A healthier you Challenge hmmmm. What do I mean? Well, are you tired of being tired? Carrying around some extra weight? Men it is time to deliver that baby already! Feeling fatigued and worn down a lot of the time? Then maybe it is time you take the challenge.
People ask me all the time”What do I need to do to feel better, lose weight, have more energy…? They want a quick fix or the magic solution in one sentence. I am sorry to say that is not how it works. BUT, it is also not hard. It takes a little commitment on your part but it is totally doable. The best thing to do is start small actually. Set reachable goals for yourself every few weeks. Smaller, realistic goals are totally attainable. Create great habits, encourage more nutrition and lifestyle changes and make yourself feel better – your ultimate goal!
Here are 5 challenges I am setting forth to you. You do not have to do them in order but try each one for 2-3 weeks at a time. Set a start date on your calendar. Note, there really is not an end date as ideally at the end of your time you have kicked the unhealthy habit and are forming new, healthy ones. It takes roughly 2-3 weeks to creat a new habit and that same time to break one.
Challenge #1 : Eliminate soda and fruit juice
You are already rolling your eyes going no way I can’t do it. Yes, you actually can do it. We all know the harmful effects of soda by now so I am not going to lecture you on them (if you want to see though click here)
If you do not want to cold turkey it, start by cutting down every day at least one soda with the goal of being soda free in one week. This is how I kicked my 5 diet-coke a day habit. It really helped with the caffeine withdraw and headaches. So yes this includes diet sodas as well. There is evidence that diet sodas are even worse than regular soda in making you fat!
I put fruit juice in here because most fruit juices have as much sugar if not more than soda – even beloved apple juice. While we are it energy drinks and gatorade are just as bad. If you really love your juice, read the labels and find ones without added sugar, then pour half a cupful and add water to dilute it. Still the best thing for your health in the long run is to rid your body of these drinks.
What to drink then? You are thinking there is nothing left, no way I am doing this. Well for starters, WATER. This should be your go to drink. The recommended amount of water to drink is half your weight in ounces per day. So a 120 pound person should drink 60 ounces per day. That is roughly 8 glasses. Jazz it up . Throw some lemon or berries or mint in there. Also there is coconut water and cold pressed juice. Use these for a change of pace. There is green tea and herbal teas. See not so bad. Eliminating soda from your life and your families life is a game changer, it was for me.
Challenge #2: Pack your lunch almost every day
Here is what happens. You are at work, you have no lunch, you have little time and you are starving. What do you do? You forage in your desk for that long lost cereal or protein bar that is loaded with processed bleck and sugar and preservatives – that is why you can still eat it after its been in there 4 months. Or worse yet, you meander down the hall to the vending machine. NOOOOO stop don’t do it. Pack your food! This takes a little planning and perhaps some prep work but your body will thank you. Make a super sexy salad or buddha bowl. Better yet make an egg wrap, make 10 and wrap them in parchment paper and freeze for up to a month. Pack lots of snacks. Buy different size mason jars and fill them with veggie sticks, hummus, nuts, fruit…. Never again do you have to reach your hand into the vending machine of doom. This goes too for kids at school, and those who work from home or just are at home! Be well stocked and do a little planning, its ‘s one of the best habits you can form.
Challenge #3: Cut your alcohol consumption
Notice I did not say eliminate it. Now you are like, ok I am doing this one first. Totally! I am a fan of the occasional cocktail or glass of wine. There is even some evidence, though not conclusive, that a drink a day keeps the doctor away. But too much of it, as with most things, is detrimental to your well being. We are trying to make a well-being here so listen up. Have your drink but do it smartly. If you go for the red wine, great. If you go for the white, which has lots of sugar, make it into a spritzer. Add half the glass with your wine of choice and the other half with seltzer or club soda. Add some berries or a sprig of mint to fancy it up. Do the same thing with vodka. Leave out the juice and simple syrup. You can order drinks this way when you go out too. Indulge wisely is all I am saying. And no you can not save it all up for a friday night!
Challenge #4: Reduce/Eliminate Processed foods
By now you know this. Processed foods are not even really foods anymore. My dearest friend called me one day and said “look (she texted me the nutrition label for fruit loops) fruit loops don’t have much sugar at all” Well that’s great except read the ingredients. There was not one recognizable whole food in there. READ YOUR LABELS! The food industry is master at covering up and deceitfully labeling, the nutritional value of their food. “Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food” wisely said by Michael Pollan in food rules. How do you do this? Start with your food shopping. Stay to the outside aisles where all the fresh and frozen foods are. Minimize your exposure to the those inner aisles, that’s where the non food lives. Next, read your labels. Anything with more than five ingredients should really not be bought. Anything where sugar (or one of its 50 plus other names) is one of the top 3 ingredients, put it back. If you don’t recognize the majority of the ingredients or can’t pronounce them put them back. Try to eat as many whole foods as possible: vegetables, fruit, legumes, beans, rice, nuts and seeds, EVOO and yes even potatoes. Try some home made granola for a great snack.
Challenge #5: Reduce Sugar Intake
Your final challenge is to reduce your sugar intake. It is almost impossible to avoid it in our Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) but you can really go a long one way reducing it from your body. Funny thing about sugar too, is when you cut it out as much as possible, that brain fog lifts and you are like, “oh there I am ” and then the possibilities are endless. The American Heart Association says people should not consume more than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day. That is less than what is in one can of soda. So how do you think we are doing? Exactly. The average American consumes over 125 pounds of sugar per year! Holy crap that makes me itch just thinking about it. Take this challenge seriously folks if you want to avoid or reverse type II diabetes, heart disease, stroke, brain fog, leaky gut, autoimmune disorders…Again read your labels.Sugar is hiding in everything, tomato sauce, condiments, pasta… Better yet go for whole foods. When not possible just please choose carefully. People ask “well, what do I sweeten my coffee with, what can I have for a sweet fix…?” Notice I never said eliminate coffee? A collective sigh of relief is heard. I have no problem with coffee it is the way people bastardize it that kills me. They dump sugar or artifice sweeteners in and top it with creamer of some sort (more sugar and other ickiness). Use whole milk or better yet almond milk, if you need that creaminess. Use coconut sugar or a drop or two of stevia if you have to sweeten it or learn to love it straight up. For a sweet fix, try a piece or two of dark chocolate, at least 70% cacao. Try some dark chocolate covered almonds or whole milk plain yogurt with homemade granola and berries perhaps with a touch of raw honey. Or eat a bowl of berries
If you do these challenges and are successful, I can promise you will feel better, have more energy, start shedding some weight and have greater clarity. And what’s more you will want to do more to further your new well being even further along. Which is great because there will be another challenge in a few months. these will include adding upon these nutritional changes with some lifestyle modifications. Do these too and you will be unstoppable! Stay tuned…
IF YOU MADE IT DOWN HERE YOU ARE EITHER A REALLY GOOD FRIEND OR YOU ARE REALLY SERIOUS ABOUT YOUR HEALTH AND IN THE CASE OF THE LATTER, YOU ARE DETERMINED TO SUCCEED AND SO YOU WILL!