I had one simple goal when I started my 8-week nutrition/fitness challenge in February: fit into my jeans so I didn’t have to buy a whole stupid new wardrobe. After months of backsliding, I had reached an impasse with my skinny jeans: their spandex content had stretched to its limit. And I was in denial.
So I decided it was reboot time. What I was eating and drinking wasn’t working, which my denim so kindly pointed out. But not all was so shallow: talking to my nutrition coach, I uncovered more lifestyle goals to complement my superficial and budgetary ones. It was time to let go of processed foods, up the vegetables and wean myself off of sugar. But how I got there was all up to me, with guidance, peer support and food logs along the way to keep me honest.
8 week outcome: I slimmed down, reevaluated my approach to nutrition, and learned these unexpected lessons:
1) You can’t quit everything at once.
My problem with Whole 30 was how abruptly all the awesome foods left my life. Saying goodbye to bread, booze, grains, beans, peanut butter and dairy is like trying to fit in on an alien planet. Nothing looks familiar, I don’t feel like myself and I quickly grow hostile. If your goal is to create lasting habits, then do yourself a favor and take things slow. So (so, so) sorry for having the Eagles in my head when I say this but it’s true: take it easy. It took years to develop your current patterns, and you’re not going to flip a switch and do everything perfectly right away.
2) You need to be (really, really) honest with yourself when setting your goals.
You know you. There are some indulgences that are so part of who you are that banishing them completely is a disaster waiting to happen. What’s the point of setting lofty goals that you know in your heart you’ll just end up constantly breaking? Rather than set myself up to cheat and feel guilty, I started with a moderation approach. Instead of NO DRINKS EVER, I halved the number of drinks I was consuming weekly. I was more or less able to stick to that goal for 8 weeks, and if I keep doing it, maybe I’ll reduce it again. When I’m ready.
3) You might not be eating the right amount.
Shocker! Logging my food intake every day revealed that while I was starting to eat the right things, I might not be eating enough. As someone who used to obsessively count and whittle away calories, hearing this was crazy town. But it was true for me and a few others in my group. If you’re working out heavy, it’s worth chatting with a nutritionist about what normal is for you. It’s kind of crazy to think how easily your diet can be influenced by what you see on other people’s plates or Instagram feeds, when what you really need is to figure out what’s right for your activity level and body type.
4) You CAN make life-changing decisions for your health.
One of the biggest obstacles for achieving my goals was work travel. Weekly business trips put me in lots of tough situations: not eating enough, restaurant choices and just wanting to drink with my coworker buddies at the end of a long day. At first I asked for tips for managing the life better but eventually it became clear: if I wanted to be successful, I needed to end the situation, not game it. It seemed like an impossible proposition, so out of my hands. But I think the realization made me more receptive to opportunities around me, and a few months later I had made a career change that should put me back in control.
5) It doesn’t end when the challenge does.
It’s great to get your ass kicked by a quick challenge. We need goals in order to push ourselves past being comfortable. But in the end it wasn’t about being reunited with my favorite jeans. It was about learning new habits, meal prep tricks and balanced choices that I can keep doing, like, forever.
Big thanks to Janelle and Bluprint Fitness for kicking my butt into gear!
Disclaimer moment: And as always, nobody at Athletish is a nutritionist so you should talk to a real one before making dietary ch-ch-changes.