You made it! After weeks of clean eating, being mindful of your portions, staying hydrated, exercising, mobilizing, sleeping like a baby, working toward your goals and motivating everyone around you! But, now what? What happens after the nutrition challenge?
Preparing for life after a nutrition challenge is not a huge topic many nutrition challenges address (resulting in a lot of those notorious ups and downs). But, since we’re all about making changes for LIFE (not just during the challenge), here are a few things to keep in mind.
Dealing with All the Occasions
Vacations, holidays, celebrations, unexpected dinners out, etc. These are important moments – they’re happening now, they’ll be facing you next month, next holiday…each and every year. And you should be able to enjoy them without stressing out. “How will I deal with those occasions,” you ask?
By practicing your new set of skills.
Hopefully you feel armed and ready to attack the real world with all the knowledge, new habits and shift in your mindset. As you’ve learned, being mindful with what, when and how you eat is a skill that must be practiced regularly.
Whether it’s a celebratory beer at the beach on the fourth of July, a taste of your nephew’s birthday cake or those famous nachos you’ve been dreaming about, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
“Learning is discovering that something is possible.” ~Fritz Perls
Once you are comfortable with your normal, day-to-day quality and quantity choices, it is okay to enjoy a splurge “treat” once and a while. But remember, this is not an excuse to go off the rails and eat everything in sight. Take this time to practice the skills you have learned throughout our journey – rely on your hand for portion sizes, stay in tune with your body’s fullness signals (think 80%), stay away from those things you know are going to make you feel like crap the next day (refined sugars, etc), plan ahead (be mindful) and hey, don’t stress about it. Turn your focus more on who you are with, your surroundings and how the food tastes.
But, I get it. It may not only be dinners out or fancy celebrations that pop up. Sometimes, we just feel physically or mentally exhausted… and all we want to do is veg with our meal in front of the TV. And that’s OK. It’s impossible to be perfect 100% of the time…I’m sure as heck am not. And no one expects us to be.
The biggest challenge we’ll ever face is that of our mind. When we don’t do what we believe or feel deep down in our gut to be “right,” we won’t feel good. And our bodies will show it. But, if we live according to our values (and often, healthy choices), life “flows” much more effortlessly. You must be willing to face your own doubts and fears. You know you’re going to face difficult situations in the future. You can’t control the future. But you can control the choices you make, your reactions and your mindset.
“Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes
No matter where you are, practice what you learned over the challenge and keep your mindset…and portions, in check.
Identify Your Goals for After the Nutrition Challenge
After the nutrition challenge is over, it’s important to clearly identify your goals going forward. Figure out your long term and short term goals. This will help you stay motivated and find a clear (and safe) path to take.
If you love how you felt over the past few weeks and have decided this is now how you’d like to continue living life. Keep doing what you’re doing! Find an alternate way to stay on top of clean eating meal prep and check-in with your goals regularly – whether that’s with a buddy, a coach, an app. There’s not necessarily one right answer for that, different things motivate different people.
If you love how you felt over the past few weeks, but you’ve decided to add back in some of the foods you were avoiding (gluten, dairy, soy, processed foods, sugars, etc), it’s important to carefully re-introduce them slowly to avoid feeling ill. If you had an “off-day” any time over the challenge, you know exactly what I mean.
Here’s what you need to know about reintroducing foods back into your life after the nutrition challenge.
Implementing an Elimination Reintroduction Plan After Your Nutrition Challenge
Think of this lifestyle nutrition challenge as a bit of a science experiment in the sense that I want you to realize that food isn’t just fuel…it’s information. Every bite we eat sends messages to our body and our body responds. Sometimes louder than others.
Think about this: the GI tract doesn’t just have the job of digesting and absorbing food…. It also has its own working nervous system (the enteric nervous system). That means our gastrointestinal tract is abundant in neurotransmitters, chemical messengers, bacteria, enzymes and hormones. That’s pretty awesome, right?
But now consider this: given the amount of devoted resources our body needs for a properly functioning GI tract, when things go wrong in our gut, all hell breaks loose. From microbial imbalances and detoxification abnormalities to motility issues and inflammation, food intolerances or sensitivities can directly contribute to gut problems like gas pains and bloating, AND it can also harm other body systems at the same time.
GI disturbances have been linked to unwanted symptoms such as arthritis, skin conditions, autoimmune disorders, asthma, addiction, migraines, mood disorders, kidney problems and a whole slew of other conditions.
Proceed with Caution
So, all that being said, after you’ve eliminated potential food sensitivities throughout this challenge and you’re ready to reintroduce some of these foods back into your diet, you must proceed with caution.
1. Grab a pen and paper or use a handy app like myfitnesspal where you can record what you eat and jot down notes about how you felt after and monitor yourself for symptoms.
2. Slowly reintroduce only a SINGLE food group that you previously eliminated for one day only. Then monitor yourself for two days. (example: if you decide to reintroduce dairy on Monday, that day you might try milk in the morning, some cheese at lunch and maybe even a little cottage cheese at night). The key word being: slowly.
3. Monitor yourself for any abnormal reactions through Wednesday. Negative reactions to watch out for include: insomnia, fatigue, joint pain, skin breakouts, headaches, bowel changes, brain fog, bloating and even respiratory issues.
4. If you don’t notice any negative symptoms, it’s time to reintroduce a different food (example: sugar) on Thursday. Proceed with the same timeline as above.
5. Continue this process for a few weeks, reintroducing one new food only every few days, no sooner.
Depending on how much you eliminated, this process could take up to 6 weeks, but at the end of the experiment, you’ll know a whole heck of a lot about your body and how it responds to different foods…which as you saw above, can give you more than just gas and bloating.
The bottom line: Don’t waste all your effort over the last few weeks. Take the time to learn even more about your body and how it responds to your every day choices.
Reflections on Your Lifestyle and Nutrition Challenge
I wanted to take a moment to reflect on this lifestyle and nutrition challenge. As your Foundation Nutrition Coach, it is my goal to educate and inspire you to develop healthy eating habits that last a lifetime. I has been a pleasure guiding you through and I hope I’ve helped you:
- Have the desire to eat more fresh, minimally-processed foods.
- Discover how to balance lean protein, veggies, nutrient-dense carbohydrates and healthy fats.
- Learn to adjust portions that directly meet health, performance and body composition goals.
- Become aware that many other areas, in addition to nutrition, affect our physical and mental state. Sleep, environment, hydration, exercise…they all play a role, too.
Create Healthy Nutrition Habits for Life
And, after the challenge, if you’re interested in learning more about a customized plan that really dials in to your individual health and nutrition needs, or you have any other nutrition-related questions, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a free 15-minute consultation.
Check out our series of posts from previous nutrition challenges:
- Strive for Progress Not Perfection
- Plan Ahead
- Set Real Expectations
- Overcoming Procrastination: Just Do the Dishes Already
- Hangry? We’ve All Been There
- Taking Control of Cravings and Temptation
- Personal Improvement
- Changing Habits
- Mindful Eating
- Control Stress Before It Controls You
- Macronutrients for Energy Balance
- Importance of Staying Hydrated
- Eating Out and Staying In Control
- When Should You Choose Organic?
- Is Sugar Bad?
- Got Pain? Leaky Gut Might Be To Blame.
- Endocrine Disruptors: What Are They? How Do I Avoid Them?
- Accountability: Do You Have a Plan?