Good morning friends!
If you’ve been reading for a while, you’ll know that I always do a monthly check-in on the goals I’ve set out to achieve for the month. (They look a bit like this and this.) January was a little difference, since I only declared my 2012 goals, rather than a set of 5 monthly ones. I’ll be going back to the usual routine for February, but today I want to talk about two of the changes I’ve made since the beginning of the month, and the amazing results I’m seeing already.
1. A massive reduction in artificial sweeteners.
This is the biggest change by far that I’ve made, and it was long overdue. I’ve talked a bit in the past about my major addiction to gum, and even blogged through several attempts to give it up. Although I eat pretty clean the majority of the time, I’ve got my nasty habits just like anyone else. As embarrassed as I am to admit it, I used to easily go through 3 of the 60-piece canisters per week. That quantity would probably get a “normal” person through an entire month! I realized that my main trigger situations were when I was bored or anxious at work, and at night when I knew I shouldn’t be snacking any more but wanted something to keep my mouth busy. I’d let myself chew endless amounts of gum, but it definitely took its toll on me. My digestion was terrible, and I was constantly bloated to the point that it seemed like I was never going to “deflate”! Since the beginning of January, I’ve severely cut back my gum chewing habit. Sometimes I’ll pop 2 pieces in after a meal to freshen my breath if I don’t have a toothbrush nearby, but I’ve stopped taking it to work. Out of sight, out of mind!
Gum wasn’t the only culprit of all this discomfort. Last year I was buying fruit-flavoured single-serving yogurts and eating a couple of them per day. Being fat-free and low in calories, you might think they’d be good for helping to maintain a healthy diet, but we all know that there’s more to nutrition than fat and calories. Flip over the container and you’ll discover a couple of scary ingredients that definitely are not whole foods. Have I stopped eating yogurt? Nope, of course not! But I’ve swapped it for this:
Plain Greek yogurt, and cottage cheese. These have been staples in my fridge for a year or two now, but I was also buying the individual artificially-sweetened yogurts because they were easier to take to work. One day I decided that really, it takes all of about 2 minutes to scoop some real yogurt from a big container into a portable one, and hence, I have not purchased the single-serving ones since.
The third big culprit was drink crystals, and as I mentioned in this post, I’ve never been one to loooove drinking plain water, except for in the gym. Since January, I haven’t touched a single packet of drink crystals and instead have been flavouring my water with citrus fruits and fruity teas which I steep in a large pitcher with water, then chill in the fridge. One of my favourites is Pom Power, a white tea with just a little caffeine and a whole lot of flavour. As a result I think my taste buds have become much more accustomed to lower levels of sweetness, and I almost never experience sugar cravings. I’m drinking more water now, and not surprisingly, my skin is looking better than it did when it was being fed liquid chemicals.
By targeting these 3 ‘fake foods’ and almost eliminating them from my diet, my digestion has improved remarkably. Before this month, I thought that maybe I needed to get tested for gluten or dairy sensitivities. (Dairy is still a bit of a tricky area – milk and hard cheeses don’t sit so well but yogurt and eggs seem to be fine.) But what I really needed was to give myself a good swift kick in the butt and stop eating foods that my body wasn’t made to digest in the first place. The result? Not surprisingly, eating real foods make me feel about a bazillion times better, and my stomach doesn’t stick out like a woman who is 6 months pregnant!!
2. Stress relief
We all know that stress is bad for us and that we should try to reduce it as much as possible. I don’t consider my life or my job overly stressful, but it didn’t occur to me until I was away in Italy this past Christmas how much stress reduction can improve the way that I feel. For the 5 short days that I was there with my dad and sister, we walked around, toured buildings, took heaps of photos, laughed a lot, ate very fresh food, slept in, and I really didn’t give much thought to my regular responsibilities. I didn’t even go to the gym, which is a HUGE change from my usual routine!
I don’t know if this has ever occurred to you when you’ve been away on holiday in the past, but when I took a minute to think about it, my body was so much more relaxed. My shoulders were down and my neck was relaxed, not all tensed up like it is after a day in the office. I felt more calm, moved around a little slower, and noticed my surroundings more. And my digestion? Great. I’ve never even noticed much of a connection between stress levels and digestion in myself before, but now that I’m so much more conscious of it.
It’s obviously not practical to be on holiday for our entire lives, so there are a few things that I’ve started doing to keep my stress levels down during my every-day life:
- Deep breathing. Sounds crazy, right? We breathe in and out all day, every day, so what could be so magical about this? Just try it. I usually practice when I’m in my car driving to and from work. I try to fill my lungs with as much air as I possibly can, then push all of it out as if I’m trying to compress my lungs as much as possible. Almost immediately, the tension in the rest of my body is gone, my heart rate slows down, and I feel better.
- Journaling. Again, I talked more about this last week, but I’m a total believer that it works in helping to reduce stress. When I was losing weight, I’d write down all of my food intake for the day. (I stopped doing this years ago, but still think it’s a very effective weight loss tool.) I write about a ton of different things now, including things that frustrate me, things that happened in the day that were great and amazing, and things I want to do in the future. In terms of diet, I also write about things that didn’t make me feel so great (again, cheese is a nasty culprit!) so that I can identify patterns and avoid trigger foods. On the flipside, if I’m feeling absolutely fantastic and awesome, I’ll write about the things I ate, activities I did, the people I talked to, and all of the other things that helped to make me feel so great. Done first thing in the morning, journaling has been a good way for me to set intentions for the day. Done at night, it serves as a way to collect all of my thoughts and clear my mind before bed.
You may be thinking “OK, this is all great and good but it’s only January. Surely her motivation to maintain these changes will drop off over the next couple of months.” I actually don’t think that will be the case. You know when you see and feel changes that are so positive that nothing could ever make you want to turn back to your old ways? I think that’s what has happened here!
Alright, that’s enough about me for today! Today I want to know…
- Is there an area of your life that you know you would like to change but are having trouble doing so? What’s holding you back?
- Have you made any changes over the past month that you’ve already seen amazing results from? Tell me about them!