Living the Dream!

Last week a dear friend and I slipped away to Bald Head Island for a change of pace while my husband was away on business. The weather was gorgeous and the reprieve just what we both needed after a hectic, albeit productive, spring.  Before our trip, my friend and I agreed to experiment with a few things. We wanted to truly be living the dream while on BHI, even if it was only going to be for five days! For my friend and I, what that meant was paying attention to several things. First, we decided we would eat only healthy foods while on our get away (i.e., whole foods, nothing processed, no added sugar).  Just for kicks, I also decided to cut back significantly on my caffeine, allowing it only at breakfast. In addition to eating right, we also agreed to walking daily and practicing yoga.  Last, but certainly not least, we vowed we would not read the news. Full stop.

It is one thing to experiment in this way for a week or so. The bigger question for me was what would happen once I returned to the real world, where the every day demands return, where work, family and life happens no matter what?  Would I be inspired enough, much less able, to keep it up?  I really feel compelled to share with you the insights gleaned for our little experiment, the impact some of my habits were having on my body, mind and spirit and where I am now.

First, the food.  My friend is an excellent cook and has focused on eating only healthy foods for a couple of years now. For this trip, she offered to plan our meals and online shop for us.  My job was to pick up the groceries in route to BHI and to manage  the clean up after each meal. (Trust me when I say I came out WAY ahead on this deal!)  Our goal was simply to have tasty, satisfying food at every meal. It was not about calories, fat, carbs, Keto, Paleo or any of the latest fads floating around in the media. More specifically, it was NOT about dieting or weight loss.

Our menu included things like seafood, chicken, beans, fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts, whole grain breads, olive oil and avocado. We ate three meals a day and typically had an afternoon snack, such as a smoothie or yogurt with fruit and granola. Each night also included one or two glasses of wine. (Insert “happy dance” bitmojis here!)

I was pleasantly surprised – almost immediately – to notice several things about the food part of our experiment:

  • I felt truly satisfied after every meal; comfortably full while not stuffed.
  • Water actually tasted better with these meals, likely because of the array of flavors packed into each of them. While calorie-free drinks weren’t banned completely, I noticed that my desire for them diminished greatly. Water very quickly became my go-to source for all hydration, vs the habitual diet soft drinks.
  • Since I don’t usually consume alcohol every day, the wine felt like a real indulgence.  And, given we mostly drank red, surely it fits within the criteria we had established for healthy eating.  🙂

Next, as promised, we walked every day and practiced yoga too. After literally months of long days sitting at my computer, it just felt great to get out every day and move. Wow. I mean really great.

Other things I noticed:

  • I was ready for bed at a decent hour every night, i.e., 10:30-11:00 pm vs. my usual habit of lights out at 1:00-2:00 am. (Some credit definitely goes to the reduction in caffeine for this one!)
  • I slept better than I have in months, perhaps even years!  Equally important, it was easier to get up in the morning too.

Then there was the “no news” bit.

  • Believe it or not, I completely halted the compulsive clicking on various news apps on my IPad.  Other than to check the weather, not once did I look at WRAL, the New York Times, the Skim, CNN or any other news outlets.  (Note: I did not swear off Facebook, so I had to work extra hard not to get sucked into the responses to the news that were posted there.)
  • I marveled daily over how many times I almost clicked on one of my various news apps out of habit. I shudder to think about how much time and energy I have wasted, particularly the last two and a half years, compulsively jumping from one source to another, often multiple times a day. I wondered out loud how long I could actually go without a “news fix”….
  • The shift in my emotional energy was particularly obvious. Within just a couple of days I noticed I felt lighter, more free. Gone was the tension that arose in anticipation of the next ridiculous political move or the insane finger-pointing rhetoric that has become our nation’s new norm. Gone was the dread of reading yet another article about a heartbreaking catastrophe or death. The little black cloud that had been following me practically evaporated completely!
  • Though it was subtle, the internal shift was obvious. I felt more calm, balanced and at ease.

One other thing was interesting to note. My friend and I didn’t feel compelled to GO anywhere or DO anything other than read and relax for five straight days. Other than a trip to the grocery store to pick up fresh fish, we stayed home and enjoyed the peace and quiet. We just enjoyed BEING.

So…now what? It has been a week since my friend and I departed BHI.  While trying not to sound cult-like in my transformation, I must confess I feel like I have been born again.  I came home equipped with all the recipes we enjoyed for the week and have added a few new ones too.  A quick but well-planned grocery run was all I needed to cover three or four days of healthy eating.  Prep and clean up when I cooked was a breeze. Actually, I noticed there was something quite satisfying about the whole process of prep and clean up. Just knowing I was making nutritionally sound decisions and taking care of my body really motivated me. I have also eaten out several times since returning home too, and each time I was very selective in terms of what I ordered.  In short, lots of veggies and a lean protein. Oh, and of course, wine….

Walking and yoga have continued to find a spot on my calendar too. Success for me is simply a minimum of thirty minutes at least 5 days a week.  Longer and/or more frequent is good too, and determined on a daily basis as I look at how to balance the demands of any given day vs, trying to stick to a rigid routine.  I just want to move more!

The net of it all:

  1. I feel better!  I’m more centered, more present.
  2. Completely GONE is the compulsion to keep up with the latest fad diet or research, much less the “breaking news.” I know now the news habit was about to break me. (I still have not found it in me to read the New York Times again…)
  3. Thankfully, I have more time in my day for the stuff that matters. Walking, writing, family and friends…that kind of stuff.
  4. Ironically, I suppose I also should report I’ve lost weight too.  But rather than get hooked by the what the scales say each day, I am committed to that worry not being my focus any more. Instead, I just want to provide for my body the nutrition and activity it needs to thrive. Unlike the first two thirds of my life, I want this next third to be free from the scales, the “rules” on how to follow this plan or that, fretting, the fads and the constant search for the magic bullet that would make me thin again.  My focus going forward will be on health and nutrition.  PERIOD.

How about you? As each of you, my dear readers, look at your life, what experiments do you want to try out so you can get closer to living your dream?  Feel free to share here what’s on your mind as you do!

A Quote

“Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open.”  ~ B.K.S. Iyengar


The last thing you need to read on nutrition:

For some good news, based on facts:

Factfulness:  Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think, by Hans Rosling and Anna Roslin Ronnlund.