“How We Eat” Challenge (or How30)

In Michael Pollan’s book Food Rules, he mentions that how we eat has as much bearing on our health and well-being as what we eat. So many diets out there focus 100% on what to eat. But not as many focus on the how.

In fact, searching for images to share relating to the topic of how we eat proved to be fruitless. There are no images associated with how we eat. It all focuses on what to eat- vegan, keto, healthy fats, no sugar, and a dozen different diets came up. But nothing on “how” to eat our food.

Challenge Our Eating Habits

Once in a while, I come up with an idea that has such great potential to change my life, and through ZooFit, change the life of others. This occurred recently when Chris and I finished a recent run through the Whole30 program. We spent a longer time on the reintroduction phase than normal, as we really wanted to hone in on how our bodies reacted to certain foods.

If you aren’t familiar with Whole30, you can check it out here. Basically, you remove many problematic food groups from your diet for a month. This month is sort of like hitting “reset” on your body. After the thirty days, you slowly and methodically reintroduce those foods to your diet. Using the reintroduction period as a science experiment, observe how your body reacts and responds to those foods.

This last time Chris and I completed the program, we determined exactly why sugar is no good for us. I could feel the inflammation in my knees increase. Chris was constantly hungry all day. And both of us just couldn’t stop eating. This experience sealed the deal for us and gave us a concrete reason to avoid sugar from here on out.

How We Eat

One thing that has been repeating in my head over and over the past month. “It’s not just what you eat, but how you eat.” In the ZooFit household, our nutrition is dialed in so tight, you can bounce a quarter off of it. I mean, our refrigerator is bursting with fresh veggies. Our cupboard has absolutely no processed foods (outside tuna, which yes, I get is technically processed, but it isn’t produced or made in a factory). If we want a special treat, like Dragon Ball Zs, or Rustic Almond Loaf , we make it ourselves.

We have 5 drawers dedicated to fruits and veggies, and we are still overflowing

So we eat super healthy. But I still struggle with my HtWR (height to waist ratio). I am also focused on my weight in regard to two Energy related goals I have. Reduce the impact on my knees, and perform a strict pull-up. Less weight makes both of these goals a bit easier.

But if our nutrition is so dialed in, why am I struggling so much. Well, a coaching call with Bright Line Eating program, Susan Peirce Thompson helped answer that question. Susan commented that for some people, telling them they can eat however much of healthy foods is not great advice. In her own words “I could eat a bucket of raisins and walnuts”. I found myself nodding emphatically. Yes, I could eat a bucket of raisins and walnuts, too. Which, in everyone’s defense, is considered healthy foods by many experts. But not a bucket.

I could eat a bucket of these healthy foods…

I’m really coming to a stark realization that what you eat is important. But, just like Michael Pollan says, the how has as much bearing as the what.

Whole30? More like How30

Which leads me to my idea. What if I took the Whole30 challenge of reseting my body for a month, but instead of focusing on what I’m eating, I reset my habits around eating?

What would happen if I spent the whole month not eating in front of a computer? How could eliminating plastic completely from my diet help my eating habits? Could fasting from 5pm until 10am improve my sleep, and my metabolism? How should I eat to fuel myself rather than feed myself?

Our eating habits affect so much about our bodies. They affect our workouts. Our sleep depends a lot on how we eat. The food we eat affects our mood, our energy, our creativity. We can eat to fuel ourselves, our focus, and our health. Wouldn’t you like to figure out how to create your best life and develop a healthy relationship with food?

And that’s how I came up with the “How We Eat” Challenge, or How30. For the whole month of June, I’m going to focus on eating habits. I will challenge myself to adhere to very strict and somewhat difficult standards for how I eat. After a month, I will slowly and methodically reintroduce my old ways of eating to see what effects they truly have on my well-being.

The Challenge

My first inclination was to create different tiers to accommodate everyone where they are in the spectrum of difficulty. But that kind of defeats the purpose of a “challenge”. Whole30 doesn’t have a beginner’s level where dairy, or grains, or sugar is okay for some people. Their only exception allowance is for vegans who need additional options for protein (no legumes or grains makes it kind of hard to eat enough protein).

