This week I’m going to do a 21 Day Fix review. The program is by Beachbody. If you are on Facebook, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a friend talk about this diet and exercise plan. It’s been promoted heavily through social media and on infomercials. It promises that you’ll lose as much as 15 pounds in just three weeks by eating “clean” and working out only 30 minutes a day.
The plan was developed by Autumn Calabrese, a Beachbody personality. You might have heard of Beachbody because of P90X or Insanity. I’ve always found the infomercials for them to be irresistible. (What? I can’t be the only one who gets sucked into those things!) I even did P90X, and it was great. The difference with the 21 Day Fix is that in addition to the home video workouts, it also includes a diet plan and Facebook-led accountability groups.
I want to say from the outset that I am not a Beachbody “coach.” I do not have any financial stake in this review.
What You Do
The plan comes with seven different workout videos. Each day, you do a different 30-minute routine, and you repeat each week. Ideally you do the workouts in the order they are given because they’re designed to push you one day and let you rest the next. Much of it is weight lifting, so free weights or a resistance band are required.
In addition to working out, there is an eating plan. The idea behind the eating plan is portion control and balance. It also encourages “clean” eating (free of processed food, no junk). To accomplish this, customers are given colored-coded plastic containers that look like Tupperware. After calculating calorie needs, a chart tells you how many of each container you can have in a day.
The containers are different colors, and each color stands for a type of food. For instance, I am supposed to eat four green containers a day. Green stands for vegetables, and there’s a chart that shows what counts as a veggie (i.e., spinach not potatoes). You determine portions by filling the containers to measure before putting food on your plate. There’s an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, and proteins.
How It Works
Weight loss comes primarily through the diet part. Not only is there portion control, there is also carb and fat control. Everyone is allowed to eat some healthy fats and to consume starchy carbs, but it’s restricted. There is no official calorie counting, but there’s no doubt everyone eats fewer than normal. Measuring out food requires mindful eating.
The workouts are challenging but far from impossible. I did the 21 Day Fix Extreme, which is stricter about food and more advanced with workouts. Some of them are more challenging than others, but the best part is the requirement to get exercise seven days a week. It’s good practice and obviously helps with weight loss. If you already exercise a lot, these will make you sweat but won’t strain you too much.
Another element that isn’t required although it’s strongly encouraged, is Beachbody’s nutritional supplement called Shakeology. It’s a health food shake that can be substituted for a meal or drunk as a snack. It contains super foods, vitamins, pre- and probiotics, and protein. They claim it’s more than a protein drink and that it helps with cravings.
Healthy living requires portion control, balance, and daily exercise. The 21 Day Fix is holistic in this regard, and it’s sustainable because you get to eat (no real deprivation) and you only have to work out for 30 minutes a day. In short, it’s doable, and it’s the beginning of a lifestyle change, which is a must for keeping weight off and staying healthy throughout life.
Also, I lost weight. The total was about 7 pounds, which I thought was pretty good for three weeks. I wasn’t a slave (I still drank some wine and used sugar free pumpkin spice creamer in my coffee, though those were my only real cheats). It’s been five months, and I haven’t gained the weight back.
When I initially received the food containers, I laughed and then nearly cried because they looked absurdly small. However, it was surprising how much food actually fit into them. I found that it’s important to follow the plan and eat them all in order to not be hungry. At first I thought I could “save” calories by omitting the carbs or the healthy fats, but when I did so, I was starving and wanted to eat everything in sight the next day. My advice: follow the plan. Even if you get away with it for a few days, the hunger will sneak up on you.
Nutrition Wake-up Call
I realized that I did a lot of mindless or sport eating. I’m a big veggie lover, so I thought I kept a healthy diet. I never noticed those bites I took off of my son’s plate, and how much that could add up. I never realized how often I licked the spoon or knife when making peanut butter sandwiches or how frequently I popped a slice of cheese in my mouth as I cooked him eggs. Eliminating those useless calories was simple and necessary.
I also discovered that my diet lacked protein and had far too many carbs and cheese. Cheese quickly becomes a food group for me if I don’t watch it, and I know that reducing that category of food helped me lose weight and simply clean up my diet. Lastly, I did not eat enough fruit, and fruit is nature’s candy. I did the Fix in August when melon was at its ripest, and it was an enjoyable snack I should have incorporated sooner.
