July 18, 2016

What I learned after a week of eating clean

This post is part of a 30 in 30 blog experiment, where I committed to writing 30 posts in 30 days with minimal planning between June 20, 2016 and July 20, 2016.

What you must know about me first is that my diet before last week was pretty bad. I mean, I tried to be healthy in that way people try when they don't really want to change anything but know they have to. I'd give myself a pat on the back for ordering a medium sized Coke instead of a large at the drive-thru. Baby steps are good, but I wasn't really trying and I knew it.

When Cori, the amazing woman and coach behind the clean eating challenge, asked if I wanted to participate in her challenge group, I said yes but I'll be honest and say I wasn't excited about it. My inner rebel child had a field day with the whole thing. I've tried so many diets in the past, the rebel knows exactly what buttons to push. If you give me a rule she will chew it up, spit it out, then step on it as she skips away. This time, she had the brakes on full stop.

It turns out, the way to silence the rebel is to ask her to explain herself. A number of fears popped up as well as a bunch of "I dont's", and that's when I made the connection between the inner struggle I'd uncovered and what the term "leaning in" really means. I needed to be open to changing how I thought about food and being surrounded by a group of other like minded leaners was probably a good idea.

The challenge came with a meal plan, shopping list, recipes, and a private Facebook group of over 30 people ready to cheer each other on. I prepped meals and snacks in advance and Cori encouraged everyone to find some way to measure their "before," so I wrote up a few quick goals.

Monday was a piece of cake. Tuesday I woke up with the mother of all headaches thanks to caffeine and sugar withdrawal because I'd vowed to give up my most favorite beverage - Coca-Cola. I'd gone from drinking the equivalent of 24-48 oz of soda a day to none and my body was in full revolt. I barely kept my eyes open and people at work whispered to me like I had a hangover. Wednesday I was bone tired but alert. On Thursday a flight of stairs felt like climbing Kilimanjaro. Friday was better. Saturday and Sunday almost felt...normal.

I was shocked to discover my body was pretty resilient. I'd expected worse--much worse, but as usual the reality wasn't nearly as bad as what I'd imagined it would be.

So would I do it again? Yep. I exceeded my food goals for the week. I ate not just breakfast from the meal plan, but 90% of the rest of the menu. I was surprised by how obsessed I was with checking the Facebook group page to see how other folks were doing. I was inspired by the recipe tweaks people were posting - and it made me feel like I could mold this new way of eating into something I that worked for me.

I also learned how to listen to my body. I feel great. I'm alert all day, sleeping well, my heartburn is gone, and I'm eating better proportions. I'm hungry about every 2-3 hours, but it's been a while since I knew what hunger felt like, so that's still a win. The other thing I remembered this week was how GOOD food tastes when you are hungry. I mean...GOOD. I practically sang an operetta after eating a slice of toasted Ezekial Bread topped with organic peanut butter and sliced fresh strawberries.

The best part about participating in a group like this is that it gave me a model of what my diet could look like. And it wasn't as daunting as I'd thought once I broke it down into smaller chunks. Having a starting point like a meal plan to base it on made it so much easier to do.

I admit I didn't follow ALL the rules. I didn't make some of the recipes, but I got brave and crafted equivalent ones. I had birthday cake on my mother's 73rd birthday. I ate two "healthier variety" frozen meals for lunch instead of what the meal plan called for, and I drank a total of three non-caffeinated grape sodas. I mention this because I learned this week that I don't have to be perfect, I just have to keep going.

And yeah, I still crave not so healthy food. Today while driving to my chiropractor's office I fantasized about eating a Culvers Double Sourdough Melt with no onions. I reallllly wanted one. I decided to be excited about eating something else instead, then drove home and had homemade spaghetti sauce over yellow squash (it was so good, people).

I can sum up all of my week into this: Lean in, do the work and keep swimming. You are resilient.

If you are interested in joining a clean eating group, check out @FreeHeartFitMom on Instragram.

Have you ever done a food challenge before? Did you like it?

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