It Wasn’t Punishment (No Alcohol, Caffeine, Sugar and Complaining)

I did it!

30 days without sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and complaining. I didn’t cheat once. No tiny sips of wine, no cups of green tea, no licking frosting off of fingers, no slip-ups – period.

To many, it looked like punishment. “Why would you do that to yourself when you have so much on your plate?!” I’d get asked.

But it was exactly what I needed. These past few weeks at the swim school have been intense. 12+ hour days, seven days a week, on my feet, in the water, behind a computer, on the phone, assembling furniture, moving equipment, and making lots and lots of decisions. Removing sugar, caffeine, and alcohol from my diet didn’t require any action (like take a photo or practice Italian) or extra work (i.e. meal planning) on my end. It allowed me to work harder and smarter when I needed to. And aside from the caffeine headaches in the beginning, I felt great, not deprived.

Here’s what happened:

  1. I woke up earlier – 5:30 am, sometimes earlier. For whatever reason, I felt motivated to get out of bed at that hour. I always accomplish so much between the hours of 5:30 and 7 am and I love it.
  2. I turned my devices off early so that I could read, turn the lights off, and get my 8 (ish) hours of sleep. To avoid distractions and temptations, my phone remained in the kitchen overnight, and not on my nightstand. And I was able to fall asleep more easily because of it.
  3. I worked out 3-4 times per week. I’m obsessed with my new gym. Hooray!
  4. I hacked my environment. As always, I did my best to create a challenge-friendly atmosphere. I replaced my morning coffee with a hot cacao, turmeric, and protein concoction which isn’t the tastiest of hot beverages, but I’ve grown quite fond of it. I stocked up on La Croix and healthy snacks and bought and on Halloween, I handed out candy I didn’t particularly care for. I turned down a few parties and invitations, but for the most part, I attended dinners and events, allowed the cravings to come and go (because yes, I always had cravings).
  5. I became very efficient with my time. These past four weeks haven’t allowed much time for leisure. If I wasn’t working or writing, I was cleaning the house, cooking, running errands and spending time with my kids. I found incredible satisfaction in being productive – household chores included. I loved going to bed feeling tired and knowing that I worked hard and accomplished a lot.
  6. I didn’t complain about the challenge. But I can’t say I was Miss Suzy sunshine either. My obsession with productivity led to a sense of frustration with my family. I nagged and rolled my eyes when I saw my husband and kids sitting around in front of the TV in a room strewn with toys and unfolded laundry. My husband was quick to call me out on my “holier than thou” attitude and I’ve since taken the intensity down a few hundred notches.

I want to point out that while a lot of additional behaviors emerged as a result of this challenge, I never forced myself to do any of them. There were days when I ate pizza, slept until 7 and skipped workouts. It’s 9:50 pm on a Saturday night as I type these words, and I’m perfectly okay with it.

What now?

I work really well when I have strict parameters in place because I don’t waste energy wondering if I should or shouldn’t have a cup of coffee or a bite of a cookie. I just don’t. But when the challenge ends, the lack of constraints makes it easy to make exceptions and excuses. All of a sudden,  I will not eat any sugar for 30 days, becomes I shouldn’t have any sugar…but it’s okay if I have a little here and there. 

On day 30, I celebrated with a few cocktails. I did the same over the Thanksgiving weekend. It was fun, but I felt it the next day, and it made me realize just how much I loved this challenge and how much better I operated while on it.

It’s been one of my favorites to date.