21 Days to Make a Habit: 90 Days to Make a Lifestyle Change

In the first month I started my new “lifestyle change” of trying to avoid gluten, sugar, and dairy, my mom saw a segment of the Today Show that talked about the difference between a habit and a full lifestyle change. Apparently you can make or break a habit in 21 days. But overhauling the way you eat entirely is something that takes about 90 days.

I am really happy to say that I have hit my 90 days. And not only that, I actually like my lifestyle change. Quite a bit, in fact. I look forward to eating a meal that I know is really healthy, but still very satisfying.

I would say I am about 90/10 or 85/15 when it comes to my new habits. Maybe a little worse. Since I don’t have celiac or other major allergies, admittedly, I cheat in all categories. I would have to say that sugar and dairy, especially cheese, are my worst tempters. Losing the gluten is really not all that bad. I like gluten-free bread and pasta, and I don’t often crave their gluten-filled counterparts.

Some of the positive things that have come out of this for me are:

1. I have lost 13 pounds. I fluctuate a pound or so, but I’m only one more from my original goal.
2. I feel better. And when I cheat, I usually remember why I don’t eat that way all the time.
3. I’m cooking more and enjoying cooking more. I get excited about trying new things, I like trying Molly and Jen’s recipes, and I look forward to cooking delicious foods that are really good for me. (Side note: I made Molly’s egg cups over Easter, and they were a big win!)

If you’re interested in changing your lifestyle for health or weight reasons, I’d really encourage you to do so. It takes some adjusting, but it is—dare I say—fun. Really. It’s amazing how good it feels to know you’re filling your body with nutrients and foods that are good for you. And shedding some unwanted pounds—that’s really fun. Buying new pants in smaller sizes—well, let’s just say that’s the best part.

My next habit—or probably lifestyle change—is adding exercise back to my to my routine. I pretty much let that go over the winter.

Which is harder for you to maintain, healthy diet or exercise?

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She’s Just Being Gluten-Free

Another celebrity has joined the gluten-freebies ranks–Miley Cyrus. She’s claiming her new gluten-free diet has helped her lose weight, and it probably has. But when I came across this article I had to laugh. I can’t tell you how many times friends of mine have opted to go gf to lose weight, but have basically only eaten the foods from this slideshow and been disappointed when they gained pounds instead of shedding them. Check it out:

8 Gluten-free Things That Won’t Help You Lose Weight Like Miley Cyrus

Phase 1: Detoxing for Dummies

I didn’t know what to expect when I first started seeing Dr. WooWoo. After that initial allergic reaction, I’d been on a prednisone and Benadryl bender and generally felt jumpy, sick, and miserable. Any kind of solution that didn’t involve a drug was exactly what I was looking for. Someone who had seen Dr. WooWoo a couple years prior had shared some of the diet changes, so I knew some restrictions were coming my way. This was all a little bit scary to a girl who had been on a junk-food-a-palooza for the five months prior.

Let me tell you: those first weeks were hard. Some nights after work, I would wander around Whole Foods, sniffing loaves of bread, whispering sweet nothings to the boxes of pasta, cradling wedges of brie, looking longingly at everything in the deli cases and food bars, all of which I couldn’t eat. The doctor wasn’t kidding about how saturated all our foods are with these three key food groups I had to cut out for the first eight weeks. I learned pretty quickly that the absolute only way to hold to this eating regimen was to cook for myself–and to set aside adequate time for all the prep, which was a little daunting at first.

You’re probably thinking, Hey, Jen. It’s so rad that you’re telling me about this terrible eating plan that is so hard and made you miserable. Sign me up!

I’m really selling it, huh? No cheeseburger-colored glasses here! I just want to put it out from the get-go that that this isn’t a piece of cake. (See? Already I’m preparing you. There is NO CAKE in Phase 1.)

But there is a huge and compelling reason to give this lifestyle change a try: you will feel awesome after a couple weeks. This gluten-free thing for me is about more than finding cheats or replacements for all my former favorite foods. I’m trying to change everything about the way I care for my body, and I can tell you that it has made a huge difference in my well-being. Some days are harder than others and I’ve had to re-learn and re-think many things, but the payoff has been undeniable. Take what you will from this, and feel free to ask me questions! I do love blabbing about this stuff . . .

