The “28 Day Reset Challenge” is a program put together by Cassey Ho from Blogilates, an online health and fitness brand. Ho is also responsible for the birth of Pop Pilates, a series of strength workouts published to YouTube for viewers to follow along with. Her energy and positivity are infectious, and her YouTube and Instagram accounts boast a collective 5.4 million followers.
The goal of the Challenge is simple: cut out a number of food products that are harmful to your body or difficult to digest and workout six days a week for 28 days. The objective is to observe the changes to your body in areas such as acne level, energy level, bloating, stomach problems and, potentially, weight loss. But the focus of the Challenge is not to lose weight, it is to learn how different food groups affect your body personally, and to adapt your diet moving forward to improve your overall well-being. At the end of the 28 days, you reintroduce food groups slowly in an attempt to observe if any affect you more negatively than others.
You can find the blog article and associated Challenge guide HERE, but to summarize, the foods to be eliminated are dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese), gluten products (bread, pasta, crackers), added sugar (maple syrup, granulated sugar, honey), processed foods (canned soup, popcorn and chips, frozen meals), and alcohol. No easy task for a university student.
Along with fellow Her Campus Western writer and Western University student, Coral White, I decided to write an article about my experience with the Challenge so you know exactly what to expect if you decide to try it for yourself.
Katie: I don’t believe in short-term diets that are taken on to fulfill some resolution or other until life moves on. Having said that, I have been striving to improve my health on a larger, more permanent scale for a while now. I approached the start date with apprehension and excitement in equal parts; I was nervous about the Challenge of eliminating so many foods I loved, but excited about the clean and healthy meals I was already planning on making.
Coral: When Katie asked if someone would join her in Cassey Ho’s “28 Day Reset Challenge,” I was immediately interested: after a holiday season full of candy, carbs, and cold ones, I was feeling pretty sluggish and thought a reset challenge might be a nice way to reboot my eating habits. However, if we’re being totally honest, I also thought this challenge would be incredibly easy for me: I don’t drink often (outside of holidays), I’m a vegan with celiac, and my partner and I make most things (i.e. hummus) from scratch. It didn’t really feel like I was going to miss out on much, I just felt like it was a more reliable way to get back into eating well since, you know, I had to write an article on it.
Katie: I struggled with cutting sugar out and the first couple of days were super tough for me. Like, it really sucked. The onset of my period (on literally Day One) brought with it an extra dose of cravings. I thought sugar withdrawals were leaving me lethargic and headachey (I now know I had a concussion, which slightly skews my response to the Challenge, but still). Regardless, the beginning was definitely the most difficult stretch. The good news is that as the weeks went on, it got easier.
Coral: Week one made me realize that I was unhealthier than I thought I was. Who would’ve thought that an entire past semester spent stressing, not sleeping or eating right and not exercising would have a lasting effect on the body? Starting to work out again was so tough and I wanted sugar back in my life by Day Two. Since I usually opt for “healthier” sugars (maple syrup, coconut sugar or honey—yes, I’m one of those vegans) I really didn’t realize how often/how much I put it into everything I ate.
Katie: Cassey does offer a meal plan, but it costs money to purchase the recipes and I tend to be pretty confident in my kitchen skills, so I improvised. I ate a lot of eggs and oatmeal for breakfast, peanut butter, fruit, and veggies. Most of my classes don’t start until around noon which I think made a huge difference in me being able to eat a good meal in the morning. Luckily my boyfriend and I have been consistently meal prepping lunches and dinners since last semester, so it wasn’t that hard to just pick recipes that were reset friendly, such as sauceless stir fries, homemade chili, and Chocolate Covered Katie’s yellow curry. I also discovered the heaven sent fruits that are dates—being sugar-free really forces you to get creative with sweeteners and most recipes I found suggested blending them into things for added sugar.
Coral: I didn’t really use the meal plan (there is a vegan plan, but it costs money and I’m a poor student), but I employed the same basic setup Ho suggested in prepping my food: I tried to focus on eating nutritionally balanced, smaller meals throughout the day. Luckily, I ate tons of healthy and delicious food thanks to my partner, who happens to be a kickass cook (bless you). For meals, we made a lot of protein-packed vegan mains like One Ingredient Chef’s coconut curried sweet potato and chickpea stew and Minimalist Baker’s lentil and sweet potato shepherd’s pie.
