Writing about my first month’s challenge hasn’t been as enticing as I hope other months will be. Though my excitement about my new blog is oozing out of me daily, my desire to detail January’s quest wanes quite small. In the scheme of where I think my journey will take me, the first challenge carried much less depth and soul-searching. Nonetheless, it proved a great way to start off the new year and ease myself into the coming year’s personal challenges.
Let me quickly take a step backwards and paint a picture of how January’s challenge came about. While summer in Vermont brings with it a plethora of fresh, local veggies, strawberries spilling juice down your chin, a green bean snapping crisply in your mouth, and the taste of tomatoes and basil dancing gracefully into almost every meal, winter, at least for me, is just the opposite. Sure, fall slides in with tangy cider and tart Macintosh apples, but it briskly dips into creamy butternut squash bisque and thick slices of homemade pumpkin pie. See where this is headed? One minute you’re enjoying veggies in the summer sun, but the next you’re curled up by the fire eating your second bowl of homemade mac and cheese while the winter wind howls at your window. Sure, the mac and cheese was crafted with Vermont sharp cheddar and local organic milk…and maybe you even snuck in some steamed broccoli…but you’re still filling your belly with rich, creamy foods as you sedentarily snuggle in evening after evening.
Overall, I’m a healthy eater. I buy almost all organic food, rarely drink soda or snack on potato chips, and generally consume few sweets and baked goods. But, boy do I love complex carbs and cheese! My day could be viewed as a progression of bread and cheese consumption – bagel with cream cheese for breakfast, slice of pizza for lunch, and shrimp scampi with lots of locatteli for dinner! It’s not exactly the picture of a balanced diet. And while I’m tempted by cleanses and diets and premixed powder meal replacements, none really fit my lifestyle. As the working mother of a two year old boy, I have neither the time nor patience nor energy to stick to strict eating rules, keep my fridge stocked with the permitted components, and pack my day’s lunch with said food supply.
So I decided to take a simpler approach: replace one to two meals a day with a smoothie. The rules were simple – at least one meal included no complex carbs in the form of bread, pasta, and other processed wheat products, smoothies were made with no dairy, no added sugar, and contained green veggies as much as possible.
Here’s why it worked: I could purchase all my ingredients frozen so I didn’t have to watch them wilt and sag in my refrigerator while I guiltily I ignored them; if I craved a specific meal that was bread- or pasta-based I was allowed to eat it as long as I had a smoothie during another meal time that day; and I didn’t restrict myself from consuming my vices, like coffee and wine – that help keep me sane.
Here’s how it worked: I stocked up on many potential ingredients – a variety of frozen fruits, frozen spinach, soy milk and coconut milk, almond butter, peanut butter, even whey protein powder; when possible, I kept some fresh ingredients on hand – avocados, bananas, kale, cucumbers, cilantro, ginger root – but always had enough frozen fruit in stock that the fresh ones weren’t essential; I dug the blender out from the back of the cabinet and gave it center stage on the counter – it was both a convenience and a reminder; I even downloaded an ebook, Smoothies for Weight Loss – Low Carb, Low Fat, Protein, and more to help bring creativity to my smoothies.
The result? Successful adherence to the rules, less cravings for bread and pasta at each meal, higher consumption of fruits and some veggies each day, and the expected upswing of more energy. This challenge was not about losing weight or dropping inches. I’m active enough to stay healthy but will worry about a workout regimen later. For now, I wanted to create an emotional gap between myself and food, to draw a line in the sand that endless pasta bowls and garlic bread are not allowed to cross, even at the end of a rough day. I also wanted to put more food in my food – not just calories for the sake of calories but potassium-filled bananas, iron-rich spinach, and antioxidant-supplying blueberries. And I did. So I feel successful. And energetic. And without it being a part of this month’s challenge, I’ve continued to adhere to the rules.
In case January’s challenge has inspired you, I’m including a few of my favorite smoothie recipes for you to try:
“1/2 cups pumpkin, canned — chilled
1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup banana — sliced”
(To this I also added some pumpkin pie spice)
Excerpt From: Pub, Animated. “Smoothies for Weight Loss – Low Carb, Low Fat, Protein, and more.” Lulu.com, 2012-01-29. iBooks.
This material may be protected by copyright.
Tropical Green Smoothie
Three leaves of kale, washed with stems removed
1 handful of mango chunks
1 handful pineapple chunks
1/2 banana, optional
1 cup coconut milk (adjust as needed)
(Sometimes I’ll add vanilla whey protein powder to this, but it does mask the yummy tropical flavors, so use sparingly.)
Creamy Avocado Smoothie
1/2 ripe avocado
1 handful blueberries
Dash of cinnamon
1 cup soy milk (adjust as needed)
Savory Detox Blend
(this is my creation using a combo of two recipes in “Smoothies for Weight Loss – Low Carb, Low Fat, Protein, and more” – Mango-Lime Detox Smoothie and Mango Ginger Favorite)
1 handful frozen mango
1 medium lime, peeled and deseeded
1/4 to 1/2 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 inch ginger root
2 to 4 ounces of filtered water
(I also like a variation of this, where I replaced the mango with cucumber and the lime with a lemon.)
Peachy Keen Blend
1 handful frozen peaches
1 handful frozen spinach (or 3 leaves fresh kale)
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 cup soy milk