Overall, I think it went really well, but let me be clear—I wasn’t perfect. I slipped up a few times without meaning to, adding a splash of an “illegal” sauce to a dish without thinking or making a bit of an exception to the “5 ingredients or less” rule for packaged foods. But, with a few compromises (and maybe one emergency fro-yo trip), I stuck more or less to the plan.
At least, I did when I had control over the food. It became a hell of a lot harder when I left the house.
This wasn’t much of a surprise to me—I knew that going out to eat or going to a party would be a challenge, and with a couple of close friends celebrating birthdays the weekend of my pledge, I knew those were challenges I’d have to face. I decided to give it a shot in a “real life” type of way, meaning I would make an effort to follow the rules, but I wasn’t going to pack my own food to take to a restaurant or skip out on a party in order to avoid breaking a rule.
(Not that I have a problem with doing that, for the record. I know that making allowances can be a very slippery slope—I’ve taken a few slides down that slope myself. But, since my goal with this pledge was to become more aware of how much of my normal food doesn’t really qualify as “real,” I was okay with a little sliding.)
Anyway, I started out strong. We went out for sushi, and I ordered an avocado and tuna salad, which was delicious. But, when I saw some of my husband’s sushi (with delicious spicy sauces, of course) just sitting there, lonely and uneaten, I couldn’t just stand by. And when the cake from an amazing local bakery came out, I opted to have a small slice. It was delicious, and I didn’t regret it for a moment, especially because, as far as cake goes, this was made with as many “real” ingredients as possible.
Later in the weekend, things got a bit tougher. Dinner after happy hour (yes, beer was allowed) was mostly on track, but the French fries on the side? Not so much. And although I brought watermelon to the pool party I attended on Sunday, well, no amount of watermelon makes me immune to the siren song of chips and salsa. (Or homemade ginger snaps, if I’m being honest.)
I’m not about to beat myself up about not following all the rules, all the time. The point of this pledge, for me, anyway, was to gauge how many of the things I eat regularly that are overly processed, and to determine whether I could easily swap those items out for better choices. And I definitely learned some lessons.
I cut out my beloved flavored lattes, instead opting for coffee (big, big coffees) with a bit of half and half and a sprinkle of cinnamon, and honestly, it’s delicious. By the end of the 10 days, I hardly even struggled with ordering a Venti Blonde instead of a Cinnamon Dolce Latte. (We’ll see how that goes when Pumpkin Spice Lattes come back, but hey, it’s a start.) I made a point to stick to plain Greek yogurt instead of flavored ones, and as long as I had some fresh fruit cut up and ready, that was a piece of cake. And, for early morning workouts, instead of a flavored yogurt or a granola bar or something else with added sugar, I grabbed a couple of medjool dates, sometimes with a smear of almond butter, and found it to be easy, delicious, and all I need for an hour or so of exercise.
I also learned that I probably need more than 10 days of strict rule-following to get me out of the habit of having something sweet at night. Most of the time I was just fine with some fresh fruit, but every once in a while, I felt a serious need for something more. Hence the emergency fro-yo mentioned above. But you know what? I’m pretty okay with that, at least for now.
The pledge itself might be over, but me? I’m nowhere near done. I like the way eating a little cleaner makes me feel and fully intend to continue following the rules…albeit loosely.
Have you ever done a clean-eating challenge and vowed to stick with it after the fact? How did that go for you? —Kristen