Can you imagine having no obligations, no financial restrictions, no time constraints, and nobody else to answer to? Wouldn’t it be easy to do what you want, when you want, however you wanted? Particularly, when it came to stocking your kitchen and preparing your meals, you wouldn’t have to think about anybody else but yourself?! Yes, that would be great (in many ways), but most of us probably don’t live in those conditions. Instead, there are obligations, financial restrictions, time constraints, and others to answer to (or at least consider). However, this does not mean that you cannot ‘have your way.’

When I first started eating healthily, I faced a lot of … I was going to say criticism, but it wasn’t really criticism, it was more like curiosity. People showed a lot of interest in what I was eating and why. Ironically, seeing plates of steamed vegetables and grilled proteins triggered more questions and ‘concerns’ about my health and diet than seeing me eat burgers and fries ever did. In fact, nobody ever said anything about me eating any junk food. Ever. [Interesting, isn’t it?]

It was at that point that I decided, if you didn’t have anything to say when I was frequently eating junk food and drinking soda, then you do not have any right to say anything to me now. No. What I eat is my choice – no matter what anyone else thinks or says.

That being said, I totally understand when people say, ‘others make it difficult.’ They do. At home there are different tastes to cater to, and socially, well, that’s a whole other ball game.

As I sit here preparing for another round of the Whole Life Challenge, I’m trying to recall my past experiences and how I have handled challenges and obstacles along the way. I know that one of the biggest challenges was continuing to be social while adhering to the nutritional guidelines I had chosen to follow. Along with that, it was often frustrating having to explain over and over what ‘this diet’ was and why I was doing it. Now that I have done the challenge several times, I pretty much know what to expect, and I’m hoping that having a few set answers ready will help me skip that feeling of frustration and continue to focus on what it is that I want to do. This post in particular has to do with people’s reactions to the nutrition aspect of the challenge. I hope that sharing these answers can help you too.

“So, what is this diet?”

It’s hard not to grimace when I get asked this question. It’s also hard to formulate a response because as soon as you say, ‘it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle’ then eyes start to roll (even though it’s true). However, I’ve found that adding the word ‘challenge’ does help.

My response: Actually, it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle challenge. Although paying attention to what I eat is a component of the challenge, it really is more about being aware and accountable of the choices I make on a daily basis. During these 6 weeks I will also be focusing on getting in daily movement and mobility practice, prioritizing my sleep, and drinking more water among other healthy habits that are good for my mind and body.

it’s not just about food

“So, what can you eat?”

My answer to this question has actually evolved over time. Before I would just point to the nutrition list and say, ‘see, I can eat all of these things.’ However, now, my mindset and approach is a bit different and so is my response.

My response: I can eat whatever I want to eat. {Pause to absorb their baffled look.} It’s true. I can eat whatever I want; however, I just have to be aware that there are consequences attached to what I eat so that makes me choose what I eat very carefully. The challenge guidelines emphasize eating whole, clean foods with a focus on proteins, vegetables, and healthy fats. The great thing about the challenge is that you can modify it according to your lifestyle. At the strictest (non-vegetarian/vegan) level, consumption of grains and legumes is restricted. However, you can choose a more relaxed level if you feel that is more appropriate for you. You don’t get bonus points for doing the stricter version of the challenge, so the best thing is to choose the level you know you can succeed at. The challenge even builds in indulgence tokens as a way to commend you for sticking to your nutrition guidelines. As for eating anything I want, if I want to eat pasta or ice cream, I can eat them too! I’ll just have to deduct points accordingly as a way for me to acknowledge that those weren’t the ‘cleanest’ food choices. Ultimately, the scoring makes you think before you eat and allows you to take more ownership of your food choices.

Have you seen my list of over 50 compliant WLC recipes? If not, follow this link!

so many food options

“I couldn’t do what you’re doing.” 

I definitely thought that before starting my first Whole Life Challenge. I thought I had bitten off more than I could chew. Would I really be able to stick to the guidelines? Would I feel deprived? I really did not think I would be able to make it without grains, dairy, or sugar. I was worried that I would not be able to show enough discipline and end up disappointing myself.
My response: You can do anything you set your mind to. It sounds cliché, but it’s true. You need to have a clear focus, an unwavering desire to do your very best, and the patience to plan and prepare for your success. The main thing is to not get caught up in numbers. Don’t worry about what your score is each day and don’t worry about how many days may not go according to plan. The real challenge is in trying something consistently for six weeks. Believe in yourself enough to give yourself a winning shot. You can definitely do this, if you want it bad enough and if you put in the work.

“You’re crazy.” 

