Today I completed my 21-Day Challenge to adapt to a new lifestyle and reset my body’s metabolism.
In the past couple of months, I’ve suffered from burnout symptoms, chronic fatigue, poor sleep, digestion issues, and extreme mood swings that affected my personal and professional life. It was time to take responsibility and make some changes.
For 21 days I cut out all grains (rice, pasta, corn, bread, etc.), processed sugars, and sweetened beverages, most dairy, all beans and other legumes, and I’ve avoided all industrial and polyunsaturated fats (trans and partially hydrogenated fats, and vegetable oils). I’ve also been eating to my heart’s content, with full awareness and appreciation of natural hunger and satiety cycles and enjoying the foods that made the cut: Meat, fish, fowl, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, high quality fats, and an occasional, sensible dark chocolate treat (containing 75% or more cocoa).
In addition to my dietary changes, I went to bed no later than 2 1/2 hrs after sunset. I also limited my screen exposure after dark to support the production of melatonin, which is critical for a good night’s sleep.
I stopped my chronic exercise habits (running 5 days a week at high heart rates, plus regular strength training sessions) and rejected the notion that reaching a consistent level of mileage, hours, or workout frequency is the road to fitness. For me, it was the road to burnout. I ditched my moderate to hard runs in exchange for two to three, slow, easy jogs per week — way below my maximum aerobic heart rate.
Every seven to ten days I did full-out sprints (never longer than 15 min including warm-up/cool-down). My structured set and reps-driven strength training sessions have been replaced with unstructured, brief, yet intense, body exercise workouts: push-ups, pull-ups, chin-ups, squats. I found myself doing one 30- minute session per week and sometimes a shorter, 10-15 minute session later in the week. The key is constant body-awareness and making sure I get enough recovery time between the sessions. When in doubt, I took a rest day (or two)!
In addition, I made some career decisions and started training to become a certified primal health coach.
I also began meditating again. I’m a proponent of meditation. It shows you the asshole that’s talking in your head 24/7.
So, what changed?
- I lost excessive body fat.(I wasn’t overweight; however, I still shed fat off my waist line.)
- I built muscle mass and got more toned.
- I started sleeping through the night again — in alignment with my circadian rhythm.
- I’m no longer subject to blood sugar crashes.
- My ability to concentrate and focus improved.
- I noticed increased energy levels throughout the day, even if I skipped a meal or “forgot to eat” (because I wasn’t hungry).
- My cravings for sweets/salty snacks are pretty much gone.
- My varicose veins on my left leg (family genetic history) improved by 70%, less swelling, no more leg pain.
So far, I have no desire to go back to my old lifestyle because why would I, considering how I felt before? This just feels much better and the trade-off for me has been virtually non-existent (I have to say I wasn’t a big grain/pasta eater before, but I loved my rice!).
Ice cream as a special treat every now and then? Sure! This is not about restricting myself through suffering or denying myself enjoyment. It’s about respecting my body’s needs and internal biology, so I can indulge sensibly and with a clear conscience, knowing that my body can take the occasional hit in the form of a cone of Häagen-Dazs.