UPDATED (updates at bottom)
Well, I’ve settled on it. I’m going to embark on one of the tougher challenges of my life. I’ve hiked 100 miles in 10 days. This will be harder. I completed a Doctoral Program in less than 24 months with 2 jobs, a wife, and a kid. This will be harder.
Over the next 7 months I will be cutting out something I LOVE each month. It’s not cumulative meaning at the end of the month I can bring back the thing I cut out (but hopefully now with more moderation.)
This challenge was birthed out of 2 separate things I’ve been dealing with. First, I’ve been gaining weight consistently over the past 20 years. In fact, I’m like a metronome. I gain almost exactly 4 lbs every year without fail. That might not sound like a ton, but in another 20 years I’ll have gained another 80-lbs. Best-case scenario, I’ll make it on the Biggest Loser, and worst-case I’m on My 600-lb Life. So, in 2017 I started running. I did a Couch-to-5K Program which I completed in March. (It was supposed to take 9-weeks and took me 9-months… but the point is I completed it.) I’m still running some, but not as much, but hope to get back into it more regularly once we get some nice 90-degree fall weather here. The next thing I did is cut out all soda for 2018. It was my New Year’s Resolution so to speak. I’ve tried to limit my soda consumption in the past, but apparently I do better with just all or nothing. So I went from drinking approx. 1,600 calories of Dr. Pepper per day… to zero. I haven’t had one sip of soda in 9 months. I still want a soda occasionally but I see how much it has freed me. But as much as I LOVED Dr. Pepper, there are some other things I love more. I lost some weight in January and February (almost 16 lbs) but I gained it all back, slowly but surely. I’m right back to where I started.
The other issue I’ve been dealing with is trying to help people overcome addictions. As a pastor, if you are willing to ask the hard questions, you will find all sorts of struggles people are dealing with. I praise the Lord that I’ve never really been addicted to any substance. I also praise the Lord that I’ve overcome the one thing I felt truly addicted to for many years, pornography. I at least can somewhat relate to people wanting to stop something and just feeling like they didn’t have the power to do so. But substance abuse is still different in many ways. Personally, I’ve never been addicted to alcohol; in fact I’ve only accidently drank alcohol like 2 or 3 times in my life. (Sometimes people think you’re kidding when you order a Virgin Daiquiri.) I’ve never smoked (anything). I’ve never taken illegal drugs. I did have a prescription for Tylenol with Codeine when I got my wisdom teeth taken out; I did not do well. I don’t say any of this to brag. In fact, I praise God for protecting me, because I honestly think I have a pretty addictive personality. There are some things I’m obsessed with. They’re just not looked down on in society as a whole.
I’m calling this “My 1 Corinthians 6:12 Challenge” because what it says is, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” I think some things have mastery over me. I think that fits well within the definition for an idol. I clearly identified 7 things that I think are Idols in my life. Now, I don’t think I really worship these things. But when I think about losing them I kinda freak out a little. And then that freaks me out a little more. If I really don’t think I can live without something, doesn’t that thinghave control over me? Aren’t I a slave to that thing? I don’t look at any of these 7 things I’m eliminating month-by-month as sin in and of themselves. They just have too many roots in my being. It feels like to rip them out will kill me. I know that’s not true. It just feels that way. I don’t want anything mastering me that way except for the One and Only Master of the Universe – The God-Man Himself – Jesus Christ.
So here are My 7 Deadly Sins. I’ve dedicated one month over the next 7-months to eliminate each of these thingsfrom my life. Once it no longer holds mastery over me, I hope I can enjoy these things responsibly, but if I can’t, at least I’ll know I can completely eliminate them from my life.
No Added Sugar October
This means no candy (sad face), no ice cream (whimper), no cookies (actual tears). This means I can’t have Chick-fil-a Sauce or Honey Mustard… both have added sugar (ahhh!). In all honestly, I think I have to adjust at least 25-30% of what I eat. Now, I can have fruit, because it’s not processed. God made it that way. I can also have honey and pure maple syrup; but nothing with added sugar. I’m worried just about my natural reactions. I see a bowl with skittles, I feel like I’ll just react off of muscle memory. But I will spit it out, if I make a mistake. Pray for Me.
No News November
This means no news radio, no cable news, and especially no Social Media. Go to Settings on your phone. Scroll down to Battery Life. Then toggle it to show the amount of activity on each app. I’m on Facebook an obscene amount. I also get all worked-up by Politicians that live 2,000 miles away despite the real impact on my life being very minimal. There’s always going to be another “crisis” for me to care about. Part of me is looking forward to No News November, but I can see by the nearly 2-hours-a-day I spend on Social Media that I might go through withdrawal.
