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Reporter Bill Lynch returns with a month of trying to clean up some of his bad habits and get back on track for 2022.

It was New Year’s Eve and the pastry case at Charleston Bread was full of craisin scones. It was perfect.

“What can I get you?” baker Mary Franklin asked.

“Just one scone,” I said.

For a second, I considered buying two. I almost picked up a loaf of raisin bread, too, but didn’t think I’d finish the whole thing within the day. Besides, I planned to eat well today — Greek food for lunch, followed by pizza and beer for dinner. Somewhere in there, I thought I might squeeze in a handful of potato chips, a cookie, maybe a slice of pie.

This was a binge and I was eating like a condemned man, instead of a man looking toward the new year.

“One Month at a Time” began because of a dietary dare — an animal rights group in the U.K. asked that I give up meat and all animal products for a month, just to sort of test drive being a vegan.

My initial response had been, “Not a chance, you silly hippies. I’m not giving up bacon.” But after a second, I realized I knew next to nothing about vegans.

From that one email, I’d also come up with what became the framework of “One Month at a Time.” Each month, I’d pick a new topic, something I knew very little about. Then, I’d spend about 30 days trying it out, getting my hands dirty and my feet wet, learning whatever I could before moving on to the next month and the next project.

Sometimes, I expected I would learn a great deal. Sometimes, I figured I might not learn much at all. Success with anything wasn’t guaranteed, but I’d try.

My editor, Maria Young, asked, “Won’t you run out of things you don’t know anything about?”

I told her there was no chance of that. I know next to nothing about a lot of things. Most things, really.

Six years later, I’ve learned that while there is no end to what I can take on, I will sometimes run into snags. Plans get canceled. People back out. The weather doesn’t cooperate. Pandemics happen.

I’m always looking for a plan B, plan C and plan D.

But by the middle of December, after a pretty eventful year, I was struggling to find something to start off 2022. Things weren’t quite back to normal, but they were closer to normal than they were a year ago. I could plan ahead more than a month or so.

I had a long list of topics to look into, but none of them really fit during the winter months. Meanwhile, I was trying to get back into distance running, something I’d planned to further explore two years ago, before most of the races were canceled.

I thought I might try to run a marathon, maybe even something longer than that. But I wasn’t really in the right shape to run any kind of long distance. Sure, I could still do a 5k without any trouble, but real distance seemed risky. I’d picked up some weight, not a lot, but enough that I worried about the risk of injury while training.

And over the past year, I’d picked up some bad habits. I didn’t mind so much grabbing snacks from the communal candy dish at the office. Seldom a week went by that I didn’t stop in at one bakery or another for a scone, a cookie or something.

I was also spending a lot of time baking. After getting pretty good at making pies, I graduated to baking bread. In my spare time, I was learning to make sourdough.

It had been a long and tortured process, with many mistakes along the way --some of them edible. There’d been a lot of sampling, as well as sharing with friends.

But I wasn’t keeping up with all the extra calories. While I still kept the food diary I started over three years ago, I wasn’t consistent. I counted the calories, but frequently fudged the numbers.

I needed to make an adjustment, needed to get back on track, but getting back to using the food diary hadn’t worked. Things felt out of control, so while eating Christmas dinner at a Chinese buffet, I decided to tackle The Whole 30, a popular diet plan I’d absolutely turned my nose up at.

My impression was the diet made a lot of promises. Many of them seemed too good to be true.

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Whole 30 promised to not only cut out the terrible torment of food cravings, but said it might also clear up my skin, give me more energy and help me sleep more easily. This could maybe make my teeth whiter, give me fresher breath and make my thoughts as clear as tap water.

There were also claims about reducing silent inflammation, which might help me with some of my aches and pains and speed up recovery after workouts.

The only thing Whole 30 couldn’t do, apparently, was get me a discount on oil changes for my car.

I use a synthetic blend. It’s more expensive.

Some friends spoke highly of Whole 30. They told me it worked.

Others said it was miserable and, at some point, I would get angry.

The basics of The Whole 30 were easy enough. I could have all the meat, vegetables and fruit I wanted, but I needed to stick with just meat, vegetables and fruit.

If I wanted to eat an entire ox, that was OK, but good luck getting it down.

Also, that sort of deliberate, spiteful gluttony was pointless and self-defeating, if I was trying to lose weight. Ultimately, calories still count.

But if I wanted chicken wings for breakfast, that was fine. A little weird, but whatever.

Nevertheless, the diet plan encouraged me to accentuate the positive, think in terms of all I could have and not focus on what I couldn’t, which was a lot.

While I could eat broccoli by the ton and stuff myself with calamari, for the next 30 days, I would swear off all sugar, including alternates like maple syrup, molasses, honey and agave nectar — also no sugar substitutes, including Splenda and Stevia.

I wasn’t to drink alcohol of any kind, including White Claw and Bud Light.

Grains, or anything made with them like bread, baked goods or noodles were off the menu.

Replacing these things with their hippie, non-grain versions was forbidden, too — no gluten-free banana pancakes, no almond flour cookies, no muffins baked from the hair of unicorns.

Unexpectedly, beans and soy products were on the bad list. Many diets are OK with beans, at least.

Nuts were still acceptable (within reason), but not peanuts.

I would have to stay away from cheese, yogurt and anything else containing animal milk. I could maybe have almond, cashew or coconut milk, provided they contained no sugar. But again, no plant versions of things like yogurt or ice cream.

The idea was to change habits and remove treat foods from casual consumption.

There were also a few food additives I was supposed to skip, including something called carrageenan, which is a thickening and stabilizing chemical found in red seaweed.

But whatever. I could avoid the red seaweed.

The rest would be harder.

Bill Lynch covers entertainment. He can be reached at 304-348-5195 or Follow @lostHwys on Twitter and @billiscap on Instagram.

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