My 40 Day Challenge

I started writing this article last Wednesday (Ash Wednesday, for Catholics/Christians out there), and stopped. When it comes to posts and articles pertaining to my own health and wellness struggle journey, I get very guarded. I'll be the first to admit that I have difficulty sticking to things, especially things that have been long-term challenges and require lots of time before seeing results. I tend to think, there's got to be an easier way.

Truth is, around this time last year I was on the tail end of my participation in a grueling 12 week program called BHIP (Bruin Health Improvement Program) that was offered through my job at UCLA. You can read all about that here. I was working out like a madwoman, doing 2 a day workouts, still eating like crap, and wondering why the numbers on the scale would only budge slightly. But at the end of my post, I had 12 reflections. Two of them really kicked me upside the head:

7. Sometimes, willpower and determination will be the only things to pull you through. There were mornings when I absolutely loathed the idea of getting out of my bed to work out. In particular, those were the days it rained. But I kept repeating to myself, you'll never forgive yourself if you quit now. So I got up, and got kicked around in the morning, so I wouldn't be kicking myself later.

2. Exercise without proper nutrition is (almost) pointless. The biggest eye opener for me. Since I began my health and wellness journey about two years ago, I have been working out somewhat regularly (I've never missed more than 3 days of working out). But my diet still very much sucked. Some weeks it was okay-ish, others (namely weekends), were a complete clusterfudge of fried foods and sugar. As I have embarked on my 17 Day Clean Eating Challenge, I am seeking to shift the paradigm in a major way for myself. Perhaps after the end of this 17 days, I will begin to see some of the changes I truly desire, and keep going from there. It's true: you can't out-exercise a bad diet. Take it from me. You won't necessarily gain weight, but you won't lose it either.

#7 still holds true until this very day. You've got to want to do something even when you don't want to do it. That's been the ONLY way I've maintained my workout ethic. Some days are less intense than others, but lower intensity is better than sitting on my butt at home watching TV. You notice how in #2 I mentioned a 17 day clean eating challenge? Guess what? I never finished it. I got to like day 5 or so, and threw in the towel. I know, I suck...but remember what I said in the first paragraph?

This time around, it's 2014 and I feel TONS more ready. No, I didn't do like everyone else did and make a new year's resolution to go on a crazy diet and work out 8 hours a day like it's my job. I most certainly did not sign up to be a Herbalife "health coach", or buy any of those stupid waist trainers. Yes, those are shade-riddled sentences. I think all of the above mentioned methods *may* work for some and are flawed and unsustainable. But I'm not going to spend time on why...just know that's how I feel. Now, what exactly does this have to do with here and now? I'm writing this post to say, I'm starting over. Clean slate.

Displaying collage_20140222112518421.jpg
L: defeat by box jump (11/13). R: slowly conquering (3/14)
 For about the past month, my awesomely amazing boyfriend has been paying for me to have a trainer once a week. Yes, he used to train me himself for the free.99 but that wasn't conducive to our relationship as boyfriend and girlfriend. Training has been going exceptionally well (even though there are days I absolutely don't feel like being bothered...see #7 again). My boyfriend and I have slashed the fast food drastically, and cook most evenings out of the week. I have lost a few pounds (like 3), and a few inches (don't know how many). But when I woke up on last Wednesday, I realized the first day of Lent was upon me. I hadn't given much consideration to Lent, and it's not because I'm not Catholic. For the past few years, my boyfriend and I have given up something individually or with our families not only as a gesture of sacrifice for the greatest sacrifice, but as a means of discipline and spiritual reflection. But for a reason I can only attribute to being God, the thought of what to give up was literally the first thought I had upon opening my eyes. It came to me in a flash: Christina, give up sweets.

I battled with myself for a second. Does this have to include my precious Grande White Chocolate Mocha with Soy and Sugar-Free Hazelnut, and No Whip, No Foam (yes, that really is my signature Starbucks drink)? Of course it includes that clusterfudge of sugar, fake sugar, and more than likely GMO soy. But, I didn't get a send-off cupcake or something! You'll live. But, today is Wednesday and I have coffee at my meeting every Wednesday.... You'll get over it. Or drink it black. So with little more than a few minutes of warning, I had settled on my Lenten sacrifice. I was giving up sweets.

At first, I was scared. I felt so ill-prepared to do this. I almost knew I was going to fail. Before I completely psyched myself out, I prayed. I made peace with my decision, and decided that I was going to have faith in myself. Faith that God would show me the way. And so a week in to this journey, I can say that I feel success coming my way. I set a goal last Monday that I wanted to lose 2lbs that week. I didn't know how I was going to do it, especially considering I had to miss a day due to a late work meeting. I even screwed up really badly and ate Panda Express that same day (and yes, I had orange chicken). In spite of all of that, I hopped on the scale and was down 1.8lbs that Friday. I was completely, and utterly shocked. Could 3 days of virtually no sugar (with the exception of my greek yogurt from Trader Joe's and that darn orange chicken) make that much of a difference on the scale?

Maybe. As my 1 week mark approaches, I feel strangely proud of myself. I haven't indulged in cookies, cake, candy, or even my normal coffee. I'm hoping that through these 40 days, I will more intimately know God, and myself -- and what both of us are capable of! After a good 20 - 21 days (it's said that it takes 21 days to break an old habit and form a new one), I am considering upping the ante and eliminating added sugars. But to not psyche myself out, I'm taking this thing one day at a time.

To make it plain, here's what I'm doing:
  • No sweets - this includes cookies, candies, fruit snacks, ice cream, cake, pie, and the like
  • No sweetened beverages - I only drink water. Sometimes plain, or sparkling mineral.  I can only have a cup of coffee if it contains cream only -- no sugar!
  • No artificial sweeteners (stevia, agave, aspartame, sugar alcohols, etc. included) in food or beverages
  • Spending time every day reading Scripture and journaling/praying
This sacrifice is tailored specifically to me. You can feel free to join me if you wish!

Are you observing Lent, or sacrificing anything for 40 days?


  1. Congratulations! It is great that you are making these changes for your health and overall well being. If you still crave something sweet, eat fruit like grapes, apples and oranges. It is difficult to get rid of all your cravings, but if you substitute with something healthy, that is a great improvement. I became a vegan last year for health reasons and I lost weight and felt 100% better. Unfortunately, it is easy to gain weight as a vegan as you can over indulge on carbs such as breads, rice, pasta, chips, etc.
    I am focusing on clean eating, just great vegetables and fruits and only small amounts of whole wheat pasta and brown rice.
    Good luck with your new will do great!
    Sincerely, Denise

  2. Denise,

    Thank you so much for your encouragement and inspiration! It truly means a lot. I must admit that I am already feeling better, and the scale is starting to show it!!!!

  3. It’s an amazing blog post, and it is really helpful as well.