Eat Well. Drink Well. Live Well.
Every so often, this thing comes around called the Whole Life Challenge. In short, it’s an 8-week lifestyle change challenge that encourages you to eat well, exercise daily, as well as other weekly goals like drinking enough water, or trying new veggies. It gets pretty popular among the CrossFit-heads as it promotes a Paleo-based nutrition plan: No grains, no starch (other than sweet potatoes…and quinoa for the vegetarians), no sugar or sweeteners, nothing processed, no diary, no booze. As you can imagine, the lack of beer is my biggest blunder here, but we’ll get in to that later. Along with nutrition, you are supposed to exercise and work on mobility, both for a minimum of ten minutes daily. I really don’t want to spend this time getting into the details of the challenge, as you can simply click the link above and get all the info you need, but for the sake of this post of mine here’s the major point:
It’s a lifestyle challenge that has a competitive point system…because as CrossFitters and ya know, humans, we are competitive in nature and do better when we can beat someone else while doing it. You start every day with 3 nutrition points. For every infraction, you deduct a point. You gain points for your daily mobility and workouts. Now, there’s a maximum points that you can have at any given time, which allows for you to earn bonus points. This is through daily reflections, and completing each weeks bonus challenge. This means that if you get all 3 bonus points for a week – you just earned yourself a cheat day! Most points at the end combined with weight/inches lost and improvement in the baseline WOD determine the winner.
Now, I’ve done the challenge before and will be doing it again starting Sept. 7. I’ve noticed a lot of the same questions, concerns, complaints tend to come up so I figured I would take this time to address them. My response is a direct result of my previous experience with the challenge. If you are sensitive, easily offended, and tend to take things personally…I suggest you stop reading as some of my answers might seem….rude.
These are the top 10 questions and problems I’ve noticed that come up during the Whole Life Challenge:
1. Is this allowed?
If you’re asking, it’s probably not. That being said, the challenge rules are pretty specific. Does is have sugar, maple syrup, anything that is a sweetener? No, it’s not allowed. Does it have an ingredient in it that you can’t pronounce? No, it’s not allowed. Is it alcohol? No it’s not allowed. Does it have soy in it? No, it’s not allowed. Want to know how you find out if these things are in the food you want to eat? Here’s the big secret – READ THE GODDAMN LABEL!! Part of this challenge is making yourself accountable and responsible for your own health. If you have the package in your hand, flip it over and read that ingredient list. I learned so much through this. Many foods I thought were good for me turned out to contain soy, carageenan, sugar, “natural flavor” beaver gland raspberry flavor. It’s great to have a community and people to do this with…that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your own research. Take these 8 weeks to take control of what you eat, and educate yourself on what’s in a product. If you’re really not sure – try google.
2. No carbs?! I’ll STARVE!
No, you really wont. First of all, this isn’t “no carb”. You can eat as many carbs as you want…provided they come in the form of fruit, veggies, or sweet potatoes. Secondly, how many “carbs” are you eating on a daily basis that you think you will starve without them? If every meal consists of pasta, bread, pancakes, pastries, cereal, then you need to be on this challenge, because that crap shouldn’t be making up 95% of what goes into your body anyway. This is especially true for “Paleo” people. If you’re like me, and claim to eat a Paleo diet, then this is basically what we tell everyone we eat regularly. If anything, the challenge showed me that I’m a BIG BIG BULLSHITTER! You can get the nutrients, including carbs, that you need to feel full and energized without that morning bowl of oatmeal. There’s no limit on fat – eat an avocado and some eggs with broccoli…I promise you’ll be stuffed.
3. I’ll just ignore that part. It’s a conscious decision.
OK, I’m sorry…but if I make a “conscious decision” to ignore certain parts of my job I don’t feel like doing, I get fired. If I make a “conscious decision” not to answer 10 questions on a test because studying that part would’ve taken too much time, I fail. Just because you make a decision not to do something, doesn’t mean it now no longer exists. I get that some of this stuff is hard. My job centers 100% around beer…so can I just make a conscious decision to ignore the alcohol part? Uh, sure…if I want to get a 0 every day for nutrition. For that matter, if I don’t plan on changing anything, wtf is the point of signing up for the challenge? I can’t make a conscious decision to stay in bed instead of working out (which I do more often than I care to admit) and then after a month of training, bitch that I didn’t get any better. Go ahead. Make a conscious decision to ignore the dairy part, or the booze part, or the sugar part. Just make sure you don’t get pissy when your friend who stuck to it all beats you in the final WOD or sees better results.
4. One bite doesn’t count. I don’t lose a point for that.
Read the rules. Yes it does. Learn to stop taking bites of bullshit. Take a breath and think “Do I really need this random bite of cake?” The answer is probably no. Move on. Save it for a cheat and eat the whole fucking piece instead of ruining your entire day of sticking to the plan for one lousy bite. When I started to notice how often I stopped myself from “just one bite” because I didn’t want to lose a point, I was like…Holy shit…that’s a lot of “just one bite’s”. Many of us don’t realize what our habits TRULY are…we just know what we think they are….and what we tell people they are.
