In January I started an 8 week clean eating challenge to see what effect it might have on my body. After 8 weeks of careful eating – the results are in!
The Before and After photos
Unfortunately, the lighting varies a lot between the shots – there’s not much I can do about that! As you can see from the before and after photos, there is a very clear change in body definition. A very carefully planned diet, and an increase in exercise has produced what I consider to be very good results in just 8 weeks.
Actually – it’s 9 weeks, because of few things meant I couldn’t get my final assessment in on the 8th weekend it was delayed a week. However, week 9 I let myself go a bit and eat more junk food than normal and exercised less. It was my birthday week so I allowed it.
Was it hard work?
I won’t lie – planning the meals, cooking in advance, weighing everything, putting it all into myfitnesspal, living in a small mountain of Tupperware was hard work and sometimes quite draining. I was determined though that I would treat this as close to a fair experiment as I could. This meant sticking to the programme as much as I could.
At points during the programme I felt like perhaps my results were really just coming from an increase in exercise, and the diet part was not as important as perhaps people seem to suggest it is. However, this last week I have let myself go a little – and my training seems to be suffering for it. Today at the gym I had so little energy and felt really drained, maybe it was the chocolate I had last night…
I have some questions…
There’s a few things about the challenge I question.
6 meals a day, is it really that important?
Some studies say yes, some don’t. Throw ‘six meals a day’ into google, and it suggests an autocomplete of ‘myth’ after it. Jillian Michael’s suggests it’s a myth, and webMD also says it’s questionable. However – regardless of if it’s as important as some people suggest, I do actually enjoy it. It does take time to prepare a few extra meals a day, but knowing I only have to wait a few hours between meals, and the extra variety it allows me works for me.
30% Fat ratio?
This one I’m a little confused about.
Staying under 30% fat is fairly difficult – certain things I’d been eating I considered healthy (salmon, avocados and nuts for example) would easily take me over my daily fat allowance. I have had to hugely cut down on these, however the media seems to have done a u-turn on fats saying they aren’t as bad as previously thought. Does this mean that the 40/30/30 ratio of carbs/fat/protein is outdated and should be reviewed? I really don’t know. Cutting my fat down to 30% (I dread to think what it was before hand, I used to eat a LOT of nuts) seems to have done me no harm though.
What made it possible?
- Being part of a group determined to eat right (it was just my g/friend and I, but we could both keep each other in line!)
- Being part of the *right* gym. Most gyms you walk into , don’t say anything to anyone, no one supports you, you push yourself to 60% effort and give up. My local gym (H3 Performance) is driven by classes – you work out in a group or sometimes teamed up with someone. All the people that go there are great people who will encourage you in the right way. This is the difference between a cheap £9.99/month gym, and a great (usually more expensive) gym.
- Track progress. Find a way of benchmarking yourself – I used a ‘deadlift’ (how much weight I can lift from the floor), a shoulder press (how much weight I can lift from my shoulders to above my head) and how fast I can run a 5k. It doesn’t really matter what you choose as a benchmark, but sometimes you can feel like you’ve made no progress. The benchmarks allow you to prove to yourself you have.
- Accepting that sometimes you’ll make no progress for a week or two. This seems especially true of women who’s cycles play into bodyweight. Do not panic, do not give up, do not get upset, just remember that so long as you’re taking small steps in the right direction, you are still going in the right direction – and that’s what matters.
- Preparation. ‘fail to prepare, and prepare to fail’ is very true. Every day go to work with my food already partitioned and ready to eat. If I didn’t, I’d go to McDonalds or Morrison’s and eat things I shouldn’t.
Will I carry on?
The macros set were for fat loss, albeit not aggressively. This means that with the level of exercise I’ve been doing I was eating a calorie deficit for the last 8 weeks. This can be seen in my weight chart which during the 8 weeks I was being strict show a fairly linear drop in weight:
I’m going to modify my diet such that I’ll be eating a little more, however for the most part I think I’ll be sticking to this way of eating – perhaps with a little more lenience when it comes to cheat meals. It’s really not that hard, and the pay off seems worth it.
Would I recommend it?
Yes, I certainly would. The Clean Eating Challenge has been an interesting experiment and has undeniably had good results. I’ve learnt a lot, and I’ve changed my habits for the better. I might not stick to it as close as I have been going forward – but that’s because I don’t feel I need to. Maybe in a years time I might need to ‘reset’ and put myself though the same kind of program, but if I do – I have the knowledge to do so now.