Tips for beginners during a diet challenge:
- Plan your meals for the week.
- Prep your meals twice a week.
- When you feel hungry between meals, drink water! Usually when I think I’m hungry, I’m actually not.
- Use the people doing this with you as a support system. Share your recipes, thoughts, anxieties, and tricks to get through it.
- Try to breath and relax. Find joys in OTHER things. Food can be amazing, but if it’s the MOST amazing thing in your life you might want to find a hobby. Go for a hike, go to the beach, spend some time with your dog, get some reading done. Be proud of yourself for being in control again.
Going through a diet challenge can be difficult for a lot of reasons. Even for those of us that eat “clean” most of the time, more than likely you don’t realize just how much you cheat until you’re trying to go 30 days without any slip-ups. Thinking back on the diet challenges I’ve done in the past, these have been my biggest challenges:
- 30 days sounds like a lifetime
- Going out with friends
- No time to cook
- Craving sugar
- Wanting to drink
Over time, I’ve figured out ways to get around these obstacles. First, I’m a list person. I love making them and I love crossing things off of them even more, so having some way to count down the days helps me visually see how far I’ve gone and also that there is an end in sight. I mainly use iPhone apps (Countdown! and Events are my two favorite) to do this, but I’ve also added 5$ to a jar for every day I get through and use that money to reward myself at the end (usually shoes, shocking I know). Try not rewarding yourself with food at the end. One, remember what this challenge is about, and two, you are not a dog.
As far as going out with friends and wanting to drink, I’ve learned that the more friends I tell, the easier the challenge is. Even if the friends I was around weren’t DOING the challenge, they knew that I was and were supportive. The more people you tell, the more accountable you end up being. There were a few times in my first diet challenge that I silently planned on cheating just so I didn’t make everyone else feel uncomfortable, but the people I was with would answer for me and say “she can’t have that” if I was offered something. Problem solved. Your friends want you to succeed and more than likely will help you do so. If you have the type of friends that will urge you to cheat instead of have willpower there are ways of getting around that too, the main one being that maybe you should take a closer look at who you surround yourself with…
Not having time to cook is a problem I’m guessing we all have but planning on two prep days a week makes all the difference. I take a couple of hours on Sunday to prep my food for Monday-Wednesday, and then prep again on Wednesday for the rest of the week. Prep can mean grilling everything I need for lunch or just cutting everything up so I just have to throw everything on the grill/stove.
The challenge I faced when it came to craving sugar could be an article in and of itself. I had dreams of eating fudge stuffed cupcakes (which I’m not even sure exist) and cakes with cookie dough frosting. It wasn’t pretty. But every dream I had (yes, I really had these dreams) made me realize that I actually DO have an addictive personality…my addiction was just sugar. Time to show myself I can do this. Not having processed sugar sounds terrible, but going 30 days without it will remind you that things like cake pops, cookies, fudge, etc. are called TREATS for a reason. They should not be part of your daily or even weekly caloric intake. Now that my body is not used to that constant flow of sugar, when I do eat sweets I usually can’t eat much of them. My brain goes into sensory overload and my stomach isn’t happy with me. Once you get through the first 30 days you will pick your treats more carefully. An Oreo or 24 just doesn’t seem worth it. If you’re going to cheat, you want quality not quantity. Think of your long term goal when it comes to sugar cravings. After two weeks, the cravings and dreams will subside.
Wanting a drink falls into the same category as sugar for some of us. Dealing with stress by having a beer sounds great, getting together with friends for drinks might be a weekly occurrence (or more). That’s ok. Try to think of other ways to deal with stress. Venting to a friend, getting a good workout in, going for a long run, yoga, reading, writing, going to the beach….there are a million ways to deal with stress that don’t involve you drinking/cheating on the diet challenge/stressing out about it. And I’m guessing when you hang out with your friends, you’re there more for their company than the liquor. Order sparkling water and cranberry juice with a lime so you get the fizzy drink feeling and pay more attention to your friends and what they have to say.
I saved holidays and events for last on purpose. I think the main reason a lot of people never even TRY to do a diet challenge is because at some point in that month they have a holiday or event they want to celebrate. I hope there is not EVER a 30 day stretch of time that you don’t have something to celebrate. But what about the other 25-29 days you’re NOT celebrating? You could give your body a break the rest of the time, right? Going 30 days is amazingly commendable, but going 29, 28…maybe 27 days and messing up a couple of times because you have this amazing life with so many exciting, happy things going on that you wanted to have a glass of champagne or a slice of really great cheesecake sounds like an important part of being able to MAINTAIN this once the “challenge” part is over. If you make it through an event without cheating, you are my hero. If you don’t, you are human. Start again tomorrow. It’s not the end of the world, it’s not the end of the challenge and tomorrow is another day.
How I go about diet challenges:
I plan. I use Sunday and Wednesday to make my food for the week. I look for a holiday 30 days away (a birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.) and see the light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t think about all of the things I CAN’T eat, how long 30 days sounds, or how tough this is going to be. I DO think about all of the things I can eat, how great I’m going to feel, how well I’m going to sleep, how I’m giving my body a chance to take a break. Notice I said body, not mind. Your brain will be tired from going through a thousand thoughts and emotions. Listen to them, take time to sort them out, and realize that it’s ok and this is not that big a deal. Talk to each other for support. Phone a friend, find a life line. Sometimes just talking with a friend about the cake you think you’ll want to eat at the end of this, helps. Finding fun paleo recipes, swapping recipes or meals with friends and sharing them with the people that are going through this with you helps. You have an amazing support system…USE IT!
By Kris Amatuli
I started CrossFitting at CFPV in 2010 while I was getting my M.S. in biology at UNF. After a year and a half of being a member at CFPV I got my L1 certification, became a trainer and I love it! I also work at UNF as a visiting biology lecturer and mainly teach general biology, zoology, and anatomy & physiology. I am a Michael Jackson loving, Harry Potter obsessed, fitness nerd and I love spending time on the beach in Neptune, running with my dog, yoga, Pilates, Toes to Bar, and Green Room Brewery.