Top: Before 21 Day Fix Extreme Bottom: After 21 Day Fix Extreme progress pics
Shouting to the hills that I officially achieved my goal of completing the 21 Day Fix Extreme challenge! Whew, it was a doozy.
After finishing the 12-week Kayla Itsines' Bikini Body Guide (BBG) last March, I think it was, I might have let a few of my positive habits slip. Maybe threw in some Springtime binge eating.
Needless to say, I was angry at myself and upset that I took a step back from my progress. I mean, who gets more fit in the winter and gains body fat in the summer?!? (This girl.)
My relationship with food shifted a little to the unhealthy side. I ate very little for lunch or for the entire day Monday through Wednesday, and then binge ate the rest of the week and weekend. Snacking knew no bounds. Snack portions looked more like meals.
It was as if I mad at my body for not being able to eat whatever I wanted anymore, so I threw my knife and fork up in the air and said, "screw it!", and ate more to prove that I didn't care. But, I do care. I want to be full, but I want to live a healthy lifestyle and treat my body well.
I realized there was still so much I didn't know about food and nutrition. I needed to plan my meals according to actual nutritious portions, not only pretty pics of healthy food on Instagram.
Obviously, 21 Day Fix attracted me because of the quickness of it compared to my last 12-week challenge. (Note for later: with faster results comes harder work.) But, what truly drew me to it was the strict, easy to follow, no questions meal plan and nutrition knowledge. I needed a crash course bad, and #21DFX was perfect for this.
And, of course, my goal is always to get stronger. Not necessarily skinnier and not buff, but stronger. Since I am familiar with circuit routines and was still fairly in shape despite my terrible eating habits, I went with the Extreme version for this reason.
If your body isn't used to working out at all, I suggest starting with the 21 Day Fix. If you are looking for more of a gradual introduction to fitness for a lifestyle change, I still recommend BBG above all else. The 21 Day Fix Extreme gave me the fastest results of any workout program I've tried. But, it worked my body and diet harder than ever. I highly recommend it for boosting your body back into fitness and achieving results before a big event... if you can commit.
I honestly do not suggest jumping into this Beachbody program head first. Secret: I started it at least 5 times before final committing all the way through.
My first tip is to cut alcohol from your diet. Get used to it so you aren't stressed out about it when you start #21DFX.
Next, I recommend playing kitchen a bit with the containers. Acclimate yourself to the nutrition, portions, and how to fit your favorite foods into the diet. If you try to whip up fancy meals every night, it will stress you out. If you stick to a completely bland chicken, rice, veggie diet, you will get bored and frustrated and wind up quitting to binge eat your favorite foods that you've been missing.
Find a middle mark of foods you like and restructure the recipe a bit around the color coded containers. Get yourself used to the diet before you press play on the workouts, because I found the eating to be the hardest part. Two words: meal plan. Planning out at least 4 days of breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner at a time helps with stress levels and commitment to the program.
When you finally decide to get your head in the game, start the workouts on a Friday. Thursday works, too. I discovered that when I started on a Monday, by Thursday or Friday I would realize I was only 4 days into the program and the weekend had arrived. It was too easy to quit and Friday night indulge.
Starting on a Friday gets 1 of your 3 21DFX weekends out of the way, and you'll be done with week 1 before the work week even ends. Fitness is routine and commitment, yes, but it's mostly mindset. Set your mind up to succeed.
Truth: I actually started on a Monday the time I finally completed the program. But, I still modified it a bit beginning with the Arms exercise, then fitting in that first Plyo workout on Saturday, and then back to the schedule with Yoga on Sunday. I found Arms Extreme way easier to start with on a Monday morning. And then, my least favorite Extreme workout (Dirty 30 Extreme) landed on Friday morning, so I felt extra motivated to do it since the weekend had almost arrived.
Notice I kept saying "morning". I know it sucks, but I highly recommend (especially for busy career focused individuals like myself) to do these workouts in the morning before work. Did I love waking up at 6:20am instead of 7:30 to fit in weighted lunges and a shower? Not most days. A few days, it truly felt rewarding in the AM. But arriving home after work, my mood always reflected my morning accomplishments and the fact that I had my entire evening to relax, have fun, or do whatever the hell I wanted. It made this 21 day goal far more feasible physically and mentally. The weekday morning routine helped me focus on dialing in the nutrition to my dinner plan, too, because I didn't want to ruin the progress I had already made that day.
