Eating well doesn’t just lead to the belt tightening benefits of a smaller waistline. Good nutrition makes me feel better, more confident and even more masculine… and it only took me 21 days to realize it.

I recently jumped on board with the 21 Day Challenge because I wanted to trim a couple of inches from my waistline. It worked. I lost three inches from my stomach, reset my nutritional habits and learned some valuable lessons along the way.

After three weeks of eating a seriously reduced carbohydrate intake, no refined sugar and a phenomenal amount of healthy vegetables, I now know:

Preparation is key. When you’re reshaping your eating habits it’s easy to underestimate the amount of food preparation required. With the 21 Day Challenge you need 4 -5 meals (plus a protein shake) each day, so batch cooking meals during the weekend (then freezing/refrigerating portions) can really help make life easier. I followed the 21 Day Challenge Recipe Book and also doubled quantities while cooking dinner, creating at least an extra meal for the next day.

There are tough times. Brace yourself (and those close to you) for some “first week grizzles”. You’re likely to go through moments of fatigue, headaches and grumpiness as your body adjusts to getting its fuel source from protein instead of a supply of carbohydrates. It’s best you tell your friends/partner/parents/colleagues what you’re up to, otherwise they may think you’re going crazy. Luckily this normally only lasts for a few days and any negativity evaporates by the end of the first week.

It gets easier. At the beginning of this 21 day fix you’ll find yourself counting down the days, however by the time you get to day ten you’ll be surprised by just how routine the challenge has become. You get into good habits with your meal preparation and the cravings for carbohydrates reduce. It’s honestly amazing feeling the fog suddenly lift from your head and noticing the increased brain power. Seeing your body change shape after week one really encourages you to keep at it. By day 21, you will have probably stopped counting, I even forgot when I was meant to be finished!

Now, with the 21 Day Challenge under my (looser) belt, I have transitioned back to my “normal” diet. I have satisfied my craving for artisan bread and cheese (the only thing I really missed while I was on the challenge) and feel healthier and a lot more nutritionally savvy. Sugary treats no longer have much appeal and I have learnt that toast and cereal aren’t the only breakfast options! Thanks to batch cooking I now eat healthily during the week, and if my discipline ever starts to waver I remind myself how good eating well makes me feel.

Warrick Hunter is a New Zealand based Digital Marketing Analyst who is part of the Les Mills team.

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