As we reach the halfway point of the Fall 2014 Whole Life Challenge, everyone is starting to get into the groove. Veterans have likely found some new modes of play, and newbies are starting to get the hang of it. There are a few mistakes, though, that vets and noobs alike all seem to make. I know this because I’ve made them. I’ve seen friends make them. I’ve seen team mates make them. I’ve seen strangers make them when perusing reflections. So here I am, once again, in all of my multiple-WLC-yet-still-learning glory to tell you the top mistakes I see and how you can correct them to make your next four weeks of the challenge even better.

 

1. Trying to be Perfect

imagesI know it seems like “13s” everyday are what you want to strive for, but when you start to see a reference to a ‘perfect score’ every day in reflections, it tells me that the focus may be primarily on getting that perfect score and that’s not what we’re here for. We’re not here for perfection, and striving for that is going to drive you nuts. This is going to make losing that point a complete mind fuck when it eventually happens…which it will and it should. We’re playing this game to make real changes for real life. Not to simply play a perfect game for 8 weeks. Your entire day should not revolve around getting a perfect 13. The Whole Life Challenge is not about what happens on day 56. It’s not about the final stop. It’s about the journey. It’s about every day as you go. The things you learn, and the progress you make. The journey is what matters, not where you want to be when it’s over. If you spend the whole day focusing on ending with a perfect score, you may be missing out on the little choices, the little changes, and tiny realizations that come with living the challenge. That doesn’t mean throw the striving for greatness out the window. It means that if you find yourself constantly touting your perfect scores, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your perspective. Use your reflection to truly REFLECT.  Maybe “Woke up a little late and was rushing around but turned it into a great day!”, or “Went to the gym and had an awesome workout even though I was tired!”, or “Made a beautiful dinner for my family that was totally compliant and good for them!”, are the things you should be celebrating as opposed to your ‘perfect score’.

2. Not Being Prepared

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I cannot stress this enough. The people who struggle on the WLC, the people who endlessly say how hard it is, the people who don’t see results, the people who quit, are the people who are not prepared. The fact of the matter is, when you change the way you eat, you’re going to need to change the way you prep…meaning you’re going to have to do some.  If all you look for is packaged food, or take out items, then the challenge is going to be really difficult for you and you’re going to think that there is NOTHING for you to eat. If you don’t like being in the kitchen, you’re going to have to find some easy recipes and get over that fear. One day spent in the kitchen cooking up some chicken breast, or a bunch of ground beef, or making muffins, or putting a huge pork butt into the slow cooker can save you a lot of grief over the next 7 days. On the road a lot like me? Invest in a cooler. Learn to pack your lunches. Bring coconut milk with you for coffee.  Going out to dinner? Go online and view the menu before you go.  Get an idea of what’s available, what you can substitute, how you can construct a compliant, healthy meal before you even get in the car. This way, you won’t be blindsided and order something under pressure to avoid being ‘the difficult one’.

It’s not even all about prepping food.  You need to be mentally ready.  You need to have a ‘why’.  If you’re not ready to make a change, if you don’t have a reason that you signed up for yourself, if you’re not open to what the challenge has to offer, if you’ve convinced yourself that it’s going to suck and it will be too hard, then you will struggle. Your mind needs to be just as prepared as your refrigerator.

3. Overly Explaining/Justifying Your Lost Nutrition Points

We want to hear about your journey. What did everyone lose points on? That’s something that keeps us connected. Oh, Becca lost a point on a glass of wine? Ok, I don’t feel so bad about my shot of tequila now. Seems like everyone is in the same boat. This is all true. This is why we do this as a team. We all want to hear about what you are struggling with because we are struggling, too. However, there is a fine line between sharing your challenges and missteps, and becoming a black hole of excuses.

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Remember how I’ve said I learn something new every challenge? This was the Ah-Ha moment of the last one. “Lost a point last night on a glass of wine with my family, but whatever I’m cool with it.”. You don’t have to explain to us why you lost a point.  You don’t have to justify it with us. Absolutely no one is looking at your reflection of that glass of wine and thinking, “Hmm… She’s lazy and weak.” No. I caught myself doing that last time around, and then when I realized that all of my reflections on days I didn’t have 5 nutrition points consisted of an explanation as to why I lost those points, I looked at those of my teammates. Everyone. I mean EVERYONE, who lost points the previous day offered up not only an explanation as to why…but if was often followed up with some proclamation as to why “I’m fine with it.”. Here’s the thing I discovered: Most of the time when we justify our choices to others, we’re really justifying them to ourselves. We so badly want to make sure that no one thinks we care we lost a point. We maybe aren’t totally happy with the fact that we had that slice of pie, so instead of just moving on, we need to make sure EVERYONE knows we’re ok with it. It’s a strange thing. After I caught myself, I decided that from now on I wouldn’t address my loss of points, but rather focus on the positives of the day.  If I have a drink at a family party, instead of saying “It’s my life, I decided to have a drink at a party and that’s fine with me!”, I say, “Had an amazing time celebrating with my family.”. No explanation, no excuses, just reflecting on the fun I had the day before. You owe no one an explanation. Be strong in your choices. You are the only one you need to answer to.

