So here we are. In the home stretch of the Whole Life Challenge. In case you missed it: the WLC is an 8 week long life style challenge where you earn points for sticking to nutrition rules, exercising daily, and completing weekly lifestyle challenges.

The first week of the challenge was hard for me. My job often requires attending events…at bars…with delicious craft beer on tap. This week- I had 6…in a row. I somehow managed to get through that first week with flying colors. I thought, for sure, it would be a piece of coconut-flour-paleo-cake after that. I was right…kinda.

After that first week, things went very smoothly. I had my gluttonous fat kid “reward” days all planned out and they helped me stay on track throughout the week. I was feelin’ good! Working out everyday. Eating cleaner than I have in a while. Things were starting to come together.

Then it happened. Asheville.

photo 1-2

I was lucky enough to get to spend three days with some of the crew from Oskar Blues Brewery in Brevard, NC.  We spent much of that time in Asheville, which turned out to be one of my newest favorite towns in the US.  Sounds great! It WAS great. So what’s the problem?

Well, I had been at the brewery in Brevard for no more than six and a half minutes when a box of BBQ was placed in front of me. That’s not so bad! Eat the pulled pork and collard greens! I did.  Then there was the banana pudding. Homemade with real bananas.  It was no more than a mere two ounces, topped with a Nilla wafer. This little tiny, vanilla bean speckled tub would prove to be my undoing. I held out all of forty-three seconds. That was it. It was over. Commencing 72-hours of no longer caring about that stupid Whole Life Challenge.

I did manage to get myself up in the morning and workout in the hotel (dumbell thrusters are stupid), and even dropped in at CrossFit Pisgah for a 6 am class. EMOM Cleans and then Fat Fran.  Fat Fran, you say? Yes. 12-9-6 with 135/95# Thrusters and chest to bar pull ups. Admittedly, it felt great to really put work in amongst all of the madness I was putting into my pie hole.  I even found a bowl of fruit for breakfast in the jungle of pastries and muffins on display for us. I also pulled off eating whatever I wanted after the clock hit noon and drink more hoppy, tasty beers than I had planned on. To be honest? I was OK with it. I was in an awesome town, surrounded by awesome people, great beer and great food. When was I going to be in this situation again? Well, probably sooner than later, but that’s not the point. i was living in the moment! What’s the point of all this exercising and eating right to live longer if it’s going to be boring!?

DownloadedFile

I got back late Thursday night. The party wasn’t over. The first night back was going to the Stirling Hotel for my dads birthday. What’s so great about the Stirling Hotel, you say? Well, probably the best burger in NJ and a beer selection to match (more on that another day, as it merits a full post). I wasn’t cheapening the craftsmanship of this bunned-beauty by removing that golden bread floor and ceiling. I was going all in. Next night, another birthday party at Porta and their 2nd Annual Portoberfest. 22-oz mugs of German brews. My favorite pasta on the planet. Yea, I know…pasta pomodoro doesn’t scream Oktoberfest but screw you it’s good.

Then I woke up Sunday morning.
Holy shit. I just undid five weeks of work in five days. 

DownloadedFile-1

My next thought:

The challenge is over in two weeks anyway. I might as well just say fuck it at this point. I want a bagel sandwich.

Then I thought about it a bit longer. During this challenge, I’ve been feeling better and performing better. I’ve uncovered that this challenge is most likely the way I need to be eating. Everyone is different, but for me, this no sugar, no wheat, no dairy, no booze (OK…not no booze. Select booze.), seems to work. Why was I letting the fact that the challenge was ending soon turn my five day spiral into a full on surrender?

That got me thinking about what the heck this whole life damn challenge is really about. Certainly, the goal is not to be firing on all cylinders for 8 weeks just to crash and burn into old habits on day 57. It’s about creating new habits. Maybe changing what you were doing before. Let’s face it. If you signed up for a nutrition, exercise challenge…something you were doing before wasn’t working. “If it’s not broke don’t fix it”…doesn’t apply when it’s clearly broken. I started thinking about what I did this for in the first place.

So what to do? Well, I think day 57 doesn’t mean it’s over. It simply means that you don’t have to keep logging a score in. You wont lose a point when you eat some sugar or drink an IPA. It’s not about the points though, is it? I found myself after a few weeks not thinking “do I want to lose a point?”, but more “do I really want to take the step back from what I’ve done so far?”  Why would I change that just because some website tells me that the official game is over? Just because there aren’t going to be points assigned to my every move anymore, doesn’t mean I have to stop what I’m doing.

None of us doing the challenge feel worse for it. It’s not possible. There is no way on this Earth that forcing yourself to workout every day, drastically cut back on sugar, grains, and processed foods made anyone feel worse off than when they started. Sorry, not buying it.

ager

Maybe you didn’t wake up one random morning looking like Andrea Ager, sure…I’ll give you that (<–That’s Andrea Ager).  You certainly didn’t wake up looking like John Goodman because you ate too much kale or ran one mile too far.  If you feel bad, you’re doing it wrong.  We do these challenges to learn better habits that we can carry into our lives when the scoring is over. This is about making ongoing LIFESTYLE changes, not about sticking to a trendy diet for a few weeks. It takes time and work, and that makes the successes all the better.

Real life doesn’t fit the Whole Life Challenge model. At least not mine. Yes, there will be random weekdays when I will have a beer or eat a sandwich with normal bread. There will be Sundays where I’m simply too lazy to go workout and would rather enjoy my couch and the SVU marathon that is undoubtedly on. It does, however allow for me to make better decisions every day. To try to make a better choice than I did yesterday. I don’t need a scoreboard to keep going, and I shouldn’t allow the clock running out to be my excuse to quit.

This challenge isn’t ending on Nov.1. It’s just the start.