I'm not one to take on new resolutions in the new year. This year was no exception. No resolutions because they don't work. I don't believe you can resolve to alter a behavior and make long term changes on one promise.
So a week into the year, a friend asked me to commit to a 10 day clean eating challenge. I thought about it for a while. Although I felt like I could commit to something different on a time limited basis, I wasn't sure about the clean eating concept. I'd embraced juicing as a healthy addition to my diet (Thanks to the super-cool juicer TOG got me) but not as a replacement for meals. I also purposefully avoided trendy eating styles. I've never wanted to embrace Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian or Gluten free eating plans. Moderation has always seemed like the healthiest option. But the concept of "clean" made sense, so I decided to say yes... And I had no idea what I was getting myself into!
The first few days were stressful as I learned what I could eat, researched recipes and wedged prep time into my already busy schedule. Eating clean turned out to be removing processed food from my diet. It also meant prepping food in advance such as sweet potatoes, chicken breast and hard boiled eggs. The eating tiers gave me the option of adding less fabulous options to my meals, such as store bought healthy salad dressings or whole grain organic breads. Within the tiers, I could make a great spinach salad and add a lower tier item like craisins to make it really yummy!
Along with trying new products like almond milk, I learned to replace some items I loved, like coffee creamer. I tried some of the organic ones but ultimately created my own recipe comprised of almond milk, organic half and half, vanilla, organic honey and a tiny bit of unsweetened cocoa. No kooky hydrogenated products and gums. I also learned to make a lovely citrus honey glaze that's amazing on both chicken and veggies. And my Sunday night veggie soup with lean chicken sausage is to die for... half in the fridge, half in the freezer for that mid week dinner crisis.
I also had to work with my dislikes, which are legion. I hate tomatoes with the heat of 1000 suns. I dislike melons and cucumbers although they smell great. Quinoa is obnoxious as is squash. I can eat zucchini but I don't love it. All this meant working more yummy veggies in (spinach, asparagus, brussell sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, leaf lettuce, carrots, celery, peas, cabbage, kale and sweet potatoes). Prepping and cooking some of these foods ahead of time enabled me to throw together lunches and dinners with chicken breast, or toss veggies into my morning eggs (I used one egg and one egg white).
The odd thing was that the first week I felt exhausted and run down. I slept a lot which made prep time more of a crunch. My coach and I thought I might be lacking protein, so I added more to my diet and increased my green juice intake.
As it turned out, that week of exhaustion was the precursor to shingles. The second week of the 10 day challenge was the outbreak of the rash along with eye-watering, burning pain and uncontrollable itching. It was a relief that I had healthy food planned and prepped as well as plenty of green juice and some of the healthy shakes from Shakeology.
Ultimately, even though the challenge was time limited, I did make some changes to my diet that will be permanent. I love almond milk, both vanilla and unsweetened. I love the extra protein and the flavor. I have just about perfected my homemade coffee creamer. I'm learning to live without sugar in my diet. Butter is still a bit of a challenge. I'm learning to live with full veggie crisper drawers. I'm learning to stagger food prep so that it happens throughout the week. I'm learning to like dinner as a lean meat with a veggie and a fruit. I really like super seedy, organic GMO-free bread bread and organic oatmeal. I'm not normally a salad person, but I've created some kick-ass salads (no iceberg lettuce) over the last few weeks.
At the end of the challenge, I did not lose any weight since I wasn't able to exercise with shingles. But I do feel better and I do enjoy eating cleaner. The downside is that I am no longer able to look at stadium food at the Seahawks game with any sense of kindness or longing! And that's probably for the best!
Have you tried eating clean? What did you change in your diet? If you haven't, would you do a 10 day clean eating challenge?