I love cheese. I can’t even express to you how much I love cheese. Now unfortunately ice cream gets thrown under the bus on this one too, but the real purpose of this one is to cut out cheese. I’m sure I’ll discover other foods I like that has dairy in it too (like pop-tarts, yeah, that has dairy in it for some reason.) But no cheese is gonna hurt. Mac & Cheese… I will miss thee. Cheeseburgers… I will miss thee. Cheese making vegetables tolerable… I will miss thee. Mac & Cheese… I will… wait, I think I did that one already. Queso dip at Chilli’s… I will miss thee. Grilled Cheese…. I will miss thee. Lasagna… I will miss thee. And of course, how can I forget, Mac & Cheese… I will miss, miss, miss thee.
Just-Say-No to Carbs January
This is the Mac-Daddy of Challenges. This is close to cruel and unusual punishment. This is the ultimate test of will power. I love all things carbohydrate – and I’m specifically targeting the Starches. I LOVE bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, and the like. They are such a staple to me. I hope people understand what I’m giving up. I will have to set-aside my identity as an Italian-American. Once you surpass 24-hours of no pasta, you are put on probation. After 72-hours, you’re no longer Italian (until you eat at least a serving of Angel Hair with red sauce while wearing a white undershirt.) I’m going to lose my olive colored skin and the dark circles under my eyes. By the end of the month my nose will have shrunk and I’ll stop using my hands to speak. But there’s no doubt, I’m addicted to Carbs, and I don’t want to be addicted to anything.
No Fast-food February
This even includes Chick-fil-a which should not be in the same category as McDonalds and Burger King. But I’m even including places like Jersey Mikes and Subway, even though they aren’t purely fast-food places. I eat soooo much junk (at McDonalds especially.) I love burgers and fries and chicken nuggets and milkshakes, and I have a feeling that just smoking a pack of cigarettes a day might be healthier for me. I’m always on the run, and always hungry, and so I just grab something fried and greasy for convenience. I don’t eat super healthy at home, but definitely way better than when I grab fast food. This is going to take some serious planning though. If I’m 30 min past a scheduled mealtime, I feel like my stomach is sucking up against my spine trying to absorb nutrients.
I’m not really sure which month will be the hardest. I could make a case for 3 or 4 of them and this one might prove to be the hardest. I’m definitely a carnivore. I think I usually have a meat for every meal. Sometimes not for breakfast, but I can’t think of the last lunch or dinner where I didn’t have meat. For shear weight, I think it might be the most amount of food I eat. In a vacuum, I actually am really anti the animal agricultural practices we have in this country. I think we are torturing animals for me to consume. The problem is… they are just so delicious. I’ll eat any animal that’s cooked. I mean it. I’ll eat anything that has a face. I just wish everything was free-range, happy, and enjoyed their life until they were unexpectedly and painlessly killed and served to me medium rare within a few hours. More than any other food group, I’ve heard that when you go without meat for a while that it doesn’t taste the same when you go back.
No Amusement April
I almost named this No Entertainment Epril but I thought “Epril” would confuse people in my desire to alliterate everything. This means no Netflix or anything else on Roku (I already don’t have cable.) This means no videos on Facebook or Youtube, and no video games (which presently just means no Clash of Clans because I have no time to play anything else. This also means, I’m going to miss the start of baseball season (fortunately they have 162,000 games.) But my real Amusement of choice are movies. So I won’t watch any movies on DVD or streaming, but I have one caveat. I can still go to the movies with Amanda. I don’t want to lose out on a date night with her or miss something she wants to see. But she has to pick the movie. This means I might get to see Shazaam, but I have a feeling I’m going to have to wait till May to see the reboot of Hellboy. (I hope MoviePass still exists by May.) I just need to take a month and eliminate screen time.
Well, that’s it – My 7 Deadly Sins. I want to invite you to join in with me. You probably should pick your own 7 things to eliminate but you can just copy me if you want ;)
Follow my blog and like this article and I think you’ll get updates as I make changes. Otherwise, come back to this page at the end of each month and I’ll write about my experiences. Pray for me. I’ll pray for you if you comment. Let the 1 Corinthians 6:12 Challenge… Begin.
Completed 10/31/18 No Added Sugar October
So I did it. First month down. I ate no sugar for a month! Here were the 5 toughest things:
1) No cookies at subway. The sandwiches didn’t even taste right knowing I wasn’t going to eat a soft, chewy cookie afterward.
2) No chick-fil-sauce for my nuggets. All sauces have sugar in them. It’s crazy.
3) Even crazier is that all crackers have sugar too. Why do crackers have sugar???
