Lean Body Challenge

Well, hello.  Today’s post isn’t about my house, it’s not a quick fly-by anecdote about my Monkey, or The Fiance.  Today’s post is about a much more important home to me:  It’s about my body.

Exactly 30 days ago, I started a 28-day diet and lifestyle modification program called the 28 Day Lean Body Challenge.  The woman who offers this program (and other phenomenal lifestyle/nutrition coaching services) is a lady named Sirena Bernal.   She is a client of mine, and I’ve been working with her for months, watching all of these other people go through it, but I had yet to commit to trying it for myself.

However, for July’s challenge, I decided to not only to participate myself, but to rope The Fiance into giving it a try with me.  You see, I felt the tasks that I completed for Sirena weren’t taxing, but I also felt like perhaps I wasn’t relating to the participants in a way that I could – in a way that would truly help me to understand the basic needs of the ladies who participate.  Also – I felt like I really needed to make some lifestyle changes.

So, the tables were turned.  I found myself on the other side of the measuring tapes, on the receiving end of Sirena’s advice, humor, and wisdom, and this is what my journey was like:

Days 1-7:  I was going to nail this.  I felt like I had a clear advantage, since I worked directly with Sirena each day.  I had constant available contact, I had the benefit of weekly phone calls and daily emails.  I wanted to be enthusiastic for The Fiance, so I felt my creative juices pumping in the kitchen.  I was so worried that he would feel deprived, or defeated, or unhappy with this choice that I had asked him to participate in, that I was killing it each day in the kitchen preparing amazing treats that were “LBC-Friendly” in hopes that he would think it wasn’t so bad.

I diligently took pictures of nearly everything that we ate..  I uploaded them to the private FB group of these ladies, proof that I was sticking to the plan, and also as inspiration for pretty, healthy meals.  I know how much I benefit from a photograph of inspiring food, and I hoped that they did, too.

I got up each morning and did my morning work out.  However, I found inside that I was battling some frustrations that I thought maybe meant that I was lazy… or too fat or out of shape to make this work.  I think it was Day 4 that I lounged in bed until nearly 11 a.m.  Why?  Was I just that tired, having cut out my beloved Diet coke?  No.  I wasn’t tired.  I didn’t want to get out of bed because I didn’t want to do my exercises.  I knew, with that being the first thing on my list of things to accomplish, that if I didn’t get up, I didn’t have to start yet.   So, I just willed myself back to sleep.  Finally, I got up and did them, and felt like my mood all day was pretty terrible.

I was mad.  I was mad that I had to do exercises before I started my day.  I was mad that I couldn’t just flop down at my computer, do what I was good at and not have to struggle.  I was good at:

  • Cooking.  Even within the confines of dairy-free, sugar-free, grain-free meal plans, I was gooin the kitchen.
  • All-things computer.  What do you MEAN having a “desk job” isn’t optimal?  I am GREAT behind a desk!
  • Finding humor, even when making bad choices.  I typically described the taste of Diet coke as “tastes like God’s love.”  There was definitely nothing funny at all about not having any Diet Coke – or caffeine at all, for that matter.

I was NOT good at:

  • Exercising first thing in the morning.  Wait, wait – let’s be honest.  Exercising at all, really.  The idea of doing a half million lunges (which is how I viewed my wake-up call in the beginning) and holding myself in the push-up position wasn’t my idea of a good time.  The fact that it came in the beginning of the morning also meant that I wasn’t doing it to its full benefit, because I was just trying to get it done so I could check it off of my to-do list, not really embracing it.
  • Adapting to life without flour.  Okay, fine.  I can’t  have pasta.  I was dealing with that.  I can’t have milk or cream in sauces.  Dealing with that, as well.  But flour?  NO FREAKING FLOUR?  What will I replace it with?  Almond flour was a poor substitute – it was heavy and not the silky, smooth texture in my mouth that flour provided.
  • Being accountable.  I felt like I gave up all ownership of my choices for a while.  I was dutifully logging in my food journal, for Sirena’s viewing pleasure.  I was consulting The Fiance on every single thing we were putting into our mouths, and I was carrying on a constant dialogue with My Monkey about the choices that I was making and explaining 459 times per day why we couldn’t have ice cream.

On Day 7, The Fiance and I went to dinner with the In-laws.  Going to dinner was different.  Instead of choosing a fatty, cheesy appetizer we chose sweet potato fries.  2 Fries in, I was sure they were coated in something and fried.  I ate them anyway, remembering Sirena’s advice that stressing about food was more detrimental than just having a couple of bites of something that wasn’t optimal.  Luckily, the fries were so great that everyone at the table was eating them in pretty rapid succession.  Also, Monkey needed to be taken to the bathroom while they were on the table, so by the time I got back, there weren’t many.   So, just a few fries made it into my mouth.  No biggie.

I ordered a steak (I’m not a big meat eater), and asked for no sour cream in my potatoes.  I had some vegetable on the side (I forget which) and the meal itself was technically within the confines of the LBC guidelines, so I felt like I could relax and just enjoy it.  I promptly finished everything on my plate.

