The 21 Day Fix – A Dietitian’s Perspective

A Dietitian’s Opinion of the 21 Day Fix

It’s tough to keep up with diet trends – there are seemingly endless options for diets and most are gone almost as quickly as they appear. But one that keeps popping up on social media is the 21 Day Fix, which is a BeachBody fitness and diet system that includes fitness DVDs and a diet program. As you may know, Beachbody is the company that brought us P90X, Insanity, and other fitness programs.

I am a dietitian, not a fitness trainer, so I will focus on the dietary aspects of the program.

The good:

It’s great that the program includes a diet regimen. Diet makes up approximately 75-80% of weight loss, so “hitting the gym” really doesn’t make a huge difference in weight lost, but it is definitely crucial for your overall health and it does boost your weight loss efforts and helps with weight maintenance.

Here’s how the diet part of the system works: the 21-Day Fix comes with a set of containers that are color coded by food group. There is a green container for veggies, and a purple container for fruits, holding 1 cup each. There is a slightly smaller red container for proteins, a smaller yellow container for starches and grains, a very small blue container for healthy fats and a tiny orange container for seeds and dressings. It also includes a Shakeology Shaker cup (BeachBody sells Shakeology products). Based on your calculated calorie needs, you are allotted a certain number of containers of each color per day.

I have to admit, I like the simplicity of this system, because it does boil down the basic tenets of healthy eating (eat mostly plants, adequate protein, and small amounts of carbs/starches and healthy fats) into a visual system that anyone can use in their kitchen.

The bad:

It’s a 21-day program. It ends, and I think the promise of losing “up to 15 lbs in 21 days” is not attainable for most. I notice on the sales page on the BeachBody website, in the small print below one of the impressive before and after pictures, it said “completed 11 rounds” which sounds like it is actually more like a 231 day fix!

Also, even though I like seeing diet as part of a weight loss program, I’m never thrilled when a fitness trainer/bikini model is the one behind the diet plan. Although the instructor is certainly qualified as a fitness trainer, she is not a registered dietitian or adequately certified in nutrition.

Accordingly, the calculation used in the program to obtain daily calorie needs is strange: multiple your weight by 11, then add 400 for the workouts, then subtract 750 calories to create a deficit for weight loss. So basically, they are assuming you burn 400 calories for the workouts. But in reality, how much you burn when you work out is VERY individual and depends on your age, gender, muscle mass, etc. And 750 calories for a deficit is quite a lot.

When I calculated my own level of calories using this calculation, I came up with a little over 1000 calories. Wow, that’s low! And even though a 1200 calories level appears be the minimum suggested level (which is good, since that is the lowest level recommended for women outside of a doctor’s care), it still may be too low with the activity from the workouts. Eating too few calories sets you up for binge eating and is hard to maintain over time.

How many calories do you actually need? Here is a comprehensive article covering how many calories you need to lose weight in depth. There are many well-researched calculations that are used to determine recommended calories. The Mifflin St. Jeor calculation is among the most used for weight loss, and a calculator for it is available here.

Another caveat about the program is that it’s not cheap. It’s “three monthly payments of $19.95” (plus $12.95 for shipping and handling), so about $73.

If you like the idea of the food containers, there are many copycat containers on Amazon for less than $20 per set. And if you’re like me, you already have plenty of fitness DVDs. 🙂

So what happens after the 21 days are over? Well, hopefully you’ve learned some healthy eating habits you can continue.   But is the 21 Day Fix the best way to do this? That’s for you to decide, but remember that the best weight loss regimen is one you can stick with long term as a lifestyle, not a diet.