What's up with the all the challenges?


I am sure you have seen this kind of post online. The famous 30 day challenge. While it varies in nature somewhat, it’s always the same: change a bunch of things in your life, all at once, and get results. I’m going to take a stand and say that this is nearly impossible. Or at least unrealistic. Now, before you say anything, hear me out.

Each of the items listed are, in fact, habit, both good and bad, that you may, or may not do every day. If that seems like a mouthful, then try to imagine doing all of that at once.

Is it possible? Of course.

Will it work? It might.

Can you do it? You tell me.

Let’s look at the 8 items above one by one and see what it takes to be successful on this challenge, starting off with DON’T. A horrible word if I ever heard one.

  1. Don’t eat burgers or chips

Maybe that could say all fast food. I think it’s quite well known that overconsumption of fast food is not only bad for your health, but tends to cause weight gain over time. It is calorie dense and nutrient poor, and as most fast food is high in fat, low in fiber, and poor quality protein sources, it is not very satiating. A double whammy of negative consequences. That said, an occasional Big Mac isn’t going to cause you to magically gain fat. It is more

But how about this?

Try an organic whole grain bun, grass fed extra lean ground sirloin burger, plenty of vegetables and a side salad? Or baked sweet potato chips? Still a burger and chips but miles apart from fast food. See the difference? This is a better choice. Food is always on a continuum from better to worse.

2. Don’t drink soda or alcohol

These are referred to these as caloric beverages. And you should really add fruit juice to that list. Yes, even freshly squeezed. Liquid calories make it easy to over consume your daily calorie needs while still being hungry. Lots of calories with zero satiation? Sounds bad to me. That glass of orange juice in the morning isn’t doing you any favors. When it comes to alcohol, it is a bit more challenging, but you can actually balance a moderate amount of drinking with a healthy lifestyle. The key word here is moderate. More on that in a future post.

But could you make better choices?

For example switch fruit juice for the whole fruit. Drink more water. Switch from a caramel mocha frappuccino to a flat white. Drink some green tea. Switch from beer to whisky.

I had a client who was addicted to Coca Cola. For him it was on his non negotiable list. I finally convinced him to switch to zero sugar. It took him 3 weeks to build the habit. He still drinks his zero sugar, and lost 10kg so far. Displacement is a powerful tool. Had I told him absolutely NO soft drinks, he would more than likely have failed.

3. Don’t eat cakes or donuts

This is more like refined sugar and high glycemic carbohydrates. Add white bread, white rice, white pasta, cookies, breakfast cereal, most processed foods and yes, cakes and donuts. Highly processed carbs are, again, very energy dense but nutrient poor. And tasty to boot. Ouch. I personally have an Oreo addiction that I indulge sometimes. And a pasta addiction. And a pizza addiction. Ok you get the ideac

So it comes down to choice?

Yes. The idea here is to choose to have better carb sources most of the time such as whole grains, legumes, and fruits. Eventually you can crowd out most of your less than ideal choices.

4. Don’t eat candy or sweets

This is more refined sugar, so think chocolate bars, confectionary, gummies, etc. No nutritional value and highly tasty. Enough said.

That’s if for the list of the Don’ts. While they mostly make sense, it doesn’t take into account any personal preferences or challenges. Never a good idea. As well, it is often better to focus on the do, and not get hung up on the don’t. Meaningful change happens based on what you do. And most importantly don’t beat yourself up if you slip occasionally and have something you enjoy. Better choices and moderation will go a long way to achieving your goals. Let’s look at the do.

  1. Do workout 3 times per week

Exercising is a great idea. Period. It can build muscle, endurance, mobility and makes you better everyday life tasks. Some would say it can even make you more attractive. When it comes to building exercise into your daily habits, people generally have 2 issues:

  1. They struggle to find the time, so time management becomes an issue

  2. They don’t know what kind of exercise to do for the results they want

Either of these two problems can derail a 3 times per week exercise program. Or a two times per week program. Or exercising at all. Time management, priority setting, motivation and discipline are all habits you need to develop.

2. Do eat 5 servings of veggies and fruit

Do you know that some people don’t actually like vegetables? I know that comes as a surprise, but it’s true. We should eat more vegetables and some fruit for two reasons: one, its high in fiber and two, it’s high in essential nutrients.

But what if you don’t like to eat them? What if you don’t know how to cook them? Or make them tasty? There are many limiting factors here. A lot of times, it comes down to building a list of veggies you like, can cook, and will eat. Regularly.

3. Do drink 3L of water a day

Hydration is important. No doubt. But for many people drinking that amount of water per day is a struggle. If you’ve never done it, you will be surprised by a couple of things. How much you go to the bathroom, and how easy it is to lose your water bottle. And it’s easy to forget to do. It takes mental RAM. You need to focus on the habit.

4. Do Sleep 6-8 hours a night

Ahhh pillow time! A good night’s sleep has so many benefits, such as building muscle, resetting your brain, reducing stress, burning fat, and inducing positive hormonal changes, just to name a few. On the scale given, 6 is a bit low, even if you think you are fine with it; 7 is a bit better; and 8 or 9 seems to be ideal for most people. If you have the time. Most people cannot go from 0-100 km/hour in the morning and neither can they go from 100-0. Building a sleep hygiene habit takes time and effort.

As I think you can see, any of the 8 habits can take a huge amount of time and effort to change or build. Given a short 30 day time frame to do it all makes it nearly impossible for most people. In my coaching practise, I have clients focus on only one habit at a time, in order of their priorities, and make sure they are successful. Sometimes you can go fast, sometimes you need to go slow. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s hard.

If you are serious about finally making positive change in your life, hit me up for a free consultation. I can help. I am YOUR coach.

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Jamey MerkelComment