Tuesday, February 18, 2014

40 days of NAP

This post could be about so many things. Namely it is about change. Should I say what has been said so many times? Change is excruciatingly difficult. So much so, in fact, we learn ways to "justify" our unwillingness, laziness or fear of making a change. The fact was, I needed to make a change and, honestly, had half-heartedly made weak attempts in the past that miserably failed every single time. So what's the difference this time? I can't exactly put my finger on it and condense it to a single statement, but there is something inside of me, driving me towards eating real, unprocessed and healthy food. The desire to completely revamp my entire diet has been slowing brewing inside for a few months now and finally, on January 10, 2014, I cleaned out my entire refrigerator and all the cupboards of animal-based products and processed foods (think crackers, chips, pastas), went to the grocery store and restocked them with plants. I got laughed at when I told someone the amounts of kale, spinach, mushrooms, blueberries, carrots and bell peppers I bought. I just smiled and winked, excited to finally pull the plug and eat differently.

Beans, seeds, nuts, fruits, vegetables replaced the crap upon which I used to try and fuel myself
Everyone makes (or pretends to make) changes differently, and for me, its like opening a dam. All or nothing (ha, sound familiar?). I couldn't have chips, cheese, sugary drinks or quick, convenient food still sitting around to provide temptation. Nope, the kitchen was purged of animal based products and it was time to plan, prepare and cook my meals. Done were the days of eating out and grabbing something quick. Something, (maybe a desire to learn, grow, change, improve my life, mood and health) was the driving force behind this. Whatever it was/is, I can honestly state I have never had more energy (especially mental motivation and clarity) than I found in the last month and a half.

So why share this? Who cares?

I suppose I am writing it largely for myself as well as just throwing it out there for others who may be interested or thinking of doing something different as a motivational/encouraging note. I started this project with very little faith in myself. Why? Because all the times I tried to make changes I knew in the back of my mind, the taste and satisfaction I got from a juicy cheeseburger with fries dipped in ranch dressing with extra salt and a large coke was far more powerful than my desire to nourish my body with healthy, real food.

True story.

Completely messed up, but honest-to-God, the truth. This time is different, however. After the very first two days of caffeine and sugar withdrawal, I have not had the AUTHENTIC desire or need for a Coke and a pack of Skittles. Yes, my brain will tell me that at 3 pm, its time to eat crap, and yes, I have stopped at a gas station, but when I then pause to consider it honestly, I find myself repulsed by the thought of how each would taste and don't even get out of my car.

So here it is. I can do it. I did it. Bet you can too. And it doesn't matter what it is. Change is possible and very alive within us all. But it will not happen until one can look inside and honestly and truly want it above the cravings and other soothing affects said change provides.

I finally wanted health, energy, clarity and change more than I wanted instant soothing, reward and gratification. And, wow, the results I am seeing and the potential for sustainability are more than I ever imagined possible.

January 10, 2014:

I honestly never believed for a minute that I could go thirty days with out a Coke. My previous time on the soda-wagon was a week before I fell off. I knew how completely unhealthy soda, especially Coke, is, that it is loaded with high fructose corn syrup and caffeine (which, ironically, only compounds and magnifies feelings of fatigue), but thoughts of an ice-cold Coke in a can replaced any sort of reason and knowledge after 3 pm everyday. It was the first thing I craved in virtually every gas station or grocery store resupply on both the CTR and AZT. I am willing to bet that every definition of the word addiction could describe my relationship with a can of Coke. The more I drank, the more I wanted. One was one too many, one more was never enough. Interestingly, however, if I realized that it was not available on a day where I was far from civilization hiking, camping or climbing, the desire to drink a Coke never once crossed my mind. Not once.

Explain that one.

I also have a sweet tooth. My brothers and I were never really allowed to have or buy sugary sweets, candy or chocolate as kids growing up. Everytime we went to the grocery store we would beg for Cocoa Pebbles or Fruit Loops and every time Grape-Nuts or Wheaties would end up in the cart. My mom is no fool and she loved us enough to feed us healthy foods.(Never would I have dreamed at the time I was begging for sugary cereal, I would be thanking her in a blog post years later.) I don't know why, when I got into high school and college and food choices were up to me I went straight for SUGAR. Yum, yum, yum, my sweet tooth was satiated. I would eat pounds of Jelly Bellies while studying, driving, watching a movie and wash them down with a Coke. Not a huge fan of chocolate, give me straight sugar. I guess I always was kind of jealous of the people who would look down their noses, proclaiming their disinterest in "sweets." God, how I wished I did not have that dammed sweet tooth and I really envied that they didn't crave or eat them.

