Are Fitness “Challenges” Doing More Harm Than Good?
It’s January, and I’m sure you’ve seen the advertising:
“21 Day Fix!”
“30 Day Shred!”
Or maybe it’s something more along the lines of, “January Reset!” or “10 Weeks to A New You!”
. . . This is a formula that has been marketed to people who want to change their health, physiques, or relationship to food for as long as I’ve been alive.
The formula . . .
You are broken/there is something wrong with you. You don’t “fix” things that aren’t broken, and you only need a “new you” if the old one sucks. This sells training (or bullshit supplements), but it’s a harmful message to send.
You need only invest a trivial amount of time (and money): 21 days (or 30 etc,). Anyone can spend 21 days doing something, even you, the broken one!
You will emerge from these days having completed something that will have changed you. You will reach fitness “happily ever after.”
All of these are problematic, but I want to harp on #3. As anyone who's seen Into The Woods (self promote much, Daniel?) knows, there is a long time after ever-after (a whole second act!!)
There is a chance you might look or feel different after your "30 Day Shred" (though it's doubtful), but what then? If you view these "transformations" as magical, short periods of time and don't do the hard work of making fundamental changes to the way you relate to food and exercise, your hard work will be for naught soon after.
What then? You could do another "21 Day Fix," or maybe "Whole 30," or you could do 2 months of "keto," and you might see some results, but then you're back to square one. They call this "yo-yo dieting," and it's a bad time.
Daniel, you sound like a real killjoy! Why are you such a skunk at the picnic?
I skunk, dear reader, because I care. Much like Dr. Fauci, I often find myself sitting, head in my hand, resenting that some moron cares more about their agenda than about your health.
Can fitness be presented in a a fun, challenging way? Absolutely. Are there measures that should be taken that are temporary? Of course!
It's why step 1 in my article on calorie counting is "Realize That Your Diet Is Not Forever."
But after I do that, I also talk about how you can - and should - learn from your experience calorie counting so that you can shift away from it without gaining all the weight back that was lost. I talk about sustainable healthy eating practices like creating some structure in your eating schedule, recognizing hunger signals, eating slowly, and eating satiating foods.
And what I find so frustrating about these "fixes" or fad diets is that they ingrain a thought pattern that fitness is something you achieve through short, intense bouts of effort, and it's not.
Fitness is a practice. It's a skill. It's something you learn, over and over. It's about patience, moderation, curiosity, self-care, self-compassion, and at times discipline. And those things simply can't mature over the course of a "73 Hour Butt Blaster" (I made that one up).
Even after the smartest, most well-coached, scientifically-sound diet and exercise program, you will likely "backslide" in terms of aesthetic appearance. This is normal and natural. There is an ebb and flow to physique pursuits, an there might be times when you happen to have 21 days (or 30 or 48 or 72 or 99 or 103) to go extra hard. That's fantastic!
Just don't forget that when it's over, you have your entire life minus that many days to continue taking care of yourself. And if you keep that in mind, and you relish the idea that your entire life, you have the opportunity to learn and grow in that way, you just might find you hold onto your abzzzzz (or healthy blood pressure), happily ever after.
If you'd like to know more about how to make changes in the short-term and the keep them long-term, have a look around my site!
This article explains the basics of weight loss, why certain popular diets "work," and how you might be able to take those fundamentals and apply them for yourself.
In this article, I discuss some misnomers about getting that "toned" look you might desire and explain how to actually look that way, as opposed to wasting hours on crunches and cardio.
And if you've been working at changing your diet and/or exercise for a while but haven't gotten the results you're looking for, consider some of the more intense dietary measures found in this article!
If you think you'd like some help making those changes, consider applying for training - I'd be happy to help!