You Rock!

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