Last summer, I participated in a month-long Paleo challenge with two friends from work. The idea was to go Paleo for the entire month of July. It was the best I have ever felt. Don’t get me wrong, I had ice cream, cheese, and bread here and there, but the majority of my diet was dairy and grain free and I liked it a lot. As the school year started up and the year got crazier, my Paleo lifestyle took a backseat. I feel back into the dangerous mindset that “I was working out and walking a lot so I can eat whatever I want.” Wrong-o! The kicker was that, yes, I was working out, but not incredibly consistently.
This little forward brings me to right now. My boyfriend and two of my good friends and I decided to do a “Summer Slim Down Challenge.” While the title does indicate a focus on weight loss, the bigger picture of this challenge is that we are all making a significant effort to lead ourselves down healthier paths.
Our challenge is inspired by a summer challenge that I found on SixSistersStuff.com. You can read the main components on the provided link, but I will also provide them outlined below:
- For each of the following healthy habits, participants will receive a certain amount of points:
1. Eating at least 3 servings of vegetables each day
2. Eating at least 2 servings of fruits each day
3. Exercise (counts for 5 days a week–need rest!– and different points are allotted for 30 minutes and 45 minutes)
4. Stay away from sweets (only counts for six days a week because everyone needs a sweet tooth day!)
5. Drink at least 64 ounces of water each day
6. Ceasing eating before 9:00pm each day
7. Keeping a food journal
8. Having contact with a teammate
9. Create your own challenge (This is a component that I added. Mine is “No consumption of dairy.”
- Participants weigh themselves once a week–same day, same time, wearing the same thing. For each pound lost each week, 10 points are added onto the total for that week.
- The challenge lasts 8 weeks. At the end of the challenge, the winner gets an award.
I made some minor adjustments to the challenge. First, I took away the $25 entry fee. The idea was that the winner would receive the entire cash pot at the end of the 8 weeks. I didn’t want my friends to feel that they had to pay to enter, so I removed that fee. Our prize is still TBD, but I think the process is more important than the prize anyhow. Second, I added on the component in which you can create your own challenge category. As I said, mine is to eat no dairy. Others have chosen: no alcohol, no red meat, and no “bread snacks.” We each have our own personal weaknesses, so I wanted everyone to have the chance to individualize this challenge. Plus, I know there are things that I want to work on–like going 80/20 Paleo–that were not directly addressed in this 8-week challenge. Third, at the end of the challenge we will be taking into account the percentage of weight loss in addition to the number of pounds lost. Given that we have two 5’1″ girls and two boys of at least 7 inches taller, a 5 pound loss would be different for each body type.
What I like about this challenge:
- The social support: one of the ways that participants can gain a point is by having contact with one or more other participants throughout the day. There was the option to create “teams,” but I chose not to do that because, in addition to there only being 4 of us, I didn’t want to add in that extra layer of competition. Social support is crucial when it comes to a behavior change. It’s great for encouragement and accountability. Plus, an tad of competition never hurt anyone…right? “Contact with a Teammate” can be anything from “Bleh, I don’t want to work out today,” to “What exactly comprises a serving of vegetables?” Also, it helps me connect to my friends and boyfriend in a different way, and I like that.
- The variety of the daily tasks: I like that this challenge touches on the importance of drinking water, eating fruits and vegetables, and exercising. When it comes to maintaining or losing weight, some people only focus on calories, and this is the wrong approach. You still need to consume the correct amount of nutrients, which you can only do by eating a variety of foods–especially a ton of veggies! Also, hydrating is so, so, so important.
- The emphasis on rest and cheat days: I really admire that the SixSisters decided that certain tasks can only get points for 5 or 6 days a week. It is important to remember that our body needs rest. Jumping into a 7 day/week workout routine can be harmful to your body if you don’t have a normal workout routine. You should work up to that gradually. Even so, even professional athletes need days of rest. Your body needs time for rest and recovery to prevent injury and also to provide the most efficient and optimum workouts on following days. When it comes to staying away from sweets, we really need to let ourselves indulge every once in a while. If we don’t, we will do really well for a while and then probably eat every sweet in sight for days. Most importantly, I think that having rest and cheat days avoids the feeling of guilt. I don’t want anyone to feel guilty if they miss a workout day or accidentally have a cupcake at a birthday party. It’s okay. More than okay!
I could go on about what I like about this challenge, but those are the main things. To increase my accountability, I am going to report on the Challenge at least once a week. Below are some pictures/examples of how I am keeping track of my healthy habits.
P.S. Friends, I am not entirely happy with the graphic. I think I will be changing it. For now, it stays!