Fall, that time of year when the kids are back in school, summer vacations are over, and the 30 day challenges pop up everywhere. Right when you are feeling down about your lack of exercise, and less than stellar eating habits, they chime in with drop 10lbs. in 30 days, lose inches in your waist in no time, get back your energy and stamina by following this cleanse. So you get sucked in, you vow to swear off certain foods, beverages, and commit to just drinking juice, exercising every day, and frankly making yourself bat shit crazy for 30 days. You remind yourself, it’s only 30 days, no big deal. I can follow this ridiculously strict diet regimen for 30 days, and I’ll lose that weight I gained in no time.
Two weeks go by; you are out to dinner with friends trying to navigate through the menu to pick out something that you are allowed to eat. Your friends are berating you with questions about what are your restrictions, why you are doing this to yourself, and then trying to convince you that 2 weeks is enough, it’s a silly diet and you should just enjoy some of their cheese fries. You hold strong through the entire meal picking at your lifeless salad with oil, lemon juice, cucumbers, cabbage, (no tomatoes or carrots are allowed) forget about the nuts, or cheese for that matter. You get home then dive nose first into a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. The next day you say to yourself well, I tried. And then you go back to your old ways. Sound familiar? You are not alone, and that my friend, is why most 30 Day Challenges suck.
1) They just plain suck. They tell you to avoid a whole host of foods and food groups. Leaving you with a very small list of approved foods. Some of the items make sense like avoid sugar, artificial sweeteners, or processed foods, but some are just extreme: no tomatoes, shellfish, carrots, beans, caffeine, etc. When restricted to a very short list of “approved” foods it is just setting you up for failure. Unless you have the time to prepare all your meals ahead of time, chances are you are going to find it very difficult to stick to. Especially if that entire list of off limit foods are foods you have been eating at every meal of every day for the past 20 years. Just think about it.
2) They are selling something. Most 30 day challenges have a hidden agenda behind their creation. They are either trying to sell you a workout plan or supplements. If you have to buy supplements to participate in the challenge it is a gimmick. Those supplements are not going to make or break your success with the program, it’s your strong will and eating really really healthy that is going to make the difference.
3) They don’t produce lasting results. Since most 30 day challenges are so strict, and impractical, you can’t stick with it long-term. Let’s face it, many people can’t even complete the entire 30 days. The majority of the challenges are meant to be followed for just 30 days, and then that’s it. You’re done. You ultimately go back to your old normal habits. In most cases, any weight you lost will come right back, and then some.
This begs the question – why in the world would anyone subject themselves to something so downright dreadful knowing full well the results will be temporary?
Most 30 day challenges are a giant suck-fest. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be good ones…
Here’s how to do a 30 Day Challenge the right way.
Pick one bad habit you have and work on changing it. That’s it, just one. Pick the one you know is the worst. Is it drinking too much alcohol, drinking diet soda, skipping breakfast, eating fast food for lunch most days, eating a bowl of ice cream every night, you get the idea. Narrow it down to that one bad habit, and commit to replacing it with a good habit over the next 30 days. Come hell or high water, you are going to try your hardest to get past that one habit, but here’s the catch, and leads me on to point two…
Forgive yourself if you screw up. It’s bound to happen. You aren’t perfect, and that’s okay. Learn from the mistake and move on. Be patient and persistent with yourself. We are our biggest critic, and we have to allow ourselves room for failure.
Make time to be physically active every day. It doesn’t have to be an hour every time. It could be 20 minutes here, an hour there, whatever. Just make a conscious effort to move more.
Praise in the small things. Often times we get so caught up in seeing a change with the number on the scale that we forget to rejoice in the little changes that are taking place every day with our body. You may find you can climb stairs without getting winded, you did a push up on your toes for the first time, you ran for 5 minutes straight and didn’t feel like you were going to die, you saw a chocolate chip cookie in the employee lounge and you didn’t eat it. #winning.
Now go forth and attack the next 30 days by addressing just one bad habit. Let the force be with you….