5 Ways to Feel Good this Year that DON’T Involve Diet or Exercise

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Blargh.  You guys.  The carb flu is real.  I feel gross, but I’m persevering because I know I’ll feel better.  Eventually.

(I’m not doing an official whole30, like here, but I’m trying to be as close as possible while traveling.  Gotta get that cheddar!)

Maybe your shiny resolutions this year involve diet and exercise.  But we all know that is a long con.  You have to stick with it, possibly for weeks or months, before you hit real pay dirt.

Maybe you have resolutions that have nothing to do with fitness.  How un-cliche of you!  Get it, gurl.  I can’t wait to hear all about the new vegan taco truck you opened for dogs.

Or maybe you think resolving to be better at an arbitrary time of the year is for complete suckers.  You are living in a higher state of enlightenment and resolve to be your best every day of the year.  Good for you.

Whatever camp you fall in, I have some thoughts on things you can do for yourself.  These are all low effort, low cost, and can help you start the year on the right foot.

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30 Day EVERYTHING Challenge: the Results

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OK, enough of my son’s adorable ramblings.  Let’s get back to the business at hand.  (But this morning he asked to put on his sun scream.  I know!)  AHEM, back to the business.

The business, of course, being the 30 Day EVERYTHING Challenge.  I promised you guys results.  Let’s chat results.

But first, for those of you just joining, let’s relive the glory days with a quick recap.

What am I talking about?  Here is where I lay out the challenge.

How did it feel?  (FEEEeeelings)  Check out my real time diaries and report cards here and here.

What worked?  This is where I do my best to put on my responsible adult thinking hat and consider what I liked and what I didn’t.

OK, NOW down to business.  But first, I wanted to chat a little about why I did this challenge.

I could say that I did it for the kids.  I could tell you how I want more energy to keep up with them and to feel better so that I can be a more patient and awesome mom.  And I DO want those things, but that isn’t why I did it.  The kids certainly don’t care what size I am.  And I’m sure I can always improve in the patience/energy/awesome category, but that is just side gravy.

I could tell you I did it for James.  That guy did marry me for my hot bod, after all.  (Snort.)  And James does support me and want me to look and feel my best however I decide that is.  But nope.

I did it for me.

You see, since moving here or probably since Mac was born, I’ve felt a little less “me-like.”  Don’t get me wrong.  I love Love LOVE the time I’m getting to spend with the kids.  I’m having a blast exploring a new country and continent.

But sometimes I feel like my mom hat dwarfs any other hat I have.  I usually only leave the house completely by myself once a week, if that.  I don’t spend tons of time on myself or doing things for myself.

This challenge helped me take care of myself better.  It helped make me more of a priority.  The kids are very high on the list, but I matter too.  I should be taken care of as well.

I’m enjoying the morning time I’ve carved out for myself to exercise and to think and to do whatever I want.  I’m enjoying feeling good getting out of bed in the morning.  I’m also enjoying access to more of my pre-baby wardrobe.  So yay!  “Me” is pleased.

And now for realz, BIDNESS.

Are you guys ready to see the results?

I mean truly shocking before and afters??

Hold on to your butts.

Keep scrolling.

Scrolling.

BAM.

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As you can see, the difference with clothes is subtle, if noticeable at all.  (My doofusness has not changed a bit.)  I admit that some sort of side-by-side photos would have been ideal and photos actually showing my body would have been better, but I’m only a mere mortal and not a Biggest Loser contestant.  I don’t need any bikini photos on the internets, thank you very much.

I can tell you that I dropped a clothing size.  For example, these pants definitely didn’t fit before.  Also, I’ve moved to the smaller size of my ONE SHIRT TO RULE THEM ALL.  Oh, and I got a hair cut.

Dirty mirror, check.  Rando toddler shoe, check.

Fuzzy shot, check.  Dirty mirror, check. Rando toddler shoe, check and check.

And the numbers don’t lie.  I followed whole30 protocol and didn’t weigh myself at all during the challenge.  But, boy, was I excited to whip out that scale on day 31.  (Since then I’ve weighed myself once, but I’m trying not to get back into the every day habit.  It’s about feeling good; not about a number.)

