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The Whole Life Challenge begins again soon and as I assemble my team, there’s one particular guideline that seems to paralyze people when it comes to which level they should play — or whether they’re willing to play at all. I always imagine people cringing at the idea of giving up sugar (as I did when I signed up for my first Challenge), but many more seem to draw the line at limiting their wine.
I know I am wholly unqualified to write about wine consumption, as I’m not much of a drinker. But last year I gave up coffee during one Challenge, so I feel like I’m entitled to say a few things. I’d given up coffee only once before in my life. It was the winter of 1993 and I’d been seeing a chiropractor (professionally, not romantically) who thought coffee might be contributing to my chronic back trouble. I drank at least four cups a day at the time, and I loved it.
I still love coffee. I’m sure I love it as much as you love your wine.
My Long and Sordid Relationship With Coffee
My detox from coffee in 1993 was horrible. Besides the grief of giving up something I loved, I fell asleep at my desk at 3pm every day for months. Then, my body relearned how to keep itself awake through an afternoon of work and eventually I was back to my old, cheery self.
I started drinking coffee again in 2014 – 21 years later – and was plunged right back into my erstwhile love affair. My coffee tasted great. I got more done. It made me happy. Every night, I would go to sleep thinking, “Only a few more hours until I can drink coffee again!”
I happened to give up coffee during last year’s Challenge because I’d gotten sick and lost my taste for it. And after some time apart, I came to the terribly sad conclusion that, deep down, coffee and I do not actually make good bedfellows. Caffeine makes me anxious. Even when I’m asleep, I can feel the muscles in my face pulled taught through the night.
I’m not saying coffee is bad. In fact, it’s common knowledge that coffee offers many health benefits, just as wine does. But there is a price to pay. Wine often causes inflammation, something the Whole Life Challenge is designed to eliminate or greatly reduce. So even though wine is currently a very, very important part of your day, it’s not a bad idea to see what your day is like without it.
Have a Heart-to-Heart With Your Wine
Many of us take up with our Food Loves during a time when we need an escape or we need soothing. Sometimes that need goes on for a long time, and our Food Love helps us through it. But then our relationship becomes a habit. We may not need that escape or soothing anymore, but we don’t even know it because that item has become such a ritualistic part of our lives.
I’m not going to tell you that you should or shouldn’t have wine, or that you do or don’t deserve it. (Of course you do!) I’m going to say this: all the things in my life I thought I surely could not live without — cheese, chocolate, chips — were really not as hard to step away from as I thought they would be. And even if I invite them back into my life again, I do so with a new perspective.
My breaks from coffee-drinking have occasionally allowed me to wonder, “What does it say about my life that my daily coffee is my main highlight?” The answer has led me to make some changes in the ways I spend my days – from the clients I accept to the people I spend time with.
I have again resumed my love affair with coffee, but I no longer feel as if coffee “owns” me.
You Can Still Drink Wine on the Whole Life Challenge
No one is saying, “No wine forever.” The Challenge is saying, “Move out of your comfort zone (even if it’s only a few inches) and see how that feels for you.”
Whether you’re considering the Whole Life Challenge for the first time, or you’re a frequent flyer trying to pick a level, I offer this: If you’re a reasonably healthy eater and you think you’d benefit from playing at the Lifestyle level, do that. And if you want wine more often than once per week, have it. Take off the points and enjoy it.
What this will do is force you to make your wine-drinking decision anew every day. You will choose to drink wine because of conscious desire rather than habit. That alone will make your wine experience lovelier. Some days you may choose to forgo your beloved wine and notice doing so is not all that bad. Or maybe the experience of skipping your wine is awful, and you’ll look to discover why. Those are both good scenarios.
It’s Not Actually About Winning, Whining, or Wine
The Whole Life Challenge is a challenge. We are pushed to inspect all the things we do mindlessly and decide if they serve us. If you’re worried you can’t live up to an agreement you made by playing at a certain level, please know this — no one cares about your score.
For most of us, playing the Challenge is not about “winning.” It’s about changing some of the ways we take care of ourselves and gathering real-time information about what serves us, so we can ultimately make better choices for our health.
And doing it all with people makes it fun. In other words: no whining about wine!