Reflections from a woman halfway through her self-imposed 30-day eating challenge: no alcohol, no soda, no unnecessary sugar.
I don’t like the word “diet,” as that doesn’t get at what I’m doing or why. “Diet” connotes losing weight. That might be an eventual perk for me (lovely clothes fitting again), but is not the point. No, I much prefer the precision of the phrase “eating plan.” It is merely a recipe, if you will, of how to eat. The end result being physically, emotionally healthier and less dependent on the sweet stuff.
Don’t ever start an actual diet or eating plan without consulting a doctor, dietician, or nutritionist. If I had, I may have learned that there can be such a thing as too much fruit–we won’t speak any more on why… Essentially, these professionals cna make sure you’re doing something sensible for you and your particular nutritional needs.
Don’t ever start a new eating plan without first understanding what is involved. It really did take me two weeks to figure out if this plan was “low-glycemic” in nature or the “sugar elimination” diet. Not having clear rules made it much more difficult to grocery shop and feel okay about choices I’d already made. Simply thinking “I’m only going to get things with 0 grams of sugar” or “under _____ calories per serving”doesn’t give you a whole picture of what’s really going on.
The truth is, my plan is a little of both of the above. I buy as many whole foods as I can—fruits, veggies, lean protein, plain brown rice—and for packaged foods, read the whole of the back label. Sugar does occur naturally in some ingredients inside the container, so I check to see if sugar is listed as a separate ingredient. If it is, and is very low in the list, or under 5g per serving, and the food is worthwhile (chicken soup to fight a cold–read no energy to make it from scratch myself; or cereal to have on hand for rushed mornings), then I go for it. But what stays the same is: no candy, no cookies, no baked goods. And no artificial sweeteners, either.
However easy I have been on myself, I have failed under both actual-named eating plans and even under my own rules–both the original set and the revised version. And this is okay. Unless the eating plan is for dietary reasons, I do not believe we need to be dispirited if we slip up every now and then. In fact, a nutrition book I’m reading (review too come in a month, maybe), the author gives an 80/20 rule: if you strive for eating well 80% of the time, it’ll sort of make up for the 20% that you don’t. And that gives me something to look forward to.
Because this is really, really hard. Like every day I want to cave. Every single day. (Truthfully, I have–a petit four here, mints that are actually just glorified candy there). I am talking about getting cheesecake at work just to have something sweet and chocolatey to go with my coffee. Ripping open the bag of m&ms from Christmas and stuffing handfuls in my face. It’s right there on top of my fiance’s fridge. And I have a key! I could go get them now!
The easy part has been soda and alcohol. Soda I only had if I was at Mr. Sweet’s for Sunday lunch or with dinner if feeling a little sleepy or eating out and feeling a little tired. The first couple days I did miss the taste. Now, meh. Alcohol shockingly was also easy to get over. Despite my roomie nearly always having a delicious red on hand, and that one time Mr. Sweet surprised me with a middle-of-the-week dinner date out where a free glass of zinfandel was being offered, I’m not cray-cray craving it.
Is there any sense to this eating plan, especially as I fully intend on ending it as soon as the month is up (12 pm Superbowl Sunday—how perfect!)? Well, already I see improvement to my skin, and at week one was already down a couple pounds (water weight, but it helps those skirts fit better). Not to mention nearly every eating plan book, every doctor, every health article all advocate for fresh, whole foods over packaged stuff nearly every single time. Plus, I want to hit that sweet spot with sugar that I have already reached with alcohol and soda: I can enjoy it responsibly and occasionally without torturing myself.
Now the new goal for the last two weeks: EXERCISE.
Kill me now.