80 day no cheat challenge

So, I have decided to do something crazy. Something I have never successfully done for more than four weeks.

I have decided to complete a “no cheat challenge” for a total of 80 days. It just so happened to work out to be 80 days total, because we started the challenge on September 4th, and we are going to have our cheat day be Thanksgiving, which is November 23rd this year.

 80 days without a cheat day? (Everyone in my life was like, “um you are nuts”).

What type of rules you ask?

1.     No eating out/no take out (Goodbye fish tacos from my local taco shop)

2.     No bread (mostly Gluten-Free)

3.     Largely reduced cheese/dairy consumption

4.     No beer (Goodbye Ballast Point)

5.     Staying under our set daily caloric limit (1700 for me, 2200 for JP)

6.     Smaller, more frequent meals

Let me explain some of my reasonings behind these decisions and the specific rules. Number one is blatantly obvious, eating out isn’t the best thing to do for yourself, especially when you have food allergies.

I admit, even someone like me, who already doesn’t eat out often, living in a large city like San Diego, it can be tempting just to order taco shop, or stop at my local smoothie/health food restaurant while I run errands. Even though I typically make health conscience decisions at these locations, I am not controlling what is entering my body. Even healthy items can be deceptive, working against your health goals.

The second rule is probably controversial. HEAR ME OUT PEOPLE. So, a couple years ago when I was having issues with my gallbladder (that has since been removed) I was tested for celiac disease. The test was negative, but it was possible for me to have sensitivities to gluten products. I have gone gluten-free in the past, and I noticed that my skin was much clearer, and I was forced to replace more items in my meals with vegetables as a default, which in turn made me a lot more energetic.

I love bread. Love it. At this moment, I am dreaming of a crisp slice of sourdough, sprinkled with olive oil and a smear of fresh ricotta. But a huge part of the challenge for me is to compare how different our lives are without gluten for a bit. I am assuming less tasty, but we shall see.

Jake is not joining me in this portion of the challenge completely. He absolutely refuses, as he is terrified of giving himself of a food allergy. I am completely sure he is just being over- dramatic, but I choose not to argue with him on that one. One of his favorite snacks is a handful of pretzels, and I wouldn’t dare take that away from him. He will however be taking part in the no bread section of the challenge. Believe me, telling him he couldn’t have bread for eighty days was like a knife in the gut, I had to allow him his pretzels.

So for the dairy portion. BUM BUM BUMMMMM. This is the part of the challenge that I hate. Despise. Curse.

Cheese is an extension of me (shout out to my home state Wisconsin, best cheese in the Nation baby!). I choose cheese over everything. Doughnut or burrata? Burrata. Crispy bread or cheddar cheese? Cheddar cheese. Taco or---let's not get crazy, tacos win every time. 

Even though all things cheese are my jam, it is necessary that I cut my consumption down immensely.

I went dairy-free a few months ago as a short challenge to myself, and I discovered I cannot go completely dairy-free. I am not sure what it was (maybe some dairy-free readers can shed some light), but not having any dairy at all, I was bloated, and ended up giving myself some other issues. So dairy stays in the diet! Which is great, because I am obsessed with Greek Yogurt, and cheese is life.

Although allowed in the challenge, we are not allowed to have more than one to two serving sizes of cheese per day. I have a terrible habit of having “snacking” cheese on hand in the fridge, and before I know it, I have consumed 600 calories in 10 minutes. Not sure anyone outside of the state of Wisconsin has a "cheese drawer" or "snacking cheeses", but I highly recommend it (I mean, no, don't do that). 

No beer. Sigh, this one was not entirely difficult to add to the list, but a sad addition as we love craft beer. We would always enjoy a few on Friday nights after grocery shopping to relax while binge watching Netflix. Beer is not only included in the “no gluten” rule, but it is filled with empty calories, which isn't great when you are attempting to lose weight. My favorite, Ballast Point beer is a whopping 240 calories per 12 oz, which on an average short run, I would barely burn those calories off!

