Whole Life Challenge Signup Starts This Week

Below is an email I sent to the folks who expressed interest in joining us for this fall’s Whole Life Challenge. If you, too, would like to give it a go, please get in contact with me (Tweeting @iancr would do the trick, so would leaving a comment below) and I’ll send you signup details.


Thanks for your interest in joining us for the Whole Life Challenge! I sincerely hope you’ll join us. Please feel free to invite anyone you think might both benefit from it and take it seriously. Just forward them this email as I’ll include some basics about what WLC is and how you sign up below. Please note that proceeds from our team (signup for the 8 week challenge is $45) will be donated to Pablove so not only are you doing something great for yourself but you’re donating to a great cause by participating in this fall’s challenge. THANK YOU.

Whole Life Challenge begins! GAME ON!

Brief background: Whole Life Challenge was developed by Michael Stanwyck and Andy Petranek who run Crossfit LA. We at Topspin were introduced to it when Chris Carlson in our office announced he was doing it in the spring. 14 of us at Topspin participated in the spring and for at least a few of us it was life changing. Better eating and exercise habits and fitness all around. When Michael and Andy announced they were building new software for it and taking it beyond just Crossfit LA I asked if we could participate again. Because of our relentless enthusiasm, they are letting us lead a challenge as if we were one of their affiliate gyms. I’ve had a lot of folks ask me about what I’m doing fitness-wise and where they might begin; THIS IS IT. The Challenge works not because of any gimmicks but for 3 simple reasons:

  1. Simplicity.
  2. Accountabilty.
  3. Community.

More on that below.

Signup: Now! [Get in contact with me if you’d like signup instructions]
It costs $45 and proceeds from our team will be donated to Pablove. http://pablove.org/

Challenge starts: September 15th. We’ll have a preliminary here in Los Angeles on September 16th (please mark your calendar — details forthcoming). If you’re local, please join us to kick it off proper like. Details forthcoming. If you’re not in LA, don’t worry, you’ll be able to participate from afar just fine.

Join the Facebook group: This is the place to share recipes, post goals, frustrations, etc. http://www.facebook.com/groups/270712833043356/

What is The Whole Life Challenge?

Being human in the 21st century means a battle between biology and abundance, and the result (for most of us) is being less fit than we’d like to be. The Whole Life Challenge is an 8-week diet and fitness game that, when followed, will change your lifestyle in enough ways to make a difference. The goal isn’t a score of 100% and it’s unlikely you’ll adhere to the rules of the game 100% when it’s over. But you’ll discover some things about yourself and find some new, better habits to be sure, from better food choices to more regular exercise.

“Challenge” is the appropriate word. It’s not complex, but it’s not easy. It’s work, but rewarding. Personally I believe it works because:

  1. The rules are simple, black/white. It’s not about calorie counting. It’s easy to look at any food and simply answer yes/no to the question of “should I put this in my mouth”? Also, the answer is never “no”, but the answer may be, “if you do you’ll lose a point…”
  2. You’re accountable. It’s funny to find yourself eating better because of a silly game, but it happens.
  3. Community is built-in. We’re all in this together, and help each other along the way. Researchers studied a number of diets side-by-side. Which diet someone followed didn’t correlate with success. They all worked or didn’t work, equally well. What correlated with success was which of the dieters had a support group. Fact: changing your lifestyle is easier when doing it with friends and loved ones.

How does the scoring work?

There are a maximum of six points per day. You get:

+1 point for doing at least 10 minutes of exercise in a day
+1 point for at least 10 minutes of stretching/mobility
+1 point for taking fish oil (more on that later)

You start the day with 3 food points and lose 1 point any time you eat something on the “NO” list. The lowest score you can get in any one day is 0.

The NO list:
No grains or starches (except legumes and sweet potatoes/yams)
No corn or soy
No sugar or sweetener of any kind (this includes honey, agave, etc)
No alcohol
No soda
No juice
No dairy (except butter)
No artificial or processed foods

Additionally, there will be weekly bonus points that can be earned.

So wait, what DO you eat?

Don’t let that list of NOs scare you away. It shouldn’t. Challenging existing habits is the name of the game, after all. Does it mean you’ll stop eating grains and dairy forever? No. But if, over the course of 8 weeks beginning September 15th, you exchange your boxed cereal breakfast habit for eggs + veggies and start choosing the salmon + veggies option at the restaurant instead of the pizza/pasta you’ll be making a change for the good. It’s not that you’ll NEVER eat those things but you’ll find yourself making conscious choices to dive into the NO list instead of habitually eating things which aren’t great for you.

