Let me just say this up front: you guys, I loved this healthy eating challenge.
If you’re wondering what challenge I’m talking about, you can read all about it here.
After too many weeks of feeling blah and having my stomach throw up some serious red flags over what I was putting into it, I voluntarily gave up carbs, dairy, and refined sugar for 30 days. Why? Because I was curious if it might help my body push the reset button. And, more than anything, I wanted to see if it would finally give my digestive system a break from the bloating, cramping, and pain that I was living with every day.
So how did it go? Well. Really well.
Here’s what I learned:
My body operates better without dairy. I hate to type this, because I so enjoyed my daily morning yogurt and my big fat cheese plate at night, but it’s true. My body just feels better when I avoid dairy. By steering clear of milk, yogurt, and cheese, I haven’t had an upset stomach in 30 days. And one of the most surprising results I’ve noticed is that my body is far less bloated – truth be told, I’ve started to see abs poke through for the first time in forever. I feel better in my body than I have in ages, and I’m so excited to keep the good vibes going.
I love carbs. Carbs, carbs, carbs. Let me be the first to tell you that I cheated on this challenge a few times. To be fair, the most serious offense was a few late night bites of pasta after a long day of bachelorette party revelry. The rosé made me do it. But despite generally avoiding carbs for 30 days, I’m not convinced that a no-carb life is for me. In fact, in these first few days after the 30 day challenge, I’ve been on a bit of a rabid carb binge, eating every pretzel, cracker, and gallon of popcorn in sight. In the long run, I know my body feels better when I don’t turn to carbs as a first resort. So I’ll need to make a bigger effort to keep my fridge stocked with other alternatives when I get a snack attack.
The sweet + salty cravings CAN be tamed. My whole life, I’ve been trapped in a sweet + salty death spiral. I’d snack on popcorn, and then immediately need some chocolate. A few minutes later, I’d crave salty crackers, and then a sweet treat. During the 30 day healthy eating challenge, many of those sweet + salty foods I relied on as a crutch were eliminated. And you know what? So were my cravings. BINGO.
There are protein options beyond chicken and salmon. I think I ate chicken or salmon every night of this healthy eating challenge for two weeks straight. Boring. By week three, I had this uncontrollable craving for (wait for it) barbecue pulled pork. I haven’t eaten pork in more than 10 years, but I think my body was telling me something: dude, you need to branch out. As I move forward with this new way of eating, I don’t think I’ll be a full-fledged pork eater. But I do need to make a better effort to try new recipes, be more creative in my cooking, and find fun new ways to incorporate different protein sources into my diet. Any ideas?
When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Like many of you, my life seems to be constantly on the go. So sticking with a healthy eating plan takes lots of planning and preparation. I’m not good at meal prepping or color-coding my tupperwears (yet), but I have gotten really good at throwing a bunch of snacks into my purse so that when I get hungry — whether in the middle of a meeting at work, or while out with friends, or stuck on a crowded subway — I have food at my fingertips that won’t make my stomach hurt.
Slip ups will happen – and that’s totally okay. Like I mentioned, I didn’t spend each and every one of those 30 days fully carb free. And you know what? I didn’t beat myself up over it, and I don’t regret anything. I’m human. I love carbs. I’m tying to learn what’s best for my body + live a full, fun life in the process. Sometimes that means indulging in chips and guac when you’re out with coworkers. Or diving into a slice of pizza late at night after a fun day of celebrating a friend. But overall, I’d like to steer the majority of my meals away from refined carbs and almost totally away from dairy.
The 30 day healthy eating challenge is just the beginning. Two days after I finished the challenge, I already missed it. Is that strange? I’ve discovered that my mind + body feel so much better when I eat with intention the foods that put me in my peak operating mode. So I plan to continue eating along the principles of the 30 day healthy eating challenge indefinitely – with some real-world moderation sprinkled in – and can’t wait to continue the momentum!