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When Amber Williams signed up for the Whole Life Challenge, her friend Judy Campbell was brought to tears.
“Judy had been telling me to do it for a while, and I remember the day I signed up I texted her and she called me back crying. ‘You have no idea how happy I am that you’re doing this. You don’t even realize what you’re in for,’ she said to me,” Amber remembered of her conversation with Judy in September of 2018.
Judy was right. Amber had no idea how much the Challenge would impact not only her life, but also her husband Josh’s life.
Her Goals and His Goals
The Guelph, Ontario, residents entered the September Challenge with very different goals. At 5-foot-4 and 130-some-odd pounds, 44-year-old Amber didn’t have her sights on losing much weight. What she needed was more structure and routine in her life. She was looking to develop healthier habits.
Meanwhile, 42-year-old Josh weighed 238lbs at 5-foot-9 and was definitely looking to shed some pounds. “I was always a pretty active guy, but during university I probably put on fifteen pounds and as time went on, and having kids and all that, my weight had crept up to 245lbs at my heaviest,” said Josh.
On top of the weight gain, Josh was diagnosed with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. He was put on medication to control his blood pressure.
“Carrying all that extra weight around was also making work a lot harder,” added Josh, who works as an arborist.
All these problems, however, paled in comparison to the way he felt about himself.
“To be honest, once I hit [age] forty, I didn’t want to look in the mirror anymore. I always grew a big beard because I had a double chin and wanted to cover it up,” Josh said.
That was Josh’s impetus for committing to six weeks of clean eating, daily exercise and stretching, and laying the foundation for a life filled with healthier habits.
The Beginning of Change (Baby Steps)
The first change Amber and Josh made included cutting out all processed foods and sugar. Condiments like mayonnaise, which they were both addicted to, and bread were other important eliminations.
“And for me, pasta. I love pasta. I can eat anyone under the table,” Amber said with a laugh.
For Josh, the toughest one was booze.
“Beer. That was the hardest thing for me to cut out of my life,” said Josh.
On top of changing their eating habits, Josh also started doing yoga, as well as working out at home lifting weights and running on a treadmill the couple bought second-hand. Amber had always been into running and activities like cross-country skiing, so the fitness part of the Challenge was easier for her, she said.
The Results Went Far Beyond Weight Loss
As the weeks went by, Josh started quickly dropping weight. By the end of that September Challenge, he had shed twenty pounds, weighing in at 218. Not only that, his blood pressure had normalized, and his cholesterol improved, too.
Bigger than the weight loss, the couple agreed, was a newfound awareness. They gained an awareness about what was in the food they were eating and how different foods made them feel. “We thought we ate pretty well before, but then we took on this Challenge and we were like, ‘Wow,’” laughed Amber.
Josh added: “You don’t even realize what’s in food sometimes. I’d say 60% of the grocery store is filled with food that’s complete garbage, maybe even more than 60%. They always say not to go into the middle aisles and it’s true. There was nothing we could eat in those aisles of the store.”
Initially making healthier food decisions was difficult, but soon their new way of eating started to feel normal. And their bodies and minds thanked them for it. This was reinforced when they decided to use their Free Day Tokens to devour some non-compliant Challenge food.
“We had beer and bread and pizza one night, and you know what, we felt like %$#&,” Josh said.
“We felt terrible,” Amber added.
“We both had a hangover, but I think it was a bread hangover…It was almost like our bodies were so numb to it before that we didn’t realize how bad it made us feel, but now I can feel how much better my body feels when I eat well,” Josh said.
And as a result of their bodies feeling better, everything in Josh and Amber’s lives is better today.
“My relationship with my wife is better, my head is clearer, my decision-making is better, and my stress is lower,” Josh said. “My brain feels replenished. Those empty carbs were ruining my thought process and putting me to sleep.”
Playing the Challenge Again (and Again)
In the time between the September 2018 Challenge and the January 2019 Challenge, Josh admitted he let himself have the odd burger and beer, but between those heavier meals he went back to consuming whole foods and exercising almost every day.
“I think I maybe put four pounds back on during the time between the Challenges, but not a huge amount. I still stayed active and my stress levels were still really low,” he said.
And the moment the January Challenge came along, he tightened back up and quickly lost five pounds, as well as three more inches off his belly. “Normally in the winter I gain weight, and then I’m a bit lighter in the summer, so this is the first time I stayed physically active and actually lost weight in the winter,” Josh said.
As for Amber, at the end of the January 2019 Challenge, she weighed in at 128 pounds, just three pounds more than when she graduated from high school. Though she said she feels good about this, she feels better about the perspective she and Josh have gained from the Challenge.
“It has helped me realize moderation is key, and to be more aware of what I’m eating,” Josh said. “So, it doesn’t mean you can’t go out for dinner and have spaghetti and meatballs. You don’t have to feel bad about it if you exercised that day and had a good breakfast and a good lunch, and then the next day you go back to eating well.”
The WLC Changed Her Life — Will It Change Yours?
It only took that first Challenge back in September of 2018 for Amber and Josh to realize they couldn’t return to their old way of living. Sure, they’d cut themselves some slack sometimes, but the habits they had formed right from their first Challenge were not ones they were prepared to let slide ever again.
So, not only did they play the January 2019 Challenge — but they signed up for every single Whole Life Challenge in 2019.
This is the way he intends to live the rest of his life, Josh explained.
“Before the Challenge, I was so disappointed in myself. I knew the way I could be, but I was stuck,” Josh said. “So, to have something like this come around, it really was just about making the initial first step and saying I was going to do this, and now six months later I’m like, ‘Holy #$*@, look where I am.’”
He added: “My relationships are better, my kids are proud of me, I get out of the shower and I flex and I’m like, ‘Whoa, look at that.’ I have started to love myself again.”
And with that, there’s no turning back for either Josh or Amber.
“As far as I’m concerned,” Amber said, “this is our new lifestyle.”