This Is (Almost) Forty: January Progress Report

Given that we've hit the end of January, I figured I owed you guys a little (well, not so little...this one is long friends) progress report on the month's goal in my great quest for life improvement leading up to my 40th birthday. (For those of you new to the program, you can get the full low down on "Operation 40" here.) 

January's goal was to "revamp my diet." My mission with this particular initiative wasn't to go on a "diet" or to lose weight... Rather, I wanted to discover the best possible way to eat in order to be more energized and sharp and happy and healthy (yes, I believe food impacts all of those outcomes). I wanted to assess my current diet, really paying attention to what I was putting into my body each day, pinpoint the good and bad, compare the ideal state with the current state, and map out a plan for improvement. No biggie.

I knew I couldn't do this on my own. I needed help -- a health guru if you will. Enter (the utterly amazing) Leslie Needleman. She and her business partner Mary Kathryn Bass co-own a fantastic organic juice bar here in Dallas called The GEM. Leslie is also a certified holistic health counselor who received training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition under such healthy living luminaries as Andrew Weil and Deepak Chopra. Oh and she's also a mom of three, a cancer survivor, and, by far, one of the coolest ladies I know. Full stop.

As an offshoot of The GEM, the ladies have just launched a 16-week program focused on taking a holistic approach to health and wellness, with individualized coaching on reaching health goals such as reducing food cravings, increasing sleep, and maximizing energy.

I found my guru.

I've been meeting with Leslie once a week since the beginning of January, and in keeping with my goal of revamping my diet, we've focused mostly on nutrition thus far, but we're also beginning to discuss things that I'll deep dive into in the coming months such as exercise (yikes) and stress management. The process has been incredibly personal (it's isn't a one size fits all enterprise), taking into account my health history, my long-term goals, and my satisfaction with every aspect of my life, from relationships to finances to fitness. For the nutrition portion of the program, my specific goals included:

  • Drastically reduce my sugar cravings.
  • Increase and maintain energy with less caffeine.
  • Incorporate more "super foods" into my diet.
  • Cook and eat at home more often.
  • Get the rest of my family on board with the plan (without making them hate me).

To that end, Leslie assigned specific tasks (I assigned myself a few too) to accomplish each goal. She gave me easy and delicious recipes to try that Bryan and the girlies would dig, and, understanding that beautiful design is something that gets me excited, gifted me a gorgeous cookbook to peruse for inspiration. Here were the six things I committed to and how each one went:

Drink 32 ounces of water every morning before my coffee:
When Leslie first mentioned this one, I balked. Sure a single glass of water with lemon upon waking seemed like a no brainer. But 32 ounces?? Before my coffee??? Holy hell. But she was persistent, assuring me that this would change my life, as I'd have loads more energy, need less caffeine, and be "cleansed" (I won't go into details on that last one, but let's just say it means what you think it means). The first two days were hard. I felt like I was going to float away. I was nauseated. I wanted my coffee right away (not after 32 flippin' ounces of water!).  But, determined to be a good student, I stuck with it. Friends, she was right. It has changed. my. life. I am utterly and completely addicted. I even created a little ritual around it. I pour my first glass the minute I get out of bed, add the juice from half a lemon (this is the game changer), and down it. I'm thirsty first thing in the morning, so chugging the first glass is easy. Then I pour the second glass (my beloved Marta coolers conveniently hold 18 ounces), flip on the coffee, and sip the H2O until the coffee is brewed. By the time I'm done with the water, I'm so awake that I no longer feel like I need the joe. I pour a small cup and just, well... enjoy it. It's empowering. I am, without a doubt, more energized. And yes, it kicks off a "cleanse" too.

Do a three day juice cleanse:
Yay...more cleansing. Ok, this one was so, so much harder than the water. I wish I could report that the three days of subsisting on juice made me feel otherworldly and amazing and beyond healthy, but, I'm not gonna lie, I felt hungry and angry...Hangry. So hangry in fact that my family begged me to eat when I got home from work each day. I was torn, as I didn't want to cheat, but damn I was hungry (in case you didn't get that before), so I succumbed and "cheated" with some kale salad, a little fruit, some organic roast chicken, and a few pumpkin seeds at various intervals over the three days. It was still a highly virtuous enterprise, and once I added a little actual food, I did indeed feel otherworldly and amazing and beyond healthy. It also kicked off my now deep and abiding passion for green juice, specifically a kale + cucumber + celery + green apple (just a little) + lemon + ginger elixir that is wildly delicious. As such, I'm planning to buy a juicer in the next couple of weeks so I can work that magic potion into my diet every day.