And again, I hope you guys will forgive me for not sharing raw numbers.  First, the internets just don’t need to know my weight.  Second, these are my numbers and I’m happy, but I don’t want anyone to get hung up on them.  Your numbers are probably different and they are your story and that’s what matters, ya know?

But I will share the delta.  James took before, mid-way, and after measurements.  I realized later that he left very helpful, scientific reminders like “top of crack” for my hip measurement so that he would hit the same place again.  (He also measured in centimeters because he has gone FULL Italian, but he claims it was for more accuracy.)

Interestingly, probably almost 75% of the changes occurred in the first two weeks.  Except for my waist which actually was lower at mid-point measure than final.  I guess I was feeling bloaty that day.  Or, you know, ALL THOSE ABS.

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So yeah.  That happened.  In just 30 days.  It could have been any of the factors (whole30) or the whole combination (whole30), but results were had.  I know some people would think a whole30 is extreme, but I’ve never found a way to get such significant results in such a short period of time.  This approach works for me.  Seeing big changes makes me more motivated to keep it up.  If I tried to adopt a “be reasonable” approach for six months, I doubt I’d see any difference because I’d never be able to stick to it.

Those are the “sexy” changes.  Let’s talk about some other changes.

SKIN

OK, here I really should have taken some before pictures.  But in my haste to get the party started, I didn’t think through all the details.  So NO PICS FOR YOU, said in my no soup for you voice.

And because we do not have hard evidence, my response is wishy washy, but I think my skin is better.  Although this could be a halo effect from just feeling better generally and thinking I look better.  But when I touch my face, it feels, uh, plumper.  I don’t know, but it definitely feels a little different.  I can at least report that eating good fats, washing your face, and drinking water are not deleterious for your skin and probably definitely at least a little help.

SLEEP

As you guys saw, I failed BIG TIME on bedtime alarm.  Despite this, I’m feeling more rested.  First, even if I’m not going to sleep at 2200, I am going to sleep earlier than I had been so that’s a win.

Also, I’m getting higher quality sleep.  I fall asleep faster, and I usually never wake up in the middle of the night, barring child screaming, of course.  Even post challenge, I’ve been waking up on my own around 600, ready to start the day.

MOOD

You could ask James for confirmation, although he would probably insist that I am delightful all the time because he is a smart cookie, but I would say there has been definite mood improvement.  I still feel overwhelmed by the kids at various points every day and my mind spins with a million things I need to do but can’t because Mac will RAGE if I stop walking him around.  But I feel better.  I really do.

FOOD

My urge to snack has diminished.  Sometimes it is still there.  Sometimes I just want to put food in my mouth.  But I think it is more under control.  I’m better able to gauge when I really want something versus just eating it because it is there.

A lot of food tastes better.  Although I still just can’t seem to love red peppers, much to James’s chagrin.  He loves that shizz.

I plan to keep cooking whole30 at home and then not worry as much when we go places because convenience food on the whole30 is a fantastical pink unicorn.  I’m also hoping to keep my booze consumption for special, out-of-the-house occasions.  Last night I had one glass of wine at date night.  We’ll see how this goes.

But what about BAD changes, you ask

I can’t really think of any.  Possibly my current paranoia that eating gluten will derail my whole way of life.  Or my questionable fashion taste now that I am combining more clothes.  Or needing to pee more from all the water and not being able to.  See Mac raging when I ask him politely to let go of my hand.  But seriously, I can’t really think of anything.

30 days, all gain.  W00t!

Any other questions on results?  Aside from my weight, I’m happy to share!  And then I promise to shut up about the 30 Day EVERYTHING Challenge for a bit.  Probably. 

 

ICYMI: are you sick of the 30 Day EVERYTHING Challenge yet edition

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Welcome back, sports fans.  I’m sorry.  I hoped for the results post on the challenge today, but it won’t be ready until next week.  Between planning for the lake this weekend and truncated naps, I’m a little behind.

Also, if you have any questions on the challenge, please lemme know.  I may do an FAQ post, and it is always fun to have actual questions instead of just the usual conversation with myself.  Not that I’m not a stellar conversationalist.  Why, thank you, self.

Until then . . .

On the blog:

In case you’ve missed it, come check out the challenge.

