4 minute read

Last month, I committed to a 30 day challenge to remove flour and added-sugar from my diet. It evolved to be a lot closer to the Primal Blueprint (definitely not Atkins and not really a strict Paleo).

A few people have asked me what the first thing I’ll cram in my maw after the month is up. It’s not quite as simple as that. I have no intention of going back to my carb-fueled ways. However, I will be planning on a healthy feed of pizza or spaghetti for the weekend. And ice-cold beer. Yessiree.

OK. The results? If you recall, I had three success criteria:

  • Not hungry
  • Not tired
  • Sleep better

Indeed these have been met. I’ve halved my caloric intake without getting head-swimmingly hungry. I eat frequently and rarely too much at any given time. Almonds have been magical. Unless I’ve had an exceptionally busy (physical) day, I don’t get the debilitating yawns in the afternoons and failing asleep in the chair after supper just doesn’t happen. I’m sleeping better and waking far less groggy. I have way more energy.

Some additional observations? I’ve lost 20 pounds, but I’m not surprised as I’ve amassed a 60,000 calorie deficit for the month. What’s cool is that it was effortless. Clothes are fitting better. My daily 3-alarm headaches are simply gone. I wasn’t expecting that.

As far as the habit-forming nature of the challenge, I think it can be generalized. The first week was fairly easy as the commitment was new and fresh (high motivation). The second week was really tough — that’s were the real push was. By the end of the third week, I was starting to find my stride. Others I’ve talked with have observed a similar pattern.

Even though I had plenty of support form friends, family, coworkers and teh internets (thanks everyone), I did find certain things socially isolating. I found the holidays, birthdays and gatherings of April personally quite stressful and I know I made people feel a little awkward and self-conscious about the traditional selection of edibles presented.

But really, I like cake and that’s all there is to it. But I want my lifestyle change to be “stick” else what was the point? Baking in denial and resentment is a sure way to set myself up to fail. Again.

To that end, I’m thinking of a couple of modifications. I’ll adopt a little more of the PB ethic, but allow a “cheat day” once a week. I’ll still record and be accountable; that is, not go all stoopid on that day. The idea is to address any craving by treating it as, well, a “treat”. Through this practical application of the Pareto Principle it should be possible to make the change sustainable over the long haul.

So, my May challenge is a fitness one. This will be tougher in some ways because there is a time commitment at play rather than just a behavioral modification. I’m concocting a plan using ideas from Art of Manliness and Nerd Fitness. There are some common themes whether it’s about the hunt-chase-carry approach, old-skool army or hero training for the coming zombie apocalypse. It’s about practical fitness.

Here it is:

  • 15 minutes of calisthenic exercises in the morning.
  • Followed by 30 minutes of interval training on the treadmill.
  • Bookend the day by walking the dog every evening before bedtime. (Go Sheba!)
  • If I miss a day (life happens), I have to make it up the next day.
  • If I miss two days in a row, it's counted as a #fail.

Sometime early in the month and again at the end, I’ll measure my fitness level. This should give me an objective measurement. If I do this right, I should be able to run myself through a fitness test at the start/end of every month.

My subjective success criteria will be:

  • Sleeping better (snoring, apnea)
  • Improved energy levels (vitality, libido)
  • Happier (depression, motivation)

Some of these are pretty personal, but I think it’s pretty important to get them out there.

For support, I’m hosting the 30-day challenge at work again around this framing:

A 30 day challenge is a natural commitment to put boundaries around a habit change. It provides a start and an end. It turns a dream in to a project. It’s your way to call “shenanigans” on yourself and get it done. It doesn’t matter if you’re forming new habits or breaking old ones. It doesn’t matter if they’re personal or professional. They only have to be SMART. Part of setting a commitment is to be somewhat public about it. By making it a shared experience we can provide support to each other as well as apply a certain amount of personal accountability. If you could make the change yourself, it’d be done already, right? Let’s try something different.

A couple of family members have expressed interest in jumping aboard with their own commitments as well. This will make things smoother.

It will be another great month.