So back in May I embarked on a 30 day real food challenge with my old Crossfit Box: Crossfit Babes Miami (Australia). Basically it meant for 30 days we were required to eat real, non-processed foods. Not to mention there was no wine, no sugar (other than those found in fruit), no dairy (OMG! No Cheese), and no grains. It was a little bit paleo but not full paleo as we were allowed clear spirits (hello vodka) as well as meal options with wraps.
Now….I know in the past I’ve been a pretty big anti-clean-eating-shite advocate. I still hold true to my thoughts about under-qualified people writing books about activating almonds, baby bone broth, giving up sugar (entirely, forever) and so on (read my post here). Full disclosure the person running the challenge isn’t a qualified nutrionsist; however she’s sought advice from qualified professionals on what she should recommend as meal options so I’m good with that. More importantly at the information night for the challenge I didn’t feel like I’d fallen through the clean-eating-shite rabbit hole …Everything made sense: eat less sugar, move away from processed crap, reduce alcohol, eat more protein, good carbs and fat.
I decided to take on the challenge to address my ever expanding waistline and my devil-may-care attitude to food. I LOVE FOOD in a BIG way! But prior to the challenge most of the time I ate a meal I had uncomfortable bloating and I wasn’t feeling the love for food. If anything I’d started to become a little wary of food; wondering what meal I ate next would cause bloating. Not to mention the 3pm slump I was getting most days….For around an hour I’d be in la la land half asleep with an overfull tummy and mushy brain matter whilst my body processed my lunch. Not great for work productivity at all.
I suspect the reason behind the bloating was caused by not eating the right stuff. Hence I decided I’d try the challenge and cut out as much processed stuff as I can to address this. I promised myself that once I got to the end of the challenge if I was still experiencing uncomfortable bloating post food I’d stop self-diagnosing with Dr Google and go and see a real doctor.
At the start of the challenge all participants had a body scan to give a real result of weight, height, body fat percentage and lean muscle mass. My key stats were:
- Weight: 94.5 kg
- Body Fat kilograms: 46 kg
There wasn’t a lot of good news in the first scan. It was clear how obesely overweight I was with over 45kg of body fat on me – very scary stuff. In fact when I got this scan in April I weighed more than I did when I first started to overhaul my life almost 6 years ago.
I would like to point out some positives (ever the optimist) to the scan:
- Despite this weight I am stronger and fitter than I was weighing the same all those years ago
- I was ready and willing and able to turn this around.
Then the results at the end of the challenge….. It’s amazing to see what 30 days of eating well can do. My final overall stats were:
- New Weight: 89.7 kg
- Overall kilogram loss (what I actually lost in weight in on the scale): 4.8kg
- Body fat kilogram loss: 8.9kg
- Body fat percentage loss: 7.3%
Things I learnt:
- You will become cranky the first week of eating healthy and cutting out sugar. It hit me on day 4 of week 1. I was craving sweet stuff (this hadn’t happened until then) and damn was a moody, cranky, snarky woman. I also felt very sluggish and had a headache! I wanted a chocolate bar stat! But I resisted and by the next day I feel a little better…The following day I felt good again. Note to flatmates or loved ones; throwing chocolate at me during this time will not save you.
- The second week is easier. You know you survived and you’ve stuck through with eating the right stuff. I stopped missing chocolate and sweeties around then and felt much less homicidial….
- I missed wine the most. So much. I missed the occasional glass of wine I would indulge in more than I missed chocolate or my favourite crisps. I made this awesome Paleo Shepherds Pie one Sunday night (recipe by Mr ‘Activated Almonds’ himself Pete Evans) and I can’t describe the excitement I felt at having to open a bottle of red to add a splash to the pie mixture.
- Weekends are the hardest! You become lazy about food prep as you tell yourself you don’t have to work and can get something healthy from the cupboard whenever. WRONG! Forgetting to eat every 3 hours and little food prep meant I barely resisted an un-supervised packet of Mint Slices that were looking at me suggestively.
