For the last 30 days, I’ve been on a rather strict diet. Well, not on a diet so much as doing a nutrition challenge. Coach Tommy, the owner of my gym (Crossfit Immortal, woop woop!) organized it. I’m not usually one for “diets”, but since I have consumed the proverbial Crossfit kool-aid, I’m apparently down for anything now!
The challenge was a points-based contest based on the nutrition rules of the Whole Life Challenge, which you can read about here. But, Tommy decided to make it more strict. Because it’s only 30 days. And because he’s mean, he’s just mean. (j/k TC.)
So for 30 days JR and I have been off gluten (all forms of wheat, barley, and rye), dairy (except plain yogurt), corn, soy, white potatoes, white rice, processed oils (canola, soybean, etc.), added sugar (including all-natural sweeteners like agave, maple syrup, and honey), and alcohol. Participants lost points for cheating and earned bonus points for working out at the gym.
And it was a challenge indeed, even for a health-conscious eater like me. First off, it was time-consuming. I scoured the web for ideas and new recipes. I spent more time than usual meticulously planning our meals and with almost no packaged foods allowed on our menu, I spent many hours prepping food. I struggled (and cheated) when I baked chocolate cookies and birthday cupcakes for the kids. There were times, for instance after doing 60 snatches and a boatload of slam balls, when I felt like I would lose my mind if I didn’t have a big bowl of pasta. (I didn’t.) And one time I was rude to a bartender when he told me that they had no hot tea. Yes, I *may* have been a hangry b**ch from time to time. But, on the flip side, I also felt full of energy, my workouts seemed super-charged, my sometimes-plagued digestive tract was happy, and my body fat is now 2.5% lower! Not too shabby!
The final contest results are not in yet – weight and body fat will be compared to pre-challenge measurements and these changes will be factored in with the points to determine the grand prize winner. I know from the online tracking sheet that though I had a strong finish, I did not score the most points, so I don’t have much of a chance of winning.
Cash prize or not, I’m glad I did it, because as I ease back into “normal” life I’m taking a few improved habits with me as a result of some key realizations:
- I can live without cheese and bourbon, but I don’t want to. It’s empowering to know that I can control my cravings in order to reach a goal. I have been proud of the mental toughness displayed by myself, JR, and our friends. That said, an entire life without Parmesan is too bleak for me, and so I will again eat cheese. But, I probably ate too much before, so I do intend to scale back. And as for the bourbon, I was floored by how difficult it was to give up alcohol. I don’t even drink very much socially! But, what I am is a mother’s-little-helper drinker: when dinner/bath/bedtime is particularly soul-sucking a drink helps me recover. It was remarkably hard to go without. I did it, though! And I didn’t beat my children. And I only lashed out at JR once or twice. And I now recognize that I can handle these tensions on my own, without muting them with alcohol. Ah, self-awareness. Now pour me a scotch.
- Not only can I live without sugar, I thrive without it. Although I was a healthy eater before, I was probably eating too much sugar. I’m now a proponent of a cold-turkey break for sugar addiction. For me “I’ll just eat less” never worked. In the end, I found it was surprisingly easy to give it up altogether. I will still enjoy an occasional piece of dark chocolate or a good lemon bar but I no longer crave it. This, to me, has been the best outcome of this whole thing.
- I needed more protein. I workout hard. I lift heavy(ish) weights. I need protein! For 30 days I was forced to find good sources of protein to eat with every meal and with snacks – otherwise I would be starving. (And maybe that’s where the pound of lean body mass that I’ve gained came from!) It’s a habit I plan to continue.
- I pick at my kids’ food. A lot. Why do I do that?! From the first day of this challenge I became much more mindful about what I put in my mouth because even a small taste of a prohibited food would cost me a point. Thirty days later, I think I’ve truly kicked this habit. You can’t tempt me, pot of hot mac-and-cheese!
- Clean eating is all well and good, but there is NO reason to suffer unsweetened granola or black coffee. During this challenge I often ate to live, consuming foods just to fuel myself and get by. Once or twice, I ate a meatball for “dessert”. I need something crunchy and carbohydrate-y in my yogurt so I made unsweetened granola (a.k.a. cardboard with nuts). I need caffeine in the morning so black coffee (ew) it was. But that’s not how I want to live. I like getting pleasure from good food, and I can get it from healthy, whole, clean foods. But, life is too short to eat something that tastes bad. You can quote me on that.
I was grateful to have my partner-in-eating JR doing this too. For him, the biggest challenge was switching from our typical starches like pasta, potatoes, and tortillas to a more limited list of options like quinoa, oats and buckwheat. It wasn’t easy, but it has forced both of us to change the proportions of our meals and snacks – more veggies and protein, with more moderate amounts of starch – which is probably better for us in the long-run.
Check out my Pinterest board for some of the new recipes we tried during this month. Many of these will remain in regular rotation here at Camp Sunnyside and I encourage you to incorporate them into your family’s menu. But not the unsweetened granola. Nobody should have to eat that $hit.