Picture this: your gym throws together a little nutrition challenge. Whether it’s the zone, or paleo, or macros, you spend a month of your time measuring, reading labels, and calculating. Most of the gym is in on it, so you talk or commiserate, and enjoy the community. You know that everyone is watching. You know that someone is looking at your food intake, you know that others are watching your body for changes, and you know that at some point you are going to have to stand on a scale and see the numeric proof that you have been following the letter of the nutritional law. So, you are diligent. You cut and measure and weigh, and at the end of the thirty days you stand on the scale victorious! You did it! Challenge accepted; challenge crushed.
Now, it’s the following Monday. No one is watching. Everyone has resumed their regularly scheduled lives, and we continue on. Do you keep measuring, cutting, weighing, or do you also resume your regularly scheduled life? There in lies the crux. We are so good about challenges. We rise to the occasion and generally knock them out of the park; but what happens when the challenge is over?
Most of us love a good nutrition challenge. It is a wonderful opportunity to break some bad habits, get a taste for a new style of eating, and we get to do it all with the wonderful support and community around us. It really is a great way to kickstart your nutrition. But the thing is, it is actually a kickstart, a beginning point. A lot of times, we spend the 30 days in meticulous preparation and panic. We have accountability. We have a purpose. We have an end date. However, should a nutrition challenge ever actually end? Probably not.
It is key that we continue the lifestyle we have been accustomed to for 30 days. It takes 21 days to make a habit, at least that’s what they say. The problem is, most of us approach these challenges knowing that we only have to do it for a set amount of time. We know that when the time expires we can move on. This is not the point or purpose of these challenges. They are meant to introduce you to healthy nutrition, to break some bad habits you may have, and change your relationship with food. Not for a short amount of time, but for the rest of your life.
We need to stop handling these contests as though they end. We need to start tackling them as what they are meant to be. One a few occasions I have asked the gym owner if I can continue to submit a food journal. Whether she reads it or not, at least I feel like someone is watching over me. I have also asked to have her weigh me in once a month. Again, that means that someone is going to be monitoring progress. It helps me have the accountability we all need.
With all of this in mind, we still need to enjoy life. If your kids want to have a pizza picnic in the living room, do it. It’s a birthday and there is cake, eat it. Nutrition is not about depriving ourselves, but about finding a balance and approaching food with a healthy mindset. If you feel yourself sliding down the mountain covered in chocolate syrup, stop and look for accountability; but don’t live your life afraid of food. It’s important to live in a healthy relationship with nutrition and fitness, which is the point of these challenges in the first place. So meet the challenge head on, but remember to keep going when time expires.
By: Amanda Stewart