To Fix or Not to Fix?

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So a while ago, I announced that I was going to be trying out the 21 Day Fix Diet and Workout Plan. Well I did, and I have to admit… I failed.  I ended up sticking to the exact diet only a few days per week.  I was barely home during those 3 weeks, plus I have a new puppy 🙂 She came to us MDW, and I’ve noticed a serious decrease in my spare time! Between house training, watching her like a hawk to make sure she doesn’t eat everything in sight, going to the dog trainer, the vet for all her check ups, and then a broken paw (sad face!), my time for meal prep was very low, and my ability to grocery shop between weekends away had disappeared. I also felt grumpy and fatigued on some of the days I stuck to the diet, preventing me from wanting to stick to it for the whole 3 weeks, which I will get more into later.  As busy as I was, I was still able to find time to exercise 30 mins per day, woohoo! Since this was my main reason for wanting to do the 21 Day Fix, I consider the experiment a success. What this means now though is that I never ever have any excuse to not work out. If I can make it happen during those 3 weeks, I can make it happen (almost) always! While I failed at the diet, and was even slacking on my usual healthy eating patterns, this plan did help me to make exercise become a habit again. Throughout my life, my exercise habits have ranged from 5 or 6 days per week to only 1 or 2 days per week or none at all, depending on what’s going on in my life. I feel my best when I’m exercising at least 4, preferably 5 or 6 days per week on a regular basis, but after a lull, it is always hard to get back into it. This winter was a major lull! Post-wedding, my mind and body decided to go into hibernation- I spent all last year exercising and eating healthy above and beyond my norm, trying to get my business off the ground, and planning my wedding. So when the wedding was over, I needed to crash! And I did. Hard! It felt great, but it was definitely time (albeit, it was time several weeks prior to the Fix) to get my motivation back, and I was struggling. Enter Autumn Calabrese.

IMG_0784The Work Outs: These were amazing for me. Just the right mix of light, moderate, and intense exercise, and in only 30 minutes per day. I enjoyed just about every workout (once my body caught up to itself and I got some stamina back). Each week is as follows:

  1. Total Body Cardio Fix
  2. Upper Fix
  3. Lower Fix
  4. Pilates
  5. Cardio Fix
  6. Dirty 30
  7. Yoga Fix

Total Body Cardio and Dirty 30 were my 2 favorites. Total body cardio incorporates strength and cardio intervals which is great for becoming lean and toned! Dirty 30 was mostly strength, but trust me you definitely get a little sweaty! Cardio Fix is not as fun. Let’s just say, I hate burpees. Since I often do power yoga in a studio, I found Yoga Fix to be a little too simple for me, so that was probably my least favorite.  It was, however, a great active rest day. Pilates Fix is supposed to be another active rest day, and maybe some people find that it is, but I was definitely sore afterward!

IMG_1579The Diet: First, you have to figure out your caloric need.

  1. Weight in Pounds x 11 = Baseline calorie need
  2. Baseline + 400 for the workouts = Maintenance calorie need
  3. Calorie Need – 750 = Calorie need for weight loss

For those of you who don’t know me, I am barely 5 feet tall, which means my overall calorie need is always lower than the average person, regardless of my current weight. My calculation equaled 1150 calories for weight loss. This puts me in the lowest calorie range of 1200-1499cals (The plan smartly warns against eating less than 1200 cals), which means I get 3 green containers, 2 purples, 4 reds, 2 yellows, 1 blue, 1 orange, and 2 spoons. Nutritionally, this seems fairly well balanced between proteins, fruits and veggies, starches, and healthy fats. However, I personally felt grumpy and starving when following this on the intense workout days, which means my blood sugar was likely too low.  I sometimes have issues with low blood sugar (think ‘hangry’ plus lightheaded and extreme fatigue). Knowing that intense exercise lowers blood sugar significantly, I feel the combination of intense workouts, low carbs, and my tendency to get hangry played a part in my inability to stick to the plan.  This may not be true for everyone, though. I know many people who feel good on it, and if you fall into one of the other calorie ranges which allow more carbs and/or don’t have low blood sugar issues, you would probably do very well on this.  Bottom line- as long as you can sustain this long term and carry it over into maintenance-mode for the long haul, this diet would be healthy and effective for you.

