By Geoff Rand
I’m not the poster child for healthy eating. In fact, during the past few months, I've been quite the opposite. Some days, my entire liquid intake would come from sodas. Too many granola bars and ice cream sandwiches. Not enough balanced meals. Definitely not enough water. It was time to change course, and the Lurong Challenge came along at just the right time.
What I am good at is developing a plan and following it to mission accomplishment. I’ve had some successes in previous challenges and wanted to offer some tips for anyone new to healthy eating or as a refresher for those who’ve done a challenge before. With week 1 of the Lurong Challenge in the books, I hope that everyone who is participating or following along on their own is doing well.
Be Patient. It’s going to take about two weeks for your body to adjust to the lack of sugar, bad carbs, and other crap you may have been feeding it. It’s going to take about 30 days before you really start cementing in the good habits and things start firing on all cylinders. Headaches, bowel issues, cravings, fatigue, and other changes are normal at first. But things will start to come together soon.
And don’t get fixated on the scale. In fact, I’d recommend not weighing in again until we are at least four weeks in. Concentrate on how you feel and how your clothes fit. Those are better indicators of fitness and progress than some number on a scale.
Plan. Have a plan and stick with it. Select what meals you want for the week, and don’t forget snacks, and buy only the ingredients to make them at the store. Stick to your list. When you have a menu for each day, it makes things easier to visualize and this helps you stay on track.
Along with your menu, have a plan if you need to eat out. Research restaurant menus ahead of time and know what you will order. This will keep a semi-spontaneous lunch out fitting within the healthy guidelines and prevents it from becoming an unplanned cheat.
If you're running errands or will be away from home for an extended time, carry an extra snack with you in case you are delayed for some reason. Don't let the unforeseen become an excuse for a cheat.
Make it Easy. Food preparation is the foundation of success in any eating challenge and for continued success after the challenge. To minimize the hassle, try to have one or two cooking days in the week and make all your meals at once. If this is your first challenge, I’d suggest sticking with the basics and not venturing off into the unknown with fancy recipes. Make some staples that you know you like such as cauliflower, spaghetti squash, meatballs, carrots, and chicken and mix and match them to create different dishes. If you haven’t tried a food, the Challenge probably isn’t the best time to experiment. Turnips. Yuck. Yup, I remember that experiment.
Having things that are quick and easy help keep you from straying from your goals. I like to keep several steam-in-bag frozen vegetable packs in the freezer. It adds easy variety and doesn’t spoil. See the egg cups recipe at the end as an example of a quick breakfast that solved my issue of not having time to cook before heading out to the Box in the morning.
If you can have some snacks ready that are as convenient as a bag of chips used to be, you're operating at the expert level. Cook up some extra bacon and ziploc it in small portions. Add some fruit and nuts to it and you've got a super easy to go snack.
Drink water. A lot of water. Water helps flush out toxins, aids in digestion, reduces joint pain, headaches and fatigue, improves performance, and can help prevent cancer. The list of benefits goes on and on. Shoot for drinking your bodyweight in ounces each day. Carry a water bottle with you at all times. Mark times of the day and water line goals on it if that helps you.
Eating raw vegetables helps you stay hydrated as well. Uncooked veggies are dense in water and can be a good alternative if guzzling plain water is proving difficult.
Watch the fruits. While much better than a serving of fries, not all fruits are created equal. Overindulging in what you might assume is a healthy fruit can inhibit your healthy goals. During the Challenge, limit your servings of the more sugary fruits like bananas, apples, and grapes, and stay away from any dried fruit. Better alternatives are strawberries, watermelon, avocado, plums, and papaya. See this chart for a list of fruits and how they compare to other processed foods.
Organize. Get a ton of Tupperware for storing your food and laying out your meals. Go through your spice rack and toss the old and stock up on the new. Assemble cookbooks or recipes. I like Well Fed 1 and 2 for cookbooks and find Google searches for “quick paleo recipes” or similar, are great.
Get all the junk and other unhealthy food out of your house. Donate it or give it away.
Enlist Support. It would be great if all your family, friends, and co-workers were participating in the Challenge with you, but this just isn’t realistic. Explain to them what you are doing and why. Hopefully, they will understand and assist you by not leaving cookies out on the counter or bringing donuts into the break room. And I’d hope they are supportive of your decision not to hit the bar with them for a few weeks.
If your family might be up for it, let them in on some of the meals you are cooking. You might just introduce them to a healthy eating style they never knew they liked.
For those of you not in the Challenge, but who have previous experience with one, take some time to chat up and check in with some of us participating in this one. It’s always good to get encouragement and we might learn some new things from you.
And whether you are on the Challenge or not, if you have a recipe or tip that works for you, post it in the comments.
Keep your goals in sight. Whether you are trying to get into better shape or just want to see how healthier eating can improve your performance, stay focused. Put up that poster of Rich Froning or Christmas Abbott if it helps.
I know you can log in cheats in this Challenge, but try not to. You will see better results if you eat clean the whole way through. It’s only seven weeks and it will be over before you know it. Plan something special for when you’ve met or exceeded your goals at the end.
If you do cheat, don't let it derail your whole plan. Figure out what drove you to cheat, observe how the cheat made you feel both emotionally and physically, make any changes that you need to, and get back on the horse and drive on with your plan.
Document. If you haven’t already, take some photos of yourself, front, side, and back on a neutral background. You’ll appreciate having the comparison at the end.
Although it’s not required, keep a food journal. In preparation for this Challenge, I pulled out my old food journal from a challenge Amanda ran in 2013. Boom. Instant menu plans. I even had notes on how I felt each day to remind me of what to expect.
Stick with it and take one week at a time. It will be Halloween before you know it. Remember why you are doing this. Plan for success, but accept that you will have setbacks. And eat bacon. Everything is better with bacon, like these egg cups.
Paleo Egg Cups (adapted from ahealthylifeforme.com)
12 strips bacon, uncured, organic, cooked
Coconut oil or ghee
1 bag frozen chopped peppers, cauliflower, or broccoli (or fresh, about 2.5 cups)
Sea salt and black pepper
Preheat oven to 400°
Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange bacon
Cook 10-12 minutes
Grease regular size 12-muffin pan with coconut oil or ghee
Arrange one strip of bacon around the inside of each cup
Crack one egg in each cup (I cracked the yolks)
Distribute frozen or fresh peppers, broccoli, or cauliflower evenly throughout the cups
Season with sea salt and pepper as desired
Cook at 400° for 12-15 minutes for soft eggs or 15-17 minutes for hard eggs.
Serve warm or refrigerate and reheat