I was recently coerced into a diet with some friends of mine. Please stop right there and don’t tell me that I’m twenty and I shouldn’t be dieting and that most people gain all the weight back and more after a diet. I already had all these arguments and they fell on deaf ears. And truth be told to call this a “diet” would be a bit of an understatement. What I committed to do during the Advocare 24 Day Challenge was the start of a lifestyle change.
The focus of this challenge is to:
a. Eat REAL food.
b. Work out.
c. Focus on not putting sugar and junk in your body.
Seems easy enough, but it’s easier said than done. I knew I needed this diet overhaul as I had put on some happy weight from marriage and a tad bit of sad weight from being homesick and adjusting to life in the desert. Regardless of what caused my weight gain, I was not taking care of my body and what I was putting in was essentially garbage. Friends, I want to share with you what I learned through my experience of 24 days of clean eating. (okay not going to lie there were some definite cheats in there. I had pizza on one account and ice cream on another and coffee some days. I’m not lying to you folks. I’m human. Yes it’s only 24 days but pizza, ice cream, and coffee are my Kryptonite) (Because yes I’m a superhero).
1.I was addicted to sugar.
The first three days of this challenge I felt like a semi-truck had mercilessly run me over. I was crappy, snappy, tired, had headaches… I was a mess (or maybe that’s just me always and I’m blaming it on the sugar…but I digress). This people is the result of sugar addiction. Once I started being aware of all the sugar I was putting into my diet I was mortified. I know it’s not like a real shock but I suppose I didn’t take it very seriously. Soda alone… I am disturbed by how candidly I open a soda (OR TWO). Sauces, boxed foods, canned goods, creamer, “health foods”, everything. This is not new information but being aware of it and recognizing the need for change is step one. After I cleansed my body of my sugar dependency I was amazed at my increased energy levels, my mood improvement, and my clarity of mind.
2. I am an emotional eater.
When I first moved here I was cooped up in the house a lot and alone a lot. I was feeling a wide range of emotions and ice cream was there for me (Thanks Ben, thanks Jerry). I know this seems like a basic thing to say but I seriously found comfort in food. And also entertainment perhaps. I’m bored! Let’s look at the pantry again! Now that I recognize these eating patterns I am doing much better to correct it.
3. Eating healthy and working out frequently make me feel good.
Hmm, it’s like I ignored that whole memo about endorphins being released when you work out. As someone who struggles with anxiety, I need all the endorphins I can get! I have also noticed that when I am eating healthier it is easier to manage my worries and fears that I struggle with on an emotional level.
4. It’s okay to splurge a little.
The problem with me is my “little” often doesn’t end there (well I had a dozen cookies today, guess this pizza isn’t going to finish itself) (Exaggeration. Please know I would never eat more than 6 cookies and a pizza in one sitting) (please laugh. I think I’m hilarious). But I want my splurges to be for social reasons! Do I really want my splurge of the week to be a store bought cookie? Do I really want to eat a pint of ice cream when I’m bored and alone? I would rather use my splurges for social and special events. It’s your birthday? Let’s celebrate you! And I will gladly celebrate with a reasonably portioned slice of cake. Best cheesecake in the world? I’m not going to be that person that misses out on experiences because I am unrelenting on my diet.
5. It’s mostly about portion control.
Once I started getting serious about my portion control I was AMAZED at how I felt full but was eating reasonably. Veggies first! Then a correct portion of protein! Then healthy complex carbs! That’s the formula folks! (These dinner pictures sometimes don’t have correct portions but they are a reflection of what I ate that day and how I balanced it out).
6. You don’t need dairy *gasp*.
This is the hardest for me. I have been doing more research and learning about the politics involved with the dairy industry. This is sad for me because most of my favorite foods are very dairy based. I love cheese, I love cheeseCAKE, I love ice cream, I love sour cream, I love milk and cookies (not a plain glass by itself though because I’m not a savage), and pretty much everything that has cheese in it. Did I mention cheese? But here’s the deal, once I integrated dairy back into my diet… I don’t feel as good. In fact sometimes I felt pretty sick. Though I don’t foresee an immediate removal of all dairy in my life I am looking at cutting back. Let’s take care of our bodies!
7. You really shouldn’t just eat a bunch of fruit when you’re eating healthy.
I’ve kinda always had it in my head that if I’m going to eat healthy I can have an unlimited amount of fruit. Well, yes and no. But mostly no. I’m going to tell you no. (PUT THE FRUIT SALAD DOWN BRENDA) But there is sugar in fruit (duh you say). And yes it’s good sugar but it’s still sugar. I am working at reaching for carrots instead of fruit when I get a snack craving. Or bell peppers!
8. Salt isn’t the only “spice” you have.
I love cooking. I have really come to love experimenting with new recipes and making dinner is one of my favorites (hate dishes more than anything though so I beg Matt to do that for me when dinner’s over #bestwifeaward). I use salt in wayyyy to much though. After cutting out salt I have gotten much more creative with my seasoning! Instead of just garlic salt I use savory, thyme, oregano, cumin, paprika, cilantro, and more! I also have to make time for meals as cooking healthy doesn’t come in prepackaged ease. Though some days this was annoying it was nice to reclaim time that would otherwise be filled by multitasking during meals or rushing off to another thing instead of being fully present.
9. Saying no is not that hard.
I was nervous about being pressured into eating when I was in group contexts. It’s awkward to explain why you can’t have stuff and then you’re “that person” that needs to be on a diet. But I realized that saying “no thank you” to something doesn’t result in the world ending. In fact most people DON’T CARE AT ALL.
These are my biggest takeaways from my 24 Day challenge. I lost five pounds during this time and I think I have lost more weight since. It is honestly difficult to go back to the way I use to eat when I know so much more now. I have still incorporated a lot of the habits that I learned during this time. But I also sometimes backslid. I was a very emotional eater recently. I’ve had more sugar this week than I would like my weekly sugar intake to be, but it’s baby steps. I want to be healthier. The transition in the challenge happened when I realized I wanted this. I want my lifestyle to be healthy and I can do it affordably and happily.
So I raise my shaker bottle to you and toast to happy and healthy lives. Let’s eat real food.
My favorites from the store:
a. Laura Scudder’s Old Fashioned Peanut Butter
b. Apple Cinnamon Rice Cakes
c. These all fruit no nothing added popsicles I found at the store
d. Quinoa and Brown rice blends (Matt trying to pronounce Quinoa will forever be one of my favorite memories)
a. Fed Up (just watched, sooooo good).
b. Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead
c. Food Inc. (have yet to watch this one but I’ve heard great reviews!)