Kickstart a refresh, no matter what month it is! Get your health off to a great start. Can you do it in just 21 days?
Any New Years Resolutions? What’s your “word” for this year? Setting goals? Dry January? Vision Board? Turning over the new year always comes with lots of questions. This year, they seemed daunting to me. Month-long challenges with multiple sub-bullets per day, remembering list of exercises and recipes, spending money on shakes or salads, giving up something completely – none of this sounded interesting or sustainable. Yet I know I’ve been struggling with my energy and mental health so I knew something had to give. I really did want a REFRESH. So here is how I tackled January 2023 with some shortcut goal-setting PLUS some hard work to come out ready to tackle the next 11 months on the other side. Don’t wait until next January to kick off your own refresh!
I did Dry January last year – no alcohol for 31 days – so I know I can do something “new” for at least four weeks. This year I committed to doing a 21 day workout and “diet” routine – I figured it’s just 3 weeks. I will give it a go for 3 weeks and see what happens. Honestly, I don’t think I had full confidence I would see much impact and figured at the end of the 21 days I’d just go back to my previous routine. Somewhere at the beginning of that 3rd week, things shifted for me…
Why 21 Days?
I was introduced to this concept at a former church who started a 21 Days of Prayer program in January one year. The idea is that is takes 21 days to form a new habit, they said. Since then, I hear it all over the place. With a quick Google search, I discovered that it apparently originated in the 1950’s-60’s with a plastic surgeon and author, Maxwell Maltz, who claimed that it took his patients a minimum of 21 days to accept their new face or adjust to their new body after an amputation and replace the mental image. The “rule” dropped the minimum, morphed and spread like wildfire through the motivational speaker scene as 21 days establishes a new habit.
While the concept has since been discredited as a blanket statement, there are ways to create new behaviors. Phillipa Lally in European Journal of Social Psychology noted that by helping tasks feel more automatic and setting up cues, these practices can feel routine in anywhere from two to eight months with an average of 66 days. Why do you think so many lay out their workout clothes the night before? Or put that floss visible next to the toothbrush?
So ultimately, the 3 weeks isn’t going to cut it apparently but stick with me. That’s why I call it a REFRESH, because my first 21 days of January so far have given a reset to my habits that I can continue forward.
What I Learned
Now that you know where my head was at on the 21 days to a new habit idea, for my January wellness REFRESH, I chose to do the 21 Day Fix workout program through Beachbody on Demand. It’s at-home, it’s accessible on my phone or Roku TV so I can push play whenever my schedule allows – and no I’m not a coach here to sell you on the program. Let’s start with my number one takeaway on my wellness journey this month:
I share here what worked for me, not in hopes that you’ll copy it, but that you’ll see just how it can work out when you pick and choose what works best for YOU from all the bazillion health and wellness strategies out there. Just because someone shares a challenge or a plan doesn’t mean you have to take it 100% or leave it. You Do You!
Would I have loved to join a Pilates studio? I really would! But I know that with my current schedule I need flexibility and availability because some days I get workouts in at 8:30a.m. consistently and some days its 9:00pm. So a virtual program it was. I read all the materials that come with the 21 Day Fix BODi program – the food plan, the order you do each video in, etc. Did I do it as prescribed? Nope. Did I still get results? Yep! What I’ve learned about myself over the years is that if I don’t love a fitness regime, I won’t do it – at least for long. So make it into one you love, that works for you!
Give me a diet plan where I have to plan and prep ahead – not going to happen. I have to pack my kids lunches everyday and that’s enough of a chore. How about one with lots of recipes? Nope, I hate cooking in general plus I never have the right ingredients when I need them or I spend a bunch of money and then forget and don’t use it again and it goes to waste. One with lots of salads or only shakes? Yuck, would never last with this as my only food option. Have you ever tried to fast while you are handling food and making you little kids meals and snacks 5-8 times a day? It’s HARD! I would rather eat a smaller portion of what I really want or workout more/harder the next day to make up for it than deprive myself. That’s just what I’ve learned about myself based on my lifestyle.
So I didn’t do the food plan or recipes that come with the 21 Day Fix program. I did however use the calorie calculator and used that as my daily target and tracked my own food in my FitBit. (MyFtinessPal is a great option too!) I also made a point to increase the amount of protein and veggies compared to my previous food choices. But if I wanted a donut, I had the lowest calorie one on the menu and logged it. If I wanted a glass of wine, I had one and skipped dessert. Giving visibility to my food choices, also really helped me identify where I wasn’t getting the “bang for my buck” – have a 1/4 cup of trail mix (which is 1 serving) and be hungry still or have a plate full of veggies and be satisfied? Just stay smart, if weight loss is your goal the only guaranteed method is Calories In<Calories Out.
