How I survived a month without alcohol or sugar (and lost a LOT of body fat)

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I know, you’re thinking: “she’s crazy, right?” Well… I might be, but it worked! Yep, I’ve continued to keep this going past the one month mark and had no intention of doing so. After moving back to Seattle, I realized that coming off of a huge 6-month traveling tour took it’s toll on my gut as well as my mood. I’ve spent hours thinking about how food affects my body and mind and I soon realized that it wasn’t about cutting out cheese and butter. After reading a few books outlining the benefits of a diet with no sugar or simple carbs and an increase in healthy fat, I finally decided to commit to it. Just like that…commitment happened.

This new approach to eating began with baby steps. When I started to analyze my habits, I noticed that every time I’d drink wine or any alcohol, the rest of my diet would slightly slip. On nights I omitted the wine, I’d usually eat a delicious salad with hefty vegetables and sugar-free, healthy salad dressing for dinner. But whenever I’d drink even one glass of wine, I’d sit one my couch and start snacking on processed popcorn or ‘healthy’ chips. Then, that jolt of energy would kick-start my cravings for bread, chocolate, parmesan, pasta, pizza and everything else I was trying to avoid. I had never associated the two habits before, but once I paid attention, it made sense.

The first two weeks of cutting out alcohol were easy. My routines continued without issue: working out, lots of decaf tea and plenty of new books. But once social events began to fill the calendar, avoiding alcohol became far more difficult than I thought it would be. My friends and I would go to dinner and everyone would order a glass of something. But rather than sip on a cabernet or merlot, I’d just order boring old water and sip it begrudgingly as the rest of them cheered with wine soaked smiles. To add more to the struggle, I traveled to San Diego on a weekend business trip, which was filled with evening parties, networking events and business dinners. This is where the learning curve made itself even more known. During moments when I’d normally think nothing of a drink or two, I was suddenly glancing around the room like an ugly duckling with no social safety net.

I didn’t drink casually because I necessarily wanted to, but because it is a cultural norm. Conversation flowed more easily, happy buzzed vibes gave me energy and I’d enjoy a night out a whole lot more. When I stopped drinking, there was a constant, uneasy feeling of FOMO, (fear of missing out) on nights where everyone would go out to bars. It just didn’t sound fun to soberly watch drunk people laugh and spill their beers all night. ‘Why don’t we go to the park? How about a picnic? Laser tag anyone?’ I’d think to myself.

Noticing the social expectations of having a drink made me feel somewhat frustrated. I’m not an alcoholic, but it was eye-opening to watch how much of society revolves around drinking alcohol.

Soon though, something interesting and unexpected occurred. Once I set the standard for not drinking, I noticed my friends absorbing my actions. When I’d say, ‘No thanks, I’m not drinking tonight,’ they would say, ‘Oh, yeah I don’t think I want anything either.’ Then, we’d order hot water with lemon instead and guess what… we’d STILL enjoy each other! How incredible!

Kicking alcohol was just the start. The confidence I mustered during those initial thirty days led me into my next challenge: NO SUGAR. Cringe-worthy, right? I didn’t know what shutting out sugar would be like, but I wanted to discover what else I could accomplish.

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Normally, I wouldn’t consider reading food labels because I usually eat whole, unprocessed foods, but once I started paying attention to what contained sugar, my habits again became even more obvious. Initially, I decided to cut all desserts. Yes, this was insanely challenging, but I remained bold and strict. (Even when someone brought Top Pot Doughnuts to work). Now THAT was excruciating. But every time I forced myself to walk away from those sugary foods, it got easier and easier. The first three times I nearly ruined my streak, but soon enough there wasn’t a question of whether I’d eat it or not. I just didn’t.

You’ll find that most items with heavy sugar content also are cakey, starchy, carbo-loaded foods like cookies, coffee cake, pancakes, pasta, etc. So cutting out alcohol led me to cut out sugar, which then naturally became cutting out simple and unhealthy carbs, all by association!

Fast forward to a month and a half later and I feel happier than ever with a clean gut and far less excess body fat. I don’t weigh myself because pounds aren’t important to me, but I still FEEL fifteen pounds lighter, which should be the focus of getting healthier. Throughout this time, I continued my workout plan of exercising five to six times a week, switching off between yoga and weightlifting. Cutting out all this crap has resulted in far more energy, improved mood and lightened spirit, all because I decided to take the plunge and risk being the ugly duckling at a gathering.

In order to give myself some inspiration to continue my alcohol free lifestyle, I tried having a glass of wine while working at a restaurant one night to see how it would make me feel. Immediately, my body spoke loud and clear. One glass of wine after weeks and weeks of a clean liver made me feel foggy, slightly dizzy and again, pushed me to order a cheesy french onion soup that I later regretted.

So what does this mean for you? Start small. If you aren’t someone who drinks at all, (good for you), this domino effect system will still work. Starting with something like caffeine, sugar or bread is just as good as alcohol. Test yourself to see what you can truly accomplish. This system especially works when you have a buddy doing it with you. My boyfriend was the one to initially suggest cutting out alcohol to be healthier and his partnership in the adventure helped immensely. In those moments where I was about to give up, I’d think of his dedication and successes, and find the strength to say no. So, to inspire you further, here are three books you MUST read:

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Sugar Crush by Raquel Baldelomar & Dr. Richard Jacoby

Skinny Bitch by Kim Barnouin

Smart Fat by Jonny Bowden and Steven Masley

 

 

 

Eating well and regaining control of your diet takes small, intentional steps and patience. Upwards of 80% of fat loss can be credited to diet. Not only that, but mood and behavior is directly associated to what you put in your mouth. “Your mood comes from your gut,” my mother used to say. Cutting out something that is making your body sick, blended with activity and exercise will shove you into a new mindset, thus giving you the strength you need to be truly heathy and lose excess body fat.

