What do you think you can achieve in 100 days? Is it enough time to make positive, lasting changes?
I started my self-created 100 Day Diet Challenge on January 1st 2017. Having spent years researching food, health, dieting and cooking, all of which I’m passionate about, I believe 100 days is enough to make steady, dramatic change.
By the time my 100 Day Diet Challenge ends, I’ll have been alive for 11,851 days. Those 100 days will represent just 0.84% of my life up to that point. Not a lot in the grand scheme of things, is it?
(UPDATE: Click here to find out how much weight I’d lost when my 100 Day Diet Challenge ended.)
WHY AM I DOING IT?
My main aims over the 100 day period are:
- Weight loss;
- Eating a healthy diet full of tasty food;
- Cooking every day, improving my culinary skills along the way;
- Writing about my journey; and
- …Enjoying each of the above.
Throughout my teenage and adult life, my weight’s fluctuated substantially. As I write this, I’m overweight. I’ve wanted to lose weight for as long as I remember; for self-esteem and health, to an extent, but also to prove to myself I can do it.
To fit into smaller clothes. Purchasing smaller-sized clothes is so much easier.
Occasionally, I’ve been successful. Most of the time, other goals have taken priority and the unwanted weight has remained, like that pile of old stuff under the bed which we don’t want or need and tell ourselves we’ll get around to selling but never do.
It needn’t be so hard; I’ve just never properly made weight loss a priority. In fact, after years of trial and error, I’ve found being healthy to be pretty easy. Delicious, too. Granted, I have to be careful about what I eat and in the months before I started my 100 Day Diet Challenge I wasn’t being. Broadly speaking, though, I know how to maintain my weight.
But weight maintenance isn’t what I need right now. In my experience, being healthy and losing weight are two separate but overlapping objectives which require different approaches depending on the desired outcome. One doesn’t necessarily result in the other, and often doesn’t.
There’s some excellent dietary advice focusing on food which is healthy, homemade and tasty. People like Joe Wicks (The Body Coach), Matt Whitmore and Keris Marsden (Fitter Food), Dana Shultz (Minimalist Baker) and a whole army of other bloggers, Instagrammers, chefs and trainers have driven home the message that delicious dishes can be prepared in our kitchens in no time at all and can help us to lose weight along the way.
IF I WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT, CONTROLLING WHAT I EAT IS CRUCIAL
It’s a shame the fundamental role our diet plays in losing weight isn’t a universal message.
It doesn’t make sense for gyms to emphasise the benefits of cooking over exercise; I get that. And both are important elements of a healthy lifestyle. But telling an overweight person to attend a cookery class or spend more time in the kitchen doesn’t sell gym memberships or personal training sessions and it’s not sexy; it’s not what we want to hear because it sounds too simple and left field. As such, it rarely happens.
As part of my research, I’ve tried to query conventional wisdom to help establish what works best for me in my quest to lose weight during my 100 Day Diet Challenge.
I’ve been told in the past by trainers to eat toast before going on a run, and to carb up before a workout, and loads besides. I’m not saying this won’t work for other people but, if I want to lose weight, I must restrict the type of food I eat. It’s as simple as that. Being told I can still eat certain foods, even foods which can form part of an otherwise healthy, balanced diet, isn’t helpful because one portion triggers my insatiable desire to consume more and my weight loss either slows down, plateaus completely or goes in the wrong direction. For me, it’s better to purge certain foods entirely in the knowledge that, when I’m back to maintaining my weight in the future, I’ll be able to enjoy them then.
A massive factor in weight loss is our mental approach to what inevitably will involve a degree of deprivation relative to our normal routine. Counting calories doesn’t help me because relying on willpower, rather than planning and process, leaves me open to failure. Eating toast before running has never done anything for my weight other than make it go up. The same goes for pasta and bagels. Trust me, I’ve tried; the first sign of carbs and I’m there. But skipping the toast and the run altogether and having an egg instead does wonders.
That’s not to say other advice is wrong; far from it. What works for one of us won’t work for our neighbour. I can only speak about what I’ve found to work. In the same vein, an elaborate training regime is something other people find useful but for me, weight loss starts with my diet. I’m not going to downplay the importance of exercise, not least for our health. However, my 100 Day Diet Challenge focuses primarily on food, with some exercise factored in but nothing excessive.
