Challenges: weight loss, eating less fat; eating more veggies, exercising more; cutting out cookies, and cakes, and sodas, and salt for seven days; 30 days, and so on. I understand the basic concept of challenges: to jumpstart a change in eating or physical exercise lifestyle, hopefully forming a habit that will continue.
But do they continue? Have you ever completed a challenge and kept it going? Or is it like: Yayyy! I did it! Now let me eat cake! 🙂
I don’t do challenges. My mind won’t let me. I’ve tried ….
Six years ago when I was 50 years old and a vegetarian for 25 years, I ran across a month-long challenge to upgrade my nutrition level to vegan – cutting out mayonnaise, eggs, and all dairy, including cheese. CHEESE! How in hell was I gonna stop eating cheese? But then I figured a month wasn’t too long. I could do it for a month. A week into the challenge – my mouth watering every time I saw my daughter’s jumbo loaf of sliced cheese in the fridge – I was daydreaming of melting cheese on my veggie burgers, of unwrapping the cellophane and shoveling whole slices of cheese into my mouth. Was 30 days up yet? My mind wouldn’t shut up! It was torture!
So I ditched the challenge, dove right into the vegan world, and that worked for me because there was nothing for my mind to look forward to anymore. No more cheese period! It was time to end that craving. I actually like that all or nothing mentality. Reminds me of my high school Spanish teacher. Once you crossed the threshold into her classroom, you weren’t allowed to speak any English. It forced our minds to focus on learning Spanish, just like nixing the temporary challenge forced my mind to focus on forming a new habit, a difficult task in most short-lived challenges.
Nutrition and exercise challenges usually range from seven to 30 days – just long enough to get a taste of what changes you can make in your life but not necessarily long enough for those changes to become permanent. The best way to make significant changes in your life is to do something long enough to make it a habit. Research suggests that for new behaviors to actually stick and become second nature, we should count on working at it AT LEAST 30 days, dependent on the changes and how difficult or easy it is to adjust to them. So really, most challenges are more like just a nutritional or physical cleanse before you go back to business as usual. That’s why I believe my mind won’t let me do them.
If I’m gonna make it through seven days on a “No More: cookies, candy, potato chips, cake or donuts” challenge, pat myself on the back, glory in my Facebook revelation that “I MADE IT!” and then be knee deep in Reese’s Cups before the end of the week, what was it all for?
Don’t misunderstand me: I believe that if you need a challenge to get started, DO IT! Then do it again; and again. Celebrate that week without sweets! Then start a new week; and another new week, and so on until your mind and body don’t need the challenge anymore. 🙂
Do it for life!
Peace and blessings