The Drawbacks: I would have categorized the foods slightly different. When I am trying to lose a few pounds, and even on a regular basis while I am maintaining, I do only eat 2 small portions, or 1 normal portion, of whole grains or potatoes/sweet potatoes per day, which is what the 21 Day Fix wanted me to do. However, I don’t count my beans in there, especially if my workouts are intense. Even though they are starchy, I count them as my protein in some meals, and including my beans, I am getting 3 small servings of starch per day, which is why I felt that the carbs were too low for me.  I would have moved the beans to the red container category, and would have felt much better on this diet, or I would have allowed 3 yellows instead of 2. Another option could have been to allow a 3rd yellow container on the more intense exercise days, and keep it at 2 containers on the active recovery days.  The second thing is that I would not count unsweetened almond milk as a yellow replacement. There isn’t enough total carbohydrate in it to count.  My last drawback is the fact that you HAVE to stick with it EVERYDAY for 21 days straight. For me, that was just not realistic. There was way too much going on. I had weekend trips, parties, etc making the weekends busy and the weekdays harder. There are people who will say that this is just an excuse, but guess what- that’s LIFE! To me, giving up those things is not worth “being skinny and fit”. My social life, sanity, and relationships are more important to me, and that’s ok. If you were to treat this as a long term plan instead of a quick “21 Day fix”, you could allow for a couple days per week to stray a little, simply monitoring your portions while out, and continuing your workouts, or even skipping 1 day here and there. You would lose weight a little more slowly, but you’d be more likely to stick to it long term, and trust me, you’d be just as healthy AND you’d be happier. I have friends and clients who follow the plan this way and do very well.

The Wins: As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, I feel that this diet and workout plan is well balanced enough to consider a very healthy way to effectively lose weight.  I also love that they provide very easy recipes for each container, and the food lists are helpful in general, especially for those who don’t have a nutrition background. It was great for me because I was able to add variety to my diet once I was reminded of the foods I don’t normally think about. The final win goes to the workouts. Even though I felt my carbs were too low to support the exercise, on the days I did eat enough, I loved these workouts and felt amazing doing them! They were quick and efficient, and the plan mixed up the intense workouts with moderate and low ones so that you can be active every day, while still allowing your body to rest. I have other workouts that I also enjoy, so I don’t plan on following the calendar on an on-going basis, but I will certainly be using these workouts to mix into my weekly routine.

IMG_0981Favorite Takeaways: My sauteed veggies!! I have never been much of a salad person, and I have always preferred hot lunches. I’ve tried to eat salads for lunch daily, and will last several weeks, even months occasionally, but then I always fall off because I get bored or sick of them- especially in the winter. I don’t know why I never thought to cook my vegetables for lunch! Since the 21 Day Fix, I have been buying already washed and chopped fresh veggies from the grocery store- did you know they chop the produce for you??- and combining them with olive oil in a large, deep skillet on medium high heat with some seasoning (I actually prefer just cracked black pepper, but the 21 Day Fix offers healthy mixed seasonings recipes which are delicious as well). I make enough for the whole week, throw in some beans and/or crisped tofu or shrimp and heat it up while at work. I even add a tablespoon of salsa (I’m loving the fresh pineapple mango salsa that both Wegmans and Whole Foods prepare). My favorite veggie combo is yellow and red peppers, sweet onion, zucchini, string beans, and mushrooms. I also used asparagus instead of the zucchini once, and this week I added cherry tomatoes. My other favorite takeaway from this experiment is realizing how much better I feel when I am exercising daily, and how easy it can be when I set my mind to to do just 30 minutes per day. I have resolved to get any kind of exercise, whether it’s a 21 day fix workout, a studio workout, a quick yoga session, a run, or even just a leisurely walk, for at least 20-30 mins every day. Totally doable, right? Well, I have missed some days depending on the week, but overall, definitely doable!

Hope this sheds some light on the 21 Day Fix, so that you can make a decision as to whether or not it’s right for you. The big picture should always be your goal- think long term and you’ll succeed 🙂  Comment below with questions. 

I know I haven’t been blogging much, but I’m working on changing that! Keep checking for more! Future posts include meal subscription reviews, meal planning service reviews, and product spotlights. 

