Today, June 30th, is technically the last day of my How to Eat Challenge. Technically. I’m not completely done with the challenge, but having spent the past month practicing these behaviors, it’s a perfect day to review How to Eat Challenge.
Whole30 heavily influenced this challenge, and I’m transitioning out of challenge mode like Whole30. After thirty days, you don’t just add everything back and eat all the things again. You test things out and see how your body responds.
So this next month, I’ll be testing out certain aspects we gave up during June. How does my body respond when I relax some of the criteria? Some, I admit, I kind of already know the answer to. I wasn’t perfect in executing these behaviors all month. More than once I caved and snacked after dinner. I even snacked late at night a few times, too.
This challenge isn’t to judge ourselves, though. At least, not judge in a sense of guilting and shaming ourselves. It’s to use our behaviors as data. Which habits are super hard to practice? Which ones improved our health and fitness the most? Are there any you want to practice further? And are there any you know you need practice practicing?
Review What Was Super Hard With the How to Eat Challenge
Let me say, the one eating habit I really didn’t expect to be so difficult was sitting down to eat for thirty minutes each meal. Now, the dinner meal was very enjoyable. But breakfast and lunch? I did not see the challenges and obstacles coming.
If you want a clear look at how packed your day is, schedule thirty minutes out of your day to sit and eat a meal. Oh, and no media (television, phone, or computer) during your meals, either. I thought this would be an enjoyable activity for me, but no. It was super hard.
Even lowering the criteria to twenty minutes didn’t make it much easier. While part of me feels that this may be a clue to not schedule so much, I think this is one habit I’ll be kicking to the curb soon after my testing phase. The only thing practicing eating slowly and without inputs did (for breakfast and lunch) was create a bit more anxiety about how much stuff I had to do, and not enough time to do it.
Reviewing Benefits of How to Eat
I stated from Week 2 that my favorite new eating habit was sitting down for our dinner together without media interrupting our Love 1.0 time. But as far as health benefits, this one may not top the list, but it definitely improved my relationship.
I think fasting from dinner to at least an hour after I wake up (I aim for 2 hours, but I give allowances for special circumstances) is one of the best habits for my health. Fasting after dinner means I stop eating almost 5 hours before I go to bed. My sleep has been amazing this month. And I think fasting is a major factor. (Chris kicking the cats out of the bedroom may have had an impact as well.)
Plastic Packaging and Processed Foods
I also think the “no plastic packaging” and “no processed or pre-made meals” helped tremendously, too. It’s hard to say that, though, as I’ve been practicing reducing my single-use plastics for years. And the same goes for processed foods. I have had my allowances over the years (Epic bars, Lara bars, Kind bars…are you sensing a theme?). But this challenge, I kicked even these “healthy” options to the curb. One, they are wrapped in plastic. I mean, really. I work on eliminating plastic from my diet and no processed foods, but I allow plastic processed snacks? Because they are deemed “healthy”?
I do still love the convenience of those snack bars. But this challenge showed me they aren’t remotely necessary. I ate so well this month. And I had some delicious snacks I created without sugar, except from applesauce and the berries I added. One was a coconut milk mousse, which honestly might be my new favorite treat for the summer. A perfect replacement for sugary ice cream. And the other treat was the rhubarb crumble, made with almond flour, pecans, and other yummies; but absolutely no sugar or high sugar fruits (like bananas, pineapple, or dates).
So, my body benefits from practicing these ideals. More and more research I’m doing shows that going plastic-free is as healthy as someone gluten-intolerant eliminating gluten from their diet. And it has a profound impact on the environment. Since most plastic isn’t recycled (even if it is recyclable and you put it in the recycling container), reducing our consumption of plastic can help create a better, safer world for us, our community, and all the critters we share this planet.
Make a Habit of How to Eat
Love 1.0 Time
The most obvious habit I want more practice on is going plastic-free. Considering July is “Plastic-Free July”, this seems like a no-brainer. But the one I’m most excited to continue is the sitting down for dinner without media. I thought this was going to be hard, because Chris and I love watching little bits of shows, movies, or even YouTube videos together. And before this challenge, I used to roll my eyes whenever Chris suggested we eat dinner at the table. I just want to veg out and watch something entertaining. But now, man, it’s a habit I think has a profound impact on my mental well-being, if not my physical health.
