by Julie Bailis
First of all, I have never been one for diets. I have always been athletic and thankfully, have never really had to watch what I ate in order to maintain my weight. As a young adult, I generally ate well, occasionally drank too much or OD’ed on ice cream, but never really thought too much about my diet.
It was the birth of my son that forced me to really think about what we were eating. He was diagnosed with multiple food allergies at age 1. Although, his multiple food allergies were somewhat of a mixed blessing. Yes, it was difficult managing his allergies (have you ever tried making a gluten-free, soy-free, egg-free, birthday cake? I have and mine sucked). However, it was the first time in my life that I began reading ingredients lists and making food from scratch. We were never really junk-food junkies, but his allergies had turned me into a “whole foods cook”…good stuff.
Fast forward 7 years. I had been eating well (or so I thought) and exercising my butt off. After two kids and 7 years of mothering, I decided that it was time to get my body back in shape. I got back to climbing, yoga and even started CrossFitting. I felt great, but still looked in the mirror and was bothered by my stinkin’ spare tire! It just didn’t look right! It didn’t make sense! I exercised plenty, but that dang spare tire just wouldn’t go away. On top of all that, my energy level was not steady. After 1 pm, my energy level would just plummet and I would just want to take a nap. It just didn’t feel right.
Shortly after starting Crossfit I learned about the Whole Life Challenge. My gym and many of its members were participating in this lifestyle challenge and it sounded interesting. Hey, I’m always up for new things. So, I signed up. Below is a little summary about my own experience with it during the Fall of 2012. There were food and lifestyle challenges (see below) and we got points for all of these activities and could even earn bonus points if we did extra things (i.e. post a comment on the leaderboard every day or participate in the weekly challenge that week). One week our challenge was to get 8 hours of sleep everyday. SWEET.
The food challenge aspect went a little something like this:
I could eat:
- WHOLE FOODS PEOPLE!!
- NO grains
- NO sugar
- NO artificial ingredients
The lifestyle challenge went like this:
- We had to exercise for at least 10 minutes a day
- We had to mobilize (or stretch) for at least 10 minutes a day
- We had to take a fish oil supplement every day.
Things I noticed early on:
- The first thing I noticed that starting on the first day of the challenge, my energy level was steady Freddy! Seriously, I didn’t hit “that wall”. That wall, that has you immobile on the couch and/or making your 3rd cup of coffee of the day. I just never hit that wall. It was awesome and that was incentive enough to keep going with the challenge.
- After the first week, no joke, my spare tire had shrunk, seriously, shrunk. By the end of the 8 weeks, clothes fit me differently, and this summer I actually wore a bikini to the pool and felt pretty dang good about it (thank you very much)!
Things I learned:
- I learned that I ate a lot of my meals standing up. Shoving food in my face without thinking because I was too busy putting kids lunches together or cleaning the kitchen. Food was shoved and not enjoyed. Not good.
- I learned that I nibbled on my kids lunches as I packed them. I promptly stopped that once the challenge began because, “Mama wasn’t going to lose no points to rice crackers, no Ma’am.” I was going to win or so I thought :). Besides, I’d rather use any bonus points I had earned on a glass of wine with my hubby on a Friday night and not waste them on stale bits of rice cake.
- I learned that I didn’t really need a glass of red wine everyday and that saving my glass of wine for Friday night helped me really savor its flavor.
- I learned that crappy coffee sucks when you can’t mask it with cream or sugar. I now am officially a coffee snob. No cheap coffee date here.
- I learned how to be a better, more creative cook. Having inspiring cookbooks full of “food porn” helped though. I will wholeheartedly recommend, Everyday Paleo and Eat Like a Dinosaur: Recipe & Guidebook for Gluten-free Kids.
- I learned that my own body works much better without dairy and wheat. I was less bloated and had more energy. I know some people can tolerate dairy and wheat well, but I quickly realized that I did not. I have been mostly dairy and grain-free for about a year now and I feel so much better for it.
Things I loved:
- I loved the structure and accountability the challenge offered me. I quickly got into the habit of logging my points in on the website every day. I looked forward to reading other members’ comments and thought hard about what comments I would make.
- I loved the “forced reflections”. It’s not mandatory that you post a comment everyday, but it is highly encouraged and if you do it for a week, you will earn a bonus point or two. The comments really made me think about my own progress and how I felt about it all. It really enriched the experience for me. However, if you aren’t one for reflection, you don’t have to; so don’t worry about it!
The hardest part for me was explaining to other people what I was doing. I dreaded going to parties and explaining my food restrictions. I would often get a lot of comments like, “Why are you on a diet? You’re not fat!” or “What’s Paleo? Is it like Atkins? No carbs, right?” At first, all of the questions annoyed me and I didn’t want to let anyone know about the WLC. Then, I decided that I would think about it as an opportunity to educate, not preach, but educate. I would tell the curious person about the challenge, but most importantly, I would tell them about my own experiences and how much better I felt living without dairy and grains. How I had more energy and slept better. My defensiveness to their curiosity turned in to genuine conversation. That can be hard to come by at a party sometimes!
In the end, I was pleasantly surprised with the fact that the challenge was about so much more than food and exercise. It was about living. Living mindfully and living fully. It really wasn’t about winning at all, even though I really, really wanted to :). It was about feeling better, looking better, and having the energy to do the things that I love.
I plan on participating in the Whole Life Challenge again this fall because I look forward to the community, the new recipes, and maybe even some new insights into my most recent lifestyle choices.
If you plan on participating in The Whole Life Challenge this year, good luck to you, and chances are you will not be disappointed!
Written by Julie Bailis, a Registered Yoga Teacher, Crossfitter, rock climber, foodie, and lover of life. Learn more about her at www.yogawithjulieb.com.