Juliana Writes...

Living with the best of intentions

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Clean Living Challenge: Week #1

Today marks one week since I started my clean living challenge.  It was born out of the ashes of a healthy competition amongst friends that fell apart before it began, and it’s the longest that I’ve ever fully stuck with something like this.  One week.  The longest.  Yeah.  That’s real. 

I don’t know what makes us ready to do something, what makes one commitment more important or stronger than another, but for some reason right now is the right time for me to do this.  What makes it sweeter is the fact that now I’m doing it solely for myself – not part of a competition, not part of a group, just me (and Wizard, my unconditional support group/best friend/I feed and exercise him so he has to hang out with me). 

In celebration of this seemingly minor but-major-for-me milestone I thought I would break my challenge down and share some of the ups and downs of week one because, well, just because it’s the right time doesn’t mean it’s been easy. 

The Challenge:

After a month of serious indulgence – food, drink, spending, socializing – I knew I wanted to clean everything out.  I wanted to minimalize, to strip away all the excess and take a good hard look at what’s left.  Once I’ve assessed the situation I can begin adding things back in, because I very firmly believe in moderation, not elimination, and there’s no reason for anyone to live forever without French fries.  But a month?  I can live a month without in order to see and feel some healthy results.  Change happens with elimination, harmony happens with moderation. 

Here’s what I decided: to me eating clean means eating as little overly processed and unnatural food as possible.  This doesn’t mean I’m making everything single thing I eat from scratch, it doesn’t mean I’m not drinking, it doesn’t mean I’m not dining out.  But I am cooking most of my meals, which calls for mindfulness and creativity and I actually enjoy very much, but also cuts our credit card bill down significantly.  I’m keeping my distance from refined sugar and simple carbohydrates and have carved the days that I allow myself alcohol down to 2, maybe 3 per week, making sure not to over imbibe on those evenings.

His and Her's Enchiladas - mine with zucchini and little cheese
Leftovers are everything.  When in doubt, put an egg on it.

I am being very specific about spending money.  We spend A LOT on eating out, which usually means making poor choices (all the fried things everyday) and we already have too many things…no shopping allowed until I’ve purged our trinkets and closets and really earned it.  My eye is on the prize: James and I are going to Europe this year and there is no reason to spend money on an hour of entertainment when it could go toward a very important item on my bucket list.     

Lastly, I’ve challenged myself to begin everyday with purpose by writing, reading, or sweating.  Yes, I still wake up and scroll through my phone before getting out of bed.  Baby steps.  But I give myself 20 minutes to do so before I have to get up and do one of those three things that will serve the life I am trying to build.  Eventually I hope that I will do all three things everyday, but for now I feel super accomplished when I get two under my belt before bedtime.  And for now that is just fine.


Week #1 has been…interesting.  I thought I would feel fabulous, unburdened by so many ingested chemicals and being all active and creative – yeah, no.  I forgot that there is a significant detox that happens when you’ve indulged like a queen and suddenly decide to live like a farmer (did that simile work?  You get what I’m saying) and that detox is uuuuunpleasant.  For the first 4 days or so I felt like my head was full of sand and my body was laden with lead.  I think I was also fighting off James’ cold but nevertheless it was miserable.  And I believe it was day 5 that I was sprawled out like a starfish on the living room floor, almost in tears because I couldn’t think of anything but ordering pizza.  I ate leftover turkey chili that night and felt like this was the stupidest thing I’d ever done. 

I posted about my anguish on social media that night (if you follow me on Snapchat is was a particularly dramatic event) and the next morning I woke up to a myriad of supportive comments and messages from friends from all stages of my life urging me to keep going.  It was glorious.  And touching.  And exactly what I needed in order to get up and make myself a goddam veggie scramble for breakfast.  To all of those people I say sincerely, thank you.

Now I haven’t been “perfect.”  I’ll never give up cheese, even for a month, because it might be physically impossible.  But I can cut way back.  And I can focus on what builds me up, not what distracts me.  And I can indulge in things that bring me clarity, not confusion.  And when February 2nd rolls around I can have night of pizza and cocktails (so weird, I’m not a pizza-crazed human but it is far and away the thing I have been craving most) without totally overdoing it.  I will slowly begin adding back the things that bring me both joy and strength and hopefully, if this little experiment goes as intended, forgoing those that do not. 

Here’s to Week #2, I’m oddly looking forward to it.  I think it’s going to be kind of wonderful.  Or maybe it will be even harder.  Maybe both.  But I think it will be worth it. 

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