75 Hard Review
In the last couple of years, you've probably heard of the program 75 HARD created by entrepreneur and author, Andy Frisella.
According to Andy’s website, 75 HARD is “not a physical challenge. It is a mental challenge, designed to develop all of the characteristics you lack in life that have landed you where you are at.” So contrary to what I thought (and maybe contrary to what you thought based on all of the talk around this challenge), this is not a diet plan; this is about discipline and mental toughness.
Rhetoric aside, this is confusing for me because when you look at the website or anything related to the 75 HARD program, you see before and after photos of people who have obviously lost weight and that to me looks like marketing for a diet plan.
So what are these mental toughness and discipline components?
The first requirement is that you follow any diet you want. This could be Whole 30, keto, paleo, or something else. This one is super vague but the idea is that you have to follow a structured diet plan that will help to support your goals.
You don't need to stick to a regimented diet plan to attain a level of discipline; you can attain discipline by just being mindful and making a conscious effort around what you’re putting in your body. The second part of this non-dieting program is that there are no cheat foods or alcohol for the entire 75 days. This is where I’m going to poo poo this program a little bit. In theory, omitting alcohol and cheat foods may be a good idea because it'll eliminate high calorie foods which might currently be hindering any weight loss attempts.
However, the idea of a cheat food has a very negative connotation. When you label food as good or bad, you start to moralize food and the behavior of eating. This is where the disordered eating spiral begins or gets exacerbated. I don’t refer to food as good or bad. Some food has more nutritional value than others and some food is void of nutrients and is hyper palatable and can bring on dopamine hits and enjoyment. So I refer to these foods as treat or joy foods.
When you stick to a very regimented program like whole 30 or keto or Paleo that cut out entire food groups which 75 HARD would refer to as cheat foods, (especially for 75 days), of course you will lose weight. Anytime you follow a program where you eliminate entire food groups, potentially putting you in a calorie deficit, you’ll lose weight.
Let me clarify, I don’t have an issue with following a diet or program if you're planning on pursuing it for the rest of your life. My concern is picking up a program to do for just 75 days, especially one that is so restrictive and doesn’t allow you to enjoy things like a glass of wine with your girlfriends, a beer at a baseball game, or a slice of cake at your grandma's 80th birthday party. When you cut out entire food groups and/or joy foods, you may start binging on everything you couldn’t have when this challenge is over.
If you lose weight with a program like 75 HARD, when you start eating like you used to and start reincorporating all of the food and alcohol, you’ll gain the weight back.
This teaches you to be disciplined for 75 days, and if you feel deprived, you will probably want to eat everything you missed out on once the program is over. That will lead to weight rebound. To me that doesn’t sound like the greatest of plans.
The second component to this program is that you have to do two 45 minute workouts every single day, and one of them has to be outside. This kind of rigidity is a big NO NO, especially for a beginner.
Essentially, you are asking someone to potentially go from working out zero minutes a week to working out for 90 minutes a week, regardless of the weather or other factors.
Now, I like the idea of incorporating some sort of movement every single day but I think exercise should be a progression. You build on time and intensity.
I’m all about sustainability and sustainable programs and the big question is, will you be able to keep up with two 45 minute workout sessions every single day? As a personal trainer and health coach, I encourage active rest days so that your muscles can recover. This program doesn’t allow for that.
With this program, you are training your body to expend more energy and rely on this energy expenditure, and when you stop doing all of this exercise, your body might pick up some of that fat that it lost because it got used to doing all these workouts. There is such a thing as too much exercise and you don’t want your body to get used to doing too much exercise, especially paired with being in a calorie deficit.
What this program also doesn’t factor in is peoples’ schedule limitations and professional or family obligations. What if you work 50-60 hour weeks, or you're a single parent of a young child? Do you think that you’ll be able to do 90 minutes of activity every single day, especially if you don’t have help? Absolutely not. So now we’re excluding people from this program because it’s not feasible for them whereas with a different program, people can succeed by just committing to 20 minutes of movement a day.
Now the last three components I think are good. Drink one gallon of water. Read 10 pages. Must be nonfiction and educational. Take progress photos every day. (I personally advise weekly progress photos because change doesn't happen day to day.)
So would I recommend 75 HARD to anyone? Probably not.
I believe that you can acquire mental toughness and discipline by doing hard things that don’t put you in such restrictive modes for such a long period of time.
If you are new to exercise, discipline can look like exercising five times a week for 30 minutes and that in itself would be a commitment and require discipline. There will be moments where you will hate showing up for yourself, but by doing so, you will be working on that mental toughness and discipline. Same thing with eating. Making mindful choices and incorporating whole foods may require more discipline for you.
You don’t have to go extremes to see results. Small and sustainable behavior changes will get you to your goal if you allow yourself the time and patience to get there.