Give yourself grace if you miss a day. Make it up at the end – or don’t! I skipped a few weekend days when I just didn’t have anything left. I traded a video workout for a 3.5 mile family hike one weekend. I also didn’t do the sessions in the order provided. I chose the yoga or Pilates or even just the 10-minute abs when I was too spent. At the end when I was pushing for results and energized, I chose only the higher-calorie burning cardio workouts. How did I know they were higher-calorie burning? I logged them on my FitBit and reviewed which workouts I did during those days. That brings me to lesson 2:
It’s key to educate yourself so you can make better choices. Here’s how that played out with my food choices. I was out and about with my daughter on a “date” who wanted a milk shake mid-afternoon. Not finding any fro-yo shops around, I started thinking where can I get a milk shake at a drive-thru. Historically, my go-to is Sonic. I also know the calorie count is through the roof because I’ve started Googling the nutrition facts for fast food restaurants before I arrive. Still I knew I would be so tempted to get my own if I took her! We compromised and I opted for Smoothie King and got my craving satisfied, saved myself 680 calories and still had a happy daughter! (I also saved big on that fat and sugar content – WOWZA!)
I also love to follow various Instagram influencers that are in my demographic. Now that I am 40, I can’t do the same exercises and diets I did when I younger and expect the same results. Metabolism and hormones change, I’ve birthed two babies, and the list can go on. I love learning new things about how to maximize my results when I’m looking to get in better shape. Here are two quick nuggets that are making all the difference in my REFRESH:
Build Muscle with Strength Training
Historically I’ve believed the blanket statement that more cardio equals more weight loss. I learned that’s not always true when I was training for my half marathon and didn’t lose any weight. Of course, you do have to ensure your calorie burn is greater than calorie intake but did you know that muscle tissue burns more calories — even when you’re at rest — than body fat? Research shows 10 pounds of muscle burns 50 calories in a day spent at rest, while 10 pounds of fat would burn only 20 calories. You can raise your resting metabolic rate by upping those muscles! Start by making your exercises do more for you. I’m talking single exercises that fire off multiple muscle groups simultaneously, like the squat press targeting those core and large lower body muscles especially. Here is a great summary of some of others to pick from. I don’t know about you, but if I can keep my workout short (i.e. 30 minutes) and work my whole body that sounds like a great deal!
Get More Protein
Many people correctly associate protein with muscle mass, as they should since protein and the amino acids that make it up are the building blocks of the muscle tissue in your body. I was great at prioritizing this when I was pregnant but have slacked off since and go straight for the energizing carbs.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance is 0.36 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily, or 54 grams for a 150-pound person. (You can get about 50 grams 3 ounces of chicken breast.) As you age, your body requires significantly more protein than a younger adult to better preserve muscle mass and strength to maintain a certain quality of life. Having sufficient protein also helps to increase the body’s immune functions and reduce recovery time from illness. That means people over age 65 should strive for 0.45 to 0.55 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily, or about 68 to 83 grams for a 150-pound person. While I’m years from 65, being proactive here seems to make sense. Let’s preserve that muscle mass now!
How Much Protein Do You Need?
Age 18-64: Body weight (lbs.) x 0.36g = Protein Intake (g)/day
Age 65: Body weight (lbs.) x 0.45-0.55g = Protein Intake (g)/day
And last but not least, lesson 3 is
Summarizing the last 3 weeks and seeing how pleased I am with my before and after photos (stay tuned, see below) and stats may make it seem quick and easy. It’s not. Its hard to keep turning on that workout video when you are exhausted or sore, when you want to run errands instead, when you need to work, when your kids are behind you asking why you aren’t doing it like the trainer. HA! It is hard work and it may be uncomfortable, but it is possible if you put in the work.
Set your expectations now that there will be moments you want to quit. Choose an accountability partner or coach to keep you pushing through those mental walls that will come up. Having some mantras to help you push through can help to. I used some often when I was training for my half-marathon. Pick a program or class led by someone who motivates you whether its sweet encouragement or tough love. Here are a few quotes from the 21 Day Fix trainer, Autumn Calabrese, that kept me going in some of those moments.
- “You are the life you accept for yourself.”
- “Yes, it’s hard, but it’s not impossible.”
- “The people who achieve their goals are simply the ones who refuse to give up and put in the work.”
- “You are the best project you’re ever going to work on.”
- “Get comfortable being uncomfortable!”
- “You can have your dreams or you can have your excuses. You can’t have both.”
And in the words of author and speaker, Simon Sinek, find your why. Why do you want this? Why do you want to be healthier/more fit/stronger/weigh less or whatever it is you are working for? If you don’t have a reason in your mind and not just a number on a scale to visualize, it will be that much harder to see it through.
Wrapping Up My Refresh
I made it! 21 days of workouts (almost) daily and sticking to a reduced calorie diet. I’m so happy with my results: down 6 pounds and 10 inches and feeling stronger and more energized. I haven’t struggled with negative thoughts as much, so those endorphins must’ve been kicking in! In fact, I love the way I FEEL so much that I’m going to do a new program: “21 Day Fix Extreme” starting next week. I am excited to push myself even more to see what is possible in just a few weeks and maybe I’ll even hit Lally’s 66-day mark to lock in that routine.
The non-scale victories are coming in strong too. I’m now conscious of when I’m craving food to soothe emotional stressors and can make the choice to pick a better option (food or otherwise!). I’m feeling inspired again to be creative and less overwhelmed when the to-do list piles up. Don’t sell yourself short. You’ll never know what you can accomplish in just 21 days if you don’t take that first step. Do you need a REFRESH in just 3 short weeks?