Focus, Failure, & Fortitude

I haven’t posted in a while because my focus has been on other things the past couple weeks. I have been working on a new story (more on that later), but what’s taken up most of my focus is a health and fitness challenge.

The Challenge

At the beginning of July, I received an invitation to participate in a Whole30 challenge through Composition ID, a local fitness/nutrition business. I needed something to keep me making progress on the health front, so I thought I’d try it. Nothing like a little competition to motivate me.

Composition ID’s challenge was to do a DEXA scan before July 11, then do the Whole30 program from July 11 through August 10, and then a second DEXA scan after August 10. (DEXA scans measures body fat, bone, and lean muscle—read more about it here).

So what’s Whole30?

In a nutshell, Whole30 means for 30 days you cannot eat grains (wheat, corn), legumes (beans, chickpeas), dairy (yogurt, butter), or sugar (all the good things).  You can eat bacon (yum, bacon), other meats and seafood, eggs, fruits, nuts (in moderation). (Read more about the rules here.)

Now I love dairy (ice cream, cheese, yogurt); I eat a lot of bread (I’m single, so a sandwich or cereal are often a meal); and of course, who can live without chocolate? (Actually, my mom can. It’s weird, I know.) But my philosophy is I can do anything … at least for 30 days.

The Pre-Whole30 Week

So I signed up, got my first DEXA scan, and then went about meal planning and prepping what I was going to buy at the grocery store for the next 30 days.

Yes, I had to plan every meal—breakfast, lunch, dinners, and snacks. There’s simply no other option when you have to cut out that much from your diet.

And let me stop here and explain a bit about me: (1) I hate, absolutely hate, cooking. Hence why my meals consists of sandwiches, hummus, and cereal. I’d rather change the oil in my car or iron every button-down shirt and linen pant I own. Touching raw meat is akin to that scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom where Willie had to stick her hand in the tunnel of bugs to pull the lever—gross and icky.

(2) And because I hate cooking, I am terrible at meal prep. I am a last minute, what-am-I-hungry-for foodie. I tend to go to the grocery store with a minimal list. I shop more about what sounds good and is the easiest to make. Hence, my meals, again, consist of a lot of hummus, sandwiches, and cereal. Do you see the theme?

For the last 29 days, I’ve had to think about grocery shopping. I’ve had to plan what I was going to eat all three meals. I’ve had to actually cook and prepare meals in advance. And most importantly, I’ve had to break my bad habits and relationship with bad foods.

As you may guess, this took up a lot of my time and focus.

So how did it go? 

Well, the first week was the hardest. This was no surprise. Almost every story you read or hear about Whole30 says the same thing. Week 1 sucks. No sugar means no afternoon chocolate, no sweet tea, no Starbucks goodness. No gluten means no bread (and my workplace has a Panera and a taco place). But all of that was off the menu. Let me tell you, that took every ounce of focus I had to make it through week 1. And did I mention no chocolate?!? It’s amazing I didn’t stab anyone.

What about weeks 2-4?

After slogging through week 1, weeks 2 through 4 were easier in that I did feel better. I no longer have that mid-afternoon energy slump. My energy stays more consistent throughout the day. I don’t get as tired in the evening. I used to get so sleepy and be in bed by 10:00pm. Now I’m good until at least 11:00pm, sometimes midnight if I’m not paying attention to the time. And while I still wake up at 6:00am, I wake up feeling pretty darn good. No more dragging out of bed.

Because I had more energy, I have been more active. I had some of the best walk days of the year during this month, with a quite a few days with 15,000+ steps and several weekends doing 10,000 steps before 10:00am. I also added more exercises to my morning weight workout and started doing yoga at night before bed.

The best part is I have lost some weight. (I don’t know how much at this point because we’re not supposed to weigh ourselves during the 30 days.) But my clothes fit better. I’ve had to put some pants in the goodwill bag because they’re simply too big and I’ve been able to wear some I had stuck back in my closet until I lost that “extra 5 pounds.” So that’s been excellent motivation. (I’ll find out how much on Saturday when I do the second DEXA scan.)

Overall, Whole30 has taken a lot of focus and resolve which is why I haven’t been blogging. And I admit, I did fail. I failed a few times in fact.

How did I “fail”?

