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How Not Completing a Challenge Helped Me Listen to My Body

Have you ever done something after not doing it for a while and experienced the feeling of it seeming brand new?

Maybe you stopped running and last week decided to pick it back up and you feel the cramps in your legs. Maybe you stopped going to the gym and you are SORE! Maybe you stopped taking time for yourself in the morning and you've started adding it back in and you feel so much lighter. For me, it was adding alcohol back in to my life. Some of you know, I participated in 75 Hard, which is a 75 Day Challenge. For 75 days you:

  • Follow a diet of your choice (including no alcohol)

  • Drink a gallon of water a day

  • Workout twice a day (one of them outdoors)

  • Read 10 pages of a book

On Thursday, I completed the challenge. Sort of. I set out to do this challenge because I knew I needed a break from alcohol. I figured all the other stuff would be a bonus. Then I got really ambitious and said, "no processed foods!" I'm not sure when it happened, but partway through the challenge I noticed I was not eating great (because I had to make everything myself but didn't make the time for it). I was also feeling restricted. Prior to 75 Hard, I wasn't eating diary or gluten or refined sugar. Adding another layer to this felt like a breaking point, and I noticed I was turning not eating all of those things into a badge of honor. I'd say, "I don't eat sugar," at first as something I was proud of. Soon, it turned into "look how much better I am because I don't eat this way. It started to feel icky. So, at that point, I sort of stopped caring about whether what I are was processed or not or whether or not I ate a piece of bread and starting eating according to what I wanted... what my BODY wanted. I noticed when I drank a gallon of water a day, most of the time my body was actually thirsty, not hungry! When I WAS hungry, I wanted certain things. A spinach salad. A gluten free pizza (with cheese!) homemade, non-processed soup. Some days, my eating was in line with before. Some days, it wasn't. And you know what?

If felt freeing to eat what felt right in my body.

In eating what I felt like eating instead of putting hard no's or restrictions on myself, I gained a new sense of understanding. Here's the caveat, though. I think this worked because I had taken out the thing that was really in the way... alcohol. Once I'd taken out the thing that had become a balm to deal with my emotions or to not think about things or to use as an excuse to have a good time, I had to find other ways to deal... and with this challenge, those things fell into place. I dealt with my emotions on my daily walks with my dog, in yoga, in meditation, in hydrating myself. All the pieces of the challenge became tools (some which I knew I had but had forgotten I did) to help me heal, and to help me see. I had to learn to listen to my body in a deeper way. To say no to any social event after 8pm because I like to go to bed early! It feels right for my body. To drink water first when I felt grumpy or upset instead of reaching for food to salve my emotions. I learned what times of day were best for my workouts, and what times of day my body wanted to chill. I was reminded of why I eat the way I do... not to restrict myself, but because I actually feel really good without gluten and dairy and sugar in my system! That being said, I also learned that every once in a while... my body craves those things and that is ok. It all depends on how I'm choosing to indulge in them. If I'm going to ANY food to salve an emotional need, I never walk away feeling good. When I use food as nourishment (physical or on a soul level) I walk away feeling... nourished!

So, yes, I still mostly eat the way I do... and I'm not being strict about it. I'm listening to my body, which sometimes means having the amazing piece of pumpkin cheesecake my friend from work made, or enjoying that sandwich from my favorite store after a long hike that has all the gluten in it. I'm enjoying food on a whole new level. And I'm also still cook a lot at home and exploring what I can make myself.

Did I follow a diet on 75 Hard? No. Technically, I did not complete this challenge. Does that matter? No. Because what I gained these last 75 days was priceless. I've come out of the last 75 days feeling more clear, more tuned into my body and most importantly, feeling more gracious and loving to myself and my body. I'm finding a great level of self acceptance and self love. I'm learning to appreciate and honor ALL of me. I share all of this with you because I know we're moving in to the Holiday season... a time of indulgence and also a time where I see so much guilt around what we eat and how we are going to "work it off." What if, instead of working anything off, we took out what was in the way (for me, alcohol) and started the practice of listening to our bodies?

What if, when we felt like eating the cake, we ate the cake?

What if life doesn't have to look like eat until you're stuffed or eat nothing? What if we could actually live in some sort of moderation, guilt free?

I believe this is possible for all of us... if we are willing to do the work of looking at what stands in our way. That might start with giving something up:

  • sugar

  • gluten

  • alcohol

  • staying up late on our phones

  • watching 5 hours of TV a day

Whatever it might be for you, consider that KNOW what's in your way and that getting it out of your way might be the key to seeing or experiencing you body newly.

What if, instead of restricting anything, we are simply removing what isn't' working?

Restriction has a hard stop to it. What's not working can change over time. It's more malleable. As I added alcohol back in this weekend, I noticed I didn't need it like I normally do. I drank it when it felt right. Because of that, alcohol doesn't feel like the crutch it once did. And as long as I keep listening to my body and processing my emotions in healthy ways, I believe I can still occasionally drink alcohol and feel good. I needed to simply remove it for a while because it wasn't working. What is in your way? What's stopping you from listening to your body and what IT wants rather than what your mind THINKS it wants or needs? Maybe for you, it's taking 5 days to take that thing out OR to add in something new. Take some time to sit and listen to what that might be for you. Let it be a way of understanding yourself and your body on a brand new level.

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