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My Nutrition Challenge: How my experiences can help your struggles!

As I type this, I’m on Day 34. Saturday afternoon. Just had lunch and still a little hungry. The end is in sight and tomorrow will be a cheat day for the ages. But has it been worth it? 

Last year, the challenge was a little easier to get motivated for. There was 3 of us doing it and on the 31st day, two of us had week in Canada to enjoy. This past Wednesday, which would have been day 31 was just another Wednesday of work, work and more work. Felt like a bad day to end the challenge so I had previously decided to push it until this Sunday. The last few days have been tough to stick to it and I have felt a very snappy on the low carbs. It gets easier, at times, but I have found that I never truly get use to it. It would be so easy to go to the shop and get a pizza. But I’m so close to the end that I can’t do that now. So how have we gotten this far?

A Monday morning start after a night of beers, over a month of a bad diet and no training... and a complete lack of awareness that I would be using this picture for a future blog. In my defence, I was having awful trouble setting up the phone for this pic at 6am in the morning and I was up from enjoying a hangover sleep

A Monday morning start after a night of beers, over a month of a bad diet and no training... and a complete lack of awareness that I would be using this picture for a future blog. In my defence, I was having awful trouble setting up the phone for this pic at 6am in the morning and I was up from enjoying a hangover sleep


Motivation
My motivation was lacking a bit at the start. I was’t feeling as up for the challenge as the previous two years. As I mentioned in a previous post, I hadn’t been training too much in the previous month. Football season was over. And the before picture above? That’s Day 1 and first thing in the morning after having “a few” last beers the night before! I felt like giving up in week 1. But I had already ensured that it was not an option. I knew my motivation was lacking a bit I knew more that I needed to do the challenge. So I told EVERYONE about it! I wrote a blog on it and put myself out there. The thought of failing when I asked was enough to keep me going (I randomly even dreamed of eating a pizza and getting disgusted a myself for breaking the challenge… that was a new low!) Accountability was probably THE key in finishing this challenge. Whenever I was at my lowest and I thought about eating crap, it was the thought of people asking how I was doing and having to tell them I quit. I’m a bad liar and after photo would make an even bigger liar out of me. 

Well, that's one form of accountability!

Well, that's one form of accountability!



Keeping a routine doing the week was vital in staying on track. I was up at the same time each morning. In the gym. Knew when I was having breakfast and the rest of the meals that day as well as what I was having. It lead to less chances of running into a shop confused and starving. 

The other motivating factor, besides the fact that I knew this would work for me, is the sense of accomplishment. You don't get the sense of accomplishment from things that come easy. And while I may have completed this challenge 3 times now (unless I have a complete breakdown tonight!), it hasn’t been easy!


Timing
One of the questions I got asked quite a lot is why August? September is perhaps my favourite time of year for football reasons and August is always a drag to get through. It suits me to have it in August and my motivation in the first year I did it was at a peak at the end of July in 2014. But the truth is that there’s never a perfect time for a challenge like this, which always makes it tough. I’ve had meet ups and nights out that I would have liked to have had a drink or two. Anytime I had to go to a restaurant was especially tough to stick to the diet. So I would bend a little on sauces just to help me get through it. But it’s not always enjoyable…

One time in particular a few of us were heading out to a restaurant where… let’s just say they’re fond of the day ‘Friday’. I was just back from a long hike and we were suppose to be going to a steak house (much easier for the diet) but with the change of plan as I was on my way, I knew I was in trouble. I arrived to 8 of them already having ordered their food.With two of us wanting to order quick so we would all eat together, I became very indecisive. I settled on the “share portion” of chicken wings and got a side of roasted vegetables. When in doubt, I would stick with meat and veg, bend on sauces. It’s a slight cheat but much better than completely falling off the wagon. Everyone on that table knew that I was doing the challenge so there’s no way I could have ordered chips with a chicken burger, bacon, cheese and some… actually I’m getting really hungry and I still have a few hours left so I’ll stop explaining! What actually followed instead of that burger was 12 tiny, mickey mouse wings and what felt like 3 peas in a side cup beside it. I’ve never left a restaurant so annoyed and hungry in my life! 

Mood Changes
I can honestly say the diet never once affected my work. I always felt energised and upbeat in my classes and personal training sessions. Had this diet affect them in any way negatively, it probably be one of the few factors that could have caused me to kill the challenge. The only effect I had was that I sweated more. I remember I was explaining a circuit station in one of my Booty Camp classes (every Monday and Wednesday from 7pm in St. Brigid’s Castleknock Community Centre might I add)  and as I finished the demonstration of the final exercise one of the ladies looked at me and said, jokingly, “are you alright, need to sit down after that?” That was rough haha.