My first failure was the first weekend at the end of week 1 when I decided to make a baked potato with some baked chicken. Potatoes are okay, so I thought, hey, this is good. What I didn’t think through was the topping for the potato. Think about it—what typically goes on a potato? All the dairy goodness in the form of butter, cheese, and/or sour cream. All of which were off the menu. I did put a little olive oil on it, but I ended up caving and added some shredded cheddar. Because who has a baked potato without cheese?!? No one.

SwingTime.jpgBut here’s the thing about my Whole30 fail—I didn’t let it deter me. I owned the mistake, I resolved to do better, and then I moved on. It was one meal out of 21 for the week where I caved, but it wasn’t the end of the world.

And I admit, I had a couple other “fails” over the past 30 days.

I will say that for one fail, I blame Wendy’s. I went to Wendy’s to get a salad (which I did), but when she asked if I wanted a $0.50 Frosty, I didn’t think twice and said, “of course I do.” I did get a small one and it was D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S. And again, I acknowledged the mistake, I resolved to do better, and I moved on. It’s that simple. I didn’t allow that one mistake (albeit a fantastically yummy mistake) to derail my progress.

The other times I failed were typically on Saturdays. By Saturday, I’m out of prepped meals, having eaten them all week, and usually low on food (I grocery shop normally on Sundays). So I had one or two sandwiches because easy. I had the bread during week 3, and after two+ weeks of not having wheat, I could tell. I don’t have a gluten allergy, but I’d say I have a sensitivity to it.

Despite the fails, I had some good wins. For instance, the day one of my co-workers brought fresh, hot Duck donuts and ice cream. (He not only bought them, he brought a bowl with a donut and ice cream to my desk.) I thanked him, but turned it down. I call that a HUGE win.

My Whole30 Lessons Learned

(1) Meal prep is key. You can’t make it through 30 days without preparation. I knew I ate a lot of dairy (cheese), grain (bread), and legumes (hummus). What I didn’t realize was how prevalent these things were in my diet.

(2) Reading labels is a must. I was shocked by how many products have added sugar. Trader Joe’s has frozen grilled chicken strips that I like to buy because they’re easy. But guess what, they have sugar in them. I’m guessing whatever marinade was used, but I was a bit surprised. Also, I have yet to find a salad dressing that doesn’t have sugar. I ended up using plain olive oil as a dressing all week. Even the vinaigrettes I saw had added sugar. It is really ridiculous that food manufacturers add sugar to things that don’t really need sugar.

(3) Tell a friend or two. Or better yet, get someone to do it with you. I didn’t have anyone willing to go on this Whole30 adventure with me, but I did tell people. They asked me how it was going, asked me about my meals, and made me accountable. If I hadn’t told anyone, I would’ve never made it through 3 days, much less 30. In fact, my talking about it and my results have inspired one of my co-workers to try Whole30.

(4) Don’t let failure derail you. Failure happens. Own it, resolve to do better, and move on. Failing one meal, or even on one day, doesn’t mean the end. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again. Life happens and tomorrow is a new day with a clean slate.

(5) Prep for weekends as well as weekdays. Weekdays are not easy, but are more manageable because I’m on a set schedule. Weekends are hard. By Saturday I was out of prepped meals and usually out of food. I need to add an extra grocery trip and do better for prepping weekend meals.

Would I do it again?

Absolutely. After Friday, I will be adding back grains, dairy, legumes, and sugar to my diet (although slowly and in moderation). But even with adding these things back, I will take some of the good habits I’ve started and keep going with them. For instance, instead of afternoon chocolate, I now eat dried apricots or an apple. I will save sugary goodies as a once-in-a-while treat instead of anytime they’re offered. I will continue to read labels and opt for whole foods (not processed) as well as look for added sugar.

I like having more energy. I like that I don’t get that afternoon crash. And I like that my pants fit better. All good things. So I would definitely do Whole30 again. It’s not only a food reset (I don’t like to say diet, because I was never hungry), but it’s also a mind reset in how I think about food.

So now you know why I’ve been MIA for a month. But I’m back and have more energy, so expect some fun future posts!

Have you done a Whole30 Challenge? How did it go for you? Tell me about your obstacles, fails, & wins in the comments below.

 

 

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