Take the 1000 Day Challenge!

First off: This isn’t the start of a new longer-term Primal Challenge. 1000 days would be fun, but I’m pretty sure we’d run out of ideas — and sponsors. Apologies to everyone out there chomping at the bit for a few years straight of new contests and prizes. You’d get sick of it yourself; trust me. Plus, that shorter 21-day Primal challenge format works because it’s the perfect way to quickly kickstart real change, disrupt bad habits and establish new ones. Today’s challenge concerns long, lasting, sustained, momentous change that happens over a greater timescale.

Let’s try a thought experiment.

Think about 1000 days. Try to picture it. It’s a long time, isn’t it? Almost three years. A lot can happen in 1000 days. Why, in 1000 days, a person could accomplish any number of things:

  • Think up a fantasy business idea with pals and actually plan, execute, and bring it to fruition.
  • Move across the country, even if they walked.
  • Conceive of and write a book.
  • Propose, plan a wedding, get married, get pregnant, give birth, and watch your kid take his first steps.
  • Learn a language.
  • Hem and haw about whether you really want one before starting and finishing a master’s degree.
  • Save enough money to travel for a year, travel for a year, and come back home and get settled back in.
  • Mount and complete an early 19th century expedition across a largely unexplored continent teeming with wildlife and potentially hostile indigenous people that starts in St. Louis, reaches the Pacific Ocean, and ends back in St. Louis without losing more than a single member while being hunted by four teams of mercenaries and soldiers commissioned by Spain.
  • Design, construct, and successfully test the first atomic bomb.
  • Start a blog about Primal living from scratch and grow the audience to millions of monthly visitors.

Yep. There’s almost no limit to what you can do. People can achieve incredible things in 1000 days. People have achieved truly monumental things in 1000 days. If you really think about it, you can reach just about any goal – or at least make a huge amount of progress toward it — in 1000 days.

And yet, in the grand scheme of things, in the lifespan of the average human being, 1000 days is a blip. It’s not that long. You get comfortable, allow your existence to grow staid, and dutifully punch the clock on whatever life you’ve fallen into and those 1000 days just slip right on by. They bleed into each other. “What, it’s Thanksgiving already?”

Furthermore, 1000 days is enough time to accomplish almost anything but not so much time that your entire life is wasted if you fail. You can bounce back and learn from your mistakes. “Well, that didn’t work. What’s next?” Some people bounce back after forty years in prison, and you’re worried about 1000 days?

All those hopes, those aspirations, those late night conversations about what-could-be? They don’t morph into anything resembling tangible reality all by themselves. If you don’t actually start the process, your dreams will remain fun thought experiments that elicit brief sensations of excitement. That’s not good enough for you, nor for anyone. Luckily, you’ve got 1000 days to get going. To get somewhere.

Okay, let’s move on to a doing experiment. Time to transcend mere thinking and imagining. Time to do.

Put a big fat X on April 9, 2018 (or set an alarm on your phone, arrange an email alert, etc). That’s 1000 days from now. What are you going to complete by that date? What will you change, learn, become? Who will you be? Where will you be? What have you always wanted to accomplish but have yet to even begin approaching?

That business idea you’ve mulled over for months now, the one that gives you the butterflies every time you allow yourself the luxury of imagining it? For that brief moment, your brain is convinced you’re actually living it. You’ve tricked yourself into treating the fantasy as reality. Then it comes crashing down. Felt good, right? Get on it. You’ve got a 1000 days.

So you’re 150 pounds overweight, nothing fits, you can’t handle the mirror, and a single flight of stairs is a conditioning workout. It’s hard, but get over it. Start today. People have been there. People have made it out in less than 1000 days. Be another.

You hate your job, or maybe you just know you’d be happier doing something else. Only problem is you need a specific type of training to shift careers. Maybe it’s a class. Maybe it’s a 2-year degree. Maybe it’s an apprenticeship or a certification. Maybe it’s simply a matter of buying a few books, perusing a few websites, and really buckling down to teach yourself. The point is that you know what needs doing, so use these 1000 days to do it.

