Whew. We made it. An entire month with no dessert (which I expanded to also be no sugar/no artificial sugar—had a little Diet Coke problem creep back in over the holidays). My gym, 212° Fitness, did an elimination challenge for the month of February. We put together teams of four, each of us eliminated something unhealthy and you got a sticker each day you stayed away from your elimination category. You got an extra sticker if you ate 3 cups of raw vegetables. More on that in a minute. One bonus sticker for watching Fed Up. It’s amazing what grown adults will do for a sticker chart.
My team was Mer (of course), Sara, and Amy, giving up alcohol, processed foods, and fast food respectively. We’ll know next week how the competition shakes out, but my team was super solid. Mer was team captain (honorary title, but the only reason we gave it such a fight) and would give us count downs throughout the month:
A photo posted by Amber Sawaya (@ambersawaya) on
Depending on which we needed at the time.
We had the elimination thing in the bag, the veggies were the challenge and the days of the month came to be counted down in number of cups of veggies we each had to consume. We found out we were one of the teams in the lead and kicked it up a notch. BAM.
So this was the main part of the challenge for me, but actually became the easier part. If you’ve ever given up sugar you are familiar with the stages of withdrawal, if you haven’t, consider this your primer if you ever want to.
- Week 1 — afternoon would start the sugar craving, which I’d manage through but then after dinner, whoa boy. Even though I don’t take down a piece of chocolate cake every night I do at least have a table spoon of dark chocolate chips. That was really, really hard after dinner to skip. I would sometimes drink a mint tea or more water, but that was really tough.
Also, you will notice that sugar/sweets/desserts are EVERYWHERE. Go to the grocery store, it’s all at eye level, you will walk through a tunnel of sweets at checkout. We don’t even notice how much we’re being sold sugar all the time. We do have some Red Velvet Oreos that were released for Valentine’s that my husband has hidden somewhere in the house for me.
- Week 2 — there was a meyer lemon loaf at the coffee shop that I tried to order and my husband said “you can’t eat that”. Poor girl at the counter probably thinks I’m repressed. He was right, I didn’t even think about the fact that it was basically cake.
My husband got a cookie, the ones I love, and I found him on the driveway eating it one day. I walked out and he pulled his jacket up over his head and told me to go away. It’s amazing how just the sight of something you want to eat short circuits your brain. At least we continue to cement the reputation of being “those weird-ass Sawayas” in the neighborhood.
- Week 3 — I had a Thai Ice Coffee at lunch, those things are made with sweetened condensed milk, which I knew, but it wasn’t technically dessert, so I ordered one. Too damn sweet, didn’t finish it. That’s a huge thing for me to say.
My friends are some of the kindest most wonderful people a gal could hope to love. We went to a dinner party where there was no dessert in deference to moi and another gent. Instead we had port and fancy cheeses (thanks, Frank and Rob).
- Week 4 — Meh, nothing to report. I think it takes 2.5–3 weeks to break down the constant sugar cravings. That last week was smooth sailing, even the cookies I love didn’t tempt me. I don’t have a list of things I wanted to eat when this ends, I’m sort of apathetic on sugar right now.
3 Cups of Raw Veggies
We live next to an amazing coffee shop called 3 Cups. I wonder if that is the reason the gym came up with the sadistic part of the competition. What’s the optimal amount of raw vegetables that will cause riot, revolt, and a ton of bitching? Then they drove by and they knew the answer was 3 cups.
There was so much gnashing of teeth when this bonus was announced. I’m telling you, if I ever get sued, I’m throwing the case to the gym members, those people will find every loophole. The idea of the veggies needing to be raw are:
- Reset your pallet, food doesn’t always need to be modified, we are just used to the taste of doctored veggies.
- If you can eat three cups of raw vegetables, you can do anything with your diet.
- No lemon? No salt? None of it. I think it was to avoid the slow slide into: well, if I can do lemon, I can do balsamic, I can do a little olive oil, I can mix in a little blue cheese, I CAN DIP MY SINGLE CARROT INTO A CUP OF RANCH DRESSING. You get the point.
Let me set all of this up by saying February 1 I hated raw vegetables. I didn’t even eat vegetables when I met my husband, so raw? Like, just eat a carrot? Ew.
The first day I tried it was a toddler throwing a fit. Picture me, laying on the floor of our kitchen, tear streaked face, screaming I DON’T LIKE VEGGIES, with bits of vegetables all over the floor and in my hair. There were no photos so I created this composite mockup:
Our trainer asked after the first week how it was going, my quite husband said, “It’s been tough on all of us”—yeah, he wasn’t even in the competition.
Fast forward to February 28. I ended up eating raw veggies for probably half or more of the days in the month. That’s huge and yes, it did reset my pallet and yes I do find them tolerable now. Here are the things the help get that quota down:
Greens are your friend. A cup of greens (spinach, macha rosettes, arugula, sunflower sprouts, baby lettuces) goes down really fast and is great for mindless snacking.
- Veggies are good when you feel snacky. We all do it, once you commit it’s not really that much harder (for reals, try it) to eat a cup of veggies than a cup of chips.
- Distraction is the only way. I still cannot sit down and face my veggies. I can if I’m working, playing video games or watching TV. The latest episode of Scandal will hand you all three cups in a hurry. Patrolling the Cosmodrome in Destiny? See ya later, carrots.
- Break it up over the day, a cup in the morning, one in the afternoon, one after dinner.
- Always have a big glass of water with it. Chew, chew, chew, wash it down. Swish out your teeth when you are done.
- Matchstick your veggies. Much easier to eat if you break them down into matchstick portions. This is another thing I learned to do in Basic Knife Skills at Salt Lake Culinary Center, that’s the class I talked about on my Good 4 Utah TV appearance.
Veggies that are Edible
This is what I ate during the month:
- Macha Rosettes
- Sunflower Sprouts
- Baby Lettuce Mix — dark greens, not iceberg
- Rainbow Carrots
- Cauliflower —tastes like wet sand!
- Celery — I thought I hated it, turns out I don’t
- Bell Pepper — red, orange or yellow
- Shallot — not by itself, but in a shaved “salad”, lots of shaved veggies
Ok, so what have I learned? 3 things:
- Sometimes the best way to stay on track is to set a short-term (4-6 weeks) goal and really nail it. No sugar / plus veggies was really good for me.
- I eat way too much sugar without knowing it. I need to cut the random treats and automatic after-dinner desserts. I think twice a week is good for a dessert/cookie/cupcake/treat.
- Veggies aren’t quite the enemy I’ve always made them out to be and I need to start subbing in a raw veggie snack daily.
Have you done an elimination challenge? Do you have raw veggies you like to eat? Share your stories in our closed Facebook Group: Leans, Greens, & RDLs ›