5 Things I Learned From My Empty Calorie Challenge

By Janelle @ Run With No Regrets | nutrition

Aug 09

Have you ever tried to lose a few pounds during the summer?  It’s tough!

For 4 weeks between July and August, I participated in an Empty Calorie Challenge as recommended by my dietitian.  Because I gained a few pounds between my visits in May and July , I and wanted to take action and reign in some of my poor dietary habits.  I’ve shared my experience on the blog in my weekly wrap’s, and now that I’ve completed the challenge, I’m sharing 5 things that I learned during the process!

I’m linking up with  SusieDebbieLora, and Rachel for the Running Coaches Corner, AnnmarieNicole, and Jen for Wild Workout Wednesday, and  Running on Happy and Fairytales and Fitness for the Friday 5 2.0!

Want to stay away from empty calories? Here's what I learned after 4 weeks of the empty calorie… Click To Tweet

For 4 weeks I did a no empty calorie challenge - refraining from alcohol and junk food. Here's what I learned in the process!

Empty Calorie Challenge – 5 Lessons Learned

First off, what is an Empty Calorie Challenge?  For 4 weeks, I had to consciously avoid eating foods that are high in calories but lack actual nutrients.  Empty calorie foods tend to be high in fat and/or sugar; they include the things that you would expect:  cake, candy, cookies, chips, fried food, soda, alcohol.

I was granted one “cheat day” where I could eat whatever I wanted, and trust me…I used it!  I think that helped me stay the course.  So now that the challenge is over, let me share what I’ve learned!

Meal Prep is Key to Success

Weekly meal prep has been something that has alluded for me at least the past 3 years.  I have tried so hard to be consistent when it comes to meal planning, but it’s tough when you’re busy and even tougher when you’re unmotivated.

Doing the Empty Calorie Challenge forced me to get back in the mindset of planning my meals for the week.  Since there were so many things I had to avoid eating (like white bread, for example), I couldn’t lean on picking up take-out for lunch.  I needed to have fruits and homemade snacks readily available to ensure that I resisted temptation.  My best week was the first week; I had lots of good, healthy food to choose from and I was whipping up smoothies and breakfasts like a pro.  But by the third week, I was slacking off and cutting corners. This challenge really showed me how important meal prep can be if you’re working on improving your nutrition!

Writing Things Down Keep You Honest

It’s very easy to say that you’re changing your diet, but writing down what you’re actually eating is very eye-opening.  During the empty calorie challenge, I used some food tracking inserts in my Passion Planner and wrote down my meals and the times that I ate to keep myself honest.

Since I’ve worked with Danielle for over 4 years now, writing things down wasn’t new for me, but for the challenge, it was very helpful to see my eating patterns in one place, such as what time would I usually eat dinner, or when would I eat a second snack for the day.  While I have already stopped writing down my meals, I would definitely recommend doing it on occasion to monitor the good, bad, and ugly!

I Use Empty Calories to Relieve Stress

Have you heard of being an “emotional eater”?  Guilty!  And if I wasn’t sure of it, doing the Empty Calorie Challenge proved it! Unfortunately, I had more than a few days during the challenge where I had a lot of stress and personal issues.  Do you know how hard it was to NOT grab a beer out the fridge or drown my sorrows in the closest junk food I could find?  But I was able to weather those storms and I’m proud of myself.

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You don’t have to overweight to have this sort of relationship with food…I know that some people balked when I explained this about myself, but hey…we all have our weaknesses!  It’s best to be self-aware, so doing this challenge was very enlightening in that regard.

Restrictive “Diets” Can Be Maddening

I have so much admiration for people who are vegetarian or vegan.  They have entire food groups that they do not eat and I respect their reasons for doing so; it’s a lifestyle change.  But when it comes to temporarily restricting certain foods from your diet to “detox” or lose a few pounds…it can really drive you nuts.

I went through all kinds of highs and lows during the Empty Calorie Challenge.  There were points when I asked myself “Is this really worth it?”  I was miserable at times because I had to face the fact that I willingly gave up my freedom to enjoy certain treats.  I couldn’t drink at the social events I attended. And it was tough to get any sympathy because I “look skinny”.  When I tried to explain my reasons for doing the challenge, I got a lot of eye rolls because of my appearance.

Despite all of that, I’m glad I went through the process.  One month is a long time to dedicate to changing your habits, but if I had only done the challenge for 1 or 2 weeks, it would not have made as much of an impact on my life.

Changing My Habits Doesn’t Just Affect Me…

If you live with other people, it’s shouldn’t be a surprise that what you do doesn’t just affect you, it affects everyone, whether you want it to or not.  Now I would love to say that doing the Empty Calorie Challenge inspired my family to make better choices, but honestly, I think they were more annoyed that I kept talking about what I couldn’t eat.  Sorry about that!

I would have loved to make the challenge a team effort.  But I had my own personal reasons for doing the challenge and I don’t think it’s right to try to force your views or habits on anyone else.  It wouldn’t have been fair if I got upset that Bret continued to drink his beers or my sister enjoyed an Auntie Anne’s pretzel from the mall (though at least she tried to make sure I didn’t see it!).  What they ate made me think about my habits, and hopefully, it caused them to do the same reflecting as they watched me go through this “journey”.

Would I Do the Empty Calorie Challenge Again?

I thought about this question, and I have to be honest…I don’t think I could go through this challenge again!  I think it was a good way to reset and to get away from my stress eating of unhealthy food, but the lack of freedom for such a long time was really tough on me.  I haven’t weighed myself yet, so I don’t even know if I lost those 4 pounds that precipitated this whole process!  But in any event, I’m proud that I was able to make it through the Empty Calorie Challenge.  I recommend trying it out for maybe a week to learn a little bit more about yourself and get away from all of the junk food if it’s starting to get out of hand!

Would you ever do an empty calorie challenge?

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