I survived the Advocare 24 Day Challenge!!! There have been times when I really felt like I needed a t-shirt proclaiming exactly that. But overall - as hard as this is to admit - it wasn't really that bad.
Don't get me wrong, there were times I'd have given my right arm for some pizza or cake. And there were times I wanted to quit. And there were times when I wasn't seeing the results I wanted despite doing what I was supposed to be doing. But generally speaking, it was a success.
The stats: Since February 3rd, I've lost 13.4 pounds and 12 inches (4 inches in my waist alone).
I went into it thinking that I'd be thrilled to lose 10 lbs - I didn't want to set myself up for failure by creating a goal that was unreachable.
What the challenge entailed (for me): I say "for me" because I find that everyone does the challenge a little differently. I don't feel like Advocare does the best job of explaining the eating part of the challenge because oftentimes it's vague. But maybe it's that way on purpose so that you can interpret it the way you want/need? Either way, we spent the 24 days eating "clean". Not flat out "Paleo", but just more natural. Nothing processed - nothing from a box or bag essentially. The less ingredients listed, the better and if you start seeing things listed you can't pronounce, don't eat it. We cut out all dairy - no cheese, milk, yogurt or dairy of any kind. We did not eliminate carbs, but stuck to complex carbs. Nothing with sugar or flour. We ate beans, but only low sodium if they were canned and only after they were rinsed and drained. Sweet potatoes instead of white. We were able to find some all natural, whole grain, gluten free soft tortillas for wraps that were high in fiber that we ate once or twice. We didn't measure out everything, but made sure we were aware of portion sizes (a serving of chicken is 3 or 4 ounces so if you're eating two large chicken breasts you may not see the results you want). We watched sodium intake and cut out all alcohol and soft drinks (adios, diet coke!). We inadvertently went "gluten-free" without even realizing we had until week three! After the initial 10-day cleanse we started trying to just have the Advocare meal replacement shake for lunch (which was very filling and didn't taste like complete ass much to my surprise). On the exercise front, I've been doing pilates with some yoga mixed in two to three days a week and briskly walking roughly six miles once a week. The plan is to take up running again as my source of cardio (hopefully three days a week short runs of 2-3 miles) as soon as it starts to get dark later.
I won't bore you with the details of all the supplements, fiber drinks, etc you get in a challenge bundle. The fiber drink was awful, but makes you feel like a million bucks. The rest was tolerable. If you want more info on any of this, I'm happy to share - just contact me directly.
In any event, throughout the process I had an epiphany. An Oprah Winfrey "a-ha moment", if you will. There's a reason this worked and other things haven't.
I'm not a sub-conscious eater. You know the type. The kind of person who eats crap without really realizing they're eating it. Or the type who will sit down with a bag of something and eat the whole thing before they realize they have. I'm not like that. I think about food. A lot. No, like really a lot. The second my eyes open in the morning I'm thinking about what I will be eating that day. The second breakfast is over, before the dishes are even put away, I'm wondering what's for lunch. Valentine's Day is coming up? Let me obsess over all the candy that'll be available. I plan meals in advance for dinner not because I'm on my game but because I'm enjoying thinking about all the tasty stuff I'll make and subsequently gorge on. I always ate way larger portion sizes than what I should have. I'm not sure why - maybe because if I was at a restaurant I wasn't sure when I'd be back to have it again. Or maybe it was my mantra that if I dropped dead tonight, I'd want to do it with a belly full of cheese fries and not salad. (Though I have since convinced myself that heaven is just one big 24/7 buffet where everything tastes amazing and nothing makes you fat....but I digress.) And if there was a certain type of candy or snack in the house that I liked, I'd eat until it was literally gone. It might take two or three days, but I couldn't relax with it in the house knowing it was there. I'd have to eat it.
Perfect example: Valentine's Day. My sweet husband decided to get me these Godiva strawberry cheesecake truffles that I am obsessed with despite the fact that we were doing the challenge. I'm not sure his thinking, it was a sweet gesture, but it put me well on my way to sabotage. There were probably 20-30 truffles in that box. I ate EVERY ONE OF THEM in less than two day's time. I told myself I was treating myself to a challenge break since it was v-day. It lead to a full blown day of eating CRAP. That chocolate was like the first domino that fell and set the whole fail in motion. I couldn't stop with just the chocolate or one cheat meal. Sadly I ate garbage for 24 hours. And I crapped molten lava for 48. For. Real. Talk about consequences.
If you're reading this and thinking that it sounds like a sick disease you're absolutely right. It was very much a sickness of the mind. I was literally ALWAYS thinking about food. My husband was appalled when I explained this to him. He had no idea that was the way my mind worked prior to this. Seeing the horrified look on his face as I explained this made me realize how that's not at all how most people live their lives. The phrase "live to eat" versus "eat to live" was truly applicable.
So now to the "a-ha": I believe the reason this works for me is because I don't have to really think about the food. I know the things I can and can't eat and it's pretty simple. No counting points. No counting calories. I don't have to think about the food?! Which is good since I can't think about food in a healthy way without a ton of effort. I found in the past with things like Weight Watchers I spent so much time thinking about the food - configuring points and working it all out to maximize how much crappy food I could eat and stay within the bounds - that it was just an invitation to continue thinking unhealthily about the food. And with the Advocare Spark (I swear I'm not trying to sound like a walking advertisment) I'm not getting lightheaded from lack of carbs like I had in past instances with Atkins-style dieting. Ultimately, I'm not obsessing over it anymore. Truly eating to live. I used to hate dieting because even if I was full I wasn't satisfied. What it comes down to is that the satisfaction part was in my head - mentally I was obsessing over [insert name of delicious bad for you food here] so no matter how full I was it wasn't enough. As soon as I took away the mental part, it just clicked into place.
You know all those people who say "It's not a diet, it's a lifestyle change"? Those people I want to kick in the face? Maybe they're on to something after all. I'm the first to admit that I won't be perfect 100% of the time. But when I slip up and eat something I'm not supposed to, I'm going to take the advice of a friend and look at it as a decision, not a "cheat" or a "reward". Maybe it isn't a good decision, but it's mine nonetheless and I know what the consequences will be when I decide to eat badly. I just have to decide if it's worth it. Most days it isn't. Some days it is. Really. I know you're wondering how consciously making the choice to eat something that will make me feel like crap is worth it. I wonder the same thing sometimes. But sometimes it just is. And I figure that as long as I'm making more of the good decisions than the bad ones, I'll be okay. I know that every time I decide to eat badly, it sets me back and that's one day farther away from my goals. But I also know myself well enough to know that if I deny for too long, it becomes the obsession again and that it might be better to just get it out of the way and start fresh after.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not "cured". I've been this way with food for as long as I can remember and 24 days isn't going to "fix" me completely, but I feel like I'm on my way finally. A breakthrough at the very least in that I have figured all this out. I feel like I can finally make it all work without being 100% miserable 24/7. It isn't without effort. I'm trying out new recipes all the time and changing parts of the old ones to make them work. They aren't all delicious. Sometimes we try one and it's disgusting. But it's a marathon, not a sprint and it'll get easier I think. Maintaining this after I get to my goal (which I honestly haven't completely set yet) should be fairly simple. Until I get there, I'm hoping to keep my head down and power through maybe another 20-30 pounds.