4) Everybody at work has candy on their desks and I normally ate hundreds of calories of that stuff every day.
5) I wanted a milkshake sooo bad sooo many times after a tough day. It’s my favorite mental health therapist apparently.
I was pretty hungry all the time because I just wasn’t eating as much as I used to. I wish I could say I would then go eat a celery or apple chip. But more often then not it was Doritos or potato skins. So needless to say, I didn’t lose weight or anything. But that wasn’t the main idea anyway.
Completed 11/30/18 No News November
I did it! Almost no problem. Well I suppose I followed the spirit of the law if not the letter. So here’s why I would give myself a B-. Let me start where I did good. I watched no cable news shows nor listened to any talk radio. And we had an election so that was tough. Also, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, and all my favorite news and sports sites were shoved in a folder, hidden from view. I really only missed them when I was pooping (but I suppose that means I missed them a lot.)
Now for why I’m not giving myself an “A.” I wish my abandonment of social media meant I was on my phone way less, but the truth is I just played more Clash of Clans and watched more Netflix and Hulu. I went through like 12 seasons of various shows. I wish I could have said my bible reading shot up too. But alas, it did not :( No need to shame me. I’m fully ashamed. I also caught a decent amount of “incidental news.” Remember when you were taking a spelling test in elementary school and you were just stretching a bit when you happen to catch a glimpse of your neighbors quiz because their folder fort wasn’t overlapped. You couldn’t help what you saw and you can’t unsee it, so you write down the correct answer. Was it cheating? Well, it’s hard to say “no” to that question. I saw news when going on Yahoo, when looking up info on IMDB, and when looking up football scores. I also Google searched for election results. I determined that was “information” and not “news” if I didn’t read any of the commentary. Now you might call that cheating so I docked myself 7 pts. But, no doubt I passed. I might not have gotten and “A” but news certainly doesn’t have dominion over me. I used to think it was important to stay up to date on current events, but honestly when you just don’t pay attention to all that stuff, it definitely seems to matter less and less. If politics are driving you nuts, I think you should try just cutting out all media for a few weeks. It kind of resets you. Maybe your experience will be different than mine, but maybe not. Maybe it will bring you some peace as well.
Completed 12/31/18 Dairy-Free December
This was a challenging one for sure, but made it through mostly unscathed.
The Good: At least there are a ton of foods I like without cheese. Especially Chinese food doesn’t really have dairy in it. I never really ran into an issue with there being at least something to eat that I liked. I ate a lot of Subway and the Italian BLT doesn’t need cheese to still kinda taste like a pizza. And I don’t think this is an exaggeration to say, Oreo’s saved my life. Somehow, by the Power of Greyskull, Oreo’s are dairy free! After spending at hour reading ingredients in the snack aisle at Publix, I felt like a caller on the Dave Ramsey Show… They’re Dairy Free!!!!
The Bad: Not eating Mac & Cheese, Alfredo, and Pizza was definitely noticed. I have each of those at least once a week and I definitely craved them at times. I didn’t eat at Olive Garden even once. But as before, getting past the first week is the toughest. There’s some foods you miss, then some you are just surprised have dairy (like chips, all candy bars, and my beloved Christmas Tree Cakes.) But then you get into a routine.
The Ugly: I made 1 mistake twice. It was purely out of ignorance, there was no label and I just had no idea. I ate caramel. Once it was caramel popcorn, and once it was dark chocolate and caramel bar. My wife just starred at me like I was an idiot. She knows I have ZERO tolerance when it comes to these challenges. I’m ALL IN. She’s like, “dude, caramel is just condensed milk and sugar.” I really had no idea. I thought of it as it’s own elf-like food group. Candy, Candy Cane, Candy Corn, Caramel, and Syrup.
So onto my Great White Whale – Carbs.
Completed 1/31/19 Just-Say-No to Carbs January
Well I just did science. I ate copious amounts of food. I ate late at night. I ate sugar (that didn’t have flour, wheat, etc). I didn’t work out or ran at all for the whole month (that wasn’t the plan, I was just a mix of busy, cold, and eating.) So basically, I ate NO starchy carbs. I ate a ton of meat, eggs, and finally a normal daily serving of vegetables. I lost 14 lbs in 31 days. I didn’t lose any energy, have headaches, or anything like that. I kind of enjoyed the creativity in cooking, but I didn’t enjoy hardly ever being able to eat anywhere. Just as with all the challenges, the first couple days was the hardest. My wife brought me to Cheesecake Factory like on day 2. That’s like making an Italian swim in chicken parmesan and telling him to keep his mouth closed. (That’s a terrible illustration, my wife ate the best looking chicken parmesan I’ve ever seen in my life. I always thought I couldn’t smell but when you aren’t eating carbs, you smell every one of those delicious foodular molecules.)