I know how to be healthy and maintain my weight but undertaking my 100 Day Diet Challenge means mixing things up so I finally lose the spare tyre. I’m in the relatively unique position of knowing what works for myself and there’s no time like the present to see what I can achieve.
UNHEALTHY ISN’T COOL
It’s important to stress a couple of points. I want to test what I’m capable of by eating food which is healthy and tasty. This is not about getting skinny, getting a six pack or promoting anything unhealthy. Everything I discuss, I’ve either done before or I’m doing it now. The emphasis is, and always will be, on healthiness and enjoyment.
If I’m not being healthy and I’m not enjoying it, I’m changing it. That’s the golden rule. It’ll be hard work, of course, but there’s no reason it can’t be fun at the same time.
Luckily, I prefer what I’ve been eating on my 100 Day Diet Challenge to what I was eating leading up to it. The health benefits and weight loss are a wonderful bonus.
Of course, I can’t expect to undertake my 100 Day Diet Challenge and for that to be enough, forever. That’s not how this works. I must continue to be healthy most of time. The beauty is, doing this can be easy. And doing so from a position of confidence, where I hope to have achieved so much, learning about what is healthy and tastes good and keeps the weight off, is the perfect way to push on and strive to attain other life goals, health-related or otherwise.
And, after those 100 days, the odd naughty meal or glass of wine or night out with friends isn’t going to matter so much. A bit of sacrifice for a lifetime of reward.
HOW AM I DOING IT?
The key to my 100 Day Diet Challenge has been to treat it like my other work projects; planning ahead and limiting the scope for failure.
To enable this, I’ve adapted a project management technique to suit my individual needs. I’ve broken the 100 days down into 10 ten day ‘sprints’, meaning the process is in manageable chunks. This allows me to test what works and adapt as necessary.
Prior to January 1st, I came up with my first ten day diet plan, bought all the food needed for this period and emptied my cupboards of anything I wouldn’t be using at all over the 100 days.
Towards the end of Sprint 1, I took some time out to ascertain what I was enjoying, what I didn’t like and where I could improve. I also checked my weight records for each day to get a feel for where I could make tweaks. I then created the diet plan for Sprint 2 and bought all the food needed for that period.
And that’s the process for each sprint thereafter, all the way to Sprint 10. That’s all there is to it.
I’ve also conjured up ‘The Rules’, which I’m trying to adhere to for the entire 100 days. I created this list prior to January 1st and I’m adding to it each time I encounter an unforeseen difficulty. The Rules remind me what I need to be doing and how I should deal with various scenarios in an attempt to plan for potential pitfalls and thus limit the risk of deviation.
Yes, I’ll have to be a bit boring at times (you already are, Jack; I hear you), but I’ve found my confidence and determination is such that most scenarios aren’t going to be an issue. After all, if I’m not enjoying it then I’m changing it, aren’t I?
The other big question remains: what am I eating? Pertinent, not least because I’m writing about a diet but also because I love food.
The answer is on my personal Instagram page, where I’m posting daily photographs. I’ll also write more about my food in future articles, as well as publishing recipes of my favourite meals.
In the context of an entire lifetime, 100 days is the blink of an eyelid.
I believe I’ve created a flexible Challenge which is enjoyable and results in weight loss and improved health. Success on this diet means eating food which is tasty, is relatively straightforward to prepare and cook and which stimulates weight loss. This can then be used as a springboard to a life of better health and happiness.
In doing this, maybe I can provide value and motivation to others who can relate to my predicament. It’s one thing to say something is possible, but to show something seemingly difficult take place before our eyes makes us believe we can do the same.
I hope to do that with my 100 Day Diet Challenge and with the writing projects that follow.
Read more about my 100 Day Diet Challenge here:
Do You Want to Lose 48 Pounds in 100 Days? I Did it by Creating my Own 100 Day Diet Challenge. Here’s How.
10 Steps to Success
50 Days: A Review of the First Half of My 100 Day Diet Challenge
Cooking Up a Storm About Why Publishing Recipes Is So Important to Me
Is Dieting Cheap or Expensive?
All Recipes Published on The Writing Struggle
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