I Stopped Eating Crap for 21 Days and Here's What Happened...
My weight has been a constant source of strife for me. I was a chubby kid, a fat teenager, and a fluffy young adult. My saving grace was that I was an athlete during my school age years and never shied away from exercise. Tough exercise. The problem is that I have never been able to out-exercise my bad diet. I've tried every eating plan in the books. I've seen my weight yo-yo for years but the last few years I've stayed pretty much the same with little change. In December 2016 I was introduced to a new cross-training gym that has literally changed my life. The workouts are insane and ever-changing and yes, I feel like I'm going to die pretty much every minute of it, but it's worth it. The unique thing about this gym is that the instructors place as much emphasis on nutrition as they do on maintaining a consistent workout regiment.
Recently, the coaches announced a 21 day no cheat day challenge. The challenge required us all to eat intentionally and mindfully while keeping track of our macronutrients (e.g., protein, carbohydrates, fats) on a daily basis. Read here for more on the process. Essentially, we used a formula (see below) to determine our macros and then ate towards those numbers daily.
Fats: .29 x Goal Weight
Carbs: 1 x Goal Weight
Protein: 1.1 x Goal Weight
We were challenged to eat clean (lean meats, veggies, no alcohol, no processed foods, no dairy) and most importantly, no cheating or even eating out. Many people hired a meal-prep service, but I rolled up my sleeves and got after it every Sunday, prepping all of my meals and snacks for the week. I'm no stranger to meal-prep, but in the past, I would get bored with food mid-week and blow the whole thing. This time around, because I was being held accountable, I pushed through like a champ.
Everyone's macros and goals for the challenge were also different. Some on the team targeted weight loss while others targeted overall toning. My goal? To get over the hump. My results? Astonishing. Here's what happened:
1. Weight loss and fat loss: The least significant thing to happen during the 21 days is that I lost 9 pounds, 5.5% body fat and 3 inches. Yes, I said it - LEAST significant thing. Here's the thing - losing the weight, fat and inches is the tangible result. And it's worth celebrating. But it's not the most important result.
2. I slept. Sleep is typically hard for me. I hear everything in the house and I usually go to bed with a stomach ache brought on by that glass of wine I thought I couldn't live without or some unbalanced dinner. As my body got used to eating clean, I didn't struggle with my food late at night like in the past. In fact, for 21 days, I slept better than I've ever slept.
3. Goodbye fatigue!: If I'm eating crap I always feel sluggish. Not only do I not get enough quality sleep due to my stomach turning throughout the night, but I also can't get past the 3p slump. Not so during the 21 day stretch! Even on days when I got less than 7 hours of sleep, I never once felt fatigued. I always felt alert and present.
4. I learned what my body should be consuming. While it's easy to get a high off of weight loss and fat loss, I'm really high on how I feel in general. I like how my body feels when I eat clean versus how it feels when I'm eating crap. Now that I've learned about the nutritional values in things and how to properly design meals that work for my body, I am more intentional about what I choose to put in my body.
5. I felt better naked. Goodbye kangaroo pouch! Who knew that all it took for that thing to shrink was a better diet and loads of water? You've heard it before and I'll say it again - food is 80% of the battle. Kale has done way more for my lower stomach than a crunch will ever do!
6. I developed a better relationship with food. I am someone that relies on food for the wrong reasons. I am an emotional eater and a bored eater, both of which have never served me well. Because I ended up eating every 2-3 hours to meet my daily macros, I always felt satisfied and generally didn't have cravings. I did learn that treating my food intake like a job was helpful. I'm a very regimented person during the week with to-do lists and daily milestones that I set for myself. Having my food already planned out during the day fit in nicely with my other work habits. It was one less thing to think about. The weekends were more difficult because I like to be less regimented during that time. So I just made a commitment to maintaining the same process as during the week and made sure to log my food intake in a food journal and was just fine. I have also learned how to cook things that I enjoy eating that are also nutritious, and I make sure to consume them in a way that will not leave any room for cravings.
Overall, the 21 days helped me to make lifestyle changes that will stick. I'm proud of my tangible results but I'm mostly proud that I did what I set out to do: get over the hump. Although I will reintroduce some of my favorite treats from time to time, I will continue to count my macros and get the results I want. Onward and upward!
PS - I'm not a before/after picture person, but here is a picture of me right after my final measurements. A moment I will never forget...
Have you tried this method? Has it worked for you?
Photo Credit: Brooke Lark Photography