Day 1: Eating Clean for Lent

Day 1: Eating Clean for Lent
Salad isn't all bland.  I am getting better at making interesting combinations.  Here: cashew salmon salad.
Salad isn’t all bland. I am getting better at making interesting combinations. Here: cashew salmon salad.

Today is the first day of Lent and so begins my 40-day life experiment. Last year, I chose to do yoga for 40 days and ended up adding in a diet as well and ended up dropping about 13 pounds. This year, my challenge is a little different.

I now know how to lose weight but I still have a lot to learn about maintaining weight. Over the past year, I have steadily gained back almost all of the weight that I lost last spring. However, even though the pounds on the scale are fairly similar, I have a very different body. I have lost about one inch from my waist and have toned arms and legs. I am stronger, more flexible and have more energy. I don’t feel that all of my efforts have been for nothing.

Also, as I was discussing with my husband the pitiful state of my weight gain, he suggested to me that losing weight in the spring might be key to maintaining my weight overall. Perhaps the healthy pattern for me is to lose in the spring and summer and gain back some in the fall and winter so that even though my weight is going up and down throughout the year overall there is a constant steady trend.

Over the past year, I would say the greatest challenge to my weight maintenance has been my love of sugar. I have come to accept that I might very well be a sugar addict. So, for this Lent, my goal is to try to eat “clean” by which I mean eating mostly fruits, vegetables, nuts and lean meats and cutting out sugar. I want to learn how to cook healthy meals and snacks and start getting it into my standard repertoire rather than falling back on the less healthy choices I have memorized. This is similar to what I did last year, however, last year I was eating only 1200 calories per day and this year I am going to try to eat the right number of calories for my goal weight.

It is certainly a lot more exciting to think about losing weight than maintaining weight but the weight maintenance mindset seems to be a lot more helpful for long-term results.

I am still keeping up my exercise as well. That has now become part of my daily routine. I currently do a rotation of DDP Yoga and Tracy Anderson. These are the right workouts for my body so other than adding in walks with my children I don’t need to change much in that area.

My children will also be getting in on the “fun” by having a daily challenge to taste healthy foods (mostly fruits and vegetables) and hopefully do a child-friendly workout as well. It’s a start, anyway.

If you want to join in (thanks Bertie for offering to do this with me!) here is what I did today:

1. Take “before” pictures. In my weight maintenance efforts over the past year, I found these pictures were so important for motivation. Sometimes you are exercising or dieting and seeing no results at all on the scale. It can really help you to keep going to get a reminder of what happens if you don’t keep going. Choose a close-fitting outfit from your closet and take some pictures from the front, side and back. If you are brave, you can also take a picture in a bikini or your underwear.

My "before" picture taken today.  It will be fun to track the change of seasons as well.  I am cheating a bit wearing my high heeled sandals.  :)
My “before” picture taken today. It will be fun to track the change of seasons as well. I am cheating a bit wearing my high heeled sandals. 🙂

2. Weigh in. Make a log with your current weight and measurements. For women, I find that bust, waist, hip, each thigh and the upper arms are the best places to track your weight. I weigh in every Sunday so I am just using my measurements from last Sunday.

3. Determine your goal weight. Choose something achievable in 40 days. It is probably unlikely that you will lose more than 30 pounds and it is probably better for your health and more sustainable if you choose something like 2 pounds per week (which, for the 40 days of Lent would be somewhere around 12 pounds). You may want to refer to my previous post on healthy weights to determine where your goal weight should be.

4. Determine the daily calories for your goal weight. You can use this calculator from the Mayo Clinic to determine what the daily calorie limits are for your weight and exercise level. Use this number as your guide.

5. Choose an exercise program. If you already have an exercise program, resolve to keep it up. Exercise is harder when you are eating fewer calories but it can be done. If you don’t have a regular exercise program, I have found the easiest routines for busy people are the 15-minutes per day ones that can be done at home or wherever you happen to be. YouTube is full of free exercise routines. Find one that you enjoy but that pushes you just a little bit.

6. Choose an eating plan and go grocery shopping if needed. For me, I decided that my guru for clean eating will be Gwyneth Paltrow and her cookbook It’s All Good, which I received for Christmas. There are several meal plans in the back of the book. I am not going to follow them exactly but will be using them as a rough guide. I am also going to keep up my 2 days of fasting since that is easy for me and cuts my cooking time. If the cooking aspect overwhelms you, you could always follow what I did last year which was plain oatmeal and a blueberry smoothie for breakfast and a (500-ish calorie) salad for lunch and dinner. My salad recipes are here and here.

7. Choose a distraction. If you are not used to calorie restriction you will be amazed to discover how many times during the day you are grabbing something to eat just because you are bored or out of habit. When you take away all those snacks, you need something to occupy your mind. For me, it will be spring cleaning. Last year it was knitting. Something that occupies your hands like painting, reading, practicing a musical instrument, etc. is a really good choice here.

It seems like a lot this first day but take it one step at a time. Seize on your positive energy and desire for change. It will get harder from here so try to remember that this is the “easy” part. Try to picture yourself 40 days from now with a leaner, fitter body and new, healthy eating habits. I find it is also helpful to remind yourself that it is only for 40 days and after 40 days you can do whatever you want. You can do this!