Day 30: 25 things

In honor of its final day, here is a retrospective on the Challenge in list format (because sometimes lists are easier… and more fun).

1.  Quitting caffeine just about killed me.

2.  And now I know I can live without it.

3.  Drinking is an integral part of my social life.  So I am going to have to figure out a way to incorporate it in moderation

4.  8 rules are too many to focus on all at once.

5.  Writing is a wonderful sort of therapy for me, but I don’t like the feeling that I have to do it every day.

6.  I am sleeping like a champ since starting this challenge

7.  I am afraid that the 4am wake-up-in-a-panics will start again once I start drinking again.

8.  Which I will definitely do, starting tonight. (or maybe a little last night too)

9.  I think that really fully integrating a successful meditation practice into my life is key to my happiness.

10.  My brain never stops. It needs discipline.

11.  I heart bacon.

12.  Trying to start a new exercise regimen in the middle of winter sucks.

13.  Creativity is something that you can tap into at any time. Just start writing and something will come out.

14.  What comes out is not always good, entertaining, or interesting, but that’s OK.

15.  I do really well with black and white rules, and less well with moderation and areas of gray.

16.  That will have to change.

17.  I wish yoga wasn’t so expensive, so that I could go to a class 4 or 5 times a week and really learn it. Rather than feeling like I am a permanent beginner.

18.  Then I could get good enough to have my own morning yoga practice, and I wouldn’t even need to pay for classes any more (just annual retreats to Thailand or Mexico or some other exotic place)

19.  I didn’t really eat red meat that often anyway.

20.  I am a pretty good cook, and I really enjoy it. This is completely new for me. In fact, I would have adamantly stated in the not-so-distant past that I did not like cooking and that I was terrible at it.

21.  My wake up time has changed from 7:58am to 6:03am since starting the challenge. I had to start waking up earlier to fit everything in.

22.  I no longer need caffeine before I can form cohesive thoughts in the morning.

23.  People should always be able to drink wine on Valentine’s Day (and when playing Tuck).

24.  I hate going to the gym. It smells funny there.

25.  Mocktails are just not the same as the real thing.

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Day 29: The fourth and final weekly check-in

OK, so maybe the first three weeks went by fast, but poky, draggy, week #4 not so much.  But the end is here, after long last.  And, as promised in my Week 3 check-in post, here are my thoughts on the rest of the rules.

So as a quick summary from last week:

No Caffeine: Fewer jitters, more energy, and sufficient substitute (i heart decaf!)

Meditation: Warmth, calm, fluffy pillows, and stinky candle (yay!)

Exercise:  Supposed to make me thin, happy, and sweaty (only the third has panned out so far, but will keep trying)

Now for those other rules.

Eating Habits (no red meat, no sweets, no fried foods, 3 servings of vegetables per day)

One of my favorite things about the last month is how much that I have been cooking at home.  I think that this is a result of our push to spend (much) less money rather than a result of the Challenge per se.  But regardless, eating in more made eating healthy easier.  I know better than to own my own Fry Daddy, so french fries or other deep fried delights at home are not an option.  If I see french fries on a menu, it is going to take all of the will power I can muster to order a side salad, but if they are not an option it’s not really a big deal.  Same goes for red meat and sweets.  If they are not around, I really don’t miss them that much.

That said, my goal going forward is not to block these foods out of my life entirely (at this point), but to include them in my diet in moderation.  Basically, I don’t need to cook bacon for breakfast every morning, but if I am at a friend’s house, and there is bacon to be had, I don’t have to sit and silently suffer.

No Booze

Holy crap, that was hard!  Actually, at home during the week, pretty easy.  Weekends sucked.

Oh, you may not have noticed, but my friends drink alcohol all the time, my husband owns a cocktail tool and supply shop….  I am surrounded by it.  Always. And, for the love of god, there is only so much ginger beer and shrub a girl can drink.

AND it’s delicious AND I want a drink now just talking about it.  So the new rule here (as above) will be moderation.  There will be guidelines: Drink fewer cocktails (which are very small but very dangerous) and stick with the wine.   Don’t be stupid and think that you are 22 years old and have four martinis in one night.  Drink water.   You know, the basic common sense stuff that any 35-year-old should have down by now.  (What?  I’m slow… cut me some slack).

