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Notes from a 30-day clean eating challenge

November 4, 2014

squashpicA little over a month ago, I ran a half-marathon. I didn’t run it very fast, but I also completed the 21K without getting injured for the first time ever. It still took me almost a week to recover. I felt like craaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaap. When you train for an event, you eat one of two ways: the way “they” tell you to eat, balanced and with enough carbs and protein to fuel your training and recovery, or the way the mentally unhealthy part of your brain tells you to eat. You know, the part that tells you that “you run enough these days that you can just eat whatever you want.” I don’t want to turn into one of those people that food-preaches at everyone, so all I’m going to say about that is that it really, really, really did not end well for me.

So… I decided to do this thing. A 30-day clean eating challenge, from October 1st to October 30th. I literally followed a For Dummies guide, because while I’ve lost tons of weight in the past by counting calories, I never actually bothered to worry about things like, you know, nutrients. I did it so I could stop feeling like crap and so that I could retrain myself to eat properly for good because I need to lose, like, a LOT of weight, especially since I have my heart set on finishing a full marathon next year. You know when you’re a kid and you learn about anytime foods and sometimes foods? That’s what this was.

Some notes from my challenge:

  • Here is a secret about eating clean: it is not hard. It is impractical and inconvenient, but it is not hard.
  • There’s so much time involved, and I’m a busy-always-overwhelmed-help kind of person to begin with, so this took some getting used to. I had to force myself to set aside time because there’s just so much more grocery shopping, prepping, cooking, and dishes to do.
  • Oh my God all the dishes.
  • Dishes are my least favourite chore.
  • Down with dishes.
  • A thing that made my life easier: it eliminated a lot of decision-making, since I didn’t even bother going into the packaged food aisles in the grocery store and mostly limited myself to stuff I can cook with.
  • I prepped all my meals in advance, so I ended up spending less than half the money on groceries and food court lunches and stuff. Seriously.
  • I loved that my stomach was happy for the whole month. No heartburn, no indigestion, no pain, no complaints. On day 31, we had a halloween potluck at work. I ate okay, calorie-wise, but there was a ton of prepackaged “outside” food. I felt like crap again for the whole day.
  • I would say the best thing about it was the elimination of all the sodium and sugar from my diet. I just had so much more energy all the time.
  • I sound like a commercial.
  • The worst thing about it was… chicken. I hate chicken. I hate handling it, cooking it, eating it, being around it. *unless it’s breaded and deep-fried* I tried for the first week, because it’s a calorie-friendly budget-friendly source of protein, but since then I can’t even think about chicken or any poultry without feeling nauseated. That smell…
  • A weird thing that happened is for some reason I’m more sensitive to smells now.
  • Everyone told me to eat brown rice.
  • They all forgot to tell me it tastes terrible.
  • I didn’t miss alcohol. Really.
  • I’m the kind of person who eats squash and actually enjoys it now.
  • I love my friends and family so much. So supportive, sending me recipes and giving me tips and encouraging me and checking in.
  • Email me if you want any of my recipes.
  • The plan from now on is to keep eating clean and working out, with one cheat meal a week if necessary.
  • The scale says I lost 11 pounds.
  • The mirror says I don’t really look different, except maybe a little around the middle.
  • My clothes say my waist has shrunk a lot.
  • My eyes say my feet are shrinking. I’m not joking.
  • My brain says…
  • Oh look, we’ve arrived at the hard part.

The actual eating clean part is not hard. You get used to it, and make it your life. But the mental part of this, or any weight loss process, is a living nightmare. I feel like a hypocrite most of the time. I don’t practice what I preach. I talk about body acceptance and self acceptance all the while believing (and I don’t know how to stop) that I will never deserve love (from myself or other people) unless I weigh below a certain number of pounds. I try to be a feminist (even if I am a bad one) and I am still trying to fit into some stupid patriarchy-perpetuated ideal of what a woman should look like and I am finding it impossible to be okay with myself unless I do. I don’t judge most people by their outward appearance but it seems to be the only standard by which I judge myself. And while the benefit of what I am doing is my body is getting healthier by the day, I feel like I’m letting my mind get sicker at the same time.

One thing that people always tell me is to be kind to myself. Sometimes I get messages from people I haven’t heard from in a while, out of the blue, reminding me to be kind to myself. Which kind of makes me wonder what I must look like to other people if they’re always telling me to do that. Maybe I do beat myself up too much, but I don’t know that it’s any worse than what most people do. And to be quite honest, as of late I’ve done some things that I’m not very proud of and I don’t think I should be allowed to be okay with that just because I’m generally too hard on myself. It’s probably true, however, that in general I DO need to be kinder to myself. Maybe the best way to do that, regardless of my body image (which I still need to work on), regardless of my feelings about this (which I still need to work on), regardless of my life circumstances (which I still need to work on), is to just be healthy. Eat well, sleep well, work out. Train for that marathon.

When you’re doing it for health reasons, it’s a good thing. When you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, it’s a bad thing. What is it when I am doing it for both?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Cam Charron permalink
    November 4, 2014 7:04 pm

    This is awesome, Laura. I’m so proud of you for going through this.

    My own efforts to eat clean fall apart every 5 or 6 days when I eat something convenient… and my stomach really feels it that night. When you start eating a veggie-heavy, processed food-less diet all of a sudden you wind up appreciating just how good the human body is supposed to feel. It’s easier to sleep, unless you’re up all night doing dishes.

    I’m definitely going to need just about every squash recipe you have, but really, you need to be a bit more open-minded to brown rice and chicken. They’re basically tickets to your own personal gun show.

  2. November 5, 2014 10:14 am

    The second-last paragraph. Print several copies and post them everywhere.

    And congrats. I need to do this, desperately. I don’t eat THAT badly, but I’m a bad snacker.

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