Weight Loss Pyramid Showing Fiber Exercise Fat And Reducing CaloriesThe holidays are upon us and the New Year is right around the corner.  This means that millions of people are going to start a diet.  Over the next few weeks I’ll discuss various eating plans so you can help sort through the confusion and choose one that is best for you and your fitness goals.

Beachbody is well-known as the creator of legendary P90X, but one of their more recent programs includes an eating plan that has joined the ranks of the most popular eating plans of the year. 21-Day Fix, designed by celebrity trainer and bikini-competitor Autumn Calabrese, is a simple but promisingly effective eating and workout plan that proposes as much as 15 pounds of weight loss in 21 days. Unlike fad crash diets that severely restrict calories, 21 Day Fix begins with an assessment of your caloric needs, never drops below 1200 calories, and allows for great variety in the foods allowed in its color-coded containers. Here’s how it works.

Crunch the Numbers and Choose a Target Calorie Plan

The container-based eating plan (also termed Portion Fix when separate from the 21 Day Fix eating and workout program) starts with calculating your caloric baseline. To determine your baseline, your current weight is multiplied by 11 if you’re sedentary, 12 if you’re moderately active, and 13 if you’re highly active. This is the minimum amount of calories you need without adding any additional exercise routine performed at a health club or in your home. To get maintenance calories, 400 or 700 calories are added back in based on the intensity of your regular workout program. “Moderately challenging” includes 21 Day Fix’s daily 30-minute workouts, a few other Beachbody programs, light jogging in a fitness center, and yoga. Extremely challenging programs include P90X, intense interval training, mixed martial arts, or distance running. If you’re trying to lose weight, subtract 750 to determine your target calories. The number should fall somewhere between 1200-2800, and aligns with one of 6 target-calorie portion plans.

The Containers

Each portion plan consists of a certain number of each food group container — red for protein, purple for fruit,  green for vegetables, yellow for carbohydrates, blue for healthy fats, orange for nuts and seeds, and a teaspoon for oils and nut butters. The approved food list for each color container provides a guide to the healthiest choices. For instance, starchy plant-based carbs like sweet potatoes and quinoa are near the top, while bagels and corn tortillas are at the bottom. The program allows you to substitute an approved treat food for one orange container up to 3 times a week, and a treat beverage for one yellow container up to 3 times a week. There are also ‘freebies’ like water infused fruit and herbs, limited quantities of coffee and tea, most seasonings, and certain condiments. Resources for the plan include sample menus, planning charts, and 21 Day Fix-approved recipe. And that’s pretty much it!

The Pros and Cons

21 Day Fix provides what experts would consider a balanced approach –a balance of all food groups, allowance for treats and flexibility, and a platform that can be maintained long-term. One of its greatest strengths is its focus on portion control – an aspect that even ‘healthy’ eaters find challenging. Instead of having to count calories, or weigh and measure all your food, 21 Day Fix does the work for you so you can focus on enjoying healthy foods and exercising at a fitness gym.

Just like any eating plan, 21 Day Fix may not work for everyone, especially if it’s not something you can discipline yourself to follow. It still requires making healthy food choices and planning time for meal preparation. Lastly, although some of the test groups experienced as much as 15 pounds of weight loss in 21 days, weight loss depends on your metabolism, how much you have to lose, how closely you stick to the program, and how much you include the vital element to any diet – regular activity to improve your fitness.