Cleaner Life Challenge – day 1 recap

Today marked the first day of the Cleaner Life challenge I mentioned last week. After just 1 day, I can already tell this is going to be a very educational experience, and I’m super excited to learn more about less processed and sugar laden foods. One of my readers asked me about why I chose to do this challenge, and whether it’s something that’s realistic for me to continue with for the rest of my life. She was also (rightfully) concerned that this may be another way for me to restrict myself after a less-than-stellar eating for a few days.  Although I gave her a short answer in the comments section, I think I should really elaborate here about why this 30-day challenge is something that I truly believe is the right thing for me to try this coming month. In order to do that, let me give you some background on me and my previous weight loss attempts (feel free to scroll over to my eats of the day if it’s too much information :) )…

I’m an all-or-nothing person. Period. About 2.5-3 years ago, I came across a calorie tracking website and this sparked an interest in losing weight this way. I put my heart into it. I decided on a 1200-1400 calorie range and really stuck to it. I only ate at restaurants that provided nutritional information (except for an occasional salad I got at a random NY deli, when I could kind of estimate calories). It was not fun but I lost about 15 pounds. Then I moved to Boston and had intense studying for the CFA exam for about a month. During that month I decided that it was ok to eat whatever I wanted because I had no time to worry about food (and for the second part of that month, exercise too). Eating whatever I wanted resulted in a nearly 10 lb gain (in 1 month!), which took me over a year to lose again. This time I was trying to lose the weight for my upcoming wedding. I had a lot on my plate, but of course looking good for my wedding really helped me stick to my plan. It also provided a great excuse when people tired to convince me to go out and eat or drink foods with unknown (or known and scary) amounts of calories. I ate 1200-1500 calories/day six times a week, and really let loose on the seventh “rest day.” The rest day was also my exercise rest day (counterproductive, right?). On that 7th day, I ate everything in sight, canceling out most of my hard work during the week, but it still worked. I slowly lost that 10 lbs and was pretty happy with how I looked on my wedding day. I was not at my goal weight, but I felt strong and toned. In the process I also acquired a passion for cooking healthy and creative meals, so I felt confident that I could keep going with my weight loss even after the wedding.

On the honeymoon, we 100% enjoyed ourselves. That means dinners out, lots of pizza and gelato (we went to Italy) and some mandatory weight gain. I didn’t mind, though. Like I said, I’m an all or nothing person so I knew that as soon as we got back, I’d be back to healthy eating and the weight would come right off. I was right! I lost weight very fast after that, and was even about 3 lbs below my wedding weight for a little while. This was last July (maybe August). Since then I’ve slowly gained weight. I just lost that spark for weight loss. The problem is I never lost the desire to lose weight. I don’t want to be rigid with calorie counting anymore (going out to dinners with my husband to restaurants that don’t provide nutritional info is very important to both of us, for sanity purposes) but that’s the only way I know how to do it. Every time I try to “be flexible” I end up overdoing it. This is where being an all-or-nothing person really bites me in the ass. I need rules.

Anyways, fast forward to this past month, I’ve been feeling completely out of control. I get super motivated to be healthy, and I am healthy for 1, 2, even 5 days, until I just randomly start eating uncontrollably. It is NOT because I’m hungry or deprived during the previous days and meals. It’s often because of stress, anxiety or boredom, and despite knowing this even while I do this, I can’t seem to stop. It’s like a roller coaster every.single.time and I need to stop it, but somehow I keep going through the same motions over and over. And now we get to the reason of why I want to do this challenge. I NEED a goal to work towards and I love challenges. I think the challenge will provide me with flexibility to live my life (I can still go out to dinners and not know my exact calorie count for the day) while establishing some guidelines. Eliminating white flour and white sugar (most key rules to this challenge) will also automatically eliminate some “trigger foods.” These forbidden foods over the next 30 days will not be forbidden forever, but hopefully I’ll be able to reset my body, refocus, and set myself straight. I often randomly grab treats at the office when I don’t even really want them. I’m afraid that if I don’t, then I’ll feel deprived later on. Honestly, that’s just stupid logic but somehow I talk myself into it nearly every time. Other days when I’m stressed at work, I go out and buy myself a cookie “to make myself feel better.” Does it solve my work overload problem? No. Am I still stressed after eating a cookie? Even more so because now I’m worried about gaining weight too. Makes sense right now, but somehow I forget about this feeling every time. Worse yet, many times after these random indulges, I feel like I already had an “off day” so I give myself the green light to continue eating without counting. This challenge will prevent these random trips to the bakery. Lastly (and this is not why I originally decided to do this) it will teach me more about what’s truly in my food.  I already know whether there is sugar, white flour or hidden soy in all my favorite bars, cereals and granolas – they are all 100% natural so I didn’t have to worry about artificial sweeteners. I should know by heart by the end of the 30 days, which fruits and vegetable are most pesticide absorbing and which ones are ok to buy non-organic. I will also stop consuming hormones through my intake of dairy. I never really thought about it until recently, but I try to buy organic fruits and vegetables but never really cared about dairy, but it’s the same thing! If the cows eat grass with pesticides, then my yogurt and milk will have it too. Duh! All right, I hope this kind of clears it up if anyone actually read through this 😆 Feel free to comment. Please never be afraid to comment, unless you’re just trying to be plain mean (which luckily hasn’t happened yet) and in that case, don’t 😉

