There are a lot of questions about the Whole Life Challenge. What it is, why you should do it, all of that stuff. After talking to both first-timers and other veterans, I put this list together. These are the most common misconceptions about the WLC, which frequently get used as the reasons people choose not to participate:
1. It’s expensive.
Okay, yes. You have to pay for it. It’s like $49 when it’s full price. That’s the equivalent of a few coffees per week (or one depending on where you go). But when you pay for something, you’re more likely to see it through because you’ve made a monetary investment. If, instead, you just say to yourself, “Yeah, I’ll follow the rules,” few of us are actually going to do it. Trust me, I’ve been there.
When you participate in the WLC, you get the ability to track your progress, have access to information and helpful tools, and become part of a huge community of people. It’s $49 you’re spending on yourself to get healthier. It’s small in the grand scheme of things and what we all mindlessly spend.
2. I don’t want to count calories.
Good, neither do I! Whole Life Challenge prescribes zero caloric restrictions, carb counting, measuring, or tracking food of any kind other than the points system (which is extremely easy to navigate). You get a list of “no” foods, and if you eat a “no” food, then you lose a point. That’s it. No counting, no worrying about calories or macronutrient ratios — just eating real food.
3. I eat well enough.
That’s great! It’s all in the name, though: Whole Life Challenge. It’s not just about food. If it’s your first time participating in the Challenge, then yes, the food might be a big change and your primary focus. That being said, what else are we dealing with:
- Exercise: Instead of the old days where you succumbed to being “too busy” and would usually do nothing, now you have a reason and a motivation to do ten minutes of yoga, push-ups, jump rope, or play with your kids (or dogs).
- Mobility: No matter how busy you are, you can find ten minutes to stretch. At your desk, when you wake up, before you go to bed, while you’re watching TV — the opportunities for this one go on and on.
- Well-Being Practices: These address everything from meditation to gratitude to communication. They represent opportunities to examine and improve your life as a whole, not just your food choices.
And don’t forget hydration, sleep, and reflection.
I’ve done the Challenge many times now, and I have a different experience every time. I’ve made lifestyle changes to the point that my daily nutrition mirrors the Challenge rules, so my goal is to keep myself accountable for a certain number of weeks. I aim to move for ten minutes daily even when I don’t want to. I focus on taking the Well-Being Practices, like meditation, more seriously and to help others through the Challenge as best I can.
4. I don’t want to lose weight.
For many, the goal of a WLC is to lose body fat. That being said, for many it’s simply to feel better, to clean up, to tighten up nutrition, to get a little more active, to get back into a routine, to enhance performance in the gym, there are a whole plethora of goals aside from losing weight. As long as you’re eating enough food, you’ll be fine, and you’ve got a huge support system to help you figure it out. It’s not even all about the food. I know someone, who did her first WLC during a very difficult time. Turns out, it became this positive thing in her day that allowed her to focus on herself, on her health, and on something other than the tough situation surrounding her. It changed her relationship with food, her approach to health, and her view on life in general. Things like this reach far beyond cookie vs carrot. It’s your entire life.
5. I don’t want to go on a diet.
I’ll be the first one to tell you that Diets don’t work long term and they tend to drive everyone crazy. Don’t confuse the word Diet with diet. Your diet is what you eat, day to day, how you nourish yourself. We all have a diet, and it’s important to make sure that it’s the right one for you. A Diet, however, is a short term, drastic change with a short-term goal (usually weight loss). They’re generally unsustainable, and too short to elicit any real change. We’re talking about forming a lifelong, healthy way of eating and bringing new habits into your every day life far beyond the length of the Challenge. The word Diet has been hijacked by our quick-fix obsessed culture. Diets are not quick fixes. Your diet is the base for everything. Your brain clarity, your sleep, your energy, your performance. It is the foundation of the house. We aren’t talking about some crazy, juice only, lemon and cayenne nonsense. We’re talking about eating real, whole food that has always been food. Meats, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and more. If it’s a trend, it’s a trend that’s been around for all of mans existence.