Another mindset factor is body shaming. You are getting nowhere in this or any fitness program if you hate on yourself. Do this for the right reason. It's not about lookin' bikini bod hot. (Although, the "Beachbody" branding would steer your brain to believe so.) Go into 21DFX for the sole goal of bettering your health and lifestyle, inside out.
In the meantime, don't punish yourself either. Most workout guides or plans offer you a rest day and a cheat meal, like BBG. Since this is a 21 day program, not a drawn out lifestyle change, (which I recommend you treat the diet plan as, however) there are zero rest days and zero cheat meals. Believe me, 21 days is a long time to not have even one itty bitty cheat.
To avoid giving up or punishing yourself for having a slice of sweet treats or a bad salty snack, take a taste. Someone brought chips to the office? Have a couple. Not a handful! But, a couple. Do you crave pastries like I do? Take a bite of a friend's cookie or take that street side sample of a cherry danish. It won't hurt your diet and it will curb your cravings. Quitting cold turkey on every food indulgence usually fails and leads to quitting and even food binging.
There's always an event or excuse to eat poorly. Birthdays, date night dinner, Friday. If you're waiting for 21 days where you'll have zero temptation to fail, you'll be waiting to start forever. You have to learn to apply this program to your life in a way that still feels fulfilling, such as taking one bite of birthday cake or finding the best time for a workout in your day, if you want to succeed. This program helped me truly understand nutrition and pick healthier menu options without skimping on the delicious. Ease yourself into this program nutritionally and physically so you don't burn yourself out.
Stretching a little extra before and after these workouts worked well for me, too. Your muscles will work hard, especially in the Extreme program. And, while form is everything and will protect you from injury, stretching remains 100% necessary to keep your body going for a full 21 days in a row with zero rest days.
If you stick to the morning workout routine during the work week, I highly recommend putting 1 yellow carb (Plan 1 or Plan 5 below) in your breakfast since you worked off a lot and so you have energy for the rest of your day. (Don't fall asleep at your work desk, please.) Plan 3 with a good fat for breakfast usually keeps energy levels high as well.
While the diet was difficult to stick to for me and I had to find ways to not stress it, measuring your food intake by portion size based on food groups is genius. (Way to go, Autumn.) It eliminates stress of counting calories and makes life so much easier. And overall, I did it! Keep in mind, I landed in the least caloric intake level on the #21DFX chart.
#Werk Week Meal Plan Ideas:
Breakfast: 1 red of eggs, 1 yellow of toasted whole grain bread, 1 purple fruit
Lunch: 1 red of shredded chicken, 1 green of broccoli, zucchini, cauliflower, green bean mix sautéed in green Thai curry paste
Snack: 1 red Greek yogurt, 1 tsp Bare Naked granola, 1/2 purple fruit
Dinner: 1 yellow sweet potato, 1 red chicken, 1/2 purple raisins or dried cranberries, 1 green broccoli, 1/2 green onion , chopped garlic, 1 blue chopped walnuts, 1 tsp olive oil, Italian seasoning sautéed
Breakfast: 1/4 C almond milk with 2 T Chia Seeds set overnight, add 1/2 purple of fruit in morning
Lunch: 1 red of shredded chicken, 1 blue of Guac, 1 yellow of black beans and cilantro lime brown rice
Snack: 1 apple or 1 purple fruit
Snack 2: Homemade Granola Bar for 1 orange seeds, 1/2 purple fruit, and 1 tsp oils
Dinner: 2 red and 2-3 green Ground Turkey stuffed bell peppers with jalapeños, Mexican spices, tomato, and onion or 1-2 green of spaghetti squash, 1 green of mushroom, tomato, broccoli, 2 red chicken, 1 tsp pesto pasta
Breakfast: 1 red of eggs and 1 blue of avocado
Lunch: 1-2 red bun-less Turkey or chicken Burger with 1 green of red onion, tomato, spinach and 1 orange of condiment or dressing or 1 red chicken, 1 red hard boiled egg, and 1 green cucumber, tomato, spinach salad
Snack: 1-2 purple fruit
Dinner: 2 green Stir fry with carrots, broccoli, snap peas, mushrooms, green beans and 2 yellow whole grain rice and 2 red diced chicken or 2 yellow whole grain pasta, 2 red shrimp, 1 tsp pesto, and 2 green tomato, broccoli, zucchini mixed pasta
Breakfast: 1 red Greek yogurt, 1 tsp Bare Naked granola, 1/2 purple fruit
