365 Day Challenge (Year Three)

In August, I finished my third 365-day challenge – An entire year of eating healthy, eating less, and exercising regularly. This post sat in my drafts for a few months due to personal reasons. 

Also posted on Medium.

When I started in 2016, I knew it was going to be a “long game”, hence the 365 day goal. I think that’s why those fad diets never work – they aren’t sustainable/healthy, so people have a hard time sticking to them for longer than 30-60 days. I’ve found something that works for me, that’s sustainable, very healthy, and makes me feel better and younger than I ever have – I’m 38, but feel 25. I don’t get sick, I’m never sore, I’m rarely tired, I sleep well (can fall asleep quickly), my mind is clear, my skin and hair are healthier, I’m stronger than I have ever been, and some people say I look younger than the pictures of me in 2012.

I never shared the real reason for doing this challenge because I was ashamed and didn’t have the support I needed to be open about it – I still don’t, but I can’t care what other people think. It wasn’t just my physical health that I felt slipping away, but my mental health was really bad too. I was depressed. I didn’t want to live anymore. I hated myself and my place in life. I would get angry over the most trivial things. I would bottle up my feelings and emotions. I was cynical about everything. I was angry or sad all of the time – it wasn’t safe, it wasn’t healthy, and it wasn’t sustainable. After some research, I knew it had a lot to do with my diet and (lack of) exercise. 

When I started this challenge on August 1, 2016, I was ~200 pounds, and 25% of that was body fat. Today, I’m 164 pounds and 13% BF, up from my lowest ~150/10% at the end of 2018. This year, I’ve been in weight gain mode working to put on weight/muscle. It’s working. 

After the first year, while I did feel better, I didn’t see the results I desired. My mental health was improved because I had a routine, but I still wasn’t where I wanted to be, nor did I lose a lot of weight (only 13 pounds in a year!). After sharing my disappointment with a friend, he suggested I try “intermittent fasting”. I thought I could never fast – I am always hungry now! After learning more about IF, and realizing that half the daily fasting period was when I was asleep, I was up for the challenge. I lost 12 pounds that first month and felt so much better than I did before! I had more energy, and I felt lighter, smaller, and more fit. I noticed results! 

After about 45 days of fasting, I figured that if I was going to do this healthy diet and exercise, I might as well do it right, so I cut meat and dairy – vegetarian. Now that was challenging.  

This entire challenge was about unlearning and re-educating myself on what “healthy” really meant, and what a proper diet was. After reading/researching a lot, I found so many fallacies about the food we all ate growing up. Take meat, for example – it’s high in calories, cholesterol, fat, and in some cases, very difficult to digest. I realized there are so many alternatives to meat and dairy, that this wouldn’t be as difficult as I thought. After the first few months, I continued to lose weight, I felt so much better and not just because I was smaller, but because I was healthier. I read more books, watched more documentaries, and talked to other healthy eaters and realized, this diet was not only healthy, but it was also quite common. 

After a month or so of the vegetarian diet, I decided to try a Vegan diet – the only thing left to cut was eggs and milk, and I was allergic to both of them anyway, so why not. I kept getting more trim, sleeping better, feeling better, having more energy, getting stronger, recovering faster, I had more mental clarity, and I finally felt right. It was such a good and positive change. The best part is, it helped with my mental health too. I wasn’t as self-conscious about my body, I had clothes that fit so I didn’t mind going out in public as much, so I regained some confidence too. 

 At the end of the second 365-day challenge, I was down to ~150 and 10% body fat, and I felt awesome, but to some, I was “too skinny”. My wife, my parents, and some of my close friends all said I was “too thin” or “too skinny”, or they would say things like, “eat a burger”. I slipped back to being self-conscious again, and even more so than I was when I was overweight. I stopped posting health-update photos, and I wore bigger clothes, I worked out harder, ate more calories, more protein, all in an attempt to get bigger now. I knew I wasn’t “too skinny”, but hearing it over and over, I felt like I again needed to change. (btw, According to this chart, I am “normal” weight for a 6′ male at then 155, now 165. In fact, I was right in the middle of “normal”, which to me seemed pretty good, plus I felt good, so, what other people thought shouldn’t have mattered.) My healthy friends said I looked great, and I felt good, so I just had to decide to listen to them and ignore the people that were telling me otherwise. 

The most inspirational part of this challenge was that by publicly sharing my progress and being outspoken about being more healthy, I’ve helped others become more healthy too! More than 25 people I know have started on a similar or modified version of what I’m doing, and it has changed their lives. Honestly, that was why I kept sharing my progress – each time I did, the more people would inquire about how to start. So many that I created a little cheat-sheet for those that are serious about getting healthy:

If you’re wondering what I eat;

Between 2000 and 2200 calories per day. A lot of fruit and vegetables. Strawberries, raspberries, bananas, potatoes (fries!), broccoli, cauliflower, peas, beans, and pounds of cashews (allergic to peanuts). I exclusively drink water, flat or sparkling. I haven’t had alcohol or caffeine since January, and I’ve been intermittent fasting every day since September 2017. 

Notes: I eat a Vegan diet, but I don’t consider myself a Vegan. I don’t talk about my diet unless I’m asked, and I don’t criticize others for what they eat. I love animals, but understand that some like to hunt – hell, I hunted until I was 25 or so. I ate meat until I was 35, so I can’t be hypocritical to those that do, but I can help people learn what’s really healthy and how that differs from what they’ve been convinced is healthy throughout their life. Meat and dairy are bad for you, period. Believe whatever reports you’d like. You can compare the healthiest meat in the world, and it doesn’t come close to what vegetables do for you. And before you ask, all protein comes from plants, so if you’re eating meat, you’re eating the middleman. 

Any comments or questions, leave them below or find me on Twitter.