We have over 70 of you guys signed up for our 6th Annual Vitality Paleo Challenge. I have said time and again that I think EVERYONE needs to do this at least once. Too many of us will go through our lives and not fully appreciate how much food affects our bodies. I think it is awesome that so many of our members have taken on this challenge over the past 6 years. I will go out on a limb and say that you won’t find one of them that tells you it didn’t improve their quality of life. That is staggering when you think about it. How many different nutrition plans have you followed, each having such mixed reviews. We have had 400+ members take on this challenge since we opened our doors and every single one of them will tell you that the Paleo Challenge helped them feel better and perform better inside and outside the gym. Now, let me clarify a few things as I am sure there are people out there that are throwing the BS flag high in the air when they hear me make these claims. Obviously, each year we have about 10% who don’t stick with the challenge and fall off the wagon a few weeks in. These folks aren’t counted in my 100% support numbers that I am referring to above. However, I would make a generalization that they would probably admit that they believe if they would have continued, they would have seen similar results as the rest of the group.
Unfortunately, some people are unwilling to sacrifice the comfort that food/alcohol provide for them during this 6-week test. This goes to show the strangle hold that sugar has on our daily lives. We fully understand that food has a hand in a number of different sicknesses that some of us experience, but we are unwilling to make sacrifices in order to become healthy. Many of us will wait until it is too late and it is too much of an uphill battle to reverse the effects that our poor nutrition choices have left us with.
For me, my Ulcerative Colitis made my nutrition choices quite simple. I either changed my diet or I suffered the consequences. These consequences were either further medication that led to a number of additional, negative side-effects that would affect my training and overall quality of life. The other being that the symptoms of this auto-immune disease would control and dictate my day to day actions. For those that know me, I don’t deal well when I am not in control. There are only 3 things in my life that I have accepted I will never control…they each happen to be 5 feet tall or less and female.
Each doctor that I had talked with over the previous 2 years had told me over and over again that nutrition had nothing to do with my symptoms. This is a completely separate blog topic that I could talk about for days…but I will try and stay on track. Contrary to my doctor’s advice, I decided that I would “reset” everything and start over. I ate nothing but chicken/broccoli/avocado for a period of 10 days. I eliminated everything else other than these 3 foods. Within the first 5 days, my symptoms were drastically improving. At 10 days, they were virtually non-existent. After the 10-days, I would introduce one new food at a time and eat that food for 3-days along with the original 3 staples. If my symptoms worsened, that food item was taken off and put on a “no-go” list. I would go back to my 3 staples until the symptoms were back under control and then add another food item into the mix. The plan was to do this for roughly 60 days and then have a good list to integrate back into my original diet. For the first time in over 2 years, my symptoms were very minimal and I was in control of my body. I decided that I wouldn’t add sugar back into my diet and I would continue for a bit longer. I am on day 145 and I really don’t have a plan to add sugar back in to my diet anytime soon. People ask me all the time if I miss certain foods and the answer is pretty simple….I hate not being in control more than I love chocolate. I track my results everyday and it keeps me accountable.
Now before you get it twisted, I am not saying by ANY means that we all need to give up sugar for 100’s of days. That would be insanity. What I am saying is that the majority of us, at some point in time, have felt like we are no longer in control of our body. Whether it is focused around weight gain or sickness, that is a helpless feeling. The longer we remain without control, the more comfortable we get with that feeling. Everyone has heard that it takes 3-weeks to develop a habit…well, the same holds true for losing control, after a month or so, that loss of control becomes the new reality for us and we start to accept it. The longer we are out of control, the harder things like this Paleo Challenge will be for that individual. The harder this is, the more beneficial it is going to be for you. When things get tough during these 6-weeks, remember, it’s a test….your resolve, your discipline, your motivation are all getting tested. I can’t stress enough the amazing feeling your going to have after completing these 6-weeks, and I am not talking about the effect of the challenge, I am talking about the fact you were able to mentally stick with something this difficult for 6-weeks. Very few people are able to stick to anything for 6-weeks, let alone such a drastic change in nutrition and starving your body of the most addictive drug on the planet….sugar.
Don’t fall into the trap of shortcuts. Lots of people think that you can have cheat meals during a challenge like this, but this is simply not the case. Over the past few years, Jess has been doing a ton of research about nutrition and the following is her take on these short-cuts…..These cheat meals can become a reality, but only after Paleo becomes a lifestyle (At the completion of a challenge or a 6-week strict period). It takes the body 14 consecutive days of low blood insulin levels to begin to predominantly burn fat stores as fuel. If insulin levels are elevated (which is inevitably the case with a cheat meal), this will never happen and you will not become “fat adapted”. But if you can hold out and stay strict for at least 2 weeks, your body will relearn how to burn fat and you will begin to have more energy, your clothes will start to fit differently, and you will stop craving sugar and begin to crave healthy Paleo foods. The last half of the challenge is when you will really start seeing and feeling the results. No, this doesn’t mean that after two weeks you can add cheat meals in, in some cases, research suggests that it could take some individuals up to 21 days to become fat-adapted. And again, it is after your body makes this transition that the results start to pile up.
I will not cheat you out of this 6-week challenge by making it easier and allowing you to cut corners. Will the challenge be difficult. Yes. Are you capable of completing it. Yes. Will you be happy with the results. Absolutely. Are you disciplined enough to stick with it? That’s up to you. Remember, we are here to help you through this and there will be 70 other folks that are experiencing the same ups and downs as you surely will. Your support structure is in place, don’t be afraid to use it!