Can you create positive change in your life in just 21 days?
Is it possible to develop better habits in a mere three weeks?
The answer is an unequivocal YES!
Five women prove me right!
Here are the overall results:
- Total weight loss: 22 pounds
- Energy level increase: 9/10
- Confidence boost: 8/10
- Fun level: 10/10
When it comes to dieting, I’m an expert!
For much of my life, I wanted to look as skinny as the models on TV, and by the time I left high school, I had tried every diet under the sun. In my early twenties I learned how to lose up to four pounds a week by eating just two donuts a day and drinking lots of coffee. But the weight would always creep back up, and I’d embark on yet another fad diet.
I ended up developing bulimia. The resulting health issues (severe gastritis, discoloured teeth) opened my eyes to what I was doing to my body, my life and myself. It was time to develop better habits that would support a healthy lifestyle.
But how? How can you just change the way you live your life?
A habit is a settled tendency or usual manner of behaviour, and according to a research at Duke University, following habits result in up to 40% of our actions on any given day. So in order to change our lifestyle, we simply need to change our habits.
Creating New, Better Habits
In the early 1970s, Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon, published his theory that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. The 21-day rule has been embraced by many self-help gurus who see it as an effective strategy for personal development.
In my experience, it’s not so much about only eliminating bad habits but also replacing them with better ones. I was curious about whether this could be accomplished within 21 days, and so I put my idea to the test.
Objective: Create a programme to help women not only lose weight but also create better and healthier habits. (Spoiler alert: it worked!)
“Join my BRAND NEW “21 Day Online Lifestyle Transformation Challenge”…
21 days to transform your fitness, mindset and nutritional habits.”
Five determined, vegan women signed up for the programme. They emailed me their weight, measurements and “before” pictures as a way to assess their progress.
Believe it or not, being vegan doesn’t always translate into eating a healthy plant-based diet. On the one hand, veganism is growing in popularity, and that means there are more vegan snack and meal options available in supermarkets – this is great because it is easier than ever to go vegan and not deprive yourself of your favourite foods. On the other hand, most of us are short on time and are not familiar with plant-based cooking; as a result, we often choose vegan convenience food which doesn’t constitute a balanced diet. The vast array of vegan junk food encourages unhealthy snacking.
So learning to prepare easy and nutritious plant-based foods that satisfy our taste buds is essential to a successful vegan lifestyle.
Why is cooking healthy sometimes easier said than done? We often feel like we don’t have enough time to do it probably (but we really do!), and we suffer from information overload.
Many of our questions are never really answered: Do I need protein powders? How can I speed up my metabolism? How often should I work out? What exercises will help my bad knee? What supplements does a vegan need to take?
My programme debunks diet and fitness myths and offers an easy-to-follow meal plan. It also provides each client with an individualised, time-efficient training regimen. Each element is reinforced with daily support and opportunities to share your experience with others, ultimately creating new, better habits.
Here is an overview of what happened during the challenge.
The 21 Day Online Lifestyle Transformation Challenge kicked off with a two-day, dietitian-approved detox to cleanse the body.
No pills, drugs or juices … just lots of fresh veggies, fruit and water. Easy?
Sharon: “No, not easy! I’ve thought about food and wine all day.”
Deb: “I could murder for a cup of tea and a slice of toast right now.”
The meal plan consists of three meals and a mid-morning snack.
Kelsey: “The recipes are pretty easy to follow, and hubby has been eating it alongside me.”
Five days into the challenge we had a check-in, and the participants shared their successes.
Macx: “One thing I’m proud of is I had a sneaky weigh-in and lost 5 lbs!!!! What have I learned? I can still cook – it doesn’t need to come from freezer to plate!”
Deb: “So far I’ve learned that I CAN live without tea!!! Day 5 and I’m actually not missing it that much!! I’ve also learned that if I’m organised, I can stick to a meal plan!! Next goal is to ramp up the exercise part of the challenge.”
Although there was a cheat day included in the plan, many decided not to have a major unhealthy meal.
Deb: “Just a small handful of dark chocolate covered acai berries with my herbal tea.”
Macx: “I’m not cheating today, I did that yesterday with alcohol!!”
Often people blame their poor diets on the fact that healthy food is expensive. This claim is unfounded.
Erika: “Eating healthy and feeling light….and it isn’t that expensive. I believe I am even saving money.”
Sharon: “…how much I would spend on snacks that aren’t healthy over the week and ordinarily I’d use all that stuff up quickly.”
Switching to a healthy diet can take some time. One might experience a little fatigue in the beginning as the body is adjusting.
Kelsey: “I’ve had a breakthrough! The past few days have been tough, but today I’ve had so much energy, despite going to bed late and getting up early.
Seeing results, be it weight loss or an increase in energy levels, spurred the participants to continue.
Sharon: “Weighed myself this morning – according to the scales I have lost 6lbs! Still a way to go for me but steps in the right direction, and I am enjoying cooking more.”
Deb: “Me on the treadmill at 5am doing interval training!! So proud I dragged myself out of bed and did it, buzzing with energy now.”
Our modern lifestyle has far too many demands. Women often juggle a career and looking after a busy family while also trying to set aside time for herself. When the stress becomes too much, we often resort to emotional eating. Such is life, and we simply need to accept “bad days.” The bad days don’t define us nor determine our long-term progress. What’s important is to get back on track as soon as possible.
Macx: “Have lost the way a bit on the meal plan these last two days due to work really, but I have to say rather than doing my usual grabbing a bag of crisps and biscuits I’ve snacked on fruit – so a positive change there.”
Deb: “I might have accidentally consumed pizza and wine last night. Back on track today with a 3-mile run!”
Nowadays with the internet, digital books and online communities it’s not that hard to acquire knowledge, but incorporating that information into our daily lives can still be difficult. The last week of the challenge was about putting into practice what we had learned during the first two weeks.
The group offered a safe place to share what we had learned while still being supported.
“Wanted to say how glad I am to be doing this and also for being part of this chat – know for a fact if hadn’t been reading Leila’s posts as well as posts from others I would be sitting with a glass of red and likely some kettle chips right now.”
“I do feel like we have a great group helping each other on.”
“I’ve really enjoyed the sisterhood we’ve had.”
Participants shared recipes and pictures of their meals, exchanged ideas on how to stay focused on their new habits and posted about their achievements:
Sharon: “Back to being inquisitive about food whilst also enjoying my food rather than just eating to not feel hungry,”
Macx: “My metabolism is finally working again, I’m burning energy when I move rather than just simmering!”
Women often neglect themselves because we believe we need to take care of others. We take time for the important for people in our lives without realising that we’re important too. Putting ourselves and our needs first can seem not only selfish but even redundant. Without self-care, however, we burn out. We lose focus. We lose our skills. And above all, we lose ourselves. The 21 Day Online Lifestyle Transformation Challenge makes self-care a priority.
“The challenge gave me permission to focus on myself! I spend so much time “doing” and when I get a minute I often fall asleep. These last three weeks I was able to say no I’m getting my food ready and was able to think about what is important for ME.”
How I’d define the 21 Day Online Lifestyle Transformation Challenge after having run it: it’s a lifestyle reset that anyone can do!