Moderation is coming up a lot for me as I face life off the Challenge.  Moderation is tough, much tougher than having a list of hard set rules to follow.  I am not sure I know how to do it.  But I also know that moderation is key.  After “just saying no” for 30 days, I have realized that sometimes I just really want to say yes, and that’s OK.  The trick will be keeping consumption of “bad things” in check.

Blogging

My unspoken rule of the Challenge was writing this blog.  This is my 26th post, and there will be at least one more.  I’ve had fun with it.   The conversational style of writing that a blog involves is much easier and more enjoyable for me than the pain and agony I would go through writing a paper for school.  It’s therapeutic, and it helped keep me going.  I would like to continue my daily writing routine, but will probably limit it to a journal for a while.  Maybe more blogging later — but daily blogging is way too much pressure.  There were days I just didn’t want to post, and it felt forced and tedious.  Weekly or semi-weekly would be much more my speed.  Plus it makes me feel like I am extremely self-absorbed to write about myself like this.  And I am only mostly self-absorbed, so it makes me slightly uncomfortable.

So here’s to the last day of the Challenge….  I will toast to you all at midnight.

Days 27 & 28: Light at the end of the tunnel syndrome

I think I have light at the end of the tunnel syndrome (similar to seasonal affective disorder but different). Sticking to the rules of the challenge feels like it’s getting harder and harder. Is anyone else experiencing this? Especially with the holiday and long weekend and all. I guess it is mostly the booze rule that I am struggling with (still). And exercise (as always).

The no booze rule is especially tough because I am quite certain that I will start drinking again once day 31 comes around. So part of me is asking, “what’s the point? There’s three days left. Why not join your honey for a drink at the Indo? What’s the big deal? What are you trying to prove?”

Ugh. So that’s my days these days. A combination of weakening will power and reflecting on what all of this has meant. I’m also noticing a bit of a decline in the amount of energy I have. I am not sure what is causing that, but I have also been feeling that my schedule is a little bit overwhelming. So it may be some of that. Definitely feels like a psychological exhaustion of sorts.

I haven’t been outside yet today… That may be part of the problem. I need to get some fresh air.  (Rule #9: Breathe)

Day 26: Happy Valentine’s Day

No wine and chocolate for me today.  But my honey and I just returned from viewing Slumdog Millionaire and are preparing to cook a lovely dinner (Roasted Chicken with Asparagus Risotto…. or something along those lines).  So life is good.

I hope you are enjoying this last weekend of the challenge with good friends and good food as well.

Days 24 & 25: 3 cup day

Sex, Drugs and Coffee

So apparently, it’s not the caffeine, it’s the coffee I love.

Part of the appeal of quitting caffeine for me was to interrupt, displace, or otherwise ditch my coffee habit.  At the office, I was drinking 3 or 4 cups of mediocre K-Cup coffee a day.  Sometimes I would find myself drinking it and not even enjoying it… just drinking it because I needed to get up from my desk and do something.  It was my go-to procrastination technique.  “I will start this big project after I go get a cup of coffee.”

With alleviating this habit in mind, I started out the early days of the Challenge drinking only tea, mostly herbal blends, rooibos… all were good, but it wasn’t long before I started throwing a decaf French Roast into the mix. Because, honestly, I just missed the coffee.  I missed the flavor, the body, the texture, all of it.

By day 25, I am up to 1-2 cups per day — 3 cups for especially bad days.  It seems that the decaf has become a quick and easy replacement for my “caffeine addiction,” which now I am thinking is really a coffee addiction.  The fact that I have a problem (still have a problem) became glaringly obvious this morning when the following nightmare transpired:

I was headed into the kitchen minding my own business, and a co-worker (who knows about the challenge) stopped me and asked, “You headed for a decaf?”  (I don’t know maybe it was me sprinting down the hall with two mugs in my hands that gave it away).   I said, yes, in fact that was exactly what I was doing.  “Well, we are actually out of decaf” she said oh-so-casually.

