ritual experiment 2: outsourcing my food and exercise decisions

I'll follow the 21-day fix Beachbody plan for eating and exercising.


21 days

Last summer, I was standing in my sister-in-law's kitchen listening to her talk about coaching a fitness program online. I knew a little about it from my mother-in-law's visit a few months before. She had food containers, and she did these exercise videos every morning. And she had lots more energy and was much more toned. The program seemed kind of 1980s to me somehow. And interesting. And not related to my own life.

After I got home, I tried for the 764th time to get back into a movement practice. I had been going to the gym. And then not. I had been doing a lot of walking. And then not. I had plans to do a lot of yoga. I did not. And my husband wasn't doing anything like that either. And we had been weekday vegan. And then we weren't. And I was doing no sugar. And then I wasn't. And I had stopped eating grains. That part is still true.

I thought maybe making decisions about the fitness and the food all the time--and then ALSO trying to DO the fitness and the food--was too much. I reached out to my sister-in-law and asked a few more questions about this fitness program that was interesting and not related to my own life. My husband and I decided what the hell. Let's try it.

I did that for several months with strong results, and then life got wild(er). I was still doing both, but not consistently. I'm stepping back in with more consistency, and I'm experiment logging what it's like to do with a little less intensity than before.


  1. Eat according to the 21-day fix plan.
  2. Exercise once a day for 30 minutes each day using the 21-day fix workouts. I do this during my early-ass mornings.
  3. (I won't be participating in my sister-in-law's Facebook group for the folks she coaches because I'm not on Facebook.)
  4. (I won't be drinking the Shakeology shakes because they contain rice, and grains do not work well in my body.)


Day 1: Monday: Total Body Cardio. Sweet mercy. That was not this hard when I was consistent. Still, it wasn't as hard as when I first started. Good lord. Sweat, sweat, sweat. Eating went well mostly, but I waited too long to eat my lunch.

Day 2: Tuesday: Upper Body complete. The abs portion was WAY harder than it was when I was doing it regularly. A good reminder of how much stronger I had gotten. Ate according to plan, but a little under on protein because of a board meeting supper.

Day 3: Wednesday: I was nervous to start the Lower Body again. That shit is hard. But I pressed play. We did it. And it's done. And I had a few squares of chocolate later in that special 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. afterschool timeframe. Everything else according to plan.

Day 4: Thursday: Oh, hello legs! That Pilates video does a number on my legs. I may have had more grain-free crackers and pimento cheese than is strictly allowed. The rest of the day, I was on point.

Day 5: Friday: Cardio and I are not best friends. But it's done. And I sweated like a maniac. Those freakin' cross-jacks get me every time. Eating went just fine. Except for my abs, my body seems to be getting re-toned more quickly than I expected.

Day 6: Saturday: Got all the way through Dirty 30 workout. I'm not doing as heavy weights as before with this one, but my form is way better. Had a very weird lunch to clean out leftovers and try to eat with the plan. At Mother's Day supper with my mom, I forgot and ordered a baked potato instead of asparagus, so I was down a green.

Day 7: Sunday: It's Mother's Day. I was so happy to do the Yoga stretches. My special Mother's Day breakfast was amazing. It was not, however on the plan. Neither was supper.

Day 8: Monday: Total body cardio. We did 2/3 of the workout this morning because we got up a little late. 2/3 is better than none. Eating was by the book.

Day 9: Tuesday: I lowered my weights to the 3-pounders for Upper Body this week because my left shoulder got tweaked in my sleep. And you know what? I'm still getting a workout. My goal is to show up, have good form, and try not to die. Not be the most muscular version of myself I can be. I'm reminded that the gendered conversation around bodies is extra annoying in the Upper Body one.

Day 10: Wednesday: I stayed up later than usual last night, and I was prepared to suffer through Lower Body. Oddly, I had more energy than usual. Now that I'm back to working out, I'm way hungry. I ate my morning snack at 9:30 instead of 11. And I ate an extra fruit and an extra carb.

Day 11: Thursday: Pressed play. Did the workout. Sweated my ass off doing Pilates. Ate an extra yellow (carbs). Very hungry again. Side note: My legs feel super strong. And my body is starting to look more toned again. My ab muscles have resurfaced.

