What You Learn From 30 Days of No Booze, Sugar, Gluten, or Dairy

Blogger Grace Boyle of Small Hands, Big Ideas describes what it's like to go through a 30-day cleanse.

POPSUGAR Photography | Jae Payne

I embarked on a 30-day food challenge. It was pretty strict. At a high level, I couldn't have:

  • Gluten/Wheat
  • Dairy
  • Booze
  • Sugar

That eliminates a lot of things we enjoy in our daily consumption of food. But ensures for a lot of clean eating, and it also promoted points for sleeping eight hours, five days a week of working out (I didn't always get five, but always worked out like I do anyway), and 10 minutes a day of meditation or some sort of quiet time without technology.

Today is the last day of the challenge, and I'm happy to say I stuck to — I'm most happy about the no booze and no sugar.

The biggest win for me was about forming new habits. There are a lot of two-week cleanses or 10-day challenges, and for me, I knew I needed to do a full 30 days. I feel like anyone could do anything for 30 days, and I needed to commit to it — all or nothing. No point to skimp here or there — might as well do it all the way. Besides a few little hiccups, or not being able to control what my food was cooked in or when I ate out, I was as strict as could be.

What I learned:

  • Clean food can be good. I scoured Instagram, Pinterest, magazines, etc. to find delicious recipes that were clean eating/Paleo-inspired, and when I cooked for people, they all enjoyed it. It wasn't like I was limiting myself from all good food, because whole and healthy food is good too, banishing the misconception that you have to eat bland food to eat clean.
  • I cooked a lot more. I love cooking, so that was great to get back to. Especially in the Winter, I've gotten into habits being so tired after work or working out, so we would resort to takeout or throwaway meals, because it was easy (frozen pizza anyone)? Not only does it save money, but it's also good to cook together and find that balance of being creative in the kitchen.
  • I slept better. I don't sleep well even with a few drinks, so I slept really well the last 30 days.
  • I felt very clear. I think it's largely to do with gluten, but I generally didn't feel foggy. Your food and diet have such a big impact on this.
  • Self-control is an amazing thing. I felt powerful and loved knowing that I didn't "need" anything and that I'm not addicted to anything. It's a good feeling to be able to say no and put my foot down, and that's that.
  • Muscle weighs more than fat — go by how you feel. The point is to feel good. I don't own a scale, and with all the heavy lifting I do at CrossFit, my weight doesn't really reflect what I look like (or feel like). I did weigh myself near the end of the challenge at a doctor's appointment, and I was let down to realize I weighed the same as I remembered, perhaps even more. After talking myself off a ledge, I reminded myself that I feel good and fit into clothes far better than before. I also measured inches before and after, and lost a total of 7.5 inches (waist, bust, thighs), which is where it really matters for me. In my waist alone, I am down 3.5 inches.
  • This particular challenge eliminated not only sugar but also healthy ones like honey, for instance, so because this challenge is so strict, it isn't really that sustainable. I still want to have the flexibility to go out and enjoy with friends, but I think I've swung the pendulum back. I think, for most of the time, I will eat clean and, for a smaller percentage, eat when I feel good and right without being stressed. Now that I saw that I can do it and that I feel better overall, I'm apt to try it more often than not.
  • If you set your mind to it, you can do it. The biggest fear I had, was that I would fail and that I wasn't strong enough. That I'm just that fat kid who wants to eat a bag of cookies and can't restrain myself (parts of this may always be true because I truly love food). I held off on similar challenges at my own CrossFit gym because of the pressure and I felt too overwhelmed. Finally with other co-workers doing this with me and feeling stuffed from the holidays, I decided to take the leap. It's a huge resurgence for me to remember that my physical and mental toughness is strong. I did have a few freak-outs during the 30-day period, I'll admit that, and there were times where I had to forgo social outings. I missed certain foods a lot or watched everyone indulge in cheese and wine while I chugged soda water, but it was worth it. And I made it. Unscathed even!

Although today is the last day, I'm not rushing off to get a bottle of wine and I will keep cooking more and probably eating like I have for the last 30 days (with some windows for fun). For now, I'm going to give myself a hug and relax a little though. 'Cause, I did it!