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Should You Start the Year With a Nutrition Challenge?

As always, this holiday season (which I consider to be the time from Halloween to New Year’s Day) has been festive, fun… and full of sugar. I try to keep my good nutrition habits, but I can’t resist mini candy bars, pumpkin cheesecake, peppermint cookies, etc., etc., etc.

I’m always excited for January to come to have a good reset. Every January I do some kind of nutrition “challenge.” I’ve done the Whole 30, Diane Sanfillipo’s 21-Day Sugar Detox, Chris and Heidi Powell’s Carb Cycling, and Emily Schromm’s EmFit Challenge (formerly the 21-Day Superhero Challenge). To read more about each of these challenges and decide if they’re right for you, click on the links below to check out a full description of my experience with each challenge:

Whole 30

Diane Sanfillipo’s 21-Day Sugar Detox

Chris and Heidi Powell’s Carb Cycling

Emily Schromm’s EmFit Challenge (formerly the 21-Day Superhero Challenge)

The question is, do we need a nutrition challenge to reset? A few months ago I needed a reset. I’d eaten too much on vacation and wanted to start the school year with a clear mind and healthy digestion. I thought about all my nutrition challenge experiences but none of them quite fit. So I decided to design my own challenge that really fit into my lifestyle. I knew that gettng too restrictive (like going to a restaurant once a month and quizzing the waiter about the oils they use or if there was a pinch of sugar in the marinade) made me crazy. I also knew I needed a mental component to keep me sane and to help me achieve other goals. So if you’re like me and want to design your own challenge, here are some guidelines to conisder.

Decide what you won’t eat:

For me sugar, gluten and dairy are my killers. Sugar makes me feel sluggish and dizzy and I get addicted way too easily. Gluten and dairy make my joints swell and my skin break out in exzema. So it’s only logical to make these things the priority when I need a reset. What are you dependent on? What makes you feel lousy? You may decide to give up caffeine or sugary beverages. You may eliminate all grains or specific cooking fats. Decide what you need to get rid of most and start there.

Decide what you will eat:

Cutting the crap is a great starting point, but we need to think about what to add in. I love to set a goal to have veggies with every meal. This can be blended in a smoothie, stacked in a salad, roasted in the oven or eaten cold with hummus or homemade ranch dressing. I find it’s easier to eliminate foods if I have a requirement to add things in. What do you want to eat more of ? Fruit, veggies, fish, grass-fed meats?


Set an eating schedule:

This is huge for me with challenges. If I know I’m having 3 meals a day, it helps me quit thinking about food all day long. I try to stick to three big meals, but you may choose to add in some snacks. What works for you? What keeps you strong physically and mentally?

Have a buddy system:

Accountability can make the difference between success and failure. I try to get people to do challenges with me so we’re all going through the same thing. When I designed my own challenge I just reached out to three friends. They did it with me and we talked at least once a day. If that’s not possible, I find someone else to hold me accountable. It can be a spouse, a parent, a sibling or a best friend. My husband is happy to let me report to him while he eats his M&Ms. Often challenges have an online support system as well.

Write it down:

Put your goals/ rules in writing and track them daily. I personally do this with a spreadsheet because I’m one of those people who feels better if I can track my life with a spreadsheet. Do what works for you. Maybe you will write your rules on a poster board taped to the mirror in your bathroom. Maybe it works for you to journal every night. If it’s therapeutic for you to cross things off a to-do list, do that. The idea is to have a physical record to keep you on track.

Add in some life goals:

Good nutrition isn’t the only thing that makes us healthy. Add in other components. I always have an exercise component with challenges but think about other goals you want. Do you spend too much time on your phone? Do you need more social time? To get outside more? To keep an emotional journal?  To make sleep a bigger priority? Pick a few things that will make your life happier and add those to your challenge.

Whatever you decide to do, focus on being the best you can be this coming year. Happy New Year!!!!


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