Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

21 Day Fix won’t fix much

13 Comments

Image of 21 Day Fix by porcupiny on flickr, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

Image of 21 Day Fix by porcupiny on flickr, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

I was recently asked for my thoughts on the 21 Day Fix program. Not knowing much about it, I decided to do a little bit of research.

If you, like me, aren’t overly familiar with the 21 Day Fix, essentially it’s a diet plan that restricts calories and portion sizes through the use of some colourful plastic food containers. In addition to the containers there’s a fitness program available on DVD and protein shakes (called Shakeology) that you can buy. According to Amazon, the containers alone will set you back $42.83. If you buy a kit with workout DVDs and other accessories, that can set you back up to $175.57. That doesn’t include any of the shakes or cookbooks. The price for the shakes is outrageous; $155.95 for a 30 serving bag. That’s over $5 (not including tax) for a single serving of protein. It’s even more expensive if you want to buy the powder in single serve packets ($6.50 per shake). If you’re really keen on protein shakes, there are plenty of much more affordable options out there. Just be aware that the supplement industry is notoriously poorly regulated and you may be getting ingredients that aren’t disclosed on the label, or not getting the ingredients that are.

Back to the basic program then… According to the method of determining your caloric intake I should be consuming 840 calories a day in order to lose weight. Fortunately, they do advise that if your calculated intake is less than 1200 calories a day that you should stick to 1200 calories. There’s no way that 1200 calories would satisfy me but then again, I don’t actually want to lose weight. I found it a little odd that the calculation doesn’t take into consideration a persons height or their goal weight.

Based on my prescribed intake, I’d be permitted 3 green containers for veg (1 1/4 cups each), 2 purple for fruit (1 1/4 cups each), 4 red for protein (3/4 cup each), 2 yellow for carbohydrates (1/2 cup each), 1 blue for “healthy” fats like nuts, cheese, or avocado (1/4 cup), and 1 orange for dressings or oils (2 tbsp). Just out of curiosity, I plugged some random foods fitting these measurements into myfitnesspal. I ended up with 1276 calories, 121 grams of carbs, 63 grams fat, 82 g protein, 59 mg calcium, and 19 g fibre. As far as macronutrients go, not too bad. But when we come to micronutrients, not great (and I’m sure it would be worse if my report showed more of them). 19 grams of fibre is not enough, nor is 59 mg of calcium. I’m sure each day would vary, but I’m still concerned that this diet would leave someone (especially users on the lower caloric end) nutrient deficient.

The use of the colour coded containers might be help some people with portion control and food selection; there’s no room for prepared foods or fast food so this encourages people to consume whole foods. However, that’s also a bit of a downfall. Unless you’re buying the cookbook and the recipes match your needs, the use of the containers limits your options for meals. You wouldn’t be able to follow a recipe from any old cookbook and have it fit your prescribed containers. I think that I would end-up just filling all the containers, and never eating anything interesting because figuring out recipes that match the containers I’m allowed would be too complicated. This really limits your ability to eat socially as well. Imagine showing up to a potluck with your littleĀ containers. It also seems like a great gateway to orthorexia.

Can you imagine eating this way for the rest of your life? I sure can’t. You would probably lose weight if you could stick with this plan but what about micronutrients you might be lacking and what’s going to happen when you go off it? 21 days might be bearable but what will you do once those 21 days are over? Not to beat a dead horse, but if you want to see sustainable weight loss, you need to make sustainable changes.

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Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

13 thoughts on “21 Day Fix won’t fix much

  1. Interesting concept! One must remember if you are not eating enough calories then there is an initial weight gain – fear and frustration set in and one may go back to the old habits. Again, another shake which is not necessary if you are eating what you should be getting from whole foods. I just can’t believe what people with pay for something that will work for a few but the rest will not have the desired weight loss and go back to old habits out of frustration. Your best bet is to meet with a registered licensed dietitian nutritionist!

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  2. I understand because even as I am sitting in a meeting today a person was talking about this meal plan (Nutrisystem but a different company) and how much better she feels. Of course my one question: You are going to have your meals prepared for you for the rest of your life? Of course another person chimed in stating that making a meal at home would cost me more per meal than this plan ($8.95). I said no more as they have an expert right there in the room but as it has been mentioned in other article comments – people don’t want to cook :(

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  3. I can imagine eating this way for the rest of my life. I have been following the 21 Day Fix meal plan, exercises and Shakeology since April of this year and I have lost about 25lbs. My skin has improved significantly, I have gained a love for whole foods and exercise and I even became a Beachbody coach and help other people who are looking to start their health and fitness journey.

