The April EAT WELL, LIVE VIBRANTLY clean eating challenge is coming to an end. The official challenge part of it, I mean. Or the month part of it? Either way, the April of refined sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, alcohol-free, caffeine-free eating is reaching its official end. Except, I really like eating this way – so while it might look a little different, much of how I ate for April will be how I eat in the coming months.
So how was it? And do I feel better? Let me think about how to answer this. It isn’t as though I’ve gone from a haggard, fatigue-filled sack to a vibrant and entirely new person. Clean eating is a huge step in the right direction but it isn’t everything. That said, I do feel better. I feel like my eating has been re-set in a healthier way. I feel like I’m excited again about what food can be and how much fun and health and deliciousness it can offer.
Below are a few more of my reflections about my month of clean eating, and what clean eating can do (or can’t do) for you too.
What Clean Eating Can Do:
- Reset your Mind and Tastebuds: I found that by about two weeks in, I had already dropped some of the eating/food habits that weren’t serving me well and was really starting to appreciate the tastes, foods, and feelings that came from the foods I was eating instead. If you feel like your diet is getting a bit looser than you want, and not in a way that makes you feel good, setting up a challenge like this for two or three weeks can really help you re-set your thinking about food and bring things back to the healthy, fresh, interesting, clean way of eating that feels more positive and more vibrant.
- Make You Feel Better: This is kind of an obvious one, but it needs to be said. It’s hard to describe, but my body feels calmer. My skin is clearer, my mind a little less foggy, and I just feel that my body is (sorry, this is kind of new age-y) happier. There is still a lot of room to grow (see the entire section below) but as a start, I feel like I’m slowly offering my body and mind the healing and supportive foods that they want and need.
- Help You to Glow: Eating clean helps increase your nutrient intake, which supports the functioning of your body and skin, which can give you greater energy and a more vibrant glow. Plus, sticking with foods that are good for you gives you the positive energy that comes with making choices for your health and wellbeing. That makes you glow, too.
- Help you Figure Out what Makes you feel Worse: After eating this way for several weeks, there is almost a natural knowledge that emerges in your body that looks at certain foods and says, that could taste good but it will not make you feel good. And that little bit of mindfulness and awareness is enough to make you not want to eat that specific food because when you realize how much is out there that tastes good AND feels good, the foods that makes you feel like shit actually don’t seem that appealing anymore.
What Clean Eating Can’t Do:
- Fix all of your digestive ailments: Healthy, optimal digestion is the result of several things: good food, proper chewing, and eating in a calm, non-hurried way so that your digestive system gets a chance to turn on and get to work. Clean food, I’m sorry to say, can be wolfed down just like any other food. So, eating healthfully is a piece of the puzzle but the puzzle really starts to look like something good when you add the right digestive habits to it as well.
- Bring you food joy: the point of a food challenge like this isn’t to think restrictively. That’s the mistake I made at the beginning and it brought me and my eating no joy. Food is a pleasure and a fuel source and it should be thought of as both. And finding recipes that excite you, remaking your favourite dishes with healthier options, recreating restaurant meals that delighted your senses – these are the joys of eating, and they should be part of your lifestyle. Don’t remove the joy. Just shopping off a list of “eat this, don’t eat this” isn’t going to make you feel better if you don’t also find the spark of excitement, delight, and real pleasure that comes from eating foods you know are good for you but that you also enjoy.
- Nix the Sugar: Maple syrup, blackstrap molasses, brown rice syrup, raw honey. You can make delicious cookies and sweets and chocolate using natural sugars, and while this is SO much better than refined sugar, it ain’t exactly like eating a cucumber, you know? I ate plenty of no-bake puffed quinoa bars during this challenge and that’s not entirely the point. Now, see above about food joy – I’m not saying remove all of this stuff entirely. I’m just saying you still need to make a choice to opt for fruits and vegetables as much as you can.
- Control your portions: Nuts, coconut oil, almond butter, amazing sweet potatoes, smoked tofu – all clean, all delicious, all awesome. But also still all a bit hard for the ol’ digesto system if consumed in excess. Any food is. Clean eating helps to ensure the foods you consume are great, good, or at least better for you, but there’s still something to be said for thinking about how much of those foods you’re eating. Eating healthy foods can help make you feel lighter, more energetic. Supporting that with appropriate meal sizes also helps in a big way.
Overall, I’d say that clean eating is an important and awesome part of living a healthy vibrant lifestyle. But it goes hand in hand with other habits that are also vital and that are part of a whole package of intaking foods into your body in the optimal form, setting, and pace that are right for you and your digestion.
And more than that, clean eating goes hand it hand with an understanding that no eating pattern has to be PERFECT all of the time. Perfection is not the goal. Health, vibrancy, and happiness are the goal, and they come when you approach your eating with determination but also gentleness.
So eat clean, my friends! Start with one challenge, and then add another, and another, until you feel your food habits are really serving you and supporting you as the energetic, vibrant, creative, happy, and glowing individual you wish to be.
© Backyard Owl