As for the workouts, I never did follow them perfectly. I’m an avid exerciser, so I often ran in place of a 30 minute cardio video. I also continued going to my group fitness classes at the gym instead of doing the upper or lower body fixes since what I was doing at the gym was essentially the same. I’ve incorporated the videos into my routine, however, and they are a great overall exercise in 30 minutes. I particularly like the Pilates, PLYO (jumping squats—calorie shredder), and the Dirty Thirty (total body-style weights).
Next, I did the 21 Day Fix Extreme with Shakeology. The shake is heavily promoted by Beachbody, and it’s very expensive ($130/month). I’m skeptical of wonder potions, but I wanted to give this diet my all, so I tried it. It tastes good, and I was looking for a low calorie snack to help me get from lunch to dinner. The vanilla has 130 calories, so it fit the bill. I don’t think Shakeology is quite the miracle cure believers make it out to be, but I do believe it’s got something in it that definitely reduces hunger pangs. It’s been effective enough for me to keep shelling out for it.
Finally, I participated in the challenge/accountability groups on Facebook. They are closed groups, meaning your “friends” can’t see what you post in there. I was motivated by other people’s commitment, encouraged by the honesty, and grateful for recipe sharing. It’s free, and they come to a hard stop after a month, so if the notifications are too much, you can opt out.
The food plan is labor intensive, Shakeology is expensive, and there’s not enough information about what to do when the 21-day diet is over.
The workouts are pretty great even though one comment is that the warmups and cool downs are too short. (Obviously they had to be to keep the length at 30 minutes). I also found the P90X videos to have a bit more instruction compared to these, but that was likely also due to the time crunch.
The food plan is labor intensive because you have to make it all, shop for it all, and clean food isn’t really a grab-and-go kind of thing. As the coaches say, the key to success is food prep. This means massive grocery runs on Sunday and doing a lot of peeling, chopping, and cooking. The fact is, hungry times are danger times for dieters. Bars, cheese, chips, and pretzels are all easy to grab and shove into your mouth. To be successful, you have to make carrot sticks and apple slices as easy to eat.
The same thing goes for meals. Eating a balanced salad with lots of yummy veggies and lean protein takes time to prepare. All natural foods have to be split, deseeded, shredded, etc. Failure definitely comes from a lack of prep. I wouldn’t have been able to do this when W was first born. I also think it can be learned through time, but prepare to spend it.
Another Word on Shakeology
Shakeology works for me, either by placebo effect or through its actual formulation. However, it was initially hard for my digestive system to get used to. I felt very bloated during my “Fix,” but that is totally gone now. Based on my Googling, the added fiber from the diet and the big increase in protein wreaked havoc until I got used to it. I also think a Shakeology ingredient was part of the problem, perhaps the whey protein (they do have vegan options). The price is very high, but I lost seven pounds and kept it off, so I’m not quitting now! However, every time I get charged $130/month, I think twice.
Lastly, there’s not clear information about what to do once the 21 days are over. Some people just repeat the cycle until they get to their weight loss goals, which makes sense. But what about the rest of us? The diet is doable and a good way to eat, but it makes restrictions I don’t want to keep up. For instance, Autumn doesn’t include dairy milk in it. I like milk, and I want it in my coffee. It’s a real, clean food. Why isn’t it in there? That’s just an example of the way in which this program is designed as a “diet,” and how pivoting to the “real world” is vague.
Is It Healthy?
I can’t find anything unhealthy about it. The meal plan advocates for the fruits/veggies the USDA recommends. It incorporates the 30 minutes of daily exercise that is suggested for healthy living. Supplements like Shakeology are not evaluated by the FDA, but none of the ingredients stood out as unhealthy. Even the sweeteners in it are plant-based, like Stevia.
The Bottom Line
If you are looking for a mostly gimmick-free way to lose weight (Shakeology is not a requirement of the diet, it is a suggestion), get in touch with healthy eating and portion size, and increase fitness, this is a good choice. Just be prepared to work for it.
Q: Have you tried the 21 Day Fix? Did it work for you? What were your pros or cons?