Tuesday, March 25, 2014

40 Days to Personal Transformation: The Wrap Up

Ok Ok, I'm a little late on this one (a month late, but whose counting!), but now that I have some space from the challenge, I'm excited to report on my overall experience and the after effects:
First let me say that overall the experience was absolutely wonderful.  I have made some really positive changes in my life, yoga has become a daily practice for me, and I am feeling better than ever.  Here's a breakdown of where I've ended up in the various elements of the program:

(1) Diet:  I made a couple pretty big changes in my diet over the 40 days that I have incorporated into my life.  In general I strive to incorporate REAL food into my diet, working towards completely artificial sweeteners, anything that is labeled "low-fat" or "diet" or "light" and instead trying to buy more foods that aren't packaged and labeled at all (fruit and veggies). I'm not perfect but just shifting my focus towards trying to eat more real food is making a difference (I read In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan - which was a really wonderful compliment to the 40 Days dietary guidelines)

Some practical changes that I made during my 40 days:
  • For the last 5 years I have had an egg sandwich (English muffin, over easy egg, slice of American cheese) basically EVERY SINGLE DAY for breakfast.  Now I have a green shake for breakfast every morning. At first I thought this was a ridiculous idea - I equated a shake with either protein powders or ice cream - neither of which I really saw as positive moves in my diet.  Baron's book focuses on incorporating whole foods into your diet, foods that look like they did when they came from the earth (fruites and veggies, unprocessed meats, etc) and so that is what I aimed to do. Typical ingredients in my daily shake: greens (spinach, kale, swiss chard, etc), an orange, an apple, pineapples or a banana, flax seeds, chia seeds, and coconut milk. I'll also throw in whatever else we have around berries (frozen or fresh), frozen peaches, sometimes an avodaco.... It keeps me full and satisfied just as long as my egg sandwich did but now I'm actually eating fruits and veggies every single day, which is something I had been trying and failing at for almost a year, so YAY!!
  • I eliminated sandwiches from my daily diet - I still love them and will eat them on occasion, but I don't buy lunch meat anymore and it is not part of my daily routine (although I am still working on the best way to replace them, so my lunches still need a little work).  
  • I stopped snacking on dairy.  I used to eat dairy basically all day long, cheese on my sandwich at breakfast, yogurt at lunch, string cheese for a snack... all of it is pretty much out these days.  I haven't eliminated dairy all together, I still LOVE it, but I have drastically reduced my intake. (Although I did add cottage cheese into my diet - YUM!)
  • I cut back to one cup of coffee per day - although I have inched back up in the last couple of weeks, I'm rededicating myself to this change because when I drink coffee I'm not drinking water and I need more water in my life.
My diet isn't perfect, but it is much better than it was and I think these changes, made gradually over the 40 days, are here to stay.  I still need to work on building myself back up with more diverse foods and that will be my next task this spring, but so far I am pretty happy with my progress.

(2) Meditation:  After the 40 days was over, I really tried to continue to mediate on a daily basis. I cut down to 20 minutes a day for something manageable and then cut it down further to 10 minutes a day  but essentially have quite altogether in the last couple of weeks. BUT I really really do find value in it, and I really do think it had a wonderful impact on my mental well being so this is an area that plan to revisit and recommit myself to. 

(3) Journaling:  I have started a gratitude journal that I have writen in every day for over a month now. It feels really good to be journaling again and I hope to expand my daily and weekly journal writing in the coming year. 

(4) Yoga: WOW has my Yoga practice changed!??!?!?!
First of all, my physical practice has grown LEAPS and BOUNDS since the 40 Days began.  I think the biggest change was a mental shift.  I started my yoga practice as a form of exercise and as a compliment to the cross training that I was doing.  As with most (all?) of the exercise that I do / did,  I largely did it for external or goal-oriented reasons - Sure I run because it feels great (when I'm done), but mostly I run when I'm training for a race.  I loved my cross training class at the YMCA, I loved the sense of community and I especially loved the trainer, Lamar, but what got me going in the first place and the ultimate reason I went was to get in shape - to lose or maintain weight, to be strong, to look good in my jeans.... Exercise has always been like that for me, I'd find something I generally enjoy, get into a nice routine, and then I'd do it because I know that this is something I need to do in life - for my health, for my longevity, for my energy... and so no matter what form the exercise takes and no matter how much I like it, deep down it is a requirement or obligation... But yoga is completely different for me. 
Yoga is something that I do because I absolutely LOVE to do it - just for the sake of it.  I want to do it every day, more than once a day, I come home from class and I want to play some more.  I love the challenge of learning new poses, I love the reward of seeing my improvement in the poses, I love how each class pushes me mentally and physically, and I love that every yoga class feels like training for life - like with every class I go to I'm getting just a tiny bit closer to the best possible version of myself.  
The physical manifestations of yoga - the cool new poses, hand stands and splits - are fun and challenging, but the real work in yoga is completely mental.  Learning to stick with it and push through when you feel like you're at your edge, pushing yourself to try new things even when it seems scary, learning that it is OK to ask for help, because no one succeeds completely on their own and we can achieve far more together than we can all alone, disciplining yourself to do the work because there is no success, in any sense of the word without, perseverance and dedication.... practicing mindfulness, focus, compassion, non-judgement, and love. These are all things at come from a daily yoga practice - it is just icing on the cake that yoga has the added benefit of being a great workout and improving my stamina, strength, and flexibility. 

So yes I would have to say that Baron Baptiste's 40 Days to Personal Revolution were truly revelatory for me, and this is just the beginning! 

(on to the next challenge... I recently started a new Project 365: 365 Days of Handstands - Today is 26/365)