What is this 30 Day EVERYTHING Challenge anyway?

Did you actually make it?  Well, mostly.  Check out the first half here and the second half here.

Did you like it?  Overall, I’m glad I did it.  See what is working for me and what still needs work.

News team, be warned.  This could be the first of many challenges.  I’m already eying a finance challenge and a minimalism one.  Any other challenge ideas?

On the internets:

Watch swinging your arms around here!  I can’t say I’ve seen all of these, but I do see Italians talking with their hands constantly, even when on the phone.

I’ve just started using, but I’m LOVING this tanning lotion so far.  Noticeable after the first application.  It only has a subtle self-tanner tang and mostly smells a little lemony.

All my DC peeps, can you promise to check this out??

Are you guys also obsessed with the new album from Killers frontman Brandon Flowers??  I could (and do) listen to Lonely Town on continuous repeat (although the rest of the album is also very good).  I defy you not to feel the need to arm pump when that beat starts up.  Here, check out the subtly creepy video.

This is long, but Mindy Kaling!!  I’ve been watching in bits and pieces.  Check out more on BookCon at MMD.

Happy weekend, ya’ll!

30 Day Everything Challenge: The Assessment

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So now that I’ve done the 30 Day EVERYTHING Challenge and told you about how it felt as it was happening (Days 1 – 15, Days 16 – 30), I’m doing some thinking on what I liked.  On what worked.  On what didn’t work.  On what I can do better.  And on what I want to try next.

This is an important step for me.  My usual style is to keep charging full steam ahead without pause for thought or consideration.  Reflection is not my strong suit.  MORE.  LET’S GO.  DO IT.  This, however, is dumb.  It would be like taking a bunch of practice LSATs and then not bothering to score them.  And anyone who has made themselves take full LSATs knows just how ludicrous that would be.

So let’s reflect.  BTW, here is my full report card:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
Get Up Early X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Whole30 X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Plank Challenge X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Abs Challenge X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X / / /
Steps X X X X X X X X X X
8 Glasses of Water X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
5 Minutes Meditation X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
20 Second Hug X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Real Kiss X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Wash Face X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Floss X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Bedtime Alarm X X

Even shiny, new things fade into the background after awhile

You know how you get a new something, like that living room chair you’ve been obsessing over, and you LOVE it and you love how it looks and you sneak little glances at it but then eventually it just becomes part of the room?

That is human nature, I suppose.  We become accustomed to things to the point that we don’t really see them.

Why is she talking about chairs?  Get to the point, already!

My point is that this is the way I felt about this challenge.  I made my spreadsheet document, and in the early days I was SO excited to run to the computer to enter my X.  About mid-way through I would tally my Xs at the end of the day.  On the last days, I had to struggle and recreate Xs for the day before.

My water tracking experience was a little better.  Using my fancy schmancy resources, I devised a sort of water abacus using fridge magnets.  Pour a glass of water; move a magnet to the other side.  It works great until Henry decides he wants a letter.  This was easier to maintain because of the tactile aspects of it.  The act of pouring water signaled to me that it was time to move a magnet.  Also, the fridge magnets were close to where the action took place.  Their prominence on the fridge, right at my eye level, made me take more note as well.

For future endeavors, I need to figure out how to make this proximity + prominence formula work to my advantage.  Printing things instead of having them buried under tabs on my computer would probably be a first step.  Multiple copies in different locations could also assist, but maintaining multiple tallies would be a pain.  Instead of having a master list, the answer might be to have separate lists near the place where the activity took place.  Once upon a time when I was pumping at my old job, I kept a “got milk?” post-it right beside my light switch that I turned off on exiting.  I never forgot the milk.

I like some exercise, but unreasonable expectations make me want to not even try

Exercise is definitely a good addition to my routine.  I like the way my mind sort of zones out when I’m doing it.  I absolutely like the results.  I can do more then 30 leg lifts without stopping now!  When I started, I couldn’t even do 10.  Now that so few of my daily activities result in a feeling of check-the-box accomplishment (maintaining the children is just a continuous, never-ending cycle), completing a set of exercises is surprisingly rewarding.  Also, I do enjoy the new hint of abs.  Just a glimmer.  Recipe for making me like exercise:  one dash of abs.

