It has been 3 weeks since I started my diet experiment & overall I’m very pleased with the results so far. (You can find all of my raw data here)
As many of us have experienced when trying to establish a new habit, the beginning is often the easiest part of the process. Novelty, excitement & the initial burst of energy can help get us moving. Before too long however, old habits along with our environment can pull us back to our old behaviour & it is at these times when we may need to ‘dig deep’.
I’ve experienced some of this. There were a couple of times on week 2 where I thought — ‘wouldn’t it just be easier to go back to regular eating?’ There were challenges encountered in attending a neighbourhood BBQ & also in discovering that there are very limited options for vegan or plant-based eating when you go out to a typical restaurant.
The key to pushing through these barriers was reminding myself of the reasons why I chose to undertake this experiment. We’ve all heard this advice before, to get clear about the why of our actions & in order to more fully embrace it, I continued to read lots of information about the benefits that folks have achieved through eating more ‘real food’ as well as educate myself about the potential long-term problems caused by eating a typical western diet.
As I continued to read more about the search for the ideal diet, I was reminded of how easy it is to become defensive about one’s dietary choices. The ability to comment on articles and posts online in many ways serves to make this worse as folks trade insults about the pros and cons of Vegan vs. Paleo eating or the Mediterranean vs. the Atkins diet and everything in between. At times like this it it easy to forget that most of are attempting to discover the same thing — a way of eating that will help us live longer & healthier lives while feeling good in the process. Furthermore, it is easy to limit our reading only to ideas with which we agree & thus get lost in an echo chamber.
I’m learning to become curious about the impact that food has on me and my body. My experience so far, is that eating more real (minimally processed) foods, provides me a level of detail or granularity not available when eating foods that contain a large number of ingredients (especially those containing ingredients created in a laboratory). By this I mean that if I do not feel good after eating or drinking something then because I’ve either made the item myself from scratch or the items I’ve bought have fewer ingredients, I can more easily identify the possible culprit.
Going forward, this will allow me to experiment more easily with adding or subtracting certain foods or even food groups. I’m looking forward to exploring this in more detail at some future point. Some immediate experiments that come to mind are things like excluding wheat completely for a short period of time or experimenting with a raw food only diet.
So, what’s changed or has stayed the same?
My energy levels have remained fairly consistent at between 7 & 8 (out of a possible 10) aside from a couple of periods where I felt tired after unusually exerting myself physically (or in 1 case partying a little too hard the night before 🙂 . My average daily score is now approximately 7.5.
I recognize that while my food intake can and does impact my energy levels in a big way, how I’m feeling emotionally can also have a significant impact. For example, feelings of overwhelm or frustration or lack of progress on tasks or projects can also be big energy drainers. Which begs the question — what might it be like to eat consistently well for my body and eliminate or greatly reduce the procrastination that can sap my mental energy? What would superior physical & mental energy look like?
This is consistently positive & stable and it appears to be inching up to an average of 8.25 (out of a possible 10) over the course of each day.
My average number of hours of sleep per night seems to be coming in at around 6 & consistent across 7 days.
At the end of week 3, I weighed 163.5lbs/74.1kg. I have lost approximately 3.5lbs/1.6kgs over the past 2 weeks. This represents a net loss of 3lbs/1.36kg since the start of the experiment. I suspect some of this was triggered by 2 long hikes (10miles/16Km each over hilly terrain) last weekend in warm weather as well as continuing to reduce the amount of processed food in my diet.
I made a decision to skip a fast day this week especially after hiking in the warm weather. After checking my weight at the end of week three, I was a little concerned to see the final figure. I checked my new BMI and it is 21.6. This is directly in the middle of the normal weight range (18.5 to 24.9 BMI). I will monitor this figure closely over the coming weeks and check that further weight loss does not occur.
As a result of this, the following occurred to me.
In the UK & the US more than 65% of adults are considered to be overweight or obese (having a BMI greater than 25 is considered overweight and a BMI of above 29.9 is considered obese). Because of this reality, are we losing sight of what normal weight looks like? We have for years spoken about the unrealistic images of women used in advertising. Are we now at risk of going too far down the other end of the scale & accepting (from a health perspective) obesity as a natural state for humans?
To put my BMI in perspective (according to a tool on the BBC website), within the UK I have a lower BMI that 95% of males age 45 to 59 and globally a lower BMI than 75% of adult males in that age group. I am apparently most like a male in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I find this both interesting and quite scary.
I have been consistently active over the past 3 weeks. I took my first group exercise class in many years & have signed up for another. I’ve maintained an average of 10,700 steps daily in week 2 & 15,000 in week 3 and have increased my attendance at the gym to levels not seen in 5+ years. Most importantly, I feel that I have established momentum which now motivates me to expand beyond my usual repertoire of cardio & free weights to stretching, pilates, yoga, & work on my core.
I’m mindful of how my relationship with food has radically changed over the past 3 weeks of this experiment (& the past 18 months as I’ve experimented with different ways of eating) It is really interesting to observe the internal dialogue that is happening during this ‘letting go’ process. There’s a sense of having cut off a piece of my human experience. I’ve become really aware of the extent to which I reward myself with food & as I’ve done less of this I’m curious to discover what if anything will take its place as a reward.
I suspect that should I choose to continue eating in this way, this feeling would gradually diminish & I would transfer my ‘rewards’ onto other foodstuffs. So for example even though I’ve eaten pretty much the same breakfast each day for the past 3 weeks, I still look forward to it. And, previously where polishing off a bar of chocolate or a large bag of crisps was seen as a giant unhealthy treat, having 2 healthy fruit & nut bars has started to seem a little indulgent.
Planning & preparing food ahead continues to be key to success. This past weekend, I went away on a hiking weekend, staying at a youth hostel. To help ensure that I stuck to my eating plan & to do so in a healthful way, I brought along all of my own food. While a little inconvenient, it turned out to be a successful move.
I’ve noticed that it is easy to fill up the freezer with processed soy foods or meat replacements. I’m mindful to not do this. So as well as keeping my food choices vegan I am attempting to have my foods be as unprocessed as possible.
Update on goals
I identified 3 goals at the end of week 1. Here they are along with an update:
1. Expand the variety of foods that I eat, be a bit more adventurous | This is a work in progress. To date, I’ve tried to keep this experiment as simple as possible which has resulted in keeping many breakfasts or other meals the same. Should I choose to continue this beyond 30 days, this will become more of a priority for me.
2. Take a gym class to challenge myself physically (I have not taken a gym class in many years, typically preferring to exercise by myself) | I took a group exercise class and am planning to incorporate 1 or 2 of these per week into my exercise schedule.
3. Ensure that I’m taking any supplements that I need to take | I have researched & purchased a variety of nutritional supplements to help ensure that all of my nutritional requirements will be met. However, as some of these vitamins & minerals are sold in quite high doses, I want to undertake some additional research on correct dosages to ensure that I am not placing myself at risk of another kind before I begin to take them.
At the time of writing, I have 1 week left on my experiment. The weeks have passed quickly & I look forward to sharing my final observations and report next week.