As an elementary school kid in the '80s, Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign was drilled into my head for years. I'm now taking it as my mantra this month in an effort to look and feel better, reset my body, and, yes, lose some pounds.
A few weeks ago, I decided that I was going to go off sugar, gluten, dairy, and alcohol for a month right after my Halloween birthday -- basically cutting myself off from many of the things I love to put in my mouth the most. Olivia, smart little whippersnapper that she is, quickly dubbed it "NOvember", which annoyed me only because I didn't think of it first.
So here we are on Day 7. Well, honestly, I should say it's Day 6 because I gave myself a pass on the first of the month. I went out to dinner for my birthday and drank lots of yummy wine and told myself it was okay to order a burger and fries for lunch the next day -- and eat a few bags of 1/2 price Halloween candy -- as long as I made sure I got my shit together on the second. And I totally did.
I need NOvember because I feel like I haven't been taking such good care of my insides lately -- and I don't love the way my body looks right now. I haven't for a while. I wish I could say that I love it the way it is, though that would just be a lie. But it's not just about that, for reals.
Last month, I was taking a good hard look at myself and my habits as my 38th birthday approached and knew I needed to make some long term changes so that I was just a generally healthier person. I'm a TERRIBLE sleeper. I have a serious sugar addiction. I love having that extra glass of wine. And I've gained more weight than I'd have liked over the past couple years.
Listen, I'm not a super duper unhealthy person by any definition. I generally eat pretty well -- but I don't deny myself pleasurable (and fatty) foods when I have a craving. Hell, I was at a point where I was NEVER denying myself candy. (The 24 hour Duane Reade in the lobby of my apartment building is SUCH an enabler.)
If I had a bad day, I told myself I deserved that big box of red hots and bag of jelly beans. My capacity to eat INSANE amounts of candy astonishes many. And in the months before I started this gig here at xoJane, I was having a lot of tough days at work.
Now that I'm in a much happier emotional place in SO many ways, I knew it was time to get myself back in balance. And hence, NOvember was born. Of course, I totally let myself eat and drink whatever I wanted in the days leading up to it, which just makes the first days even worse. But Halloween and my birthday needed to be celebrated, right?
I turned to a trusted source to kick off my body reset, Dr. Frank Lipman's Be Well Cleanse.
I love this "cleanse" because it's not some crazy, unmanageable juicing situation. It's two weeks with mineral shakes in the early and mid-morning, lunch, afternoon shake, and dinner. There's no calorie counting. There are foods that you aren't supposed to eat: no gluten, caffeine, dairy, refined sugar as a baseline. You can have certain fruits and lots of vegetables but some are on the not allowed list (like nightshades, bananas, strawberries). The full list is here.
Basically you can still work and function like a normal human being who is not starving.
This sort of thing isn't for everyone. I totally get that. But a regimented plan really, really works for me -- especially in the beginning when I'm trying to get back on track. I like having a schedule and rules. And along with being super loyal, another Scorpio trait of mine is being either all in, or all out. I don't cheat when I'm all in -- in cleanses and relationships.
The first time I did Dr. L's cleanse a couple years ago, I kicked my horrendous Diet Coke habit cold turkey. I'm talking like 6-7 a day, people. Since I started here I've fallen off the DC wagon, so I'm happy to have help getting back on.
I can't lie. The first five days or so are really rough for me and it's all about the sugar withdrawal. I barely eat dairy so I don't miss it. And gluten, well that's rough too. It's not even like I eat THAT much bread, but it's all I want when I know I'm not supposed to have it. Wine I miss, but in a totally social, not physical way.
But DAMN that sugar is a wicked beast to kick. At last my headaches have subsided and my energy levels are on the rise. I'm sure everyone around me appreciates this as well because I can be a real bitch when I'm coming off sugar.
The physical benefits are already starting. I'm de-puffing all over. My skin looks clearer. I'm starting to sleep a little better and sometimes even wake up before my alarm without feeling tired. If I didn't have this stupid stress fracture/walking boot situation, I'd be SoulCycling my ass off every day. Alas, the workouts will have to wait a few more weeks.
There's also this sense of accomplishment I get when I actually USE my will power. I'm totally proud of myself for walking by that candy jar every time I go to the bathroom at the office and NOT grabbing a handful of yum. Or ordering something healthy when Jane took us out to fancy lunch yesterday.
It may seem silly to others but these little things make me happy. And I know I'm treating myself better than I have in months. Am I excited to watch some weight drop off? YOU BET I AM. I'm not ashamed of that. I don't weigh myself because it makes me super mental but I will know when my pants start fitting better. I can't wait to get back to a size that I'm more comfortable with -- not that I think that's completely happening during this month, but it's a start.
But even more than that, I love the feeling that I'm freeing not just my body, but my brain of lots of clutter too. Man does that sound hippie-dippy of me or what? Sorry, but that's the truth and, well, I HAVE lived in Los Angeles twice. (I kid, I kid. I love the New Age-y side of LA.)
We were all in a meeting in Jane's office the other day, talking about my NOvember plans and Mandy said she was surprised it wasn't already a thing in women's magazine land, like as some sort of holiday prep or something. Very good call, Mandy. I can see the cover lines flashing through my brain: "Why NOvember Will Let You Say YES At Holiday Parties" or some such. Have at some good and punny lady mag cover lines in the comments if you feel like it. There are so many...
I'm enjoying my NOvember so far, even if it does put a little damper on my social life. It's not that I never go out to dinner with friends (and find something I can eat), but I just tend to do so less when I'm cleansing and being super healthy. Sounds like more TV time for me...yay!
If you had to say no to something this month that you thought would benefit you in the long run, what would it be?