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It’s been just over two weeks since our 28 Day Challenge ended and do we have some news to share with you!  The day after the Challenge ended, Vince did his final weigh in at his work for the Biggest Loser Challenge, and he lost 19 lbs!!  He was so proud of himself…especially since all of his hard work, and food sacrifices, paid off.  But he was left in suspense, for almost a week after that weigh in to see if he was ‘officially’ the winner.  Well, his dues were paid and Vince was crowned the Biggest Loser.  With half of his winnings, and all of the generous contributions from our friends and family, we were able to raise $840 for the Stephen Lewis Foundation!  Amazing!

So now that we’ve had some time to reflect on our experience, we want to share with you what saved us and the biggest lessons learned so that YOU CAN DO IT, TOO.  That’s right, you heard us.  

What saved us:

Mary’s Crackers
These come in a number of flavours, our favourite being black pepper, and it’s made from rice, quinoa and seeds. It goes unbelievably well with hummus.

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Hummus
At first we were buying hummus but then half way through I suggested that Vince make his own using our handy little food processor. Especially since he would go through the entire container in one sitting. Too bad we didn’t learn how to make our own version of Mary’s Crackers!20120414-005758.jpg

Here’s the recipe:

2 cans chick peas
3 tbsp tahini
4 cloves of roasted garlic
1 clove fresh garlic
1 1/2 cups sunflower oil
1 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
2 lemons, juiced
Salt
Pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste but at least 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper.

Vince even added red kidney beans to this recipe and it was delicious, and really colourful too!

Quinoa

If you’ve read this blog, you know we’re crazy over quinoa – even before the Challenge started. Read about our love for quinoa here, here, and here.

Sushi (especially the all-you-can-eat variety)

Although we’re kind of sick of it now, AYCES saved us for the first half of the Challenge. It just felt so indulgent considering all the restrictions we were dealing with.

Royal Gala Apples and ripe bananas

An apple (and a banana) keeps the doctor away…so they say. It also keeps away sugar cravings, too. The Royal Galas are so sweet you don’t even need sugar! As you heard here, Vince would have them for dessert ;)

Gluten-free bread

I did without bread for the first week and a half, then I cracked and needed some morning toast. Queen St Bakery gluten-free bread (available at Noah’s) was the closest I could come to eating real bread. And it gave me a break from the monotony of eating oatmeal every morning.

David’s Tea

This was a somewhat unexpected save….and expense. We started buying a whole lot of tea! The variety of teas they offer was a welcome distraction from the fact that we couldn’t do coffee or black tea and it felt nice to open the cupboard and have all these teas to choose from.

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Fish

All I have to say is, thank goodness we didn’t exclude fish! I didn’t realize this would be such a life-saver during the Challenge. Truth be told, I haven’t eaten so much fish so regularly in my whole life! This was the best realization we had – we need to include more fish in our regular meals.

And last, but certainly not least….

Family, friends and the WP community

Without the support of all of you – through your words of encouragement, helpful suggestions for recipes or places to eat, donations that you made – we really and honestly couldn’t have gotten through those 28 days. We want to thank you for keeping us motivated!!

Knowing that we were doing this Challenge for an amazing cause

The Stephen Lewis Foundation is close to our heart for many reasons – the biggest of which is because we believe that the work they do with grassroots organizations in sub- Saharan Africa has created a substantial impact in communities that are turning the tide of AIDS in Africa. This is why we wanted to raise funds for this incredible organization.

And now….

Lessons learned and why YOU CAN do it!!

1) Plan your meals and keep a snack handy when you are out.

This was a lesson we learned the hard way, but thankfully early on. We quickly realized that we would essentially starve if we didn’t plan what we were eating and inquire in advance where and what we could eat.

In saying that, carrying nuts, a banana or an apple in my purse came in handy on a number if occasions.

2) Eliminating food from your diet is possible (as long as you do the above)

The first thing we hear when we tell people about the 28 Day Challenge is “I could never do something like that.” Well, we used to say that and then we did it. As long as you plan, and get excited about being creative with your meals, it is absolutely possible.

3) Find something to “indulge” in

For us this was two things – sushi and tea. Without that, we would’ve felt deprived and that is the one thing you can’t feel for 28 days (or however long) so make sure you find something to replace what you eliminated, but is still within your parameters.

4) Set your own parameters

Speaking of parameters, set your own at the beginning – are you doing no sugar? Well, does that mean all sugar including natural ones like cane juice, agave or honey? My bestie, Ngan, made us set out parameters right at the beginning but it was on our own terms (hence we said no black tea and coffee instead of no caffeine).

5) Embrace the Challenge and explore foods (and drinks!) you’ve never tried before.

For instance, we’d never eaten rice cakes, and Vince had never really drank club soda.   We also tried recipes we would never think to try – like Red Thai Curry Chili.

6) Surround yourself with people who are willing to support you…not sabotage you.

For me this was not a problem, but for Vince he was doing the 28 Day Challenge in order to win the Biggest Loser Challenge at his work…needless to say, his coworkers also competing in the Challenge would eat steak right in front of his face.  Thankfully, outside of work Vince found the support and encouragement he needed to stay determined to the end.

7) Take on the Challenge with someone

Vince said so many times throughout those 28 Days that he was so grateful I was doing it with him.  I felt exactly the same way.  Not only were we accountable to one another, we were also encouraging each other every step of the way.

So there you have it…all the ingredients you need to take you through your very own version of a 28 Day Challenge!  Since it ended, many have asked us whether we do it again.  Speaking not on behalf of my husband, I would wholeheartedly say yes!  I felt the healthiest I’ve ever felt in my entire life and Vince and I both felt like we had more energy.  Even more so, we both did something we honestly never thought we’d be able to do…and all for a good cause.

The Challenge ended just in time…for birthday season!  Find out how we celebrated in our next post.

With love (and extreme gratitude),

Chef’s Wife