We aren’t cutting out alcohol entirely, we are allowing ourselves a couple glasses of red wine every few weeks. Half the calories, and there are many benefits to having a glass of Pinot Noir every so often. Or so they say...

Number five. I have mentioned calories a lot in the last few paragraphs, that is because I have gone back to my roots of my version of “dieting” (which I never use the term "diet" by the way) which is counting calories. This is the one I would like to discuss in detail, because I feel the need to explain why I thought my need to count calories was an abysmal failure.

I struggled with the decision to count calories before we started this challenge. I lost 80 pounds last year without the restrictions of a 1700 calorie limit, surely, it wasn’t necessary to count my calories while reaching the second half of my goal weight.

I was wrong.

I tried this summer you guys, I really did. It hurts to write this, but I was at a loss for what to do with myself. I was working out, eating well, but the pounds wouldn’t budge. I had to face myself with what I knew all along. I am not that girl. I am not the girl that can eat whatever she wants. I am not the girl that can run 1 mile and down a plate of food without thinking twice. I am the girl that needs to work out five to six days a week, without skipping. I am the girl that must watch everything she puts in her body. I am the girl that needs to count calories (for now).

I made a few promises to myself going into the challenge. I wasn’t going to be unhealthy with my food control. If I went over my calorie limit by a little bit, I wasn’t going to feel defeated, or like I cheated. I have found that anyone I have spoken to, who has attempted to lose weight, or changing their eating habits has failed after trying to limit themselves too much.

It has happened to me firsthand! I have been attempting to lose weight and reach that “goal” since I was 13 years old. I am going to tell you right now: it won’t work until you are 100% mentally ready. Everyone says this, and it is the one piece of healthy/weight loss information that I can confidently tell you is entirely factual.

What I enjoy about counting calories is that it helps me visualize serving sizes, and it programs my brain to automatically make healthier choices. Think of it like this, you can have a pile of carrots with a half cup of Greek yogurt with spices for dipping, for under 150 calories, or you could have literally 1.5 ounces of cheddar cheese. Which snack is going to fill you up?

Which brings me to number six, smaller, more frequent meals. This is something Jake and I strive for all the time, but I wanted to make a point to make sure we were eating every 3 to 3.5 hours. This helps control your appetite (i.e. get to the point of so hungry you immediately want naughty food), and it boosts your metabolism.

If you have followed my blog, or just know me as a person, you know I love to snack. The smaller meals help me especially, since I tend to want to pick at things every few hours. This satisfies my need to snack, and makes sure that I am not particularly famished before meals, which prevents overeating.

This challenge is going to be difficult, because it is just the beginning to another life style change for me. Losing weight and overhauling your life to a fit one is tough for many of us.

I can tell you first hand when I embarked on my journey two years ago, I was afraid. I was afraid I was going to fail yet again. And I have. And I will. Failure is a part of life. But the crucial factor in living a fit life is to remember to pick yourself up immediately after you fall off the wagon.

I worked tirelessly for a year and a half to lose weight. I lost a little over 80 pounds, and then took almost a full year off working out religiously. Everything I had worked for disappeared, my muscle definition, but fitness strides (i.e. miles I was able to run or weight I was able to lift), all gone.

Before and After | shutupeatthis.com

Left: February 2016                                                  Right: September 2014

I was heartbroken. How was I so dedicated, yet so willing to give up the minute there was an interruption in my life (moving to California from the Midwest)? I was stronger than that.

This challenge is just kick off to reaching my goal once more.

The difficult part about losing weight, or leading a healthy lifestyle, is it is 100% mental. You need to be prepared to fight the urges, you must be willing to put in the work. Meal prep, workouts, reading labels, being present when making daily decisions. It is all work. I do not want to lie to you, and tell you this is simple. It isn’t easy, but it does get easier to manage once you make a commitment.

I am going to commit to demolishing this challenge.

Day 1 down.

79 more to go.

I already want bread.