Ultimate Transformation Challenge: Update

So about two weeks ago I hit the wall, and I hit it hard. The minor headaches and dizzy spells I wrote of last time became major, until one day I found myself grabbing the door frame in the kitchen in a desperate effort to stay on my feet while the world went dark and fuzzy. I began having episodes of “brain fog,” where I would walk purposefully into a room only to find that I had no idea what I had gone there intending to do. I was ready to go to bed by 2 pm. Things were starting to feel like they had a year ago, when I was dealing with the Condition That Has Not Been Named, and that was alarming. But darn it all, I just didn’t want to be a quitter.

And then I got sick–101 degree fever, sore throat, stuffed head, hibernating under a blanket and watching whole seasons of The X-Files on Netflix sick. Clearly, my body was smarter than my mind and decided to take me out of circulation for a week. I spent that week evaluating my participation in the UTC, and I came to the conclusion that I was being hurt by the program.

Carb cycling combined with high intensity interval training and strength training is a great plan for some folks, but it wasn’t working for me. I don’t know why it wasn’t working, but I was not seeing positive results, and my body was sending many clear signals that it was unhappy. It could be that the carb cycling plan given to us was not appropriately adjusted for a vegan diet. It may be that with my heart condition (a minor, common congenital defect that leaves me pre-disposed to lower blood pressure) was a contributing factor–the plan’s guru did make repeated claims that it lowered blood pressure, which may have been dangerous given that I was already borderline hypotensive. It could be that the Condition That Has Not Been Named played a role. It could even be that I’m just a whiney wimp who cannot go through life without daily chocolate.

Whatever the cause, the effects were scaring me, so I have stopped the UTC. I badly want to rock a bathing suit this summer, and I can’t do that if I’m dead. I am going back to eating the way I had been before the UTC, which had worked very well for me. Mainly, I am back to following Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live program, with a little leeway for the occasional vegan cupcake. I have been back on this track for about a week now, and I am slowly starting to feel better.

That’s not to say that the UTC has been a waste of my time and effort. There is a lot of good in the program that I will mine for my own use. The positive things I have learned include:

  • Food Preparation. Developing the habit of cooking huge quantities of some foods once a week, to keep the fridge stocked with wholesome foods ready to eat. On a given day, my fridge now contains baked tofu, glazed tempeh, prepared seitan, cooked whole grain rice or quinoa, baked yams, and cooked beans.
  • Homemade raw almond butter. The UTC plan allowed for almond butter rather than peanut butter. The taste is naturally sweeter, and my whole family now prefers it. We keep a container in the fridge at all times.
  • Awareness of portion sizes. I find this to be particularly of value when it comes to proteins and carbs. I tend to eat very little protein and quite a lot of carbs, and the UTC raised my awareness of how to better portion these macro-nutrients.
  • High intensity interval training. I really like the HIIT approach, especially when I get to do it on my bike. I tend to be a bit lazy when I work out, not pushing past my comfort zone, but having a specific heart rate range to aim for got me working harder.
  • Kettlebell training. During the program I was introduced to Russian kettlebell training, and I love it. Nothing makes you feel like a badass quite like swinging the bells for an hour. We bought a set of smaller kettlebells for home, and I signed up to take classes from Trident Russian Kettlebell Training. They are awesome to work with.

I am still going to work on getting rid of that last bit of extra belly flab, so I am not flat-out giving up by any means. This is more of a course correction to make sure that I do it safely, which is a little more important to me than doing it quickly. I intend to get back to posting progress reports each Saturday to go with the Lean part of this blog…but I think it’s also time to shift the focus back towards the Green.


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