Lunch: 1 yellow half sandwich with 1 green of spinach, tomato, and onion, 1 blue of mashed avocado, and 1 tsp mustard with 1 green side steamed broccoli or green beans or 1 blue of hummus and 1 green of veggies (carrots, bell pepper, cucumber)
Snack: 1 red 2 hard boiled eggs
Snack 2: 1 purple fruit
Dinner: 1 yellow black beans and quinoa mix, 1/2 purple mango, 1 red chicken, 1 green bell pepper and jalapeño mix
Breakfast: 1 yellow of steel cut or old fashioned oatmeal and 1/2 purple fruit or 1 yellow English muffin with 1 tsp almond/peanut butter and 1/2 purple smashed raspberries
Lunch: 1 red of chicken, 1 red of Greek yogurt, 1 purple grapes and apple, 1 green of celery, lemon juice
Snack: Homemade Granola Bar for 1 orange seeds, 1/2 purple fruit, and 1 tsp oils
Dinner: 2 red chicken, 1 yellow sweet potato and black bean mix, garlic/cumin/chili powder spices, 1 blue avocado with 1 green side of broccoli or green beans or 1 yellow whole grain pasta, 2 red chicken breast, 1 blue shredded mozzarella cheese, 1 tsp pesto, 1 green diced or sliced tomato for Chicken Caprese pasta (can add spinach to pasta also)
Overall, I am EXTREMEly pleased with the results. My body looked and felt way less bloated (and I was even TMI on my period!) after the first week. After the second week, I noticed my body fat began slowly decreasing. They do say it takes up to 4 weeks to see results, so seeing even the smallest progress after 2 weeks is huge.
I noticed the most change in my hips as far as weight loss. If you look at my progress pics, even, the hip area right above the elastic of my shorts has visibly changed. I also noticed significant toning and muscle building changes in my arms and legs.
Again, I didn't see as drastic of results as I did with Kayla Itsines's BBG program, but that's to be expected. A 21 day program versus a 12 week program shouldn't give you the same results. But, I have to say, sticking to #21DFX definitely gave me faster results. My guess to the reasoning behind this is the nutrition. While Kayla offers a "HELP" guide for meal planning, it is more of a guideline. It's not nearly as focused, detailed or specific.
The hardest habit for me to break was snacking after dinner. When 8/8:30 rolls around, I almost always crave a giant spoonful of peanut butter or salty popcorn. Saying "no" was hard, but it's a good habit I'm sticking to at least 6 out of the 7 days of my week from now on.
Right now, you might be thinking, "But, Mallory, you were already skinny, why did you do this? You didn't need to." And my response is, yes, I did. Especially for my poor nutritional habits before they spun out of control. And also, it frustrates me when people say this, because how do you think I am so fit? It's not magic. It's consistent hard work and commitment.
Working out and eating healthy shouldn't be about how "skinny" you are. Many individuals even gain weight because they build muscle mass, which weighs more than fat. That's why you see people taking progress pics on their fitness journey instead of measuring their weight on a scale. It's about being fit, not skinny.
Working out and focusing on health in your diet should be a lifestyle goal for everyone. It keeps your body active. I know when I fill my body with nutritious foods and commit to a form of physical activity after sitting all day at work, I am genuinely happier. These positive habits literally change the chemicals in your body. My depression lessens (Sugar causes inflammation, which increases depression... look it up.) and my overall mood becomes noticeably improved. I am more motivated, less tired, and more likely to be active in other areas of my life. Lifestyle change.
One major thought that motivated me to finally complete the #21DFX challenge was time. Time passes. Whether you like it or not, in the blink of an eye 3 weeks will go by. In those three weeks, are you going to continue your bad habits and be frustrated with yourself, stuck in a rut? Or, are you going to challenge yourself and make yourself super proud? Those three weeks will pass... where will you be in your fitness journey?
While I am going to switch back to the BBG guides and also decrease the frequency of my workouts, I am taking the nutritional knowledge from 21 Day Fix Extreme and continuing it on it my daily life. It taught me so much in so little time. They say fitness is 80% nutrition and that abs are made in the kitchen, so let's keep that kitchen clean!