I’m Going to Eat Pizza

A few weeks ago, in the spirit of exploring new possibilities now that my ‘normal’ life has imploded in spectacular fashion, I went to a backyard BBQ at the home of a friend-of-a-friend. It was mostly an excuse to comb my hair and put on lipstick. I expected good food and conversation – what I got was even better.

I got an invitation to a Pizza Night hosted by Christian Bowers, the foodie behind the Austin Food Journal, a blog about Austin restaurants, cookbooks, Christian’s kitchen adventures, and his homemade pizza. He writes all the content and takes his own photos; the Austin Chronicle noticed and gave him rave reviews.

In addition to hosting pizza nights, Christian also teaches a Serious Pizza Class. Think handmade crust with (sigh) truffle oil and best-quality ingredients. The Pizza Party is tomorrow, and I really hope he serves us something like this! (Note: I’m not posting a photo of Christian’s pizza because it is the most scandalously luscious food porn. If you browse around his site, you can get an eyeful. His photographs are gorgeous. Do not view his site while hungry.)

Um, Mel… what the devil are you doing eating pizza and talking about pizza when we all know you’re supposed to be doing the Whole30 this month?

That’s an excellent question, dear friends.

Here’s the deal: I started the Whole30 to give myself a construct for emotional and physical healing – the structure and accountability have been incredibly helpful. I’ve avoided all kinds of nutritional potholes at work… my fridge has been stocked with Food That Makes Me Healthy™… and my commitment to training, eating well, and rest – plus feeling inspired in the kitchen – has been reinvigorated.

In addition to all that physical care, I need to heal emotionally, too. Which means spending time with friends old and new, learning to enjoy my life while riding out this crisis, and being open to change. I’m a Taurus and a knucklehead, so the change is particularly hard.

For  me, the whole point of CrossFit and dino-chow is to enjoy my life, to make it better. I’m not a competitive athlete or a Seal, and I don’t aspire to compete in the CrossFit Games. But I do want to be as happy, fit, strong, informed, and inspired as I can be. And I want to enjoy kickass experiences that are fun, illuminating, and, yes, sometimes delicious.

This is one of those experiences.

I thought about this question very deliberately: Is going to a pizza party a betrayal of my core values?

For me, the answer is no. It’s not as if I’m mindlessly snarfing a cold piece of Papa John’s that’s congealed on a paper plate in the corporate overlords’ kitchen. I’m making a deliberate choice to have a particular (delicious dining) experience.

When a talented person wields a knife and their imagination in the kitchen, the food that emerges is art. To me, tomorrow night is the equivalent of an art show – but instead of looking at a painting while drinking a glass of wine and discussing it, we’ll be eating the masterpiece.

Today, I’m eating clean. Tomorrow at breakfast, lunch, and two snacks, I’m eating clean. Wednesday, I’m eating clean. And most days after that, I’m eating clean. Tomorrow night at dinner, I’m indulging in delicious food with good people.

That seems right to me.

I’m not asking y’all for absolution or permission, but I am interested in what you think. How do you balance your nutrition values versus indulgences? Feel free to tell me if you think I’m just rationalizing the hell out of this. I think this is an important discussion for all of us – what does ‘balance’ mean?

OK, Mel…you’ve explained the pizza thing. What about the hot dog on Saturday? Isn’t that garbage food?

Why, yes, yes it is!

I don’t regret a single bite (’cause it was tasty, and I had fun), but Saturday night was an excellent reminder of the fact that booze is the devil. Yes, a Norcal margarita might be “less bad” than other options, but it’s still poison. And it’s poison that makes me crave other poison, which is why a Hot Dog King visit seemed like the best idea EVER at 1:00 a.m. I generally value happiness over fun, guidelines over chaos, dino-chow over garbage… but sometimes, I just put on my Converse and indulge. Mel = human.

[Note to newbies doing the Whole30 for the first time: Don’t cheat yourself by “cheating” on your 30 days. I’ve done the 30-day, totally-clean Whole 30 twice in the last year, and it was very beneficial both times. Trust Melissa and Dallas when they say to give it the entire 30 days. You will be SO glad if you do.]

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  • ~Melisa says:

    "food porn"…love it!

    And No, I don't think you're rationalizing the hell out of it. You're right in that there's a complete difference in eating a slice of pizza just because it's there vs. experiencing a piece of pizza that is totally legit!

    Enjoy it! 🙂

  • Lydia says:

    I think your approach to food is completely healthy and rational (*not* rationalizing!).

    How do I balance nutrition values versus indulgences? Well, basically, I'm finding that my indulgences cause me too much physical discomfort. They're getting to be less and less worth it. Nowadays, my indulgences are things like last week's bowl of Bing cherries or yesterday's couple squares of dark chocolate. And even those made my mouth sore from all the sugar.

