Why That "12 Week Challenge" Doesn't Work (At Least Long-Term)

If you're feeling anxious about your diet or workout routine (or lack thereof) lately, and finding yourself reading this while looking for a 12 week challenge to finally get you to your healthiest weight... Let me assure you there is no best diet for quick weight loss. Whether it's disguised as a 12 week challenge or 30 day challenge, I promise there is a better way.


Spoiler: There isn’t a 12 week challenge for weight loss that sticks.


Advice: You shouldn’t be looking for one.


Good news: There is another way to achieve and maintain your healthiest weight.


Quick typically means unsustainable. That 12 week challenge means in 12 weeks you’ll probably be back to your old ways. As soon as you hit week 13, your brain says, “God, I’m glad that’s over” instead of “These are just the habits I’ve built and this is how I live my life”.


Quick fixes are just that. They are band-aids over a leak. Eventually the adhesive wears down because it wasn’t strong to begin with, and the water begins to leak through. It happens slowly at first, but eventually when the glue wears down high-pressure water comes rushing back through the hole. Soon, you’re struggling to stay above water and ultimately you sink.


The same is true with fad diets and 30 day challenges. You aren’t focused on building a strong foundation of habits. You take extreme action that is flimsy at the root because you go in knowing it’s temporary. You know, you will bust your butt for 30 days, 8 weeks, 3 months...or whatever quick-fix time frame during which this new program promises to deliver “aMaZiNg rEsULtS.”


So the new behavior holds for a little while. There’s motivation at the beginning and you stick to the strict plan they’ve given you. You may even lose some weight you wanted to lose.


But then the motivation of the early days starts to die down. You’re not as excited to get up and hit that sweaty workout. You’re getting sick of the bland foods and you could really go for a glass of wine. There’s a holiday gathering - 2020 style - coming up where cheese boards and cookie platters are shoved in your face at every turn. And that paper-thin foundation starts to loosen and crumble. The glue starts to break down. Old habits slowly creep back in until a whole flood of old behavior overtakes that shaky foundation. And it happens every time.


So what does work?


It’s not as catchy and sexy as losing 30 lbs in 30 days - which by the way, is preposterous. But the process that works is one of small changes, daily decisions and habit creation. It’s commitment to the process even and especially when it’s hard and you seem to have hit a plateau. It’s slow but steady progress. It’s showing up for yourself and keeping the promises you make to YOU.


This is what lasts. Focusing on the results will get you quick changes that are not replicable. Focusing on small, sustainable changes will get you results over time.


There is no finish line. There is no “once I hit my goal weight, everything else falls into place”. Because that imaginary finish line will always move. You will get close and then you will find something new to go after. And that’s ok, new challenges and goals are fantastic ways to keep us always improving. But we will never be happy if we bank on that finish line containing all the happiness.


It’s about changing the small decisions we make each day, each minute. It’s about making the productive choice - the difficult choice. It’s about doing the harder thing that takes longer, but pays out bigger.


We have to learn to be happy while we are in the race. We have to learn that it’s the daily habits and small choices that keep us ahead of the pack. If we worry about sprinting to win just the current race, we’ll tire quickly and come in last for the next one.


So erase that search entry for “12-week challenge for weight loss” and replace it with “best habits of successful people” or “healthy choices to make every day”. It’s not as enticing, but I assure you it is what works.


So what are the best choices you can make everyday to reach success?


  1. Decide who you want to be. Make each decision throughout the day such that it aligns with that vision.

  2. Don’t snooze.

  3. Keep promises you make to yourself.

  4. Identify the daily habits that will get you closer to your goal and use a habit app to keep yourself accountable.

  5. Get uncomfortable. Challenge yourself regularly.

  6. Find nature, regularly.

  7. Do the most daunting task of your day first. Eat that frog.

  8. Don’t be afraid to fail. In fact, welcome it.


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