Katie: Coffee. Holy crap did I miss sugar in my coffee. And bread. And cheese. And, confession, I did slip up because my boyfriend and I were celebrating with tacos (a tradition), and I bought corn tortillas thinking they were gluten-free. They were not. But, like, whatever. It’s the thought that counts. I do think that the Challenge is excessively restrictive. I would not recommend it as a lifelong guide to eating and I don’t think it would be successful for everyone. However, for me, the extreme nature of the Challenge was motivating and honestly stopped me from snacking mindlessly on whatever I could find in the cupboard. Having said that, though, by the end of the four weeks I found myself relaxing slightly: cooking with soy sauce, accidentally drinking a cow’s milk cappuccino and half an iced coffee with sugar. It’s important to keep in mind that it’s okay to indulge every now and then and a challenge like this should never impede on your mental health or stop you from eating completely.
Coral: Ideologically, I struggled with the notion of completely eliminating sugar. As an eating disorder survivor, I tend to try and avoid labeling foods “good” or “bad” and after talking with my mom about it, I agreed that some parts of Ho’s Reset Challenge were a bit too extreme. I chose to slowly replace some food items instead of doing a complete overhaul of the fridge. For example, I kept using my vegan butter until it was gone then replaced it in recipes with coconut oil. I’m a really picky eater and a coffee snob so while I cut sugar from my coffee (and instead just bought better beans and had better coffee), I kept the soy milk (that contains some sugar) that my partner and I like best.
It was a challenge to learn to plan my meals beforehand when travelling. I commute to school in Ottawa (I’m doing a study agreement at Carleton U) and usually end up buying lunch on campus. However, I realized that there is pretty much nothing available that’s vegan, gluten free and sugar free. I started off drinking a Starbucks latte and ended up saying “fuck it” and eating a (gluten free and vegan!) cookie dough square from an Ottawa cafe. It was delicious.
Katie: Like I mentioned earlier, I was diagnosed with a concussion during the first week of the challenge, so I can’t really comment on my energy levels. Not to mention I’ve had chronic headaches for pretty much the entire duration of the challenge. I did notice my skin clearing up, my appetite seriously shrinking, and ten pounds of weight loss. Most importantly, though, were the lessons I learned completing this—I know, so cheesy. It’s true, though. When I get really hungry I crave hard, and I get into the mindset that the only thing that will satisfy me is the food I’m craving. NEWSFLASH: that’s totally false and my brain is a liar. Turns out veggies and hummus satisfy my hunger just as effectively as an entire pizza. Who knew? Plus, there are so many yummy things I can make without so many unnecessary sauces or sugars—and why was I eating so much bread before? I don’t need it to fill me up more. So, yes, I lost weight and noticed less pimples on my face, but more importantly I gained a huge sense of self-control and self-efficacy, and learned quite a bit about my eating habits, which to me is much more exciting.
Coral: I agree with Katie about those cheesy lessons! I really learned to take a closer look at what, why and when I was eating. I’m notorious for surviving on cookies, popcorn and coffee when school gets busy (aka most of the time), but doing this Challenge helped me stick to a more balanced diet. I found that with a better diet and more exercise, pretty much all aspects of my life improved: my sleep, my skin, my fitness and my mood. I also found that I eventually craved sugar less (even though I will forever have a sweet tooth) and that I use it less now than I did 28 days ago.
Katie: I would highly recommend this Challenge to anyone, even if you’re not looking to lose weight! It’s a truly eye-opening experience, and it’s fun to experiment in the kitchen. Not to mention, chocolate tastes so much better after you haven’t had it for four weeks.
Coral: If you’re the type of person who does best with a hardcore approach to making lifestyle changes, then the 28 Day Challenge is a good fit for you. If you’re someone who prefers a more moderate approach, I would recommend cutting one thing at a time (e.g. sugar) or giving yourself cheat days like I did. I literally could not go four weeks without chocolate, Katie is a stronger woman than I am. If you have any questions, want recipe ideas, or just need someone to stop you from caving during the Challenge, feel free to get in touch with either Coral or Katie on Instagram!
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