Day 12: Friday: I went for a walk this morning instead of doing the Cardio workout. My back and shoulder aren't yet back to normal, and I needed a break. Thanks to my husband for suggesting/insisting. And thanks to my early-ass mornings for the fact that I didn't eat a whole bag of potato chips tonight. I wanted them, but I was too tired to go get them, and I went to sleep instead.

Day 13: Saturday: We've got a big weekend, and it would've been easy to skip this morning. This is where it helps to do the workouts with another person. During the workout, Autumn (the online workout coach) says her things, and this morning I asked my husband, "Do you want a round booty? Do you want those tank-top arms?" He said right now he just wants to get through the workout. Seconded. I'm still modifying those side plank leg raises. He can do a few of them for real. I can do zero. But I'm showing up.

Day 14: Sunday: I'm at my mom's house, and I just finished the Yoga fix, joined in pivotal moments by my highly flexible child. It's a strange thing to do at Mama's, in my growing up home, but we did just fine. The food part went well for being at someone else's house--known when we were growing up as the "snack house." I only ate one of those tiny Mini-Snickers.

Day 15: Monday: My fella wasn't with me this morning (though he did the workout on his own), and I so didn't want to get up. For me, this where the early-ass mornings help me do the exercise. Because my morning routine is meditation and reading and stuff first, it's easier to get up than it would be if I just had to go straight into freaking cardio. This Total Body Cardio is a hard one for me physically. It's also one during which Autumn says a lot of "Push yourself!", "You have to push! You can do it!", and " Don't quit! Be better than you were yesterday!" kind of stuff. This is where the "less intense" part of the experiment comes in for me. I ALREADY push myself all the time. That's in my DNA or something. So when I hear "Push!", I'm already pushing, and it's actually Not Good For My Body for me to push more. This is good mental/emotional work for me. To slow down when she's speeding up, if I need to. To drop to a lower weight when she's pushing for more, if I need to. To start the exercise five seconds late in the set when she's saying, "Get up! Go! Go!", if I need to. And still not throw the whole thing out the window.

Day 16: Tuesday: This morning was easier because generally Upper Body is my friend. I went off the rails a little on the food plan with leading a staff retreat, single parenting while husband was out of town, and then having supper out when he came back. I managed to get in a bunch of vegetables still by eating baby carrots with every meal. Sometimes it ain't glamorous.

Day 17: Wednesday: Lower Body has the most annoying damn chatter of all. So we made our own chatter. Excerpt: "I don't even understand how you fart in that position." "I don't understand how you DON'T fart in that position." Also: "Sweet motherfucking mercy my legs." And: "That bonus round." "Yeah." And now it's done. And I ate all the things I was meant to eat, plus two squares of chocolate that were (ahem) extra.

Day 18: Thursday: Hey, I put on a dress and zipped it up real easy this morning. I haven't been able to wear that sucker comfortably since pre-baby. I had decided it was because my ribcage had expanded during pregnancy. Reckon not.

Day 19: Friday: I am making myself update this log, and that is encouraging me to put down the pimento cheese for a bit. I have certainly eaten a yellow container's worth. Also: we only had time for half the Cardio this morning, and still half the Cardio is more than none of the Cardio.

Day 20: Saturday: Ah, last night was a rare late night with dear friends. It's been on the calendar for many weeks, so even though this was near the end of my 21 days, I decided not to cancel. I veered a bit from the eating plan last night, but not too egregiously. I still made healthier choices than I would have if I hadn't been on the plan. This morning, I made breakfast and couldn't find the wherewithal to wash lettuce for the salad, so I ate baby carrots for my green. I just gotta show up. I don't have to do it The Best.

Day 21: Sunday: Yoga-ish. And it was good.

Here's what I might eat on any given day:

Breakfast: two scrambled eggs, big lettuce salad with oil and vinegar dressing, Greek yogurt with blueberries

Morning snack: cottage cheese

Lunch: turkey, olives, celery, carrots, lentils, mixed fruit

Afternoon snack: fruit, cheese+crackers or 2 squares of a chocolate bar

Supper: big serving of cauliflower rice, big serving of squash and onions, roasted or grilled chicken

Evening: tea or nothing because I go to bed so soon after supper


The short version: I'm going to keep doing this for the foreseeable future. It's been good for my mind, my body, and my relationship with my spouse.

The long version: I'll be publishing two posts about the results. Check them out below when they're live.

letting go: an experiment in outsourcing my food and exercise decisions

Check out some other experiments.