Some notes:

  • The goal of Phase 1 is multifaceted: a gentle detox from all the garbage that has built up in your system (refined, processed foods; empty white products; SUGAR; bad fats), an overall reduction of inflammation in the body, alkalizing your system, and kind of a reset button on your cravings (especially sugar).
  • This isn’t a “diet.” You are not depriving yourself. It’s not some kind of fad or quick-weight-loss gimmick. It’s not low-carb, sugar-free, cabbage soup, or any other get-healthy/thin-quick plan. There is no counting of points, no carbs vs. protein, no “fruit is bad.” It’s a new way of life based on whole foods, the way they’re found in nature.
  • Some of the elements might seem counterintuitive to you. I understand that. Americans have been programmed to consume low-fat, high-grain, high-dairy. I challenge you to research anything on this list that doesn’t fit your current mentality. I think you’ll be surprised, like I was, about how truly backward many of our mind-sets are.
  • Try to shop organic if you can. Refer the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen so you can make some distinctions. Be prepared to shell out a little more dough at the grocery store. I don’t know what to tell you: real food is more expensive. But I think you’ll find relatively quickly that you are spending less eating out and that you are in a pattern that is doable. There are ways to make lower-cost items go further (eggs for example), and once you get to Phase 2, costs should go down further. Prepare to shop more often as well since you’ll be consuming so many perishable items. Here’s a good reminder: if it came from a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, skip it!
  • Remind yourself that this isn’t forever. Phase 1 is only eight weeks. You can do it! And remember that you are giving your most valuable resource–your body–a chance to heal by truly feeding it, maybe for the first time, with real and life-giving foods. If anything, look at this as a vacation for your body–a chance to revel in easily digestible and healing foods.
  • Try new things! The Internet is a wealth of ideas and information. Look for recipes. Try new produce. Open your mind. It’s kinda fun, people.
  • Complete legalism will only make a person stumble. Give yourself a couple cheat meals every week. It makes a huge difference to allow yourself this in the early stages. Down the road? Those cheats will likely become less intriguing.
  • I’m only going to share a rough outline of what the naturopath and many sources online laid out for me. If you want more specific or thorough details, I suggest you find a Dr. WooWoo of your very own or take charge of your health and start doing some research. I’ll answer as many questions as I can, but I’m not an expert by any means. I will lay out what NOT to eat, a few key things to add, and a basic list of foods you can have on Phase 1.

Here are the three big things you will AVOID during Phase 1:

  • DAIRY (anything from cow’s milk)
  • GRAIN (all grains; that means NO bread, pasta, no rice, and pretty much all packaged foods)
  • SUGAR (anything refined–this does not refer to fruit)

Here’s a big “no duh”: NO artificial anything. This stuff is poison. No fake coffee creamers, no diet soda, no artificial sweeteners, no “low-fat,” no “fiber added.” For now, you also won’t be having “gluten-free” products–no mixes or pre-made stuff. You will naturally be eating gluten-free by cutting out all the grains. Don’t add any empty GF stuff in Phase 1. And no fast-food, chips, candy, soda, or any of that other junk.

Here is what you will be eating:

  • GOOD FATSstart cooking with coconut oil! I’m serious. Your body needs fat. It’s just doesn’t need garbage fat. America has this all backwards. Coconut oil is incredibly healthy (see Lisa’s torrid love letter to coconut oil), full of medium chain fatty acids and healing properties. The only fats you should use for cooking are quality coconut oil and butter. Use olive oil only for dressings (lower smoke point = carcinogens. You feel me?).
  • MEAT: (NO pork or roast beef; if you buy deli meat, buy quality preservative-free and nitrite-free ).
  • EGGS: you might be eating a lot of these.
  • GOAT’S MILK PRODUCTS: chevre saved my life. I’m not kidding.
  • NUT/SEED MILKS: almond milk, coconut milk, hemp milk.
  • NUTS/SEEDS: (NO macadamia nuts, peanuts (butter), pecans, pine nuts, pistachios).
  • VEGETABLES: (NO potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, jicama, waterchestnuts).
  • BEANS/LEGUMES: (NONE on Phase 1!).
  • FRUIT: a few restrictions here based on glycemic level; otherwise the sky’s the limit! (NO dried fruit, canned fruit, apricot, cantaloupe, dates, figs, grapes, guava, kiwi, mango, oranges, papaya, peach, pear, pineapple, plum, quince).
  • CONDIMENTS/DRESSINGS: (NO pre-made); make your own vinaigrette (I’ll share recipes later!).
  • SWEETENERS: agave, honey, and stevia for now, and even these should be limited.
  • BEVERAGES: water, green or herbal tea, fresh-pressed juices.