    Unlike you, I have an alcoholic drink at least once a day. It's usually a glass of wine with dinner, but sometimes a glass beforehand, too (like when I get home from work). I've found the booze keeps me from wanting the off-plan indulgences–just goes to show you, different stuff works for different people.

  • Anonymous says:

    Rock on, honey!

  • Barbara says:

    Bummed I missed you guys Sat…but I'm thrilled you had so much fun! 🙂

  • Rich says:

    Fundamentally i think it's the right approach–live your life with paleo and crossfit's core values and be opportunistic about things that come your way. Eating clean is about mostly maintaining the approach in a disciplined way, and not constantly coming up with excuses to eat this or that because it is a craving or because it is in front of your face. There's lots to be gained in dealing with the daily temptations that threaten to undermine consistency. There are times when i go off the paleo grid, but it is my fundamental way of eating.

    That being said, if there's a 30 day challenge i think the opportunity is to go all in for all 30 days and see what happens/how you feel/how your WOD's improve.

    I love how you put it all out there–most people would just keep their mouth/blog shut and deny that they were not going 100% paleo. Love it.

  • Danni says:

    It seems like a better 30 day challenge would be to do the Whole30 + be able to come up with a really good reason for every single deviation. Hmm I should do that. I definitely did not need that Starburst or Diet Pepsi. I think I will try this. You are a good inspiration 🙂 (hope you don't mind that I am randomly crashing your blog lately)

  • Ali Nichols says:

    Part of being healthy is being mentally and emotionally strong. I find that some crossfitters get so wrapped up in working out and eating perfect that they start removing themselves from social settings. Friends are our support system. They are here to make us smile during hard times. I think there is nothing wrong with getting together with great friends and experiencing a great meal!

    In the end, I think surrounding yourself with the ones that make you smile and laugh is imperative for us to grow mentally, rather than pulling yourself away just because you can't eat the food. So you go Girl!

    Oh…and it's funny that you talked about change being so hard. I just wrote a little article about how change sucks, but in the end change allows us to experience new opportunities, while learning more about ourselves. Hang in there! and keep up the great posts:)

  • Erin says:

    Mel, as always, I find so much inspiration in your posts. The Pizza Night sounds phenomenal – definitely in the "Worth It" category – I'm looking forward to hearing about it.

    As for how I balance my nutrition values vs my indulgences… getting that nailed down is really my next big challenge. I just wrapped up my second Whole30 & I've done similar super strict nutritional stints over the last couple of years. I'm really good at being on track with ZERO indulgences.

    Where I need improvement is "being on-track most of the time, enjoying occasional indulgences, then getting right back on-track without letting the indulgences derail me…" Once I start having the occasional treat I have a hard time reigning it in… starts turning into "ice cream or chocolate every night" instead of once a week… I realize it's a matter of changing my mentality and I have certainly come a long way (down 70.5 lbs as of this morning, lordy!) but old habits have a way of sneaking back in…

    Your approach to this Pizza Night exemplifies what I am striving for (with my reaction/relationship to less-than-ideal-nutritionally-food) — it's a special event that is deemed a worthy indulgence and it is bookended by good nutrition on either side (rather than being a slippery slope towards mindless crap food).

    Thank you for sharing your experiences & thought process with us – it is much appreciated!

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Hi, everyone. Thank you SO much for joining in this conversation. I've been chewing on your comments (heh!)… and it's been great to consider all the points of view.

    ~Melisa –> You've hit on what I think is the important distinction: choosing the BEST of something and enjoying it in a deliberate way instead of mindlessly noshing.

    Lydia –> Dark chocolate and red wine are among the best indulgences… somewhat 'healthy' AND super tasty. Well-played.

    Rich –> I LOVED your comments. I was hoping someone would say "You signed up for 30 days, do the 30 days, lady." So awesome. Thank you for putting that out there. As far as baring all in my blog goes, there are SOME things I keep to myself, but mostly I like hearing what y'all think and nutritional/training slip-ups — both intentional and accidental — aren't shameful… they're just life.

    Danni –> You are ALWAYS welcome. Nice to hear from you.

    Ali –> Totally enjoyed browsing through your blog. Love the guacamole deviled eggs recipe!

    Erin –> First, congratulations on your weight loss success. You must feel like a new woman! I TOTALLY hear you… I think no-cheat is actually easier than "indulging once in a while in a reasonable way." If the answer is "no," there's no wiggle room or need to prioritize. But, frankly, that also means missing out on some fun. I continue to work on my balance… and I think just about everybody does.

  • Donna says:

    I finished the Whole30 February 3. I get the pizza thing. I love pizza, but I know I have to choose wisely. we have a great pizza place in Joplin, MO that serves by the slice. After the whole 30 I have no desire to eat like I did. One slice of really good pizza and a great salad was perfect! I eat clean at home and know a splurge of really good food once in a while is ok. I also love fun!! With fun always comes food!