I also want to continue practicing Meatless Mondays. As we are bringing back quite a few foods into our diet which lowered our protein intake during this challenge, I don’t think this is an issue. I still have a dozen tuna cans in the cupboard, but we can slow down eating tuna now that we are reintroducing chickpeas, eggs, and a little bit of grains (oats are no bueno for us, but rice is okay, as is couscous). However, I like the stance of deliberately practicing no meat or animal products one day a week. If we decide to allow cheese or any kind of dairy back into our diet, I think eliminating it once a week won’t kill us. We went a whole month…
Logging You Meals
And finally, I want to continue practicing logging my food before I eat it. This habit helps me balance my protein, carbs, and fats better than just logging them whenever I remember. I can tweak what I’m about to eat to include more nutrients I need, and I’ve been able to resist temptation more when I have that Bright Line of “log it before you eat it”.
Review What Needs More Practice With How to Eat
What habit do I need more practice at? That’s a no-brainer for me. Definitely the Bright Line of “no eating after dinner” or “no late-night snacking”.
Lesson in Cooking at Night
Over the course of the month, summer descended upon us, and I wanted to use the oven less and less. This is an environmental aspect, and a comfort aspect. Heating the oven uses a lot of energy. And it heats up our entire apartment. But some of my recipes required baking in the oven. I figured if I cooked these recipes at night, when the sun went down, it would be cool enough to use the oven.
I was partly right. It was cool enough to use the oven. But cooking delicious food late at night was way too tempting for me. I almost always sampled my creations. Which, if you do the math means I was eating not just after dinner, but right before I wanted to go to bed. This was a lose-lose situation.
So, I want to continue practicing this habit. Learn from my miss-takes. If I want to bake something, try early morning (while it’s still cool enough to use the oven), or try different cooking methods (grilling, crock-pot, frying in a skillet). And cook at times when I have a stronger willpower or when it won’t mess with my balance too much.
Reinforcing Healthy Alternative Behaviors
Another reason I want a do-over on this healthy habit is so I can incorporate what I call HAB (Healthy Alternative Behavior). This is a practice I am establishing to help others eliminate problem habits or behaviors within themselves.
HAB has origins in the animal training field. Us nerdy animal professionals call it “Differential Reinforcement of Incompatible or Other Behavior”. I feel pretentious just saying that. I really want to delve more into this topic on a whole separate blog (it’s been on my “to-Write list” for weeks), so I won’t say much more about it. But practicing the “no late-night snacking” habit is a wonderful opportunity for me to practice what I preach.
How to Eat Challenge Review
At the beginning of the month, I weighed myself and measured my waist. I then weighed myself daily, in the morning, and measured my waist once a week, on Sundays.
The results were pretty promising. I lost a total of 6.4 pounds and .5 inches off my waist. Maybe it doesn’t sound like a lot for a month of work, but it is a positive change.
My sleep has improved. I was averaging only eight hours in bed before this challenge, which means I was getting less than 7 hours sleep, most likely. Now I’m in bed for an average of 8.7 hours, and I’m likely getting 7.5 to 8 hours sleep a night.
The only thing that hasn’t improved, as far as I can tell is my workouts. However, this is a tricky situation. I injured my bicep tendon earlier last month (mid May), and it has made working out a bit difficult. We did get Chris his own bicycle, though, so now we have a super fun activity we can do together for cardio exercise. And my shoulder is slowly getting better (oh so slowly, like slower than a snail). So, if I keep up my intentions and habits, I will likely have better data for that, too.
I’m excited about this concept of a challenge, and how it relates to ZooFit. It’s a completely different approach to eating, one that often isn’t explored as much as what to eat.
I do think a whole month with these super strict guidelines might be a little too much for most people. I want to tweak some of the habits, and play with time-frames a little to see where the sweet spot is for length, criteria, and benefits for your health. Of course, I also want to connect it all back to not just our health, but the health of the planet. If people don’t see why the connection is so important, then they aren’t my target for ZooFit.
I’m excited to see where this challenge goes. It might become a book,, similar to the ZooFit Safari, or an online fitness challenge. Who knows? It was a great project for me, and I look forward to sharing its evolution with you all.
Take care, and thanks for your support. Eat clean, live green, train positive.