    I know it’s easy for anyone to say “just eat right and exercise” but having a program to show me what to eat and how much of it I should be eating has changed my life. I can go into a restaurant and eat a proper meal (by proper I mean not over eating) because I know what a correct portion size looks like because of the container system.

    I HATED workout out, but having the DVDs to show me what I need to do made workout out that much easier. And if I needed a modifier because I wasn’t strong enough yet but still wanted to get an amazing workout, that was there too.

    I can promise you I am never hungry, in fact most days I cannot eat all the food I am allowed (I am in the 1800 calorie bracket) and I know people in the 1200 and 1400 bracket who feel the same.

    I understand everyone has their opinion and this is mine, but the one problem I have with this article is when you say “it forces you to eat whole foods and leaves no room for prepackaged or fast food”. I know if I was following a healthier lifestyle, regardless of it being the 21 Day Fix or not, I wouldn’t be relying of fast food or prepackaged meals

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    • Just because a fixed program gave you a toke of inspiration and enough fixed constraints with little room for interpretation to stay on it, doesn’t mean it’s the god-tier solve-all “diet”.

      It’s easy to say “just eat this, that much of it, don’t eat something else” etc., and not as easy to explain why and how it really works. This program doesn’t do anything a good dietitian couldn’t do better (and cheaper) or an inquisitive individual couldn’t research by themselves.

      I used to be exercise-bulimic, overweight and hated workouts yet somehow I overcame all that armed with just Google.

      Also, call me paranoid, but you honestly sound like a… (edit): Just realized that BeachBody is the company behind this program. So you ARE an employee advertising your employer’s product. Now I feel like a moron writing this or believing anything you’ve written. ffs

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  4. Hi Kylie,
    I agree with you that some people need direction and a pre-made plan. Congratulations on your weight loss and becoming a Beachbody coach. A story like yours makes one fell hope that this program may work for them (me personally the warm fuzzy feeling because one was where they need to be to achieve the goal). Unfortunately, not everyone will be as successful as you are. One must remember one’s psyche needs to be ready for the change which, obviously, you were ready.
    I work with many individuals that do not have the money for such a program and I just want to cry when they buy a program like this because now for the next month they are out that money for food. Within in a week they are ready to give up because they are stressed, depressed, angry, etc.
    Final words: like all “diets”: the diet may work for a few but not all.
    One more thing: Continue your journey and enjoy life! Love success stories.

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    • Actually if you follow the plan and do the workouts, there’s really no way you could fail to see results.

      It’s a calorie restricted diet with exercise. That’s the only actual proven way to lose weight.

      The difference is that you don’t have to count anything. Counting calories (or points or whatever) is the primary reason why I’ve never been successful at any other diet. Who wants to spend all that time plugging every ingredient in a recipe into a calculator before you know how much of it you can eat? With this program you just put it in the container. If it fits, you can eat it.

      And it isn’t true that you get no variety in your food. Just google “21 day fix recipes.” You can add anything you want to your food as long as it isn’t processed crap.

      If you’re not getting enough nutrients, that’s what the shake is for (it has fiber!) But I fail to see how any other weight loss program addresses this any better than 21DF does. If you want to make sure you’re consuming a specific amount of nutrients every day, the points system certainly isn’t going to help you do that. You need a nutritionist.

      The fact is that your “review” should be taken with a grain of salt. You didn’t even try the program, you just looked at some pictures of it.

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      • It’s a gimmicky expensive weight loss program. It doesn’t educate people about ways to make healthier choices on their own. Of course many people will lose weight on a calorie restricted diet. It’s the maintenance of that loss that is more important and quite unlikely on any such diet.

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  5. Pingback: “21 Day Fix won’t Fix Much…” | MFHT Health Promotion

  6. Iv just got the containers! And read all the info.. Im on the lower category which give me 3 small vegy pots.. I tried to make a salad and it was so small it fitted in my baby’s little bowl? How is that right? And I did I days menu and it Bearley hit 1120 calories? And your doing at 30min workout? Not good in my opinion, you may aswel just calorie count! I just needed help with portion sizes!

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