After some recent indulgences, I decided to mindfully reset and embark on 10 days of clean eating and put my focus on the following areas. Let’s see how I did, what I learned about my body and how I felt.
1) Gluten — I feel better when I don’t eat gluten. Moreover, studies show that many people are sensitive to dairy and gluten (even if not completely intolerant) so taking a break from these can help your internal organs and digestive system rest and recover. As someone with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis since age 7, I’ve known gluten isn’t the best for me, but I’ve never been able to completely eliminate it. These 10 days of eating clean made me more aware of how I felt with and without gluten, and I definitely feel better not eating it. I stuck to the no gluten rule pretty well and when I slipped, I just had a few bites and didn’t stuff myself.
2) Dairy – As a lifelong vegetarian, I’ve considered going vegan many times, but I would drink homemade lattes with milk every day and enjoy frozen yogurt way too often in the summer. I also get bad allergies and sinus issues and my doctor recommended decreasing dairy for those reasons. Much like gluten, I stuck to this quite well with just a couple of minor slips and overall did not miss it as much as I thought. Plus, my sinuses were noticeably less congested.
3) Sugar — I think added sugars speak for themselves (in the US the average American consumes 19.5 tsp of added sugar a day; the recommended daily allowance is only 6 tsp), and I know my sweet tooth can easily run rampant if unchecked. To my very pleasant surprise, my sugar cravings went away after a couple of days. I had healthy substitutes like fruits and my shakes, and I even tried making healthy, sugar-free protein balls. Nowadays I’m still not craving my usual sugary desserts. And the few times I have had dessert, to my great surprise, I was satisfied with just a bite or two instead of devouring a whole piece of cake!
4) Coffee & Alcohol – I’ve done various healthy eating challenges before, but I’ve never cut out coffee. I love its rush of morning energy! However, coffee while not “bad” is something it’s nice to take a break from to give your body a rest. While I missed the taste and routine of my morning coffee, after the first few days my energy levels not only improved in the mornings, but that usual afternoon slump was much less noticeable. I normally have a hard time falling asleep at night, but I saw improvements in that area. As far as alcohol is concerned, I’m not a big drinker so this wasn’t too hard for me; like coffee, the occasional glass of red wine certainly isn’t harmful but it’s nice to give your body a detoxing break from it on occasion.
5) No Eating After 6:00 pm – My family is from Germany and there is a saying there that dinner should be the smallest meal of the day and is always eaten early, usually around 5:00 pm. However, this change turned out to be the hardest for me, and I modified it to 3-4 hours before bed which was 7:00 or 8:00 pm. The biggest gain was that even though I didn’t follow the strict “before 6:00” rule, I wasn’t snacking right before bed either.
6) Sleep – My takeaway: A much greater awareness of how much (or little) I sleep. I was under the impression that because I might “go to bed” and wake up roughly 8 hours later that’s how much I was sleeping. What I didn’t account for was trouble falling asleep or waking up in the night. I realized I’m sensitive to caffeine and when I drink coffee, even if it’s in the morning, there is a greater chance I will have a harder time falling asleep at night. By the end of the 10 days, I was pleasantly surprised by the energy I had throughout the day, but then I felt tired close to bedtime and fell asleep and stayed asleep.
7) Exercise — Much like my relationship with sugar, I tend to have a very all or nothing approach to exercise. This time I set a much more manageable goal of just 20 minutes of yoga and core work in the morning. And if one morning got extra hectic, I gave myself permission to do my routine in the evening instead. To my surprise with this more reasonable goal, I found myself often exceeding the 20-minute limit and even went to the gym a few times.
8) Water – Up to 60% of the adult human body is water. The minimum water recommendation is 8 glasses of water a day, but experts will agree that more would be ideal. A couple of tricks to help me hydrate more were drinking two big glasses as soon as I woke up, keeping a water bottle by my desk at work, and experimenting with a free water tracking app on my phone.
9) Supplements – It’s hard to get in those 9-15 servings of fruits and vegetables even on a clean eating “shred” so I like to supplement with daily whole food fruit and vegetable capsules. I also had smoothies most mornings which gave me longer-lasting energy than my usual cup of java.
10) Processed foods – I’m just as guilty as the next person in succumbing to the temptation of processed food. During the shred what I really began to enjoy was the mindful meditation of cooking and savoring fresh whole foods in their natural states.
So, what now? Am I going to religiously try to keep up the shred rules? No, probably not. But I did learn more about my body and how to make moderation work for me. I’ll be working to better listen to my body and what it really wants and maybe stop after a bite or two instead of the whole cake or pint of ice cream. I was shocked in my 10-day shred how I really wasn’t hungry at all between meals when usually I’m a champion snacker. It’s amazing when you give your body the nutrients it wants, how superficial cravings melt away.
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