4 Unexpected Ways My Healthy Eating Challenge Impacted My Life

As I approach what is technically the last week of my healthy-eating challenge, a lot has changed. I actually did a much better job than I expected at eating well all month long, and I generally feel much healthier than I did before I began the challenge.

I mean, I’m not exactly eating salad for every meal, but I am definitely making better choices, and I’ve been a lot more mindful of how the things I put in my body make me feel. To wrap up the challenge (although I definitely don’t think my health-journey stops here), I decided to jot down a few of the most important takeaways from my month of healthy, mindful eating. Here are four things that I noticed happen over the past 30 days, and what I think they meant for my challenge, and my healthy-eating journey overall.

1. I shifted and focused my goals.

I didn’t drop my original goal, mostly because it was pretty vague to begin with. All I wanted to do was eat “better,” whatever that means, and keep a food journal to log what I’m eating and how it makes me feel. I did do all of these things, and I did learn a lot about what types of foods work well with my body and which ones don’t. But my goals actually seemed to become a bit more focused depending on the day during my challenge. Instead of saying “I want to eat healthier,” it became, “I want to eat more protein today,” or “I want to eat no dairy today,” because I was experimenting and trying to pinpoint which foods make me feel good, and which ones make me feel like crap.

I went into this thinking that I would just “eat healthy” for 30 days to see what happens, then go back to eating french fries like they’re in their own superior food group. But I’m happy to report that I actually have lost a lot of my desire to eat really greasy food  (even though it used to be my favorite), because I’m so much more aware of how sick and tired I feel after it. That doesn’t mean I won’t indulge in foods I love and enjoy eating, but it does mean that the foods I love are starting to change as I better understand what they do to my body and my mood.

2. I had unexpected outcomes, like weight loss.

This was definitely an unexpected outcome, and I’m unsure of whether or not it is a positive or negative one. Losing weight is often thought of as a good thing when someone is doing a “healthy eating” challenge, but for me, I was already feeling comfortable in my skin, and was focusing more on healthy eating as a way to repair my nausea and general poor health. In my eyes, weight loss can mean one of two things for my body in particular. One of these things would be the possibility that I haven’t been feeding myself enough. The other would be the possibility that I was really eating so terribly before (and somehow maintaining a pretty slim bod) that simply cutting out pizza and greasy snacks caused me to drop a bunch of weight in two weeks.

It also could just be stress, or possibly loss of muscle since I have definitely scaled back on working out the past two weeks, mostly due to the fact that I’m feeling super fatigued, which may or may not have something to do with my diet change. Either way, I definitely have a road ahead of me to achieve something that resembles “good health.” Ideally, I’d like to get to a place where I can pinpoint what bugs my belly and find enough healthy options that make my body feel good, so I can cut out the foods that make me feel sick, but still be eating enough to feel satisfied and fueled enough to be as active as I used to be.

3. My body quickly adjusted quickly.

During this time, I found that my body adjusted more quickly than my mind did to the changes I was making, and possibly even became more sensitive to foods that may have been bothering me before. Two weeks of ordering side salads instead of potatoes at restaurants, hardly touching dairy, and swapping most super carb-y foods for vegetables changed the way I felt. The nausea that I was experiencing every day was almost nonexistent, and I honestly started to forget that I’d been feeling so terrible just a few weeks ago.

However, this confused the hell out of my body when I put something into it that it used to eat frequently. Example: I ate Chinese takeout one night, and although I tried to make a slightly healthier choice (as far as Chinese takeout dishes go), I ended up lying in bed awake all night feeling nauseated. I love the way Chinese food tastes, but after that night of nausea, I’m finding myself craving it a lot less, and favoring foods that are nicer to my sensitive belly.

4. I found that success is the ultimate motivator.

I joked to the whole TFD team yesterday that I “failed” at my challenge because I was eating Frosted Flakes for breakfast, but in all honesty, I know I was extremely successful. I changed up my diet a lot, figured out a lot of things that don’t work for me (and a lot of things that do work for me — like Frosted Flakes, luckily!), and ultimately feel a lot healthier. On the days where I don’t feel as healthy (like the aforementioned Chinese-takeout dinner that had me reeling in pain), I still feel successful, because that is a little box I can tick on my food journal that brings me one step closer to understanding my ~system~ and crafting a diet that truly makes me feel good.

The best part of this success is that it is continuing on without me needing to keep a journal, or write a blog post about it — feeling like I accomplished something and made actual progress on an important health goal makes me feel so good (both emotionally and physically) that I know I’ll carry on with it. And that’s all I could have asked for from a 30-day healthy eating challenge, don’t you think?

Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at mary@thefinancialdiet.com!

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  • Mj D’Arco

    if you are concerned about your weightloss track you nutrition through an app like myfitnesspal. it can help you see how much you are eating and what you are eating, and give you an idea if you should be eating more, or adding some nutrients!

    • Holly Trantham

      Great tip!

    • Simi

      I second this advice! I started to feel a bit dizzy after adding a couple extra days of workouts to my week. I had a feeling it was because I wasn’t feeding myself enough. I used the MyFitnessPal app and realized I was under-eating. The app told me I needed to eat about 500 calories more per day. I added a couple shakes to my routine and the dizziness went away.

  • Zandypop

    One reason you could have lost a lot of weight in a short time was because you unintentionally cut out a lot of sodium from you diet. Fast food is loaded with the stuff, which leads to bloating and water retention.

    And I too love Chinese food, but like you found out, it’s started not loving be back. I finally started learning how to cook it on my own, and so far it’s worked out really well.

    And congrats on the challenge!

  • Tim Kim @ Tub of Cash

    Who can say no to frosted flakes!

  • Jen

    I feel the same way, 13 days into the Whole30 program. I “cheated” last night and had a hot dog bun with my (sugar-free) sausage, because I had been craving that all-american hot dog with a bun. But immediately after I finished eating it I was sicker than a dog, and it lasted all night. Who knew a body could react so quickly and so intensely? That craving won’t be coming back soon, that’s for sure! But overall the lasting changes from doing this challenge, like knowing I need more fat in my diet, and craving things like Peanut Butter for the protein, is incredible.

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