Who doesn’t love a good challenge? Most people who walk into a gym wouldn’t mind losing a few pounds and improving their fitness level! As the h2i (Hired to Inspire) of Anytime Fitness in Quincy, MA, I am constantly conjuring up new ways to challenge and encourage our members to learn and push toward their fitness goals. In August, we asked our members to focus on their overall wellness by participating in a 30-day Clean Eating Challenge using Tosca Reno’s Eat Clean® principles.
Nutrition > Exercise
Remember: Diet and exercise go together like all natural peanut butter & farm fresh jam. While exercise and increased activity will definitely accelerate your fitness journey, you can’t out-exercise poor nutrition. Your nutrition accounts for 80% of any fitness goal, with the other 20% coming from your genetics and exercise regimen. Eating more is part of any plan, but the trick is to make sure those food options are healthy and “clean.” When you start giving your body the fuel it needs to perform properly, fat begins to melt away, allowing your muscles to shine through.
Why 30 days?
Many of us have heard that it takes a minimum 21 days of consistency to form a new habit. And “quick fixes” aren’t that appealing because those tend to yield only short-term results. We used the 30-day challenge as a doable, but challenging amount of days to help members jump-start (or re-motivate) their healthy goals and actually see some results. The 30-day time frame allows you to focus on making small changes week-to-week, resulting in a more long-term transition, regardless of inclement weather, a hectic work schedule, a booming social calendar, or whatever other speed bumps pop up along your health journey.
But…What is Clean Eating?
Let me start with what it isn’t: It isn’t a diet. It does not involve omitting foods. And it most definitely does not focus on starving yourself. Whether your fitness goal is to pack on muscle or lose pesky pounds, it takes some extra effort in the kitchen. But before you dive fork-first into the hippest fad diet or bulking regimen sweeping through social media, it’s a good idea to learn about clean eating.
Clean eating is a lifestyle made popular by Tosca Reno when she transformed her body—and consequently her life—at age 40 from overweight to healthy, strong, and fit. Her Eat-Clean Diet® series centers around eating foods that are minimally processed and lack artificial ingredients like added chemicals and preservatives. Your grocery list becomes full of whole foods like colorful fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Learn more below, and find additional resources at toscareno.com.
What can happen in 30 days?
Lisa V. from my club focused on reading labels and making better choices for 30 days and was ecstatic to lose 24 pounds during the challenge. Although most other challengers also saw a change in their weight, the benefits of the clean eating challenge far surpassed the number on the scale to include less bloating, new and improved confidence, less joint swelling and pain, cleaner/glowing skin, fewer mood swings, less stomach pain/indigestion, less heartburn, fewer body aches and pains, improved attention span, more restful sleep, and higher energy levels for work/school, exercising, or socializing. You can also reduce your risk of diseases like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease to name a few. Some members even mentioned being able to come off medications that were once necessary.
Our members worked hard for 30 days and their non-scale successes proved it! You can do it too.
How do I start?
Clean eating can feel overwhelming when you’re just starting out, especially if you have a lot of changes to make. Follow these simple tips to make your 30-day Clean Eating Challenge easier.
1. Know the rules.
First things first, download these clean eating guidelines and read up! Then print them out and stick them on your fridge or somewhere else really visible so you will be reminded to make good choices until they become second nature.
2. Take baby steps.
Revamping your entire diet is too dramatic of a change to sustain. Start your clean eating journey by making little changes every day. Over time, the small changes will evolve into something much greater…your lifestyle change!
3. Only eat it if you can pronounce it.
The focus is to rid our bodies of preservatives and chemicals. Read the ingredient list on EVERYTHING. Start at home in your pantry. If some of the nutrition labels include ingredients that seem foreign or are hard to pronounce, they don’t belong in your body. Also, stick to ingredient lists that only have about 5 or 6 items. Pro tip: This would be a great time to donate those packaged shelf items to a local food pantry!
4. Plan ahead.
You’ll be amazed at what a little planning and accountability can do for your end results and day-to-day decision making. Grocery shopping and meal preparation are crucial to your success. Fill your grocery cart with only the items on your thought-out clean eating shopping list and keep those other tempting items out of your cupboards. When you get home, set aside some time to prepare your food. It will be easier to stick with your plan if you’re prepared. The vending machine won’t be so tempting with a healthy snack waiting for you at your desk! You can use this Weekly Wellness Tracker to track your meals, snacks, activity, and even your water consumption.
5. Surf the Web.
Clean eating has grown in popularity over the years, making it even easier to stumble upon recipes, snacks, meal prep ideas, and more! A quick Google search can give you a pizza recipe adapted for a clean eating lifestyle, for example. Once you get comfortable with the simple clean eating principles, start exploring and you’ll find yourself making recipe tweaks on your own.
6. Treat, don’t cheat.
I mentioned this was a lifestyle, right? Many times when we begin a new diet, we restrict way too much. That’s not sustainable. If you plan to treat yourself occasionally, you can mentally give yourself a “get out of jail free” card and not feel guilty. Aim to eat clean 80% of the time when you’re just getting started. Leave that other 20% for your date night or your Sunday morning pancakes. In the event you do fall off track, just accept it and get back on the clean eating wagon.