The 21 Day Challenge: One Week in the Books

One full week into my made-up 21 Day Challenge and I feel great. Eating healthy isn’t hard, but resisting urges to eat some of my favorite foods and drinks was tough. I tried to limit coffee as much as possible – something that I drink daily with a splash of milk. In the first 5 days that was the toughest part for me. I tried to do black coffee, but without milk, I’d rather not drink coffee at all. So I resorted to green tea; which is not a bad alternative in terms of caffeine, but for flavor? Green tea is blehh.

The hardest part actually came on the weekend. It’s almost an innate urge to leave work on Friday and immediately want a drink in your hand. I didn’t have a tough week, but with the snow storm hitting New York City I was cooped up in my apartment with nothing to do. And after our office closed at 2pm on Friday due to snow, drinking only seemed natural. But I resisted the urge and went to the gym to focus my energy elsewhere. Once nighttime came I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. My girlfriend Lauren and I went out for Thai food and she tried to get me to have a glass of wine with her. As much as I wanted to, and it felt right – I resisted again much to her chagrin.

Saturday was A LOT more difficult. The peer pressure you receive from people when they find out you’re not drinking is really apparent. I didn’t outright tell anyone (other than literally post it for all my Facebook friends to see) but I don’t go out of my way to tell people. When the subject comes up, or it’s time to order drinks, I’ll mention in the least amount of words possible that I’m trying not to drink. And believe me, there is backlash. People will jokingly berate you, and of course they’re just joking – but it affects you. You want to fit in – to just have a beer with your friends, what’s the big deal. But I know myself, and as soon as I allow myself one exception, it’s all over with. That one exception will lead to two exceptions, then three, and so on and so forth.

I tried my hardest not to give in to the jabs and jokes and just ordered a coffee when I went out for lunch after seeing a Broadway show. Everyone was drinking beers, and I really wanted one, but the coffee helped suppress the urge. After I successfully avoided alchohol, we ordered appetizers. Another tough part. I can’t eat any bread and pretty much all appetizers consist of bread or cheese, or something fried that I restricted myself  from in this challenge. I had to salvage some tuna and avocado from one of the dishes. I had a dinner later on to go to, so that would have to suffice for now. But I was starving.

Two hours later I had my mom’s birthday dinner. We went to a nice Italian restaurant so I knew wine, pasta, and cheese would be plentiful. Like I said, I was starving and I was really in the mood for a steak, so before they even put the bread on the table, I was ready with my order of steak and broccoli  – with water. My family of course gave me shit for not having a single drink on my own mother’s birthday, but I don’t see why that should be a requirement. If anything, they should be supportive of my discipline.

That is the one thing I noticed. Most people are supportive of my diet. They’ll say “Hey, I saw you’re doing a 21 Day Challenge, that’s cool.” They’ll feel bad for me when I say I can’t eat a certain cake, or grilled cheese. But when push comes to shove and they want to drink, or they want me to join them in eating or doing something, people quickly change sides and become vessels of peer pressure. My girlfriend, for example, wanted me to have a drink with her and as soon as I said no I was on the defensive. My family then went out to a piano bar with a two-drink minimum and had everyone around me pressuring me. One guy sitting next to us was baffled. “No alcohol? None at all? You on drugs at least? No?!? Then what the hell do you do???”

I laughed and thought it was funny but I still wouldn’t give in to the many attempts to feed me wine. Everyone kept saying “C’mon, just one drink!” It became obvious how crazy the peer pressure involved in alcohol is. But after everyone has their first drink or two, they forget about it and no one cares what you or anyone else is drinking. But it’s that initial first drink that seems to make everyone uncomfortable. Why is that?

If people were smoking weed and I said I didn’t want any, I don’t think I would be outcast. But if I go to a bar and tell my friends I’m not drinking, I’m scolded. After only one weekend of sobriety, that has been the most noticeable part of this experiment. Peer pressure in drinking is crazy. And luckily I’m just doing this as a 3 week test, but god forbid anyone tried to quit drinking altogether. I gained a little bit of respect for the people I know who don’t touch alcohol. It’s tough and hard to fit in to most social settings without the aesthetic crutch of a bottle of beer in your hand.

On Sunday, I caved and got two cups of coffee (with milk) from my favorite coffee shop. It’s a ritual that I go in there and read a book or write a little, so that was difficult to cut out and it’s harmless to add a little milk even though I said no dairy. But I noticed that my stomach immediately turned as soon as I finished my first cup. I’m not sure if I can blame it entirely on the milk, or on the coffee. Either way, the combination did not help my stomach. When I’m eating like crap – I wouldn’t even notice the effect coffee has on my stomach. But now that I’m in a detox phase, the flaws of my diet are more apparent than ever.

Here are a few notes on the other things I’ve picked up in the first week of the 21 Day Challenge:

  • I feel more alert and energetic
  • My skin looks and feels clearer
  • Peer pressure with alcohol is worse than I thought
  • I crave mainly fried foods (french fries, fried chicken) but not the typcial dessert foods I usually crave like cookies, donuts, and cake. In fact, I look at candy like it’s gross and factory garbage
  • Coffee wilk milk made my stomach feel noticeably worse
  • My arm muscles look a bit more toned and my stomach is never bloated
  • The weekend is much more difficult than the week due to unexpected events popping up and less control over food options
  • Due to feeling healthier and more fit, I feel personally motivated to do other healthy things I wouldn’t otherwise think about like take the stairs, or do a random set of pushups when I’m bored. The feeling of health compounds itself

I may be getting ahead of myself only eight days in. But to be honest, this is probably the longest I’ve gone without a drop of alcohol in a year, so the effects are going to be noticeable. I’ll give another update next week.

Some people have been asking me what I’ve been eating so here’s a typical day for me. I think it’s much much easier to just eat the same things every day.

  • 6:30am – Workout
  • 8:00am – Three fried eggs with spinach
  • 11:00am – Green tea and a scoop of peanut butter
  • 1:00pm – Salmon, salad, broccoli, cauliflower
  • 4:00pm – Handful of almonds
  • 6:00pm – Turkey meatballs, broccoli, brussels sprouts
  • 7:00pm – Ginger & Turmeric tea

*Full discretion – I will have to drink next Sunday since my girlfriend got me a Christmas present for a cooking class with wine. I’ll allow myself a couple of glasses that night since red wine does have some health benefits and antioxidants. This won’t be a clean-cut 21 days of sobriety, but give me a break. How long can you go?


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