This is one of the comments that annoys me most. Why am I crazy? What is crazy about making a decision and sticking to it? I’ve found it a bit hard not to get annoyed or snap at those who have reacted this way. Would you tell someone who has given up smoking or doing drugs or some other addictive, not-good-for-them behavior (such as eating unhealthily!) that they were crazy for making a lifestyle change? Why are bad eating habits viewed so differently?
My response: I’m not crazy. I’m just taking one more step and cleaning up my eating and working towards my goal of wanting to be healthy, which is a goal that I think is worth ‘sacrificing’ a bag of chips or a chunk of chocolate for. If there is something I really want, then I will eat it. It is not crazy to show discipline and restraint. It is not crazy to make my health and wellbeing a priority.

“You must have a lot of time on your hands.” 

I do have some time on my hands, but more importantly, I make the time. It’s worth it to wake up a bit earlier and make sure that I have a healthy and filling breakfast. It’s worth buying fresh vegetables each week to make sure that my meals taste good (that also helps it not feel like a punishment).
My response: You’ve got to make time for what’s important to you. Usually preparing healthy foods takes a lot less time than you realize. It’s about having healthy ingredients on hand and pushing past the urge to open a bag of chips (which shouldn’t be in the house anyway!!) and grab some fresh ingredients and start chopping. Preparing a salad at home or putting some vegetables in the oven will take less time than driving to a drive-thru, ordering, and collecting your meal. Plus, think of all the time saved at the gym for not having to work off thousands of empty, unhealthy calories!
I didn’t ease myself into these changes. I just did them, and I’ve survived so far. If you want to do it, you can. I’m doing this challenge for myself. I have several people around me who support my decisions and are rooting for me. I have some others who are shaking their heads thinking that I’m doing this as part of a fad diet or as a way to really cut calories. It’s unfortunate that they don’t see the real reason behind what I’m doing … but that’s on them. It’s not my issue, so I just need to focus on myself.
There is no quick-fix; there is no magic pill. You’ve got to make the changes and believe that they will work and that it’s worth the effort. I think shifting the perspective from looking at these changes as a ‘sacrifice’ to that of an ‘investment’ in health is a good first step. The bottom line is – you’ve got to be dedicated and disciplined.

“One bite won’t kill you.”

It’s never about just one bite. When I politely declined to taste a piece of cake, the response was one that looked at me as if I was paranoid that 1 bite would make me put on weight. It wasn’t that at all; it’s not even that having cake would have cost me a point in the challenge; it’s not even that I feared one bite would lead to several more bites. I just didn’t want any. Full-stop!
My response: No, it won’t kill me, but I don’t want any, thank you. I have no desire to taste something just for the sake of tasting it or for the sake of making someone else ‘happy.’ If they really cared about me, then they wouldn’t force or expect me to eat something I didn’t want to eat. Don’t feel guilty or obligated to eat something just because someone else made it for you!

“You’re so boring now.”

This statement was one of the hardest ones for me to hear in terms of a reaction from someone towards me doing the Whole Life Challenge.

The comments, ‘So what do you eat?,’ ‘I couldn’t do what you’re doing.’, and ‘Just one bit won’t hurt,’ were all ones that I had heard before, and I could deal with those.

Hearing that I had become a boring person?

That was something different.

I’m glad that I heard this comment when I was on my 3rd Whole Life Challenge. Had I heard it during a previous challenge I think it would have thrown me off track. However, having the experience of successfully completing the WLC and seeing what a positive impact it has on my life overall, I was able to handle this a lot better.

The statement bothered me for sure, but I didn’t let it sway me. Instead, after a couple days, I wrote an email to my friend and told her that what she had said hurt me because I did not want to feel like my choices in terms of what I ate or drank would make me a boring person and that I was making a conscientious effort to better myself and I would have hoped she would have been supportive no matter what my choices were.

She of course felt terrible that she had made me feel that way. She apologized. I accepted. We moved on.

My attitude and the way I interact with people has gradually changed over the past few years. I do not apologize or make excuses for why I choose to eat the way I eat. I do not compromise what I want for the sake of what someone else wants — perhaps the only exception would be my grandmother, but even she asks me what I want to eat before preparing anything! This is your life. You have to live with the consequences of your choices. Try not to see that as a burden. Instead, view it as something empowering. There are so many things in life that are beyond our control – what we eat is not one of them.

Believe in yourself. Stay focused. Do your best.

I’ve been doing the Whole Life Challenge since 2012 and I’d love to share my experience with you and help you make the best of your challenge experience. To join my team the Worldwide Warriors, follow this link or click on the banner below.