September Clean Eats Sweeps Challenge: Week 1

Clean Eating Dinner #1

Clean Eating Dinner #1 – Cilantro lime chicken, coconut basmati brown rice and bacon brussels sprouts

On August 31 a friend told me about a clean eating challenge she was starting on September 1. I’d been thinking about doing a cleanse anyways so I signed up because this challenge included the support of other women via a private Facebook group, plus there was a chance for the biggest loser to win the pot of $20 entry fees which I thought would help motivate me.  We are to eat as clean as possible which means cutting out anything processed, including alcohol. I actually signed up for this on a long weekend thinking the start date was two days away. When I actually realized that I was supposed to cut out booze in a middle of a long weekend I made a concession that I would start the no alcohol thing after the long weekend but still eat clean. All went well and my first meal was delicious!

Since I signed up so quickly, it didn’t occur to me that I had lots of dinner plans coming up in the next week. Again, more concessions were made and I allowed myself one drink at each dinner as long as I still ate as clean as I could at a restaurant. I felt pretty good about this in the past week because I still wanted to enjoy life even though I was doing this challenge. In the past when I’ve done cleanses they’ve been very strict so it was nice to have a little leeway this time. It was interesting though when halfway through the week the challenge organizer made a survey asking what our goal was – to lose weight, to get more energy, to get a better understanding of clean eating? I  couldn’t pick an answer because even though I was thinking of doing a cleanse, I really couldn’t define my end goal. I originally thought it might be nice to lose weight, if I lose 5 pounds I’ll be at my high school weight, which is pretty awesome for turning 30 in just over a month! But having a sole goal of weight loss has never worked for me.

Me at age 20, nearly 200 pounds

Even when I was close to 200 pounds, my goal was to be healthy. I educated myself about nutrition, how calories worked and tried to be more active. Even though I was very overweight, I didn’t have a goal about how much weight I wanted to lose, I just wanted to create a healthy lifestyle for myself. It worked because within a year of starting I dropped about 40 pounds and have kept it off ever since. Then last September I did a naturopath prescribed anti-inflammatory diet to heal my digestive system. I cut out all refined and processed foods including dairy, alcohol and only ate chicken breast, turkey and some fish. I ate a tonne of veggies and a little bit of fruit and some nuts and grains. In the beginning I couldn’t even have carrots or blueberries because they had too much sugar but slowly worked them back into my diet. My goal then was to become healthy and heal my digestive system, but in the course of eating like that for over 6 weeks, I lost another 20 pounds without even trying. Well, I should say, I lost 20 pounds even though that wasn’t my goal, eating like that was a challenge and took a lot of preparation.

Thinking about these past two weight loss experiences made me realize that just focusing on losing pounds isn’t going to work for me. As soon as I go on a diet, I feel like I’m restricting myself and in turn, want to eat all the things! I’m much better at making lifestyle changes by adding more of the good things into my diet and increasing my activity levels. That reflection has led me to determine that my goal is to cut out garbage food again because it has crept back into my diet over the summer and significantly reduce the amount of alcohol I drink. I hope to gain energy and an increased sense of well being which will help get me through my busy time at work and if I happen to lose some weight in the process, that is great. I want to wake up on my 30th birthday knowing that this is the best I have ever felt in my life!

I’ll check in next week to report on my progress to see if any weight loss actually happens. Today I’m sitting at 135.5 pounds which is up .5 pounds from last week. I do already feel better though and that is really what I’m after.

The power of movement

I am constantly reminded of the importance of moving my body and how quickly it can change my mood. Beyond the physical benefits of an active lifestyle, movement lifts me up, shifts my mood and reduces stressed.  I really don’t move my body to get a workout, but am happy get one in the process. I mainly move for enjoyment. Hooping, walking my dog, dancing or practicing yoga give me so much more than a fit body.

Movement Manages Stress

Hooping in the sun, always makes me feel better.

Managing stress is incredibly important. Like most people, I can get very busy “doing” and life can get overwhelming. Before I know it, that stress turns into anxiety and I can be a bit of a basket case but a 15 minute hoop session can change that almost immediately. My mind becomes clear, I can focus and I feel like I can take everything on. I truly can, too, and I’m more motivated to keep on going.

I’ve tried different ways to deal with my ever increasing workload; working through lunch, after hours in the evening and even on weekends. Working all the time was successful in that I got through everything I needed to but was so run down by the end of it, I became sick and was bedridden for two weeks – during my much needed vacation. I realized pushing through it and not taking time for myself wasn’t working. I’m going through my busy season right now and feel much more balance and healthy with lunch time hoop sessions, evening yoga classes and regular walks with my dog.

Movement Manages Mood

When the blah’s strike and I can’t be bothered to do anything about it except wallow in my sorrows, I often pick up my hoop, sweat a little and my frown is instantly turned upside down. My disposition completely changes and I begin to view things through a sunny lens rather than a cloudy one. It’s so easy to change, I just wish I would always remember this.

Movement is a catalyst for altering your mood. Emotions (energy in motion) are just chemicals and energy in our body, waiting to be expressed and released. If we don’t move our bodies, the emotions get stuck and build up. When we move and breathe, these emotions are un-stuck and our subtle energy, also known as chi or prana, flows through our body freely. To me, this is the whole purpose of the physical practice of yoga. That’s why you feel so great during savasana at the end of a yoga class, you’ve made space for all that prana (life force energy) to flow through all of your cells.

Think about it like this – when there is a kink in a hose, water gets backed up and pools and if there is too much pressure, eventually it could burst – ever blow up at someone when you’re mad? As soon as you release the kink, there is a spurt of water and it flows freely once more. Moving the human body is like unkinking the hose and letting our energy escape and flow free. If we don’t make space for the energy to move through us, over time, it will create dis-ease in our bodies, also known as disease. So many physical ailments can be prevented simply by moving. For me, movement is essential to remain healthy on the physical, mental and emotional levels.

The next time you’re feeling stressed or feeling down, get up and get moving. Find something you love to do that makes you breathe deep and sweat a little. Going for a run, a swim, a bike ride – even dancing in your living room or doing a few stretches will work. Take that time for yourself and give that energy inside of you a place to move. I can almost guarantee you will feel better than you did before you started!