Do You Even Lift, Brah?
Very few people maintain their youthful physique after graduating from college. I was no exception. Whether it’s because our metabolisms slow down, we order more Portillo’s, we sit for eight hours a day at a desk job, or a combination of these, it’s hard to escape those few extra pounds that inevitably find their way into our thighs, cheeks, and, if we’re lucky, breasts.
I graduated college in 2014, and between then and about 6 weeks ago, I had gained close to 20 pounds. It’s easy to ignore the first few, but there came a point where I saw myself in photos on Facebook and I just knew people we’re looking at them and saying, “Erin Maturo gained some weight.” I was no longer confident, had to throw away dozens of crop tops, and I just felt crappy all the time. I knew I had to make a change. So I called up my BFF Jenny (check out her blog, Literally Always Hungry) who is also my favorite fitness guru. She’s also written two posts for this site, one magical and one…less magical.
I told Jenny my stipulations. I did NOT like to spend a lot of time working out and I had never meal planned in my life. She sent me a bunch of recommendations, and I decided on the 21 Day Fix (21DF), which includes a pretty stringent meal plan and a different 30-minute workout video for each day of the week. I was super into the idea of shorter daily workouts and total duration, and I decided to give the meal planning a try. How bad could it be?
Fast forward to the day before my 21 Day Fix started. I texted Jenny, “So, I HATE meal planning.” 21DF incorporates those crazy colored containers you see on infomercials that help you portion your food and keep track of the food groups you’re eating from. I went rogue and just googled the serving sizes for each container. I created a handy dandy spreadsheet that would help me plan out meals for the week and show me what colors I had left. I came to find that I ran out of carbs VERY quickly and filling the veggie and protein category was tough. The first time around, meal planning took me about 2 hours, not including the trip to the grocery store.
I found a lot of recipes online to try that were “21 Day Fix approved,” and I learned very quickly that most of them were not great. Turkey Quinoa Taco Bake and breakfast smoothies became my jam, as did hot sauce, turkey bacon and my god, sweet potatoes. If anything came out of this experience, it’s a sweet, sweet love for sweet potatoes.
As for the workouts, I actually really enjoyed them. I could definitely feel how out of shape I was, but I made tangible improvements each week. The workout instructor, Autumn, was hot and motivating, and each exercise had an easier modification move that I took full advantage of when needed. All in all, I upped my weights at the beginning of week 3 and I actually repeated the 21 Day Fix for a second time because I enjoyed the workouts so much.
Meal planning also became tolerable. After the first week of experimenting, I found what worked for me and what didn’t, and I actually realized that meal planning saves me a lot of money. I did take a few liberties, including allowing myself a few M&Ms, skipping Sunday yoga (my least favorite workout), and indulging in a few weekly alcoholic beverages. Luckily the plan allows you to save up all your carbs for a night out or some pizza.
One of the biggest things I noticed while eating cleaner was how much more energized I felt. I was in a better mood and I became so much more cognizant of what I was putting into my body. I can now look at a meal and visualize how many containers of carbs, veggies, etc. it will be to make sure that I’m not overdoing it in any area.
After the first three weeks, I definitely saw results. I lost a lot of fat and toned up a bit around my back, arms, and legs, and my coworker even mentioned that my face looked skinnier! I lost a total of around 7 pounds and definitely gained visible muscle. I was really impressed with the results and, like I said, I did a second round of the fix due to my success. The second round has just made me stronger and I’m still improving constantly. Today I start a new 3-week workout plan called Shift Shop, which includes a diet similar to ketogenic where you slowly remove carbs as you increase workout intensity and duration. Check out Jenny’s take on keto diets here.
My huge takeaways from this experience are that exercise really does make you feel good and 30-minutes per day (the doctor recommended amount) is TOTALLY doable. I didn’t have to give up anything important to get it done and I actually came to enjoy my new habit. On days I felt crappy, working out actually made me feel better. It’s also worth noting that in January, I started working out for an hour around 3 or 4 days a week for about 3 months with no change in diet and I saw fewer results than I did in 3 weeks with the 21 Day Fix meal plan. People say that getting fit is primarily based on diet with exercise as a supplement, and believe me, that is SO true. I hope I don’t fall back into my bad eating habits because now I’m happier, more confident, and energized.
I highly recommend 21 Day Fix to anyone who wants to give a workout and meal planning routine a try. Like I said, I had never done anything like this before, and it really turned out to be awesome. Check out the materials below: