CodeMacLife
June 1st, 2024

I completed my Minimalist May challenge!

challenge

How a challenge improved my life.

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash
Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

At the start of May 2024, I posted on my blog that I would be setting myself a challenge of less. A challenge where I would focus on five areas of my life where I felt I needed to make changes. Some were wishes, others were aspirations.

Minimalist May is now over, and I can celebrate my fifth year of completion. The difference between this year and the past four, is the areas I chose to commit to. This year’s choices were areas I was not willing to be without, so I was putting myself through something uncomfortable from the start.

Oh, how I should have done this sooner! If you have followed me through the ups and downs of the challenge, thank you. It means the world to me, and I hope I have inspired at least someone to have a go at one of them. Daily posts can be found here

My post will go over the highlights of the challenge and how I got on with each of my goals. Spoiler alert: I did better than I expected, with some surprises along the way. 

Diet

In all honesty, I didn’t think the exclusion of cakes, biscuits, sweets and crisps all month was going to be a big deal. I was so wrong. This goal was certainly the hardest. The primary reason is I didn’t plan properly to replace these items, so I was constantly hungry, avoiding snacks between meals.

I desired unhealthy snacks throughout the month. My stomach went through hell in the first two weeks as it adjusted to the change in my diet. All I have to say is I am happy I did not exclude other foods such as bread because I felt I was missing out on the things I loved the most.

I was able to go to bed on an empty stomach, avoiding any discomfort which would usually keep me from getting a good night’s sleep. Reflecting on the triggers, I noticed it was immediately after leaving work. I’m not sure why, but I assume it was acknowledging the lengthy time between my lunch and the evening. Maybe it is comfort eating after a busy day?

One change I hadn’t planned before the month was introducing a rule of reducing my meat consumption. If I ate food containing meat at lunchtime, I was not allowed it later in the evening. I read an article on The Healthy that made me think about the impacts of eating too much meat.

Within a month, I have lost nine pounds in weight and maintained it. For June, I plan to focus on widening my understanding of what foods I eat that will keep me comfortable without piling on the weight. Moreover, I plan to keep avoiding these prohibited food types at the same time, and not get too down on myself if I slip up.

I replaced the chocolate and sweets with better choices.
I replaced the chocolate and sweets with better choices.

Finance

Saving money was going to be an area I wanted to focus on the most throughout Minimalist May. Getting into Minimalism had a profound positive impact on my finances. Mindless consumerism is a thing of the past. 

This month, I was able to pay off all my debt, open a savings account, create a budget, and write a plan of how I was going to save. My wife and I can make plans for future holidays and purchases, such as a new car. 

I saved a third of my monthly wage and added it to my savings account. I cannot explain the relief I feel to be debt free. It is one less stress in my life. The thought of saving and avoiding an expenditure felt like I was missing out. Now, I believe it is an exciting challenge, almost like I have gamified the experience. 

The reality is, I don’t need to spend any money because I have so many things in my life. If anything, I could do with selling unused items to generate further income for my savings. I’ve signed up to my local library, so I am able to take out books as well as audiobooks and ebooks for free. 

Caffeine

My coffee was replaced with warm water.
My coffee was replaced with warm water.

At the start of the month, I managed five consecutive days with only a cup of coffee per day. This was a far cry from the three cups of coffee prior. In those five days, I suffered. The issue wasn’t in the morning, which I decided earlier on that I would avoid consuming coffee. The afternoons around 3pm brought on the worst headaches I could imagine. I persevered through the headaches, which, I believe, are my blood vessels to my brain returning to normal. I experienced the headaches, fatigue, and tiredness as described on ScienceAlert.

What happened after those five days, I hear you ask? Well, I quit coffee completely. I figured that I had gone to a point where the headaches were decreasing. My research on the psychoactive drug had unsettled me to the point where I felt going without was better than putting my body through the withdrawals again. So, since the 6th of May, I have been caffeine free.

The only issue with this is learning that caffeine is in other vices I enjoy, like carbonated drinks. That’s right. I’ve had to quit all the carbonated drinks. The more I research, I understand it is a mission in itself to know what contains caffeine and what doesn’t.

I was given two sachets of Kenco decaf coffee in the later days of May. It felt so wonderful to get the taste of coffee with only 1% of caffeine. There were no side effects of withdrawal afterwards.

In June, I will be choosing a Kenco decaf coffee as a treat before removing coffee completely from my life from July onwards. With the recent controversy over decaf coffee causing health issues, I have settled with Kenco because they use the Swiss Water Decaf process to strip 99% of the caffeine from their bean. Dr Janine has a video worth watching about the issue with decaf coffees, using Methylene Chloride to remove the caffeine. Sipping on paint stripper doesn’t sound like fun. 

One tip that helped me was drinking hot water whenever I felt the urge for a coffee. You can even add lemon to it. Please give it a try. 

Exercise

I feel the exercise routine went particularly well throughout the month. To be honest, there were moments when I didn’t feel like exercising, but I shook off the lazy shoes and got on with it. 

The mornings typically started with press-ups and a 60-second plank. I increased both of these activities as the month passed by.

In the evenings, I would usually complete a 5K or 10K cross-training session with some weights. My son plays basketball, so I had many basketball training sessions with him that burnt up more of my energy. Walking outdoors became a relaxing form of exercise when the weather was good. 

As much as I closed my rings on my Apple Watch, I felt that I could do a lot more to vary what I did for my fitness. I plan to improve my fitness routine next month. I believe my fitness routine, along with the change to my diet, helped me lose the weight that I did.

I’ve closed my rings and gained new badges in the process.
I’ve closed my rings and gained new badges in the process.

Sleep

By removing the caffeine from my life, I felt tiredness like nothing before. I once had the attitude that sleep was a burden. Not any more. In the past, I felt like I had to go to bed. Now I need my bed. 

Fatigue from these lifestyle changes impacted my sleep routine. I went to bed earlier because I struggled to stay awake past 9 o’clock. In the whole month of May, I only had three occasions where I wasn’t in bed before 10:30PM. Two were work-related commitments, and the other was forgetting to post a blog post before bedtime. 

My quality of sleep has improved substantially. I am sleeping better, I can get to sleep quicker, and I feel better in the morning.

What next?

I’ve decided to keep to the five areas I have been developing habits in during the entirety of May. However, I would say diet and fitness will be my priorities for June.

There are certain areas I need to push myself more when it comes to fitness. I could certainly benefit from increasing the range of activities I take part in each day.

Side note
As part of the process of tracking my progress, the people at Brite got in contact with me, offering to provide a free premium account to test out their all-in-one app. I was able to track habits, journal moments, meditate, and take notes. I have a blog coming out soon to talk about my experience. Brite helped me keep focus throughout the Minimalist May challenge.

Brite To Do app Home Screen
Brite To Do app Home Screen

Thank you for taking the time to read my post. I have grateful to you all. I am also grateful to have discovered The Minimalist documentary movie, which I will leave below to watch. It changed my life, and I hope it has an impact on you, too. Less is more.

MINIMALISM: Official Netflix Documentary (Entire Film)


Mark @ CodeMacLife
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