Well, here we are...Week 6 of my Cooking Light Diet challenge. Although I didn't hit my goal weight of 185-190 lbs. (only myself to blame there, but we'll get to that), I learned a lot, and I had a lot of fun. Here are the five biggest takeaways from my experience.
1. Cooking really is cathartic. This isn't something I've put out in the universe that often, but I suffer from depression. Sometimes it gets really bad, to the point that I don't want to do anything or be around anyone, and feel like I've fallen down an endlessly dark and inescapable well. It sucks. And I found that, when I was at that low point, cooking these meals truly helped. It gave me a sense of purpose. It made me feel like I was accomplishing something. Because I was! So many people become chefs because it's such a gratifying experience. You're taking all of these ingredients, combining them—sometimes in ways that you would never imagine—and the end result is this beautiful, delicious, fulfilling, life-sustaining meal. It's amazing, really. Before this six-week challenge, I honestly never would've considered that cooking could pull me up by the bootstraps from the hole I dig myself when I'm depressed, but it absolutely does. And I love that I discovered that through this process. So I've learned that cooking for myself, and cooking for friends, is cathartic. And it's something I'll continue doing beyond these six weeks, especially when I'm alone and depression strikes. This lesson alone is more invaluable than any pounds I could've shed. So my goal of being a lot happier has been realized through this challenge.
2. If you follow the plan, IT WORKS. Fact. If you stick to your menus, the Cooking Light Diet works. I let off the gas post-vacation because of my jobs and schedule, but if I would've followed my plan to a "T" for the entirety of the six weeks, I 100% would've lost the 20 pounds I set out to lose. And let's get one thing straight... I'm human. Of course there were moments of weakness—Reese's Cups from the snack machine, two extra beers after a 12-hour Saturday shift at the brewery, et cetera. Like I've said, life happens.
That being said, I still managed to lose 10 pounds in six weeks, and maintain that loss. My extra chin-skin is no longer there. I can pick up something off the floor wearing a T-shirt without giving anyone behind me a chance to crack a crack joke [think about it]. Following the Cooking Light Diet for six weeks helped me get from 205 pounds to 195* and stay there. And it also taught me how to shed the last 10 pounds I'm looking to lose. So I know the Cooking Light Diet works. I've known that for a while, but it's affirmation for anyone looking to cook more, lose weight, maintain weight, or just become more organized and not have to worry about what's for dinner. Or breakfast. Or lunch. Or even snacks. Yes, I'm partial. But if you stick with this, you will see results.
3. You are your own accounta-bilibuddy. Just dovetailing on the above regarding moments of weakness. I've known this for a while, but no one can make you do anything you don't want to do. They can't. We've all been given this lovely gift called willpower, and how we choose to wield it is entirely up to us. I asked you all in my initial post to be my accounta-bilibuddy on this journey, but really no one could've made me cook. I had to. No one made me exercise more while I was doing this, either, and because of my schedule I told myself I didn't have the time. But it was up to me to make the time. So that's another powerful lesson I've learned: It might be hard to start something new, especially if it involves changing your habits, but no one else can force you to do it. If you're trying to change the way you eat, you have to make that commitment to yourself. We are our own worst enemies, but we can also be our own best assets. Choose the latter, and follow through on your own. You're the only one that can.
4. New is good! I am a creature of habit. If something works, I tend to stick with it. But this six-week challenge has encouraged me to extend myself beyond the normal meals I used to cook. In these six weeks, I've discovered the beauty of almond sauce. Oh, man—so good! I've learned that I can make my own buttermilk-based salad dressing that knows no restaurant equal. I now know how to make the singularly most amazing soup recipe I've ever had. I've realized that I'll never for the rest of my years buy another boxed macaroni recipe—I can make better myself, thank you kindly. I found my new favorite taco recipe. I finally understand the importance of fresh ingredients, and my herb and container gardens have grown accordingly. In summation, I've learned that shrugging off the mundane normalcy that was my limited recipe wheelhouse has been revelatory and invigorating. New isn't just good... it's great!
5. It really isn't a diet. It's a lifestyle. I've had so many of our community members say this that it's become a mantra for the Cooking Light Diet, but it really isn't a diet. It's a new way to cook, and eat, and live. It's a commitment, sure, and it definitely takes work. But anything worth doing does. This is no quick-fix. There are no claims of shedding X amount of pounds in Y amount of days. No one is saying you need to eat only rice cakes and drink only lemon-cayenne water. The Cooking Light Diet is all about eating the foods you like to eat—pizza, pasta, burgers, tasty salads—but the recipes are lighter than normal (without sacrificing taste and flavor), and portion sizes are meant to satiate one human, not three.
It's a lifestyle that arms you with a plan and a means to better organize your mealtimes, and for that matter life in general. Again, I'm not alone in this realization. And I'll stress again: It does take work. But it's so much more than a one-off. It's a life plan, and it's one that I'll continue to come back to whether I want to keep these ten pounds off, lose more, be inspired with new menu options, organize my week when I'm in a time crunch, make shopping easier, and on and on. If you're looking for a healthier way to eat, a better way to eat, and you're tired of all the diets and the fads and the other non-sustainable meal plans, I behoove you to try the Cooking Light Diet. It really is a life changer.
Cheers, and thanks for reading!
*Members following the Cooking Light Diet, on average, lose more than half a pound per week.
More in Matthew's 6-Week Journey: