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When Phill Kane signed up for his first Whole Life Challenge in September 2013, he braced himself for what he thought was going to be a short-term and extreme “diet.” A few weeks of clean eating and regular exercise was his plan at the time, he explained.
Little did he know, it would be the start of a journey that would change everything about his life, not for a few weeks, but for good.
First, Phill Lost Weight
Phill, now 59, first heard about the WLC from a friend. And Phill wasn’t in a good place at the time. He had been struggling with an ongoing cocaine addiction for many years, his self-esteem was at an all-time low, and he had gained unwanted weight.
“I think I was 215 pounds or so at my heaviest,” said the 5-foot-11 Phill. “During that first Challenge I had unbelievable results weight wise. I got down to 175 pounds.” Today, due to his high-protein eating plan, running, and lifting weights, he has packed on some lean muscle mass and consistently sits at around 185 to 187 pounds.
Phill, who works long hours as a location scout in the Los Angeles film industry, said, “I would love it if I were one of those guys who could get down to 8% body fat, but I’m not. I’m a regular guy who shows up to a time-consuming job and has managed to stay at a steady weight for five years. I think that’s amazing.”
Better than the weight loss, though, is how the WLC has helped him manage his substance abuse problem. After following a twelve-step program, which helped him get clean for seven years, Phill relapsed in 2001.
Then He Kicked His Addiction — by Embracing Imperfection
After his relapse, Phill yo-yo-ed a lot with his addiction, and ultimately remained in a rough place until around 2008. “It was on and off for years,” he said.
And then, the WLC entered his world:
“My lapses became fewer and farther between once I began doing the Challenge. Prior to the WLC, a lapse would last weeks or even months. Since the WLC, it’s a day or two. I have not been perfect, but I’ve been far more aware and far less destructive.”
Phill has been completely clean now for three-and-a-half years. He credits the WLC’s philosophy of allowing him to be imperfect as the reason he has had so much success.
“Not to dis any of the other things and programs other people do [for substance abuse], but doing the Challenge was more effective for me than the twelve-step program. In the twelve-step program, there’s a huge emphasis on being perfect and your value is associated with not using drugs or drinking,” he said.
“But in the [WLC], if I haven’t been perfect, that’s okay, and every time I have an issue, it doesn’t mean I’m a loser. It just makes me a person who missed a few points on his food list,” he added.
Embracing the fact that he’s allowed to make mistakes on his journey has taken the pressure off, he explained. This mindset then lets him be better most of the time — and forgive himself when he’s not. But it took him until his second WLC to let go of the idea of perfection.
“When I started [the WLC], I was so caught up in perfection. The weight loss from the first Challenge, though, motivated me to do it again, and that’s when my mindset shifted. 10% body fat might not be a realistic goal for me. And I’m okay with that,” he said.
Five years later, Phill is satisfied with the progress he has made. He has participated in every single WLC, except one, since 2013. And he has gone from 26% body fat in 2013 to 17% today.
Now, It’s About Giving Back
In 2014, Phill had another mindset shift: his journey stopped being all about him and more about how he could give back.
“The Challenge started to become more about helping other people get through this thing than it was about me wanting abs like Jason Statham,” he joked. This manifested itself in putting together what Phill called a “disorganized team” of co-workers, friends and random people from Facebook.
Now, this once thrown-together, humble team has become a well-organized virtual team of 200-plus people from around the world, headed by Phill, who has been personally responsible for bringing more than a thousand people into the WLC since 2014.
Running his team, Challenge after Challenge, has helped Phill fulfill a lifelong goal. “For many years, I was a musician. I wanted fame and fortune, but more than that I always wanted to inspire someone I didn’t know,” he said. “Being an ambassador and running a worldwide team has allowed me to fulfill my lifelong goal of being an inspiration to someone.”
He added: “I’m not perfect, but I don’t need to be, and I can still inspire people.”
The Value of a Supportive and Participatory Partner
One person Phill has inspired along the way is his wife Agnes, who frequently participates in the WLC with her husband. Watching him turn into an altruistic leader has been particularly inspiring, she explained.
“He shines when he steers a group during the Challenge. He leads and is a great captain. I love to get to share my husband this way,” she said.
Phill’s passion for the Challenge is now a part of her, too, she said, and it has helped them both on an individual level and as partners.
“It helps us develop habits that are now ingrained and have become a part of our daily lives. It has allowed us to discover our best selves,” she said. “Finding our individual best helps us be a better couple. There is something wonderful in doing things as individuals that makes us stronger as partners.
One of these activities for the couple is running. “I took up running because Phill inspired me,” said Agnes, who did her first half marathon at the age of fifty. On his end, Phill runs four days a week and lifts weights the other three. He participates in two full marathons a year and a handful of half marathons.
Phill shared, “I barely finish marathons, but knowing I can get out there and go from the beginning of the 26 miles to the end makes healthy eating and adhering to the guidelines of the WLC pretty fricking easy.”
Committing to that kind of fitness program is made easier by his wife, Phill said, specifically her food prep. Agnes shops and prepares food on the weekend, such as quinoa, roasted vegetables, and roasted chicken.
“And there are always boiled eggs and avocado…I also have staples in our pantry like coconut wraps, ghee, dried nuts, and dried fruits…Phill doesn’t cook and he trains constantly, so our fridge is always full of food ready to be heated,” she said.
Phill added: “I owe a lot to her because she prepares healthy food to always have in the house. It makes it much easier.”
It’s a Way of Life Because It’s All About Consistency
Though Phill is always setting new goals for himself — his next goal is to shave thirty minutes off his marathon time — for him consistency over the long term is the most important thing about being part of the WLC community.
“I get so riled up and excited when I talk about [the WLC], but really it’s about the maintenance,” he said. “I’m 59 years old. When you look at most guys my age, they have just given up. They’re gone.” Phill, on the other hand, feels like he’s just getting started. And the best part is, it doesn’t feel like he’s actually giving up anything.
“I think a lot of people go into a diet and they think it’s all about giving something up. Giving up this or giving up that, but with the WLC it’s not about giving up. It’s about replacing things. There are plenty of things that you can be satisfied by and not feel like it’s deprivation,” he said.
Phill added: “At my age, I have a regular time-consuming job, and I still make exercise a part of my daily routine. I eat healthy and I still don’t feel like I’m losing anything. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything.”
In fact, he feels like the WLC has only allowed him to live a richer life, physically, mentally, and emotionally. It has made him a better person in the process, he added. “Leading the team has made me far more altruistic…I came into this thing with pretty low self-esteem, thinking I didn’t have a lot to bring to the table,” he said. “But I realized somewhere along the way — and this is a phrase I use with my team all the time: ‘It’s about awareness, not perfection.’”
He added: “It’s not about being perfect, or about the 180-degree change. It’s about small improvements each day.”
And the thing is, being less than perfect and making small changes here and there has allowed him to not just transform his life completely, but also to help countless others transform theirs.
“It started out as a diet in 2013. Now, I think of it as a movement,” he said. “A movement that allows me to bring something good to the world.”