Over the last few weeks, I have asked many of my clients about their New Year’s Resolutions and received some great replies. Many of the replies, like my own, are that resolutions don’t really work and if you want to make a change you should just do it when the idea comes up instead of waiting for a certain date. I do agree with this and yet, I still made a resolution this year. I decided to join a group of people to do a 40-day sugar fast. Totally do-able. As I write this, I am currently 18 days in and going strong with little reason to stop the fast. I have also gained quite a bit of clarity throughout the process.
First of all, I know that deciding to take sugar out of your diet may sound like an easy enough thing to do, but please understand that making a change like this requires a willingness to investigate everything you consume, a commitment to your health and wellness, and also requires some training. That being said, I started training for this 10 years ago. Removing sugar with no previous dietary cleansing or healthy habits built in is like running a marathon when you can’t even run to your mailbox. This is one of the main reasons I believe most resolutions fail. I suggest breaking massive resolutions into smaller steps that can lead to meeting your overall objective.
I was not very healthy 10 years ago. At all. I was overly stressed, I drank too much, I smoked, I was not happy in any of my relationships, I never worked out and I ate really tasty food, but had no idea how bad and processed it was. I loved ranch dressing. I put it on everything. I also had acquired the nickname “snacks” at work because I ate a ton of packaged crap, usually the snacks that were even more amazing once dipped in ranch dressing. :-) After realizing that I was heavier than I ever had been and that I did not feel too stellar, I decided to make a change. This was around the same time that the greek yogurt craze was hitting. I started making my own ‘ranch dressing’ out of plain greek yogurt and powdered ranch mix, and dipping vegetables that I like (peppers, cucumbers, carrots, mushrooms, etc) in it as a snack. Almost immediately, I started to lose weight and feel better, it was awesome. It was around this time that I started to quit smoking also.
Fast forward 5 years or so. I was recently divorced, starting my new massage business out of a gym, super stressed, not drinking or smoking as much, still eating veggies and yogurt ranch dip and many other processed foods. I really liked frozen pot pies. I ate them 3 or 4 times a week for dinner. My daughter loved them too. They were an easy, cheap dinner.
Once again, I started feeling the drive for more. Time to quit smoking for good this time <sigh> and not buy as many packaged or processed goods. At this point I also decided to start shopping every 3-4 days or so for organic produce, requiring a bit more planning on my part. I had to actually think about what I would want to eat for a few days at a time instead of reaching for the prepackaged meals stocked in my pantry or freezer. A quick internet search for recipes was an easy solution. The fact that my first office was in a gym also gave me inspiration to start exercising once a week or so, too. Not a lot, but it was a start!
Fast forward 2 more years, (3 years ago). My first dietary cleanse. That was a fun 7 days. I have an entire blog post dedicated to that particular week, you can read more about here. I became more aware of how the food I ate made me feel, and if I ate something that was bad for me, my body would immediately let me know. This cleanse led to me making huge dietary changes for my family. I took out most processed foods, stopped buying cereal for my daughter, and made a real breakfast most mornings. Sometimes eggs and hashbrowns, sometimes oatmeal and fruit, sometimes a smoothie. Plus, it gave us more time to sit and be with each other. By this point, I was pretty healthy from an outside perspective and even felt pretty good. I ate pretty well, exercised twice a week or more, and I only smoked if I was drinking and that was not very often.
Then a little over a year ago, I had the awareness that it was possible for me to feel better than I did. I wanted to perform better in my life. I was starting to get the itch to run and wanted to have an even cleaner diet. I started to really watch carbs and increase healthy fats. In fact, I decided to go GLUTEN FREE!! Woohoo! That was November of 2015. Within a week, my “normal” man gas went away and I no longer wanted to take a nap at 2 in the afternoon.
In February of 2016, I got very sick with strep, which I had never had before. I saw two different acupuncturists to help my immune system come back online after the antibiotics, and they both recommended that I stay away from dairy for a while. I have been dairy free ever since. Also, no more smoking when I drink, for real this time.
Of all the changes I’ve made, cutting dairy has been the hardest. My running was improving and I completed a 3-month training process to go from not being able to run to my mailbox to running a 5k in under 30 minutes. All great things, and now I want even more! I regularly wonder: how good can I actually feel?
After Thanksgiving last year, 2016, my wife and I decided that we were going to try to give up alcohol for the the rest of the holidays and indefinitely (at least now, I won’t want to smoke.) Quite a big undertaking, but we realized that it does not fit into the lifestyle that we want to have and many times can be a crutch to not feel or deal. (I could write an entire book on this.) Now, if you have never quit drinking for an extended period of time, alcohol is a form of sugar and so after about a week or so, you start craving sugar. AND so, that became the next logical step, eliminate processed sugar.
Luckily for me, I have been training for this for quite some time. I know how to read labels, I understand that withdrawal symptoms are normal. I know I have to be compassionate with myself and those around me. But, holy moly, sugar is in everything and this is a huge change to make! The rules of this 40-day sugar fast are simple: no processed or added sugar. I still am eating fruits, but not many. The road to getting to the point where this seemed feasible was long and difficult at times. But definitely possible.
The main point of this, is that, no matter where you are on your path to being healthier, take steps, not impossible leaps. Be compassionate with yourself. Don’t get down on yourself if you “failed” another resolution that was way too big to take on. Make changes that are a simple step that will lead you to the next one. I will end with a quote that resonates with me (and that Bill Gates and Tony Robbins also agree upon): “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years” or something like that.
Be well and take small steps.
Nate Ewert, RMT. Owner of SS Performance Massage and Intentional Path Wellness; Founder of Denver Hiking Club.