I know it probably looks like I’ve just given you a long list of NO. Believe me, the list of YES is so much longer! Just go the produce department and wander. Do you honestly consume everything that is there for the taking? I think you’ll be surprised by how much delicious whole food you’ve been missing out on.

In the coming weeks, I’ll share some of my meal plans from those first eight weeks. (This isn’t as fun as cookies and Yumm sauce, but I think it’s important! You’ll get to these things in time.) Believe it or not, I’ve been out of Phase 1 for over two months, and I still haven’t added back dairy, sugar, or most grains (I do enjoy occasional brown rice and quinoa). I feel so much better and am so satisfied that I haven’t felt the need or urge to add these things back in. I’m truly shocked that this lifestyle change has stuck . . . but it has. I feel so much better that the bread/brie/pasta makeout-fest I dreamed of all those months ago mostly leaves me cold. Amazing, no?

Now I’m off to enjoy a veggie scramble with goat cheese and a quiet evening of cuddles with my fat cat. See you here again soon!

Gluten-Free Groupie

I’m kind of the “groupie” of these gluten-free gluttons. (Fellow editors—that ridiculous alliteration is for you.) I don’t personally have an illness or other issue that spurred me to make this lifestyle change, but my parents have had a host of major issues, so healthy eating and wellness have always been somewhat of a priority for me.

When Jen began this journey, I was very inspired and intrigued by what she was doing and how it was affecting her life. In addition, I share an office with Molly, who has to be gluten-free because of Celiac. Then Lisa changed her diet as well. And it seemed to be impacting everyone in really positive ways. The three big things we try to avoid are: Gluten. Sugar. Dairy.

My mom, who has struggled with autoimmune disease (lupus/mixed-connective tissue disease), thyroid disease, and food allergies (corn, food dyes, preservatives) was on a similar diet about fourteen years ago. It helped her quite a bit at the time, but then she began to plateau and eventually threw in the towel. This particular diet was extremely restrictive, and living in the middle-of-nowhere Midwest, there weren’t a lot of options for her to buy healthy, alternative foods. I grew up in the land of corn, wheat, and beans.

In addition, my dad is now battling lymphoma for the second time. He’s also had sarcoidosis and he deals with an extreme case of adhesions (scar tissue) in his intestinal tract.

Both of my parents have limiting diets as it is, but since we’ve began this journey, I have been overwhelmed with information on how important it is to avoid gluten if you have autoimmune disease or thyroid disease, and even lymphomas. (I don’t fully understand this article, but here was a big takeaway:
“There is evidence that strict adherence to a gluten-free diet long term will reduce the incidence of lymphoma.” http://www.nutramed.com/celiac/celiacrefcancer.htm)

We’re still in the very stressful and frightening waiting-for-results phase and the first round of chemo for my daddy, so I have begun to shower my parents in prayer. And gluten-free foods.

As they don’t have access to Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Costco, or sadly even a Kroger or a Publix, I have brought healthy, natural, organic, and gluten-free foods and treats to them. A few things I’m already in love with:

Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix
Trader Joe’s Organic Brown Rice Pasta
1 2 3 Gluten Free Pan Bars
Blue Diamond Nut Thins

I tell you, even though I don’t have any of these diseases, I just feel better without gluten. I don’t often get that full, bloated feeling, and sometimes—before this recent lymphoma diagnosis—I would find myself in the best mood for no apparent reason. There were days you couldn’t smack the smile off my face. And I’ve lost twelve pounds.

I have had to keep reminding myself that I began this lifestyle change for the well-being of my body . . . however, I also did it to lose fourteen pounds. In less than two months, I’ve already lost twelve of them.