Thinking Of Doing A Diet Challenge? Why You Should Sit It Out.
75Hard. No sugar. No carb. Detox. Clean eating. The Daniel Fast. Whole30. Beyonce’s vegan diet. J.Lo. and A. Rod’s 10 day challenge.
There are way too many diet ‘challenges’ to write about here, and new ones pop up all the time – especially in January, but still, year round. Swimsuit season, anyone? Sigh.
It’s as though we’re always trying to find new ways to punish ourselves, while making it into a competition. That’s what a challenge is all about.
Diet challenges are usually comprised of the following things:
They eliminate certain foods or food groups completely.
They’re aimed at groups of people who can do the challenge together.
They last a certain amount of time (usually 30 days, 75 days, 6 weeks, or 3 months).
Their aim is for at least one of the following: weight loss, habit change, or a ‘reset.’ They sometimes promise results like physical or mental toughness.
Challenges seem like a fun way to get healthier, but they’re actually a really bad idea.
They don’t teach you how to eat.
Challenges are like the Twinkies of the nutrition world. Cheap, fast, and basically full of nothing.
They don’t satisfy, and in the end, you wonder why you even bothered. You know I’m not wrong here.
Honestly, what’s the point of doing something like a challenge – which normally involves taking stuff out of your diet for no good reason – if you’re not actually doing something good for your body? As in, something that makes you healthier and happier?
Being vegan for 22 days like Beyonce and Jay-Z might teach you to integrate more plant-based foods into your diet, but do you have to go completely vegan to do that? Why is there this all-or-nothing thing going on with challenges, and our nutrition in general? Do we really need to immerse ourselves in something in order to get the benefit (or not)?
Challenges don’t teach you how to nourish yourself physically AND emotionally. They just slash and burn with misery and fear. Afterwards, you go right back to where you were before.
And where weight loss is concerned, challenges take an oversimplified position – something along the lines of, ‘eat less, move more, eliminate X and Y, and you’ll be brand new in 30 days!’
But that’s never the case, because weight loss is extremely complex. Sure, you can lose weight by cutting foods out of your diet, therefore reducing calories. But the ‘why’ of your eating habits, the choices you make, the way you feel about yourself, aren’t addressed.
This basically leaves people in much the same position they were in at the start of the challenge. As I always say, diets are like a band-aid for what’s really bothering us.
They ruin your relationship with food and your body.
There’s something about being told that you need to eliminate a certain food from your diet that sparks distrust. Distrust in the food, sure…but also in our food system and our bodies.
Whole30 tells us that legumes and dairy are inflammatory. They aren’t.
Arbonne 30 Days to Healthy Living tells us that vinegar and coffee are ‘allergenic’. They aren’t.
This sort of misinformation that’s associated with challenges ends up sparking fear and confusion in people. Those people then email me and ask me what they actually CAN eat, because they’ve been conditioned to fear food.
Challenges teach us that punishing our bodies for our imagined dietary transgressions is a good way of repenting, but that’s a terrible way of thinking. And when the challenge is over, what do you think happens when you go back to the way you were eating before?
The see-sawing on and off a diet (because challenges are diets, let’s not forget that) and of weight can destroy our self-esteem and body image. Not okay.
Also: last time I checked, taking foods out of your diet actually made you want them more.
They lie, and most (if not all) aren’t based on any supporting evidence.
Most challenges make a mockery of science.
Challenges aren’t going to ‘reset’ anything, because that’s a BS fallacy that diets like Whole30 like to use to sell books. Our bodies don’t need a ‘reset,’ not that it’s even possible.
Let me put it this way: challenges are generally based on what you can’t eat, and a lot of challenges eliminate foods for very unscientific reasons. Whole30 is a f*cktangle of BS that’s based on the pipe dreams of two people with zero credible nutrition training. Some of what they promote – lectins and gluten are harmful, for example – is pure nonsense.
Every zero sugar challenge in the world operates on the premise that sugar is ‘toxic’ – it’s not – and that eliminating it for X number of days will help decrease your cravings for it. Maybe, but not for the long-term.
The Arbonne 30 Days to Healthy Living garbage ‘cleanse’ is just that: a dumpster fire. But Arbonne and other MLMs in general are a cesspool of crap garbage nutrition information that you definitely don’t want to take seriously.
Challenges are meant to be temporary.
Short-term pain for, well….nothing. Quick-fixes don’t work, but we continue to fall for them. That’s because humans typically go for the path of least resistance. A challenge seems like quick, fun way to lose weight, especially compared to sorting your shit out around food and and really doing the work to figure out what’s behind your eating behaviors.
They aren’t going to establish new habits, like 75 Hard promises. Seriously? FYI: that ‘it takes 21 days (or 75 days) to form a new habit’ isn’t true. Especially when it’s something you don’t want to do. And the physical and mental toughness thing? It seems a bit masochistic, not to mention ridiculous. Punishing yourself to achieve toughness is bizarre and unnecessary. For all the people sending me hate mail about my 75 Hard review, I stand by my assessment. Tough love isn’t okay when it comes to food and health.
You don’t establish habits by forcing yourself to do something unpleasant. It’s outrageous that anyone would even think that, but here we are.
Needless to say that if you think it’s ‘fun’ to punish yourself with a diet challenge, you have a weird idea of fun.
To change the way you feel about food and your body, you need to do the work.
To establish habits, you have to enjoy and believe in the habits you’re trying to establish.
To make long-term change to your diet, you can’t use a quick-fix.
And to learn about nutrition, you can’t put your trust in MLM companies and randoms on the internet (including some doctors, especially those who are selling a diet).
Diet challenges = hard pass.