5. I walked to get the mail…That counts, right?
Nope, sorry Charlie. In the rules, it specifically says 10 minutes of INTENTIONAL exercise. Not, I walked to the store…hey that took ten minutes…boom! WORKOUT! Stop trying to find ways not to change your routine. You signed up for this because your routine isn’t working in some facet. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it….does not apply. It’s broke. Fix it. You need your ‘rest day?’ You worked out sooo hard for an hour a day this week? Go for a jog. Do push ups and sit ups…you’ll be fine.
6. I never eat the “forbidden foods”, but now I’m eating them because you said I can’t! Damn you WLC!!
This one is all about perspective. It hit me a little bit, but not as much as some of my teammates last time. It’s basic human nature – you want what you can’t have. If someone says “Don’t think about pizza.”, you can’t NOT think about pizza. The only advice I can offer on this one is that is you really have to focus on all of the things you CAN have, instead of all of the things you CAN’T (which are pretty much bad for you anyway). You CAN have a bad ass steak. You CAN have lobster and BUTTER. You CAN have every fruit on the planet. Freeze bananas and put them in the blender with strawberries and coconut milk. Boom. Milkshake. When you compare the CANs to the CAN’Ts, the cans start to seem like the majority. There are so many resources on the big old internet. It’s easy to find delicious recipes that fit the WLC rules. It’s not the challenge’s fault you suddenly want a dozen donuts. Stop pointing your galze-coated finger.
7. No Drinking?!
Given that “Drink” is the second line in my blogs name, I think it’s pretty clear that this is the part that I don’t love. Last time, I picked one day a week that I would either have multiple drinks and a full force cheat day, or I picked three meals with which I would have a pint (this meant if I did have a cheat meal I would lose points). That being said, it also is a great excuse to not drink and not get shit for it, which leads us to…
8. But I have a PARTY!!
That’s great! Have fun! Have a drink! Just PLAN for it. A major aspect of the challenge is learning to plan. Look at your calendar. Pick the events that you really want to be able to go all out at and mark those as your cheat days. Stick to the plan otherwise. Trust me, I get that some people wont get it and will give you a hard time. I get that you don’t want to be the loser in the corner at the party. One thing I found, is that the challenge provided me a great excuse to NOT drink at every event or party or dinner I attended. For some reason people don’t understand “I don’t feel like drinking”, but they understand “I’m doing this challenge with a team and I’m not supposed to drink”. Don’t you dare give me the “work stuff” excuse. I work in beer. Beer surrounds me everyday. For example: I have 19 Beer-Centric events between Labor Day and Halloween, which will probably increase. If we weren’t doing the challenge, I would probably use them as excuses to eat crap and drink at every single one. Now, I have to pick the ones I want to indulge at, and stick to my plan. MAKE A PLAN!! (And think about how much cash you’ll save!)
9. 8 Weeks is really long.
Yea, I know. Really, though…it’s not. It’s about 1/6 of your year…that’s 15%. There would be no point to do a week long challenge. We’re trying to see results here. Feel healthier, perform better in our WODs, for some to lose weight or inches…you can’t do that without committing some time. 8 Weeks ago from today was June 20…does that seem like it was crazy far in the past? Nope…sure doesn’t. 8 weeks from the start on Sept 7 brings us to just passed Halloween. Not even Thanksgiving!! If you really think about it…it’s really not that long. It’s a blip on the radar in the grand scheme of things.
10. This is hard.
No shit. It’s not called the “Whole Life Easy”. The word CHALLENGE is right in the damn name of the thing! It’s not MEANT to be easy. Most of the people I know doing the challenge go to my CrossFit gym (CrossFIT732)…are you telling me that CrossFit is easy? I’m pretty sure it’s 100% not. Running on an elliptical for 40 minutes is easy…but we chose to do CrossFit because we want the challenge….and the results that come from it. How hard it is will be a direct reflection of how you approach it.
To wrap it up, I want to say that this post was in no way written because I was perfect the last time I did the Whole Life Challenge. I was NOT. I had too many cheat days. I drank more than I should have…but I stuck to it the best I could and I saw results. My WOD improved, I leaned out after struggling for ages…it was the kick in the ass I needed. That being said, I will approach it this time around with much more positivity and I believe I will do better for it. At the end of the day the WLC is what you make it. Use it to clean up after summertime. Use it to force yourself to really pay attention to what you eat. Use it to get yourself in the gym that one extra day a week. Use it to drink less (cough*me*cough). It’s 100% up to you. You can eat and drink whatever the hell you want during the challenge, but your score, and where you are at the end of 56 days will be a direct output of that.
It’s 8 weeks. 56 days. You can learn a lot in that time. Take the time to change the way you do things…and plan a big ass Beer & Pasta dinner for day 57 and eat yourself into a coma.