Whether it's for a health reason, to train our mind, or for fun, we've all got an experience to share.
I chose to give up meat. I'm not a crazy meat-lover, but once in a while, I indulge myself with a plate of Buffalo chicken wings or a good American-sized hamburger. During the first week, I felt deprived of my comfort food. I also felt a bit bored because vegetables don't look very interesting as a main dish each day. But I got over it eventually with some help. A friend took me out for vegetarian pizza, which was delicious. The challenge made me realise there's nothing we can't live without - it's all in our mind. And I've decided to do it every year.
Barry C Chung
No ketchup for one month. It sounds easy enough. Well, surprisingly it was, even for me, a fries-on-my-ketchup (not ketchup-on-my-fries) type of guy. After a minor fumble with dates (I did not realise July had begun already), I went ketchup-free without much of a hitch. The key was avoiding foods requiring the yummy tomato-inspired condiment. Needless to say, August 1 was named burgers-and-fries-on-ketchup day.
Unlike everyone, whose challenges are deprivation, I had to get myself used to eating one fruit each day. Check out my theory: it's easier to eat fruits at home than outside. Obviously, you can't bring a water melon to work for lunch - doh! For dinner, sometimes I dine out, which means I'll be home with a jolly filled stomach before I can get hold of a fruit. My strategy was to have a fruit for breakfast every morning - and I succeeded.
I gave up my beloved summer snacks - ice-cream and popsicles. I used to have one or the other almost every night during summer to cool myself down, and in the winter because they taste so good! I also enjoy ice-cream on my desserts: ice-cream pancakes, ice-cream waffles, ice-cream floats, etc.
I found two delicious alternatives - tofu-fa and jelly grass. Wow! They helped me survive the heat and are healthier dessert options, too. Now, I'll allocate some of my ice-cream quota to tofu-fa and jelly grass.
Like owls - my favourite bird - I stay up late into the night. At midnight, I'm still likely to be reading a book in bed, or be in the shower after returning from dinner. It's a bad habit that's hard to kick. I got to bed before the "deadline" on only about 10nights. My friends and I always have so much to talk about we can't stop talking until 10pm. It takes more than an hour to travel from the city to my Yuen Long home. Plus, I can't give up my hour-long shower and nightly reading ritual!
My "no unnecessary purchases" challenge was needed. I'm an impulse buyer. I go out with no plan to shop and return with two hats, some Lego toys and a bunch of vinyl records. My house has little extra space and my bank account looks empty, so I needed to do it. During the challenge I went on two press trips, so had little time to shop. I kept my bargain - until the last week. In Vietnam, I bought a wicker basket backpack locals use to collect vegetables, as a "special souvenir". Later, I bought four records in Ap Lei Street for HK$50 ... what a steal!
I decided to give up aimless time-killing. I'm an excellent time waster; I could give classes. So I banned activities such as phone solitaire (before bed, on the bus, waiting for lunch), trashy mags (my guilty pleasure), and plonking down on the sofa once I'm home. Instead, I had to do 10 minutes' exercise, or cook a proper dinner. I forced myself to stick to it; it was good to find I don't need to be aimless. And though the month has ended, I managed not to play solitaire when a friend drove me to work today. I mean, it would have been rude!
I'd like to say I went the whole month without any sugar. I'd like to, but I can't. I lasted 10 days, well into a conference in Bangkok when yet one more plate of tea-time cookies proved too tempting. Then it was "game over" for me. One cookie became two, and then the usual idea of, "Well, seeing as how you had one, it won't matter if you have another". People say sugar is a drug and they are not wrong. It's just as easy to be addicted to it as any other drug.
It's a good experience - and satisfying - to complete a challenge you don't want to do. Life presents many problems - things you need to keep doing, but don't like: at school, work and play. Drinking too much coffee isn't good for you. I have a big mug of coffee each morning, so that challenge was picked for me: to give up coffee for the month. I wanted to prove to myself I had the willpower.
Friends and colleagues said, "Go on ... no one will know". But I would know. Cheating is pointless. I succeeded and didn't miss it much, either.