Taking on a challenge

What is it about a challenge that we love?

It seems that’s all reality shows are anymore: Who can sing the best, dance the best, cook the best, survive a forest or mountaintop (or wedding dress spree, or crocodile feeding) or run or lose the most weight the fastest? We love watching people compete, or challenge themselves to do difficult things.

And apparently, we love doing it ourselves.

A few months ago, one of my good friends challenged me to read the LDS Book of Mormon in 29 days. That’s about 18 pages per day. I took it on, and successfully finished in one month. It was a great experience.

Then on Sunday, my mom and sisters came up with the brilliant idea of “no dessert” for one month. Twenty bucks was on the line, and at first I said, “No way!” I ALWAYS have something sweet after dinner — even if it’s just a bowl of my favorite sugar cereal before bedtime. Plus, for three and a half years now I’ve been able to pawn off my late-night sugar cravings on my babies (“I’m pregnant! I can eat whatever I want!” or more recently, “I’m nursing! I can eat whatever I want!”). This won’t always be the case. I want to take advantage.

But of course, I couldn’t be the only one to back down from a challenge, especially since my female family members were all so gung-ho about it. And, after all, I just finished doing something hard, why not this? I can live without sugar! So, begrudgingly I agreed.

It’s been three days.

Last night I had a bowl of ice cream.

In my defense, after dinner I grumpily mumbled something along the lines of hating this stupid challenge and, “Who would want to willingly torture themselves? Forget this, I’m having dessert tonight!” I honestly didn’t think my husband would take me seriously (he’s learned to politely tune me out when I get off on one of my low blood sugar rants), but lo and behold, I got home to find a little note on our front bench that reads, “Look in the freezer.” Intrigued, I ran into the kitchen, flung the freezer door open and there, perched on the shelf looking like Eve’s apple, was a brand-new pint of Haagen-Dazs cookie dough ice cream with another note that read, “I won’t tell if you won’t.”

Oh, you devil, you!

I didn’t know what to do. On one hand, I really, really wanted to stick with this challenge. Not because I believe eating dessert is bad or because I wanted to drop a few pounds (although I probably could), but because I wanted to win: plain, prideful and purely simple as that.


I felt like I was having a breakthrough: My husband actually LISTENED to my complaining and did something so sweet (too sweet!) for me. He had taken the time to sneak off to the grocery store late at night and surprise me with my favorite treat.

What to do, what to do?

Well, in all sincerity, I did the only thing I COULD do: To show appreciation for a thoughtful husband, I picked up that pint of ice cream, justifying the whole way to the couch and, I must say, showed an INCREDIBLE amount of self-control by only eating about 10 spoonfuls.

Honestly, I’m quite proud of myself.

Hey, I didn’t want to hurt my husband’s feelings, after all the trouble he went to! Plus, we DID decide on Sunday that each girl was allowed two “cheat” days during the month. (Just two examples of the justification I was doing that night.)

So I guess that’s three dessert-free and one cheat-day down, 27 days – including one cheat day – left to go.

What challenges have you strived to achieve? How did it turn out? Why or why didn’t you manage to meet your goal? Is there a favorite competitive reality show that you enjoy watching, and has it motivated you to do something you originally thought was too hard to take on?

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