Friday, July 31, 2015

July Clean Eating Health Challenge - Complete!

July is over and yippee I've made it! I survived eating a striped down 'clean' diet in which I cut out gluten, dairy, alcohol, sugar and processed foods. I successfully stuck to a clean eating diet for 30 days and I'm here today to share with you what I've learned and how I'm feeling now that the month is complete. I've had some realizations this month, I've come up with some plans for my future and I'm starting a new 30-day health challenge for August that I'm going to share with you here.

I have a more thorough breakdown of how my clean eating month went over on the Shift Worker's Guide from midway through the month and a final wrap-up. Otherwise, here is my quick breakdown of what I learned this month and what I have planned moving forward.

What it was like to spend a month eating clean:

Honestly, this has been a month of ups and downs and trails and tribulations but it was overall a great experience that I'm very glad I embarked on. I wasn't always perfect and being a shift worker didn't make the challenege to eat clean and healthy any easier but I succeeded in completing it and I'm happy for that fact. Here are some quick points that stood out to me about this month's challenge:

1. I succeeded in proving to myself that I can maintain a healthy diet and life even while being a shift worker and that it doesn't have to be a chore.
2. It probably took me all month to truly withdrawl from years of eating refined white sugar and processed foods. It wasn't always a pleasant experience but it was well worth it considering all the benefits that I'm now exepriencing.
3. These benefits include: I now have more energy than I've had in a long time, my sleep habits and patterns have changed for the better, I no longer have cravings for junk food and it's easier to say no and avoid the bad-for-me foods.
4. Once the 30-day challenge was over I decided to give myself the weekend to indulge in a few things that I'd been missing over the month, such as bread, cheese, wine, chocolate, etc. and in doing so I'm now reminded why I embarked on this journey in the first place: I feel so much better eating clean.
5. I've decided that from now on I'm going to eat clean as my normal way of life. I'll continue to avoid refined white sugar, processed foods and alcohol while experimenting with reintroducing some gluten and dairy back into my life in moderation. I'll keep you posted! 

What does the future look like for me:

As number 5 stated above I'm going to make clean eating my new standard in the way I eat and live. I'm going to continue to blog and write about my experience with living a healthy life and share my recipes for turning classic comfort foods into healthy and clean versions. In that vein one of my goals for the future is to create a book that will serve as a starting point and guide post for others who are intertested in starting on the clean eating way of life. I want to create this book as something that will help others withdrawl from the junk they've been eating and make the switch to healthy with the help of guidelines, recipes, and tips.

I had a friend join me for a portion of this month in order to clean up his diet and he turned to me for advice and guidance throughout the process. He has so far experienced similar positive results from totally changing his life around when it comes to his health and that's something I and he want to share with you. In the near future you will see an interview with this friend of mine on his experience going from someone who knew nothing about clean eating to being a health rockstar.

Another plan I have for the future is to expand the Uncommon Wealth empire into another area of interest of mine. This is a fun thing that I've been thinking about for a while and I think it's about time I dove right in and got started. I've always been someone who has really enjoyed arts and crafts, organization and writing and I think I've found a way of life and a supportive online community that intersects all those interests. What I'm talking about is planners and the planning community. This may make no sense to you right now but this is something that I've very passionate and excited about. Do not expect to start seeing planner posts pop up on this blog but I will be creating a YouTube channel and accompanied social media accounts that'll be associated with the Uncommon Wealth title.

I know I was a bit MIA on the blog here during July but I've recommitted myself to this blog and I have some really exciting things in the works for the future so stay tuned!

New 30-day Health Challenge for August: Meditation

August has arrived and with it a new 30-day health challenge. For August I've decided to take a break from the diet and exercise focsued challenges to one that is more mental health related. As stated above I'm defintiely going to continue to maintain a healthy diet and a regular exercise routine, however I'm now going to add on an element that will help me balance another important area of my health: my brain.

I believe taking care of my mental health is so important especially being someone who is a shift worker in emergency services. I hear and witness too often how stressful shift work-type jobs in the emergency services are and can wreck havoc on a person's mental and emotional states and I'd like to find a healthy way to counteract this process.

