Sunday Story…Challenge not
If you are paying attention to what is happening in the land of fitness as it pertains to nutrition you have seen the prevalence of the “30 day challenge”. These challenges have become so common as to be monotonous. Here’s the real shocker…evidence has begun to prove they really don’t work. It’s a shocker, I know, but the reset or kick start to get you on track for the beach, or the wedding, or after the gluttony of the holidays just doesn’t work.
I know it’s popular. I know all your friends do it. I know your second cousin’s brother-in-laws sister lost 12 pounds on her eat only green food 30 day challenge. None of that provides empirical evidence (as in factual) that these challenges actually work for the great part of the population. Most of us drop out about half way through the challenge. Or we gain the weight/inches back and go back to eating crap (Calorie Rich And Pathetic) food the same way we did before the challenge started.
Here are some of the issues with 30-day challenges:
1. Most of these challenges are based on restricting some portion of your diet/food consumption. This puts you into a mindset of deprivation and scarcity. You decide you can “tough” or “gut” it out for the 30 days. And sometimes you can. Often you can’t or some life event gets in the way. Eating a certain way that is foreign to you simply serves to have you craving the last day and dreaming of all the junk food you are going to gorge on when it is over. This gives you NO sustainable shift in your eating habits, behavior patterns or belief systems. That shift is required to modify your nutrition into a healthy pattern.
2. Too many of these programs want to have you feel bad if you can’t or won’t complete the challenge. If you can’t do this for 30 days you are weak or bad or worthless. It isn’t that hard, after all. The fact is simple: this type of motivation is rarely successful and usually backfires. How do you like being guilted or shamed into doing something? For me…not so much. These feeling usually result in a high dropout rate and zero change into healthier eating habits.
3. I should clarify that I am NOT disagreeing with the nutritional advice and guidelines most of these challenges provide. Eating real food, avoiding sugar and alcohol, eliminating allergens, proper hydration and shopping on the perimeter of the grocery market are all good things. The problem is the method used to get you to do those things. If you don’t address how you are going to incorporate all the restrictions on your diet after the challenge you will revert to your old patterns and behaviors (Friday night IS Pizza night!)
Restriction is not a recipe for long term change and success. If you were addicted to heroin you could avoid heroin for the rest of your life. You cannot avoid food. You are going to eat for the rest of your life. What is needed is a reprogramming of behaviors and attitude around food. What is needed is a way to create a desire for healthy foods. What is needed is a way to have you WANT to make good choices around food.
This process is going to require you to change how you think about food. It is a circular process…thoughts create feelings which create behaviors and the behaviors reinforce thoughts. The real question that needs to be answered is how? How to create an attitude shift? How to make it over to the other side of restriction and scarcity to abundance and fullness?
Stay tuned! The answer is simple. Not easy just simple.