4. Getting Mad About the Rules

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Every challenge, the same things tend to surface. People often look at the rules, see a ‘no’ food that they don’t think should be on the prohibited items list, and provide a litany of reasons why it should be allowed.  A very VERY common one is the ‘no pasta’ rule. If you’re on Lifestyle level, you’re allowed brown rice, but not brown rice pasta. If you’re playing at the performance level, you’re allowed beans, but not bean pasta. Same with sweet potatoes. No sweet potato-flour pasta. Why are the whole foods allowed but not their floured versions? Well, there is actually a reason for this rule, and all of the others.  They make the rules and we have agreed to play by them.  The people who created the WLC aren’t just throwing random foods on lists and laughing that we now won’t eat them. The research has been done. Every food on the ‘no’ list has a reason for being there. So how to we fix it? Well, this one is kind of easy. You signed up for a game. Just play by the rules instead of trying to talk your way out of them. Being mad that you can have dates but not date sugar, doesn’t do anyone any good. Stop focusing on all the things you DON’T like about it, and focus on the great stuff. Like steak. Focus on steak. And butter. Use this as an opportunity to revamp the things you love into something new! Do you really miss pasta? Is sunday sauce a tradition for your family? Give zucchini noodles a try.  Chicken nuggets a favorite in your house? Browse one of the hundred paleo blogs out there for a compliant recipe. Play in the kitchen. Expand your horizons and break out of your comfort zone! This game is a chance to try something new. Don’t pass it up.

 

5. Quitting

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This challenge is 8 weeks long for a reason. 21 days does not create habits. 30 days isn’t enough time to really make changes. The Whole Life Challenge is about LASTING habits and lifestyle changes. Even if it’s as small as reading labels or drinking a little more water or learning that maybe you don’t need that dessert after every dinner or that even when you’re busy you can still make time to get in a workout or stretch.   I see a lot of this pattern:

Week 1 – This sucks. I want sugar in my coffee. What am I supposed to even eat?

Week 2 – THIS IS AMAZING! I lost 20 pounds!

Week 3/4/5 – Ok so this isn’t so bad. I’ve had a few zero days at parties and stuff but I’ll be fine.

Week 6/7 – I’m falling off. I had a few days in a row of partying. I lost everything I gained

Week 8 – It’s almost over anyway, I’m done.

DO NOT GIVE UP! Even if you had a week of 0’s in nutrition, or you missed the gym 5 days in a row, or you completely forgot to log your score for a few days, do not throw in the towel. The truth of the matter is that tomorrow is a new day and it’s going to be what you make it. Get back on the horse. Even if you finish dead last on your team, at least you finished. Finishing trumps quitting Every. Single. Time. These 56 days are a moment in time in the grand timeline of your life. It’s a blip. Stick it out for the entire thing. You’re capable. You can do this. Just make those little choices that make you better each day. Knock that ‘Must’ off of your to do list. Put the phone down and enjoy your food and those around you. When you come out of the other side, the likelihood that something will not have stuck is very low. I have yet to speak to someone who slipped back into their old routine 100%. This will change how you view things. It’s just a fact. That is, however, as long as you keep your head in the game. Use your team. Stay as positive as you can. If you have a few days, or a week, or even more, that you really fall off the radar – reach out to them! Reach out to the Whole Life Challenge community to help you get back into it. You made a commitment to yourself. It’s time to follow through.

Even if you’re making one of these mistakes, hell…if you’re making ALL of these mistakes, you’re still doing one very important thing.

You’re TRYING.

You’re lightyears ahead of those who are not. You’ve already made progress. You’re already working towards success. We need to make mistakes in order to learn. That’s why I’m able to sit here and type this very post. Because I’ve made these mistakes. I’ve made them and I’ve learned from them. I will make new ones, and I will learn from them as well (Hopefully!). That’s what it’s about, right? Not how few times we fall, but how often we get back up.