After the holidays, Travis and I felt like we needed something to motivate us to get back to eating healthier. Even though we were no longer consuming cookies and treats like they were going out of style, our eating habits had declined. In Travis’ case, he was drinking too many beers (on average 1-3 a night) and eating too many snacks during the day, instead of actual meals. In my case, I had been eating too many refined, ‘easy’ carbs like Ramen noodles, Kraft macaroni & cheese, quesadillas on white tortillas, bagels, and cereal.
Since I’m pregnant, I knew I couldn’t go crazy — after all, I’m still growing a little human inside of me! The goal of this ‘challenge’ was just to be healthier anyway, not detox or lose a bunch of weight (though Travis was hoping to drop a few pounds).
So here were our ground rules:
The first week of the challenge was tough. We both realized how many of the snacks we ate during the day were refined carbs or sweets, or at least contained chocolate (like trail mix and granola bars). We didn’t enjoy our morning coffee as much without the added sugar, and Travis missed the relaxation aspect of having a few beers at night while watching TV.
The second week was better. Travis made eggs and bacon for breakfast fairly often, until I told him we couldn’t afford for him to eat 3 strips of bacon every morning. I ate oatmeal, whole wheat bagels, and smoothies for breakfast. We started snacking on more fruit and nuts, like clementines, apples + peanut butter, mixed nuts, and granola bars without chocolate. For dinner, we made our pizza dough with whole wheat flour and used whole wheat noodles in our pasta.
The third week, I was visiting my parents and Travis was on a work trip and visiting friends, so we didn’t follow our plan exactly. Still, we made different choices than we would’ve otherwise. For example, I ate a taco salad one night instead of using a white tortilla (though I SO wanted one!), and declined ice cream when my dad offered. But other days, I ate some pretzels and drank some cranberry juice (pregnancy craving!). Similarly, when eating out, Travis opted for salad instead of french fries, and ordered a leaner cut of steak, but drank some beers with his buddy when it wasn’t a cheat day.
The last 10 days or so, we mostly stuck to the rules, but also cheated some. I ate some of Emma’s fruit snacks (for some reason, pregnancy makes me crave them!) and a few pieces of chocolate. Travis had a friend/co-worker visiting so he drank some beers/cocktails on non-cheat days.
Regardless, we feel like the challenge accomplished our desired purpose. Travis lost a few pounds, but mostly, we were motivated to eat healthier snacks, reacquaint ourselves with whole wheat products (we used to eat them more, but got out of the habit for one reason or another), and relax at night with air-popped popcorn and water instead of beer and/or sweets. I also totally kicked putting sugar in my coffee — though I still use liquid coffee creamer. I know it’s not very healthy, but it makes me enjoy coffee, and coffee keeps me sane. So there.
I will say, though, that this challenge has reinforced my belief in Intuitive Eating. The idea of IE is that no food is off-limits or labeled ‘bad’. There are only 2 rules: You eat when you’re hungry, and you stop when you’re full. IE got me out of the rut of obsessing about food and calories. By giving myself the freedom to eat whatever I wanted, and focusing on listening to my body’s hunger signals, food stopped having power over me. Knowing that I could have more ice cream whenever I wanted (instead of telling myself “I really shouldn’t have any, but I guess just this once…”), I didn’t feel the out-of-control impulse to eat an entire pint in one sitting. With this challenge (and being pregnant!), I started once again salivating over treats. I do best when I can have a little bit of chocolate everyday.
That is why, barring medical necessity, I will never follow any of the more extreme diets like paleo, vegan, gluten-free, etc or declare any foods off-limits. I don’t do well with restriction. It might make me physically healthier, but at the cost of my mental and emotional health. I’d rather focus on eating mostly healthy and enjoying sweets in moderation. That said, even though chocolate is back in my life, I’m hoping to stick with the healthier alternatives to my beloved refined carbs. 😉