The Whole Life Challenge with a TWIST!

New Year. New Challenge.

As a Registered Dietitian, I’m not a HUGE fan of most challenges. Earlier this week, I shared an article on the pro’s and con’s of Today’s Trendy Diets.  I encourage you to read the article along with this blog post before choosing a Wellness Challenge.
My goal for the this blog post is to provide you with solid guidelines on what to look for and what to avoid when it comes to wellness challenges. Be sure to click on the links for more information.

  1. Does the Challenge address your medical condition, if you have one? Generally speaking, most short-term challenges are fine if you are a healthy individual.  HOWEVER, if you have a medical condition, check with your doctor FIRST!!  High blood pressure, heart disease, thyroid dysfunction, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes are just a few medical conditions that could potentially improve when paired with proper nutrition.  Work with a Dietitian to formulate a plan that works with your specific dietary needs and helps you achieve your wellness goals.
  2. Does the Challenge sound realistic to YOU? Are you being asked to give up your favorite foods for 30+ days? How will that help you after the challenge is over? I have seen people follow challenges PERFECTLY for 30+ days only to fall off the wagon on day 31 and never return. Ask yourself if the challenge is realistic for YOU! Weight Watchers (WW) shows promise for long-term weight loss (1).  As you probably know, WW does not eliminate any foods but rather teaches you how to enjoy the foods you love in moderation. Check out this article from John Hopkins Weight loss program review 
  3. Does the Challenge motivate you?  Do you look at the challenge details and get a deflated feeling? If so, that’s a pretty good sign the challenge is over before it even started! Asking friends and/or family members to join could be the motivation you need. Everything is more fun with friends! Find a challenge that allows you to create teams and friendly competition. Social support is a great motivator!
  4. Does the Challenge encourage S.M.A.R.T goal setting? S.M.A.R.T goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based. “I’m never going to eat ice cream again.” is too broad and unrealistic.  However, “I’m going to have one scoop of my favorite ice cream on Fridays with my family” is more realistic. “I’m going to walk for 30 minutes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday," is another example of a S.M.A.R.T goal setting.  Make three S.M.A.R.T goals for yourself.  SMART goals 
  5. Does the Challenge determine a realistic weight loss goal? Often I hear a client’s desire to lose an unrealistic amount of weight. It is important to pick a realistic weight loss goal to avoid frustration and remain motivated.  Work with a Dietitian to determine a realistic weight loss goal for you.  Visit this Calorie Calculator for some basic guidance.
  6. Does the Challenge track your nutrition (calories and macros)? Eating too many or too few calories can be detrimental to your success. I have seen gym go-ers, who were full of energy, join a challenge and suddenly fall apart in workouts. Why does this happen? Simple. They are not getting enough calories (most likely, CARBS!). Using an app like My Fitness Pal, will allow you to track your calories and check in on your energy balance. FYI…carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel.  Eliminating carbs from your diet is like running a car on fumes.  EAT YOUR CARBS and track your nutrients! 
  7. Does the Challenge eliminate ENTIRE food groups? Many challenges eliminate 1-2 food groups, usually dairy and grains.  By eliminating entire food groups you are eliminating key nutrients such as calcium, Vitamin D, and fiber. Find a challenge that DOES NOT eliminate any food groups! Excluding food groups from your diet due to sensitivities and/or an allergy is a whole different story. 
  8. Does the Challenge offer an exercise component? Nutrition is about 80% of your success.  Research shows that people who combine diet with exercise are more successful long-term (4)   Isn’t that our goal?  Additionally, physical activity can reduce your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. Aim to add moderate levels of physical activity 3 to 5 days a week for 30 to 45 minutes. The long-term goal should be to accumulate at least 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, and preferably, all days of the week (2) The American College of Sports Medicine suggests, adding strength training 2 or more days a week (7).   Strength training shows improvement with building muscle, reducing fat and reducing risks for osteoporosis (6). Check out Hammonasset Conditioning + Fitness. I hear they have awesome trainers, a variety of fitness classes and is a super supportive environment!
  9. Does the Challenge encourage proper sleep, stress reduction and relaxation? Challenges should be multifaceted. Did you know sleep deprivation can led to an increase in calorie consumption during the following day? (5) Try RomWod and set a sleep reminder on your watch.   
  10. Does the Challenge keep you accountable? Programs supervising attendance, offering social support, and focusing on dietary modification have better adherence than interventions not supervising attendance, not offering social support, and focusing exclusively on exercise (3). There’s something to be said for being held accountable. Challenges are great at keeping people accountable.

Bottom line, find a challenge that is realistic, offers exercise and nutrition, accountability and support.  At HCF, we will be hosting the Whole Life Challenge (WLC) with a twist. We are modifying some of the parameters of the WLC to meet the above guidelines.  Jessica, our Dietitian, will be on hand to help answer any questions. Join us at Hammonasset Conditioning + Fitness on January 14th at 11am to learn more!