I’m in my third go ’round with a diet known as Whole 30, but the way my wife and I are doing it, we have labeled it “Whole 30-ish”. We live in the same town as Whole 30, but there’s definitely railroad tracks running between its house on Whole 30 Lane and ours on Ish Street. We’re definitely on the wrong side of the tracks.

I realized recently that Whole 30 people really don’t want to answer the question “Is this Whole 30 compliant?” They want people to become educated label readers. My wife, who is way smarter than me, pointed out they also need to have a set list of what is and isn’t acceptable for marketing purposes. In the U.S., you’re finding more foods packaged with “Whole 30 compliant” stickers on them. I suppose it’s not quite as effective if the sticker reads “Sorta Whole 30 compliant” or “Mostly Whole 30 Compliant”.

The reason I bring this up is because I had a rotten experience as a member of a Whole 30 Facebook page because of how mean people could be — namely the page moderator — to people who asked questions regarding food compliancy. The beauty of Whole 30 is I can be a major beneficiary of the program and not be a believer in its strictness. Hence, our Whole 30-ish diet. We are chewing sugar-full gum and eating cured bacon. Such rebels.

(By the way, about the only bacon that is Whole 30 compliant is “Sugar Free Dry Rubbed All Natural Sliced Uncured Bacon from Wellshire”. Now that’s a mouth full, although not what I want to being filling my mouth with. Man, I love bacon, which leads me to the point of this blog.)

I will continue to use Whole 30 as a guideline to help me control my weight, which had ballooned to about 60 to 70 pounds above what I weighed when I graduated high school. I am currently not quite halfway to that goal. It’s going to take another 3 or 4 rounds of Whole 30 to get to that intended weight, but I am not doing them consecutively, nor making Whole 30 a full-time way of life.

Yes, I’ve learned something about portion control, and what time to eat, and how to read labels, and how to inflict a bit of guilt upon myself for eating a third bowl of sugar cereal — as an afternoon snack — but I am not done eating the foods I love.

I reminisce often about the $1 burger nights at the Spring Valley VFW with Trent and Jennifer Langemo. And I am not done with the Chicken Tender Melt at Perkins nor the Sausage McMuffin, nor the Old #5 breakfast at Green Lea Golf Course, nor the fried egg sandwich at Diana’s Diner, nor the steak and hash browns at Northwestern Steakhouse. I will always hit up Jake’s Pizza for their monster lunch slices when in Albert Lea (MN), and will always order the Fayze’s Smokin’ Chicken, the beer cheese soup at Buzzard Billy’s and Bloody Mary from Del’s with a Spotted Cow chaser when in La Crosse (WI). And here in Middle East, well, I haven’t forgotten about the Oreo shakes at AJ’s Pancakes, nor the burgers at Shake Shack.

I am not giving those things ups. They are a part of my fabric. Yes, admittedly, they are part of my fat rolls, too, but a part of my fabric as well (like, literally, too, as I have spilled something on the fabric of most of my clothes at all of those places). When I am on a Whole 30 round, I will avoid most or all of those things, but I won’t stay on Whole 30. Whole 30 is a way to attain a healthier version of me, followed by a me who will mix in a few more salads than I did previously (so, more than zero, basically), but still enjoy these foods. I’m never going to be the person who abstains from bad food completely.

I’ve decided I will use Whole 30 for what it is, and what it needs to be labeled — a diet (Whole 30 purists hate that label). I will use the diet to be Me, but instead of being Old Me I will be Me + Exercise, and not just swinging a golf club then sitting back down on my golf cart and taking a slurp of another Diet Coke. I will do aerobic exercise. I will play basketball again, like full court even. I will Jazzercise and Body Pump. I will swim and bowl and walk laps around my neighborhood. I will. I will. I will.

Because, darnit, I am still going to have the Potato Oles at Taco John’s from time to time.

But you know what I’m not going to do? I’m not going to buy a Diet Dr Pepper and a Whatchamacallit every time I walked into a gas station. Maybe just the Diet Dr Pepper. Back in 2011, it was gas station Zebra cakes. I know this because I had a blog I was quite proud of – onehundredthousandcalories.blogspot.com – but like so many things in my life, I let a good thing go.

Modern technology should help, though. I can now pay at the pump and avoid these halls of convenience and empty calories. How you like that Kwik Trip?

Riley Worth diet 1, Kwik Trip 0.

But I shouldn’t bash Kwik Trip. They do a great job of offering nutritious options, like hard boiled eggs or fruit cups. And sparkling water instead of brown pop.

I talk big, but I couldn’t do this diet a full day if my wife Amanda wasn’t such an amazing cook. Without her, I eat three squares a day at neighborhood convenience stores. She loves making healthy meals, and amazingly she’s made me enjoy vegetables. Vegetables. Now that’s impressive cooking.

I have a co-worker who has always been dedicated to healthy living and eating, but she also has a dedicated sweet tooth. Er, she had a dedicated sweet tooth. She did Whole 30 last spring, followed by intermittent fasting this summer. When I asked her this fall if she wanted a candy bar, she declined and said “that’s not part of my life anymore”.

Me? I can’t do it. I turn 44 in a month, and I’m done with the latest round of Whole 30 in 9 days. I know the foods I like, the foods I crave. Controlling those cravings is key, but I don’t think I have the will power to give up Oreos dipped in milk and cinnamon-sugar toast forever.

So Whole 30 for 30 days it is. Then a few weeks off – a food vacation, if you will. But what I’m going to do differently this time is exercise during the food vacay. Full-court basketball. Body Pump. Jazzercise. Maybe some tennis or racquetball.

And bowling. Definitely bowling. Because bowling’s part of my fabric. It’s as much a part of who I am as an afternoon bowl of Golden Grahams (or three).