Eating Well, Exercise, Health

21 Days

21 days … that’s what it took for me to make a change, to form a new habit. Back in May (the 9th to be exact), I started BeachBody’s 21 Day Fix program. This included some changes to my diet and a 30 minute workout each day.
Though I always claimed to be insanely knowledgeable about food, I still learned a great deal on my 21 day journey, particularly that I was eating too many carbohydrates (even though I always selected whole grain) each day and not enough protein. I love(d) Shreddies, homemade muffins, granola bars, etc. and found myself reaching for these things mid-morning and after school (the hangry hours). I loved making my own of these things and always strived to make the healthiest version possible, but it became clear that these carb-laden things were not the things I really needed to fuel my body. I needed more protein.
When one starts really and truly examining the foods we often eat, even the seemingly innocent stuff like a granola bar or a yogurt, it’s concerning how many ingredients aren’t even “real” things in the world; instead, they were manufactured in a laboratory somewhere. I am not sure if I’ve made this clear in my earlier blog posts yet this year, but 2015 was/is going to be a year of change for me … a year of wellness (and all things associated with that). Eating non-ingredients didn’t / doesn’t really fit well within my newly adopted wellness-philosophy.

The 21 Day Fix food plan essentially takes one back to “real” and “whole” food, and in a lot of ways this wasn’t a stretch for me, as I truly enjoy “real” foods … unprocessed meats, vegetables, fruits, etc. Granted, I had to tweak how I prepared them, and at times, I did struggle with being creative. Not any more though … thanks to an old friend who introduced me to the Ambitious Kitchen and My Whole Food Life, two great websites loaded with inspiration!

On my journey, I learned a great deal about salts and sugars and how, too often, these things are hidden in the foods we buy. There’s some prominent and very relevant research out there that discusses how salts and sugars yearn for more salts and sugars, essentially perpetuating our bad eating habits … this sort of spurred me into action … who’s in control? The salts and sugars? Or me? I wanted to be in control. This meant changing some of the foods I was eating, because if I continued eating these sugar-laden foods, I was going to continue yearning for more sugar-laden foods. Thus, I had to stop; this meant some pretty big sacrifices and a search for alternatives.

Even the yogurt I knew and loved, Activia, is/was full of sugar. Thus, I got rid of the Activia in my diet (though my kids still eat it), and opted for 0% fat, plain (not Vanilla) greek yogurt. This was a difficult change for me, since eating plain greek yogurt feels kind of like eating sour cream. I needed the yogurt though, because I needed the protein that I got from it, and gradually I’ve grown to really like it served with fruit and when I am not on a fix, granola (my version is a bought one so far, but I hope to make my own in the near future).

Another hard sacrifice for me was giving up my International Delight Southern Butter Pecan coffee creamer. Oh how I love(d) thee. When I began my 21 day fix, I went black in the coffee department; I stuck with this throughout the fix, and for awhile afterward. On the weekends, I began sneaking the creamer back in as a treat … I still really love thee 🙂 More recently, I’ve opted for a homemade version, which includes almond or skim milk, maple syrup, and vanilla; this was definitely a compromise, but is satisfying hot or iced for an afternoon pick-me-up. And I know in my heart and in my mind that International Delight is crap … no real ingredients there!

Before I entered my fix, I knew there was NO WAY I was going to be able to sacrifice my morning bowl of oatmeal, served at 5:30 a.m. every day … no exceptions! There is no other meal that keeps me full for 3 ½ to 4 hours during the day. However, there were ways I could “fix” it up … take out the raisins, switch to skim milk, and use maple syrup instead of brown sugar. Simple changes improved my morning meal a great deal healthwise, without any compromise on my overall satisfaction!

This principle helped me a great deal in other categories as well. Granola bars? Still LOVE them, but I have found a “whole” and “real” version that’s packed full of nutrition. Bananas, dried fruit, peanut or almond butter, oats, maple syrup, chia seeds, and quinoa form tiny morsels of absolute deliciousness and total satisfaction! Not to mention the peace of mind I feel knowing that I am eating REAL food. Sweets? Still LOVE them (they are/were always a slippery slope for me … one bite left me yearning for more and more and more), but now I am truly satisfied with a couple of morsels of dark chocolate (my favourite is actually from Dollarama – has 72% cocoa) or some fruit after a meal instead of some of the not-so-healthy treats I might have selected in the past.

When it comes to food in the world and in the grocery store, I sometimes feel like there’s a whole lot of trickery going on. Foods that claim to be healthy are not, and without proper knowledge or discipline, people continue to be duped. I will not be duped any more.

To say that the 21 Day Fix was life changing for me is no word of a lie. It was. In a lot of ways it affirmed much of what I already knew about food, but it took it a step further for me by cracking down on my “trouble zones” … sugars and carbohydrates (notice I am not talking about my body). It was work, because preparing quality food takes time and effort and planning, but to me, it was totally worth it. It takes guts, because you have to be willing to pull out your packed lunch at a function that isn’t offering real food. It takes willpower, because you have to say, “No, thank you,” to fresh, from-scratch lemon pies or warm oatmeal cookie. It takes commitment and perseverence.

You might be wondering … what about my kids? My husband? I try to feed my kids well, but kids are kids, and they aren’t the most adventurous eaters. I might be able to say the same for husbands 🙂 So was I preparing three separate meals? Often I was, but this wasn’t a big change for me. My husband and I have always eaten quite differently, and let’s face it, the preschooler diet is not for me 🙂 It was / is totally worth the sacrifice for me.

When my 21 days were over, I couldn’t go back to my old ways, my old carbohydrate / sugar-junkie ways. I had learned too much and sacrificed too much to throw it all away. I did put away my portion containers though, but I keep those sizes in the back of my mind. I keep my “numbers” in mind too, and if I have carbs for lunch, I try to avoid them at supper; I try to ensure I am still getting enough protein each day. I still don’t accept offerings of gingersnaps or cinnamon buns though, but that is about me and who I am … I’ve told you, sweets are too slippery of a slope for me … one step down the muddy slope, and I’m a goner. I can’t throw away 13+ weeks of clean eating now (a few days of camping, being the only exception)!

I think taking the 21 day journey is about discovering who you are as an “eater,” and really taking control of what you put into your body. We need to STOP letting food be the boss, we need to get back to “real” and “whole” foods, we need to be more conscious about the food we bring into our homes and what we consume.

I hope in sharing this with you, I have sparked your interest in this program; I truly hope it’s as effective for you as it was for me 🙂 If so, you might consider contacting my old friend Janelle Yaskinski, a faith-filled mother, wife, and Beachbody coach. You’ll find her on Facebook 🙂

And to think … I haven’t even discussed the workouts yet 🙂 That’ll be the next post (maybe)!

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