Buy a jump rope and try to get up to 10 minutes of jumping a day:
Ok this one is technically for my February goal of "Improving My Fitness," but Leslie wanted me to get a head start (damn you Leslie). I bought the jump rope and have been utilizing it every day. It's fun -- Audrey and I have even made a little game of it -- but I've yet to reach the 10 minute daily goal. Three minutes makes me feel like I might go into cardiac arrest. It's a bad scene. But I'm not afraid. I'm going to rock that jump rope...just wait.

Eliminate all desserts and candy for the month of January:
This goal was technically mine, as Leslie would never be this restrictive. She doesn't roll that way. However, given my history with sugar, the fact that I know how hugely unhealthy it is, and my staunch determination to reduce my craving for it once and for all, I went big. I didn't eliminate the sweet stuff completely. I still put a little in my single (!) cup of coffee in the morning and ate greek yogurt, et al, but for 31 full days I was 99.9% successful in not eating a single dessert or dessert-like item (candy, errant chocolate chips, etc...) My two small cheats involved a bite of my mother-in-law's birthday cake and half a brownie at a dinner party. It's been hard (I've actually dreamt of chocolate), but my cravings are drastically reduced. And, the most important part, I feel better. I'm planning to (mostly) stick with this moving forward, although a regular square of dark chocolate will always be a part of my life.

Revamp my pantry:
This is a service that Leslie and Mary Kathryn offer through The GEM program, but I had already enlisted my friend (and D Moms contributor) Holly Davis to do the job as part of a piece we're running in the spring issue of the magazine. I love Holly. She's funny, erudite, warm... But she means business. Let's just say that she let me keep a grand total of five items from my pantry (raw pumpkin seeds, raw almonds, two boxes of whole wheat pasta, and some organic dark coffee), ditched every single bit of the rest, and replaced it with all manner of healthy bits. The end goal was to eliminate as many processed foods as possible, instead filling the shelves with organic raw nuts, seeds, grains, dried fruits, dark chocolate (yay!), green tea, and healthy oils and vinegars. GMO-free, organic, BPA-free boxes and jars (no cans) of soup, beans, tomatoes, jam, nut butters, grade b maple syrup, salsa, free-range broth, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, and granola also made the cut. My pantry has largely stayed Holly-ized, but a few things have crept back in due to some very heavy lobbying by Bryan and the girlies. I would call the end-result a 85% improvement. Nothing to balk at for sure.

Whew... If you're still reading, I owe you a drink after this long-winded action. Big time. I'm now on to February's (dreaded) goal of "improving my fitness." I'll report back in a few weeks on how that one goes down. Wish me luck...


Danielle (elleinadspir) said...

I agree that water is makes a huge difference. I have been drinking 1 gallon a day for about a month now ans see/feel a huge difference. I'll gave to try pushing so e if it before my coffee, I haven't tried that yet.
On the juice, I love a 3 day cleanse but not everyone does. Some people suggest doing juice until dinner 1-2 days a week as an alternative. Juice all day and then a light dinner. That's a thought.
Great goals and you are well on your way!

Mary said...

Well done! I've been doing water in the morning for a while now, and I'm not sure I reach 32 ounces, but I definitely agree with its power. It's energizing, especially if I can start the day with some exercise too. I'm great at cooking at home, and my pantry is okay, but there are definitely improvements to be made. The need for something sweet every night is one. Not sure I can (or want to) give it up entirely, though. Anyway good for you! I'll look forward to reading more about your progress in other areas.

Melanie said...

32oz of water before my coffee...It's so drastic that it must work. I'm thinking of getting some outside help like a guru too because I'm flaying at this..These are great tips, and best wishes improving your fitness this month! I have to completely and utterly revamp my pantry...

Nomadic D. said...