But in the end, I slayed the beast. My food bill almost doubled (steak and mushrooms costs more than mac and cheese), but now I know I can do it. So if I ever want to lose the 75 extra pounds I carry around (my legs are incredibly muscular), I at least know I can do it. I’m not sure I can do it in moderation, but I know I can eliminate any starch completely.
Completed 2/28/19 No Fast-food February
This was the easiest one yet. Replacement choices was all I had to do most days. It wasn’t usually hard. In fact is was sometimes downright delicious. Instead of McDonalds, I got BurgerFi. Instead of Chick-fil-a, I had Koizi (Japanese Hibachi.) The only day that was tough was Wednesday. Because I didn’t eat fast-food, I didn’t eat until like 9 o’clock at night. So basically, I almost died 4 times. Too make this challenge tougher I would said, I couldn’t eat out at all. Eek. That would have been tough.
Now before I even began Meatless March, I decided to not only break that fleshy fast in the first 2 days, but I decided to absolutely obliterate it. Once a year, there is a Feast of a Thousand Beasts called the Wild Game Dinner. There’s two dozen different types of meat in an all-you-can-eat-buffet. I’m here to tell you… I couldn’t resist it. I don’t really feel bad because I made up the challenged based on random decisions in our solar calendar. So I’ll go from March 3 to April 3. No big deal. Right? Right. I’m pretty sure that’s right.
Completed 4/2/19 Meatless March
Done! A few months ago if you would have asked me what I like more – pasta or meat? I would have said that would be like choosing my favorite child. I love all my kids, sometimes I love one more than another but there’s always love there. Wait are we talking about my kids or food groups? Well, I can tell you unequivocally that after a month of carblessness and a month without those tasty delicious animals, that my favorite kid is meat. Don’t get me wrong, I love pasta and french fries and the like, but man did I crave something else on my plate at every meal. I just felt like I was gumming my food after a while. Just to eat some sort of sandwich I’d get the veggie patty at Subway (which was ok); and the Beyond plant-based burger at BurgerFi (which I guess tasted like a crappy burger.) But nothing beats the variety, the texture, and the sustenance of MEAT! So the challenge wasnt hard logistically, there’s always something bready to eat everywhere you go. And there aren’t like hidden meats in food you had no idea about. It’s just a bit depressing to not have pepperoni on pizza or bacon in your eggs or ham in your sandwich. It’s like all the color drained out of the world.
On to the final deadly sin (I already started.) Entertainment… I’m coming for you!
Completed 4/30/19 No Amusement April
On second thought, I like no Entertainment Epril. So I’m gonna give myself a C-. Just like all my college students who start out the year working hard, they ultimately end the year coasting then realizing they can’t undo their lack of focus at the last minute. So this is where I docked myself points. Although, I was allowing myself Facebook, I should have quickly scrolled past any video. However, saying I lingered a little long sometimes would be an understatement. I didn’t watch Netflix or anything like that on my phone, but Amanda having shows on in the background certainly caught a peeking eye and listening ear. I know I was paying attention because I kept asking my wife Amanda questions about Criminal Minds like, “Where’s Hotch?” “Whoa, where’s my man Morgan?” “Is that supposed to be the new Morgan?” And my kids watched a surprising number of Beethoven’s and now I’m aware that Judge Reinhold really will do anything for a paycheck. Now for the real malfeasance. I stipulated that I could go to a movie on a date with Amanda. So that’s no problem. However, 4 days ago a plan was made. Tickets were purchased. Anticipation was built. But then, tragedy struck! My lovely wife got sick. My wife said to go on without her. I offered an obligatory, “you sure?” But before I even heard the response I was texting my friend Stew if he wanted to go see Avengers: EndGame with me. It wasn’t until I was in the recliner seat with a Mr. Pibb in one hand and a my children’s Easter Candy in the other that I realized the predicament I was in. Do I run out of the theater like my name sake Joseph screaming, “how can I do this thing before my God.” Or… do I just tell myself that this isn’t really a “sin” because I just made-up these challenges so that I don’t allow anything to have mastery over me and I’ve already gone 26 days so… EndGame was awesome.
So I kind of finished up my challenges with a slow whimper. But I really did learn a lot about myself, especially in the area of my food. I think food has way less control over me than before, but I can still see how much it affects my life. Technology has its tentacles in me a little more deeply. I think I need some regular fasting from my phone – a phone phast. I would recommend for you to make your own list, and work through it. You may just connect with God and understand yourself just a bit better. God bless.