People often say to me – you’re doing the Whole Life Challenge … again?

I guess it must seem strange. After all, I’ve been doing the Whole Life Challenge since 2012. I’ve done every single round of the WLC except for 1 since then. With that many challenges under my belt, to people around me they feel like I’m always on the challenge … while they see it as me being on the challenge, I see it as the parameters of the challenge becoming my lifestyle.

As with most things, building habits takes time. When you commit to trying over and over again, the habits do slowly start to build. Whether it’s permanently avoiding certain foods (I think I’ve only eaten corn twice in the past 4 years) to consciously adapting your routine so that you can fit in daily movement and everything in between you start to realize that change can happen. Once you know that the power to change is in your hands (and you’ve got an amazing community of thousands of people around the world to back you up and encourage you), it feels incredibly empowering.

Having done the challenge many, many times (I think this is round number 10? 12? – seriously, I’ve lost count!), you might wonder – well, what are you getting out of it? My goals for the challenge change each time. The first time I wanted to get control of my eating habits and lose weight. (You can see my results here.) I did a VLOG of my preparation for my 2nd WLC. I’m so glad I kept a record because I find it fascinating to hear what my focus was. You can watch my first entry here – where I talk about my mindset and my preparation plans – and you can read about my whole experience here and about my 3rd round of the WLC here.

In my early attempts at the Whole Life Challenge, my focus was definitely mainly on weight loss. However, and this is the part that really excites me, as I kept participating, my focus changed. I was no longer linking my success (or worth) to a number on a scale. Instead more important changes were happening – I was getting stronger, more confident, calmer, happier … who would have thought that focusing on a few habits would lead to such significant changes? Not me! Yet here I am, 4 years later.

Now, not only am I an active participant, but a few years ago, I was asked to be an ambassador for the challenge and then asked to run the first official WLC team.  It’s been an exciting and informative adventure.

So here I am, 4 years later, ready to do it again. Why? What do I hope to achieve now? Well, this time it’s personal.

If reading about people’s health issues and ‘girl talk’ makes you feel icky, it might be best for you to stop reading this post now – instead you can read my other posts about the Whole Life Challenge – including recipes, prep tips, and my general experience here – and sign up to join my team Worldwide Warriors – our focus is being super supportive and working together to make this a positive and fulfilling experience for everyone. You can sign up here.

Now, back to my story — I’m sharing this because I hope for those of you who are experiencing similar struggles or just frustrations in general will draw some hope/strength from what I’m going through. I know hearing other people’s stories definitely helps me …

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On Tuesday morning I woke up in excruciating pain. In fact it was the pain that woke me up. I wanted to get out of bed, but I could barely move. Somehow, hunched over and waddling, I made it up. If it was up to me, I would have stayed in bed the whole day, but I didn’t have a choice. I was due to teach a Women Empowered seminar – and there was no way I was going to miss that. I stayed as still as possible until it was time for me to teach. After that, I went into full teaching mode. Teaching women how to defend themselves is something I’m incredibly passionate about. It’s that passion that fuelled me through the two hours … because as soon as it was over, I practically collapsed from the pain. You can read about my whole health history here if you’d like, but the bottom line is, I have multiple uterine fibroids, the largest of which is 15×13 cm. My uterus is the size of an 8-month pregnancy … and being someone who is trying to lose weight and is not pregnant … looking 8 months pregnant is definitely not something I am happy with.

The thing is, the pain is awful. I mean crying myself to sleep type awful. Yes, I can take painkillers, but to be honest, they don’t help me much. I mean, I’d much rather stay off them and avoid any side effects/extra chemicals in my body since they aren’t very effective.

However, more than the pain, the psychological wear and tear of this condition really tests me. I love being active and I have been working really hard to lose weight. However, the fibroids prevent me from properly working to my potential. I’m a jiu-jitsu practitioner – not only that, I teach jiu-jitsu. Over the past 3 months, my condition has made it difficult for me to enjoy my practice. I mean I love it, but I’m constantly self-conscious and uncomfortable. Some positions that I used to be good at, I can hardly do anymore … or if I do them, the lingering pain can almost be debilitating. It’s awful. I mean really, really awful. I find myself having to sit on the sidelines more than I’d like when it comes to my own training … and I just do the best I can when it comes to teaching. I can’t always give 100% and that really doesn’t sit well with me at all.

