11/14/2014 10:02 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Hidden Problems of a 30-Day Health Challenge


Almost daily, a woman confides in me that she wants to sign up for a 30-Day Health Challenge. She's amped. And a few of her best girlfriends are going to join her.

She's totally committed to 30 days of push-ups or squats (or green smoothies or gratitude or you name it).

When she asks for my opinion, I'm a total buzzkill.

But only because I've seen it time and time again.

One of three things will happen:

  • She'll lose motivation and quit early.
  • She'll complete the challenge but return to her old ways on day 37.
  • She'll get to day "X," screw up, and have to "start over," never getting past that trouble spot.

Sound familiar?

I'm not trying to be a Negative Nancy or Debbie Downer here.

My life's work is centered around helping women find true and lasting healing in their bodies (and lives). And that's why I know how dangerous these challenges can be... especially to women.

Woman are social creatures. We're drawn to the promised success and social support of challenges but we tend to fail alone -- retreating back into our old patterns of negativity and self-deprecating behaviors.

When we can't complete a challenge (or a goal or resolution) those old tapes in our minds replay... You're a quitter. You're a failure. You're not good enough. I knew you wouldn't do it. Why can't you be more like her (you know... the one that actually completed the challenge and whose thighs don't jiggle like yours).

This keeps us stuck in dangerous patterns of negative thoughts (like shame). It perpetuates behaviors such as self-sabotage, punishment and self-hatred.

This is pure poison when it comes to creating true healing and lasting health.

Our thoughts -- those looping tapes -- are our biggest enemies.

So, why set yourself up for a situation that continues to reinforce that poison?

The concept of a 30-day challenge is awesome. They (just like New Year's resolutions) are a great way to jump-start into a "new era" in your health and life.

But, it's commonly understood that only about 8 percent of us ever complete our New Years' Resolutions and goals.

Challenges, resolutions, and short-term goals tend to attract the sprinters in life. But lasting health is a marathon.

The Healthy Way to Do a Challenge:

Truth is, I love the concept of 30-day challenges. In fact, I've done many myself. But there is a healthier way to accept a 30-day challenge.

Before you sign on the dotted line, start by asking yourself the "why" and "what"... Why do you really want to do the challenge? What is your motivation? What are you hoping to accomplish?

Be realistic about your motivations and what you're hoping to achieve. If it's just for fun or camaraderie go for it. No harm no foul.

But, if you're hoping it's going to jump-start your way into a healthier life, it's important to realize that you'll need to do more planning, create more accountability, and do more soul-searching as to how this challenge fits into the bigger vision of your health goals.

The women I know who've completed these kind of challenges (and had longer-lasting health changes) have a tremendous amount of support from their inner circle plus their health care providers, therapists, trainers or spiritual guides.

And, for goodness sakes, know that very few of us ever complete a 30-day challenge. This isn't to discourage you but provide you a good dose of reality. If you don't complete it, realize that you are normal. Commend yourself for taking the courage to step up and accept the challenge in the first place!

How Do You Stay Motivated?
30-day challenges can be a fun way to challenge yourself but they are also dangerous for many women because they have the great potential of setting us up for failure.

Do you approach challenges in a way that supports and enhances your overall health? Do you get down on yourself if you don't complete your goals? How do you stay motivated? Leave a comment below.