Today is the last day in my 8-week Whole Life Challenge, which I embarked upon in January with a healthy dose of trepidation and judgement. I have always stood behind maintaining a healthy relationship with food and finding what is right for your own body. And yet figuring out what my body really needs has been a pretty big game changer. Here are the things I’ll take away from the past 8 weeks:
Sugar, Gluten, and Alcohol are Social Foods–And that’s ok
I don’t think I will ever completely cut these out of my life. But on the days I go without them, I am surprisingly more awake, more energized to exercise, and less “foggy.” I do not have celiac, and I don’t claim that the world should give up gluten. But if I feel better without it, then what excuse do I have? No dieting company is paying me to say this, I legitimately feel like a fog around my head has lifted–not only affecting my focus, but also significantly decreasing my anxiety and nervous sleep patterns.
I found that you can more easily avoid these foods when you’re not in a group–especially in a bar. Of course there are ways to avoid them, but I can’t bring myself to get a beet salad while watching football at an irish pub on weekends. But if I just save drinking and eating sugary things for these moments, then I am still significantly cutting down what I ate before.
Diets only work until they make you hate food
By week-two of the Whole Life Challenge, I was resentful toward everything related to the cuts I was making. All I wanted was a damn almond croissant (no idea why this was my dream food) and I thought it was stupid that I was wallowing in rage because I couldn’t eat one. Not only did this teach me about my dependance (and sense of entitlement) toward eating whatever the heck I craved at any given moment, but on the other hand, it taught me that I was dangerously close to having an angry relationship with what I put in my body. And this is the last thing that I wanted.
So during a particularly busy week-three, I dropped almost every part of the diet and ate what I wanted. When my schedule calmed down, I had both sides of the spectrum to asses. So I cut out enough to relieve the “fog” that processed food created, without getting obsessive about an occasional platter of fried wings. Also, I really do like beer. It was my balance, right for me.
Alcohol ruins my sleep
This is a huge one. I do not miss how poorly I slept after drinking. Especially with the shift away from sugar, drinking three glasses of wine during this cleanse was a huge shock to my system, waking me up in the middle of the night in a confused state of dread/pre-hangover confusion. This is really not worth it for me anymore. I love being out, but I’ve been working on reminding myself that there are indeed other beverages at bars, and no one is judging you for not doing jaeger shots.
One good habit leads to another
I read this a lot before embarking on my diet. There were all these articles about completing massive life goals after giving up sugar, which I found a bit absurd. It isn’t the sugar’s fault you’re not getting off the couch. But if the additional energy gets you out for a walk, and that walk gets you to the gym, and that exercise gives you the energy to focus on your work, then suddenly you’re on the happy train to getting sh*t done. So I get it now. Since day one of this diet, I got cast in a show, got my first paid writing gig, and laid out a launch date for my website. Was this all coincidental? Possibly. But whether it was the placebo effect or a direct correlation with the lack of junk food, I will take it.
I have a new appreciation for my body
About two weeks ago, a friend of ours introduced us to the diets and lifestyle changes recommended by two Neurobiologists, Dr. Bredesen and Dr. Perlmutter. Both doctors have been rolling out research based on the connection between the bacterial balance in your gut and the health of your brain. I’m currently reading Dr. Perlmutter’s book, Brain Maker, and I cannot shut up about it. In a nutshell (though it’s hard to put all the fascinating research in a nutshell), refortifying your gut with healthy bacteria–by upping your intake of pro- and prebiotics, as well as cutting out processed foods–allows your brain, and therefore overall nervous system, to function more successfully. This cuts your chances for depression, anxiety, and a huge range of neurological diseases including Alzheimers and Parkinson’s. The plan also involves exercise, balancing your intake of vitamin supplements, and several other habits. I love that it is completely dependent on what your own particular body needs and all factors working in tandem.
Since I had already around played with cutting out certain ingredients during the Whole Life Challenge, it was easy to latch on to this new plan. So far, I feel fantastic. So many small issues have already disappeared. Who knows if this is right for everyone, but I figure if it’s about choosing something that comes right out of the earth (and loving to cook/eat it), or buying expensive processed stuff that kills my sleep and makes me feel anxious, I will happily take the former.
I may not have stuck to the Whole Life diet religiously, but its purpose was successful. I now truly appreciate everything my body does to maintain the delicate balance necessary for health, even when I choose to eat or drink terrible things. And equally as important–I still love food. I’m going to keep searching for a balance, and am so excited this was a great start.