That’s a Wrap: Completing a 30-Day Food Challenge

Today is the final day of a 30-day food challenge that Alex and I created and began on March 4, and I have mixed feelings about reaching its conclusion. It has been both difficult and rewarding.

While I consider myself to be a fairly healthy eater, especially throughout the work week, a few weekend-long pizza and french fry binges in early March left me feeling like I needed to make some changes to my diet. Also, I joined a gym in my neighborhood in January and started my first regular fitness routine in a few years, but I didn’t feel that my diet went hand-in-hand with my exercise goals. So, when I read this post by one of my favorite bloggers, What I Wore about the Whole 30 Challenge, I was really impressed and inspired by the health and fitness results she shared.

The Whole 30 Challenge requires you to cut a ton of foods from your diet for 30 days, without exceptions. While it’s possible I could have committed to and followed all of the Whole 30 Challenge’s rules, I decided I would test the waters of healthier eating by creating my own guidelines. Alex was on board, too, so we sat down and came up with a list of foods to eliminate. I’ve alluded to this before, but to sum it up, we cut out: white pasta and white rice, white bread, fried foods, white potatoes, and all desserts in the categories of cookies, cake, candy and ice cream. We planned to reduce our alcohol intake, but that rule…fell by the wayside (thanks, St. Patrick’s Day). We also allowed ourselves one “cheat meal” per week. Over the course of our Challenge, we had a friend visit for a weekend, and we traveled to D.C. with my parents. We decided not to be healthy eating sticklers during those weekends, and did our best to follow the rules within reason.

Overall, I’d say we followed the Challenge guidelines about 85% of the time, with a few small lapses on weekends. I lost a few pounds, and Alex lost several. The most rewarding aspects of the Challenge were:

  • Discovering new recipes. Before the challenge, most of the meals I cooked revolved around pasta or white rice. This month, I had to make an effort to find meals I could prepare that would meet our guidelines, and would be filling. I ate a TON of sweet potatoes and other vegetables (as you’ve seen!), and found several recipes that I would never have considered making before, but truly enjoyed.
  • Strengthened willpower: On the very first day of the Challenge, I attended a lunch meeting at work. When I walked into the room, I saw a box of 20 giant sugar cookies from Potbelly Sandwich Shop–my favorite cookies in the world. That was torture. I have no idea what we talked about in that meeting, because all I could do was think about those cookies. With time, it got easier to say no to sweets in the office, or french fries at the bar. Hopefully I can continue to exercise this new found self control, even when the Challenge “rules” are no longer in place.
  • More energy & less guilt. Living in NYC means dozens of delicious food options on every block. On weekends, we love to explore restaurants in Brooklyn and Manhattan for brunch, dinner, or snacks. At the end of weekends pre-Challenge, I always felt bloated, out of energy, and maybe a little bit broke. The Challenge forced us to cook nearly all of our meals each weekend, and my stomach and wallet both thanked me.

I can’t say I’m not thrilled by the idea of eating a giant pizza right now, but it is my hope that I can make some of these dietary changes permanent. I enjoyed the Challenge far more than I ever imagined I could enjoy cutting out some of my favorite foods for a month.

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