That fitness goal. You know, that one that always seemed possible (because so many others can do it) but complex and difficult enough that you never got around to seriously trying, let alone mastering it. Is it a handstand pushup? A twice bodyweight squat? Hiking the Appalachian trail?

That home gym you saw on Pinterest last year, the one you shared on your Facebook wall? Remember how you half-assedly filled a shopping cart on HomeDepot.com with materials to actually build it, then did nothing? Perhaps it’s time to resurrect that “plan” and make it a real plan.

Forget the “ten year plan,” or the “five year plan.” Downsize those puppies down to 1000 days. (Or, if you’re really driven, you can lisen to PayPal founder Peter Thiel and condense them down to six months.)

Lots of goals will be more open-ended or less rigorously defined. “Be happier.” Or “live life.” That’s fine. You can still work toward an amorphous goal like “be happier” by doing things that make you happy.

It could be all or none of those things. We all have something, though. Shake yourself from reverie and seize the (1000) day(s). It’s plenty of time but only if you use it.

How are you going to tackle this challenge? Have you attempted a similar challenge in the past? How’d it go?

Thanks for reading, all. I can’t wait to hear back from all of you on April 9, 2018!

Prefer listening to reading? Get an audio recording of this blog post, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast on iTunes for instant access to all past, present and future episodes here.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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69 thoughts on “Take the 1000 Day Challenge!”

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  1. Mark just raised Cortisol levels for the next three years in all his readers. Job security… Well played, Sisson.

  2. I think the math is off. I’m getting a date of April 9th being 1000 days from today.
    October 3rd, 2018 is approx 1177 days from today…

    But I like the article and the time frame for goal achievement.

    1. October 3rd is more than three years from now.

      “Think about 1000 days. Try to picture it. It’s a long time, isn’t it? Almost three years.”

    2. That settles it – Mark is writing to us from the future! No wonder so many of these articles seem so timely….

  3. Mine is two fold, and started a week ago… My main goal for this 1000 days (and for life) is to get and stay strong enough to lift myself over obstacles. Be it climbing a tree to get away from an angry bear or pulling myself back onto a river raft, that seems like a great ability. The other goal is to reduce body fat, which should go along with the weight lifting program (starting strength). I’m about 265lbs, over 32% body fat on every test I’ve ran. Don’t care about loosing the weight, but have a goal of 20% body fat.

    1. I love that. I started a workout problem this month for the same reason. I need to be physically capable enough to fight off an attacker then pick up my two kids and run up three flights of stairs. Or even just to run to catch a flight then lift my suitcase into the overhead bin. My biggest problem was figuring out what kind of exercise would make me more capable instead of just more toned. I finally decided on kickboxing and strength training. I will add in some yoga too when I am strong enough to to do that intensely. I have only about 20lbs to lose but I have not set a weight goal. Just interested in the functional aspect. What do you guys think of kettle bell training?

  4. Great read. Thanks for sharing. Gives me great motivation to start something I’ve been contemplating for months now!

    1. +1 from my 11 year old daughter, who will be 14 in three short years *sigh*

  5. I love the idea of setting a date. I stopped smoking, eating sugar and now I want to get in the best physical, financial shape of my life…I give myself a start date (not “tomorrow”), check in dates (with specific goals) and my ultimate end date. 1000 days sounds perfect.

  6. “All those hopes, those aspirations, those late night conversations about what-could-be?”

    That paragraph really spoke to me. Picture what you really want and start taking steps in that direction. Awesome writing as always, thanks!

  7. I’m doing it! (I need 1002 days). Just need a couple days to think about what to focus on! 😉

  8. Great inspiration! I set a daily goal before getting out of bed every morning and have other intentions floating around in my head. The idea of writing longer-term ideas down, as I do for the daily focus, is perfect. Guess I’ve been hesitant since my thoughts change quickly, but maybe it’s time to stick to something longer.

  9. Hey Mark, what is YOUR 1000-day goal? You must have something in mind… Great post BTW, just keeps getting better and better.

        1. I used the Date to Date Interval Calculator on timeanddate.com and input 14th July 2015 (today) and 9th April 2018 (believed to be the correct date for the end of 1000 days and this answer was displayed:

          From and including: Tuesday, July 14, 2015
          To, but not including Monday, April 9, 2018
          Result: 1000 days
          It is 1000 days from the start date to the end date, but not including the end date
          Or 2 years, 8 months, 26 days excluding the end date.

