Rewind back a few weeks to F1 weekend in
faux-Monaco Austin. I was sitting in traffic like every other Austinite trying to get the heck outta downtown before all the euro-mullets and leather Ferrari jackets descended on ATX. Instead of heading north, south or anywhere but “Fan Fest” I was heading to Rogue to listen to Mel of Mel’s Meal talk to the Rogue coaches about her 21-Day Challenge. After arriving 20 minutes late, I sat down with a Hops and Grain Alt and listened to Mel give her spiel. My wife, who was kind enough to come down with me, and I left intrigued but had some reservations.
Let me take an aside to explain the Mel’s Meal 21-Day challenge. Basically she challenges (challenge is an understatement) you to eat ONLY freshly prepared, pre-packaged meals literally made by Mel. I mean like everything you put in your body for 3 weeks comes from Mel. Breakfast. Snack. Lunch. Snack. Dinner. No, muffins from Quacks in between breakfast and lunch. No, “I’ve been really good for breakfast and lunch, I think I’ll go to Huts for the 2-for-1 burger on Wednesdays……and eat both since I was so good for breakfast and lunch….” (I know I’m not alone here). Everyday is carefully planned to make sure you get the right amount of calories, protein, fat and carbs. Sounds simple enough, right? Right?
Ok, back to the important subject (me), my main reservation was the same as everybody else: price. For three weeks worth of food the cost is $525 dollars, thats $25/day. I initially scoffed at this amount, thinking that surely I spend less than this on food per day….until I was at Wholefoods for breakfast the next morning……where I spend $12 on breakfast. Ok, so maybe $25 isn’t so bad. And as I learned, $25/day is actually a heck of a bargain when you eat with Mel. So, my $12-Wholefoods breakfast was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Kelli and I are in. We’re taking the challenge!
Monday rolls around and I rush up to Mel’s Meals on Lamar to pick up my food for
the day next three days. That’s how it works. You pickup 3-days worth of food on Monday and 4-days worth of food on Thursday. I also, picked up for Kelli as well. Why the rush? Well, I didn’t realize that you pick-up on Monday to start on Tuesday. Doh! Yes, yes, this totally makes sense in hindsight (and also explain why there wasn’t a line out the door to pick-up food at 7:45 on Monday morning) but sometimes I’m a little slow. Ok, really slow.
So I arrive at Rogue with 3-day’s worth of food for 2 people and quickly realize that this is a LOT of food. Like we don’t have enough fridge space at Rogue amount of food. So after moving around chocolate milk (and beer), throwing out Erik’s lunch (he doesn’t need that) and giving Chuck a hard time (that doesn’t really have anything to do with fridge space…its just part of my routine), I manage to squeeze all of our food into the fridges up here. By this time I’m ready for breakfast. I pull out the designated
Tuesday Monday breakfast (a day’s worth of food is conveniently packed in labeled, recyclable bags), check it out and due a double take. My first reaction is, there is no way all of this food is only 300-something calories. While stuffing my face with impossibly-under-caloric southwest chicken frittatas, I pondered what form of witch craft does Mel use to get so much food to have so few calories. A magical calorie-shrinking laser? The special stuff (bacteria) they use to make light beer? Apparently (and sadly that no lasers are involved) it is neither of these things. Evidently if you use wholesome, real and simple ingredients (farewell simple sugars…..you will be missed) you can pack in a lot of food without a lot of calories. Why hadn’t I thought of this?
After eating breakfast, a snack, lunch and another snack (italian mellon salad….yum!), I packed up all of our food, made one last jab at Chuck and headed home to run into the same problem I had at Rogue. This is a ton of freaking food!! Time to clear the fridge to make room. This is actually an unadvertised bonus to the 21-day Challenge, a forced fridge cleaning.
Day 1 is done and Im feeling pretty dang proud of myself. Extremely full and still in shock that I stuffed my face for only 1700 calories. Despite stuffing my face, I felt pretty good. Full yet comfortable. Satisfied without remorse. So back to the price. The $25/day thing is an after though. From my perspective it is actually a pretty good deal.
Sparing you with minute details from the rest of the week I thought I’d cut to what I learned during the first week. One, it is a lot of food. I struggle to finish a day’s worth of food. Two, Mel loves protein. Men listen up, Mel is not afraid of the meat. It is common to see animal protein in pretty much every meal. Before I loose you, there are vegetarian and vegan options but this leads me to the next thing I learned, there customer service is really good.
Normally I don’t eat a lot of protein; I am an unashamed carbo-holic. I love carbs! Wheat, rice, etc. Bring it on! I might be able to live on bread alone. By day 3 my protein-intolerance was starting to take a toll. So, I email Mel and her nutritionist, Sterling, and explain my love affair with carbs (or really my body’s rejection of an abundance of protein) they immediately worked to fix the problem. By Thursday (pick up day #2), Mel was personally substituting high-protein meals with high-carb meals some meals. By the weekend I was back to feeling good.
Now, the 21-day Challenge isn’t all a blissful experience. It is, as the name implies, a challenge. You see, I’m also a salt-o-holic and “Mel doesn’t dig salt”. As a result, the word “bland” did come to mind fairly often early on but, as I am now into week 2, bland doesn’t come to mind as often. Maybe my tastes have adjusted? Maybe my palette has pressed “reset”?
Next, this may sound crazy but you do have to adjust to healthy eating. You might be thinking, “Wait a second El Jefe! I’m a healthy eater!”; well, so am I….or so I thought. Im not saying you have to adjust to eating egg+kale+orange+juice smoothies but you certainly have to have some will power. So yeah, you get the cravings; the desire to cut loose and eat a slice (or 8…..aka, an entire pizza) of pizza from Little Deli. But, then again, it is a challenge. Lastly, the hardest thing so far is desert. Like I said, the meals taste healthy and that includes desert. Unfortunately the only thing delicious about the brownies are the looks. Yes, it makes me sad inside too. But then again running really fast is delicious!
But, honestly, these criticisms fail in contrast to my overall experience thus far. After one week I can say the process has been enjoyable, easy and fun.
In a nutshell, my initial impressions are this: if you’re looking for a way to kick start healthy eating or if you’re interested in resetting the taste buds I strongly recommend giving it a shot. I assure you it is plenty of bang for your buck. Plus, meal plans are 20% off in December! I’ll be back next week with week 2 musings and thoughts.