I've dabbled with meditation in the past and I've felt like it has helped and when I've maintained a regular practice but I've been so far unable to make it a permanent part of my life. I truly believe that meditation and mindfulness is a beneficial practice and should be part of everyone's healthy daily routine. So for that reason this month I'm going to set myself a goal of meditating a minimun of 5-10 minutes a day in the hopes of setting up a regular meditation practice.

There are a lot of great resources out there to help you learn how to meditate: for example just search meditation on Google and you'll be surprised what you can find. I really enjoy using guided meditations to help me and I currently have the and the Omvana apps on my iPhone, which allow me to download and use a variety of meditations, sounds and music for free or a small price to aid me in my meditations. If you are new to meditation check out Headspace, which is a website and a free app that explains in plain language and with fun cartoons how to meditate and make it a regular practice with the help of a free 21-day intro program.

I'm going to experiment with adding mediation to my morning and eveing routine and see which works best for me. I'll keep you posted on my progress but for now just get started: sit quietly, close your eyes and focus on your breath while letting all other distractions drift away for just a couple minutes...and viola you've just meditated! Repeat tomorrow, and the day after and then the day after that until wow now you're a meditator: welcome to the club! Feels great doesn't it? Let me know how you've done with meditation and any resources, tips or tricks you've found helpful in the comments below. 

Happy meditating and as always here's to your uncommonly wealthy life! :)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

July Clean Eating 30-Day Health Challenge - Update

As my tradition was for my last 30-day challenge I would usually do a one week check-in at this point however I have some rather exciting news. Instead of the usual weekly check-in you're going to get a small check-in now as well as a mid-month check-in and a final monthly wrap up that I'll be guest posting onto another blog: Yippee!!

I'll be guest posting on the 'Shift Worker's Guide to Getting By'; due to the fact that I'm a shift worker and attempting to live a healthy life while doing so I'm going to be featured on this fantastic website. It's tough being a shift worker in general and even tougher to try to be a healthy shift worker. I'm looking forward to sharing my trails and tribulations of clean eating while working shifts on the Shift Worker's Guide. Look for that post midway through next week and to hold you over until then here's a quick rundown of how it's going so far.

So obviously I survived my first week of my July clean eating challenge and surprisingly it hasn't been as bad as I predicted. I did go through a bit of a detox (I'll spare you the gory details) and a caffeine withdrawal during the first 3-4 days in which I had a permanent headache but then as I emerged into day 5 I was feeling awesome and enthusiastic. I really think I can pull this off...what do you think?

I believe it seemed easier this time than previously times I've tried to eat clean because I already had a really good foundation going into this one from successfully completing the June green smoothie challenge. However, there were a couple of important points that were reinforced for me while doing this new challenge. The first being that planning and preparation are key, secondly the struggle is real when it comes to cravings and lastly that I can still eat the foods I love albeit in clean ways. Keep reading for some great online resources that I love and were super useful this week as well as a clean chocolate pudding recipe that helped me deal when a chocolate craving hit me hard on day 6.

Useful Online Resources:

Food Babe: a blog I've been reading for a while now and I think has a lot of great information and recipes for the label ignorant and nutrition uninformed. Food babe's way is a bit extreme; I've tried it before and I found it expensive, unrealistic and unsustainable, that is if you follow it to the letter. I think she has some great points and suggestions but you have to tailor it to your lifestyle and find what works for you. That's what I did!

Environment Working Group (EWG): When it comes to knowing which fruit and veg are worth buying organic check out the dirty dozen list and which ones you can get away with not buying organic check out the clean fifteen list.

Dawna Stone: her blog is all about the 'Healthy You Diet' and I'm currently following the free '14-Day Healthy You Challenge' on Facebook for access to great recipes and inspiration that's helping me through my clean eating journey.

Get Informed:

Another tidbit of advice for you: read labels, and read the back of packages and do your research because all companies (including the supposedly healthy/clean ones) are trying to pull the wool over your eyes and sell you the cheapest junk they can get away with. I've been interested in nutrition and the food industry for a long time and I've done for my own research for years and I've noticed many trends and changes as the general public has become more informed about what they're putting into their mouths. That is a subject for a separate post because there is a lot of information and I have some strong opinions concerning this area. In the meantime I'll say it again: read your labels and don't get tricked by the fancy language and packaging.

