Jenna Mangan Holistic Nutritionist, CNP, RYT, RNPA
In honour of National Nutrition Month, I wanted to share one of my greatest health experiences with all of the orange naturals readers out there. For anyone looking to enhance their life, feel more energized and create healthier habits… this read is for you!
As a holistic nutritionist I often find myself involved in discussions with the rest of my family about lifestyle. We ask ourselves and each other; how do we manage living a healthy lifestyle while keeping up with the demands placed on us through work, family and social life? One particular discussion that happened last fall, led to members of my family brainstorming ideas about creating a challenge where our lifestyle habits would be put to the ultimate test!
The idea was to create a program that would challenge us and push us to begin living our best, healthiest lives.
Myself and ten members (ages 13 – 57) of my family worked together to create: The Ultimate 35 Day Lifestyle Transformational Challenge!
We all committed to the 35 day experiment in order to feel better than ever. Even though we didn’t know it then, this challenge was created to change our lives!
Having studied nutrition and being an avid health and fitness enthusiast, I had done regular cleanses before. I had fasted and juiced, in order to ”reset” my digestive system, as well as cleansed my colon and other organs to improve health. However, I knew this challenge was about more than just cleansing. This was a lifestyle cleanup that would challenge my habits in a new way!
The Ultimate 35 Day Lifestyle Transformational Challenge had three components to it:
The Food Challenge:
No wheat, no gluten, no dairy, no caffeine, no sugar, no processed foods, no alcohol.
The Movement Challenge:
To complete a minimum of five 20 minute or longer workouts (continuous exercise) a week. That could mean walking, running, hiking, swimming, yoga, bodyweight training, weight training or a combination of any of the above. Just continuous exercise for a minimum of 20 minutes, five days a week!
The Weekend Bonus Challenge:
This bonus challenge required you to do 90 minutes of continuous activity, just like the weekly movement but longer (walking, running, hiking, swimming, yoga, bodyweight training, weight training or a combination of any of the above). You could choose this or you could choose mindful mediation for 45 minutes.
Points were given for each day you played by the food rules and completed the required movement! Points were lost if you deviated in any way from the agreement. Weekend challenges gave everyone a chance to earn extra points either for the movement or meditation.
In the end the person with the most amount of points won The 35 Day Ultimate Lifestyle Transformation Challenge! We all put in 100 dollars and the winner would take all.
WEEK ONE: Chop Chop Chop
As an avid coffee lover for me the first three days were the hardest! I substituted with hot water and lemon or hot water and a bit of apple cider vinegar. In the end, we ended up making our own pumpkin spice caffeine free lattes, which were full of amazing spices and super delicious, but that first week without caffeine was hard! My head was heavy and I felt heavier and foggier than ever.
Food preparation was really important the first week! Cravings would come and the healthy kind of food needed to be ready. Being active (the movement part of the challenge), meant healthy food needed to be ready to consume right after workouts to promote optimal recovery and balance cravings.
Depending on your family size and I wouldn’t dare sugar coat it, there was a lot of chopping involved. Planning ahead for meals was a must! Food prep the first week was my second and third job. Cleaning out the fridge was helpful to avoid temptations or slip ups. Most condiments, sauces and dressings (unless homemade) have added sugar or wheat in them – so they had to go! Making homemade dressings and sauces were crucial to avoiding unwanted ingredients.
From my experience, meal and food prep does tend to get easier and more manageable. As you get more organized and cravings dissipate you will realize the benefit in all the pre and post chopping! You will also hopefully begin to develop some staple nutrient-dense dishes, and snacks that will get you through the busy times.
Only natural sugar sources from whole foods, organic unprocessed maple syrup and raw honey were allowed. Brown rice syrup, coconut sugar, maltodextrin, fructose, added sweeteners and cane sugar, were to be avoided like the plague. Even agave syrup, unless unprocessed or raw wasn’t allowed. We did allow unsweetened and no sugar added (organic if possible) almond, rice and soy milk if needed.
Completing the food part of the challenge successfully really came down to three elements:
The first was purchasing whole foods (foods that have not been processed or refined and do not contain additives or other artificial substances). I always say – if earth made it you’re clear if man made it beware!
The second was reading labels. Eventually avoiding all foods that came in packages (which meant less garbage) and eating out. I do recall one night during the challenge – it had been a rather long day and I hadn’t prepared well. I had nothing left in my lunch kit and water was low in my bottle. I stopped to get gas and thought I would go in and see what the shelves could offer me. After three attempts to read labels, in hopes that sugar, dairy, wheat or gluten wouldn’t show up; I realized that I was digging for a needle in a haystack. I wasn’t going to find anything ‘earth made’ in here! I went back to the car pleased that I hadn’t spent my hard earned money on bad food and proud of myself for sticking to the challenge. Water it was until I could reach my home!
The third element to being successful with the food component of the challenge was honesty. I could have purchased a package of salted almonds that contained wheat and sugar, I mean they were just nuts after all. But according to the definition of whole foods, they did not meet the standards that applied to our “transformational” challenge. Like a science experiment, I wanted to see what the natural outcome would be without tampering with the variables. I wanted to see how good and energized I could feel through fuelling with whole foods and regular movement.
Stay tuned next week for week two of the 35 Day Ultimate Lifestyle Transformational Challenge – The Hunger Games