Is everything on the NO list evil? Definitely not. They’re on the list because it’s easier for most people to have a very clear NO list than it is to moderate their habits, particularly under stress. Beyond The Challenge I HIGHLY recommend Ben Greenfield’s Food Pyramid, the best science-based “what to eat” list that celebrates moderation and says “NO” to nothing except things which are truly bad for you: http://www.bengreenfieldfitness.com/2012/01/why-the-food-pyramid-is-wrong/

To try to help answer the “what do I eat” question, share, and maintain some accountability for myself, I started a diet/fitness blog at http://fitfulayen.tumblr.com. Take a browse and you can see some of the things I’ve changed my diet to. Note some of them will go away for me during the week of the challenge. But most of what I eat on the daily is challenge-friendly now. Croissants at Topspin yesterday? I skipped ’em and went for some fruit instead. Lunch meeting? I’ll have the salad plus protein, please. Breakfast? No more cereal for me, thx. I haven’t stopped drinking yet, but I’ve definitely cut way back.

My advice: give it a try. It won’t be easy but I’ll tell you from experience, it’s freeing and feels great. It’s great to feel healthy and in control, and I feel more of each now than I did before. Also, my overall knowledge and awareness relating to my health/fitness has gone up which can’t be a bad thing. That’s what The Challenge is all about in my humble opinion. Don’t get too caught up on the particular rules. Take it as a challenge, a puzzle meant to change habits for the better. It’s 8 weeks. It’s with a group. It’s, well, challenging. Challenges are fun and rewarding.

Thanks for joining us. It’s honestly an honor to get to change our lives for the better together.



  1. alysha wrote:

    Hmm, I really want to do this… I am in week 5 of P90X *and* training for another half-marathon, so getting the exercise points should be easy. But… And this is a big one for me… I am a vegetarian and have been for 22+ years. Not a pescetarian, not a vegetarian that sometimes eats a burger — there has not been a single conscious cheat since Thanksgiving of 1990. Giving up dairy and soy will make protein tough to get, but I know from experience that accountability works for me… Any thoughts, Ian?

  2. Jaime Macias wrote:

    I think I’m gonna have to get in on this.

  3. iancr wrote:

    Hi Alysha,

    I agree it will be a challenge and make things harder, but the diet you describe isn’t much different from that of Rich Roll (“Finding Ultra”) or Brendan Brazier (“Thrive”, “Thrive Foods”). Much harder will be the “no grains” rule. While Rich and Brendan eschew processed grains they *do* eat a lot of whole grains.

    If you tried this I’d think your main protein sources would be legumes and nuts. I’m not a doctor nor a nutritionist but I think they do lack the full amino acid profile you could get from either whole grains or meat.

    Still, I think this is very doable for 8 weeks. Most important would be to get lots of good carbs around your exercise. I would think if you eat a pretty balanced diet generally speaking and then do something like this around your training, you’d be good:

    Night before:
    Well-balanced meal including a good starch like Sweet Potato

    Morning of:
    Half banana
    Within 30-60 minutes post exercise, smoothie with hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, frozen blueberries, bananas, and greens like kale

    You’d have plenty of carbs on board for the run and plenty of carbs and protein for recovery.

    Personally I was a vegetarian for more than 20 years, though I did eat eggs and fish, which makes this much easier.

    I think there are very compelling reasons to give up soy regardless, though. Here’s a pretty succinct run-down about 2/3 of the way through this episode of Ben Greenfield’s podcast. Search “Garden Variety Tri” in the page to skip to it quickly:


    Bottom line, when the vegan ultra endurance athletes don’t eat it, I become pretty convinced.


  4. Adam wrote:

    Is this LA-only? Sign me up if not.

  5. Chris Walton wrote:

    Not sure about the “no alcohol” part but if you could send me an invite I’ll take a crack at the challenge.

    Have a good Friday.


  6. iancr wrote:

    Not LA-only. Lots of non-LA participants. I’ll send you the info. You’ll dig.


  7. John Lucchetti wrote:

    I’m not in L.A., but would love to participate. Please send me the sign up details.


  8. alysha wrote:

    Okay, yo. I am in. I have ordered “Thrive” and “Thrive Foods,” and we’ll see how it goes. I predict many “0” days in my future, but I am excited to do this nonetheless.

    Thanks for the great info, Ian, and for letting us all be a part of Team Topspin.

  9. Jim Vieceli wrote:

    I’m in and up for the challenge. Please send me the details.

  10. Jessie Schuman wrote:

    My whole crew at the firehouse is interested in doing this challenge. Besides the information above, is there any more info I can get to print out and give to them?


  11. Danny Aguayo wrote:

    Perfect timing, I’m in! Will there be any recommendations on supplements?

