Six-week challenges seem to be all the rage these days. Many fitness centres and weight-loss supplement companies offer specials to sign up and rewards for the “winners”. As there are some short-term benefits in participating in 6-week challenges they don’t always provide long-term solutions to creating a healthy lifestyle. Here are some reasons why we can’t sustain all that we gained (or lost) after the 6-week challenge:
Challenges involve competing with other participants. We are wired with a want-to-win attitude. Initially we are pumped up and motivated. Eyeing up our competition we evaluate where we stand. We think we stand a chance and work hard to keep our place in the race. When the challenge ends the excitement dissipates causing us to put less effort into maintaining the program’s ideals.
In a 6-week challenge participants are held accountable for their week’s activities. They have to explain to their group and their leaders/trainers what went well and what not so well. This type of setting keeps that little voice in your head chattering about the dreaded weigh-in day. We live, breathe and sleep the challenge. When the challenge is over we are no longer responsible to anyone but ourselves. We are usually pretty good finding valid reasons for our own behavior.
Short-term diets provide short-term results. Majority of people hate feeling restrained or deprived which is why many are usually relieved to be done with the challenge. This may result in bingeing afterwards or slowly creeping back to their normal unhealthy habits.
Everyone’s body and lifestyle is different therefore the same program will yield different results. However, we do not consider this. This can be very discouraging and heart-breaking for those who worked just as hard as everyone else and lost only a few pounds. It provides very little motivation to continue.
Creating a healthy lifestyle doesn’t usually work well when you are already overwhelmed. Six-week challenges can create more stress in your life. If you are not used to cooking or preparing meals, going to the gym on a regular basis and shopping for fresh ingredients you are going to be thrown for a loop. Although it forces you to learn new skills which is a good thing, it also can be too much to take in at one shot. Trying to find ways to jam in gym or meal-preparing time in your day can soon become seen as negative and stressful. Living a healthier lifestyle should feel fairly natural not awkward and rushed.
I am not trying to discourage people from joining a 6-week challenge but passing on a note of caution that it doesn’t always provide on-going momentum. A 6-week challenge can teach some valuable lessons on clean-eating, preparing healthy meals, nutrition, simple exercises, time-management and about the food environment. Before jumping in a 6-week challenge seek out one that has a balanced approach and not only one way to live. After you have completed a 6-week challenge take the positive and realistic parts of this experience and continue to apply them to your routine. This still puts you in a much healthier platform than you were before you started. Positive change is still positive change!