Tuesday, January 31, 2017

30-Day Challenge Analysis Part 1: Pros and Cons of 30-Day ‘Sprints’ to Ultimate Health

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It’s 30 days, it’s a complete lifestyle revamp and it will “change your life”, get you healthy and help you “detox” and lose weight. That’s the general premise behind most 30-day challenges out there. But do they work? I mean seriously, what can you really accomplish in 30 days and how the heck does that translate into the rest of your life?

Thirty-Day Challenges and/or Transformations can be powerful tools for developing new habits and kicking old ones to the curb. But on the opposite side of the coin, they can be a recipe for disaster and/or self-destruction. In this, the first of three posts making up the 30-Day Challenge Series, we’re going to weigh the pros and cons of signing on to one of these 30-day ‘life changing’ challenges. Let’s get this party started…

30 Days to AWESOME – The Pros:

  1. You get to ‘try before you buy’. It’s only 30-days, that’s it. It’s an opportunity to try something new, see how it works, and decide if you want to keep drinking the Kombucha. It’s sort of like a money back guarantee – if you fall in love with your new lifestyle and/or how it makes you feel, you can keep on keepin’ on. But if you hate your life, feel yucky or just don’t like it – you can revert back to your cheeseburger and donut life – no strings attached. Or maybe, you strike a balance between the old and the new resulting in an overall healthier lifestyle but not necessarily devout “holier than now” eating. Ultimately, the choice is yours – no major commitment necessary up front. Just 30 days.
  2. It’s a kick-start. These challenges can serve as a catalyst for lasting behavior and habit changes. Let’s face it, some folks can’t resist a challenge – especially if there’s a tangible (money, prizes) reward at the end. This simple fact just might get “Dunkin’ Donut Dave” and “Pizza Hut Pete” to completely change their habits for, at least, 30 days. That might mean a couple dozen fewer donuts and/or 8 fewer stuffed crust pizzas for Dave and Pete, and well, it’s something. Small victories, folks. Small victories. With any luck, the guys will feel better and the changes will stick. Bottom line – they started and maybe, just maybe they ate a vegetable that wasn’t battered and fried. VICTORY!
  3. Old patterns and habits get replaced (at least for a while). For 30 solid days there’s no swinging by the drive-thru on the way to work, grabbing lunch at Burger King, or ordering in a pizza for dinner. For 30 days you’re going to actually have to be conscious of your food choices. You’ll need to clean out and restock your kitchen, figure out how to use the oven, and leave the grocery store with something besides Easy Mac, frozen pizza, and soda (yeah, I’m talking to you…). It takes some effort BUT it’s an investment in YOU. If you (the investee) sees/feels the dividends of your hard work, it’s likely you’ll keep making deposits and the interest will accrue at a rate greater than 0.06% APY. Take that US economy!
  4. It might stick. After the initial shock of no more Starbuck’s Frappuccino’s and/or weekend ice cream and beer binges, you fall into a ‘new normal’. Your routine changes – less Netflix and more meal prep, etc. Your tastes start changing – broccoli and Brussels sprouts look out! And best of all, you start feeling better. So, after 30-days you decide that going back to OREO’s and all-you-can-eat buffets isn’t something that you want to do. Sure, you might loosen the reigns a little bit, but 80-90% of the time the train is on the tracks and you’ve got a new, healthier lifestyle. Mission accomplished!


30 Days to Destruction – The Cons:

  1. Your “why” is wrong. There’s a lot of people that do these challenges because they have a chance to win something, as in the case of the gym contests. So, for 30 days they change their routines and a lot of times take it to an unhealthy extreme; starving themselves, zero carbs, etc., just to win the prize or get the glory at the end of it all. They take a totally unsustainable approach, spend 30 days in complete misery, and come day 31, all hell (and donuts) break loose. These folks go into the challenge with no intent of lasting change and when it’s over its back to Fanta and French fries. This is totally unproductive and so far from healthy that Google maps can’t even help.
  2. It’s a one-size fits all approach to eating. We’re all different and our bodies aren’t all going to respond the same way to these food and/or exercise changes. Some folks feel fabulous on a low carb plan doing high intensity workouts and others feel like complete trash. These challenges and the food and/or workout plans that come with them don’t take into account your age, gender, prior activity level, health history, or your relationship with food and/or exercise. Often there’s no guidance on portion sizes, meal balance (protein, veggies, fats, starch, fruit, etc.) or anything else. All you get is a list of ‘rules’ and must do’s. While this approach works great for some (at least in the short term), the blanket and non-specific approach isn’t the best route for everyone or for the long haul in a good number of cases.
  3. 30-days of deprivation?? Let’s be honest, does anyone that’s done one of these complete elimination challenges truly enjoy their lives during that time? (If you answered yes, you’re probably fibbing just to spite me. Stop it.) There are lots of rules, limitations, and restrictions. Eating out, at the homes of family/friends and/or in social situations becomes super difficult if not impossible. Yep, you’re that high maintenance person that just kind of sucks the fun out of everything or you become a hermit and spend a lot of quality time at home with yourself. Sure, it’s only 30-days, but are you learning anything about how to incorporate healthy choices into your normal life once the 30-day sentence ends? If you’re not, when it’s all over – you’ll likely find yourself right back where you started. Same habits, different day.
  4. Didn’t we do this already? You’ve possibly noticed a lot of people (thank you Facebook) that do several 30-day challenges every year. It looks something like this: January 1 – “I’m starting my Whole 30 today. New Year, New Me!”; April 1 – “Kicking off 30 days of strict Paleo to get ready for my spring break vacation.”; July 1 – “Starting my summer ‘sugar detox’ – no ice cream for 30 days 🙁 !”; October 1 – “Prepping for the holiday eating season with another Whole 30, time for a reset!” – and the cycle repeats again come January, maybe with a ‘juice cleanse’ this time to mix it up. So, the million dollar question here – what the heck is this person doing BETWEEN his/her 30 day ‘resets’? Uh, Magic 8 Ball says, “All signs point to ‘eating like an asshole’.” The 30-day challenge/transformation isn’t meant to be a quick fix or short-term get healthy sprint followed by the return to complete food debauchery. If you’re not changing your habits and lifestyle for the long haul. You’re doing it wrong.

So, there it is – my short list of the pros and cons of the 30-day challenge/transformation. It’s definitely not all encompassing and we’ll dig deeper into the process in the next two posts in the series:

30-Day Challenge Analysis Part 2: Abusing The System – How We Screw Up The Process & Ourselves

30-Day Challenge Analysis Part #3: Changing Your Life For Real – Let’s Do This Right

But this gives you some ‘food for thought’ as you near the end of your New Year 30-Day Challenge. What’s your plan for day 31?



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