Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Post 49: 30 Day Challenge Review

Hi guys,

As most of you reading this are aware, I recently enjoyed (mostly enjoyed, sometimes endured - C) a 30 day blogging challenge. The aim: to write and release at least 250 words a day on any topic I wanted. On top of that, I had to track my calories and weight and tell everyone what they were each day. Since I couldn’t hold back and knew people were watching, it had the knock-on effect of pushing me to clean up my diet. What had drifted back to roughly 70% good 30% bad, went to 90:10. That’s the spot I like to aim for.  

Just over 30 days later (I was late on a couple of posts, even the best of us slip up after all), it was complete. That was over 11,500 words: the length of a dissertation, most of which was written off of the top of my head. As a collected work, it’s actually bigger than my Master’s thesis, and shows you what you might have stored up inside your noggin. I deserve a pat on the back from me to me.

Summing up what happened

Like I said earlier, the whole thing made me pay a lot of attention to what I was eating. Something I kept returning to was the theme of accountability and how it helps you out with these things. I felt its effects strongly. I am certainly a lot healthier now, and am making better choices. That was mainly because there was no longer any anonymity to bad decisions.

I’m also feeling more energetic, and in touch with my health. One of the things that happens when you “eat clean” is that you’re much more sensitive to change. You notice when something takes you from feeling good to bad. This ties into the interplay of low hanging fruit and dieting: when you start out you make the easier changes which interestingly have the biggest effects. Small changes have small effects, but once you’re further down the path you dial everything else in and it feels like they have a much larger impact.

However, the health, weight, and calories aspects were all playing second fiddle to the blogging itself. I found it surprisingly easy to put together each day’s post as most of the words just spilled out of my mind, onto the screen. Some days it took more work to think of a topic, and churn the words out, but those were few and far between. The overarching lesson here is that if you’re trying to do something each day, just starting in some very small way helps a tonne. Often times I would sit down with my laptop and think it would be a churn-day, whereas the words flowed effortlessly.

Have a look at the classic graph of how to achieve flow. Often times the difficulty just clicked and I was happy to type away for much more than the 250 words I prescribed myself. In fact, had I only written 250 words a day, I would have only written 2/3s of what I did.

Summing up my ideas

The 30 days also gave me a great opportunity to experience a personal journey; one where I crystallised my own ideas and started to figure out what I wanted to discuss in the future. I loved talking about the psychology behind weight loss. Once I had the topic, I was completely fine just to run with it and bring something to the table which someone else might not be able to.

I love the science and the internal mechanisms behind the effects of different foods, but there are smarter guys out there who are also putting that content out. I still want to talk about the processes, because I think it’s important to back up action X with reason Y, but now I want to focus on bringing something that you definitely won’t find anywhere else: myself.

Rather than setting out to write a post to convince you why you should do something because of reasons A,B and C, I want to present new viewpoints and approach weight loss from what some people might call an inner game perspective.

Summing up 30 day challenges

You see a lot of these around ranging from intense exercise plans to detoxes to sex challenges (just check out that google images screenshot! - C); some I believe are genuinely helpful while others are scams. The unfortunate truths are:

  1. There is no get rich quick system out there that doesn’t require hard work. It might be simple, but it will still require dedication. You’ll have to pick yourself back up time and again.
  2. If you don’t carry on after the 30 days are up, all the positives will melt away.
  3. Current consensus is that it takes 66 days for something to become a habit, but that’s not as appetising as 30 days. It’s easy to imagine the marketing: solve all your problems in just one month!

I’ve done 100 day challenges before and that’s where I think the gold lies. On Day 26 I discussed my influencers and the simple “100 Day Gong” process which comes from Carl Totton and the “What’s This Tao All About?” podcast. The idea is that you set a list of things you have to do each day, and if you don’t complete all of them you have to restart the 100 days. Once you realise that starting again is much more annoying than just doing it, you make sure you crank out those few tasks each day.

On Day 23 I talked about mindful eating and recording what you were having; have a look there for some inspiration for things to put in your own Gong. Make the tasks easy to fulfil and specific, and then build over time. Make the next gong more difficult and work your way up.

Summing up calories and weight

Since this is a blog chiefly concerned with health, I couldn’t leave without talking about one of my biggest bugbears: calories.

People hear weight loss and they think calories restriction. The truth is that it’s much more important what you eat rather than how much.

My results were far from linear, and this is shown in my absolutely beautiful chart made on Google Sheets. You can see that around day 10, the relationship went the opposite way to what we would expect, but then on day 19 my calories and weight tracked each other closely. (Perhaps you should go back and read what happened on those days? Hmmm? - C)

And since I’m a fan of numbers and analysis, I did a simple regression of my weight on calories consumed. The relationship was barely positive, and showed that 100 extra calories each day would only lead to 0.02lbs of weight gain. The R-squared, an indicator of how well the variables explain the variation in each other, was close to 0.

To translate the above, as far as my results were concerned, weight and calories are unrelated. Although take that with a pinch of salt, that’s a short term relationship.  

That’s where my thoughts stand at this moment: yes, over time if you eat a load of calories then you will gain weight; but in the short and medium term is is much more effective to focus on the what rather than the how much.

Summing this post up

So that’s my 30 day challenge in review. This weeks takeaways are:
  1. Try a 30 day challenge, but seriously consider extending it at the end of the 30 days; up to 100 days if possible.
  2. In future, I’ll be talking a lot more about the “inner game” of weight loss and how to navigate the whole thing psychologically
  3. Calories and weight, in the short term, are not as strongly related as you think. Always focus on quality rather than quantity.

Until next time,

1 comment:

  1. Great summary mate, congratulations on completing another successful challenge. I totally agree that the challenge needs to lead to something more.