  10. I love this idea… I have been feeling like I haven’t gotten much accomplished personally or professionally in the last couple of years. I need to set a goal, and I like the idea of 1000 days. Again, thank you Mark for being so inspiring!

  11. Love thinking of it this way. I often have. Even more mojo for the projects I want to have done the next few years.

    On a smaller scale how absolutely insignificant is the 21 day and often much shorter ‘carb flu’ phase of transitioning to becoming a fat burner?

    Yeah I had a few days of pretty much suck. But for the payoffs of an amazing life 24/7?

    How many lives improved beyond they can even comprehend if they give Primal, Paleo, ancestral living for 21 to 30 days?

    If you haven’t yet, just do it. Best decision for you and your family anyone can possibly make.

  12. Always had an idea for a learning tool for kids and adults alike. Don’t know how to get the ball rolling but I just set up an appointment with InventHelp for help! It’s not gonna make itself happen. Thanks for the push!

  13. heh heh, cortisol levels up in all of us, and “Mark writing to us from the future.” Which accounts for the half-year warp. The second Monday in April three years hence…destiny beckons. Cortisol enhanced. Proceed.

  14. Reminds me of the saying that goes something like “The journey of 1000 leagues begins with the first step”. This is a great idea, make a life altering goal for 1000 days from now, then start eating that elephant one bite at a time.

  15. Years ago my now ex-wife was waffling about doing her diploma by correspondence. She couldn’t shake that it would take her 5 years to finish it. My remark was off the cuff, but dead on. I said “5 years will come and go whether you do anything about this or not.”

    1. Right answer! I was 30 when I started my bachelor degree. The conversation with my late husband went something like this: “There’s a woman at work who just got her master’s. Wow, I’d love to do that! But she said it took her 10 years, including her bachelor degree!! I don’t think I could manage school for that long…” His reply? “Well, in ten years, you can either be 40 without a degree, or 40 with a Master’s. Which do you think you really want?” That did it for me. Knowing he was fully supportive of the lifestyle changes it would require, I registered for classes the following week, after reviewing several distance Master’s programs. And I ended up completing it in 8 years. First, the bachelors in 6 years, then a couple of years later, the masters in 2 years — all online from accredited universities. Well worth it during the rest of my working career, that is for certain.

  16. Looks like the interval calculator I used spit out a wrong answer. Thanks for the heads up. Looks like April 9th it is. Fixed!

  17. This is an easy one for me–in 1000 days from now, my husband and are hoping to have moved our clinic from Florida to a spot much further west. Colorado is currently the front-runner.

    Since part of our practice involves working with long-distance clients, the clinic will keep our current programs in place (including my primal eating program). But also looking forward to see how things expand and grow on the ground, once we find a home that feels more like Home–we have so many ideas!

  18. Wow! Mark you have been reading my mind and shocking for me, it is written out in words. Time to “Just do it” and pray for the help needed to follow. Stepping out is the first step. A step out in faith. Sometimes thinking just gets in the way of the first step. After that, the thinking can take shape and action will make it real. I be t Mark’s article on the 1000 day challenge is lighting up fires in many a reader’s secret garden of dreams. It does seem Mark, that you do be peekin’ in.

  19. It’s funny because before I read this article I was already getting ready to start a 33 month challenge which will end on my 50th birthday in April 2018! I figure if I make the lifestyle adjustments necessary to lose two pounds a month until then, I will be in much better health and almost at my college weight when I celebrate my half century mark.

  20. I want to lose 2 stone (281bs) and have kept it off…that might sound easy but it’ll be a first for me… keeping the weight off!

  21. OK, I’m doing it! But I’ll set intermediate goals every 200 days. So… starting from today (July 15), in 200 days I aim to have finished my Master of Science degree (which was the plan anyway) and I want to give AIP a real try. Hopefully I can also fit easily into my jeans again, since I got off track a bit in the last year.
    In 400 days I want to have figured out which carreer to pursue. That can also include having started my next company.
    In 600 days I aim to get married. Depending on some factors that could also happen within the year, but we’ll see.
    In 800 days I want to learn a language, since we plan to move abroad some time in the upcoming years.
    In 1000 days I want to be able to see my first child grow, whether in my belly or after birth.

