As I wind down on my 21 Day Eat to Perform challenge with the gym, I thought it was time to evaluate everything that has happened since the start. In addition to discovering quite a few recipes that I intend to work into my rotation by both trial and error, as well as some friends’ cooking, I personally had changes. Am I a totally changed woman? No. Three weeks is too short to permanently change and I wasn’t looking for a permanent change. I had a few goals I wanted to meet, which I did, plus some surprise changes.
So after nineteen complete days in this challenge, which I’m ending early because I’m off to Rochester for girl’s night and the Super Bowl is tomorrow, I’ve had a few physical changes. I don’t know that I’ve ever publicly talked numbers. I always shy from those conversations in groups because growing up I’ve always had the adults in my life telling me to eat more meat and potatoes; I’m too skinny. Or my pediatrician reading my patient intake form at my yearly visit telling me not to worry about my weight; I’m not too skinny. And then as I get older, (girl) friends talking about their weight and asking me why I run, lift weights, and try to care about what I put in my body because I’m skinny anyways. If I ever talked about my weight, it seemed to come off like “Why are you talking about your weight anyways? Shut up.” And so I didn’t, but screw it — it’s my blog and it’s relevant today, to me.
I’m an average height, about 5′ 6″ and I have a body like my Dad – just thin and leggy. Like my dad, I was not graced with a proportionate weight gaining body – if I do, it goes straight to my midsection. I don’t want to get into a lengthy chronicle about my weight and body fat, but my “home base” of weight and body fat seems to be about 118 lbs and 17% body fat when I’m training, and about 61% body water. After gaining weight through grad school, when I started to train again – this is where I ended up, right back where I was at high school graduation. Upon injuring myself and stopping my gym classes this past summer, I came into January 2015 at 128 lbs and about 21% body fat, with about 57% body water in the morning. I’m well aware that these are not bad numbers, in fact they are quite healthy.
[And this is where fitness, weight, and body fat gets tricky and why I hate getting involved in numbers publicly — everyone is different. For me, when I’m working out an average amount (maybe 4-6 hours/week, only about an hour of speedwork or high intensity), my body naturally stays in the low range. Even at the lowest, I’ve never lost my period, I’ve never passed out from lack of nutrition/calories, I’ve never felt too famished to complete a workout, and I’ve never had a doctor show concern for my weight. I’m confident in saying that’s genetics; I don’t alter my eating besides trying to avoid pizza logs and chicken finger subs.]
So I started up the 21 Day Challenge to force myself into trying new foods, more vegetables, and get back on track with caring what I’m doing to myself. I wasn’t hung up on the numbers. If I felt more energized, looked less bloated, felt less bloated, and overall had a positive outcome — I could have gained weight and not cared. But since I weighed myself at the start, it was only appropriate to step on the scale at the finish. Today I was at 122 lbs, 18.7% body fat, and 61% body water. The biggest change for me is noticing that I don’t look 5 months pregnant due to how bloated I always was. I’ve had a few people notice at work, as well.
But all that is just numbers. While it’s nice that things are swinging back to where they are when I’m in tip-top shape, it doesn’t mean anything if I don’t feel better.
My favorite (and in my opinion, most important) thing I gained was the cravings I have and don’t have. This morning, J and I went to breakfast to celebrate the end of the challenge, though he only did it with my the last 11 days. I got eggs, sausage, hash, and toast — everything but the toast was challenge acceptable (without knowing if there was sugar in the breakfast sausage). I put half and half in my coffee and put the tiniest amount of a package of artificial sweetener in my coffee, maybe about 10 tiny little granules, and it was nearly too sweet for me to drink. A month ago, I would think nothing of a packet and half of that pink sweetener. I put some raspberry jam on my toast and even that was almost too much for me. The toast was absolutely amazing though; I did miss that.
Later today, we’re probably getting Mexican and normally I’d be all over some enchiladas slathered with delicious sauce, but all I can think about is a salad with vegetables. The thought of having a beer at the Genesee Brew House isn’t even appealing and despite knowing how amazing the beer cheese pretzels are, I don’t even want a full appetizer for myself. Before this, I could enjoy two full appetizers and wouldn’t even think twice. For a girl with my taste buds, this is huge.
Even though it takes up a lot of time to plan and prepare, I enjoyed having a lunch at work everyday. When I ate my vegetables with hummus as a snack, I didn’t have any 2pm slump at my desk. I didn’t miss the sugary creamer in my coffee as long as I had a flavored K-Cup and coconut milk to add to it. To be honest, I didn’t miss my refined pastas, either. I was able to have rice for the challenge, but didn’t make it once and I plan to incorporate that into my diet. And finally, despite wanting a bagel, I’m looking more forward to continuing plain yogurt with some cinnamon and adding fruit, instead.
To be honest, I didn’t think 21 days could have a big impact on me. And this challenge was so hard. I whined a lot. A few times, I went to bed frustrated because I wasn’t full enough and I didn’t have anything easy to eat. There were more than a handful meals that consisted mostly of cheese — cream, cheddar, or mozzerella. And I washed more dishes than I ever thought were possible for a single woman (single as in living situation). I’m not kidding when I say dinner would be cooking for an hour and I’d have to wash three separate loads of dishes just to get a clean sink. But in some weird sadistic way, I enjoyed all the the time I spent in the kitchen and grocery store. Cooking wasn’t all that bad and reading the labels on everything was a total eye opener for the better.
In all, I’m not going to revert back to my old habits and I’m not going to remain as strict as this challenge was. My plan is to continue to read the labels and educate myself, always striving to be better. At each meal, I want to make one positive change from the “pre-challenge Brittany” to the “post-challenge Brittany”, even if it’s something as small as eating an apple instead of crackers. Bagel in the morning? Maybe I’ll try plain yogurt with honey and small amount of granola. Cheese and crackers for a snack? Maybe I’ll try some cheese and a slice of pepperoni. Alfredo pasta craving? How about some zoodles with that, instead? Small changes all day, but allowing to indulge every so often, is a lot more sustainable physically and mentally than cutting everything “bad”. The challenge was a great way to kick start the habit, but being miserable for the remainder of our time on earth because of everything you “can’t” do isn’t a good way to live, either.
Next time, I’ll share some of my favorite recipes I’ve tasted and tried — even some sweets!