But I think 15-20 minutes is probably my sweet spot.  Once I knew it would take me more than 30 minutes to get through the whole thing, it made me not even want to start.  This is not good.  Doing something is always better than doing nothing.

For the future, now that I’ve rebuilt my mornings, I do want to add back running.  I hope to update you on this soon.

For the days I stay home, I may put together a grab bag of exercises to try and rotate them around.  One day could be pilates, another day could be barre, etc.   I may try the 30 Day Beach Body Challenge.  It looks like the numbers do increase, but the focus is more on rotating different exercises.

I will apparently only exercise in the morning

One of the reasons I wanted to try the plank challenge is that I thought it would be really easy for me to drop and plank throughout the day.  I spend a large portion of time crawling around on the carpet.  Why not throw some planks in there?

But it just never happened.  I could try much harder to build some planks into my routine, a la always plank before eating.  Although our kitchen floor is usually pretty gross.  Ain’t nobody want to plank on that.

My main takeaway though is that I like exercise and, if I actually want to do it, I should make sure to do it in the morning.  BEFORE even touching the computer to make sure that it actually happens.

Convenience food on the whole30 is really annoying

This wasn’t a shocker, but it was definitely reiterated during the challenge.  It annoys me that all of your easy on-the-go options like a sandwich or a slice of pizza are out.  I know some places have it, but I haven’t seen tons of salads here.  Even if I found a salad, this isn’t good eat in a hurry food.  I like a good sit down meal as much as the next gal, but particularly when sightseeing with the kids, it is nice to have better on the move options.

Everything I can think of to carry with for protein, like boiled eggs or tuna salad needs refrigeration.  Not ideal.  Anyone had more success on this?

Cooking was not as annoying this time because I already feel like I’m doing all the cooking

Our first whole30, we felt like we did ALL the cooking.  Sunday afternoons were usually devoted to roasting batches of sweet potatoes and preparing a breakfast mix of sauteed meat, peppers, and onions.

Now, I already feel like I’m thinking of food constantly so this was less of a change.

This time around I gave up on most advanced prep.  Instead of breakfast variety, we just ate eggs most of the time.  Also, I nuked more sweet potatoes.  Voila, smashed potato in time to serve once I finished the rest of dinner.

It is kind of unreal the number of times I wanted to eat when I wasn’t hungry.  I just wanted to enjoy the sensation of eating

Uh, what?  But it is true.  Particularly in the early days, I just wanted to be eating.  I wasn’t hungry.  I just wanted the sensation of putting food in my mouth.  That’s not really cool, man.  This has gotten better.  Mostly.  I’ll have to watch this in the future.

I like the idea of tying unique food to special circumstances and occasions

You know how some places are just tied to special foods?  Like, why would you go to Italy and not try some pasta?

I don’t want to miss out on special foods.  If you’ll remember, I chafed on the whole30 when we went to Turin and I wanted the special chocolate and at the strawberry festival when I wanted the berries with whipped cream.  Maybe I’ll go back to Turin.  I could if I wanted.  But I probably won’t.  Same for lots of places we adventure to.

I’m hoping to keep eating pretty whole30ish.  I’m not going to let it keep me from travel food.  I don’t ever want to miss out.

I missed booze the most, but we might need to break up

My first whole30 in 2013, I think I missed cheese the most.  Salads just didn’t seem right without it.

This time around I really missed booze.  For me, other than the occasional margarita, booze means wine and beer.

I missed variety.  I really only drink water, wine, and beer with the sometimes coffee.  Things got monotonous.

I also missed the way I’d feel.  I like unwinding with a glass of wine at the end of the day.  I like escaping the heat with a chilly, refreshing drink.

But.  I realized that–and this is hard for me to write–alcohol has become a proxy for “I’m having a good time now.”  How will I know I’m having a nice dinner if I don’t have a glass of wine?  How will I know I’m enjoying adult time if I don’t have a drink in my hand?

And I’m not OK with that.  I’m not saying all booze is bad.  I’m just saying that for me, because I have problems doing things moderately, less is definitely more.  I think alcohol is a very major player on keeping me from springing out of bed in the morning.

