The cookies are stale, the parties and gatherings are over, the holidays have come and gone for another year and the damage has been done. But it’s okay, because January 1st is fast approaching and that means it’s time to get serious. You know what I’m talking about – it’s 30-day challenge time. Time to cut the crap and do this clean eating thing, like, majorly hardcore. Thirty days of no grains, no dairy, no soy, no added sugar, no legumes, no alcohol and what many would call – NO FUN. But you’re ready for this, after all the holiday feasting, 30 days of nothing but meat and veggies doesn’t sound so bad and you’re ready to retire the elastic waistband until next year, right?
Starting the year off ‘fresh’ is definitely not a bad idea, especially if you went a little overboard during the past month (or three…). Unfortunately, many of us have come to rely on these 30-day resets to clean-up what we do every day that’s not one of the 30. It becomes a cycle; 30 good days followed by what might be termed as a food face-plant that continues up until the next 30-day clean-out. The infamous day 31 strikes again. It’s the same old situation. I’ve heard and witnessed it over and over again. These “Whole 30’s”, “Whole Life/Paleo Challenges” and Sugar Detoxes are a great way to jump start things IF you need jumpstarting. Where they fall short though, is in preparing you for life after day 30. See, this eating well thing isn’t something that just happens in 30 day time slots or during a challenge at the gym and not being ready for what’s to come when the structure goes – well, let’s just say chocolate, ice cream, French fries and chips taste pretty damn good – especially when you haven’t had them for 30 days…
So how do you avoid this sudden direction change, I mean really what can you do? Well, I’ve got a couple thoughts. The first being, if this isn’t your first 30-day rodeo and you and have a pretty good idea about the foods that are and aren’t an issue for you – then is it really necessary to do this – AGAIN? They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing you’ve always done expecting to get a different result, and well, you’re in the same spot you were last time you jumped into one of these deals. Bang your head against the wall much? Maybe a saner, longer lasting lifestyle approach would be a better idea. Instead of 30 days of hardcore living followed by complete food debauchery, just cut the daily treats and/or gorge fests that have been all too regular lately. Watch your portions and make healthy choices most of the time. I know; CRAZY, right?
I get it though, everyone at the gym is all fired up and dammit you want a piece of the action. Or maybe you’ve never done this total clean out before and want to establish a baseline. Well then, by all means jump in with both feet, BUT (you knew that one was coming) go in with a plan for coming out. There’s a great program for getting people started in the gym called “On Ramp”. What we need in this case is a 30-day challenge “Off Ramp”. Gym challenge putter-on-ers PAY ATTENTION! I know your intentions are good and you’re trying to get everyone healthy and eating well – but you gotta prep them for day 31! Without a plan for ‘what’s next’, there’s a whole lot of people out there that spend days 10-30 planning their first move on day 31 and that first move often includes a trip to Krispy Kreme… (Yes, I’m looking at you.).
So how does this “Off-Ramp” thing work? Well, that’s going to depend on where you’re at. For all you first-timers, your situation is going to be more delicate than that of the habitual challenge-cycler. I would suggest that you add foods back one at a time in order to see how your body responds to them. You might find that dairy makes you break out or that bread and pasta (gluten free or not) really mess you up. If you make pizza your first taste of freedom – you won’t know if you’re reacting to the cheese, the crust or both. I know, it’s a total buzzkill, but you’ve come this far – don’t give up the ship now, you’ll be glad you were patient when you figure out what does and doesn’t work for you.
If you’re one of the seasoned pros, (Here’s your sign: the Krispy Kreme staff knows that you disappear in 30 day cycles), you know which foods do and don’t work with your body. So instead of completely jumping ship when the show is over, try a more gradual approach. Maybe you celebrate with a glass of wine or two at dinner and a piece of chocolate for dessert. Just make sure dinner isn’t an entire large pizza and breadsticks. If you really want pizza though, have a couple slices (if you’re okay with dairy and the crust ingredients) instead of the wine and chocolate – save those for another day. The key here is to decide what you really want and based on your goals see where it might fit in your life for the long haul.
Confession time – My name is Amy, and I eat oatmeal every day for breakfast. (Disclaimer: I am by no means advocating this for everyone.) I have found that my digestion, my energy, my level of satisfaction and my mental and emotional health have all improved since I’ve found a happy balance of foods (paleo or otherwise) that my body tolerates. This flexibility isn’t going to look the same for everyone and I am by no means saying that you all need to start eating oatmeal or anything else that might make you less healthy or conflict with your goals. What I am saying is that there is no one PERFECT diet for everyone and if what you’re eating is making your body OR your mind sick, then it’s definitely not the best choice for you.
So if you’re getting ready to leap into your first or next Whole 30, Paleo Challenge, Whole Life Challenge or Sugar Detox make sure you’ve got a solid “Off-Ramp” plan ready. Remember that being healthy isn’t something that you commit to doing for 30 days at a time. You’re in this for life and if you’re not enjoying it what’s the point?
**NEW YEARS SPECIAL** From now until January 5th, 2014 get $5 off Robb’s 30-Day Paleo Transformation Guide. Just use the coupon code NEWYEAR when you checkout and get ready to make 2014 your healthiest year yet and if you’d like some help with the “Off Ramp” let me know. It’s going to be a great year!