It’s here, Monday morning (Friday as you are reading this). It's Monday for me but do you know why this morning rocks?! I just woke up after the most restful night’s sleep under the stars, slept in until 8am, took a dip in a hot spring, a cold plunge, and a sauna, ran for 30 minutes with my wonderful husband and now I am sitting here with a hot cup of coffee on our climbing crash pad under the morning sky, writing this.
I don’t think it gets much better. Did I mention that we also have the best view?!
Yesterday was the last day (day 21) of the Emfit challange.
I am free as a bird to go get a doughnut if I want to. I might just do that, but that’s not the point – and that also was not the point of the challenge. It’s not why Emily put it on and it’s not why I did it. I participated in the challenge to satisfy a little bit of my competitive nature, to support a friend, and to take the opportunity to challenge myself to cleanse from sugar, take a break from alcohol, cut out dairy, grains and expirement with how my body responds to a higher fat diet. Most of these things, like cutting out junk, I see as a long-term lifestyle and we have made that a part of our lives for years now. I was getting lazy about sugar, gluten, and dairy and it was a great opportunity to bring awareness back to where I want to be with those.
Today I am going to write about how the challenge went, how we felt, how cutting out each food went and what we plan to do with our diets moving forward (and when I say “we,” I mostly mean me, but my husband too).
For the past 21 days, we have eliminated all sugar, gluten, bad oils, grains (except white rice and corn), dairy, alcohol (except a couple of special glasses of wine), and have drank about a gallon of water a day, kept each other on track, taken a fish oil supplement and have tried to go to bed by 9:30/10:00pm.
Just as I broke each section down in this post, I will also go through each part of the challenge and recap with my conclusions as they stand now.
Because, truly, for us, this is a lifestyle and has been a lifestyle for quite some time. did not have to radically shift our food choices, but we did make some changes that had a big impact on our daily life (like adding in more meat and cutting out beans and grains). There are some things we want to bring back into our diet (like grains- even for health reasons), and there are some things that we are happy to keep out (like sugar).
Without further adue, Let’s dive in.
Overall Feelings on the Challenge
Honestly guys, we didn’t feel very good. There were good aspects and then the negative aspects. We are both pretty darn close to having chizzled six packs – that’s pretty good. I also feel like I have gained a bit of muscle on my arms and that’s really good. I weighed a pound heavier this morning than when I started the challenge. That doesn’t count for much, but my pants fit a little bit looser around the waist and since I didn’t loose any weight, maybe even gained a pound or two, I think it is safe to say that I most likely have increased my muscle mass and decreased my body fat. My workouts can attest to gaining strength. As far as physical goals (mines to get stronger, Ian’s is to lean out a bit), the challenge was a win over all and set us up for success.
But how we have felt for the past three weeks is a different story. We felt crabby, hangry, light headed, tired, delusional and out of focus. I would write down the wrong word all of the time, say the wrong thing, forget things and make silly mistakes. We woke up feeling achy and tired, even after 7-8 hours of sleep. We felt heavy and sluggish – but light headed at the same time. I never really felt soaring energy. And we were kind of irritable with each other, especially in the early evening. My calories were even higher than before the challenge so I don’t think this “hangry-ness” was for lack of calories.
How much of this is a result of what we were eating (or not eating) is not really apparent. We have had a lot of stress in our lives that could be responsible for feeling tired and we have had extremely physically demanding work and workouts that could be responsible for the achiness. That being said, we had all of these stressors for months before the challenge started and felt much better then than we did through the challanve. I have a lot of ideas on why this is, and I will address them below.
My main concern is that my IBS has been back since we started the challenge – literally from day 1 to 22. I used to struggle with IBS while I was running cross country, about 5 years ago. It went away, and then came back a year or two after that. My running really suffered, and still does suffer for it from time to time. During this challenge, if I go for a run, I have been getting massive stomach cramps that can lay me down for hours. And my digestive track on the regular has not been healthy. My IBS was so much better before this challenge and I was really bummed to see it come back, especially since a diet of meat, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats often works really well for people with IBS.
All I have to say about this part of the challenge is that I love the no sugar thing and I appreciate how careful it made me be with added sugar in things like protein bars, jerky, etc. I don’t think anyone needs sugar in their lives and at home only use honey or maple syrup. I will bring back the occasional dessert out, treat, or protein bar with sugar. I also love to bake, so I will probably be using date sugar, coconut sugar, etc. for baking at home. But overall, I think everyone should think about getting the sugar out of their daily, or weekly, maybe even monthly diet.
