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Traver Boehm: Give It 30 Days for Dietary Changes That Will Stick

Those who drop out before the fourth week simply don't get the opportunity to experience health-filled amazement

How many of you know that you could be eating healthier, more nutritious foods but choose not to? Why is this?

We pose this question to patients and clients all the time and get a wide range of responses. Most commonly, the reasons revolve around a loss of faith based upon a negative past experience with a “diet.”

The best ways to combat this loss of faith is first to understand the “why” behind your dietary change — and then to keep things simple. I personally don’t like the word diet and don’t believe in diets. They’re usually short term, complicated and make people miserable. What I do believe in wholeheartedly, though, are shifts in the way that we eat and basing those shifts off intelligent, holistic decisions.

If a client wants to lose 10 pounds by the end of the summer to look great for a wedding, that’s fantastic and we’ll help him or her accomplish that goal. Do I think the person will be back to the current weight if not heavier by this time next year? I sure do. Why? Because the “why” wasn’t strong enough, nor was it long term.

When someone walks through our door who is looking to lose 20 pounds as a start to getting off diabetes medication, and wants to make a plan to live the rest of his or her life on a far healthier level in order to actually be alive when his or her children graduate from high school — in our minds, there’s not a chance of failure.

Crossfit Pacific Coast co-owner Eric Malzone and I often joke with our new clients that we’ve heard that it’s actually easier to change someone’s religion than it is to change how they eat. Before you can convince people to permanently change deeply rooted parts of their identity such as food choices, you have to let them experience what it’s like to feel much better than they currently do — and this takes time, not 40 days and 40 nights, but close to it.

The vast majority of the dietary challenges that we put ourselves and our clients through at CrossFit Pacific Coast are at least 30 days long. For those of you who are ready to make some dietary changes, we recommend a 30-day minimum for good reasons. For those of you who are willing to step up to the plate, so to speak, here’s the standard breakdown of what you can expect out of a four-week dietary challenge.

» Week 1 — Everything’s exciting, you’re eating new foods and talking to your friends about how hopeful you are. Even some of the withdrawal symptoms are interesting because you know that you’re making positive changes. You’re posting pictures of your meals on Facebook.

» Week 2 — Things are far less exciting, you’re missing your old foods and the comfort that they provided for you. The withdrawal symptoms are lessening, but now are extremely annoying and you have no idea how you’re going to get through the next two weeks. You’re sick of cooking your own food and posting it on Facebook.

» Week 3 — Your body has shifted. By now you are sleeping better, waking up with more energy, you’re losing weight, and are getting faster and stronger in your workouts. It still takes effort to continue to eat this way in the face of friends and family who may still think that you are crazy, but you’ve got momentum on your side and are grateful for undertaking the experience. Anyone who has dropped out before this three-week period is most likely consoling themselves with self appeasing excuses and some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

» Week 4 — You’ve moved on to actual trash talking. You swear to anyone who will listen that there’s no way you’ll ever go back to eating sugar or drinking alcohol or caffeine now that you’ve lost weight and are feeling so good You begin to judge other people who eat pasta and bread (or anything else you’ve successfully given up for that challenge) and generally hold yourself up on a pretty high pedestal. Most importantly (the arrogance goes away fairly quickly) you feel amazing. Anyone who has dropped off before this fourth week has far less chance of sticking with their new way of living due solely to not having this experience of health-filled amazement.

That highlighted sentence is the tangible difference between temporary short-term suffering and an actual change in the manner and consciousness with which you will bring to food for the foreseeable future. I know this to be true because I’ve seen it myself, my business partner and countless others.

To recap: Keep it simple, come up with a lifelong “why,” find some accountability partners and stick to it for 30 days come hell or high water.

Have at it.

— Traver Boehm is co-owner and coach at Crossfit Pacific Coast, has a master’s degree in Chinese medicine, is a licensed acupuncturist at Alki Wellness, and a nutrition specialist. He can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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