Thirty day challenges were created from the brain research that you CAN teach a dog new tricks. New research shows that our brains can be trained to learn new habits. If we perform a task for 21 days a new neuron pathway is formed and the old pathway is weakened, thus retraining our brain of a new behavior. (To learn more about neuroplasticity check out this short clip.)
As a health and wellness coach I am interested in what people are motivated to try to change their behavior. 30-day challenges are growing in popularity so I decided that I would try out a challenge for myself.
Connect with your motivation.
Since, I was in high school I have been some version of a vegetarian. Don’t get scared this is NOT a post about becoming a vegetarian. Last summer I decided to return to complete vegetarian and when I told my Texas partner that I was going to be 100% vegetarian I promised that I would never be vegan. Famous last words! In the recent months, I had been thinking about exploring what being vegan felt like in my body after listening to CEO of Wholefoods talk about being vegan on the MindyBodyGreen podcast. He sparked my curiosity and I also want to experience what all these challenges were about.
Make your challenge realistic.
Being Vegan for thirty days was a realistic challenge for me because unlike what the name implies you shouldn’t choose to change a behavior that is so out of your lifestyle that you would never do it again. The idea is that challenge is going to stretch you to try something new but not be so impossible that when you are through with the 30 day you never do it again. Trying a vegan diet wasn’t completely novel to me because some of my meals were already vegan without intending them to be. However, my favorite desert is ice cream I am pretty well known with my friends and family for being an ice cream lover, so it wasn’t going to be a piece of cake either.
Be Aware of your habits during your challenge.
What happened during my challenge? It went pretty smoothly with the exception of two small hiccups. Everything went really well until the last week of my challenge, I stopped at the store after work to get something for dinner and decided to get a special snack since it was Friday. That night before bed I realized I ate a whole bag of pirate’s booty and it never occurred to me that it was cheese flavored! My partner who is a grad students needs to have snacks when he studies so I buy him some healthier crackers to keep him from buying chips and cookies at school. One day I told him I keep eating your crackers! Surprised he pointed out that cheddar crackers were not vegan! Once again it didn’t even cross my mind. It’s no surprise that the two times that I slipped were time that I didn’t plan to eat and ate because I was stressed. I was literally mindless snacking without even thinking about what I was eating.
Reflect what you learned when your challenge is complete.
The challenge is over and now what? When your challenge is over it’s important to reflect on what you learned and consider how you want to move forward. There were two big lesson I learned from my challenge. The first was that I am very intentionally about planning my meals but tend to mindless during my snack. I could benefit from planning my snacks especially that “stress snack” after work.
The second lesson I learned was eaten vegan saved me from eating a lot of desserts that I would have normal eaten if offered. The simple rule of I can’t eat that because I am eating vegan simplified my decision and made it easy for me to say no. I didn’t give up my desserts all together, I just made my own vegan deserts at home which helped keep me satisfied.
Apply what your learned from your challenge to your life.
Honestly when the challenge was over I didn’t feel like I was ready for it to end however I wasn’t sure I was ready to give up ice cream, pizza, and breakfast tacos for the rest of my life. So, I decided that my goal was to eat less animal products and I would do that by eating vegan at my house where is much easier to create yummy vegan meals and when I am others people’s houses or restaurants I would eat vegetarian. I was also going to designated my afternoon snack to a satisfying healthy snack. This is where I am for now…
Here are my top four recipes from my 30-day challenge.
Vegan Enchiladas: My partner loves making enchiladas so it was important to find an enchilada recipe to replace our old one. The first time we ate this I sprinkled cheese on top of his enchilada but the second time we ate it he said it wasn’t necessary, that’s when I knew it was winner!
Corn-Chowder: I loved this recipe because I never know what to do with the potatoes we get from our CSA box. My partner and I love the spicy flavor of this soup, the second time I made it I added a can of white beans to add more protein and it still tasted great.
Spring Rolls: These spring rolls paired with a peanut sauce are so yummy and satisfying to me who needs a cheese pizza!
Vegan Pumpkin Ice Cream: This ice cream belongs in those ice cream shops with crazy flavors. I never pick the strange flavor at the ice cream store but since it was fall and I love pumpkin I thought I would give it a shot and I was so glad I did because it was delicious!