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Inside the Whole Life Challenge

One blogger's journey through The Whole Life Challenge

This past week, I got the feeling that the Whole Life Challenge people (or at least the folks who send their emails) sort of knew I wasn’t all that prepared for the 56-day nutrition and health challenge. The subject lines of the emails that started on Monday and continued throughout the week certainly indicated they knew what I had (or, more important, had NOT) been up to:

Five More Days …

Four More Days – WLC Prep

Just three days to go …

Seriously, Jenessa, you need to at least read the rules

I made that last one up. But if they’d sent me an email with that subject line, they would have been totally justified. Because honestly, I hadn’t read the rules. Or filled out my profile. Or registered with my Box’s team.

“You’re still doing the challenge, right?” one of my friends asked last week. “I didn’t see your name.”

OK, I get it.

I guess I’d been slacking a bit because I sort of already knew the rules by osmosis. A handful of my CrossFit buddies did the challenge last fall and had shared their experiences with me. I sat in on a couple of casual meetings at the box and listened to all of them swap tips and anecdotes. Most people felt good on the challenge and reported some kind of success, whether it was purely behavioral (like cooking more meals from home) or losing weight or inches. In some cases, people gained muscle mass. All in all, hearing their experiences was enough to convince me to give it a shot next time around.

So the good news is that I did get it together in time for Day One of the Whole Life Challenge on January 17. I recorded my preliminary measurements, took my before pictures and spent some time thinking about my goals:

  • Cut down on alcohol. Just recently, I was filling out a health-related form and started to check “occasionally” under “Alcohol Consumption” because that instinctually sounded like the reasonable answer for a healthy adult. But I stopped myself. I’ve been drinking wine (and not just one serving) almost every night with dinner. I do happy hour with friends at least once a week, and we’ll often split a bottle between two people. If I’m being honest with myself, that all sounds more like “regularly.” I love wine, but it’s dehydrating, it often interferes with my sleep and I get hangovers really easily if I’m not careful. Do I really want to feel like that “regularly”?
  • Reduce starchy snacks. I’m a crunchy/salty fiend. I’ll come home after a workout and have a plate of cheese and crackers while I wait for my otherwise healthy meal to cook. I know those fairly empty calories are unnecessary and can’t be doing me any good. And the stuff I typically put on the crunchy/salty stuff (e.g., cheese) isn’t any better.
  • Reduce sugar. Morning talk shows will regularly have those “hidden sugar” segments during which they teach everyone that sugar isn’t just in cake and cookies. It’s in your spaghetti sauce, “healthy cereal” and salad dressing. The thing is, I’m well aware of this and I eat the salad dressing and spaghetti (and cake and cookies) anyway. Giving up sugar is different from just giving up “sweets.” And I think that having to check labels will help me eat fewer jarred, canned and pre-prepared foods.
  • See what’s possible. That sounds vague because it is. I don’t really know what kind of impact this kind of challenge will have on my physicality and athletic performance. After all, it’s not just about food. Other components include exercise, daily stretching and mobility, meditation/mindfulness, hydration, and work/life balance. Will I finally be able to switch to an overhand grip for pull-ups? Will my nagging foot injury heal completely? Will I get a six-pack? This is my chance to find out.

So here’s my plan. Each week, I’ll do my best to adhere to the Whole Life Challenge rules, and the following Monday, I’ll report on how I did. I’ll be honest and include my successes and failures. I’ll share everything I collected along the way: tips, bits of inspiration, recipes, breakthroughs. Luckily, I have a handful of teammates who have done this before, so I’ll be polling them for their favorite pieces of advice, as well.


Whether you’re doing the Whole Life Challenge yourself or just curious about it (like I was last time around), I hope you’ll tune in, ask questions, and chime in with your own tips and ideas.

Happy Day 3, everyone. I’ll see you next Monday.