Have you ever said, “This year, I’m going to get more exercise”? How about, “My resolution for this year is to eat more vegetables”? Maybe you’ve said, “This year, I swear I’m quitting sugar!” Every year, we start out with such good intentions but it’s so hard to deliver on the promises we make to ourselves, especially related to diet and exercise. And even if we slip back into our bad diet and exercise habits, it doesn’t change the fact that we want to better ourselves by getting more exercise and eating healthier.
Our dominant behaviors create routines (or ruts, actually) that are hard to break out of. And when we’re used to living our busy lives and never making time for exercise, it’s always hard to get something new started. Likewise, when we’re used to grabbing certain comfort food, whether out of boredom or convenience, giving up the unhealthy foods we love so much is like cutting off an arm.
It’s often stated that it takes three weeks to develop a new habit–an idea that I don’t fully agree with. In truth, it all depends on the habit, as well as the circumstances and behaviors that support the habit, among other things. Sometimes it takes less than three weeks, other times, more. How long do you think it would take to kick-start your health in a new direction? How does 30 days sound? Because I’ve got just the right program for you
…a 30-day challenge that’s not so hard that it’s impossible to complete, and not so easy that you can just glide right through it without any effort.
For this challenge, you’re going to have to give something up and add something in. For 30 days, you’ll give up bread and sugary drinks, and you’ll exercise every day. To be more specific, for 30 days you will:
- Quit eating bread
- sliced bread
- dinner-type rolls
- anything bread-like
- When in doubt, leave it out!
- Quit drinking sugary drinks
- full-sugar sodas
- fruit juices
- energy/sport drinks
- basically, any drinks that have more than a couple grams of calories from sugar/carbs
- Exercise every day
- Week one: 2 minutes per day
- Week two: 4 minutes per day
- Week three: 6 minutes per day
- Week four: 8 minutes per day
Now, before you run away screaming, it’s not as bad as it sounds, though it will be challenging, which is sort of the point. Right? So let me give you a better idea about each component of this challenge.
Giving Up Bread
You’re only going to give up loaf and roll types of bread, not all wheat or flour-based products. So that means no sandwich bread, rolls, biscuits, hamburger buns, hot dog rolls, pretty much any kind of really soft, squeezable, bready types of bread. But anything closely resembling something you can make a sandwich out of or that you might have with a meal to dip into your gravy or eggs, no-can-do. The fluffy stuff is out.
If you don’t eat wheat or bread products by choice or due to an allergy, you’ll want to consider giving something else up, like quitting sugar for 30 days, or perhaps give up all forms of starches. But other than bread, you can eat the way you normally do.
Giving up Sugary Drinks
Sugar-free diet drinks are okay. Artificially-sweetened drinks are okay. Sugar-free flavored or unflavored water is okay. But anything that contains refined sugar or fructose, high fructose corn syrup or anything similar is totally out. You know that you’re okay if the drink has very little, or no calories. So this means that fruit juices of any kind are banned (unless they make sugar-free fruit juices). Also, ditch the sports drinks. And, of course, don’t drink any full-sugar sodas.
Oh, and by the way, no beer or wine…they’re off limits too. Unless, of course, you can find sugar-free versions (which means no sugar).
This is really simple. So simple, in fact, that you will have no excuses for not getting in your daily exercise. Every day for the first week, you’ll exercise for 2 minutes. Increase the time to 4 minutes per day for the second week, 6 minutes per day for the third week, and 8 minutes per day for the remaining time. You can walk slow or fast, it’s totally up to you. If you want to run, do jumping-jacks, or yoga, it doesn’t matter. The point is to set aside time every day to exercise. This is about establishing a new behavior, not about getting your heart rate into the right zone. Work on your behavior first, and your level of fitness second.
You can’t say, “well, I walk all day at work, so I’ll count that as my exercise.” Whatever incidental exercise you get from your place of employment (or any other part of your life) doesn’t count. The only thing that will count is that you are changing your routine and adding two minutes of exercise with the intention of doing it as a part of this 30-day challenge. The only exception to this is if you already have a habit of exercising regularly. Then you can just add two minutes of additional exercise (high or low impact) to your regular routine. But if you only exercise three days per week as part of your normal routine, you’ll need to also add two minutes per day on your off days, and increase the time each week for the full 30 days of the challenge.
The Morning After
So what happens after 30 days? That’s for you to decide. If you’ve been wanting to start eating better and getting more exercise, then you’ll already be on your way. You can just keep right on going with this. But if you don’t want to restrict bread or sugary drinks, you might pick something else, like adding fresh vegetable with every meal. That might be an improvement that you can transition into. Perhaps you’ll want to keep your 8 minutes of daily exercise, but you’ll walk for a minute, run for a minute and keep alternating.
The purpose of this challenge is to give you an easy way to adopt new behaviors that will have a lasting impact on your life. At the end of the 30 days, you can tweak your routine, but since you’re on your way to establishing a new habit, you can use that to motivate continuous progress. Lasting changes don’t have to be disruptive in order for them to have value. In fact, the changes you implement slowly over time are more likely to stick. So use this 30-day challenge as a way to establish a healthier lifestyle for you and your family and you’ll finally be fulfilling the promise you make to yourself year after year, but never accomplish–to exercise more and eat healthier foods. And now you have a way to do it…so no more excuses.
NOTE: Although this challenge can be started at any time, on July 1st, my wife and I will be starting a 30-day challenge similar to this one. But since we’ve already given up most wheat products and we’ve cut our sugar intake by 95 percent, our focus will be on intense exercise for 30 days. This challenge can be modified to fit your specific needs. If you’re interested in exploring more about the health benefits of this 30-day challenge, as well as how we’ve learned to eat unhealthy diets, check out my other blog, Quitting Sugar and read “30-Day Challenge – Are You Ready To Get Healthy?“.
I’d love to hear from you if you try this 30-day challenge. Good luck!