I Gave Up Exercise for 2 Weeks and Got In the Best Shape of My Life
I've never dieted in my life. I live by the 80-20 rule—eat healthy 80 percent of the time, let less healthy foods slide 20 percent of the time (okay, okay maybe my rule is more like 60-40).
I also work out a lot (usually five to seven days a week), so I never felt bad about indulging with friends on the weekend or stress-eating during the week (read: protein bar binges; we have a lot of bars here at Shape HQ).
But when Jamba Juice and celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak challenged me to try the Body Reset Diet (sound familiar? You may have seen it on Khloé Kardashian's Revenge Body), I was intrigued. (A two-week diet to reset my protein bar habit? How bad could that be?) So I signed on.
How the diet works: The first five days, I'd eat three small Super Blend smoothies (made with fresh ingredients such as kale, Greek yogurt, lemon, raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries); two Pasternak-approved "crunchy snacks" (more on that below); and at least five liters of water a day. In phase two, I'd swap one smoothie for one 'S' meal (sandwich, stir-fry, scramble, or soup) from Pasternak's The Body Reset Diet book. And the last five days, I was down to just one smoothie a day and two 'S' meals.
The reset also challenged me to get seven hours of sleep a night, unplug from all screens for an hour, and hit 12,000 steps a day without working out. (Exercise makes you hungrier, so Pasternak suggests laying low during the reset so you can better combat cravings.)
The food I could handle, but the lack of working out troubled me. I hadn't taken a workout hiatus like this since a family trip to Paris in 2015. And even then I was doing lunges on every set of stairs I could find. I worried for my family, friends, and coworkers. (A hangry Marietta was one thing, but a benched Marietta was going to be unbearable.)
Regardless, I alerted family, friends, and fellow goal-crushers in Shape's private FB group of my new challenge and vowed that I was going to Instastory my whole journey to hold myself accountable.
And I'm not going to lie, the food and workout FOMO was real, but so were the results. After 15 days, I lost 5 pounds and a total of 5 inches in my waist, thighs, arms, and butt. My skin was clear, my cravings were under control (I had one KIND Bar—that's it!), and I could fall asleep more easily (new body, who dis?).
But taking a step back to look at my diet and exercise habits also provided some eye-opening insight about my body and my health. Here are four of the biggest lessons I learned.
#1 I wasn't as fit as I thought.
According to Pasternak, blasting calories for an hour a day at kickboxing won't reverse the damage from sitting the rest of the day. While I never thought of myself as sedentary (how could I be when I'm working out five to seven times a week?), I rarely hit 10,000 steps a day.
On Pasternak's no-workout plan, I was always moving. To hit 12,000 steps a day, I would walk 2 miles with my dog in the morning, walk 1.5 miles from the bus station to work, walk 1.5 to 2 miles to Jamba for lunch (then back to the office), then walk from work to the bus station, logging the final 1,000 or so steps around the house.
Walking this much wasn't just a physical challenge but a mental one. (Actually, paying attention to that little "move now!" buzz of my Fitbit was a habit I had to work hard to create). But as the days went on, I got good about moving throughout the day. In fact, by the last two days of the reset, Pasternak even challenged me to take 14,000 steps a day. Moving throughout the day instead of just during a workout class helped keep my mind busy, too. I soon forgot about the snack drawer, and those midday walks at lunch really broke up the day. I never once felt that stress that used to kick-start my binges. The best part? I fell asleep more easily. I used to be a "toss and turn on Instagram" person, making it impossible to sleep, so this was a HUGE change for me. I would typically take HIIT classes in the evening, so I'd be wired at night and would stay up until 2 a.m. and then wake up at 6 a.m., which left me tired, stressed, and craving—you guessed it—protein bars. Plus, TBH, walking 12-14K steps a day on a reduced-calorie diet, I was genuinely tired, and I knew that the faster I fell asleep, the earlier I got to eat in the morning.
#2 My portions were way off.
Before this reset, I always thought I ate healthfully. But as it turns out, even though I was eating healthy staples (avocado toast, baby carrots, low-fat cheese, Greek yogurt), my portions were way off.
Pasternak says that per serving, we should aim for a hand-size amount of protein (lean turkey or chicken, tofu, black beans); a palm full of fiber (fruits, whole grain, or legumes); and healthy fats (hummus without any oils, or avocado, nuts, or chia seeds) about the size of the distance from the tip of your thumb to the base of your thumb.
This blew my mind. No wonder I was starving after I'd had my Greek yogurt—I didn't have any fiber to make it a complete snack. (A lemon ricotta crostini topped with arugula and edamame from Pasternak's book, I learned, provided the right amount of fats, protein, and veggies to keep me full.)
#3 Thirst can be disguised as hunger.
Pasternak told me early on that thirst is actually often mistaken as hunger. So throughout this process, I really learned to analyze my hunger. I got in the habit of asking myself, 'When was the last time you ate?' or 'When was the last time you drank water?' If I thought I was a little low on fluids, I'd make some tea or drink a glass of water. And like magic, I wouldn't be hungry anymore, I felt more energized without the jitteriness that coffee can give me sometimes (a love-hate relationship) and my skin was clear thanks to giving up those sugary protein bar binges.
#4 You *can* get a nutritious meal on-the-go.
When I signed up for the reset, I feared that the smoothies would be filled with processed ingredients and packed with sugar, but I was pleasantly surprised that each had fresh ingredients that created a balanced meal. Plus, Jamba Juice lets you mix and match ingredients if you don't see an exact blend you like, or if you prefer, say, spinach to peanut butter. (You'll want to check this out to make sure you aren't accidentally blending up on a sugar- or calorie-bomb smoothie, though.) So, I learned that just because a food was a "fast" meal, it wasn't automatically unhealthy. Jamba's Super Blend Smoothies are filled with apples, berries, chia, pumpkin seeds, cucumber, and spinach. Even more: Since finishing my smoothie reset, I stop by at least once a week just because it is so convenient (and because I may or may not be addicted to the PB 'N Jealous).
My reset results: Yes, I had exercise FOMO from time to time, but I walked away feeling stronger and looking leaner than ever. One of the main reasons Pasternak says not to work out on the Body Reset Diet: Exercise tends to super charge the appetite, making those cravings that much more noticeable. By not working out, I didn't have that "I earned this" mentality that I usually had post-class. Now, I've dropped that feeling that if I miss a workout, my day is shot, and I might as well eat whatever I want. In fact, I'm still working out less than before I started and have maintained my weight. Instead, when I oversleep or feel too sore to make it to a class, I just know to incorporate movement throughout my day and do #mypersonalbest to hit those 12,000—er, 14,000—steps a day. I focus on fueling my body with the right stuff and the right proportions. After all, eating right, moving more, unplugging, and trying to get a full seven hours of sleep is a workout.
This article originally appeared on Shape.com.