So, this How We Eat Challenge doesn’t have tiers, or levels. But in the ZooFit fashion, I do encourage you to make this challenge your own. If it really is truly utterly impossible to sit down to eat every single meal for thirty minutes, okay. But to just say, “I can’t reserve thirty minutes for every meal, so I won’t do it at all”, well, that’s just a perfectionist attitude. We’re going for optimalist. If you can’t do the challenge perfectly, find a level for you that is good enough. “Every day isn’t feasible, but I can commit, for this challenge, every lunch I will sit down for thirty minutes, and four dinners a week I will have a family dinner.”

The Guidelines

  • Sit down for every meal
  • Eat slowly, taking thirty minutes for each meal. There are several ways to accomplish this. Put your fork down between bites. Sip water between bites. Chew your food enough to actually liquify it (this is from an Indian proverb: Drink your food, chew your drink).
  • Turn electronics/digital devices off while eating
  • Fast after your last meal for at least 12 hours. I am going for 16 hours, having my last meal at 5pm and going until at least 9am before eating.
  • No eating while driving
  • Make all your meals yourself. I get that this one is a doozy for some people. This is one you may need to level out. If you normally get your breakfast on-the-go, maybe challenge yourself this month to eat breakfast at home.
  • No take-out
  • No pre-prepared/pre-cooked/processed meals from the supermarket.
  • Follow Whole30 guidelines with exceptions for those who already follow a healthy-for-them lifestyle. I’m looking at you, Keto-followers, Bright Line Eaters, and anyone else who has dialed in their “what I eat” habits. For others, Whole30 restricts all sweeteners (including honey, stevia, and monk fruit), legumes, grains, dairy (with an allowance for Ghee), and baked goods.
  • Log meals completely before eating
  • Practice Meatless Mondays, or at least one day a week with no animal products.
  • If you get hungry between meals, drink at least 6 ounces water before snacking
  • Eat in a way to conserve the environment and preserve the planet. Eat less meat, more veggies. Buy locally produced foods (support local farms). Avoid foods with palm oil (and sugar). Go plastic-free (or as much as possible).

Ready, Set, Eat

I feel this is a pretty comprehensive list. But if I think of other guidelines which I feel affect our eating habits and lifestyle, I’ll add them.

I start this challenge on June 1. That’s a week to prepare, and get going. June is only 30 days (perfect for How30). It also happens to be the perfect day to start something new- a Monday. I will go 30 days with these eating guidelines. After that I will reintroduce some of the eating habits I used to practice and see how my body reacts and how it affects my energy and my work.

Join me if you like. I will be sharing daily on social media (Facebook , Twitter) but also sharing helpful tips throughout the month here on my blog. Be sure to subscribe to stay up-to-date with how the month is going.

Will this be hard? Yes. Will it be insightful and life-changing? Indubitably.

Because challenges make us stronger. Thirty days to change your relationship with food and optimize your life is nothing. Let’s do this. Together.

5 Responses

  1. This is great! I have a lot of the things down, but the idea of turning off all electronics while I eat is… OK, so I’ll just say it’s a good idea. It’s going to be a bit of a challenge.

    1. It’s something I really have to concentrate on, because my default mode is to plop into my chair and turn on my computer. But keeping my mind on the task I’m performing is actually not just helping me with my eating habits, but in other areas, too. Focusing on what’s important now. What’s important now? And giving it my whole attention.

  2. When I need to reset my eating habits, I commit to no eating after 8 p.m. My sleep is much better, I feel true hunger during the day (instead of a vague need to munch), etc. Maybe I could move that up an hour or so? Food for thought!

    1. Oh, my sleep is so much better when I’ve fasted for a few hours. And yes, learning what true hunger is helps step between stimulus and response. I’m accustomed to the “I see food, I eat food”, and I often don’t pay attention to why I’m eating. Recognizing what hunger feels like helps differentiate. Thanks for that.

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