Are Challenges Healthy?

There is nothing inherently wrong with trying to shake up your routine and create new habits

We’re roughly 3/4 of the way through January at this point, and I’m wondering how all the folks doing Whole 30 / Veganuary / Sugar-free January / Dry January or whatever other sort of reset program are doing. How do you feel? Has doing such a reset met your needs? Did you get out of it what you expected? And what’s your plan for February – will you be carrying some or all of your program forward?

The flavour of the moment, at least in the circles I run in, is overwhelmingly in favour of intuitive eating, a process in which one is meant to get deeply in tune with their hunger, cravings, and satisfaction cues in order to break free from the confines of diet culture once and for all. In theory, it’s the perfect way to eat. It suits every person, whether vegan, omnivore, gluten-free, etc, because it’s about YOU and YOUR satisfaction.

Because, at its core, intuitive eating pushes back against restrictive eating, it has been used by many health practitioners and individuals as a means by which to overcome disordered eating. This, of course, is a very good thing.

At the same time, I’ve watched many intuitive eating proponents express frustration / judgement / disappointment in this month of January, over those who are doing any sort of reset program. I believe this comes from a place where those who have recovered from disordered eating find it upsetting or triggering to see this kind of behaviour, which is totally fair.

And yet, is there anything inherently wrong with trying to shake up your routine, create new habits, and feel better by doing some sort of reset program?

fresh and crisp summer salad rolls filled with veggies, baked tofu, and either black bean or rice noodles, and dunked in a zippy almond sauce you're sure to love //

I just started a 30 day yoga challenge. 30 minutes of yoga every day for 30 days. I’m 5 days deep and really hoping I can keep it going through some upcoming travel. I have a hard time believing anyone would think of me doing this challenge as disordered, and I’m wondering, is it really so different than doing a Whole 30?

I’m the kind of person for whom, during times of business or stress, exercise is the first to go. I’ll pretty much always have healthy food on hand because, well, that’s what I do. But when I’m burning the candle at both ends and there is work that needs to be delivered, it’s so easy to skip my swim or push my yoga class to the next day and the next day and the next day…

After a very busy December, followed by a holiday that was great but had me totally out of my routine, I’m feeling the need to shake things up and challenge myself. I need to move my body more. I know I need to move my body more. I know I’ll feel better if I move my body more. But it’s so damn easy not to, hence, the challenge.

Here’s the thing: If you think about it, in a way, taking on a challenge like this is tapping into my intuition. I clearly know that my body is craving more movement, and I’m finding a way to make that happen.

30 days of yoga. A simple, easily attainable, and measurable reset, with the hopes that at the end the 30 days I’ll have created a routine of carving time out for myself, for regular exercise. I’m using the challenge as tool to help me get there.

three pea salad with feta and mint //

It’s ok to challenge yourself if you feel the need to shake things up. It’s ok to try out new classes at the gym, or a new kind of workout, and, similarly, it’s ok to try out new ways of eating. Maybe you’d try Whole 30 and learn that you feel fantastic when you don’t eat grains / refined sugar / whatever. Maybe you’d hate it. (I’d totally  hate it.)

If what you’re hearing your body say is, I think we’d benefit from eating a lot more vegetables, then take on the challenge of a salad a day for 30 days or a green smoothie a day for 30 days. Perhaps at the end of it you’ll have created a new habit, tried some new tasty recipes, and learned a few things about yourself.

But – and this is important – if you start doing a healthy eating challenge or an exercise challenge, and you start to find that the challenge is taking over your life or causing you stress, that’s a sign you should step back and re-evaluate. I know that if I miss a day of my yoga challenge, it isn’t a big deal. You should know, too, that if you get invited to a dinner with friends in the middle of your Whole 30, you can just roll with it.

If you’re someone who has struggled with disordered eating and / or exercise compulsions in the past, you probably know that these kinds of challenges aren’t for you. That’s ok too. The point is that intuitive eating can come in many shapes and sizes – just like people.

More like this:
Three Ways I Achieved a Healthy Relationship With Food
Mindless, Mindful, or Somewhere In Between? 
10 Ways You Can Change The Way You Speak To Be More Body Positive


  1. Heidi says

    Wow, I was just thinking about Whole 30- a lot of people around me have been doing it, but I just can’t imagine why legumes would be banned from healthy eating!

    • Katie Trant says

      Yeah, I know. Whole 30 and Paleo both exclude legumes. As does the low FODMAP diet, but that is because the legumes contain indigestable carbohydrates that cause some people digestive discomfort. I personally thrive on legumes and wouldn’t do well on any sort of diet that excluded them!

  2. kellie@foodtoglow says

    Excellent piece and a great extension to intuitive eating, which I also proote with my cancer patients. I have had various injuries since November 2016, currently a very frozen shoulder that is healing very slowly. These issues (on crutches some of the time) have meant that I am physically weaker, and at my age, I really can’t afford muscle loss. I do one hour of concentrated physio every day but I’ve also challenged myself to walk every day. Whether it is 2 hours or half an hour, I will do it. Reading this has solidified my resolve. Best wishes wtih your endeavour. I know it isn’t easy with an active little boy to consider. But I guess he keeps you active, too 🙂

    • Katie Trant says

      Ha, yep, chasing after an almost 2-year-old (with his father’s genes) keeps me pretty busy as you might imagine! But I find in spite of running around, my core is quite weak and I have some nagging injuries that come back again and again. So time to focus in on myself. Good luck with all of your rehab, Kellie! Good for you for sticking with it.

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