Some are turning to a viral health challenge for lifestyle changes — others have doubts

Instead of New Year's resolutions, many have turned to wellness-related social media challenges to overhaul their lifestyles, such as:  B. 75 Hard.  It requires two workouts a day, a diet, and no alcohol—for 75 days straight.  (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP - photo credit)

Instead of New Year’s resolutions, many have turned to wellness-related social media challenges to overhaul their lifestyles, such as: B. 75 Hard. It requires two workouts a day, a diet, and no alcohol—for 75 days straight. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP – photo credit)

It’s just February.

One workout-tracking service estimates that most people who make New Year’s resolutions give up before their first month of gym membership expires. The day it stopped was calculated as January 19th.

But instead of making resolutions to exercise more, eat healthier, or drink less alcohol, many people have chosen to make lifestyle changes by trying wellness-related social media challenges.

One of them, 75 Hard, has been popular for years, especially on TikTok, where its associated hashtags have been used more than 2 billion times.

Many who have completed the challenge admit that it has been life changing as it has resulted in significant weight loss and newfound control over their eating habits. The results are in the form of thousands of before and after posts.

However, many others, including fitness experts and some who have attempted the challenge, would not recommend it. They point to its extreme nature, vague guidelines, and the likelihood that people will simply return to their old ways after the grueling test.

What is 75 hard?

Calgary’s Boyd Crockett graduated from 75 Hard late last year.

The 46-year-old home inspector lost about 20 pounds, which he credits to the program that forced him to quit his junk food snacking habit.

Submitted by Boyd Crockett

Submitted by Boyd Crockett

“I’m taking responsibility for myself now,” he said weeks after completing the challenge.

Developed by Real AF Podcast host Andy Frisella, 75 Hard is dubbed the “Mental Hardness Program.”

Frisella clarifies that this isn’t a fitness program, and he advises people to consult with their doctor before beginning.

The program lasts 75 days, hence the name. The rules are simple.

  • If you miss a day, you have to start over.

  • Choose a diet, stick to it. No cheat meals. No alcohol.

  • Drink a gallon of water every day.

  • Complete two 45-minute workouts. You have to be outside no matter what.

  • Read 10 pages of self-development non-fiction books every day. No e-books or audio books.

  • Take a progress photo every day.

For Crockett, the program offered structure, a goal, and a challenge that he believed he could handle.

“I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. I never have,” he said. “With this program I knew what I had to do every day. And if I didn’t do one of those things, I failed and had to start over.”

Too general, too aggressive

Roman Thauern, a Calgary-based sports scientist, took one look at the rules of 75 Hard and almost immediately said he wouldn’t advise anyone to do it.

“To sum it up, way too general for the public in my opinion — and I also think it’s too aggressive for 75 days at a time,” he said.

He found the training regiment with no rest days potentially harmful.

Referring to the daily progress photo, Thauern said some people could develop unhealthy body image issues. He also questioned the point as daily changes are imperceptible.

Still, he wasn’t surprised to learn that 75 Hard had gone viral.

Katy Whitt photography

Katy Whitt photography

“Popular stuff is hardcore, it’s crazy, it’s something you can post on the internet,” he said. “But long-term change is pretty unspectacular, it’s not that exciting. It’s like brushing your teeth.”

“It will change her life”

Crockett found out about 75 Hard through social media, which has numerous testimonials with before and after photos.

He started at 75 Hard in late September. Five days later he failed. He ate a “cheat meal” to spike his blood sugar post-workout.

“I just started the next day and went 75 full days,” he said.

For his workouts, he kept them varied. One day he was lifting weights in the basement, the next day he was doing a core-based yoga session.

For his obligatory outdoor workouts, he took his dogs on long walks, even braving the -30C chill that descended on southern Alberta earlier this winter.

As the days passed, Crockett felt lighter. With his slimmer build, tying his skates before a hockey game was no longer a struggle.

“I could hardly breathe before because I had such a big stomach,” he said.

After completing the challenge, Crockett was proud of himself. Just as he had quit drinking years before, he had accomplished another difficult task.

He did return to snacking during the holidays, but to a lesser extent than before. He also said he continues to exercise consistently, if not every day, and still reads every morning.

“I would say do for everyone [75 Hard]it will change her life.”

A softer approach

The stiffness and intensity of 75 Hard has led some to create a watered-down version of the challenge, sometimes referred to as “75 Soft”.

This modified version deviates from the strictness of the original and eliminates the punitive first rule. In other words, skip days are allowed.

However, the goal remains to eat healthier, exercise almost every day, drink plenty of water, and read 10 pages a day for 75 days.

Stephanie Borgland, a University of Calgary professor who studies behavior, said that whether or not someone completes the hard or soft challenge, doing something consistently over several weeks will help build a habit.

However, that doesn’t mean that people have manifested a lifestyle change by the end of 75 days, even if they lose weight or get their eating habits under control.

Submitted by Stephanie Borgland

Submitted by Stephanie Borgland

“Basically, the only lifestyle and dietary interventions that work are ones that you can basically stick with for life,” she said.

Borgland noticed that on the reality TV show The biggest loser, Participants would quickly lose huge amounts of weight. But after the show, the researchers found that nearly every contestant regained weight.

Sports scientist Thauern says the 75-soft challenge appears to be a more viable avenue for people trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle. He especially liked that people could take days off without having to start over.

“People are much more motivated over the long term by reward, not punishment,” he said.

“Overall, it should be a lifestyle, not something you do for a while. … You have to ask yourself, ‘Can I do this for the rest of my life? Or at least for a very, very long time?’ If the answer is no, you probably shouldn’t commit to it.”


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