Around the house was a different subject. I was ok most of the time and pretty much myself. The no carbs/being cranky can be over exaggerated by people online. However, there were times. Times people got under my skin over the simplest of things much easier. I rarely snap at people, if ever. I like to think I’m a laid back person most of the time but I snapped a few times at people being smart arses. or just doing irritating things. I didn’t need to most of the time and it felt weird but the lack of carbs definitely wore on my patience. I would get asked if I was “ok”. I don’t know, maybe I developed a ‘resting bitch face’ but that question was asked an awful lot when there was genuinely nothing wrong with me… unless the question was repeated again and again. One of my best friends asked me three times in a row if I was ok and, I can laugh at it now, but I blasted at him “I’m not going to be ok if you keep asking me if I’m ok!”. I was annoyed but I got some stick for that one. 


Energy Levels
The first few days were tough for energy levels and I did experience the sugar deprived headaches on the Wednesday night of the challenge. But my energy did improve. Keeping a set routine during the week helped and there was very few late nights. Mornings were a struggle to get up but who doesn’t have that? Once I was up, I was good to go after that morning coffee. 

So what did my diet consist of?
My nutrition was mainly based off meats and vegetables. Obviously there was an emphasis on a lack of carbs. So all breads, pastas and rice were out. Anything that had sugar was out. So my coffee stayed black and I lived off sparkling water for taste. Yeah, I said sparkling water for taste. Nothing better than a cold bottle of sparkling water! I had 3 meals per day. I didn’t limit myself on the amount of meat or veg as I didn’t want to be starving. i was snappy as it was at times, last thing I needed was 24/7 hunger. I didn’t count calories. I ate what I could in the 3 meals. Occasionally using protein shakes as well. Especially on the go hopping from client to client or driving to a class etc. When I was truly stuck on the road, I tried nuts and one of those Fulfil bars. They seemed to have the least amount of sugars and carbs out of all the bars on offer. And I rather have one of them than stay hungry and risk falling off the wagon later in the day if I drove past a chipper. I never had sauces at the house but sometimes they are unavoidable in restaurants so I became more lenient there. It’s a much better approach than over stressing on what to eat when you’re out. 

This works for me and I know it will work for a lot of people. It requires a lot of self discipline which is aided by making yourself accountable and reminding yourself constantly of why you're doing it and the reward at the end of it. You need to have that reward day and goals along the way. I set goals for myself in my training as well to keep myself consistent and to keep pushing myself. Set the start date. Prepare for it. Know when you’re training, what you’re eating. Set a routine. Keep to it. And tell everyone you’re doing a challenge. Be over bearing if you have to be. That will work out even better when you’re close to failing and the though of telling these people that you failed the challenge you constantly annoyed them about doing. Tell me that’s not motivation. 

Pretty much...

Pretty much...



The journey is important and the reasons for why you’re doing the journey are even more important. Without a plan after these last 5 weeks on the next step, I will lose my results pretty soon. I have that plan in place. I have visualised how this plan would end since the first week. Typing this blog on the Saturday, hang out with a few friends tonight, a single glass of wine while watching some late night UFC after the college football and the low carb pasta from butternut squash which was by far the best meal I’ve had over this challenge! And then tomorrow’s cheat meal… well, that’s another blog in it’s self! But if you’re eating healthy, I’d stay off my social media for the rest of Sunday!

The Chicken and Bacon pasta using BNS a substitute. Will definitely be a staple in my future dinners!

The Chicken and Bacon pasta using BNS a substitute. Will definitely be a staple in my future dinners!



The challenge was definitely worth it. Nothing worth having ever came easy. There was ups and downs but I learned a lot about myself and I have a foundation base now for the next phase. It is incredible tough but the sense of accomplishment and seeing your results makes it worth while… providing you keep with the training and incorporate some of the meals you have eaten over the challenge into your new diet. Which is exactly what I will do. As you read this, I’m probably rewarding myself with my first cheat meal… bacon, pancakes and I’ll even throw in a little ice cream! and that’s only the beginning.

What my nutrition doesn't give me... A TAN! Day 35 photo. Still a bit to go but the challenge has given me a great foundation to work with!

What my nutrition doesn't give me... A TAN! Day 35 photo. Still a bit to go but the challenge has given me a great foundation to work with!