Launch lab, or 28 days without Diet Coke

Gratuitous cake photo.

Gratuitous cake photo.

Way back on June 30th I issued a no sugar (no artificial sweetener) challenge for the month of July. Friends, I'm here to tell you I've stuck with it. I know! I'm just as shocked as you! There has been no ice cream (not even on the 4th of July), no cake, no cookies, no treats of any kind. To tell you the truth, I've only marginally missed the sweets. I have missed (and continue to miss) the Diet Coke. Heck, I'd even take a tall glass of Crystal Light. But fear not, I am well hydrated. Turns out one of the side effects of only being able to drink water  . . . is DRINKING WATER. It's genius.

I have a few observations on the whole no sugar thing. Let's start with the good:

  1. One of my primary reasons for beginning this challenge was to increase my fitness level. I work out five days a week, but I wasn't seeing a ton of improvement, and I was suspicious that my nutrition (ie a bevy of sugar) was to blame. This turned out to be true. Not that I'm killing the Crossfit workouts now (because I'm old and non-athletic), but they feel better. I feel better while I'm doing them.
  2. Knowing I wasn't eating sugar was sorta peaceful. This one is hard to explain. In my normal (doughnut-laden) life, I fought with myself daily over what treats I would eat. And then I'd beat myself up about the treats I'd eaten. It was a long, exhausting monologue in my head of "Should I? or shouldn't I? I should. I will. Uh oh. I shouldn't have eaten that!" But because I'd already decided no sugar, none of that non-productive (and often abusive) diatribe was running through my head. Phew.
  3. I lost five pounds. There's THAT! (FYI, I was being pretty careful to eat very clean as well.)
  4. I completely defeated the 3 PM slump. I used to get so tired and grumpy around 3 PM everyday. I felt groggy and unfocused. But once I stopped eating sugar I felt fine and productive all afternoon. Generally, I even woke up in the morning feeling more refreshed.
  5. I'm not as hungry during the day. I'm hypoglycemic, so once I start riding the sugar roller coaster, I have to eat pretty frequently. When my sugar and carb intake is controlled, I'm free of the lows that include hunger, headaches, irritability, and the shakes. No one likes the shakes.

Here's the bad:

  1. No trips to Sonic. A few times, when I was with the kids, I ordered a bottle of water with the good Sonic ice. That is NOT EVEN THE SAME.
  2. No sugar can be boring. Desserts are fun. Heck, they can even be exciting. No alcohol, no coffee, no tea, no sugar. I don't have a lot going for me in the vice department currently.
  3. Ummmm . . . I can't think of any other bad things. But I'll keep ruminating.

In conclusion:

On August 1st I plan to drive myself to Sonic and buy a Route 44 Diet Coke with lime. But other than the occasional Diet Coke (nope, not going back on that full-time either), I don't have any plans to return to my sugared past. Not even for doughnuts, which I love from the very, very, very bottom of my heart. 

Anyone else complete the challenge? Do chime in with your thoughts.


Launch lab: No sugar challenge

When Annie and I met up in Austin last Spring, we discussed Lab posts as a way to practically and tangibly try out new habits and practices that could enhance our lives and our homes. I loved Annie's initial Lab that emphasized saying intentional hellos and goodbyes to her kids and husband as they left and entered their house. It's an enjoyable practice.

Urban Harvest Farmers' Market. Houston, April 2014.

Urban Harvest Farmers' Market. Houston, April 2014.

What I'm proposing for our Lab for July is a no sugar challenge -- not nearly so enjoyable. I've actually debated back and forth over sharing this challenge via N&L because I don't want the no sugar challenge to be interpreted as a weight-loss or body image injunction. To be completely honest, I wouldn't mind dropping a few pounds. However, my desire to ditch sugar has more to do with the way I feel than the way I look. I work out almost every day. Some days I have boundless energy, and I'm raring to go. Other days I feel like my limbs are made of concrete and my mind is cloudy and sluggish. And mostly, those slow days are the culmination of what I like to call the EATING ODYSSEY, wherein I eat a bevy of sugar-laden foods. 

On Saturday I attended a nutrition workshop at the Crossfit Box where Sterling and I work out. Part of the instruction included issuing a no sugar challenge for the month of July. I'm up for it, but I work better in groups. Who's with me?

Your mission, should you choose to accept, prohibits sugar AND artificial sweeteners from July 1 - July 31st.

This means no sugar, honey, agave, Splenda, Truvia or ANY sweetener of ANY type whatsoever. This means no Diet Coke for me, which equals no afternoon trips to Sonic with the sun roof open and the radio blaring. Perhaps I'll just drive around aimlessly with a cup of water.

No chocolate (including dark chocolate).

No fruit flavored yogurt, flavored oatmeal, cereal, jam/jelly, Nutella, Nutri-grain bars, granola bars, soda, fruit juice, sports drinks, or milk. 

And it goes without saying -- no treats. No candy, cakes, ice cream, muffins, rice krispie treats, or gooey brownies with a thick layer of caramel. Essentially, no joy of any kind is allowed. Except health. Guys! Health is allowed!! 

If you want to join in, leave your name and e-mail in the comments. Then I'll send you some inspirational cheers throughout the month. And yes, I'm going to be totally embarrassed if I get zero comments on this post. So come on! Help a sister out.

It starts tomorrow. Off to eat ice cream.