    I like this a lot better than the 21 day / 30 day challenge. It is not a ‘I have to eat completely clean now for the upcoming X days’ but it gives more flexibility. I think it will be a lot more attainable than the regular challenges. Usually I binge eat before I start something, or when I’m away on vacation, or any other reason because ‘after this weekend I go back to primal’. Which I usually don’t until after about a month. I hope this will help me in this challenge!

    1. I LOVE this, I just wrote my goals for 1000 days at the bottom, and then scrolled back up through and read yours, now that I’ve written mine I’m going to journal and revise mine a little bit, break them down into more manageable 200 day goals.
      Thanks so much for this great idea.

  22. Very timely (for me) post Mark thanks.

    Here is something to try peeps, subtract 1000 days from today. See the date and then workout a marker in or around that date. For me I started my current job 1010 days ago.

    It really helped me to visualise just what 1000 days ‘feels’ like and what I have, haven’t and could have achieved in this time, therefore making my ‘future history’ seem all the more achievable and improving the motivation to make those late conversations a reality. Cheers.

    1. Great idea to look back 1000 days to visualize how much (or how little) we have accomplished or what has occurred in our lives during that time. It is also very eye-opening when you realize just how fast 1000 days goes by! Using the above calculator, 1000 days ago was October 18, 2012. My family’s life has changed in a multitude of ways and it is wonderful to reflect on the positive changes and progress we have made. We can also clearly see what has not worked and what we need to focus us for the next 1000 days!

      Sometimes the realization of how fast time goes by causes people to want to cram as much as they can into their lives: “Life is so short, I need to do more, have more”, etc. I have definitely found when we slow life down a bit and just enjoy those we care about and pursue activities and fulfillment which satisfies our deepest being, we can look back on our days with more contentment and happiness.

      Thank you to the MDA community for all you have contributed. I find a world of indispensable information, suggestions, and support on this website!

  23. Reminds me of the One Thousand and One Nights! As a writer with many stories, poems and novels filed in drawers (or thumb drives), I am filled with awe to think about someone telling 1,001 consecutive stories. But in a way, that’s what Mark is saying, that we write our own story one day at a time, every single day.

    My favorite takeaway from Mark’s post is: People have done (xyz) in 1,000 days–be one of them.

  24. I started my 1000 day challenge on Sept 8, 2014 when I took my first guitar lesson. I was almost 53 years old and I credit the Primal Blueprint with helping me realize that if I could lose 40 pounds, I could pursue other goals as well. My goal is to be able to play and sing at church, voice lessons are the next 1000 day challenge. Who says you can’t have multiple challenges going on at the same time?

  25. This was a nice read. 365 days ago today I was 100lbs+ overweight, an alcoholic, and working a dead end job. I am about 20 pounds from my goal weight, working on my conditioning, and at the beginning of a career I enjoy.

    I found the Paleo subreddit and it started me off. Then MDA. Now, at 30, I have control of my life.

    1. That’s a great inspiration to me — my 1000 day goal is to recover my health, which is awful for a variety of reasons (various operations, massive amount of medications, and resulting over-eating sedentary lifestyle). So, I’ve started a whole foods regimen, am searching for a GP (I’m currently in the UK, so wish me luck!) who is happy to actually work with me to get me back off most of my meds, and started sitting exercises to build a bit of strength. (Can’t walk well, so mostly in a wheelchair at present.) Knowing other people have come back from so far away is very encouraging — thank you for sharing your ongoing challenge!

  26. Challenge accepted! I have always thought about starting my own healthy living blog. So… I did it. My goal is for it to be successful in 1000 days of hard work. I also have thrown in a few other goals too. Check it out on my new blog. Most recent post is a huge shout out to you, Mark. Thanks for the awesome challenge. I will keep you posted on my success!

