Over the many Whole Life Challenges I have done, I have amassed a few staple tips that I pass on to my team in the hopes that it makes the Challenge a little easier. But better still, I have received lots of tips from my teammates as well.
Here are a few of my go-to strategies for having a successful Whole Life Challenge experience, followed by some of my favorites from others.
1. Do What’s Hardest First
For me, that’s always stretching, so I get it out of the way before 8:00am. Same for meditating (when it shows up as one of the weekly Well-Being Practices). Sometimes I set my alarm for twenty minutes earlier so I have the extra time to devote. I also drink at least twelve ounces of water first thing. It feels great to check off a lot boxes before I’m even fully awake.
2. Exercise Is Not About Losing Weight
One of my many therapists said this to me decades ago and it changed my life. “Exercise is not about losing weight. Exercise is about having a daily relationship with your body.” When you commit to that “relationship,” the focus shifts from “how hard” or “how long,” to simply “showing up for yourself.” And if you do that consistently for six weeks, it will change your life, too.
3. Summon Your Inner Toddler
I don’t go anywhere without snacks. Before I leave my house, I pretend I’m a fussy toddler that will turn into a shrew if her blood sugar drops mid-errand. I bring sliced apples, raw almonds, and carrot sticks almost everywhere I go. I do not ever rely on there being compliant snacks en route – there often aren’t.
4. Healthy Attitude
From Susan: “The first time I did the Challenge, I believed shopping for and cooking compliant food was too time-consuming. It felt harder because it was unfamiliar. But I maintained the attitude that whatever time I spent learning these new things would pay off in the end. That attitude really helped, as many things I struggled with at first have become habit.”
5. Pour Yourself a Cold One
From Diane: “I had never been one to drink water – I just didn’t love the taste – but I noticed that whenever I went out to eat, I drank water liberally. I decided to buy myself a stainless steel water pitcher, which keeps the water super cold. I fill it daily (sometimes multiple times), slice lemon into it, and place it in the fridge, front and center. I now drink a ton of water every day, starting with a big, cold glass every morning. I feel like it jump-starts my metabolism and makes me feel good.”
6. Fruit Hack
From Jill: “Fruit sounds great conceptually, but I find a whole day can go by without my eating any. But cutting fruit up and storing it in the fridge in clear glass dishes somehow makes it irresistible. There is always a brightly colored stack of fresh-looking options at the ready. And sprinkling a few grains of kosher salt on the cut fruit (especially summer fruits) results in a dramatic burst of added flavor.”
7. Use Your Teammates
From Eva: “If I find one of the weekly Well-Being Practices particularly difficult, either because of my schedule or my mindset, I post about it to my teammates to get ideas about how they made it work for them. I’ve gotten great guidance about how to fit things into my day that never would have occurred to me on my own. Also, playing that role for my teammates helps motivate me. It’s so helpful and fun to do this with other people. You can celebrate your success together.”
8. Pencil It In
From Leigh: “If you have young kids and have to fit in your meditation, food prep, stretching, (and whatever else) around shuttling them all over town, don’t freak out. Plan for it. I put the next day’s WLC activities into my calendar every night before I go to sleep wherever I can fit them. Then, I live by my calendar.”
9. Plan Your Meals Ahead
From Cynthia: “The activity that helps me most during a challenge is planning ahead. I like to lay out meals in advance for the week. I found a lot of the great recipes that were WLC compliant and now have a bunch that are go-to favorites, dishes I make even when I am ‘off’ the challenge.”
10. The Big Grill
From Connie: “Every Sunday evening, I grill six chicken breasts and a big flank steak, and I hard boil six eggs. I then have protein for the whole week. My go-to snack is protein-rich: strips of grilled chicken and guacamole.”
11. Cook Once, Eat Twice (or Thrice)
From Sue: “I love eating fresh whole foods, but there are days when it’s just easier to heat something up and make a small salad. So, every time I find a stew or soup that I love, I triple the recipe and freeze it. (I have a lentil soup recipe I’ve actually multiplied by five!) I freeze in double servings for my husband and me.”
12. Think Bountifully
From Yvette: “Midway through my first Challenge, I decided I needed a more bountiful mindset about food. Instead of focusing on what I couldn’t eat (specifically, the buttery croissants in my neighborhood French bakery), I began to really appreciate all the things I could eat – especially some things (like butter) that I used to limit in my diet for fear of gaining weight. This mental change instantly made me stop feeling deprived, and also made me appreciate the bounty of support available to me from my team and from the website.”
13. Think: Mini Meals
From Emma: “If I feel hungry between meals (often around 3:00pm), rather than think ‘snack,’ I think ‘fourth compliant meal’ and make a very small serving of something I might eat for lunch or dinner: a mini dollop of yogurt with a few berries and nuts, a small cup of lentil soup, or a tiny portion of last night’s Asian chicken and bok choy.”
14. Indulge Yourself
From Lisa: “Unlike some WLC members, I use most of my indulgence tokens. They allow me to feel balanced and that success does not require perfection. Indulgence tokens also feel like a small reward for acting mindfully during the Challenge. If you can stay very disciplined in the first couple weeks, you will quickly accumulate bonuses to be used for that second glass of wine when you need it.”
15. Say Buh-Bye to Baggies
From Kim: “As I became leaner, I put away my baggy clothes. It helps me to wear clothes that really fit. For some reason when I wear something that is roomy I feel as if I have permission to ‘cheat.’”
16. You Can Rarely Go Wrong With Veggies
From Greg: “I try to work vegetables into all my meals, including breakfast. I use big leaves of lettuce as a substitute for bread, for example as a hamburger bun or for sandwiches. I eat carrot sticks with peanut butter as a late afternoon snack. Cobb salads are available at many restaurants and make a filling, compliant dinner. If possible, I also suggest marrying someone who will cook compliant food for you.”
Many of these tips have become game-changers for me (although I confess to having a hard time tossing too-big clothing). Still, the number one piece of feedback I get from teammates is how important it is to give and get support throughout the Challenge. So, if you’re a repeat player, please feel free to add your own tips in the comments! Everyone will appreciate it. The beauty of this challenge is that we’re all in it together.