Well, you owe me a drink, cause I poured over your every word! I love that you are not only doing this, so wholeheartedly too, but that you're giving us these detailed updates as well! Thank you! I was drinking water before my coffee for a while (though probably only about 16 oz) and it did feel good, but damn it's so easy to get out of these habits! You have truly inspired me. And while there's no way in hell I could go a month without dessert (chocolate!!), I'm cutting back on processed foods and it feels amazing. Can't wait to hear how you do with fitness. I was a professional dancer for years, and even then couldn't jump rope to save my life!


Our Green Nest said...

That's awesome Joslyn, good for you! Sounds like you're making some wonderful improvements! Look forward to hearing how wonderful February goes too.

allison said...

this is awesome joslyn! i love hearing peoples' health and fitness goals- it inspires me :)


katie//salt+pine said...

Awesome job! I'm doing something similar, and it is so. dang. HARD! I'm in the first week, so I'm hoping to push through it because I'm already feeling and seeing the benefits. Thanks for giving me further motivation, lady! xo

Unknown said...

oh, can you share the name of the cookbook that Leslie gifted you???

Cheers (with a gorgeously green drink of course!),


Anonymous said...

Reading this made me so happy. I am so happy you are feeling good and loving on yourself.
(I am crazy about cucumber+celery+parsley+teeeeny bit of apple juice for breakfast. So crazy that I actually gave up coffee after being a total coffee lover for over half my life!)

jamiedawn said...

i won't lie. i skimmed through this list quickly. and i want to be able to jump rope as well!! it seems like best exercise to be able to go at it for a long period of time. excited to see how you do! hopefully it will motivate me!

Liza B. Gonzalez said...

Well, Hello almost 40. You look pretty fantastic, already. Those are all great tips. I'll have to vamp up my water in the morning and try your jump rope regimen. Sounds like just what I need to energize.

The Beauty Curators said...

Joslyn, I swear 40 is the best time in your life, you totally got going on, you have life's wisdom, you have great style to boot from what I can see thru your blog...it's a good time treasure it! The Vitamix is a huge asset to your new juicing live food transition. Worth the INVESTMENT, i will try the water before coffee..wow that's a lot. How much then do you drink the rest of the day. And by the way, I have been looking at the Institute for IN and I totally took the mention of it as a sign! Lol keep on your journey. All the Best, Elaine

jennifer said...

My coffee is staring at me as I try to finish my 32 oz of water! Even though I only drink decaf (nursing mom here) I figure the extra water will do me good!

torrie said...

due to a scary (temporary!) health issue (my husband) this past year, we both went on a 3-month alkaline diet (no dairy, sugar- even in the form of fruit and certain vegetables, very, very little meat, gluten, or yeast... and LOTS of water. whew, that was a 'mouthful';)). although we are off of the diet now, it was life-changing. we have stuck with many components (and it introduced so many new-to-us products)... especially the large amount of water (and a large amount of fish oil/day as well)! ... a qt. to start off every morning. makes me energized and takes the "fog" away- the best part.

jencausey said...

thanks for these great tips! definitely going to try the water before coffee. If you are looking for a fitness app, I have been using the 5K runner app. It builds you up from walking to running a 5K. Each workout is about 30 minutes a day of walking/running. I have been doing it for 3 weeks and love it!

Barbie // Little Skyline said...

Kudos to you lady! I've been wanting to overhaul how I cook and eat. Thanks for the motivation. I'm excited about the water tip. I drink a lot of water, but never before my coffee. Hope it helps with the morning fog.

welliewalks said...

Great job! I really appreciate these posts!

Jen C said...

I'll be honest, I don't think I'd last ONE minute jump roping let alone three. So kudos to you!

And I'm super impressed by the 32 ounces of water. Have you noticed any improvement to your skin as well? I've heard it's supposed to help give you a glow.

Just wanted to say, you're kickin A and taking names. Well done you!


UrbanChiqueNess said...

One, I read and enjoyed every word. Drinks in June? Dallas..can't wait.

Two, guzzled delightfully 32 whole ounces of H20 this am with juice of half a lemon B4 my coffee. Huge accomplishment my friend as I will not give up my homemade latte and boy did I feel like a champ all day. Good to know my inners still work ;)

My new ritual..every am!

I smoothie myself regularly but will jump on the Vitamix wagon soon enough.
Thanks for the inspiration.

P.S. I teach Pilates too so we may have to get in a few sessions of private mat class while I am there.


Unknown said...

These are such inspiring goals - thank you for sharing! I cannot wait to track your results :)