“I’ve been on a few diets because I can’t get enough to eat with just one”
What’s up with this 21-day fix craze? I’ve been seeing tons of social media posts about it, people showing their meals and accountability to the 21-day fix plan, which apparently promises to teach portion control and jumpstart your healthy eating plan.
Let’s get right to it here, I’m calling BS on this program and others like it. First, I hate that concept of “jumpstarting” a healthy anything – it implies going from zero to 100 in an instant. Healthy is a lifestyle; if you haven’t been living one, it’s not something you can change all at once and expect to sustain.
Second, the name itself just screams fad diet and easy “fix” (intentional?). Fad diets are just that – fads. Like crimped hair and fingerless gloves, society realizes they’re bogus, they go away and everyone who took part is like, “WTF was I thinking?” And a program that touts “lose 15 pounds in 21 days!” is a huge red flag. Healthy, sustainable weight loss is typically one, maybe two pounds per week; even less for a small person. Rapid weight loss means you’re losing some muscle too. But I guess trying to sell anything in the health and fitness world with the headline, “Lose weight slowly, without sacrificing muscle mass, and maintain over time with sensible eating and exercise!” isn’t sexy or appealing.
Always one to be open-minded, I welcome someone to explain this program to me. Like really explain it. Because I think I’m missing something big as to how this is A) teaching sustainable, healthy eating habits for the long term and B) allowing the body proper fuel for any sort of athletic performance in the short term. I wasn’t able to find out exactly how many calories a person eats or what exactly is the basis of the food plan; I assume that’s only revealed after the credit card is swiped. Based on the photos I’ve seen and the research I’ve done, I’m baffled as to how someone could eat the type of “meals” (I wouldn’t call 8 cucumber slices, 10 carrots, 5 rice cakes and 2 hardboiled eggs a meal but that’s just me) on this plan. For every meal. For 21 days.
Have you ever heard the word hangry? I’d be hella hangry if I tried to survive just one day on this “eating” plan (again, words seem to get thrown around pretty loosely with this program). Aside from being hangry, I’ve tried to wrap my head around how anyone could gut through a tough workout on this diet. I’ve had days where I’m so busy, I don’t take time to eat enough or properly during the day. And guess what happens? My workouts that evening suck. If I’m running, I feel like I’m slogging through the miles, no chance of any speedwork happening; if I’m lifting, I feel like I can barely rep my normal weights, let alone push myself hard enough to fatigue. No performance enhancements either way.
Speaking of that, I do believe there’s also a workout plan included in this program? I don’t know how intense a workout it is, if it requires endurance or heavy lifting, or if it’s actually mean to push a person to become fitter. But with an eating plan that’s primarily focused on cutting calories drastically, a typical person can’t expect to make any true fitness gains. The two just don’t add up.
Then there’s the aftermath. I’m having a hard enough time fathoming the 21 days – so, what happens after? If the name is any indication, you certainly aren’t expected to continue eating tiny portions of unsatisfying food and shakes beyond the final day of hell. Or, are you supposed to continue?
Maybe you’re so delirious from not eating, you’ve forgotten about food at this point. Maybe you’re supposed to not miss that thick layer of peanut butter on your toast (really, is that any way to live?) or enjoying more than 4 ounces of wine per day (the program boasts that you can drink wine – 4 whole ounces of it!). Maybe you get used to toting around fun, brightly colored boxes and ensuring anything you eat can fit into one.
Or maybe, and what really happens, is you remember how delightful it is to dine out without having a panic attack. How enjoyable life is eating real meals and treating yourself here and there. How much better workouts are when you’re properly fueled. And then you go back to eating like a normal person. In addition to the pics I’ve seen of people’s accountability meals, I’ve also seen a few of what people eat after they complete their 21 days – an entire pizza, ice cream, beers, basically a binge-fest. Good lessons being learned.
That brings me to the real problem I have with this. How is this truly helping us, as smart, capable adults? Have we become that out of touch with our own biological cues (eat when you’re hungry, stop when you no longer are) and simple common sense (come on, you know an entire plate full of pasta is excessive, do you really need a properly-portioned container to confirm that)? Are we really so impatient and desperate for a quick fix that we’re wiling to shell out more than $100 for a few pieces of tupperwear and a generic, one-size-fits-all exercise plan because we simply can’t take the time to figure out on our own what works best for us, each individual – with individual genetics, triggers, metabolism and priorities?
I do understand everyone’s goals and lifestyle aspirations are different. Just because my goals are to run faster and lift heavier doesn’t mean you want that. My lifestyle aspirations include not having to force all my food to fit into containers and enjoying a couple cold beers on a Saturday afternoon – that doesn’t mean everyone else is looking for that. I don’t want to be skinny; some people do. I’m happy having a little bit of a gut and thighs that can barely be contained by normal pants if it means not having to fight an uphill battle against my genetics. I love feeling strong at the gym and being able to lift heavier weights than some of the guys there (doesn’t happen often but it does happen). I love being able to say, “I’m not fast ‘for a girl’ – I’m just fast.” and back it up with my performance.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t all pay attention to what we eat and do our best to make good choices most of the time. I’m very conscious of what I eat; I realize when I’m making the right choice and when I’m making a splurge choice. I understand a splurge isn’t the end of the world, it just means I need to be strict going forward to balance it out. I know what a cup of pasta looks like, a serving of vegetables, protein and ice cream. I understand taking the time for a healthy breakfast every morning helps me avoid the tempting doughnuts in the office cafeteria. I’ve learned what I need to do, what works best for me to be balanced and successful.
I didn’t learn all this by reading one generic pamphlet and dropping a lot of cash on containers that are essentially just measuring cups. I learned by making a choice to educate myself, to track my food and understand what foods are going to help me achieve my goals. Every day, I pay attention to portions and serving sizes. I’m focused on being conscious, yet not obsessive.
I’m not gonna lie, it hasn’t taken me 21 days to get to this point – it has taken me years. I know, I know, that’s not sexy and appealing to most people. But a true, sustainable lifestyle can’t be made in 21 days. It just can’t. It has to be a long-term commitment. It’s all about balance, 365 days a year. Not a quick – or, sorry, 21 day – fix.
It’s like qualifying for the Boston Marathon; it didn’t take me just those few hours on race day to do that. Or a few weeks of regular running. Or even a few months of hard training. It look me years to achieve that goal. Failed attempts. Frustrations. Setbacks. Hard work. But, in the end, I did it. A healthy lifestyle is nothing different.
Am I being unfair to the 21-day fix? Is there something with the program I’m missing that truly promotes a healthy, balance approach to eating and quality exercise? Please comment or tweet me @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.