  12. iancr wrote:

    Great news, Alysha! Welcome!

    I’m going to do a post on vegetarians in the challenge, and one is coming from someone at Crossfit LA, too.


  13. stephanie wrote:

    ian–i want to do this. i am in connecticut, do i sign-up with the link you provided or do i need additional information?

  14. katrina gagnon wrote:

    Shoot. I’ll do this for my 40th birthday present to myself! Can’t hurt to try.
    Thanks Ian

  15. Paola wrote:

    Just signed up…very excited!

  16. patch wrote:

    i’m ready. been test driving on vacation…now, for 8 weeks. ny’ers can get in on the action?

  17. nancy evars wrote:

    hi ian – i worked with you years ago at yahoo (influencer marketing)…i think i want to do this! can you send me sign up info? thanks!

  18. LJ Scott wrote:

    I’m up for this, was already planning on cutting most of this stuff my diet for a couple of months anyway. Looking forward to the challenge.

  19. Nicole St Jean wrote:

    Hilary wants in this time, so I’m doing it with her. xoxoxo.

  20. April wrote:

    What’s the challenge’s definition of no dairy? Most things I’ve read use it to mean the stuff from an animal, but a few things expand the definition to include milk replacements like almond and coconut milk.

  21. iancr wrote:

    Hi April,

    Sorry for the delay, was out of town this weekend.

    Dairy in The Challenge means “comes from cows, goats, etc”. Almond, coconut, and other milk replacements are allowed so long as they don’t have any other non-compliant ingredients in them. Be careful as almost *all* of the milk replacements have some sort of sugar in them. Even the unsweetened ones often have some soy something-or-other in them. So read the ingredients carefully.

    Also, it’s fairly easy to make your own sunflower/hemp/almond sort of milk in a blender with water, and pretty good, too. I recently made the sunflower/hemp milk recipe from the Thrive Foods cookbook and it was great.

    Finally, note that butter is allowed on The Challenge. Why? you may ask. Good question. I think it’s two reasons: 1) it’s a decadence Michael Stanwyck (who invented The Challenge) simply decided to allow, 2) The Paleo diet is big on butter, organic, grassfed butter to be specific. Personally I back organic, grassfed butter as a pretty safe fat relative to a lot of the highly processed and saturated oils that make up too much of most of our diets these days.

    I hope that helps.


  22. Mairi wrote:

    I’d like to join! Please send details

  23. Anna Davis wrote:

    I’m in! Can you send me sign up details when you have a chance? Thanks!

  24. Jim B wrote:

    Hi Ian – would love to join in. I am based in New York so let me know what I need to do.

    Thanks for all the inspiration – great to see someone killing it in a startup but also working so hard at fitness.

    – Jim

  25. iancr wrote:

    Hey all,

    Thanks for the interest. If you’d like to join please:

    1) Join this Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/tswlc/
    2) After I approve your join, go to the “Docs” tab and take a look at the signup instructions
    3) Recruit friends! It’s easier with support. 😉


  26. Maria Cunningham wrote:

    Hi Ian,
    Can you please send me sign up details?

    Am very excited to get started.

    – Maria

  27. April wrote:

    No worries about the delay (silly life details, always getting in the way! :) ). I’m in and will go through the Facebook process later today.

    Thanks for helping to organize this.

  28. Crispin Lazarit wrote:

    I want in on this challenge. Let’s do this. Please send me the signup details.


    Crispin Lazarit

  29. clare crespo wrote:

    ian, i want info! i am headed to mexico city for a weekend during your challenge so i am not sure i can not have tequila while there, but this looks so great!

  30. Naomi wrote:

    I signed up (with another friend’s referral), but would like to join this team. I can try to email WLC to change it if you confirm the team name (or just that I should use your name, Ian). Thanks!

  31. Elsa Kauffman wrote:

    I’ve been searching and searching frantically for a way to get an invite to do this whole life challenge… if you could share sign-up information with me, I would REALLY appreciate it!! Have been working hard training for Tough Mudder, have changed my eating to all plant-based and am looking for something to take me to the next level… I read the rules, etc., and I REALLY want to do this… Either way, thank you!!

  32. Panthea wrote:

    Hi there,
    I head about this from Nicole & I’d like to sign up! Sounds super fun and hey–who doesn’t like games? Starts tomorrow? Woot!

  33. denise wrote:

    I am interested in joining the 8 week challenge

  34. iancr wrote:


    Great! I just sent you the information via email.


  35. iancr wrote:

    Info sent!


  36. iancr wrote:

    Welcome! The info is in your inbox.


  37. Daniel wrote:

    Is there any way to still signup for the challenge? If so, will do today. Let me know. Thank you.

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