I ate healthy foods as well, but always fought my nemesis--sugar. I dabbled with the idea of not eating meat for awhile but was never serious or motivated enough to do it. As I got more and more into running and then mountain biking, I made big efforts to improve my diet and really found out how much I loved vegetables. Sure it took some time and effort to cook them and prepare good meals, but they tasted so much better that the Hot Pocket or burrito or some other crap food that was really easy to microwave at 3am when I got home from work. I really loved the vegetables and how I felt when I ate a lot of them, but was too lazy to cook them just for myself. If there was an occasion or someone else around to cook for, that was a different story as loved to try new recipes and concoctions.

This past December was one of indulgence and laziness for me. A lot of really good tasting food: smoked brisket, pork shoulder, steaks, chicken, cheese and vegetables. It was great celebrating the holidays with good food and a large amount of Crown Royal to go with and it is the time of year we all kind of let loose and indulge, but I found myself being less and less motivated and more and more tired. I am not a person who wallows or even feels comfortable in being miserable. "Stable/familiar discomfort" is a completely foreign concept to me. My soul is not wired to endure it and looking back realized it has and continues to be a massive force for change in my life.

On January 7th, I sat down with a good, old-fashioned piece of notebook paper and my favorite pen and started to write my plan for the next 30 days. As mentioned before, I was worried my vices would overcome this plan, so I committed to just 30 days and the promise of reevaluating on February 10 to decide what was working and what needed to be added or deleted.

This was my new plan starting January 10:

-Feel alive, aware, encouraged
-Fuel my body for optimal performance on my bike
-Learn to eat less overall
-Eat to live/sustain/thrive, rather than soothe, satiate
-Save money, stop eating out
-Drink less alcohol over my lifetime
-Master a huge challenge
-Vastly increase my nutritional knowledge

From 01.10.14 thru 02.10.14:

No alcohol
No soda/fruit juices
No added sugar
No processed foods
No animal products
No added salt
No pasta

Everyday eat at least:

1lb cooked vegetables
1lb raw vegetables
4 pieces of fruit
1 c beans/legumes
1 c nuts/seeds

Optional: brown rice, quinoa, hemp tofu, etc.

This new plan gave me first and foremost, a goal. A challenge I was very much needing to alleviate boredom and laziness to which I often fall victim. Writing down exactly what I was going to do spurred me into action. I did massive amounts of research into new recipes and scientifically-based nutritional information. I got up early and prepared my lunch. The 3pm Skittles and Coke were replaced by a raw, yellow bell pepper and homemade sprouted mung bean and garlic hummus. Pasta became spaghetti squash and pesto cashew "cream" sauce with every other imaginable vegetable thrown in. Coconut soups, chia seed/kale/fruit/flaxseed smoothies, almond milk instead of dairy milk.

The change in my mood, increase in motivation and mental energy is astounding. I sometimes have to stop and just smile at the fact that all the stupid little things that use to annoy me do not even cross my mind. My focus is sharper than ever. The mental fog we all sometimes slip into when we are overwhelmed or depressed about something lifted. I get things done instead of talking about them, worrying about them and then stressing about them because I am too mentally exhausted to do them.

40 day evaluation:

All the goals I set forth, I have made huge and noticeable progress towards. The money I have saved allowed me to afford monthly yoga and bike parts. The first are measured subjectively, and are a constant "journey" of sorts and the second list I can honestly say I accomplished. The only "mess up" was I ate Nutella which is made with nonfat dairy milk, which I didn't discover until afterwards. I am not a complete freak, so needless to say, I didn't lose any sleep over that one. It just drove me to find a better alternative.

And that's one of the best parts of all this. The learning, the new foods, tastes, meals, recipes, the growing, expanding and taking what I used to do/know/think in regards to diet and finding that a plant-based diet may well be how I fuel the machine for the rest of my life. Right now, I have no thoughts of going back to eating animal products. I will continue to adjust/add/subtract and above all LEARN and GROW my nutritional knowledge. I will probably celebrate with some Crown Royal at Stateline Campground in April and have one here or there most likely in the future. I have begun scouring gas stations for options along the AZT, TD and CTR this summer to find food options and began some intensive food planning to fuel my bike.

Because, after all, the only reason we all eat is to fuel the bike motor....right?

Or is it the other way around?

I will continue to post periodically how the NAP project progresses. I am sure there will be new challenges as well as new victories. Also, I thought I would share some good links I found (among the millions out there):





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