Sunday, March 23, 2014

The JJ Virgin Diet Results and Insights

Wow!  I can't believe it's already been three weeks!  I can't say I followed the Virgin Diet 100%, but I gave it a good faith effort and would say I was 90% compliant.  :)

I didn't lose any weight or notice any significant changes being off the 7 forbidden foods of dairy, gluten, eggs, sugar, corn, soy, and peanuts, but I gained valuable insights from this food exercise so I'm glad I tried it out.

The biggest gift from this experiment was increased mindfulness and consciousness of what I was eating and how it affected me.  This is a skill we'd all benefit from and well worth the aggravation of being without some of my favorite foods. 

I caught that I had developed a habit for having a "sweet treat" after I ate.  It didn't matter if I was completely full, not hungry, or just completed a very satisfying and fulfilling meal.  Within minutes of cleaning up I was craving a bit of chocolate or other sugary delight.  It was amazing.  The most surprising being how unconscious I was of this habit I had developed and how strong the craving was to fulfill it.

Because I was consciously choosing not to eat the 7 allergen foods I had to consciously think about my choices, what I was eating, and pay attention to how I was feeling.  Previously I would have considered myself a very healthy eater and conscious of my food choices and the effects of food on my mood, energy, and overall well-being.  I was surprised at how many patterns and subtle habits had developed over time that were keeping me less than present while eating or making my meal decisions.  I also discovered I do a lot more snacking than I was aware of!  A handful of nuts, a bit of chocolate, or some fruit.  It all adds up, but is easily discounted when you're not paying attention.

The second biggest insight was how difficult it is to do a "diet".  I've never been a big fan of diets in general, but even doing this with the re-frame of calling it a healthy food plan, lifestyle change, or food experiment, psychologically it still had some of the negative effects of being on a "diet". 

Anytime you try to create change by denying yourself something you want, or like, your subconscious is going to kick back like a two-year-old having a temper tantrum.  It doesn't like being told it "can't" have something even if consciously you know the change will be good for you.

Staying away from the seven foods was a challenge, merely because I wasn't suppose to be eating them!

This experiment reminded me of the importance of defining your food choices in empowered re-frames of "I choose to eat this",  "I choose not to eat this", or "I don't eat this", rather than the victim or powerless re-frames of "I can't eat this" or "I shouldn't eat this".  This subtle but powerful self-talk and perception of your power around your food choices can be the success or failure of sticking to your desired food plan.

I did noticed some negative reactions re-introducing gluten, dairy, and sugar including mood swings, fatigue, and increased cravings within hours after eating.  These may need to be on my black list of foods I don't eat any more.

Overall I'm glad I did this three week experiment and I have a re-newed commitment to be mindful and conscious about my food choices and how foods effect me physically and psychologically.  But now it is my choice not to eat something, rather than the diet's restriction, and that is a powerful state of being.  :)

By Carolyn Almendarez

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Virgin Diet Week 1

I survived my first week on the Virgin Diet, well sort of.  I did fabulous the first four days, then kind of fell off the wagon.

The first four days went great.  I stuck to the program and was having little problems sticking with it.  It got tougher mid-week when the food limitations started to have an impact and I was going to the fridge wondering what I was going to eat.

My only real challenge was the consistent hunger pains around 8pm every evening.  I figured it was because I had removed cheese from my diet and wasn't getting enough fat to sustain me through the evening so I increased my raw nut intake.

If I'm eating enough calories during the day then hunger pains in the evening could be fatigue, thirst, or the body burning fat.  So my evening hunger pains may not be a bad thing, just something I need to pay more attention to.

Mid-week I had the opportunity for a cookie.  It had been a long day so I rationalized it thinking, "A little won't hurt."  Boy was I wrong!  The next morning I woke up teary and emotional.  By dinner time my depression and apathy were in full swing so I said "f**** this diet" and indulged in some enchiladas.  They were good.  But they also triggered some intense evening cravings for sugar and chocolate.  The effects of sugar and wheat on my mood and cravings were incredible!

My menstrual period arrived mid-week intensifying my food reactions.  If I hadn't been paying attention to my food choices I would have easily blamed my emotional nose-dive on my period, or my husband, and my period would also get blamed for my increased sugar cravings.

I recently learned that eggs and Vitamin C were both good for stabilizing the hormonal shifts caused by your period.  I have had success with both of them helping me stay more emotionally and physically stable during my premenstrual and menstrual cycle.

Having eggs off limits was really tough.  Without my anchor food I found myself a little lost as to what I could do nutritionally to help stabilize the hormonal shifts and more susceptible to old habits of increased carbohydrates and sugars during my period.

It's not uncommon to crave sugar and carbohydrates during your period.  They provide a temporary serotonin increase that elevates your mood and makes you feel better.  But the sugar crash triggers mood swings and increased cravings in an attempt to get those happy feelings back.  It's a vicious cycle that can leave you feeling fat and frustrated.

Healthy ways to increase your serotonin include sleep, exercise, sex, and sunshine.  So I made a point to get out in the sun and do some pleasurable activities throughout the day to stabilize my food cravings and boost my mood without caving into more sugar.  My efforts paid off and I'm back on track, physically and emotionally.

I was grateful that before I started this program I gave myself some flexibility.  I chose to focus on this process as being a positive food change, rather than as a "diet" (code for: dying to be thin).  This allowed me to make mistakes without feeling bad or beating myself up, and instead learn from them and get back on the program.

Having been off wheat and sugar for four days and then back on I was quickly able to see how these food choices negatively impacted my moods much more severely then I realized.  I also clearly saw how these foods triggered cravings for more carbohydrates and sugars.  Both effects would have been missed if I hadn't been paying attention to the effects of the different foods I was eating.

I could see that if I was eating these foods on a daily or near daily basis the effects would be interpreted as "normal" and I would make no correlation to how I was feeling and the foods I was eating.

So even though I didn't perfectly follow the Virgin Diet protocol I still have learned a lot about myself and the effects of food on my body.  I'm ready for week 2 and looking forward to more insights and learning.

By Carolyn Almendarez