One week down, the rest of my life to go

Last month, I asked for your help to help me eat better. Or frankly, to help me eat, period. As the original post explains: Left to my own devices, I don’t take such good care of my temple, and who’s in a better position to help me than… well, pretty much everybody else?

One week in to the experiment is a perfect time to check in. The short version: This is going better than I could hope, because it has me paying attention to what I’m eating, it has me excited about preparing meals, I’m more aware of my body, nutrition, and friendships than I ever have been.

Here’s a breakdown:

The meals

So these are the real stars of the show. The first night, I made a tilapia with tomatoes, olives, and capers. And it was magnificent.

tilapiadinner 20140801

An excellent Sunday morning breakfast of scrambled eggs and spinach (!) set me up for a work week of easy-to-make breakfasts (yogurt parfait, cereal, oatmeal), basic lunches, and dinners that even I could make. When I’m home. Which leads me to…

The planning

Somehow, I didn’t consider how spontaneous plans could ruin this whole experiment. In late July, we made a plan for an August 2 family trip to the ballpark. That not only postponed the evening’s steak dinner plan, but could have wrecked the whole experiment — you don’t walk into the park without being overpowered by enticing smells of funnel cakes and hot dogs. But I stayed strong: merely 2 bao (yes, they have a Wow Bao at U.S. Cellular Field!) wasn’t extravagant or especially damaging.

Last night, a friend in a new job had a work-related event, which kept me downtown late. Only on my 5:30 walk to the event did I realize: My wife Tracey and I talked about a fish dinner, and I was going to miss it! She was going to cook this one, but it turned out she’d had a busy day too. Without the Michelle-ordered “protein, veggie, and grain such as rice” dinner prepped, I asked Michelle for (and received) the OK for a Chipotle rice bowl feast.


I’ve taken the list of what to eat as literally as possible — if drinks aren’t listed, I only drink water. My co-worker Erin had Day 1, and in the afternoon, I jokingly (?) expressed my desire for a Coke. She was surprised and said, well of course you could — she knows that’s basically my lifeblood. But I said no, it wasn’t on the list. And I survived. Until about 7:30 that night, when I had one of the most crippling headaches I can remember. It hurt just to keep my eyes open, and I fell asleep. I awoke at 2:30 overnight, still with a headache. Maybe it was all caffeine-induced, maybe it was other stuff. But I can tell you this, I haven’t had a Coke all week.

I’m continually sensitive to how my body feels at most every moment all week, probably because I’m looking for the smallest detail to give credit or blame to what I’m eating. But that’s not fair, and with that in mind, there’s nothing significant to report after just seven days.


On the afternoon of Day 3, I was grumpy for no obvious reason. I paused for a moment (it was Laura’s day, she recommended meditation), and realized: For the first time in forever, I’d gone three days without eating the typical processed crap I eat; maybe my body wasn’t celebrating, but asking, “What the hell are you doing up there?” I went to the grocery store to stock up, and was very conscious of how much junk is out there, and how the stores highlight these items: Cookies on the end caps, an entire aisle full of chips, another one dedicated to snacks, and candy bars at the register. All of it colorful, enticing, and delicious. It’s amazing any of us eat well. But the real kicker…


When I checked out of the grocery store, I looked at the conveyor belt and wondered, “What have I become?”

grocery 20140803

I’ve never bought so many produce items in my life. Not in one day, OR IN ALL MY LIFE COMBINED.  There wasn’t much more than what you see in this picture… but this was a $44 trip. Before August started, Tracey said she was worried this would be expensive — but she may not be fully aware of how much of my paycheck goes toward fast food. I reasoned the cost would be another facet of the experiment. I haven’t done an actual comparison yet, and I recognize I’m buying some ingredients for the first time (and will have lots of leftovers. That minced garlic will LAST). Sticker shock is a part of it. (If this paragraph interests you, you should really read this article about taking a homeless woman grocery shopping. It’s a worthy read for the main piece as well as the comments.)


Today was rough. I was tired and crabby this morning, and really wanted a caffeine hit. For lunch, I bought a Diet Snapple Half’n’Half (iced tea and lemonade) instead of water. (Or, depending on how you look at it, instead of a Coke.) 20 minutes later, I was WIRED. From just 22 grams of caffeine? That never would have given me such a buzz.

Tonight was steak dinner night (thank you Kathy). I stopped by the butcher’s on the way home, and asked for advice — I don’t do this often, and I don’t see colors very well. No worries, they said, and told me how to cook two filet mignons. Well, this is under “setbacks” for a reason: I went in confident, Tracey knew better than to let me on the grill but I wouldn’t have it, and I ate what was probably a rarer-than-rare steak while she went and recooked hers. I got stubborn wanting to do this myself, and could have better enjoyed a nice piece of meat. But, lesson learned — and we will try again. With Tracey on the grill. (Partially-colorblind guys like me have to turn in our Man Card during BBQ season, it sucks.)


So, I lied earlier, the meals aren’t the real stars of the show: You all are. That so many have jumped in to help with a meal plan, or to ask if I’d be OK to eat X, or no really you’d eat X?, or even just to ask how it’s going — that keeps me motivated. And isn’t that the biggest help for any habit change, to know that people care that you’re looking to improve yourself — and they’re willing to help?

A couple of people have asked if this is ultimately going to be a book or feature article I’ll write somewhere. Nope. Hey, that it led to a feature on Outside the Loop Radio is honor enough!

If I can be greedy, it’s to say I could use more support: August is filling up, but isn’t yet full. I’d love to have different people fill up each day this month, so if you haven’t yet taken part, it’s not too late: just click here to claim a day.

And to Erin, Jaclin, Laura, Jack, Evette, Michelle, and Kathy — thank you for a memorable week!

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