That's it for now, stay tuned for my guest post and for now I'll leave you with the recipe for my clean chocolate pudding and as always here's to your uncommonly wealthy life! :)

Clean Chocolate Pudding with Avocado:

1/2 Avocado, ripe 
1/2 Banana, ripe 
1/4 cup Dark Chocolate Cocoa Powder
1/4 cup Creamy Peanut Butter, the all-natural just peanuts kind
1/4 cup Almond Milk
1 tbsp Honey**

Blend all ingredients together in a food processor or blender (I used a Magic Bullet: love it!) Add extra cocoa or sweetness depending on your preference. Makes about 2 servings and for an extra treat top with a dollop of coconut whip cream: yum! Eat, enjoy and feel your cravings subside. Success! :)

**As a side note, I know I'm not doing sugar, however when I say sugar I mean the refined white sugar, but I'm also avoiding other refined and processed sweetener options like maple syrup, agave syrup and even some stevia. For the purpose of my clean diet I'm sticking to honey and certain pure stevia if needed. More research is needed on coconut sap/nectar.**

Thursday, July 02, 2015

30-Day Health Challenge - July

IIt's officially July and that means it's time for a new 30-day health challenge. As I previously mentioned I'm going to continue with my green smoothie habit from June and build on it with this new health challenge. 

Now due to the fact that July has 31 days and the first of the month is a holiday in my country: Canada Day, I've decided to start this challenge today on the second day of July. So what is this new challenge I speak of; well it's a nutrition and diet related one again and this time it's going to be actually quiet challenging. 

For the month of July I'm going to stick to a clean eating program. What does this clean eating program look like you may ask. Well here is it all lined up for you and for me in black and white below. 

July 30-Day Clean Eating Challenge: 
- Alcohol Free
- Sugar Free
- Gluten Free
- Dairy Free
- Processed-Food Free

So yeah that's a lot of 'frees', so what can I eat:

- Meat: lean & minimal red meat*
- All fruits & vegetables*
- Grains: quinoa, brown & wild rice, buckwheat, other non-gluten grains. 
- Beans & lentils
- Nuts & Seeds

*hormone & antobotic free, etc meat and organic and local fruits and veggies as much as possible 

This means I'm going to start making most of meals for myself as well as many of the convenience health foods that I know and love. This includes making homemade almond milk, hummus, salad dressings and sauces to name a few. I look forward to expanding my kitchen repertoire. 

So yeah this is going to be a tough one and I'm totally prepared to go through a withdrawal/detox in the first few days at least. I've tried various diets like gluten-free, dairy-free or sugar free on their own before with varied success. This is the first time I will take on such a drastic diet change with all these changes all at once. 

I know I'm going to be ok though because I'm much better prepared this time especially after completing the June challenge. Another tough choice is that I'm going to start drinking tea again more so than coffee and I won't be able to have my daily piece of dark chocolate. I love coffee and chocolate so I think those will be the hardest parts for me. 

I can already feel the headaches and moodiness starting to hit as I start my first day of eating clean with a green smoothie with black tea for breakfast and a legume & sprout salad with green tea for lunch. However I can also start to feel the benefits of this healthy way of eating. 

I just have to remind myself that this is my health that I'm working towards, which is super important to me and I'm in this for the long haul. The short term pain will soon pass and I'm putting into place the framework for my overall health and wellbeing. 

In doing this challenge I'll also be continuing with my same exercise routine of lifting weights 3 times per week. I'm also going to ramp up my exercise with running and swimming 3-4 times per week on top of the weights. 

The reason I'm doing such drastic changes for July is because I'm working towards a physical exam that will really test my mental and physical fitness. More on that later...

What are some tricks that have helped you get through some truly gruelling life changes? It may be hard now but I know it'll only get easier and I'll be overall better off for doing it. Check back in a week to see if I'm still feeling the same enthusiasm towards this challenge. Until then here's to your uncommonly wealthy life! :)