  27. Approximately a year ago I set a more random goal to “get healthier” in 2015. I started by cutting out desserts and eating more vegetables, I started researching online various healthy diets and came across MDA. I’ve been eating Paleo(ish) for about 8 months now. I’ve lost a little over 100lbs in just over a year and have about 75lbs more to go to get to my goal weight. My blood sugar has stabilized and I am now off from insulin and my blood pressure has gone down to a point where I am off blood pressure medications and cholesterol is at a point to go off statins (YES, I am dang proud of myself). I’ve begun a light exercise program and am trying like heck to stick to it, although at heart I am a couch potato.
    My 1000 day goals include completing my weight loss journey and continuing on with a healthy Paleo(ish) lifestyle. I will be well on my way to completing my degree in Business (I’m 54 1/2 years old and just beginning my first year in college this September). I will have a solid and successful diabetes support group running in my town. I will be able to walk a 1/2 marathon.
    WOW, under 3 years, and I know I can do this. In the past I have set one year goals for myself, this past January I set 5 and ten year goals, but setting a 1000 day goal is a wonderful idea.
    Thank you Mark.

    1. You *should* be proud of yourself! This is the sort of challenge I have set for my 1000 days, just started. Began switching to whole foods / real foods to eliminate all the processed stuff in my diet and think I’m ready now for the long haul to get healthy again. I will be 65 in 2018, so my goal is to be healthy enough to enjoy 20 more years after that 😉 Thank you for your post!

      1. go Michelle, you can do it !!!! getting rid of processed foods is a big big step and not an easy one, we are inundated with the stuff on a daily basis in media and then the moment we walk into a grocery store. Walk the perimeter of the grocery store to stick to the real foods and you’ll do fine. I think you’ll live well beyond those 20 years.

  28. Thank you, Mark, for posting the 1000 day challenge. I am definitely keeping a journal and have signed up for FitDay to track my daily food and activities. It’s already paid off by showing me where my surplus calories are coming from (you know, those snacks you don’t remember by the end of the day? ;-). They are easily eliminated and tracking the activities really helps for me because I’m mostly in a powerchair at the moment (can’t walk very well at all). So by tracking, I can see where I can make incremental changes to increase my activity. One of my mini-goals is to get to the point where I am out in the mid-day sun for some time each day. I feel better already, knowing (from other postings here) that it *can* be done! So once again, thank you for starting this challenge, and thanks to your posters for sharing their success stories!

  29. The first thing to comes to mind is:

    Learning to play a new musical instrument

    Here are guidelines based on my experience (assuming you start from zero)

    * You can become a decent saxophonist in one year (with a LOT of dedication)
    * In two months you can learn to play a lot of chords in a guitar and amuse (or torture) friends singing with it
    * In three years (with a lot more dedication) you can play some piano, like playing pieces from a paper

    For any of the above to get really good it takes several lifetimes (like they tell you in the yoga books that some poses require several lifetimes to master)

    But believe me: the learning process is fun and when you get a little better it feels fuzzy all over

    1. Just yesterday I was toying with the idea of finally learning how to play the trumpet. It was what I wanted to do most when I was in elementary school but we couldn’t afford the 10 dollar deposit for the instrument for the year. There had been an assembly that year and a jazz band played for about an hour. I was hooked. I wanted to be the trumpet guy. But I never thought about it since.

      Now, after today’s article, I’m gonna get myself a trumpet, and I will learn how to play like Chet Baker–In 1000 days!

  30. I’m starting today so my end date will be April 13, 2018. My goal is a salad a day – it can be a main dish salad, side salad, fruit salad, carrot salad, breakfast salad, kale salad, etc. I hope to get creative with this! I eat salad for lunch about 3-4 days a week, but I think having some kind of salad at one of my meals each day will be a good goal for me. Today my salad is tomatoes from the garden, cucumber, basil, goat cheese, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Thanks for the inspiration Mark!

    1. Or maybe green drinks sometimes too? Here’s one I like: water, ice cubes, bunch of cilantro, big chunk of grapefruit, including the rind. Blast it in the blender. Great on hot days.