- You can date and be healthy. I started seeing Ridge Forrester the week before the challenge commenced. We catch up for a meal 1-2 times a week and each time we were able to find something good for me to eat. From Thai to Mexican to Al a Carte we ate out a lot. Each time I choose the healthiest thing I could and also asked for more salad/veggies over chips.
- Eating healthy isn’t any more expensive than my usual shopping for the week (not to mention my little Hungry Jacks or Maccas burger treats I used to indulge in every week). My first week I spent close to $200 in food getting ready for the all the snacks and meals I would need to cook. Each week after I spent between $70 – $100 which is around what I normally spend. The most expensive items were fruit and vegetables. My tip: buy what’s in season, go to farmers markets, shop at the fruit and veg shop not the major supermarkets (9/10 times these shops are cheaper and better value for money). I’ll confess I didn’t eat organic; that would have been more expensive and I know it’s the best for you but baby steps….
- I’m not a saint and so I did have the occasional glass of vodka, sparkling water and fresh lime. But I was super careful to not get drunk as I know I get the ‘drunk’ munchies and would end up eating something naughty.
- You can actually buy take out and not get fries (who knew?). One Saturday night I knew I’d be out and about and was concerned about eating the wrong thing. So I packed myself a bag full of challenge approved food (PS. I’m yet to declare my undying love of almonds but I eat them) and off I went. I even made myself a yummy looking grilled steak wrap. Can you imagine my horror when I realised I left the bag at a girlfriends house? It was late at night and with little food options I hit the drive-through at Maccas and got one of their new wraps – there’s very little nutrition in them but at least it’s grilled, there’s some soggy lettuce, and I didn’t get any extras (Even though I had to hold back from requesting fries when they asked if I wanted anything else)!
- I had 2 amazing lunches at 2 beautiful restaurants. Both times I chose to eat the dish with the most protein (duck at the first lunch, steak at the second). I avoided bread and dips if there were entrees, however I did indulge with a glass or 2 of red wine and dessert. The dessert at lunch 1 was a divine chocolate ribbon. The dessert at lunch 2 was a mini slice of coconut ice. I enjoyed every mouthful of those lunches knowing they were a special treat.
- We were told often by the coaches running the challenge that we were just 3 hours from making the right food decision. That meant if we slipped up we just had to get back on track with our next meal. After my amazing lunch 1 I had salad for dinner with a girlfriend. After lunch 2 I had a farmhouse vegetable soup and added my required chicken protein on top. In the past I probably would’ve had takeout on the way home followed by a packet of crisps sitting on my couch.
- Tell everyone you’re doing a challenge/changing your eating habits, the more people you tell the more real it becomes! Make sure you surround yourself with people who’ll support you through changing your eating. It’s clichéd but it’s true. We were buddied up with another challenge participant to help us out. On top of that I would text my trainer Claire to check in on something I wanted to eat. I was so excited one night; convinced I had found whole egg mayonnaise challenge friendly, I sent her a screen shot of the ingredients and asked what onion sugar was? She came back with, “babe, there’s a comma in between them. You can’t have it. It has added sugar”.
- Learn to love cooking. Yes there are fully prepped meal companies out there (Caveman Kitchen, Performance eating both offer good paleo style meals in my neck of the woods) but you should really try cooking some stuff yourself. At the start of the challenge the owner from the paleo café Caffe Republic came and showed us how to make paleo friendly salad as well as give us cooking tips. On that note invest in a slow cooker for the cooler months; coming home to food already cooked will help with the cravings too. I used to spend close to 4-5 hours in the kitchen on a Sunday prepping food for my week. I found some great (and easy) recipes on nom nom paleo which helped me keep meals interesting.
I’ve always seen the challenge as a great way to kick start eating healthy and educating myself on the right foods to eat. I’m now determined to stick to eating as healthy as I can with the occasional treat (80/20 is the plan). I know food prep is king and being organised is really important – you’re not going to make a good choice when you’re hungry; you want the food, all the food NOW. This is just the start of my journey, I know I have more work ahead of me to be more healthy and keep kicking fitness goals (did I mention I improved on all my fitness testing).