Onto today eats…

Plain chobani, fresh blueberries, 1/2 kiwi, dried Turkish apricots, Kashi autumn wheat:

yogurt parfait

[292 calories]

TJ’s whole wheat bagel, 1 laughing cow light cheese wedge, 1/4 avocado, 1.5 oz lox, broccoli stalk sticks, baby carrots:

bagel with lox, avocado + side veggies

1/2 Pure chocolate brownie bar:

pure chocolate brownie bar

pure bar ingredients

[lunch, incl. pure bar dessert = 516 calories]

organic fuji apple

[81 calories]

pistachio nuts

[100 calories]

2 TJ’s low carb tortillas, pasta sauce, 1/4 avocado, light mexican cheese, black beans:

tortilla pizzas

[283 calories]

One Lucky Duck chocolate macaroon (= sugarless/flourless heaven, review to come!)

chocolate macaroon

[calories = no clue! Does anyone have an estimate or the recipe for these guys? I’m assuming 106 calories because that’s what Archway macaroons are. These could be more or less. I guess I don’t necessary care as long as I stick to only 1 per day]

Total calories for the day: ~1377 (kind of light because I just wasn’t very hungry)

Lessons learned:

  • I’m really used to having something sweet after lunch. An adora disc sometimes used to do the trick but given that it has sugar today it wasn’t an option. I had 1/2 pure bar and that was good.
  • I want chocolate when I’m stressed. Today I was stressed at work, but chocolate was not an option given it’s sugar content. I had an apple instead and was happy to be healthy.
  • I don’t know much about natural sugar substitutes. Is beet sugar ok? Is evaporated cane sugar ok?

I’m still learning! This is going to be good for me. I know that. I’ll report periodically on how I do. NY trip highlights coming soon! 😀

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22 comments to Cleaner Life Challenge – day 1 recap

  • Mandy A

    Awesome day of eats, Elina! :)

    Although to me, you always seem to eat very clean! I think you always have incredible meals (and workouts, to boot!)

  • I can’t wait to keep up with your cleaner eating challenge :) You really are an inspiration. You can do it girly <3

    I never really thought about certain fruits or veggies being more pesticide absorbent. It makes sense though.

    Ps those kiwis look so fresh and delicious!

  • I am working on something similar, although I am not ready to REALLY clean up yet! I need to find a way to finally stop the “all or nothing” cycle, and I think cleaning up is a great way to add new healthy habits.

  • I totally get you! I am an all or nothing person too. I go all out on week-ends and then it is SO HARD getting back on track the next day. Although I’ve never had a problem with weight gain, I have definitely had a problem with maintaining my flat tummy which I seem to loose every few months :(

  • Elina, I think it is awesome that you know your eating downfalls, and that you know when and how to pick yourself back up! I’m looking forward to reading what you learn about clean eating – I’m sure I’ll pick up a few tips.

    In terms of sugar substitutes, I’ve never used beet sugar, but I just picked up a bag of DATE SUGAR from Whole Foods. I’m so excited to try this out. Because it is just dehydrated dates, the “sugar” tends to clump, so it might not work in all applications – but it is a clean sub for sugar.

    I also like to use evaporated cane juice, maple syrup, honey, and agave nectar as sugar subs. Although these are all more complex than white sugar, I’m not sure they rank amongst the cleanest sugar subs. I’ll let you know how the date sugar turns out!

  • you already eat so well, I’m surprised you feel like you need to lose weight or cut things out. I mean most days you are a veggie and fruit queen and don’t seem to hit over 1500 cals. I on the other hand could really stand to kick the sugar

  • I’m naturally an all-or-nothing person, so it’s hard for me to just “do a little” sometimes. I’m getting better at being flexible, but I totally understand where you’re coming from.

    It looks like your first day went well!