Launch lab report: Date your dreams

A couple of weeks ago I proposed an experiment in dating dreams and, as promised, I'm here to report back on how it went. But first, a confession. My writing well is empty. Or broken. Something. I really owe some penance for missing two posts last week but here's what was happening behind the scenes:  I was just staring into the writing abyss with nary an insight, not a bit of wit. Blank white screen and flashing, mocking cursor.

But lab reports are notoriously dry, right? I like that low-set bar. So here goes...

Experiment: Date my dreams by trying out small doses of activities/things I think might be interesting to follow as someday dreams

Timeframe: Two weeks, which really isn't enough time to really do this lab justice. This is something more suited to a new years' resolution, in all honesty. But I did manage to try on a couple of dreams to see how they fit: a dream job and a new creative pursuit.

Trial 1:  Date my dream job. A few weeks ago I was offered a temporary position to fill in during someone's one-year maternity leave at exactly the kind of job I had always coveted: managing research at a non-profit/consultancy for children and youth programs, policy, and research. It felt scary but pretty exciting--and the three days a week (T, W, Th) schedule felt manageable.

I have some pretty good, relevant experience supporting me but I knew going in that it was going to be an opportunity to step up to a new level professionally.  In addition, I leapt in at just the moment of high-paced deadlines of the end of the fiscal year. There have been moments when I've had to give myself a pep talk, moments when I felt like doing a happy dance, and moments when I wondered why on earth I had wanted to disrupt my life this way! But it's also been exhilarating in that way that stretching beyond what you thought you could do brings a new sense of possibility. 

Exhibit A: On my third day I had the assignment to co-testify at Parliament to a senate committee on early childhood. Gulp.

Yes, it's been quite a ride so far, mostly exciting and rewarding with a dash of terror. (When it comes to fight-or-flight stress response instincts, I'm definitely in the "flight" category. I immediately start looking for an escape hatch. Or an avoidant nap.) What has saved me as I hike the steep learning curve is the mental framing of this experience as dating my dream and the notion that this is just an experiment to see if it's something I would want to do longer term. It's just a rehearsal, really.  A paid rehearsal no less!

Trial 2: Take on a new creative pursuit. I've mentioned before that I've been feeling the creative itch lately. These hands want (need!) to make things. Ideally, I'd like to be able to create while I sit around with my family, while we watch a movie or are on a roadtrip. I noticed I had been pinning an abundance of embroidery projects to my "make things" Pinterest board so decided to stop pinning and start stitching already.

Not my actual embroidery, just one of the many inspirations, via  here  and here

Not my actual embroidery, just one of the many inspirations, via here and here

I LOVE it. It's the perfect zen balance to the higher adrenaline of the new-job experiment. I'm starting with some easy projects in this Stitched in Scandinavia embroidery book but I'm hoping to do both of the above projects as I get more comfortable with the needle. So therapeutic and calming!

Results: The two experiment trials have been positive, overall. I'm keeping both activities for now and I highly, highly recommend the "date your dreams" mentality. 

Enough about me. Have you dated any dreams lately? Do tell!

Launch lab: Date your dreams

painting by Eugenio Viti

painting by Eugenio Viti

In this mid-stage parenting zone, many of us are watching our kids get ready to launch in the coming years--sometimes one after the next after the next. Sometimes it feels like we just regroup and reorient as a family (minus one) and then it's time for the next child to go! I know their departures match the intervals of their arrivals but somehow the time on this end seems clipped and the launches feel more sudden--despite the fact that we ready ourselves for them far longer than nine months. 

Right now I have one child away volunteering on a mission, one graduating in December (since it's Australia, where the school year matches the calendar year) and one home for another couple of years. Beyond here there be dragons, as the old map makers used to say. I try to resist leaping ahead and indulging in too much anticipatory nostalgia but I find it challenging not to start missing this stage of life before it's over. Truly, though, it's the looming scarcity of these days that makes them so sweet as we count down to take-off.

At the same time there's a kind of parallel pre-launch countdown taking place for ourselves, yes? No matter what our lives look like as parents of teens--whether you work at an outside career part time or full time, whether you work at home full time, or any other combination of school/work/home/hobby life--when the nest empties, there will be some adjusting. Though G frequently asks quizzically, "why do they call it an empty nest? I mean, we'll still be here, right?"

Yes, exactly. We'll still be here. This week I'm thinking about anticipatory launching, not of our kids but of ourselves. We don't really talk about it much, do we? This major transition from full-time, resident parenting to distant-but-supportive parenting invites a reconsideration of what the next chapters will look like for me, for each of us. It's what-do-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up, version 3.0. With a bit more time and fewer daily care giving commitments will I follow my curiosities into new hobbies? Will I dive deeper into current pursuits? What can I do now to start preparing for the next 50ish (pretty please, knock on wood) years of my life?

I love what Whitney Johnson, the author of Dare, Dream, Do suggests. She says "go ahead and date dreams, lots of them--you don't need to commit to every dream you date." In one of the guest posts on Whitney's blog (and there are many excellent ones there), Emily Olson adds "Finding your passion is a lot like finding a husband. Who wants to evaluate every first date, asking yourself if he is the one? It's far easier to ask yourself if you simply want one more date with this dude. So my advice? Go on dates with ideas, until you realize there's this one you just can't stop hanging out with...when you've found that, you've likely found your passion." 

So that's my launch lab for the next two weeks--and my challenge to you. Go date some dreams. Start exploring and figuring out what captures your thoughts, flies your kite, floats your boat. You don't have to marry those dreams just yet. Just date them.