(Diet Review) Is The 21 Day Fix A Low Calorie Diet In Disguise?

(Diet Review) Is The 21 Day Fix A Low Calorie Diet In Disguise?

So many people have asked me to review the 21 Day Fix, I literally couldn’t say no. It’s taken me forever to get to it, but here we go!

The 21 Day Fix claims that it can help you drop 15 pounds in three weeks, which as you know works out to five pounds a week. Holy crap! Personally, I think you’d have to have quite a bit of weight to lose if you want to drop that much that quickly, so unless you’re in that category I would take that promise with a grain of salt.

Autumn Calabrese, who is a ‘fitness trainer to the stars’, developed the 21 Day Fix program. I feel like these trainers somehow gain credibility by which famous people they’re associated with, but you should keep in mind that celebrities are the biggest fad diet offenders ever. Do eating clay and waist training ring any bells?

But I digress. Autumn was bang on when she said this: “When it comes to being healthy and fit, it’s not just about what you do in the gym. It’s really about what you do in the kitchen.” She’s totally right! As I always say, weight is lost in the kitchen, toning happens in the gym. Maybe Autumn is on to something with this program!

Let’s take a look at what the 21 Day Fix is all about.

Essentially, the 21 Day Fix uses portion control, along with exercise, to promote weight loss. No big earthshattering surprise there! As my grandfather said, there’s nothing new under the sun!

To begin, you’ll calculate your calorie needs using this equation: multiply your weight by 11, then add 400 to cover your daily workout. What you get is the number of calories you need to maintain your weight.

If you want to lose weight, subtract 750 from that number.

In other words, someone like myself would require 1091 calories a day to lose weight. You’re not kidding, I’d lose a shit ton of weight – and become totally emaciated, bitchy, and sick – at that calorie level! Luckily the 21 Day Fix knows this and instructs those of us whose calorie levels fall beneath 1200 to round up to 1200.

I’d still become ravenous and unreasonable at 1200 calories a day, so there’s that. There’s also the fact that I truly believe  that calorie counting is an exercise in futility, and this is why:


  • You have no idea how many calories you really need in a day. Equations and charts aren’t really accurate, so unless you have a calorimeter, which I’m pretty sure you don’t, ‘calories needed’ is an arbitrary number.
  • You have no idea how many calories your body is actually absorbing from different foods. Not all calories are created equal: you don’t absorb the same number of calories from a 100 calorie can of Coke and a 100 calorie piece of chicken like we originally thought. Hell, two different people who eat the same piece of food will derive different calorie amounts from it. Crazy!
  • The caloric values of food that you find on packaging is faulty. Did you know that the calories on a nutrition label can be off as much as 20% and still be in compliance with FDA regulations? That means that 250-calorie soup you have for lunch may actually contain 200 calories, or it may actually contain 300 calories. CRAP! That’s annoying!!


All of that aside, after you’ve got your calories-per-day assignment, your next stop on the 21 Day Fix is to fill your color-coded containers according to your calorie level. These pretty containers are the backbone of the program, because they’re how you’re going to portion your food out for the 21 days. The only calorie values you deal with are determining how many you (might) need per day. After that, it’s all about filling out your prescribed number of containers with the correct foods.

For example, if you’ve been assigned between 1200 and 1500 daily calories, you’ll use a few green containers for vegetables, one orange container for seeds and dressings, four red containers for proteins, two yellow carb containers, and two purple fruit containers. That’s it! Oh! And I almost forgot! A Shakeology cup comes with your 21 Day Fix program too, because you’re really encouraged to use the $hakeology $hakes for one of your meals.

You all know how I feel about Shakeology (the program but also the fact that it tastes like shit, no offense to people who sell it…I know you’re about to hate-mail me anyhow), but if you don’t, here’s my blog post (easily one of the most popular posts I’ve ever written) about it. That being said, the Shakeology part of the 21 Day Fix isn’t mandatory, and you definitely do NOT have to use Shakeology..ever…mashing Shakeology into this program seems like a total money grab by the whole 21 Day Fix/Shakeology/Beachbody conglomerate. SIGH.

If you’re not used to planning out and pre-making your meals, you’d better get used to it really quickly, because that’s what you’ll need to do on this program. But I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, because that’s part of being a grown-up – knowing how to take care of yourself by figuring out in advance what you’re going to eat! Yay for #adulting!

On the Beachbody site, there are tons of blog posts with ideas on how to prep for different calorie levels and even eating plans for vegans and other groups who are on the 21 Day Fix. I like how the program (unlike the Whole30 BS) is inclusive to plant-based eaters. Cool.

The workouts

Part of the 21 Day Fix is doing a 30 minute DVD workout at home 7 days a week. Now, this doesn’t sound too bad – I mean, a half-hour of activity is what we should be doing anyhow. But is it sustainable? Is it doable? That depends on your lifestyle. I’ve heard from various sources that these workouts aren’t super easy, but they do have different levels from beginner to advanced. Consistency is key in weight management, so get ready to do a daily workout!

What happens after the 21 Day Fix?

Hopefully you’ll have picked up some good meal prep and planning tricks, along with valuable information like how many grapes are in a portion of fruit. This information can help you sustain your weight, if you continue to use it to your advantage.

The issue that I have with the program is that it may not provide enough food for some people – I would not survive on 1200 calories a day; in fact, I’d be more likely to binge-eat if I restricted myself to that extent. This is what happens when you go for a quick-fix; drastically cutting calories can really backfire for a lot of people. What do you think happens when you drop a bunch of calories out of your diet and then can’t sustain that level of restriction? That’s right!

That weight comes. Right. Back.


In Short:

  • The 21 Day Fix is a portion-controlled diet with consistent (read: every day for three weeks) exercise, which is obviously going to cause weight loss in most people because that’s what calorie restriction and activity do. I’m thinking that the 21 Day Fix is a low calorie diet in disguise.
  • You don’t have to use Shakeology as part of this program, so don’t let anyone tell you that you do.
  • Beware of a lot of ‘honest’ 21 Day Fix reviews out there. Most of them are done by people selling the program. Duh.
  • We’re all looking for a ‘fix’, but what most people need more is a ‘long term solution’. Make sure whatever weight management program you choose is sustainable. Do you want to eat 1200 calories (or whatever number of calories they give you) and work out every day forever? Then don’t expect to maintain the results you get from this program (or at least continue to lose weight).
  • The 21 Day Fix is probably good for a jump-start and to learn good habits like portion control and meal planning. Before you start though, consider though what you’re going to do after those three weeks are done. You might want to consider making small changes to the way you’re already eating instead of one drastic tsunami of changes that only lasts three weeks.