  • Elina

    Amanda, since I stopped 100% food journaling, you’re really not seeing the whole food picture. Of course on days that I’m completely out of hand, I decide to do a product review or skip blogging all together. I’m not trying to decieve anyone, it’s just that on those days I feel “off” and whining about my life is just not productive. So yeah, I hope this challenge gets me on track. I think it will. Day 1 went well and day 2 is going well so far :)

  • Totally feel you on the all-or-nothingness! I’m only just recently starting to find the in-between-ness, and it is truly liberating. I know that like, academically speaking, the only weight I have to lose would be “vanity pounds,” but of course those are the only pounds I see in the mirror. It’s a process, but I’m coming around and I love it. :) Calorie counting is a hard addiction to break, so you have my sympathy there. I’m also on a similar challenge, though I haven’t put a box or guidelines around it. It’s sort of an all-encompassing cleanup whereby as I run out of stuff, it gets replaced by a better alternative. I.E. I run out of conventional skim milk and then replace it with organic almond milk. The changes have been so small and spaced apart that I’m barely noticing the change – I think I could get more aggressive about it if I wanted, but there’s the all-or-nothing kicking in, eh?

  • Dotsie

    I think you did a thorough job/explanation in this post. You seem to really know yourself—I think you will succeed because of this.

    Good luck!

  • Lee

    I’m looking forward to hearing about your NY trip. I’m going there on Friday and need some ideas.

  • Elina

    Lee, I will definitely do a post tonight about a few places, but if you want more ideas, click on Eating Out –> NYC on the left column of the blog. You’ll see all my posts about previous trips to NY. There are definitely some great places for you to check out!! 😀

  • wow, so much of what you said rang true for me! i have been avoiding hard and set challenges, for the reluctance to “go on a diet”. it’s so mental, maybe I should be strict for some time and then work back to “healthy”…

  • ps- i have never tried beet or date sugar, but i have switched to turbinado, agave, honey, and maple syrup most of the time!

  • your salmon bagel sandwich looks awesome! Love your rationale behind the cleaner life challenge — i totally understand, as my Mister is the SAME way 😉

  • oh man this was crazy to read because I could of said the exact same things about myself!! The weight has creeped in on me and I too feel myself getting too comfortable with teh splurges and can’t seem to get back on track…and at SUCH a bad time (hello wedding at the end of teh summer). Considering I’m going on vacation tomorrow its not such a great time to start a chalenge like that, but I am going to take the opporuntiy to exercise more! Good Luck with the challenge!

  • Elina

    Ttfn300 – that’s kind of why I decided to do this challenge, because I really don’t feel like it’s “a diet.” I’m trying to eat cleaner but yes, there are some hard guidelines. I think it’s what I need right now but definitely see what works for you. See you on Sunday :)

    Bridget, enjoy your vacation and you can get back on track when you’re back! I’m KNOW you’re going to look beautiful on your wedding day (since I’ve met you before 😉 )

  • Elina, we are so much alike.
    I’m sure you get crap from people all the time about needing structure with eating, but I understand that that is how you thrive the best. I think I have gone too far the other way recently in relaxing all rules, and I just can’t handle it. I am getting better at finding the balance, but as a result I have gained some weight back and feel very uncomfortable.
    I support your challene 100%. In fact, I may even reconsider joining you.
    I actually didn’t gain in Italy, but we were only there for 3 days and my weight was up before we left.
    “I just lost that spark for weight loss. The problem is I never lost the desire to lose weight.”
    I can SO relate. Of course I still want to be thin, but ya know, I’m TIRED. It’s a lot of work, and I’ve been getting lazy with it. Yes, blogging everything I ate had me at my thinnest, but the whole process of planning my meals, analyzing them, etc….I wonder if it was just too much structure. I need to find my personal balance.
    I’m going to re-examine your challenge rules and see if it’s feasible for me to join in. I want to do go back to clean eating again and maybe this is the structure I need.
    Sorry for the novel.

  • Elina

    Hehe, Lara, I love novels 😉 In all seriousness, though, I think you should test what kind of structure works for you. You’re right, I definitely need structure in my life, and this challenge is providing it for me with enough flexibility. Take a look at what I’m trying to do here, and adjust accordingly. That’s what I did with Heather’s challenge. I want it to be manageable yet still effective. Thanks for your support… let me know how it goes for you! :)

  • Interesting thoughts on your challenge. When you were talking about your weight loss cycles and your current feelings it reminded me of one of my WW meeting where the leader discussed the behavioral change threory called the transtheoretical model. It is interesting to me how we cycle through these stages on our way towards changing our eating patters or losing weight.

    RE: beet sugar or evaporated cane sugar – to me it’s just sugar. Have you tried agave nectar – it is low GI.

  • Elina

    Melissa – thanks for that link! I need to spend a little more time reading all of this. I also need to do more research on these other sugars. I love agave nectar but I was wondering if I should be eliminating foods with beet sugar (probably) and evaporated sane syrup (not sure) as part of this challenge of no white sugar. Basically I want to get rid of super processed sugars and I need to figure out whether some other sugars/sweeteners are just code names for bad stuff or are actually a good sweet alternative. :)

  • […] the Cleaner Life Challenge (or CLC, as I’ve been lovingly referring to it lately ). Although the reasons for doing the challenge made a lot of sense when I originally decided to do it, I’m tired of meticulously looking […]

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