So none would be ideal, but I’m not ready for that yet.  I am living in a wine culture these days.  I’m not saying people drink all the time or a lot, but wine is plentiful, reasonably priced, and darn good here.  If you order a glass with lunch, no one would bat an eye.

I remember in college I met a girl who quit soda based on her dermatologist’s recommendation.  She said her skin was now amazing and she didn’t regret it.  I was incredulous.  How could anyone live without soda???

Fast forward a few years to 2007.  I quit caffeine cold turkey, and I haven’t looked back.  I now enjoy the occasional espresso or cappuccino, but soda is very rare for me.  What used to be outside the realm of possibility is now my new normal.

So maybe I’ll feel the same way about alcohol some day.  Who knows?  For now, I’m going to try to employ the same strategy as with food.  Don’t drink something because it is there.  Drink it because it is really good and I want it.

Thank goodness for sparkling water

Ah, sparkling water.  I’ve been a fan for a few years now.  But you were really here for me when I wanted something a little different.  Thanks, pal.

I need to cultivate higher quality adult time

Without a glass of wine in the evening after the kids went to bed, I sometimes felt adrift.  I had trained myself to want a treat at the end of the day.

Without the wine or snack, my post-kids evenings felt a little unfulfilled.  I watched TV some, but not a ton.  I read every night and I really enjoy it, but because I do that all the time, it doesn’t feel special.  Most evenings would be frittered away puttering around on the computer.  Some things I need to do, like email and trip planning.  But these feel like have to dos.  Not relaxing.

I’d like to add a little more purpose to the evenings.  I think this means more socializing.  More quality time with James.  And possibly even doing my reading on the couch.

I LOVE having my mornings back, but I need to use them more mindfully

I was so excited that I was getting up early that I didn’t crack the whip on productivity.  This is prime writing time.  I do NOT need to be dorking around on the internet.

It would help if I eliminated any need to get on the computer until after exercise and meditation.  I didn’t print the ab and plank challenges.  I should have.

It would also help if I cleared distractions on the computer (cough, 78 tabs, cough) and planned what I want to do the night before.  This is a definite area for improvement.

Meditation is my favorite new thing that is most likely to be pushed by the wayside

For my meditation, I sat up straight with my legs crossed and eyes closed for five minutes.  It was surprisingly OK.  I had that pleasant sensation you get on a long run where you think nice thoughts but can’t really remember them later.  I mostly tried to think about nothing.  Clearing my mind and focusing on a point in the center of my blacked out vision worked better for me than doing any kind of mantra.

So I hope to continue this, but it could get pushed out.  See, I can’t see tangible results from meditation.  I can’t look at my abs and see, wow, that meditation is really doing something.  Maybe it is a part of my sleeping better and feeling better, but maybe not.

Having a grownup bedtime routine isn’t so bad . . . and good habits breed more good habits

At first I was all getting ready for bed takes FOREVER now.  But then it wasn’t so bad.  I mean, we’re just talking about flossing and washing my face.  I have perfect marks on this, and I have every intention to continue.

I can also report that doing these things led to doing more things.  90% of the days I also used the toner I dug out of somewhere AND applied moisturizer.  Good habits beget other good habits it seems.

I need to keep working on this sleep situation, but at least I’m addressing the elephant in the room

You guys may have found it tedious that I listed my bedtime almost every night.  I know it seems small, but knowing the time was actually a really big deal for me.

Before, I deliberately chose not to look at my watch.  I didn’t want to know.  I knew it was late and that I should go to bed.  But this was my time, and I didn’t care if morning Melissa had to pay for it.

Now, I’m not hitting the target bedtime, but I am getting closer.  I’m at least making a conscious choice to stay up later.

We’ll see what I decide to do about this.  If I keep getting up on my own at an early time feeling rested, I might not change anything.  I may decide to get the reading material out of the bedroom, as my friend Maggie suggested.  I’m anti-TV in the bedroom because of the distraction factor.  Is my book presenting the same issue?


 

So.  These are my takeaways.  Some things are working.  Some need tweaking.  Some need more work.  It’s always a work in progress.  Life that is.

Do you have any stellar exercise routines to share?  And has ANYONE found paleo food on the go?  This is my next million dollar idea.  I’m on it.