100 Days Without Sweets: 8 Things I Learned
Three and a half months ago I was lost.
I had been working with my clients helping them exercise and eat better, but yet my own nutrition had consistently gotten worse.
The biggest culprit?
Sweets – cookies, ice cream – all those goodies.
On the way home after work each day I passed the grocery store with my favorite specialty cookies and was faced with a decision – keep going on the road towards home or make a quick stop for a delicious treat.
Some days my healthy side won, other days my monster sweet tooth won.
The two weeks leading up to the start of my 100 days without sweets my sweet tooth was winning far too frequently, not just with cookies from the grocery store, but with other desserts throughout the week as well.
At no other point in my life prior to this did I have this problem.
Sure, there would be a day here or there that I’d have a sweet, no big deal, but this was a whole other level.
I was getting busier with clients, my schedule was filling up and I just let myself go.
This wasn’t something I wanted to continue, so I decided to do something – my 100 day no sweets challenge was born.
From June 1st through September 8th I didn’t eat any sweets – not a single cookie, brownie, piece of candy, bowl of ice cream or any other dessert. During this time I learned many things and I’d like to share them with you.
1. Having ONE clear focus is vital.
My main goal with this challenge was to stop a bad habit. The challenge was focused on that one goal. Yes, I ate too much some days. Yes, I didn’t exercise enough some weeks. However, to try and focus on everything at once would have been disastrous.
By only focusing on one thing I was able to kick my sweets habit. I feel extremely confident about my ability to manage eating sweets – much more than I could say 3 months ago. I’ll still eat them occasionally, but I will not go back to how I was before – I simply won’t allow myself to do so.
2. Stakes make all the difference in the world.
My best friend Zach did the 100 day no sweets challenge along with me and we agreed that if either one of us couldn’t complete it we would have to pay the other person $100.
On the most difficult days I was reminded of this and stayed the course.
To accomplish a goal you have I’d suggest using stakes to do so. It doesn’t have to be money, but having something of value on the line goes a long ways. You can even try out a website like Stickk.com to make a change in your life.
3. Making things public matters.
This may not work for everyone, but for me, making this challenge public was a big help. I had people asking me about it, I blogged about it and there was no way I could break the challenge.
You don’t have to announce your goal to the entire world, but telling some of your friends and family about it may just give you the push you need to get it done.
4. I love sweets, but really don’t need them.
Okay, it’s not like I didn’t know this going in, but through the 100 days I learned it was entirely possible to go without eating sweets and that life would go on without them.
I most definitely will eat sweets again (And have since the challenge ended) but my habits related to them are forever changed – Knowing I can go 100 days without them will give me much more confidence to say no to them in the future.
5. Proving to myself I could stick with a long term goal was beneficial in many ways.
I think too often we hold on to self-limiting beliefs about our lives, but proving to ourselves that we can do more, that we can make a change and become a better version of ourselves, only helps us become better people.
Learning that I really didn’t need sweets opened my eyes to other possibilities in my life. If I could go without sweets for 100 days, what else could I do? How else could I make an impact in only my life, but in the lives of others? The possibilities are endless and by proving to myself what is possible I’ll be able to accomplish more going forward. Already, I’ve been thinking of even more ambitious endeavors.
6. Setting an end date for a goal matters.
You’ve probably heard this before, but setting an end date for a goal really does matter. I’ve always heard this as well, but having first hand experience has helped solidify my stance.
Knowing that there was a specific date when my challenge would finish helped me stay the course.
Does that mean that you need to have an exact end date for every single goal you have? Not necessarily, but having set dates will keep you honest and on track.
If you have a big goal, like losing 50 pounds let’s just say, having set dates for every 5 or 10 pounds you want to lose along the way will at the very least allow you to see if what you are doing is working.
For me, the 100 days was just one part of my lifelong journey to improve as a person. Next, I’ll set an end date for the next habit I want to improve on and work towards that on a daily basis.
7. Being perfect doesn’t matter (And isn’t important).
Many people are searching for the “perfect diet” or the “perfect workout” but these things simply don’t exist. Even though I was avoiding sweets throughout the 100 days my diet was still far from perfect and that’s okay.
The most important part of the 100 day challenge was that I was working to improve my diet and was tracking exactly what I was eating so I could accurately judge how I was doing.
Is your diet ever going to be perfect? No, but if you are working towards a better diet, one that fits your lifestyle, gives you energy and reflects your desired result then you’re good to go. Improvement trumps most everything else and focusing on that is the key.
8. Willpower alone really doesn’t work.
I’ve tried to accomplish goals before strictly on willpower and found out that this is a recipe for disaster.
I was able to get through this 100 days because of the social support, stakes and specific parameters I set in place – not by relying solely on my willpower.
If you are trying to eat healthier, limit the situations that lead to you eating poorly. Why put yourself in an environment that forces you to rely on your willpower?
Post-100 day challenge I’m more motivated than ever to eat healthier. For the first few days after completing the challenge I gave myself a break (I enjoyed a lot of sweets with my best friend the day after my challenge was complete…see the picture below) but now I have a strong desire to go without them most of the time.
I know I’ll have them again, but I don’t feel the need to.
I think it’s completely alright to have sweets or other unhealthy foods in moderation, but I’ve learned just how difficult that can be, especially for me. I’d rather go without them the majority of the time to stay on track.
To improve your diet I find it very important to see what works for you personally. Start with one of your weaknesses at a time and just work to improve upon that. After making some progress with one thing it’ll give you the confidence to improve upon more.
We are all faced with seemingly endless choices each day, it’s a constant battle between making a good choice and bad choice, but we can have success by narrowing our focus on what really matters.
What will you focus on today?