I don’t consider myself as someone who “challenges” herself….life seems to have plenty of its own challenges coming my way on a regular basis to keep me on my toes. However, I am definitely always seeking ways to grow, progress and improve.

Some challenges are big, some are small. Some are scary, accidental, life changing. But they are always a learning experience.

And certainly NOT about perfection.

Otherwise I never would have gone back to ballet after a 25 year hiatus. As difficult as ballet was when I was a teenager, it’s almost impossible now. But I am really enjoying it. I’m loving it. I still reflect back on how my mid-life experiment of running, which turned me into an accidental triathlete (complete with panic attacks and weight gain), is what led me back to ballet after all these years.

raising-the-barre-book-coverHowever, it could just be my ballet background that explains my constant yearning for growth and progress. I recently read a book about a woman who returned to ballet in her mid-life and realized there are many life lessons from the world of ballet including this one:

“Hard work, discipline, tenacity….ballet training is more exacting, more all-consuming, than many other undertakings….the lessons about looking inside for discipline, about showing up day after day, about bringing everything to every moment in order to push oneself, challenge oneself….it is having a vision of yourself and making that come true through force of will and harder work than you ever imagined.”

However, hard work is not really the point….The author also noted:

“This extraordinary, often punishing, discipline is not just about hard work and perseverance – as if these were not enough – but is also about opening oneself up to – inviting – correction and criticism…..How many of us invite correction and criticism and consider them an important part, an essential part, a never-ending part, of the path to mastery or achievement or just plain old competence? Maybe we are eager for this input at the beginning of the learning curve, but soon (too soon) ego plays the trump card, and we no longer seek correction and criticism, or we ignore it. Or we grumble about it, take offense, are hurt by it….But daily ongoing correction and criticism that are invited, dot dreaded, that are part of the process, not after-the-fact evaluation, that are an expected and honored part of the lives of people even at the pinnacle of their careers? This would be, for most of us, a novel and very challenging way to approach what we do…”


It was this perspective that made me want to start taking ballroom dance lessons with my husband. Even though I have a dance background and he does not, it seems like we are both starting at square one and facing this new challenge with openness to a great deal of correction and criticism! Although it is challenging, it comes with many rewards. We are enjoying this time together and are even preparing for a showcase performance in December!


Let me reassure you that challenging myself doesn’t always come in the form of exercise and is not always something major, either. In fact, the most important goal I had for myself this summer was to read a book. Yes, that simple. I couldn’t tell you the last time I read a book – and I felt pretty bad about it. So when my friend and fellow dietitian, Chere Bork, challenged me and others to deliberately create our best summer, I jumped at the chance to be more mindful about my summertime plans. I’m happy to share that I not only read a book this summer, I read three books!

better-than-before-book-coverBut you can’t successfully challenge yourself without learning more about setting realistic goals, focusing on behavior change and understanding habits. About a year ago, I learned about author and podcaster Gretchen Rubin, one of the most thought-provoking and influential writers on habits and happiness. I’ve learned so much from reading her books and listening to her podcast with her sister Elizabeth Craft. In her book “Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives” she describes The Four Tendencies (Upholders, Questioners, Rebels and Obligers) and also how to identify if you are a “moderater” or an “abstainer”. Truly fascinating stuff! (By the way, I interviewed Gretchen for my Sound Bites podcast so stay tuned for that very special episode!)

Since learning that I’m an Obliger, I discovered why it’s so easy for me to meet others’ expectations, but so difficult for me to meet my own expectations….the secret is that Obligers benefit greatly from having “external accountability”.

So when I decided to do the 30 Day Protein Challenge in June I knew it would be key for me to share my journey on social media to create some external accountability. I blogged, podcasted and shared posts on social media – putting out to the world why I was doing the challenge and what I hoped to get out of it. It worked so well that I ended up doing a second 30 Day Protein Challenge for a total of 60 Days in a row! Here’s a recap of my protein challenge journey:

(Disclosure: I am on the Beef Expert Bureau and am a paid consultant to the National Cattelmen’s Beef Association)

In this post I described in detail why I was doing the challenge. Here’s how this experience helped me:

  • I had better overall diet quality (especially at breakfast)
  • I was taking in adequate protein for exercise and aging
  • While I didn’t exactly lose weight (sigh), I know that in the long term, I’m supporting a healthy weight and body composition that the scale does not always reflect
  • The external accountability helped me stay on track for 30 days and even led to my continuing the challenge for 60 days total
  • I feel confident that I can continue keeping protein at meals top of mind moving forward

Here are some of the ways I enjoyed the protein challenge. For more pics check out my Instagram page:

006 032 019 004

So what’s next on my list of challenges? The 30 Day Food Waste Challenge! Food waste is such a hot topic these days, so when I learned that the Beef Checkoff was providing this opportunity to raise awareness and introduce simple changes to fight food waste I was eager to join in. And it’s a great way for me to continue finding important ways to Do M.O.R.E. with Dinner (which is another great “challenge” I’m doing)!

Here are some food waste facts: Did you know that 40% of the food brought home in America goes uneaten? And food waste costs the average American family $2500 annually.

001Here’s how the challenge is structured – every week you’ll focus on different areas:

  1. Begin by assessing your current food waste habits – what foods are you most likely to waste and why?
  2. Shop your kitchen – could tonight’s dinner be hiding in your kitchen?
  3. Get creative with leftovers – one night’s dinner can lead to unlimited possibilities
  4. Refrigerator dive – smart food storage saves food and flavor
  5. Re-think your freezer situation – are the contents of your freezer in prime condition to preserve food and combat waste?
  6. Wrap up by reassessing – have your food waste habits improved?

I’m excited to learn more about ways to improve my food waste habits and will be sharing my experience on social media using #wasteless. I hope you’ll consider joining me on this 30 Day Challenge! Click here for more information and to sign up!

Tell me: How do you (or how can you) Challenge Yo’ Self? => Share your thoughts with me in the comments below or on social media!

jean-logoP.S. I haven’t mentioned any challenges regarding work, career or professional endeavors. If you want to hear about some of the challenges in my entrepreneurial journey, fellow dietitian and podcaster Jean Caton interviewed me on her show Color My World Confident and I really opened up about stumbling blocks, comparing yourself to others and cultivating confidence. A huge thanks to Jean for getting me to talk about some of the difficulties and rewards in my career!





  1. chere bork on September 13, 2016 at 10:16 am

    Melissa You are an inspiration to all of us!
    I can’t wait to hear about your dance performance in December!!

    • admin on September 13, 2016 at 6:01 pm

      Thank you so much Chere! You are an awesome coach! I’ll keep you posted on the dance performance!

  2. Kate Zager on September 15, 2016 at 10:33 am

    O, Melissa, you continue to grow so beautifully. I especially liked your thoughts on a long term healthy weight and body composition that the scale doesn’t always reflect. You live it, girl, all out and full bore, and then you invite others to share your enthusiasm and wonderful spirit. Dance on!

    • admin on September 15, 2016 at 12:25 pm

      Thank you so much!! I learned from the best – YOU! Thank you for being such an inspiration and a mentor!

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