6. It seems really strict.
If you pick in inappropriate level, then yes, it is too strict. More on that in the next point. There are a lot of 30 day challenges out there. Super rigid, you screw up once and you’re out type challenges. I see people “Restarting” after one fumble all of the time. Therein lies the beauty of the Whole Life Challenge. Thanks to the point system, and the ability to earn bonus points, you’re encouraged to live in the real world. The intention is not to finish with a perfect score, but to perhaps make you think that one second longer before making a choice and thinking to yourself, “Is it worth it?”. This isn’t just food choices. This is everything. If you make one better choice today than you would have if you weren’t doing the challenge: You had an extra glass of water, you stretched before bed, you went for a run instead of sitting inside, you said hello to someone and made their day a little better, or you said no when offered that Dunkin Donut at work that you know you didn’t really need. It’s the TINY changes and SMALL choices that start to snowball into bigger ones. When you jump into a strict, bend less program, the likelihood of failure is high. The probability that you’ll go right back to your old ways at it’s culmination is high. That’s not what we want here. We want sustainable, whole life betterment.
7. It’s too much for me.
As I mentioned above, if you pick the wrong level, then yes…this might be too much for you. Whole Life Challenge offers up three levels of play: Kickstart, Lifestyle, and Performance. Even if you’ve done the challenge before: READ THE NEW LEVELS. You may find one is better suited for you this time around. I CANNOT STRESS ENOUGH HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO READ THE LEVELS. There is SERIOUSLY a level for everyone this time. The base level, Kick Start, is extremely simple, and I believe can be implemented into virtually any lifestyle. Our natural inclination is to say that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing all the way and immediately selecting Performance, the top tier. This is not the right choice for everyone. I’ve seen many people fail and quit their first challenge because they jumped right into the “Advanced” level and it was simply too much too fast. There is nothing wrong, or less-than in selecting Kickstarter (formerly Beginner) or Lifestyle (formerly Intermediate). If it’s a level that will present you with a few challenges, but allow you to apply it to your life, then it’s the right level for you. If you usually do Performance (Advanced), but this fall you have a lot going on and maybe it’s going to be tough to stick to it, then go Lifestyle. If you’re new to Paleo or whole foods nutrition, try Kickstarter to get a feel for it. Visit the website for level descriptions and find the one that’s right for YOU. Not for your friend, not what you THINK you’re EXPECTED to do, but the one that will best help you reach your goals with your sanity intact.
8. I can’t give up my _______.
This is, if I’m being honest, my biggest pet peeve when it comes to making changes. “I can’t give up my wine.” “I can’t give up my bread.” “I can’t give up my maple syrup in my coffee in the morning.” Brace yourself for some tough love: You CAN. You just don’t want to.
As a result of not wanting to make change, you’ve passed off the responsibility and removed the choice. It’s not up to you, you HAVE to have the maple syrup. You NEED the wine after work. You just CANNOT skip it. I’m sorry, but put on your big-girl pants, grow up, and take control. It’s YOUR decision what you eat. Yes, it might suck at first. You can’t have ice cream whenever you want. It’s not going to be fun right away. That’s just how it is. You can’t keep adding 2 and 2 together expecting to get 5.
Thanks to Big Food, we are told “Hey! You can be healthy and still eat pie! Just eat our low calorie pie that’s filled with fake sweeteners and weird chemicals! You can have it all! But you’ll never really have it all, we do want you to keep eating out pie, after all.” You need to make changes. That’s just how it is. No one needs pie. The degree of those changes, and how successful or painful they are is all determined by your outlook and appropriate level selection. No one ever ate something by accident. Oopsie, fell down on a cupcake with my mouth open, over and over. Part of the WLC is taking responsibility and taking action.
I will use myself as an example: I work in craft beer. Time and time again I would say, “Well, when I have events, I have to drink the beer. It’s rude not to. I don’t really have a choice.”. As time went on, i realized that I was just using that as my excuse. If I convinced everyone that I HAD to drink it, then I didn’t really fail, it just happened to me. Uhhh, no. If I don’t want a beer, or feel I don’t need one, or maybe I want one but I’m not drinking right now…I don’t have one anymore. It’s no one else’s business what you eat or drink. It’s yours, and it’s up to you. If someone gets mad at you for not eating the cake they offer, it’s their problem, not yours. If you’re out with friends and you ask for no bread on your burger and they give you shit: It’s their insecurity with you challenging their beliefs by changing your choices. You may be in uncomfortable situations. You may have to say no over and over. But you’re an adult. You make your choices. Your food doesn’t decide things for you. Man up. If you truly cannot live without whatever item it is and that one thing is going to be the deal breaker for you, then fine, have it. Lose the point. That’s your call and you can make that call on the Challenge. That’s the point. It’s just about making decisions. If you decide you truly cannot have a cup of coffee without sugar, then whatever, have the sugar. If that means that you’ll make a better choice later on that day, I’m all for it.