Lean In

Yesterday I started reading Kathy Freston’s book The Lean: A Revolutionary (and Simple!) 30-Day Plan for Healthy, Lasting Weight Loss.  Harry Potter series aside, I try to avoid reading anything with a title longer than four words – but when it comes to health and fitness I don’t think that’s a possibility. The only exception is Suzanne Somers’ books like Forever Sexy. 

The book is around 350 pages and I’m 120 pages into it after a day, though most people who pick it up for the first time may follow the program and only read one section a day for 30 days. I’m choosing to read each section/day and consider the changes she’s suggesting to do, which so far are simple and make sense. One thing I particularly like about the book is that she takes time to focus on the emotional aspect of undergoing a lifestyle change. I have picked up way too many “diet” books that don’t take into account the range of emotions people feel when going through change, which can lead to early failure. “I’m such an idiot! I can’t even cut out all sources of sugar from my diet starting on day one! I accidentally put jam on my toast! This is impossible, why even try?”

Freston is a vegan but she doesn’t make you eliminate all animal products all at once – making it easy for the average person to gradually ease in to it and see the health benefits of dropping them from your diet. This is the approach typically suggested to people who are considering going vegetarian or vegan – ease in to it by dropping certain products one at a time until you have eventually rid yourself of all of them. If you do it all at once cold turkey then you’re more likely to fail at handling such a big lifestyle change. 

I can understand why meat-eaters would be opposed to trying this – if you look at the reviews on Amazon you’ll read the low-rating reviews are basically all from people who eat meat who feel like they were tricked into going vegan. HOWEVER, this is not a new approach: I highly doubt that people who went on the Atkins Diet ate that much meat every day prior to starting the diet. I really don’t think people who do the master cleanse already drank those lemon and cayenne pepper concoctions on a daily basis. The entire point of trying a new “diet” is to TRY something new, something different from your lifestyle, and see what your results are. At the end of the 30 days bring a little meat or dairy back into your life if you really desire to – but really this is about introducing more greens and produce in general into our diets because the truth is that most of us don’t get enough of them and we rely on fast food or processed food. This is the reality. Simple. Not easy.

I am vegetarian so I already apply many of the stages to my daily life, such as swapping out dairy milk for substitutes like almond or soy milk, but I can also do better in aspects like eliminating all cheeses in favor of a vegan “cheese” substitute. Day one starts out so simple but not easy for me (because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life it’s that just because the answer is simple doesn’t mean it’s easy): drink more water. No, this is not breakthrough science but I know that I and many of my friends do not drink enough water every day. A rule of thumb is to take your body weight and divide it in half for the ounces of water you should drink every day – though this varies depending on your level of daily exercise. Okay. Drink more water. I can do this. 

I’m not finished with the book so I don’t want to give an overall review/rating of it, but so far roughly half way through it’s one of the best nutrition-related reads I’ve experienced, though there are times she dumbs things down too much or uses way too many exclamation points. I don’t want to judge her too much on this because there’s a fine line of wanting your information to be accessible/relatable to the average person and not wanting it to sound like a science class textbook. 

So far, it seems like almost everyone could benefit from adopting at least some of her tips. Like I said before, I know many people who don’t drink any water during the day and I also know many Junk Food Vegetarians/Vegans who may not consume animal products but they also don’t consume a healthy diet – because much of the junk food available in the grocery/vending machine is vegan so it’s easy for them to make the same unhealthy mistakes as a meat-eater. 

I will accept a 30-day Lean In challenge after I’ve finished reading the book and give a final review/update then. I even took “Before Photos” of myself looking terrible in a swimsuit and up close of my face to see if I notice a difference in my complexion. People always talk about getting a glow when they eat clean. I want to glow.  In the meantime, this is what keeps me drinking another water: I need to drink at least two of him a day. Challenge Accepted. 

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