In addition to feeling weaker and less capable of performing the way I’d like, there’s the physical manifestation of my fibroids. As I mentioned before, my uterus is the size of an 8-month pregnancy. In addition, from about ten days before my period I experience even more swelling (and pressure and discomfort). I literally feel like I’m going to burst. I find it hard to breathe. I feel like I’m being stretched to the max … and I’m not even going to start talking about the profuse bleeding. Really unbearable.

Then of course there’s the mirror … the damn mirror. You can’t escape swelling that significant. I can go from a size 12 (UK) one day to a size 16 over night. There’s nothing I can do about it. Nothing. I have to battle issues of self-doubt, self-consciousness, low self-esteem … everything that I have worked so hard to fight past … I have to battle this every month … every 2 weeks to be more precise. It is exhausting. It is demoralizing. It really tests me like nothing ever before.

I want to share a photo with you —

 

This photo — I should be so proud of this photo, and part of me definitely is — but rather than seeing my personal record deadlift of 125 kg (285 lb) as amazing, all I can focus on is my swollen abdomen. It’s not about vanity. It’s just that in my mind I know that if this had been taken just 5 days earlier, I would have looked different. Maybe it’s good I have this photo to remind me that no matter what I look like I am strong … but …

No buts. I need to write that again. No matter what I look like, I am strong.

Aaah – it’s tough. The mental struggle is real. The feeling of failure, the disappointment with my progress, the stress and anguish of wanting to be ‘perfect’ – it’s all very real.

This is where my challenge lies.

My Whole Life Challenge – aside from building good habits and eating healthier, cleaner foods – will be about acknowledging and accepting my reality.

My reality is:

  • All my days will not be perfect, and that is ok.
  • There will be days when I feel too much pain to move, and that is ok.
  • There will be days when all I can manage is a stroll around the block, and that is ok.
  • There will be days when having a ‘perfect’ day means getting up, going to work, and coming home without passing out, and that is ok (regardless of what score I input on the Whole Life Challenge scoreboard).

More things I need to come to terms with for this round of the WLC:

  • I will be abroad from Jan. 18 – Jan. 31st, which means that I will be away from my kitchen and my routine and living in a hotel for the start of the challenge. Again, my days will not have perfect scores, and that is ok.
  • I will be traveling for a wedding mid-February, and although I plan on being aware of my choices and being sensible, I will enjoy the wedding festivities and probably not have perfect scoring days, and that is ok.
  • My surgery is scheduled mid-March, just before the challenge ends, which means that I will probably not be able to do anything except lie in a hospital bed for the last 3 days of the challenge — and while that sucks, it is ok. [At least I’ll still be able to log on and enter my reflections and keep in touch with my team!]

My promise to myself:

  • I will always try my best.
  • I will end each day being happy with my choices.
  • I will not let any number – whether it’s a number on the scale, a number on a scoreboard, the number of ‘likes’ on my post define me or my worth.
  • I will remember that I am not alone in this.
  • I will remember that one bad day/week/month/challenge does not mean I am doomed forever — it just means that it is one bad/day/week/month/challenge.

and finally,

  • I promise not to use the word fail. Unless I have truly reached a point (in terms of anything – work, fitness, the WLC …) where I cannot improve or try again or grow/learn/rebuild, I will not say that I have failed.

This round of the Whole Life Challenge for me is personal — it’s about my health and my mindset. I know I’m about to go through something very challenging. The months leading up to the surgery will be challenging and my recovery will be challenging. However, I am determined to keep the above promises to myself. If I can do that over the 8 weeks of this round of the WLC, then I will truly feel like I have won.

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My work involves mentoring people, particularly women, and helping them work towards living a better balanced and more fulfilling life. I know that I cannot do that unless I keep working at it myself and unless I believe and practice everything that I preach.

This is one of the reasons why I will be a lifelong participant of the Whole Life Challenge and why I am honored to be one of the first ambassadors and leaders of an official team. For me, if I can help one person acknowledge their reality and come up with positive promises to themselves and lead a happier, healthier life, then I will feel like I have succeeded.

If you are looking for someone who knows what it is like to struggle, to succeed, to plateau — then join me and the Worldwide Warriors and let’s do this together.

If you are looking for someone who knows what it’s like to try to meal plan and prep during busy days, who knows the challenge of staying compliant while traveling or socializing, and who knows the type of commitment and motivation it takes to try over and over and over again when it feels like you just can’t give anymore — then join me and the Worldwide Warriors and let’s do this together.

If you’re looking for a super supportive group who loves to encourage one another and keep each other motivated throughout the challenge — then definitely join the Worldwide Warriors so we can do this together!! We have members from all over the world, playing at every level. You’ll find a family with us!

You can join our team via this link or click on the banner below.