To Bread or Not to Bread

Good Morning! Well at least it was morning when I began this post.  I’m having an annoyingamazing day at the courthouse waiting to see if I’m selected for jury duty (I know, SO much fun!) so I figured now would be a good time for my first blog post.

A couple times in the past few weeks I’ve had to discuss with clients the common “health” trend of cutting out bread (strangers also LOVE to ask me about this), so I thought this might be a good starting topic.

Cutting out bread is a sort of “sub-diet” stemming from the ever-so trendy Low Carb/No Carb diet. The main thing that you need to remember when beginning this sort of plan is that a carbohydrate is a nutrient. This nutrient is 1 of only 3 nutrients from which we can obtain energy. Yes, energy in the form of the dreaded calorie- don’t forget that without calories, we would quite literally be non-existant. The other 2 nutrients that supply energy are protein and fat. Our bodies require the proper balance of all 3 of these nutrients in order to function at its best and most efficient. The problem is that our society tends to over-eat on either carbs, fat, or both, and under-eat on protein, which is why the latest weight-loss diets recommend lowering your carbs and increasing your protein. For those who over-eat on carbohydrates, this is good advice, however your goal should be proper balance of all nutrients in the most whole food version possible (as opposed to processed/refined), not elimination of any one nutrient. Eliminating carbs completely can and will backfire, causing irratic blood sugars, extreme fatigue, eventual binge eating, and most likely giving up. It’s not sustainable, and you’ll gain all the weight back plus more.

A Little More on Carbohydrates: There are 3 main foods that are considered carbohydrates-Starch (breads, grains, pastas, potatoes, beans, etc), Fruits, and Vegetables.  When talking balance, you should aim for your daily intake to include carbohydrates from all 3 of these foods. This ensures that your intake of fiber, vitamins, and minerals is adequate. Other reasons for this include an efficient metabolism, steady blood sugar, and steady energy (remember about 30 seconds ago when I warned you against the elimination of carbs? It’s all related!). Your total carbohydrate intake from all 3 types of food should equal about half of your calories- which should be adjusted up or down depending on your physical activity level and weight management goals.  To accomplish this, aim for 3-6 servings of starch, 2-3 servings of fruit, and 2-3 servings of vegetables per day in addition to protein and fat. I know those daily serving suggestions may sound absurdly high for someone expecting to cut down on carbs or watch their calories, but keep in mind that a serving size is much smaller than the general population believes and that vegetables have more water than carbs anyway.  Exactly how much carbohydrate (and calories) you should consume daily is very individual, so if you’re unsure of whether or not you’re getting the proper amounts, you can use food logs like My Fitness Pal or Lose It to track your intake and help you figure out what your personal nutrition goals should be. Or even better, you can schedule a Nutrition Counseling appointment with me :)

Back to Cutting Out Bread: Since bread is only one source of starch, you can absolutely eliminate bread and still maintain a healthy diet. This being said, eliminating bread completely is not necessary for the maintenance of health or for weight loss.  If you are going to cut out bread, just be sure your day includes at least 3 servings of another starch, and try to incorporate whole grains. Examples of healthy non-bread starches and their serving sizes are:

  • 1/2c whole wheat pasta, cooked
  • 1/3c brown rice, cooked
  • 3 oz potato or sweet potato (approximately 1 small or 1/2 med sized)
  • 1/3c beans or legumes
  • 1/3c cooked whole grains (quinoa, wheatberry, farro, barley)
  • 1/2c corn or green peas
Based on American Dietetic Association Exchange Lists. http//www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/eat/fd_exch.htm#7
If you do plan to include bread in your diet, be sure to buy 100% whole wheat or 100% whole grain for the extra fiber and nutrition and to help avoid blood sugar spikes.  Serving sizes of bread products are:
  • 1 slice bread
  • 2 slices light bread (low calorie)
  • 1/2 english muffin
  • 1/4 bagel
  • 1 light waffle (not the large belgian style!)- I really like Vans Whole Grain Light Waffles
Based on American Dietetic Association Exchange Lists. http//www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/eat/fd_exch.htm#7
Hope this helps clear things up for you! Please comment with any questions, or schedule an appointment for more in depth information  :)