A few days ago, Chef AJ asked me to attend her “30-day Challenge” and I happily agreed. Pretty much every healthy plant-based eater knows who Chef AJ is, but for those of you who don’t, she’s one of the most prominent plant-based whole food chefs and nutrition experts around. Check out her web series “The Chef and the Dietician” with Julianna Hever or buy her excellent cookbook “Unprocessed” if you haven’t already. Anyways, the only thing I knew about this challenge is that I’d be over at her place with a bunch of other people for a few hours for 5 consecutive Sundays and that’d I’d be covering the whole experience.
Little did I know that I’d actually be participating in the challenge itself. So I’m going from one “cleanse” to a “challenge.” I like testing my willpower but this’ll be tough. Here’s the basic rules of the challenge:
- No animal products
- No processed food (sugar, oil, salt, bread, etc.)
- Avoid restaurants whenever you can
And as if these weren’t difficult enough, I’m adding another rule…no booze. I haven’t been able to successfully go alcohol-free for more than a week, and now I’m going to attempt to do it for four weeks. Makes me want a glass of wine just thinking about it.
The good thing about this whole situation is that I won’t be going through it alone. AJ has put together an amazing “support group” of advisors and of people who want to change their lives and discover the ultimate benefits of the plant-based whole foods way of eating. Some people in the group have never been on a plant-based diet before, and some others are “junk food vegans,” and some are healthy eaters who just want to continue their path to ultimate health and weight loss. Each week, we’ll be meeting to learn more tips and to discuss the hurdles we’ve had to work on. I became so passionate about this way of eating mainly because of it’s ability to miraculously and drastically change lives, and I can’t wait to see how the individuals in our group respond to the lifestyle change.
As far as experts go, no one is better at preparing plant-based food than Chef AJ, and we’ll have another excellent guide in John Pierre, a 30-year vegan, personal trainer and nutrition expert whose client list includes Ellen Degeneres. JP spoke to us about food and fitness for part of the first session and I picked up some valuable info. Here are a few things he mentioned:
- Animal products aren’t the same as they used to be. The extreme amount of antibiotics and hormones pumped into them affect humans severely. All you have to do is look at how early children are developing these days to see the effect of these hormones.
- 1 hour in the gym does not counteract 23 hours of sitting on your butt. For optimal health, you’ve gotta try to stay active throughout the day – this means getting up from your desk and doing something to get your body moving from time to time – stretching, pushups, it doesn’t really matter. It’s just gotta be something. (I’m a huge believer in this – I’ve got a “standing desk” and a swiss ball at work that I alternate between so I’m rarely sitting down in a regular chair.)
- If you fall off the eating plan or have an unavoidably bad day, don’t worry about it. Just do a “fruit and vegetable day” (just like the cleanse I just did) the following day.
Chef AJ made us a delicious sweet potato chili and some healthy “cornbread” for our final meal before the challenge and I had about 4 bowls of it. It was my one meal in between the cleanse and the challenge so I went HARD. Here’s the chili. If AJ lets me I’ll post the recipe later:
So I’ll be posting about this challenge occasionally and trying to take photos of at least every dinner I make. Here’s what I had last night: Split-pea soup which I made in the pressure cooker (AJ showed us how to do this on Sunday night and it’s unbelievably easy), steamed green beans with a hummus dressing (got the recipe from JP’s website), and barbecued portabello mushrooms (they’re actually baked – just with some no-salt added bbq sauce and extra balsamic vinegar mixed in). Not very fancy looking but it was all quick to make and delicious. I’ll post the split pea soup recipe I made later, it’s a bit different from what AK showed us but it worked out well:
And so I find myself in another challenge, but I’m not too worried about it. The changes I’m making during these 30 days aren’t as dramatic as some other participants in the challenge who are truly overhauling their diets. And if they can do that, I can give up a little booze. Needless to say it’ll be an interesting and inspiring 30 days.