If you need help getting started or some more information about health and wellness, write in the comments below so we can get connected! For more health tips, follow me on Instagram or Twitter !

T.

 

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Staying healthy during the holidays

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The holidays are almost here! As much as we garner joy from this time of year, we also find ourselves dreading some of the hidden habits that we take on from October 31st to January 1st (or 2nd depending on how hungover you are.)

So how do we stay on track? Is it simply impossible? Should we just accept that we’ll fall off the bandwagon and deal with it later?

One of the most important aspects of staying healthy and lean is to not give yourself the option to dive off the deep end. I know that whenever I’m home with family, I’ll crave baking a pie or cooking with as much butter as I can get my hands on. But before I give myself the option to consider opening up that old school cookbook my mom’s had for 30 years, I remember that if the food is there, I’m going to eat it. I can’t handle the temptation. So how do we still enjoy this time of year without quitting our favorites cold turkey? I have one word for you:

SUBSTITUTIONS. 

Substitutions definitely work but take more thoughtfulness. Nowadays, there are so many foods that can help to stop your cravings and make you feel satisfied without having to indulge.

This is what I mean:

Craving sugar? Pie? Cookies? = chia pudding with almond milk, cinnamon, honey, shaved almonds, fruit or a cup of tea sweetened with honey or Stevia. Many times your sugar cravings kick in when you’re dehydrated. Take a minute to down a few glasses of water, wait 10 minutes and see if you still have the craving. I bet you don’t!

Want a big ol’ juicy steak? = often times we crave a burger or steak because we’re low on iron or protein. Our minds are wired to go there because the flavors are most abundant. But, there are so many vegetable dishes that end up satisfying us just like a burger would. I know that sounds crazy and you might be rolling your eyes right now, but give it a try. Here are some decadent vegetable recipes that will help curve that craving while satisfying you on all levels: Dig-in!

Need a buzz? = GO FOR WINE. Don’t slap the bag or chug it at dinner, but wine often helps with digestion. Still, don’t go crazy. Try having a glass of red rather than sugary, syrupy, goopy, Cinnamon Bailey’s, Egg Nog over-the-top holiday craziness.

Overeating = overeating is a common side-effect of the holidays. Everything is just so yummy so why not fill your entire plate twice because it’s so welcoming? Because you’ll die from the expanding digestive tract inside you. THAT’S WHY. Think about this: the day before everyone arrives for Thanksgiving and Christmas, drink as much water as you can. Drink water like it’s your job. The more water you drink, the less pain you’ll feel after the meal. You’ll be slightly full before the meal so you’ll eat less.

So while that turkey looks beautiful and indulging, think about preparing for the massive amounts of food and set yourself up for success. You’ve worked so hard to eat consciously, now keep yourself on track!

T.

 

 

 

 

 

Top 5 ways to feed your soul (and jump start your metabolism)

Do you ever experience that ridiculously full feeling after a meal? We’ve been told so many things about our diet and how it relates directly to digestion. Drink more water, eat more fiber, eat more of that, eat less of that, bla bla bla. It’s all so confusing and seems to change every five minutes. So rather than changing anything that we eat, here are 5 tips to boost your metabolism and make you feel better after a meal:

1. Eat slowly

This is my #1 rule. Eating slowly is so hard to do sometimes. Unless, you’re one of those people with the magic ability to NOT stuff your face. (That’s not me.) Eating slowly allows you time to enjoy your food. Our bodies digest food slower than we eat it and you’d be shocked how much less you eat when you take the time to put the fork down in between bites. Plus, the meal lasts so much longer, so the bliss continues!

2. Savor your food – feed your soul

One of the hardest parts of being a hard worker is that we tend to eat on the move. While eating in between meetings is alright once in awhile, try to remember to stop, sit and enjoy your meal. Don’t eat food that you don’t thoroughly enjoy, because sometimes you’ll forget how amazing flavor and texture can truly be. Take one bite, chew it slowly and think about what flavors stick out to you. Think about what you love about each ingredient. Maybe next time you’ll realize how good that sandwich was rather than cringe at how full you feel.

3. Invite friends to join you

Most of us eat alone these days. Especially in America, we work ourselves into the ground and end up eating alone on our couch with a glass of wine while watching our favorite show. Eating is a cultural, physiological practice, which is meant to be enjoyed with others. When you eat with a group of friends or your family, you tend to find more joy and comfort from your meal. So next time you’re driving home thinking of ordering Grubhub or Postmates alone, call up your mom or your best friend and invite them over. Have a party!

4. Carry around healthy snacks  – so you don’t go into starvation mode

I know for me, whenever I don’t bring snacks with me to work, I get hangry and rush off to the closest taco stand. Instead of ordering 2 tacos, I order 4 and I eat them as if I’ve never eaten in my entire life. I let myself get far too hungry which simply becomes a stomach ache and instant regret. Yes those tacos were great, but I could barely taste them since it was apparently a race to inhale as much shrimp, salsa and guacamole as humanly possible. So don’t be me at lunch next time. Bring nuts, peanut butter, apples and maybe a raw protein bar to hold you over. We aren’t neanderthals!

5. Cook…all the time.

Cooking is not only one of the most enjoyable pastimes for many, but it is a way to understand what goes in to creating the meals we love so much. Humans began their existence by hunting, gathering, preparing and sharing their food in a slow, drawn out manner. Some cultures understand the social connection we are meant to have with food, but for some reason Americans tend to purchase and stuff, rather than cook every meal. When we cook, we have more control over the calories we consume, we can reduce stress and perhaps build relationships if we cook with friends. So pop open that recipe book!

Special thanks to Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food.