I felt like I had just run face first into a brick wall, and I got this kind of horrified feeling as I desperately grasped for an answer as to what I had done to deserve this.  I was just resolving to blame my bad luck on the unfortunate combination of Friday the 13th and the failing economy, when my co-worker spoke again, “But I have a little stash, here, you can have one of these…” and handed me a perfect little tub of Green Mountain Decaf French Roast.

To which I responded with the energy and enthusiasm of a lottery winner,  “Yay!! Oh my God.  Are you sure? Really?  I can have it? Ah man, you’re the best. I totally owe you one.”

Seriously?

For decaf?

I guess I do have a problem.  But it’s a coffee problem, not a caffeine problem.

And I am not alone.  The other day I ran into a friend in the kitchen at work who has been off of caffeine for nearly two years, and as she pulled her mug of decaf from the coffee machine, she said with an exasperated sigh, “Yeah, today’s a 3 cup day.”

Photo by Liquid Squid via Flickr

Day 23: How to beat the system

I have to confess to having and giving in to a major junk food craving today.  I don’t know what it was, too little sleep, too much work stress …  whatever it was, I was starving at lunch.  Starving in the way where only bad food sounds good.

So I went to the local sandwich shop to grab something to eat.  Now at this particular sandwich shop, they happen to make the best steak and cheese sandwiches ever (or at least in this immediate neighborhood).  I don’t get them often but when I am in the mood for greasy food, it’s a real easy (and delicious) win.  When I went today, I went resigned to the fact that I was going to have to get a turkey sandwich with lettuce and tomato and probably some cheese to take the edge off.  No steak and cheese for me. Because as you all know:

Steak = Red Meat= Against the Rules

However, when I went up to the counter to place my order, a little yellow sign on the back wall grabbed my attention.  It read:

New!  Chicken Cheese Steak Sandwich

Yes!! I felt a sense of pure elation rush over me, and before I knew it I was ordering a small chicken cheese steak with peppers, onions and hot sauce.  I added a bag of Baked Lays and and caffeine-free Diet Pepsi just for kicks.  All junk food, all the time…   But technically speaking, I broke no rules.  I am allowed to eat chicken, I took no vow to avoid cheese, and eating vegetables is in fact encouraged.  There was no caffeine in the soda, and the chips were’nt deep fried.

But I seriously violated the entire philosophy behind The Challenge. I knowingly beat the system.  It really wasn’t all that hard.  And I kinda feel a little bad about it I guess… a little dirty even.  I am only cheating myself, right?

But damn, that sandwich was good.  And I have baked tofu and salad on the menu for dinner.

Day 22: Week 3 Check-in

It’s kind of hard to believe that I have been doing this for three weeks.  Despite some my more  tortured, whiny  moments, it has gone by really fast.  And I already find myself evaluating which of the habits will stay and which will go once February 18th rolls around.

Right now,  I am thinking no caffeine will stay.  Truth is that I really don’t miss the caffeine buzz that much.  In fact, I am much less anxious without it (still high strung, but less anxious…. let’s not expect any miracles here people).  And my honey has agreed to try replacing our morning cuppa joe with decaf, so we can resume our morning coffee ritual, which I do miss.

Morning meditation definitely stays.  I haven’t really even gotten the hang of it yet, but it is definitely a part of my routine, and one of my favorite parts of the day.  I get to lock myself up in the warmest room of the house, with my yoga mat, fluffy pillows, and a fancy smelly candle.  What’s not to like?  And there is definitely room for improvement…  The hardest part is getting my brain shut up for 15 minutes.  Heck, I would take 10 minutes…10 minutes would be nice (do I hear 5?)

I can’t believe I am saying this, but the exercise will have to stay.  I am still struggling with working it into my schedule in a way that feels sustainable and not completely disruptive.  I am not there yet, so I feel like my only choice is to keep trying.  It’s too soon (and exercise is too important) to give up on that one quite yet.   I recently made a verbal commitment to a friend to run a 5-mile-run with her in June,  so I will use that to keep me moving.  I am determined to a couple of pleasant “loops” around town that allow me to turn my brain off a little while I run in hopes that will help.

OK, more on this next week, when I will address my thoughts on the rest of the rules, including some that are definitely going to disappear after Day 30.

(I’ll give you a hint: one of the rules getting kicked to the curb involves a word that starts with the letter b and ends with the letter ooze)