March 1st was my one-year anniversary of an experiment where I gave up sugar and flour for a month. My goal was simply to see if I had the willpower to walk away from foods that were such an important part of my life. Trust me when I say that I was more addicted to pizza, cookies, and cereal than the average person, along with the countless other delicious items that I could run out and buy whenever I wanted. I decided to see if I could survive a month and I did. What I didn’t realize was how large of an impact it would have on my mind after that month ended.
Now I’m not going to detail my journey over the past year, simply because I’ve written extensively in this blog about it during the previous year and you can scroll back to get the full effect. Instead I want to take a moment to reflect and explore how this one-month experiment morphed into a life-changing year, how it’s worked for me, and how I believe it can work for you.
Before we begin, here’s a special disclaimer for you. You see, there isn’t anything special about me compared to you in regards to motivation, desire to be healthy, or determination. I say this because we tend to see the results of others with their health and immediately try to figure out something special about that person that we can never do. I used to be that same way, watching the Youtube videos of people being healthier over a year and saying I could never be as motivated, resilient, or focused as they were, so why should I bother. So, even though I’d like to say I’m special, the truth is that the “me” in January of 2016 is likely the exact same person as the “you” of right now.
Here are some of my main learnings from my experience this year.
1. Set a timeframe goal! You’ve already heard speeches and read books about goal setting, so I’m not going regurgitate a bunch of stuff here that you’ve gotten somewhere else already. Short version is that you need to set some sort of timeframe for your “experiment” and stick to it. I recommend a minimum of two weeks and a maximum of a month because two weeks without sugar, flour, and processed foods lets you get most everything out of your system and begin feeling the benefits. One month gives you the mental clarity to realize the haze you’ve lived in all your life and you’ll likely want to keep going. Besides, how can you say no to a two-week experiment? What do you have to lose? I can tell you what you will gain, the ability to realize that it’s possible and you can do it, then a month seems possible at that point.
2. Tell people what you’re doing! Now I’m not saying you need to go grab strangers and tell them you’ve reached a point so low in your life that you’re trying something crazy to see what happens. And I don’t recommend posting on social media that you’re starting a new “crazy diet” and people should express their condolences. Make it more about the experiment and testing of your personal willpower than the eating. You’ll find that people will start encouraging you more and become involved in your success each day for the timeframe you set.
3. Don’t make it about the eating! People seem to always get hung up on their diet and what they are going without. In my past, I would focus so much on what I could and couldn’t eat, that it ended up consuming me. I made the “diet” into an evil creature that was to blame for making me go without the foods I loved. This would cause you to hear multiple statements like: “I’d love a piece of pizza, but my diet won’t allow it.” Or “That’s not something I can eat because of my diet.” People started to pity me because of this evil “diet” that was ruining my life and making me sad. In fact, once I started to cheat, my brain didn’t see it as a bad thing, but instead that I was escaping the clutches of the diet overlords and finally tasting freedom after a long imprisonment.
4. Finally, I must put a plug in for planning. Let’s be realistic and agree that you can’t completely change your eating habits, unless you do some planning and prep on the front end, and some regular planning throughout.
Beyond these four points, I’ve realized that my experiment was built on three simple things that fed into each other. Commitment, Results, and Motivation.
My commitment to the initial experiment equaled great results. The results I felt then contributed to my motivation to continue with the experiment for a longer time. This longer timeframe of showing success then helped me continually renew my commitment, which started the entire cycle over again.
I can honestly tell you that if you have the commitment to try the same experiment I did, you will be amazed after just a few weeks. This is true even if you have little motivation to give up the sweet foods you’re addicted to and even if you don’t believe the results will be the same as mine. Start with commitment and the rest will follow behind, whether you like it or not.
So there you go, my life-changing year in a nutshell. My health has drastically improved, I’ve lost around 70lbs, and all my stats are better than they have been in a decade. I have the self-confidence to keep challenging myself with new experiments around eating and exercise, and I obviously have no issue baring my soul to the world through a blog. Even with the distance I’ve come this year, my journey started with a single step and when I took it, I was in the exact same place you might be right now. Think about what’s holding you back from trying a “crazy” experiment in the coming months and weigh it against what you’ve done in the past.
All the best!