Easy as (gluten free) pie. I have not had any trouble getting rid of gluten in my life. I didn’t eat a lot of it before aside from toast and some sandwiches. All of our meals were free of gluten, and a lot of my baking was as well. I just took out bread. My husband is definitely bringing back regular gluten, he has really missed bread. I believe I will eat some too sometimes, but overall, I don’t miss wheat.
No Bad Oil
I don’t have much to say here other than industrial oil is terrible and we shouldn’t eat it. I strived to keep it out of my diet before the challenge and will do so afterward. Bad oils are responsible for a lot of our health issues and there is really no reason we should be eating them.
I didn’t really commit to this one. There were a couple of occasions that I knew I wanted to drink on before the challenge and we are on our only vacation of the summer. I didn’t drink every day, nor every week. But I did have a couple of glasses of wine and a cocktail. I think there is space for a glass of wine in a healthy diet. It was nice to take a conscious break from booze and enjoy social activities without it.
I should say, we still used some half and half in our coffee that we had in the fridge as well as some butter/ghee. I didn’t miss other dairy one bit and don’t plan on brining it back into my diet at home. We traded out all dairy for coconut milk, and coconut cream in our coffee and I am happy with that. I might make an exception if someone else cooks a meal, but maybe not. I was vegan for a long time so this was easy for me. I don’t really miss dairy and I kind of like not eating it.
Taking Fish Oil
I haven’t noticed any difference from taking fish oil, too early to tell if it’s worth the money for me. We have a diet that is already high in omega-3s, but I was interested to see if taking a supplement would help workout recovery. I plan to keep taking it for a while, I still think it’s a great idea but for us to keep it up financially, I really have to see a strong benefit.
The challenge is to drink a half gallon of water each day. I blew past this by 12 o’clock. I usually drink about a gallon a day. I lot of my work is outside and I seem to just need it and want it.
Checking In with a buddy
My husband was my buddy, so I was constantly checking in. I loved that this challenge presented a community of like-minded and health goal oriented people. It is probably my favorite aspect of what Emily has set up. I think more than just having support for successful changes, the world needs a cultural shift that celebrates choices that are good for our health and she achieved this. Moving forward with this idea, we used to have community potlucks and my husband ran a handful of community gardens. I think that having a group of people who like to cook and eat good food, make healthy choices together, and support each other in the process of growing and cooking food from scratch is really important.
Going To Bed Early
For the most part, we were pretty good about this. Towards the end of the challenge, we got caught up a couple of times and stayed awake until 11/12pm. We were also finishing up the renovations on the basement of our house, so that was responsible for a lot of the crunch-time stress and late night bedtimes. We definitely plan on continuing to stick to an early bedtime and create a regular structure around sleeping.
No Grains/Beans (except white rice)
I wanted to challenge myself a little more than that challenge did, so I added this along with the no dairy thing. I didn’t miss grains all that much. However, I did get really sick of eating meat at almost every meal and that’s not really a practice that I think is ethical or healthful. I think I will add back in grains and beans to allow us to take meat out.
I did love that I replaced much of my grains and beans with vegetables and I hope to find the balance that lets us take some meat out but forces us to keep giant plates of vegetables in. For example, instead of toast with my eggs, I was eating plates full of salad with eggs on top. So awesome.
I think how awful we felt is largely due to the low carbohydrates in our diets. I would time carbs around meals and then have some later in the day while out gardening. My husband ate more than I did, but we both cut our carb consumption in half if not a little bit more. We have a lot of stress and we have a lot of physical demands, I just don’t think that low carb is good for our lifestyle right now. We felt sluggish with a ton of fat in our diet, I never felt satisfied or full, no matter how much fat I ate, and we always felt light headed and crabby. It lasted consistently through the challenge and we both feel that having more carbohydrates in our meals kept us feeling satisfied, energized, happier and less hungry. I also feel that the grains help to keep my IBS at bay. I don’t think my IBS came back from cutting out sugar and alcohol, I think it can only be traced back to the trade off of less grains/beans and more meat. I don’t even think fiber was an issue because I was eating pounds of vegetables each day. I will experiment more with this to find out if there is a correlation here. I will start with adding in some (soaked) beans in soups and a larger portion of white rice. I will also be increasing my starchy, carbohydrate dense vegetables like sweet potatoes and squash.
That’s that for now.