An Update On My 30-Day Healthy Eating Challenge, And A Few Thoughts About Health

One of my most vague but consistent #goals in life is to be “healthy” — whatever that means. As I wrote in my post about my 30-day challenge to eat healthier and try to be more mindful about what I put in my body, I fall short on that goal a lot.

I, like a lot of other people, have the shitty and dangerous habit of associating being “skinny” with being “healthy.” I’ve never been overweight or felt terribly uncomfortable about my body, therefore, I tend to believe that I’m in “healthy” shape even if I’m not putting anything good in my body almost ever.

It is strange and poisonous. I want to be the type of person who makes the decision whether or not I want to eat something based not on whether it will make me gain weight, but rather based on what it will do for me, like give me energy or nutrients that my body needs to be a productive member of society.

Just over one week into the challenge, I’m already seeing the struggle on the pages of my food journal. Celebrations are usually heavily associated with food (and alcohol!!!) and I definitely felt this last week, since I graduated from college. Although I ate really well during the week, cooked healthy meals nearly every day for my family, and avoided all of my “junk food” staples (like those sad orange crackers with fake cheese in the middle, and chocolate chips by the fistful), I found myself slipping into a greasier pattern by the weekend.

My commencement ceremony was in Friday morning, and my family went out for lunch together right after. Midday, I wasn’t exactly starving but struggled to find options on the menu that weren’t heavy or generally junk-food-y. Also, as usual, my ever-present craving for french fries always gets me. I got a sandwich with a side of fries, but noticed I felt a little yucky after eating just a few. I wrapped the meal after eating just a quarter of the sandwich and a few of the fries. That gave me a sad note in my journal: greasy food doesn’t make me feel great. Not happy news, but also not surprising — and definitely good to know.

While I’m calling it a success that I noticed the greasy food didn’t sit well and stopped eating it in favor of other, healthier options, there is one area where I haven’t been as successful: alcohol.

Drew and I often unwind at the end of the day by drinking a beer — something we both genuinely love doing. More recently, in an attempt to cut back on our drinking, I’ve stopped cracking open a beer of my own — I just sip from his a little, so we each get some but aren’t going overboard. Our post-work beer habit did start to die down a bit after that — we usually split a beer on a regular weeknight, and often don’t even finish it. However, my “celebratory drinking” this weekend wasn’t as tame. There was a lot of morning, daytime, and evening drinking. There was mixing — there was beer, tequila, appletinis, margaritas — it wasn’t cute. I never got sloppy drunk or anything, but I was very aware during all of this celebrating that alcohol was highly caloric, and definitely not something I should associate so heavily with celebration.

Sunday morning, I woke up with a nasty cold (that I’m still trying to shake, ugh send help and Mucinex) and realized the effect that alcohol has on my body. I mean, I know the cold could have come from anywhere, but I can’t shake the feeling that my system wouldn’t have been weak enough to catch a goddamn cold in late May if it weren’t for the fact that I acted like an animal over the weekend and went on an apparent appletini bender.

I don’t like to give myself “rules” when it comes to food and drink; I like to make the executive decision when the time comes whether or not it is a good idea for me to consume something. With that said, I’m committing to the idea of not drinking much, if anything this week. I definitely will not be drinking as long as I’m sick, but that should be obvious. My cousin invited me to a brewery on Wednesday for her birthday, and I already told Drew (so he can hold me accountable!) that I don’t plan on having any non-agua sips while we’re there.

I think the point of all this is that the picture of perfect health is different for everyone. What is most important is that everyone’s own journey to “healthy” be about exploring likes and dislikes, and figuring out what makes our bodies feel good as opposed to what makes them feel bad. I’m starting to figure out what works and what doesn’t work for me. French fries in the middle of the day? I like this, but it doesn’t make me feel good. That means that maybe I’ll have it very rarely, but not make it a staple. Taking vodka shots? I don’t like this, and it doesn’t make me feel good. I will do this never. Eating a giant bowl of oatmeal, berries, and almond butter for breakfast? I like this, and it makes me feel good. Win! I’ll do this often.

So, maybe off to a “rocky” start if I’m measuring my progress based on having the cleanest meal record in my food journal, but in my eyes, I’m doing exactly what I set out to do: learning through trial-and-error what works for me, and slowly (but surely!) starting to feel better.

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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