My first 24-Day Challenge is in the books.
I have to say that having a strict program and having everything laid out for me to follow was a huge help. I'm the kind of person that needs that structure. I need someone telling me what supplements to take and when. I'm a child. I need structure. I crave it. Maybe it's the OCD in me, but if I don't have someone telling me what I need to do, and I don't have routine, I dive deeper into a tailspin than Lindsay Lohan in 2011.
However, thanks to my sincere love of cooking as well as culinary background, I'm good when it comes to what types of food to eat and understanding basic nutrition. I'm all good with portion size and how to properly prepare food to get the most nutrition out of it without sacrificing flavor.
I'm good with willpower as long as I have healthy options. My problem comes with all of the other stuff. I crave structure. I'm the kind of person that would do well with a supportive drill sergeant as a trainer. Someone to push me and tell me to get my pansy ass back on the tredmill.
As long as I have a program to follow, supplements to take, and I know what in balls name I'm doing, I'm good.
I'm fucking solid.
I'm a God damed rockstar.
Because I like to work out. I like the soreness I feel when I leave the gym. Melting into my car seats with a content little smile on my face as I chug water and bask in my AC.
I really like getting into the shower after a workout and taking a moment to just feel my muscles.
That I'm all good with.
It's the structure I need help with.
Which is why the challenge really worked for me. I'm not going to boast that the program will work for everyone. I'm sure it probably won't. Or at least if you don't really want to make a change and you don't really want to change your eating habits, you might find yourself wasting your money and time.
But if you're willing to commit to 24-days of eating clean and being more active, I'm pretty sure you'll be happier than a pig in mud on an August day.
So my honest thoughts about the challenge...
I like the structure, I don't like the price.
It's $190 (plus shipping) for the 24-days. Plus if you want to get any of the recommended "extras". I purchased the Catalyst and needed to purchase extra Spark and Meal Replacement Shakes (MRS) during the 24-days.
I typically had a Spark before breakfast and would have a MRS on the days I went to work (and I covered my thoughts on Vanilla MRS in a previous blog entry...so we'll skip that). I would also have a Spark before I worked out or in the afternoons when I needed something besides water.
Speaking of water, prepare to drink a lot of it. And honestly, you really should be drinking at least a gallon a day anyway. The first week I had to adjust to running to the bathroom every hour to pee. After a while I think my body caught on.
I justified the cost since I wasn't eating out or purchasing any booze. Seriously - I have been one cheap date this last month. On the other hand, the additional veggies, fruit, and lean meats were a bit costly compared to boxes of spaghetti and cheap ass 80/20 ground beef.
You will also have a shit ton more energy than you're used to. At least if you're like me and you were drinking at least 3 cups of coffee a day, eating whatever the hell you really wanted to, and you were drinking wine in the evening while you made dinner, you'll find that you have a ridiculous amount of energy.
YOU WILL SLEEP BETTER.
Holy titty sprinkles will you sleep better. I would habitually toss and turn prior to the challenge. Other than the first few days where I woke up in the middle of the night to run to the bathroom (see my note about water above), I slept through the night without tossing and turning and woke up refreshed.
Speaking of waking up and energy and water and whatnot, I dropped all caffeine intake besides my 8 oz. of Spark in the morning and maybe something in the afternoon. Other than that, it was all water.
My diet changed a bit. I cut out fried food, processed foods, most carbs, and extra sugars. For the 24 days, I ate lean meats, tons of fresh fruit and veggies. That's it. And it really wasn't a hardship. I got creative when I had a craving for something sweet (frozen blueberries are my new favorite thing) and when I wanted a burger, I'd forgo the bun and roast up some sweet potato fries to have with it.
The challenge did take some planning ahead with food for the week and lunches. I meal planned every Sunday, went to the grocery store for the week (except days we had fish - that was a "day of" purchase), and made sure whatever I was cooking for dinner, I had enough for the next day's lunch. There were a few times during the challenge the stuff I made for dinner I was really excited to eat the next day, and a few other times I would have rather drove to a fast food joint and scarfed down a Big Mac.
I still love Big Macs... but you do know you can pretty much make them at home, right?
I went pretty hard-core with the eating plan. I didn't even drink until this past weekend when the challenge was over. I do wish I could have done more with the gym, but being sick and being unable to breathe without coughing up my right lung didn't really bode well for hopping on a tredmill or a taking some time with weights.
In the end, I lost 14 pounds and a total of 9 inches.
If I were to sum the 24-Day challenge up for anyone who is looking for a program, I would say if you can afford it... try it. Give it 24 Days and give it your all. If you don't feel more energy and you don't notice physical results after the 24 Days, go back to doing what you did before.
But I have to almost guarantee that if you commit to the 24-Days (seriously...think about what that is in your actual lifespan. It isn't even a full month!), you will notice results and you will notice changes that you'll be proud of.
As I said before, I need a program or I'll fall so hard off the wagon my ass will land in a plate of fried butter. And since I can't quite afford another phase of Advocare right now (they have additional phases once you're done with your challenge), I'm continuing with a GNC program while getting my Spark from Advocare and will be going back to Advocare for additional challenges and cleanses.
I'm still going to go to the gym. And I'm going to continue to live my life. I need to have structure, but I also can't feel guilty if I decide to have a couple of cocktails when I'm out with friends, or if I fall face-first into popcorn while out at the movies. My meal-plan won't work for everyone. Just like others' won't work for me. It truly is about finding a balance in your life that you can be happy with.
For example, this past weekend while our out-of-town friends were visiting, we ordered delivery deep dish, Chicago-style pizza. I had a bite (literally one bite. That alone should qualify me for a medal) but also ordered a grilled chicken salad.
BAM. Moderation in yo face.
Ok. So because this is long and rambling enough, I'm just going to end with one of my absolute favorite recipes.
Pecan Crusted Chicken
Oh how do I love thee recipe, let me count the ways.
First off, this recipe is healthy and is a way for me to get the satisfaction of a crunchy piece of chicken without feeling like I won't be able to fit into my jeans later.
Second, it's so easy it's stupid.
Third you have most of the ingredients on hand.
Fourth, holy balls it's delicious.
Ingredients (makes 3 servings)
3 chicken breasts
1/2 c. spicy mustard (or if you realize you're out...like I did...use 1/2 c. regular mustard and throw in 1 T. horseradish)
2 T. raw, organic honey
1 c. pecans (finely chopped)
Zest of 1 medium orange
Spray olive oil
1. Cut your chicken into tender-like strips, preheat your oven to 350°, and spray an oven-safe casserole dish with the olive oil spray.
2. In one bowl, combine the mustard and honey. Add your pecans and orange zest to another bowl.
3. Dip your tenders first in the mustard/honey combo, being sure to coat all sides. Transfer to the pecan/orange zest mixture and coat on all sides.
4. Once coated, add your tenders to the sprayed baking dish. Place in preheated oven and cook for approximately 45 minutes or until the juices from the chicken run clear and the internal temperature is 165°.
Bam! That's it for this episode. As I discover new food, I'll post recipes and update. Plus, there are bound to be pitfalls and days I just give in and dive into a big ole batch of cookie dough. I'm using all of you to hold me accountable.