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.
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:
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.