Getting into the car, I remarked to The Fiance that I felt overfull…  And that I hadn’t had that feeling in a week – it felt comforting.  However, we got home at 6:30 and I went straight to bed and fell asleep, remaining in bed until the following morning.  Overfull wasn’t a comforting feeling – it was just a familiar feeling.  It was UNcomfortable, to be honest, but it was something I routinely felt prior to that week.  That was my first lesson in emotional comfort vs. physical comfort.

Days 8-14: I stopped writing in my food tracker.  I’d missed a day on a day that I was particularly busy, and so it loomed over me.  I couldn’t just jump back in where I left off, because I had make-up work to do.  The more I put it off, the more upset it got to be.  After 3 days, I no longer remembered what I’d eaten, so I felt like going back and retroactively updating it was a lost cause – it wouldn’t be accurate, it wouldn’t be perfect.  So I didn’t do anything at all, because I didn’t want to be imperfect.

I had the greatest of intentions.  I wanted to do this right for Sirena.  I wanted to be the picture of success for her.  I wanted to lead by example for The Fiance and show him the ropes, because he deferred to me as someone who was far more familiar with the program.  I wanted to showcase success for the other participants, inspire them to create, love, taste with renewed energy.  But none of it was for me.  I realized then that I had approached this all wrong.

Days 15-21:  I stopped.  I don’t mean I stopped sticking to the program – The Fiance and I were still trucking along, remaining faithful and accountable to each other.  However, I stopped communicating with the outside world about my food, my feelings, my choices.  This wasn’t for them, it was for me.  And by opening up to the world, I was also taking on the responsibility of their investment into my outcome.  If I was going to succeed it had to be only because I was accountable to myself.  The Fiance and I were gearing up to spend 3 months largely apart.  I would only be seeing him a few times per month.  If I didn’t do this for me, what would stop me from falling into my old habits when he wasn’t around and then only being “good” when I was being watched?

Nope.  This couldn’t be about someone else being proud of me.  It couldn’t be about the scale or the measuring tape or the food pictures on Facebook.  It couldn’t even be about Sirena’s feedback.  It had to just be me.  I had a responsibility to myself to find peace.  I had a responsibility to my own body to treat it with love and respect because I wanted to; not because I didn’t want to let other people down.

Days 16-27: I was on my own for the first time in the LBC.  The Fiance and I spent the first three weeks together, but this final week – I was alone.  I had to make those choices without a watchful eye.  I had to stop being angry at food and angry with myself.  So, that final week of the Lean Body Challenge, I withdrew into my own feelings and processed how I was doing – how I wanted to be doing.  I learned several things during that reflective week:

  • A few minutes of meditation before my morning work out made my morning work out more enjoyable.  Just sitting, quietly, breathing and allowing my mind to wake up and talk to my body helped me hear what my body was saying to me as I was doing the exercises.  I wasn’t just stumbling through them, bleary-eyed and angry, trying to do them as fast as I possibly could.
  • My inner toddler has temper tantrums that food doesn’t solve.  Yes, when I would throw an internal fit, it could be temporarily subdued by having some macaroni and cheese, or a Diet coke, but – how was that any different than giving an actual toddler a cookie each time they threw themselves on the floor?
  • Just like an actual toddler, when I was unhappy on the inside, it was usually an exterior source of frustration.  Am I truly upset that I can’t have bread before dinner, or am I angry with myself for poor choices in the past?

At the beginning of the challenge – Sirena makes each personal an individual manual.  When I read mine, she had written this:

Along with sleep, I want you to really, really, (like really) focus on finding forgiveness in yourself.  I know it is not easy, but I feel this will help you along your journey.

When I first read it, I got teary.  It’s easy to forgive other people.  For me, anyway.  I forgive and love very easily.  It’s even been fairly easy to forgive myself at times, when I’ve made a mistake that hurt someone else.  Maybe because it’s easy to understand the repercussions of your actions when you see the pain in another person.  But choices that I have made that only harmed ME…  I hadn’t forgiven those.  Why? Because I hadn’t acknowledged my pain.  Because I hadn’t bothered to realize that it’s not okay to hurt me.  It’s not okay when someone else hurts me, and it’s not okay for me to hurt me.

Once I sat and realized that these choices DID have consequences, and that hurting myself WAS something real… it was time to set aside some love for me.  Love and forgiveness to heal those hurts.  Love and forgiveness to like the person I saw in the mirror each morning.   Not because she’s thin.  Not because she’s intelligent, or witty, or giving.  The girl in the mirror deserves my love for simply being.

Day 28: I did it.  I did what I didn’t really start out believing that I could do.  What did I do?  I didn’t just stick to a diet for 28 days.  I released some of my guilt and made a promise to myself that I would continue to forgive.  I took ownership of my body and began to believe in myself.  How could I possibly have thought before this that a slice of cheese was more powerful than my own resolve?


My body is strong.

I have grown 2 children inside it.

I have nursed 2 babies and sustained their lives solely with my body.

I have beaten ovarian cancer.

I have mourned and grieved and my body carried me through the days I never wanted to have.

My body is a machine and I should fuel it.

My body is my best friend.

I deserve to feel good, I deserve to feel proud, and I deserve to feel in control.

This was never about food.

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