After thanksgiving indulgences, I decided to mindfully reset and embark on 10 days of clean eating and put my focus on the following areas. So, without further ado, let’s see how I stacked up in sticking to the program and what I learned about my body and how I felt.
1) Gluten — I feel better when I don’t eat gluten. Moreover, studies show that many people are sensitive to dairy and gluten (even if not completely intolerant) so taking a break from these items can help your internal organs and digestive system rest and recover. As someone with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis since age 7, I’ve known gluten isn’t the best for me for a while, but I’ve never been able to completely eliminate it…. Eliminating it for 10 days made me more aware of how I felt with and without gluten and I definitely feel better not eating it… I stuck to the no gluten rule pretty well just slipping a couple times at an office holiday party and separate dinner with friends. And those times I just had a few bites I didn’t stuff my face lol.
2) Dairy – As a lifelong vegetarian, I’ve considering going vegan many a times but my good ole friends milk lattes (almond milk ones just aren’t the same…), frozen yogurt and ice cream held me back. This is the girl who would drink homemade lattes with milk every day and frozen yogurt way too often in the summers (if it’s yogurt it’s healthy right?). I also get bad allergies and sinus issues and my doctor has recommended decreasing dairy on those counts. Much like gluten I stuck to this quite well with just a couple minor slips and overall did not miss it as much as I thought, and my sinuses were noticeably less congested.
3) Sugar — Ahhh the sugar fiend. I think added sugars speak for themselves (in the US the average American consumes 19.5 tsp of added sugar a day… (the recommended daily allowance is only 6 tsp) and I know my sweet tooth can easily run rampant if unchecked… Dessert for dinner anyone? So, this was definitely a hard one for me. Chips and processed foods I can do without, but I do love my sweets. To my very pleasant surprise, my sugar cravings went away after a couple days (it helped that I had healthy substitutes like fruits and my shakes and I even tried my hand at making healthy sugar free protein balls) and now days after finishing the shred I’m still not craving my usual sugary desserts. And the few times I have had such a dessert, to my great surprise I was satisfied with just a bite or two instead of devouring the whole piece of cake!
4) Coffee & Alcohol – Now I’ve done various healthy eating challenges before but never have I cut out coffee before. I love it and its rush of morning energy way too much! However, coffee while not “bad” in and of itself is merely something it’s nice to take a break from and give your body a chance to rest every occasionally. Again, much to my surprise, while I missed the taste and routine of my morning coffee, after the first few days my energy levels not only improved in the mornings but that usual afternoon slump I usually struggled through suddenly was much less noticeable. Moreover, while normally I have a hard time falling asleep at night, I noticed definite improvements in that department as well. As far as alcohol is concerned, I’m not a big drinker to begin with so this wasn’t too hard for me, and like coffee the occasional glass of red wine certainly isn’t harmful but just something that is nice to give your body a detoxing break from on occasion.
5) No Eating After 6pm – My family is from Germany and there is a saying there that dinner should be the smallest meal of the day and is always eaten early usually around 5pm. Interesting the wisdom that can sometimes come from old folk sayings. However, this actually turned out to be the hardest one for me and I definitely modified to 3-4 hours before bed which was 7 or 8pm for me. The biggest gain from this was that even though I didn’t follow the strict before 6 rule, I wasn’t snacking right before bed either – one of my big kryptonite habits.
6) Sleep – My big takeaway from this was a much greater awareness of how much (or little) I sleep. See I was under the impression that because I might “go to bed” and wake up roughly 8 hours apart that’s how much I was sleeping. What I didn’t account for was trouble falling asleep or waking up in the night. This tied in a lot with the caffeine aspect as I realized I’m actually quite sensitive to caffeine and when I drink coffee even if it’s in the morning the is a greater chance I will have a hard time falling asleep at night. By the end of the 10 days I was pleasantly surprised by how I had better energy throughout the day but then felt tired close to bedtime and fell asleep and stayed asleep better.
7) Exercise — Much like my relationship with sugar, I tend to have a very all or nothing approach with exercise as well… If I can’t make it to the gym for an hour what’s the point am I right? This time though, especially with my current physical limitations, I set a much more manageable goal of just 20minutes of yoga and core work in the morning. And if one morning got extra hectic, I was nice to myself and gave myself permission to do my routine in the evening instead. To my surprise with this more reasonable goal, I found myself often exceeding the 20minute limit and even went to the gym a few times to get on the stationary bike (pretty much the only form of cardio I can do right now with my injured foot).
8) Water – Up to 60% of the adult human body is water. The bare minimum water recommendation is 8 glasses of water a day but experts will agree that more would be ideal (much like the fruit and vegetable recommendations). I know I should drink more but drinking enough water has always been a challenge for me as I have the tendency to forget to drink. This became very obvious during the shred…. A couple tricks to help me drink more were drinking two big glasses as soon as I woke up, keeping a water bottle right by my desk at work, and experimenting with a free water tracking app on my phone.
9) Supplements – It’s hard to get in those 9-15 servings of fruits and vegetables even on a clean eating “shred” so I like to supplement with daily whole food fruit and vegetable capsules but as I was already doing that prior I don’t think it’s a huge accomplishment. I also had whole food smoothies most mornings and found it to be a much better long-lasting energy than my usual cup of jo.
10) Processed foods – Ahh the ubiquitous processed foods and snacks demanding our attention at the grocery store. Now I’m just as guilty as the next person about succumbing to the processed food temptation but during the shred what I really began to enjoy was the mindful meditation of cooking and really savoring the fresh whole foods in their natural states 😊
So what now? Am I going to religiously try to keep up the shred rules? No, probably not. Moderation is the spice of life after all. But I did learn more about my body (for more on listening to your body check out my earlier post “You’re the Boss – Finding What Works for Your Body”) and will be trying out that moderation thing a bit better. In other words, in the past I’ve either been eating all healthy or all not, figuring once I had that first bite of ice cream I may as well eat the whole pint. Now, I’ll be working to better listen to my body and what it really wants and maybe stopping after a bite or two instead of the whole cake or container of ice cream. I was shocked in my 10-day shred how I really wasn’t hungry at all between meals when usually I’m the world’s champion snacker. It’s amazing when you give your body the nutrients it’s really craving, how superficial cravings melt away.
Have you ever done a clean eating challenge? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below! 😊 And, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d ever like to join in on future clean eating shreds with myself and a wonderful online community. New year’s reset anyone?