Midweek Mashup: Whole30 & Soul-shattering Books

Each week, Jamie and Nikki scour our laptops, phones, and bookshelves to share a few of our current favorite things. We'd love it if you did the same in the comments! 


We're doing a Whole 30 at the Neutral Ground. What the hell is a Whole 30, you say?

 A kind of nutritional reset that requires a 30-day elimination of foods that most commonly give people issues. We're saying goodbye to modern, processed (deliciously sugary) foods and replacing them with as much fresh vegetables, fruit, meat, seeds, and nuts as we need to stay satiated.

Here's a full list of the guidelines, but if you have issues with emotional and/or binge eating, I highly recommend checking out Melissa Hartwig's Food Freedom Forever

Curious what this looks like in our day-to-day lives? Follow along at Instagram #TNGWhole30.

Jamie, 2010, peak sick: cystic acne, rashes, no menstrual cycle, depression, anxiety, and exhaustion. Cool hair, though.

Jamie, 2010, peak sick: cystic acne, rashes, no menstrual cycle, depression, anxiety, and exhaustion. Cool hair, though.

Why a Whole 30?

In that picture above, I am thin. My weight has stabilized. I fit into a size 8, as low as my body usually goes. But illness is literally erupting to the surface. I had chronic cystic acne on my chin, deep and painful lumps that clustered in sevens or eights and took months to go away. My mouth corners were raw with canker-like sores most often seen in malnutrition. My hidradenitis suppurativa and PCOS were at their worst, both resulting in cysts that ruptured and hurt. 

Over the past 7 years, I've managed to heal myself in many ways. But I've also held tightly to comfort foods I know trigger some of my health issues. It's the mental stuff I'm battling now, and that's not nearly as easy to point to. 

What's going on now?

  • Still with the acne, despite being 37. Ugh. 
  • HS is not fully in remission. 
  • I constantly crave sugar in a demonic possession sort of way. 
  • Knees, hips, and ankles ache, thanks inflammation. 
  • Lymph nodes in my neck are swollen, thanks inflammation!
  • I'm binge eating, the craving-bingeing-remorse a lot like the cycle I kept up with my addictions. Considering my mother's significant health problems and obesity, I'm scared I'm trading one addiction for another. 

I am not at my best self, my most open, my most alive and in the moment when I'm stuffing my emotions with food. I'm numbing. Hiding in that space of comfort and a little sickness from eating too much. So, a program to reset before I dive really deep into my relationship with food. Hope y'all follow along! 


In her dazzling Abandon Me, Febos captures the intense bonds of love and the need for connection -- with family, lovers, and oneself. First, her birth father, who left her with only an inheritance of addiction and Native American blood, its meaning a mystery. As Febos tentatively reconnects, she sees how both these lineages manifest in her own life, marked by compulsion and an instinct for self-erasure. Meanwhile, she remains closely tied to the sea captain who raised her, his parenting ardent but intermittent as his work took him away for months at a time. Woven throughout is the hypnotic story of an all-consuming, long-distance love affair with a woman, marked equally by worship and withdrawal. In visceral, erotic prose, Febos captures their mutual abandonment to passion and obsession -- and the terror and exhilaration of losing herself in another.

In her dazzling Abandon Me, Febos captures the intense bonds of love and the need for connection -- with family, lovers, and oneself. First, her birth father, who left her with only an inheritance of addiction and Native American blood, its meaning a mystery. As Febos tentatively reconnects, she sees how both these lineages manifest in her own life, marked by compulsion and an instinct for self-erasure. Meanwhile, she remains closely tied to the sea captain who raised her, his parenting ardent but intermittent as his work took him away for months at a time. Woven throughout is the hypnotic story of an all-consuming, long-distance love affair with a woman, marked equally by worship and withdrawal. In visceral, erotic prose, Febos captures their mutual abandonment to passion and obsession -- and the terror and exhilaration of losing herself in another.

This book. I first read Melissa Febos just a few weeks ago when an excerpt of ABANDON ME was published in Refinery 29I remember thinking how it would be possible for a writer to sustain that kind of intensity. And at what cost? 

Well, she does sustain it. Every word is wrought with the pain of experience. She so carefully exhumes and examines her emotions that she's able to articulate what seems unspeakable. In an essay titled "Labrynth," about her brother's initial breakdown before a bipolar diagnosis and her own heroin addiction, Febos frames love, culpability, and helplessness by the fairytale children's movie Labrynth. 

Tenderness toward the object of our desire becomes an expression of love partly, I think, because it so defies the nature of want, whose instinct is often less to cuddle than to crush. My want was more gnash than kiss, more eat than embrace. I cared for my lover, but that kind of desire precludes many kinds of love. Hunger is selfish. I wanted her happiness...Lust is an urge to consume and perhaps there is no true expression of it that does not imply destruction. I can’t say. But even my tenderness for kittens includes an impulse to put them in my mouth.
— Melissa Febos, ABANDON ME

At times, ABANDON ME reads like poetry, almost too intense to read in anything but short bursts. I find myself constantly wondering what it must have taken to wrestle these words from her. I'm thankful she did. 

It might be obvious, but I love this book. Like I love a friend, tender-hearted and vulnerable. 


UFC Strawweight Champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk (sounds jerjaychek) MMAFighting.com

UFC Strawweight Champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk (sounds jerjaychek) MMAFighting.com

I've been watching mixed martial arts for over a decade, but women didn't fight in the UFC until 2012. At the time, the president of the company made some dick comment about no one wanting to see women fight. 

Fast forward to now. One of the most popular fighters the UFC has ever seen, Ronda Rousey, is a woman. Women headline pay-per-views, receive fight of the night honors, and consistently deliver battles of technical skill and warrior spirit. 

I loved MMA before, but now I am obsessed. 

If you're not turned off by the blood and violence, you might be wondering where to start. Like all good things in life, start with Instagram. Following women fighters not only provides me with inspiration to lift heavy and kick ass, I also like watching their ordinary lives. 

  • Joanna Jedrzeiczyk writes in Polish and English and has a wicked sense of humor (and love of Mickey Mouse)
  • Amanda Nunes, current bantamweight champion, is full of charisma and lion spirit. 
  • Ronda Rousey suffered a brutal series of losses after seeming unstoppable for 3 years straight. But she is still my homegirl. She's not posting on Insta much anymore, but follow her for when she decides to come back. 
  • Holly Holm is a world-champion kickboxer who also seems like a really sweet person. She also posts a lot about training. 

There are so many more, but these are enough fighters to get you hooked. 


Need some Whole30 recipes to get you through?