      1. I’m going to try the cilantro-grapefruit drink – it sounds great. I have been making different dressings and having fun with this challenge. Here’s my favorite salad dressing right now:
        1 large carrot
        1″ square chunk of ginger
        3 T. olive oil (I use light tasting olive oil)
        1/2 C. water
        pinch of sea salt
        put in a blender until smooth, refrigerate for a couple hours before using. I have GERD so no vinegar – this is gentle on my stomach. My favorite salad to eat this with is simply greens, goat cheese crumbles and dried cranberries. The sweet/salty combination of cheese and cranberries with the dressing is sooooo good.

  31. I’m right on the cusp of entering a history PhD program and the Air Force expects me to complete my degree in 3 years… sounds like about a 1000 days to me!

  32. This is almost too much for me even to fathom! One thousand days. And yet, when I look back through the last 2+ years, there’s been a lot I’ve accomplished but more that I haven’t accomplished.

    I think I discovered this site in 2013. And I’m still not adhering to paleo. I really do not want to say that in 2018.

    So, though I’m late to the party, it’s time for me to pull up my big girl panties and take control of this. Too many things I let control me in this life.

    1. Oh and duh. I already have one goal. I have a Grokette running shirt that might fit one of my thighs right now. I’m going to wear that in 1000 days and it will fit great.

      There’s another goal: stop obsessing on diet (food/drink) and obsess instead on quality of life (and this has more meaning for me that I’m not going to blather on about).

  33. I’m curious to find out what blog platform you have been working with?
    I’m having some minor security problems with my latest
    site and I would like to find something more
    secure. Do you have any solutions?

  34. Hi Mark – great article and when I listened to the podcast associated with this message on 4th July, little did I know I was about to commit to my own 1000 day challenge.

    I am now on day 31 of a journey towards becoming a world champion competition knife thrower!

    If you would like to find out a little more about what I have called the ‘Thronin Challenge’ you can go over to http://www.thronin.com – I have even created a podcast on iTunes to chart the journey I have undertaken – thanks so much for planting the seed 🙂

  35. This is a really cool idea. Not sure if anybody has mentioned it yet, but it would be worthwhile to keep a journal every day of what you achieved that day, what you hope to achieve tomorrow, and keen track of key figures like weight, max lifts, savings etc.

  36. I did the 1,000 day challenge from February 2012 to November 2014. I had a website dedicated to it, but took it down. I’ll tell you the challenge was not physical. After 90 days, almost everything is fairly easy and recoverable. It was the stress of keeping the commitment going. Every day a workout… whether it was 100 pushups, or running a half marathon, stretching for an hour, Yoga, boxing, pilates, biking in the city – all of it was physically easy, but emotionally exhausting.

    For 2 months afterwards I would wake up in a panic that I missed my workout that day even though in reality I had already completed the 1,000 days.

    My girlfriend cheered me on, friends and family thought I was crazy, but I kept at it. Through divorce, job change, moving – I kept it up. The commitment was the most difficult part and being burned out for the last 200 days. Imagine being burned out and emotionally exhausted for 200 days. But no one would care that I worked out for 800 days in a row, I had to finish.

    The result: Absolutely no desire to workout for the next 15 months. That’s right! None!

    I took 15 months off of working out,hoping the motivation would come back, but it didn’t. I worked out for 3 months in a row after that and then took another 4 months off.

    Overall, I would say it is better to work out every other day or make a commitment to workout 4 days a week for 1,000 days or even a year. In the long term, it will be better for your health.

    I am a guy that has basically played sports, martial arts, boxing, running, lifting since I was 8 years old and the desire to workout after the 1,000 day challenge left my body and mind. Hopefully I’ll get it back, but I can honestly say that I was in better shape after the first 100 days than the last 3 years…. that includes the last 300 days of the challenge and the past 2 years.

    On November 16th, it will be exactly 2 years from completing the challenge and I have only worked out a total of about 4 months since. I do not recommend 1,000 days in a row unless you want the mental and emotional challenge only.

    A good physical challenge would be 100 days in a row or something similar.


  37. So I just had a pop up on my phone from 7-17-15 which is when I first saw the 1000 day challenge, It was very interesting to me to see where I was then compared to now. How much has changed, but also how things are somewhat the same.

    1. It’s currently 2020, 5 years since this was written. How far have all of you come? I also want to start this challenge and change my life. Scratch that, I *will* do this. Wish me luck. See you in 3 years 🙂